Category - Health Issues

Kingdom of Shadows–the aftermath

I spent the last three days watching Bernardo Ruiz’s Kingdom of Shadows at the SXSW movie festival in Austin. I appear in the film, along with a nun from Monterrey, Mexico and an agent from the Department of Homeland Security in El Paso.

After screenings, we took questions from the audience, but sessions were too short to adequately address issues related to the subject matter of the film—the effect of drugs and drug prohibition on our societies.

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Drinking coffee may lower risk of multiple sclerosis: researchers

Sydney Morning Herald, February 27

People who drink four to six cups of coffee a day may be less likely to get multiple sclerosis, US and Swedish researchers say.

While caffeine intake has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, the findings of the research released on Thursday show the same could apply to MS, an incurable disease of the central nervous system that affects 2.3 million people worldwide.

“Our study shows coffee intake may also protect against MS, supporting the idea the drug may have protective effects for the brain,” said lead author Ellen Mowry of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

[…]

More research is needed to determine if caffeine has any impact on relapse or long-term disability due to MS.

Be a Coffee Achiever!

Johann Hari: ‘I failed badly. When you harm people, you should shut up, go away and reflect on what happened’

He was the Independent’s star columnist whose lying and cheating destroyed his career. Now Johann Hari is back, with a book about drug-taking – including his own. But will anyone believe a word of it?

The Guardian, Decca Aitkenhead, January 2

When I heard that Johann Hari had written a book about the war on drugs, two immediate concerns sprang to mind. The first was whether anyone would trust a word he wrote.

The author used to be the Independent’s star columnist, a prolific polemicist and darling of the left, until his career imploded in disgrace when it emerged in 2011 that many of his articles contained quotes apparently said to him but in fact lifted from his interviewees’ books, or from previous interviews by other journalists. Worse, he was exposed as a “sockpuppet”, or someone who anonymously furthers his own interests online. Using a false identity, Hari had maliciously amended the Wikipedia pages of journalists he disliked – among them the Telegraph columnist Cristina Odone and the Observer’s Nick Cohen – accusing them of antisemitism, homophobia and other toxic falsehoods. Under the same pseudonym, he had also edited his own Wikipedia page, lavishly flattering his profile to, as he puts it, “big myself up”. The Independent suspended him, four months later he resigned, and no British newspaper has published his journalism since. He has never spoken publicly about the scandal, until now.
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Vatican forever bars woman who bared breasts

Grabbed baby Jesus statue

Thomson Reuters, December 27

Vatican City – The Vatican said it had arrested a member of women’s rights group Femen who on Christmas Day bared her breasts and grabbed a statue of the baby Jesus from a nativity scene in front of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

Femen’s website says the woman was protesting as part of its anti-clerical “Massacre of the Innocents” campaign contesting religions’ “maniacal desire to control women’s fertility”.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Friday that Ukrainian citizen Iana Aleksandrovna Azhdanova was being detained and questioned by a Vatican judge. On Saturday, the Vatican said she had been released and was forbidden to return to the Holy See.

He said she was accused of vilification of religion, obscene acts in public, and theft. He said her action “offended the religious feelings of many people”.

New surgeon general approved despite remarks on guns, contraception

Los Angeles Times, By Melissa Healy, December 15

Overruling the objections of gun-rights advocates, the U.S. Senate on Monday confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy, a British-born, American-educated internal medicine specialist, to become the 19th surgeon general of the United States.

The 51-43 vote makes Murthy, a 37-year-old graduate of Harvard University and Yale University Medical School, the third-youngest physician to lead the U.S. Public Health Service’s 6,800 commissioned officers.

Murthy founded Doctors for America, a national physicians group that worked to pass the Affordable Healthcare Act, and has worked to promote HIV/AIDS education both in the United States and India. At Brigham & Womens Hospital in Boston, his research has focused on improving the quality of clinical trials, and expanding the participation of women and minorities in biomedical research.

He has declared obesity “the defining public health challenge of our time,” and, more controversially, supported an assault weapons ban and asserted that “guns are a healthcare issue.”

Federal ‘Cromnibus’ spending bill also effectively ends U.S. ban on medical marijuana

Raw Story, By Arturo Garcia, December 16

The newly-passed $1.1 trillion federal spending bill also includes a bipartisan provision that signals the end of the federal ban on medical marijuana, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The provision bars federal agents from raiding medical marijuana retailers in the 32 states and the District of Columbia where the practice has been legalized. It also protects hemp farms in Colorado. The amendment was written by two California congressmen, Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

“This is a victory for so many, including scores of our wounded veterans, who have found marijuana to be an important medicine for some of the ailments they suffer, such as PTSD, epilepsy, and MS,” Rohrabacher said in a statement.

Endless Blood: How smart use of an old technology is saving women’s lives

Not world headline material, but a a positive, informative piece I read this weekend

One of the largest risks for women, one of the leading causes of pregnancy-related mortality, has always been—and unfortunately still is—postpartum hemorrhage.

