October 16, 2014
Health Roundup: Poop pills, cancer blood test, fruit juice, 5 a day, broccoli, ibuprofen
Fecal transplants made easier with A Promising Pill, Not So Hard to Swallow developed at MGH. Already called the 'poop pill'.
Their study was small and preliminary, but results were striking: 19 of 20 patients with C. difficile infections were cured of diarrhea and related symptoms. Most saw improvements after one two-day round of pills, the rest after two or three rounds, said Dr. Ilan Youngster, the lead investigator….
The patients, 11 to 89 years old, had each experienced at least two episodes of C. difficile that antibiotics had failed to control. After one round of dosing (two days, 15 capsules per day), diarrhea cleared up in 14 patients. Five others, sicker than the rest beforehand, responded after a second two-day dosing about a week later.
The Miroculus technology is based on microRNA, a class of small molecules that can act as a type of biological warning sign, appearing and disappearing based on what is happening in our bodies at that moment. As a result, they’ve become effective indicators of diseases—including cancer—ever since they were first discovered in 1993. They can reveal not just whether a person may have cancer, but what specific type of cancer that person might have.
A daily glass of fruit juice leads to people having significantly higher central blood pressure - which can increase the risk of problems such as a heart attack or angina as Australian scientists have discovered….
Study author, Dr Matthew Pase said their findings were important because 'there is a common perception that fruit juice is healthy. Although juices may have essential vitamins, they commonly contain high amounts of sugar with negligible fibre. …..An 8 oz glass of fruit juice contains 7 tsp of sugar. The WHO recommends people have no more that 6 tsp a day.
On the other hand, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables will not only enhance your mental well-being, it will enhance your creative brain power. Fruit, the thinking man's food.
The chemical - suforaphane- that gives broccoli its distinctive bitter taste made teenagers and young men with autism calmer and more sociable, a study found.
‘Remarkable’ improvements were seen in as little as four weeks and by the end of the study, some of those given a capsule a day felt able to look the researchers in the eye and shake their hand. The finding suggests it may be possible to create a pill that gets to the root of autism for the first time.
Existing drugs simply control symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity or sleep problems, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition. Researcher Dr Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology in the US who has spent the last 25 years researching nature’s medicine cabinet, said: ‘It was a small study but the effects were very, very large.
We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some underlying cellular mechanisms.’British experts described the research as ‘intriguing’ but said it is simply too early to say if broccoli is beneficial in autism.
The research, from the respected MassGen Hospital for Children and Johns Hopkins University, both in Boston, comes amid concern about rising rates of autism.
Research has already established that the inevitable inflammation that comes with aging is linked to such conditions as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Researchers found lungs become more inflammatory with age and that Ibuprofen can lower that inflammation.Old mice on ibuprofen were able to fight the disease like young mice
October 15, 2014
The Unpreparedness of the CDC and NIH and Ebola Czar
Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?" said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. "We've all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground."
Ebola cases could hit 10,000 a week by December, WHO states, fatality rate now estimated at 70 per cent
Ebola Preparation ‘Will bankrupt my hospital!’ Director Reacts to CDC Prep Call
“Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital….doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”
Embattled Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden, laid out a new game plan to counter further contamination of health care workers dealing with Ebola patients – including sending rapid response teams to any hospital where a new case is confirmed. >
the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.
In Wired, What Would Keep Ebola from Spreading in the US? Investing in Simple Research Years Ago Instead.The CDC's emergency preparedness budget has fallen by half since 2006 from $1091 million in 2007 to $585 million in 2013. None of the money spent for pandemic preparedness involved investing in health systems at the front line of epidemics: hospitals.
Dr Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health decried the budget 'cuts' over the past 10 years ' which he said prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine. But that's not true.
According to data compiled by the Cato Institute from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget, the NIH’s inflation-adjusted outlays skyrocketed between 1996 and 2005, more than doubling from $14.8 to $32.4 billion while the CDC's budget " catapulting from $3.1 billion in 1996 to $5.8 billion in 2003. From there the budget kept rising, soaring to $7.5 billion in 2010 before gently declining to $6.8 billion in 2014."
So what did they spend all this money on?
Well, first a fancy new headquarters and fitness center for their employees at a cost of $110 million, including $10 million for new furniture (about $12,000 per employee).
• $517.3 million on "community transformation" -better sidewalks, more bike lanes and farmers' markets.
* $1.7 million on a Hollywood liaison to make sure medical portrayals in TV shows were accurate
• $386,000 to study the appropriate length of massage sessions for rabbits,
• $2.4 million for a new origami condom design whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud
• $592,000 to determine that chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators, and another $117,000 to learn that most chimps are right-handed
• $257,000 went to create a companion website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden
• $939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
• Part of a $666,000 NIH grant supported a University of Buffalo researcher who determined that watching sitcom reruns like 'Seinfeld' or re-watching old movies helps older people feel re-connected with pseudo-friends from their past.
• $181,000 went to University of Kentucky researchers who studied how cocaine use 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail
• $548,000 to a University of Missouri team to find out if 30-something partiers feel immature after they binge drink while people in their mid-20s don't.
• $832,000 went to learn if it was possible to get uncircumcised South African tribesmen into the habit of washing their genitals after having sex.
• $1.1 million funded research into how athletes perceive their in-game surroundings,
• $484,000 for a study to determine if hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
• a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
• $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
• $509,840 to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads.
