HEALTH & SCIENCE
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WEST NILE VIRUS FAQ
Maryland Citizen's Health Initiative
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How to Die in Oregon. Under Oregons Death with Dignity law, terminally ill people can get prescriptions for lethal medications so they control the timing and circumstances of their death. This documentary tells the intimate stories of several people who have used this law, including a 54-year-old woman with incurable liver cancer. The film raises the question of why most states do not allow individuals to decide how much pain and indignity they choose to endure. Work Site
Over Diagnosis: Making People Sick in Pursuit of Health - Today, people don't just have diseases, they have pre-diseases: pre-diabetes, pre-hypertension, pre-obesity. In the face of pre-disease, otherwise healthy people seek treatment for potential ailments that show no symptoms, and maybe never will. We are all becoming the worried well, spurred on by doctors, patient advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies and the media. "Is informing the well about their risks for disease really the road map to a healthy society?" the authors wonder. -New Scientist
From the Green Shadow Cabinet
A dehumanized society and emotional suffering
Bernie Sanders: Only 7% of the nation's medical school graduates now choose a primary care career.
RxISK.org, the first free independent website for researching and reporting prescription drug side effects, has added a Violence Zone to demonstrate and collect data on the links between prescription drugs and violent thoughts and behavior from mild to suicidal or homicidal. - Activist Post
@Harpers - Portion of the National Institutes of Health's research-chimp population going into retirement in the next year: 1/5
Some Wall Street advisors use astrology
Another reason for eating chocolate
Are germs good for your kids?
Suit charges organ donor network pressured hospitals to declare patients brain dead
Life span of least educated whites is shrinking
The rise of the medical bureaucracy
SIX CHARTS ILLUSTRATING WHY CORRELATION IS NOT NECESSARILY CAUSATION
British Medical Journal - People with HIV have a 15 years longer life expectancy thanks to improved treatments over the past 13 years, according to a new . HIV infection has become a chronic disease with a good prognosis if treatment begins sufficiently early in the course of the disease and the patient sticks to antiretroviral treatment. However life expectancy for people with the disease is lower than that of the general population.
Nearly a third of advanced cancer patients receive more aggressive treatment than they may want
Who said scientists aren't fun
Dedication page of
Introduction to Algebraic Topology
My boyfriend of 7 years and I are both physicists.
Here's how he proposed to me.
(Click for full size)
Wall Steet Journal - Ascension Health, the country's largest nonprofit hospital system, says its mission is to serve all, "with special attention to those who are poor and vulnerable." But in this city, where one in four people don't have health insurance, it's become harder for the poor and vulnerable to find Ascension. Last year, Ascension's local subsidiary closed [Detroit's] Riverview Hospital, the third hospital it has shut down in Detroit in the past 10 years and the only hospital that remained on the city's blighted east side. Meanwhile, 30 miles away, in a suburb of multimillion-dollar homes, Ascension is opening a new $224 million hospital. Of the 42 hospitals in the city in 1960, fewer than 10 are left. .
Net income at Ascension, which owns 67 hospitals located mostly in the Midwest, South and Northeast, nearly tripled to $1.2 billion between 2004 and 2007 thanks largely to investment gains.
. . Nonprofit hospital systems have shuttered facilities from Los Angeles to Chicago to Newark, N.J., while spending billions on suburban expansions. This all comes as large nonprofit chains have been enjoying some of their most prosperous times ever.
Since the Review is better known for its political scoops rather than its scientific ones, excuse us for bragging that the latest issue of the highly regarded Nature Magazine has a cover article about the important but hidden Altenberg meeting on post-Darwinian research and new thoughts about evolution. We ran a piece of Suzan Mazur's ground breaking work on this topic back in March and followed up with another in July. Nature even borrows from Mazur's term "evolutionary Woodstock" to describe the critical meeting. Mazur's work is also found regularly in the great New Zealand journal, Scoop. The scientific establishment has been somewhat scared of dealing rationally and openly with new evolutionary ideas because of its fear of the powerful creationist movement. So for the topic to make the cover of Nature is a notable development. SCIENCE ON THE STREET A Nobel Prize winner takes to the street to answer questions about scienc
Tree Hugger - Martin Mittelstaedt of the Globe and Mail writes about how "Researchers tracking childhood behavioural disorders, sperm counts, testicular cancer and even the shrinking size of male gonads are convinced that something is amiss. The University of Pittsburgh's Devra Davis, in a study issued last year, found that the U.S. and Japan combined had a staggering tally of 262,000 "missing boys" from 1970 to about 2000 because of a decline in the sex ratio at birth. Although it could be a statistical anomaly, she says the figure is "very worrisome." Some think it might be due to endocrine disruptors in the environment. He lists "science's top five worries over the fate of the human male."