• NIH has spent about $3 million to date to study why lesbians are fatter than straight women or gay men
* $385,005 to survey what bus riders thought of HIV videos
Apparently, there is a $12.5 billion slush fund created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores. Surely, that could be used to better effect.
WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”….But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.
Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.
Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.
History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
October 11, 2014
Once a corn field is planted and herbicide applied, many farmers don’t return to a given field until harvest time. The biotechnological and labor-saving innovations that have reduced costs for corn farmers mean that literally no one walks into the average corn field during the growing season. Which presents a major opportunity for marijuana growers.
Piggybacking on the incredible technological investments required to create so much corn, marijuana growers reap orders of magnitude more revenue per acre. This fact is not lost on individual farmers, but is virtually undetectable in national conversations about the profits and pitfalls of industrial corn agriculture.
"I love John the Baptist’s definition of the word politics – “poly means many, tics are bloodsucking parasites.” from Tim Walker's 5 star review of The Man Jesus by Simon Callow now on the London stage. "Funny, knowing and profoundly sad".
Michael J Totten on The Walking Dead in an Age of Anxiety
The Walking Dead is a morality tale that disdains easy answers. How does a civilized person behave in a world where civilization has collapsed? Decency is still possible, the show instructs us, but ruthlessness is needed as well. “It’s ugly,” Carol says when explaining this to a child, “and it’s scary and it does change you, but that’s how we get to be here.”
The fascination with the zombie apocalypse, I believe, is a cultural reflection of the new age of anxiety that opened on 9/11, with its fear of social collapse. As Penn State professor Peter Dendle puts it, the zombie is a “barometer of social anxiety”—and we’re plenty anxious.
A zombie invasion is simply a metaphor for any situation in which the government cannot protect its citizens.”
The Gaelic Stars of YouTube Irish-language covers of popular English songs. All by students of Coláiste Lurgan, an Irish-Gaelic-immersion summer school, with a musical, energetic, social approach to learning Irish, an endangered language, but now a mandatory part of a school's curriculum.
What a beautiful language Irish is. Here Stiofán Ó Fearail sings "Wake Me Up"
Have you ever seen students so engaged or having so much fun learning language?
Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, "We're Going to End Up Breaking the Internet" unless governments reform their surveillance practices.
October 10, 2014
"Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created"
From Notable and Quotable and philosopher Roger Scruton’s new book “How to Be a Conservative”:
Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.
October 9, 2014
No more boys and girls
A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead….
Despite controversy, Lincoln Superintendent Steve Joel has declared that he is “happy” and “pleased” with the training documents.
What idiocy. I completely understand why homeschooling is booming.
Despising Christianity and the Fruits of Faith
Damon Linker asks Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?
Item 1: In a widely discussed essay in Slate, author Brian Palmer writes about the prevalence of missionary doctors and nurses in Africa and their crucial role in treating those suffering from Ebola. Palmer tries to be fair-minded, but he nonetheless expresses "ambivalence," "suspicion," and "visceral discomfort" about the fact that these men and women are motivated to make "long-term commitments to address the health problems of poor Africans," to "risk their lives," and to accept poor compensation (and sometimes none at all) because of their Christian faith.
The question is why he considers this a problem…..
The real reason is that he doesn't believe that missionaries are capable "of separating their religious work from their medical work," even when they vow not to proselytize their patients. And that, in his view, is unacceptable — apparently because he's an atheist and religion creeps him out. As he puts it, rather wanly, "It's great that these people are doing God's work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?…..
Item 2: Gordon College, a small Christian school north of Boston, is facing the possibility of having its accreditation revoked by the higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, …revoking a school's accreditation is a big deal — and can even be a death sentence…..
In accordance with traditional Christian teaching, Gordon College bans all sexual relationships outside of marriage, gay or straight, and it goes out of its way to say that its structures against homosexual acts apply only to behavior and not to same-sex desires or orientation. The accreditation board is not so much objecting to the college's treatment of gays as it is rejecting the legitimacy of its devoutly Christian sexual beliefs.
The problem is not just the cavalier dismissal of people's long-established beliefs and the ways of life and traditions based on them. The problem is also the dogmatic denial of the beauty and wisdom contained within those beliefs, ways of life, and traditions. (You know, the kind of thing that leads a doctor to risk his life and forego a comfortable stateside livelihood in favor of treating deadly illness in dangerous, impoverished African cities and villages, all out of a love for Jesus Christ.)
Contemporary liberals increasingly think and talk like a class of self-satisfied commissars enforcing a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. The idea that someone, somewhere might devote her life to an alternative vision of the good — one that clashes in some respects with liberalism's moral creed — is increasingly intolerable.
That is a betrayal of what's best in the liberal tradition.
Brian Palmer should lister to Matthew Parris who, after 45 years, returned to Malawi where he spent his childhood. As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply
distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
And it wouldn't hurt Brian Palmer to learn more about Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith, a WSJ article in which oseph Epstein in reviewed what he called a Masterpiece, Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, written more than a hundred years ago in 1902.
James never discusses religious institutions or theology, concentrating instead on "the effect of religion on the individual, of its stirrings in the human heart."
James remarks that "it makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accept the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints."
The "faith-state," in which the mind is prepared for acceptance of God and the results of conversion are, "A paradise of inner tranquility seems to be faith's usual result." He likens the harmony achieved by those who arrive at religious faith to the harmony artists strive for in their art.
Health Roundup: Breakthroughs in Type 1 diabetes, arthritis, brain scans for early warning of Alzheimer's and peanuts
A cure for diabetes could be imminent after scientists discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as significant as antibiotics. Harvard University has, for the first time, managed to manufacture the millions of beta cells required for transplantation.
It could mean the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain living with Type 1 diabetes.
And it marks the culmination of 23-years of research for Harvard professor Doug Melton who has been trying to find a cure for the disease since his son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby.
They have developed a pioneering simple new technique to generate cells which can go on to re-grow damaged cartilage and even bone. The process offers major hope for people suffering in daily pain from the degenerative joint condition. It paves the way for a quick treatment - possible as a single injection of the stem cells - directly into the effected joint to end the agony.
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Centre in the US, have used a combination of small molecules to generate mouse cells that can form bone and cartilage. They say the new method could allow them to re-grow broken bones and mend cartilage damage to back discs and joints. …. It would revolutionize treatment for the condition because it would not have the side effects of many of the current drug-based treatments for the condition.
The research team, led by Dr Naoki Nakayama, created special stem cells known as pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryos. This type of stem cell has the ability to become any cell type in the body. The team then used small molecules to persuade them to turn into cells that can form cartilage, called chondrocytes.
A five-minute brain scan could give healthy people early warning of dementia, scientists believe. They found that by measuring blood flow in the brain, it is possible to distinguish healthy people whose memory will decline from those who stay mentally sharp.In other words, tell-tale signs are present in the brain long before the memory fades.
Those given warning of the disease could take preventative measures such as changing their diet and taking more exercise.
Quicker detection would allow earlier treatment and, with the help of new drugs, some who test positive might never develop the disease.
A small study of 10 patients found nine showed improvements in their memories within three to six months of treatment.
The findings, from the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first to suggest that memory loss in patients can be reversed.
Six patients taking part had stopped working, or been struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study. All have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working, with improved performance.
The patients all suffered memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease. One, who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer's did not improve. The treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic programme, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimisation, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.
Dr Bredesen said the findings are 'very encouraging', but added the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed. No single drug has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and drugs have only had modest effects of symptoms.
A University of Florida scientist has used pulses of UV light to remove 80 per cent of allergens from peanuts. Dr Yang says it could one day be used to remove 99 per cent of allergens. In the research he used concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. By doing this human antibodies can't recognize them as allergens. And the method does not ruin the flavor or texture of the peanuts
Sallie Powell was so bloated she looked nine months pregnant and the excruciating pains in her joints and overwhelming tiredness had forced her to give up work as a wedding photographer. Despite seeing several doctors - and even undergoing major surgery - her crippling symptoms continued.
In desperation, she turned to the internet - and just moments later found the answer that would change her life. The search results indicated she was suffering from a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Here, tiny parathyroid glands in the neck which control calcium levels malfunction, causing an excess of calcium in the blood. This, in turn, was causing her symptoms such as memory loss, depression, extreme tiredness and bloating.
Shocked, Ms Powell printed off her findings and took them to her GP - only to be proved right…..Ms Powell was told she would require surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland…..'I went into surgery feeling 95, but after the operation I woke up feeling 35.
October 8, 2014
Quote of the day: "Computers are getting smarter, we're not"
That's web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the future of farming, work and computing
“Companies,” says web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, “are increasingly going to be run by computers. And computers are getting smarter and we are not.” The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear.
Still, users can gather up their data to derive new insights about themselves and then put them to good use in a way that is currently neglected: “People feel passionately but I think we’re missing a lot of the value of personal data because it’s stored in these different silos,” says Sir Tim. He points out that businesses have long been quick to realise this value for their own interests. “Enterprises do data integration or they die – if you can’t do a query across the company you die. Companies like Mint that integrate across the financial side of your life but that’s the start.”
“There’s a lot of art about keeping the consitency across silos to allow them to integrate, but in the future you’ll be able to hone going through the system – say you’re filing your taxes it won’t ask ‘what’s this expenditure’ it’ll say this is where you were, this is your diary, annotated with photographs.”
He emphasises that the need for software developers and the like, rather than being small as it is today, will be almost infinite in an increasingly technologically dependent future.
people are hanging on to small farms, because they like to have a world in which crops are grown locally by hand, again around Massachusetts for instance. You might start to think of farming more like performance art, where you know the person who has done it.”
Another problem with open borders
The CDC’s El Paso Quarantine station is single-handedly responsible for monitoring the ENTIRE border
According to a CDC report, the lone El Paso Quarantine Station has just “one medical officer and one public health advisor who are responsible for responding to these public health threats at 29 POEs [Points of Entry] spread over 1,200 miles of the U.S.–Mexico border.”
The responsibility for screening arriving immigrants falls on Border Patrol officers who are required to report signs of infectious disease to CDC Quarantine Stations maintained along U.S. borders
The report noted that screening and reporting of public health threats on the U.S.-Mexico border may be “limited” by Customs & Border Patrol’s “need for rapid processing of travelers” and “The large volume of travelers crossing at international POEs makes identification and reporting of infectious diseases difficult.”
“CBP officers are responsible for observing all travelers for obvious signs and symptoms of quarantinable and communicable diseases… However, CBP officers are not medically trained or qualified to physically examine or diagnose illness among arriving travelers.”
The CDC also expressed concerns about Border Patrol agents’ “competing priorities” and “limited public health training.”
October 7, 2014
How the 1571 Battle of Lepanto saved Europe
Michael Novak gives us all a history refresher course in October 7: The Feast of Our Lady of Victory
For those who know little history, today’s battle with the Islamic State in the Middle East may seem new and unprecedented. It is not.