1. Lost boys: Studies on births from the U.S., Japan, and Canada have found a drop in the percentage of boys born compared with girls. The reason isn't known.
2. Declining harvest: Men in farm country can be half as prolific when it comes to making sperm as their city counterparts, raising the possibility that pesticides undermine male fertility.
3. Downsizing: It's disputed by chemical companies, but some researchers say they have found an everyday plastic compound - phthalates - that feminizes baby boys, causing penises and other reproductive organs to be smaller.
4. Hormones not so raging: If you're a middle-aged man, you're likely to be less virile than your father because you make less testosterone. In recent decades, the decline has averaged about 1 per cent a year. If it continues over another generation or two, the consequences could be dire.
5. Equipment failure: Rates of testicular cancer, hypospadias and other genital abnormalities have soared over recent decades, rising by more than 50 per cent each.
Mittelstaedt then lists the four chemicals that are causing the biggest concern: Bisphenol A, Phthalates, Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE). Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)
Bruce E, Levine, Alternet - In The Sane Society, [Erich] Fromm wrote, "Many psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to entertain the idea that society as a whole may be lacking in sanity. They hold that the problem of mental health in a society is only that of the number of 'unadjusted' individuals, and not of a possible unadjustment of the culture itself."
Is American society a healthy one, and are those having difficulties adjusting to it mentally ill? Or is American society an unhealthy one, and are many Americans with emotional difficulties simply alienated rather than ill? For Fromm, "An unhealthy society is one which creates mutual hostility (and) distrust, which transforms man into an instrument of use and exploitation for others, which deprives him of a sense of self, except inasmuch as he submits to others or becomes an automaton." Fromm viewed American society as an increasingly unhealthy one, in which people routinely experience painful alienation that fuels emotional and behavioral difficulties. . .
The essential confrontation for Fromm is not about psychiatric drugs per se (though he would be sad that so many Americans nowadays, especially children, are prescribed psychotropic drugs in order to fit into inhospitable environments). His essential confrontation was directed at all mental health professionals -- including non-prescribers such as psychologists, social workers and counselors -- who merely assist their patients to adjust but neglect to validate their patients' alienation from society.
Those comfortably atop societal hierarchies have difficulty recognizing that many American institutions promote helplessness, passivity, boredom, fear, isolation, alienation and dehumanization for those not at the top. One-size-fits-all schools, the corporate workplace, government bureaucracies and other giant, impersonal institutions routinely promote manipulative relationships rather than respectful ones, machine efficiency rather than human pride, authoritarian hierarchies rather than participatory democracy, disconnectedness rather than community, and helplessness rather than empowerment.
In The Sane Society, Fromm warned, "Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man. The specialists in this field tell you what the 'normal' person is, and, correspondingly, what is wrong with you; they devise the methods to help you adjust, be happy, be normal.". . .
It is my experience that psychiatry, Scientology and fundamentalist religions are turnoffs for genuinely critical thinkers. Critical thinkers are not so desperate to adjust and be happy that they ignore adverse affects -- be they physical, psychological, spiritual or societal. Critical thinkers listen to what others have to say while considering their motives, especially financial ones; and they discern how one's motivation may distort one's assumptions.
A critical thinker would certainly not merely accept without analysis Fromm's and my conclusion that American society is insane in terms of healthy human development. . .
A critical thinker would most certainly point out that there have been societies far less sane than the United States -- and Erich Fromm made himself absolutely clear on this point. In the barbaric German society that Fromm fled, disruptive children who couldn't fit into one-size-fits-all schools were not forced to take Adderall and other amphetamines, but instead their parents handed them over to psychiatrists to be euthanized. Fromm, however, knew that just because one could point to societies less sane than the United States, this did not make the United States a sane, humanistic society.
Bruce E. Levine, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and author of Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy (Chelsea Green, 2007
Times of India - Scientists have discovered that going veggie could be bad for your brain-with those on a meat-free diet six times more likely to suffer brain shrinkage.
Vegans and vegetarians are the most likely to be deficient because the best sources of the vitamin are meat, particularly liver, milk and fish. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anaemia and inflammation of the nervous system. Yeast extracts are one of the few vegetarian foods which provide good levels of the vitamin.
The link was discovered by Oxford University scientists who used memory tests, physical checks and brain scans to examine 107 people between the ages of 61 and 87.