In a.d. 622, Mohammed set out from Medina to conquer the whole Christian world for Allah by force of arms. Within a hundred years, his successors had occupied and pillaged every Christian capital of the Middle East, from Antioch through North Africa (home of Saint Augustine) and Spain. All that remained outside Allah’s reign was the northern arc from Southern France to Constantinople.
What we are seeing in 2014 has a history of more than 1,300 years — a very bloody, terror-ridden history. Except that today the struggle is far, far more secular than religious — a war over political institutions and systems of law, with almost no public argument over religious doctrine.
"Total pandemonium" in upstate New York nursing home, "The lights turned back on in people' eyes"
A wonderful article by Atul Gawande. Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful?
One young doctor in upstate New York thought so and he came up with a highly eccentric way of demonstrating it. In this extract from his book Being Mortal, Atul Gawande tells the story of Bill Thomas and his miraculous menagerie.
In 1991, in the tiny town of New Berlin, in upstate New York, a young physician named Bill Thomas performed an experiment. He didn’t really know what he was doing. He was 31 years old, less than two years out of family residency, and he had just taken a new job as medical director of Chase Memorial Nursing Home, a facility with 80 severely disabled elderly residents. About half of them were physically disabled; four out of five had Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive disability.
Up until then Thomas had worked as an emergency physician at a nearby hospital, the near opposite of a nursing home. People arrived in the emergency room with discrete, reparable problems – a broken leg, say, or a cranberry up the nose. If a patient had larger, underlying issues – if, for instance, the broken leg had been caused by dementia – his job was to ignore the issues or send the person somewhere else to deal with them, such as a nursing home. He took this new medical director job as a chance to do something different.
The staff at Chase saw nothing especially problematic about the place, but Thomas with his newcomer’s eyes saw despair in every room. The nursing home depressed him. He wanted to fix it. …
He didn’t give up, though. He came to think the missing ingredient in this nursing home was life itself, and he decided to try an experiment to inject some. The idea he came up with was as mad and naive as it was brilliant. That he got the residents and nursing home staff to go along with it was a minor miracle.
He brought in a dog, four cats, live plants and a bird in every room, children in the afternoon, and a big garden in back.
It was ‘total pandemonium,’ Thomas said. The memory of it still puts a grin on his face. He is that sort of person. He, his wife, Jude, the nursing director, Greising, and a handful of others spent hours assembling the cages, chasing the parakeets through a cloud of feathers around the salon and delivering birds to every resident’s room. The elders gathered outside the salon windows to watch.
‘They laughed their butts off,’ Thomas said. He marvels now at the team’s incompetence.
‘We didn’t know what the heck we were doing. Did, Not, Know what we were doing.’ Which was the beauty of it. They were so patently incompetent that almost everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included. Whoever could do it helped line the cages with newspaper, got the dogs and the cats settled, got the children to help out. It was a kind of glorious chaos – or, in the diplomatic words of Greising, ‘a heightened environment’.
‘People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,’ Thomas said. ‘People who had been completely withdrawn and nonambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, “I’ll take the dog for a walk.” ’ All the parakeets were adopted and named by the residents. The lights turned back on in people’s eyes. In a book he wrote about the experience, Thomas quoted from journals that the staff kept, and they described how irreplaceable the animals had become in the daily lives of residents, even ones with advanced dementia.
The most important finding of Thomas’s experiment wasn’t that having a reason to live could reduce death rates for the disabled elderly. The most important finding was that it is possible to provide them with reasons to live, period. Even residents with dementia so severe that they had lost the ability to grasp much of what was going on could experience a life with greater meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. It is much harder to measure how much more worth people find in being alive than how many fewer drugs they depend on or how much longer they can live. But could anything matter more?
Health Roundup: Marijuana, Statins, Mental well-being, Multi-tasking, and Happiness at 70
Cannabis is highly addictive, causes mental health problems and opens the door to hard drugs, the study found.
The paper by Professor Wayne Hall, a drugs advisor to the World Health Organisation, builds a compelling case against those who deny the devastation cannabis wreaks on the brain. Professor Hall found:
• One in six teenagers who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it,
• Cannabis doubles the risk of developing psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia,
• Cannabis users do worse at school. Heavy use in adolescence appears to impair intellectual development
• One in ten adults who regularly smoke the drug become dependent on it and those who use it are more likely to go on to use harder drugs,
• Driving after smoking cannabis doubles the risk of a car crash, a risk which increases substantially if the driver has also had a drink,
• Smoking it while pregnant reduces the baby’s birth weight.
People who take statins are more likely to gain weight, researchers say. British scientists have warned that the millions who are given the cholesterol-busting drugs should also be advised to do more exercise in a bid to counter the unwanted side effect.
Five daily portions of fruit and vegetables won't just help stave off disease - they could also keep the blues away. A new study has found a person's mental wellbeing may be closely linked to how much fresh produce they eat. Mental wellbeing was was defined as a state in which people feel good and function well, the researchers said.
Optimism, happiness, self-esteem, resilience and good relationships with others are all part of this state, they added.
More than a third of people with good mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8 per cent who ate less than one portion. A further 31 per cent of those with high mental wellbeing ate three to four portions and 28 per cent ate one to two portions.
Previous research has shown that eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables helps prevent people from developing more than one chronic disease such as high blood pressure, very high cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, hepatitis, heart disease, asthma, stroke and cancer.
The study - carried out by Warwick University's medical school - used figures from the Health Survey for England. It found the effect on mental wellbeing from eating more fruit and vegetables was found in both men and women. Dr Saverio Stranges, who led the study, said: 'Along with smoking, fruit and vegetable consumption was the health-related behavior most consistently associated with both low and high mental wellbeing.
People who multitask with multiple media devices have less grey matter, that part of the brain that processes information
Older studies found multitasking on media devices led to poor attention and emotional problems such as depression and anxiety
Forget the idea that school days are the best days of our lives, a happiness study suggests that turning 70 marks the start of a golden decade. New figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, far from preparing to take life more slowly, people turning 70 are just embarking on a golden decade. The main indicators used to measure the nation’s “well-being” show that general contentment and having a sense of worth peak when people are in their early 70s.
"The Banishment of Useful Hypocrisy"
Adam Garfinkle in American Sex and the Middle East points out that foreigners listen to America's constant public talk about sex and the consequences are not trivial
All the American culture-war topics surrounding variable human sexuality—same-sex rights and marriage, abortion, surrogacy, and, lately, campus sexual assaults as a sub-category of generic violence against women—attract great buckets of ink on a regular basis. Most of these buckets are the property of the post-bourgeois salon Left, which has rendered the American Left as a whole so drunk on culture-war juice that it spends almost no effort on the political economy issues that used to be its raison d’etre. The country is arguably much worse off as a result.
Let me put my cards on the table before we go any further: I’m sick of it all, especially the obsessions of the Sunday New York Times Magazine, whose editors seem to have great difficulty getting their heads out of their, or other people’s, crotches. I am unashamedly old-fashioned: I think public discussion of intimate sexual matters is unseemly, a word that has become as quaint as outlandish mass-culture fare has become hideously sexualized. I don’t care if the subject to hand is essentially heterosexual in nature, or homosexual, transsexual, omnisexual, multisexual, interspecies-sexual, or all the other kinds of sexual that I’m sure exist but know nothing about. I could not give a damn what consenting adults do with their genitalia in private, but I don’t need or want to hear about it in public—and these days you nearly have to hole up in a mountain cave somewhere to escape it.
For similar reasons I don’t like “acclaimed” television shows like Law and Order, because the relentless focus on pedophilia and other disgusting para-sexual behaviors is coarsening, just as all the over-the-top, gratuitous violence on offer 24/7 in the American electronic sewer is coarsening….
By “norming” such behaviors through ceaseless discussion and fictive depiction, many people come to believe that they are not only more prevalent but also less morally deviant. The net result of more coarsening images is more coarsening behavior; life does indeed imitate art, even very bad art.
Without hypocrisy we are sunk, for the alternative to high standards is not low standards; it’s eventually no standards at all—which in matters sexual is pretty much where we are now, it seems to me. (As Mary Eberstadt argued already some years ago, we seem to have transferred our moral taboos from sex to food—as in homosexuality is fine, but transfats are sinful.)
To one extent or another, all Muslim Middle Eastern societies (to include those of North Africa, the Sahel and Southwest Asia), Arab and non-Arab alike, maintain traditional attitudes toward human sexuality and to how that subject in its various manifestations may and may not be discussed in public. …
This raises a weird but telling paradox. Many young Middle Easterners admire American political institutions but not the wiles and ways of American society. And they have a point. Their countries’ political institutions are mostly pathetic or worse, but their societies generally are not.
The favorite rhetorical question asked here after 9/11 was “Why do they hate us?” The answer to this question is that it was and remains the wrong question. The typical tradition-minded Middle Easterner does not hate America. But rather a lot of tradition-minded Middle Easterners are disgusted by America. There is a difference.
The rise of “gay rights” discourse and especially of the gay marriage controversy to the pinnacle of American politics—all the way to the Supreme Court—befuddles and disgusts most of them. The immodesty and downright salaciousness of American “low” fashion, especially for women, repels and disgusts them, too. The manifest disrespect shown to elders and teachers alarms and disgusts them. The now deeply embedded linguistic obscenity in American culture, whether in some forms of popular music or just in overheard speech, repulses and disgusts them. And not that violence against women and homosexuals is unknown to them in their own societies—again, very much to the contrary—but the casual pervasiveness of it in Americans’ own depictions of American society shocks and disgusts them, too.
Above all, the deafeningly public character of all this—the banishment of useful hypocrisy, in other words—puzzles and disgusts to the point that many of them think we have simply gone mad.
October 6, 2014
What is the origin of the enterovirus that's killing our children?
Polio-like illness claims fifth life in U.S. by Sharyl Atkinson
At least five children infected with the respiratory illness known enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) have died in the U.S. in the past month.
The CDC reports that in the past month and a half, at least 538 people in 43 states and the District of Columbia have become ill with EV-D68. Most of them are children and some developed limb paralysis. Polio, which can cause paralysis and death, is a type of enterovirus. EV-D68 is one of more than a hundred “non-polio” enteroviruses.
The actual number of EV-D68 infections is likely significantly higher than reported since some state health officials are not testing every suspected case.
The CDC hasn’t suggested reasons for the current uptick or its origin. Without that answer, some question whether the disease is being spread by the presence of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children from Central America admitted to the U.S. in the past year.
The origin could be entirely unrelated.
However, a study published in Virology Journal, found EV-D68 among some of the 3,375 young, ill people tested in eight Latin American countries, including the Central American nations of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in 2013. (See Fig. 3)
Though the U.S. government is keeping secret the locations of the illegal immigrant children, there are significant numbers of them in both cities in which the current outbreak was first identified, Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois, according to local advocates and press reports.