When the volunteers were retested five years later the medics found those with the lowest levels of vitamin B12 were also the most likely to have brain shrinkage. It confirms earlier research showing a link between brain atrophy and low levels of B12.
Scientific Blogging - Andrew Scholey, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia has led a research study on the effects of chewing gum on stress relief and focus and concentration. The study found that chewing gum helped relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress among individuals in a laboratory setting. . .
The study noted:
- When chewing gum, participants reported lower levels of anxiety.
- Gum chewers showed a reduction in anxiety as compared to non-gum chewers by nearly 17 percent during mild stress and nearly 10 percent in moderate stress.
- Increased Alertness: Participants experienced greater levels of alertness when they chewed gum.
- Gum chewers showed improvement in alertness over non-gum chewers by nearly 19 percent during mild stress and 8 percent in moderate stress.
- Reduced Stress: Stress levels were lower in participants who chewed gum.
- Levels of salivary cortisol (a physiological stress marker) in gum chewers were lower than those of non-gum chewers by 16 percent during mild stress and nearly 12 percent in moderate stress.
- Improved Performance: Chewing gum resulted in a significant improvement in overall performance on multi-tasking activities.
Both gum-chewers and non-chewers showed improvement from their baseline scores; however, chewing gum improved mean performance scores over non-gum chewers by 67 percent during moderate stress and 109 percent in mild stress.
WASHINGTON BUSINESS JOURNAL The country's hospital systems reported robust revenue and profit growth in the survey, a news release said. Hospital system revenue from patient care grew 8.4 percent in 2007 compared to 2006 and revenue from all sources, including patient care, climbed 8.9 percent. Hospital system profits jumped 23.8 percent, according to the survey results.
SCIENCE DAILY Religious leaders have contended for millennia that burning incense is good for the soul. Now, biologists have learned that it is good for our brains too. An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.
"In spite of information stemming from ancient texts, constituents of Bosweilla had not been investigated for psychoactivity," said Raphael Mechoulam, one of the research study's co-authors. "We found that incensole acetate, a Boswellia resin constituent, when tested in mice lowers anxiety and causes antidepressive-like behavior. Apparently, most present day worshipers assume that incense burning has only a symbolic meaning.". . .
"Perhaps Marx wasn't too wrong when he called religion the opium of the people: morphine comes from poppies, cannabinoids from marijuana, and LSD from mushrooms; each of these has been used in one or another religious ceremony." said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "Studies of how those psychoactive drugs work have helped us understand modern neurobiology. The discovery of how incensole acetate, purified from frankincense, works on specific targets in the brain should also help us understand diseases of the nervous system. This study also provides a biological explanation for millennia-old spiritual practices that have persisted across time, distance, culture, language, and religion--burning incense really does make you feel warm and tingly all over!"
MOTHER JONES Daniel Burd - [a] 16-year-old from Waterloo, Ontario, as part of a science fair project, figured out a way to break down the polymers in plastic bags-compounds that can last for over 1,000 years-in about three months. Essentially, Burd hypothesized that since the bags eventually do degrade, it must be possible to isolate and augment the degrading agents. . .
Burd combined ground polyethylene plastic bags, sodium chloride, dirt from a landfill (which theoretically contains the microorganisms that ultimately degrade the plastic) and a yeast mixture in shakers for four weeks at a consistent temperature of about 86 degrees. At the end of the month, he took a sample of that mixture and combined it with a new one, with the goal of increasing the overall concentration of microbes. After one more repetition, he put fresh plastic bags in his solution for six weeks. In the end, the plastic degraded nearly 20%. A little more filtering to figure out exactly which microbes were the most effective, and he upped the degradation rate to 32%. He concludes, "The process of polyethylene degradation developed in this project can be used on an industrial scale for biodegradation of plastic bags. As a result, this would save the lives of millions of wildlife species and save space in landfills.". . . Judges at the Canada-Wide Science Fair apparently agree that it's worth pursuing. They sent Burd home with $30,000 in awards and scholarships. You can read his final report here
NATURAL NEWS In an article included in the latest edition of Cancer Monthly's free newsletter CancerWire, researchers analyzed statistics obtained through the National Cancer Institute in order to gain a clearer perspective on what type of cancer research is being undertaken in the country. . .
The authors found that of the 7,080 clinical trials for cancer currently ongoing, over 3,000 are focused on chemotherapy -- a treatment that already has over 50 years of research to its credit with relatively little practical return on investment. Of the remaining trials, over 2,000 were focused on more advanced biological treatments such as anti-angiogenesis drugs, which work to cut off the blood supply to tumors.