Eileen F. Toplansky writes though he has been repeatedly warned by credible sources of the health risks of illegal immigration, Barack Hussein Obama refuses to use the legal power within his authority to "seal the borders to any class of aliens who pose a threat to the United States."
And still the stream of illegal immigrants not only continues, but is actively pursued by the Department of Justice, which mandates that unaccompanied minors be sent to various U.S. locations to live with relatives or, in some cases, to live as foster wards. The children would be allowed to enroll in local, taxpayer-funded public schools with no questions asked – by law. Clearly "[t]he Obama administration is fully aware of the health risks presented by its policy of forcing potentially unvaccinated, diseased immigrants into public schools."
Moreover, school districts have been ordered to "accept illegal immigrant children even if they have no home and no documentation concerning their health or immunization status." In fact, local schools "cannot exclude from school attendance those homeless children who do not provide the requisite health or immunization information required of other students.”
Obama's ongoing disregard of federal law on immigration has been the cause of this now emerging potential for a pandemic in this country. But when this is pointed out, charges of racism completely subvert the conversation. That protecting all Americans is racist belies logic, since germs do not select black, brown, or white Americans to sicken.
The next wave may be worse than the first, however, because monsoon conditions, a harsh drought and the globalization of transport are ensuring that the 50,000 or so unscreened new entrants will be bringing a raft of new diseases with them.
In throwing open our border for political purposes, the U.S. is exposing itself to a host of nasty diseases and epidemics, among them
chikungunya, known as "the virus of pain." Its Tanzanian-origin Bantu name means "to contort," describing the agony it leaves in joints for years.
Some 183,000 cases were detected in the region this year as it spreads from the same mosquitoes that transmit dengue and yellow fever. Central America, according to a report in El Pais, is the epicenter. Puerto Rico has reported 2,000 cases and three deaths.
there's also a monster dengue fever epidemic raging through Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala right now, with 120,000 cases, 60 deaths and public health emergencies declared in those countries, also a result of the rainy season.
There's tuberculosis, which has infection rates in Central America roughly 10 times that of the U.S.
What's Racist, What's Not
What's Racist, What's Not (As of Friday, Oct. 3, 2014) by Andrew Stiles who provides the necessary links.
Things That Are Racist
1. Talking about Ebola (Salon)
6. The American Revolution (Salon)
7. Children’s books with white characters (Salon)
8. Criticizing the IRS (MSNBC)
9. Donating to the United Negro College Fund
16. Saying Obama likes to play golf (MSNBC)
17. Saying “Obamacare” (MSNBC)
18. Living in the suburbs (Salon)
19. Calling Obama “Obama” (MSNBC)
23. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
Things That Are Not Racist
1. Suing a fertility clinic after giving birth to a mixed race child that you wish was white* (Salon)
A white lesbian mother is suing a Chicago sperm bank after she claims she was mistakenly sent a black man's sperm and gave birth to a mixed-race daughter. Jennifer Cramblett, 36, claims the mistake has caused her stress and anguish because her family is racist and she lives in a small, all-white Uniontown in northeast Ohio.
Apparently, she also claims breach of warranty.
Kevin Williamson writes about the Clash of the Progressive Pieties
While one must pity the poor little girl who is being treated like a defective Honda Civic, it’s a delicious clash of progressive pieties. The mother — and somehow I suspect that I’ll be informed five minutes from now that it is wicked to call the half of the couple who carried the child and gave birth the “mother” — Jennifer Cramblett, among other things complains that it is difficult to find a place to get her daughter a decent haircut.
One feels for same-sex couples who long for children, as one feels for heterosexual couples with fertility problems who likewise long for children. But parenthood is not simply another experience that you purchase, like a vacation, and children are not — not yet — products to be built to your specifications. A model of parenthood dominated by the mandate to satisfy the parents’ needs rather than those of the children will be forever defective. But it is, increasingly, the model we have. It’s a perverse consequence of the times in which we live: Cultural and economic pressures see to it that many young women spend their most fertile years trying desperately to avoid motherhood and then spend their least fertile years trying, with the same desperation, to conceive. It’s cruel.
A strange thing: Nothing in the modern world has contributed to the devaluation of women as pitilessly as has the reduction of motherhood to the status of a take-out order of ovum foo young, and yet nothing is held so sacred by feminists. I cannot imagine that when the early feminists wrote about the “commodification of women” that they ever imagined it would get so literal, with product warranties and all.
Ebola is scarier when the government can't focus on real threats
" It is not Ebola I am afraid of. It is our government’s ability to deal with Ebola. " wrote Matthew Continetti in The Case for Panic. Incompetent government + corrupt elite = disaster
CDC, You Had One Job! writes Glenn Reynolds in CDC multitasking hurts Ebola fight, its core mission: protecting America from a deadly epidemic.
Disease control shouldn't extend to playground safety and occupational hazard nor "how much salt you put on your steaks, how close you stand to second-hand smoke and how often you do calisthenics."
It seems that as government has gotten bigger, and accumulated more and more of its own ancillary responsibilities, it has gotten worse at its primary tasks. It can supervise snacks at elementary schools, but not defend the borders; it can tax people to subsidize others' health-care plans but not build roads or bridges; and it can go after football team names but can't seem to deal with the Islamic State terror group.
Multitasking results in poorer performance for individuals. It also hurts the performance of government agencies, and of government itself. You have one job. Try doing it.
Despite the calm and collected image that the CDC and Texas Department of State Health Services today, doctors and public health officials have repeatedly fumbled when confronted with the virus.
When Duncan first went to the hospital with a high fever on September 25, he was given antibiotics and sent home - despite revealing that he had recently been in Ebola-stricken Liberia. He was not diagnosed with the disease until his girlfriend called an ambulance on September 28. The ambulance transported at least one other person before being taken out of service.
Then, after the the case of Ebola was confirmed, family members and friends who had contact with Duncan said they were left to go about their daily routines without contact from the CDC or local health officials. Four days after the Ebola diagnosis, Duncan's girlfriend revealed that his sweat-stained sheets were still on his bed and that no one from the CDC or health department had been by to collect his belongings. It was not until Friday that a cleaning crew finally arrived to remove the infectious items and clean the apartment.
The insanity of our immigration policy, Mark Steyn in Ebola Yes, Bagpipes No
US border security devotes more time and resources to Campbell Webster of Concord bringing in a bagpipe than to Thomas Duncan of Monrovia bringing in Ebola.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security expands its curious priorities from raiding Boston strip clubs for selling knock-off Red Sox T-shirts to raiding private homes to seize vintage cars that don't meet EPA standards. And yet more emission creep:
Homeland Security Is Now Helping To Protect Communities From The Effects Of Climate Change
Big Government is, inevitably, stupid government. The bigger it gets the more it will focus on trivia, and the less it will even be able to discern the few things it should be doing.
October 4, 2014
From the Art of Manliness, How to Gird Up Your Loins, an illustrated guide.
Deep Into Green by Michael Gorra, a review of Green: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau in the New York Review of Books
Jan Van Eyck: The Arnolfini Wedding, circa 1435
Trained as a medievalist, Pastoureau argues that the history of color is an “altogether more vast” subject than the history of painting, and this book’s concerns range from Latin etymologies to the green neon crosses that hang outside modern French pharmacies.
Pastoureau writes many pages further on, that trash cans are often green, a bit of sympathetic magic against decay, for “green cleans, green refreshes, green purifies.” It means health, and it did so long before it became the name of a political party, “no longer so much a color as an ideology.” Yet growth implies change, change betokens instability, and green is in fact “an uncertain color,” ambiguous and at times even forked in its significance.
Those pharmacy signs suggest illness as much as health, and green has often functioned as the color of poison and disease; think of the pustular figures on the Isenheim Altarpiece, and even of that work’s dead Christ. We speak of certain greens as sickly in a way that has no parallel in talking of blue or red or black, and for that there might be a reason in the very chemistry of the color itself.
In the Renaissance the color’s chemical instability made it seem “false” and even treacherous, a “deceptive color, simultaneously appealing and disappointing.” As such, it became associated with games of chance or hazard; think of the green baize with which tables for cards or craps or pool are covered even now. The color here carries a symbolic charge that is inseparable from its use—gambling means green. It connotes luck, the ups and downs of a player’s fortunes, and it also suggests avarice.
Researchers say the death throes of these early stars were unique as they exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no black hole behind, but instead spewing out chemical elements into space that eventually formed our Universe.
Two Blind Sisters See for the First Time YouTube link
Sonia and Anita, two sisters living in India, have been blind since birth, but a simple eye operation makes it possible for them to see their mom for the first time. The nonprofit organization 20/20/20 provides free operations to these sisters--as well as thousands of other people in developing countries. These procedures empower people in impoverished communities to create better futures. In this short film, Blue Chalk Media shares the sisters’ poignant story and captures their initial experiences after the bandages come off.
October 2, 2014
Health roundup: Viagra & blindness, losing sense of smell, bowel cancer breakthrough, new breast cancer drug cocktail, on-off switch for aging cells
A lot of men are going to be unhappy about this. Viagra 'may cause blindness': Ingredient in the drug can permanently affect sight, doctors warn
One theory is that erectile dysfunction drugs may obstruct an enzyme which is important for transmitting light signals from the retina to the brain. It is already known that sildenafil, the active ingredient in the erectile dysfunction medication, can cause temporary vision problems in some healthy people.
Doctors have now warned it could also cause permanent damage to the eyes of people with retinitis pigmentosa. People with normal sight that carry the gene for the condition may also be at risk, experts warn.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare hereditary condition that causes the cells in the retina - the area of the back of the eye which detects light - to degenerate and die. This can lead to difficulty seeing in dim light, loss of peripheral vision, and sometimes blindness.
About one in 50 people are likely to be carriers of genes which lead to the degeneration of cells in the retina.
Previous studies have linked Viagra and other anti-impotence drugs to side effects such as deafness. American researchers also found that men who used Viagra increased their risk of developing skin cancer.
Losing the sense of smell predicts death within five years, according to new research…. the sense of smell is the canary in the coal mine of human health. A study published today in the open access journal PLOS ONE, shows that losing one’s sense of smell strongly predicts death within five years, suggesting that the nose knows when death is imminent, and that smell may serve as a bellwether for the overall state of the body, or as a marker for exposure to environmental toxins.
The study involved more than 3,000 participants, all of them between 57 and 85 years old, from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), a longitudinal study of factors affecting the well-being of older people living in America.
In 2005-6, Jayant Pinto of the University of Chicago and his colleagues asked all the participants to perform a simple test that involved identifying five common odors (rose, leather, fish, orange, and peppermint), using the number of incorrectly identified odours as a score of the severity of smell loss.