In all, only 123 of the trials deal with any type of alternative or complementary treatment. "These 123 represent only 1.7% of the total and included trials of various foods, herbs and modalities such as: soy, ginger, Valerian, Curcumin, acupuncture, Reiki, meditation, garlic, Green tea, and Tai Chi," the authors state.. . .
"The overwhelming majority of these trials examined questions that did not focus on whether these approaches alone improved survivability from cancer," the authors report. What this means is that the treatments were actually being evaluated not as treatments, but as adjunctive therapies to improve the rate and intensity of symptoms among those patients already undergoing conventional therapy.
Of the 7,080 clinical trials for cancer currently underway in the U.S., only three focus on natural alternative methods of treating the disease.
BBC - A leading psychiatrist says that depression is not a human defect at all, but a defense mechanism that in its mild and moderate forms can force a healthy reassessment of personal circumstances.
Dr Paul Keedwell, an expert on mood disorders at the Institute of Psychiatry, argues all people are vulnerable to depression in the face of stress to varying degrees, and always have been.
The fact it has survived so long - and not been eradicated by evolution - indicates it has helped the human race become stronger. . .
SCIENTIFIC BLOGGING - University of Sussex astronomers predict that the Earth will be swallowed up by the Sun unless the Earth's orbit can be altered - but we have about 7.6 billion years to do it. Dr Robert Smith, Emeritus Reader in Astronomy, said his team previously calculated that the Earth would escape ultimate destruction, although be battered and burnt to a cinder, but they did not take into account the effect of the drag caused by the outer atmosphere of the dying Sun. . .
Life on Earth will have disappeared long before 7.6 billion years, however. Scientists have shown that the Sun's slow expansion will cause the temperature at the surface of the Earth to rise. Oceans will evaporate, and the atmosphere will become laden with water vapor, which (like carbon dioxide) is a very effective greenhouse gas. Eventually, the oceans will boil dry and the water vapor will escape into space. In a billion years from now the Earth will be a very hot, dry and uninhabitable ball.
Can anything be done to prevent this fate? Professor Smith points to a remarkable scheme proposed by a team at Santa Cruz University, who suggest harnessing the gravitational effects of a close passage by a large asteroid to "nudge" the Earth's orbit gradually outwards away from the encroaching Sun. A suitable passage every 6000 years or so would be enough to keep the Earth out of trouble and allow life to survive for at least 5 billion years, and possibly even to survive the Sun's red giant phase.
OF MEDICATIONS AND MASSACRES
SAM SMITH - Once again, in the case of the North Illinois University killings, there is a possible link to medications - reportedly anti-depressants. And, once again, media and officials are downplaying it. In this case, the reported situation is that the killer stopped using his meds a few weeks before the massacre, but this statement by a police official does not qualify as serious inquiry. For example, if there was actually some connection, it could have been because:
- Some people have extremely violent reactions when they stop using the drugs. If so, what steps need to be taken to avoid this?
- The drugs had altered the killer's brain in some way that not only contributed to the violence but got him to give up taking the drugs.
Of course, there may be no connection at all, but - as pointed out here in the past - the use of anti-depressants and similar drugs is so prevalent that one need not have more than a miniscule chance of violent reactions to have major consequences.
While there are no answers at present, we do know this: neither medicine nor the media seems to care much.
Medicine is part science and part gambling. That's what all the small print on your prescriptions is about. We need to look at the odds more closely.
ABOUT A QUARTER OF WOMEN, 11% OF MEN REPORT SUFFERING DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
MSNBC - About a quarter of U.S. women suffer domestic violence, U.S. health officials reported, with ongoing health problems that one activist likened to the effects of living in a war zone. Some men also experience domestic violence, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey found.
The CDC said 23.6 percent of women and 11.5 percent of men reported being a victim of what it called "intimate partner violence" at some time in their lives.
SCIENTIFIC BLOGGING - Genetics Researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center have attempted to count the number of genes that contribute to obesity and body weight - and it isn't a pretty number.
The findings suggest that over 6,000 genes, almost 25 percent of the genome, could help determine an individual's body weight.
"Reports describing the discovery of a new 'obesity gene' have become common in the scientific literature and also the popular press," notes Monell behavioral geneticist Michael G. Tordoff, PhD, an author on the study. "Our results suggest that each newly discovered gene is just one of the many thousands that influence body weight, so a quick fix to the obesity problem is unlikely.". . .
Tordoff comments, "It is interesting that there are 10 times more genes that increase body weight than decrease it, which might help explain why it is easier to gain weight than lose it."