Loss of the sense of smell predicted death more accurately than did a diagnosis of cancer, heart failure or lung disease, the only other common cause of predicting it more accurately being severe liver damage. But the researchers stress that it is unlikely to be a cause of death itself, arguing only that it is a harbinger for what is to come, and suggesting two possible reasons why this might be so.
Dr Toby Phesse, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne, said early data showed medication currently used to treat psoriasis, arthritis and minor fibrosis could help in the fight against the country's second deadliest form of cancer. He said the lab's focus was directed in signaling pathways and finding how to locate the pathways that stop tumors from growing.
'We identified a weak pathway that we found had a certain mutation in 80 per cent of tumous but there was a considerable risk since the pathway requires normal cells of the intestine. If the pathway is targeted directly you could be affecting normal cells of the intestine.We had to come up with a new method and target a parallel pathway.'
This is what brought scientists to the existing medicines, JAK inhibitors. The scientific breakthrough found 'JAK inhibitors' responded to 80 per cent of the colon tumors that possess the certain mutation.The treatment has caused excitement because the drug only targeted cancer cells, leaving normal cells unharmed, leaving no side effects.
Dr Phesse said this is an exciting breakthrough that will help thousands of people who have colon cancer or face risk of developing tumors. 'The main point is that the inhibitors already exist and have been approved,' he said.
A new breast cancer drug from Roche has shown 'unprecedented' benefits in extending lives in a clinical trial….Experts urged its widespread use for women with an aggressive form of the disease.
Patients with a type of breast cancer known as HER2 positive, which makes up about a quarter of all breast cancers, who were given Perjeta on top of older medicine Herceptin and chemotherapy lived 15.7 months longer than those on Herceptin and chemotherapy alone. That is the longest extension to survival ever seen for a drug studied in metastatic breast cancer and also an unusually good result for any type of metastatic cancer, where disease has spread to other parts of the body.
The switch controls the growth of telomeres, the timekeepers of cells…In a new study published September 19th in the journal Genes and Development, scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered that telomerase, even when present, can be turned off.
Understanding how this “off” switch can be manipulated–thereby slowing down the telomere shortening process–could lead to treatments for diseases of aging (for example, regenerating vital organs later in life).
Another day, another huge security breach
JPMorgan Chase Co. says that a recent cyberattack compromised customer information for about 76 million households and 7 million small businesses.
The New York-based bank said Thursday that customer information including names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses were stolen in the cyberattack.
However, JPMorgan said there’s no evidence that the data breach included customers’ account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers or dates of birth.
The lender said it has not found any unusual customer fraud related to this data breach.
Just days after revealing that the tax agency's failure to follow its own rules put the private data of 1.4 million people at risk, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration publicized the sentencing of Tax Examining Technician Missy Sledge for aggravated identity theft and mail fraud, and IRS employee Monica Hernandez for making and subscribing a false income tax return, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
in addition to IRS personnel, 14,000 contractors have "staff-like" access to Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information. Such protected data includes "any information under the IRS's authority that the loss, misuse, unauthorized access, or modification of could adversely affect the national interest, the conduct of IRS programs, or the privacy to which individuals are entitled under law." To gain that access, contractors have to submit to background checks…..
The tax collection agency failed to perform background checks when handing out five reviewed contracts for courier, printing, document recovery, and sign language interpreter services. The report also found a dozen other contracts where the IRS planned to perform background checks, but didn't get to all of the people on the job.
Apple never told you about its hidden tracking system
It is tracking your every move – recording the exact time you left for work, where you bought your coffee and where you like to shop.
But this isn’t a futuristic spy drone or some sinister Big Brother state – it’s the iPhone sitting in your pocket.
Hidden in Apple phones is a function which logs every journey. The iPhones are then able to analyze the data to figure out where you live and work, basing decisions on the frequency and timing of trips.
The function – called the Frequent Locations feature – was quietly introduced to iPhones a year ago. But since access to the program is buried beneath five layers of settings menus, few people know it exists.
Apple claims the data never leaves your phone without your permission, and that it was only designed to improve mapping services.
But Professor Noel Sharkey, one of Britain’s leading computing experts, described Apple’s ability to track people as ‘terrifying’. ‘This is shocking,’ he said. ‘Every place you go, where you shop, where you have a drink – it is all recorded. This is a divorce lawyer’s dream. But what horrifies me is that it is so secret. Why did we not know about this?’
Smartphones have had the ability to track their owners’ movements since they were first installed with GPS chips and mapping functions. But this feature, which is automatically installed on any iPhone with the iOS 7 or an iOS 8 operating system, is the first to display the movements clearly on a map. The phone records the date of every one of your journeys, your time of arrival and departure and how many times you have been to each address.
HOW THE HIDDEN TRACKING SYSTEM WORKS…AND HOW YOU CAN STOP IT
The Frequent Locations function is automatically installed on any phone with iOS 7 or iOS 8.
• To access Frequent Locations, go into Settings, choose the Privacy option and then Location Services.
• Go right down to the bottom and select System Services – then click Frequent Locations.
• Your data will be displayed under a History heading divided up into cities and districts – click on each one to see how your phone monitors, analyses and maps everywhere you go.
• To disable Frequent Locations, select Clear History and make sure Improve Maps is deselected.
• Finally, turn off the Frequent Locations tab. This does not stop data being recorded, it only stops it being packaged up in a map.
• To stop it being logged at all, you can disable Location Services in the Privacy menu – but this will leave you unable to use your phone’s mapping software.