A few years ago, I delivered a beautiful baby at 3:06 a.m. after an uncomplicated labor. I put the baby on Mom’s chest, and everything went fine until 3:10 a.m., when the placenta delivered. Then, as sometimes happens, the uterus failed to contract. It was relaxed and floppy; it didn’t start to grow smaller as it should almost immediately after delivery. And as happens, the uterine bleeding started and wouldn’t stop. I tried medications and uterine massage. As less often happens, those did not work…[]

We took the patient to the operating room. We put her to sleep. We opened her belly. We started to remove her uterus. Everything bled; places where we put stitches bled; places we touched with our cautery bled. Nothing stopped the bleeding. By 4:30 a.m. I had the terrible, nauseating, sinking feeling that I’ve only had a few times in my career: I was pretty sure this woman, this new mother, was going to die.
more at the link

A Peek Inside the Conservative Mind

WARNING: Below, you will be exposed to toxic thinking and noxious conclusions from right-wing partisans. A Level Four HazMat suit is recommended. The CDC will NOT be available for protection. You have been warned. Proceed with caution. Should you experience nausea, vomiting, tearing eyes, a rise in blood pressure SHUT DOWN YOUR BROWSER IMMEDIATELY and seek expert medical attention from Doctors Jack Daniels or Jim Beam.

The Ebola crisis is, in point of fact, a manufactured crisis. Media outlets, tired of covering insipid and meaningless political horse races found a sexy and dangerous news item and not only ran with it, but decided to tie it into the politics of the day.

The prevailing wisdom, of course, is this crisis reflects badly on the CDC. I suppose when you push a false narrative, it has to. After all, the CDC is supposed to be on top of “crises” like these, and handle them with aplomb.

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Much worse to come

The Ebola epidemic in west Africa poses a catastrophic threat to the region, and could yet spread further

The Economist, October 18

ON MARCH 25th the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported a rash of cases of Ebola in Guinea, the first such ever seen in west Africa. As of then there had been 86 suspected cases, and there were reports of suspected cases in the neighbouring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia as well. The death toll was 60.

On October 15th the WHO released its latest update. The outbreak has now seen 8,997 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of Ebola. All but 24 of those have been in Guinea (16% of the total), Sierra Leone (36%) and Liberia (47%). The current death toll is 4,493. These numbers are underestimates; many cases, in some places probably most, go unreported.

This all pales, though, compared with what is to come. The WHO fears it could see between 5,000 and 10,000 new cases reported a week by the beginning of December; that is, as many cases each week as have been seen in the entire outbreak up to this point. This is the terrifying thing about exponential growth as applied to disease: what is happening now, and what happens next, is always as bad as the sum of everything that has happened to date.

[…]

Even if treatment centres are hugely expanded, people’s behaviour changes radically and a vaccine proves effective, the damage already done to the region is huge. The patterns of work and food supply are already disrupted. Some farmers have abandoned their fields because they wrongly fear being infected by water in irrigation channels; some in cities are panic-buying. Salaries to public employees are not secure. The World Bank warns that Liberia’s rubber production, a big export earner, could fall drastically.

For now mounting deaths, understandable confusion and increasing economic dislocation have not caused widespread civil unrest. But many fault their governments for not protecting or preparing them better for the epidemic, and the grudges that animated past civil wars and coups sleep lightly. Few diplomats see a return to the bad old politics as out of the question; Filipino UN peacekeepers in Liberia have been withdrawn by their government. If civil order breaks down, the epidemic will get still worse.

Even if things do not fall apart, there is the most uphill of struggles ahead. Dr Piot cautions that an Ebola outbreak is an all-or-nothing affair; it is only over when the last patient is either dead or fully recovered. When it has struck on this scale, the challenges that remain after that will still be huge; whole public-health infrastructures will need rebuilding. But first there is a mountain to climb.

Bloomberg: What’s Ebola? Mumbai Takes Crash Course as Virus Spreads
(Dallas) Star Telegram: First round of Ebola contacts to resume their lives

Nurses at Texas hospital: ‘There were no protocols’ about Ebola

CNN, By Catherine E. Shoichet, October 15

A union made troubling allegations Tuesday about the Texas hospital where a nurse contracted Ebola, claiming “guidelines were constantly changing” and “there were no protocols” about how to deal with the deadly virus.”

“The protocols that should have been in place in Dallas were not in place, and that those protocols are not in place anywhere in the United States as far as we can tell,” National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro said. “We’re deeply alarmed.”

CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the claims, if true, are “startling.” Some of them, he said, could be “important when it comes to possible other infections.”

Officials from National Nurses United declined to specify how many nurses they had spoken with at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. They said they would not identify the nurses or elaborate on how the nurses learned of the details in their allegations in order to protect them from possible retaliation. The nurses at the hospital are not members of a union, officials said.

US Supreme Court blocks Texas abortion restrictions

Guardian – The US Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked key parts of a 2013 law in Texas that had closed all but eight facilities providing abortions in America’s second most-populous state.

In an unsigned order, the justices sided with abortion rights advocates and health care providers in suspending an October 2 ruling by a panel of the New Orleans-based US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals that Texas could immediately apply a rule that would force abortion clinics statewide to spend millions of dollars on hospital-level upgrades.

Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Breakthrough Replicates Human Brain Cells for Use in Alzheimer’s Research

NYT – For the first time, researchers have created what they call Alzheimer’s in a Dish — a petri dish with human brain cells that develop the telltale structures of Alzheimer’s disease. In doing so, they resolved a longstanding problem of how to study Alzheimer’s and search for drugs to treat it; the best they had until now were mice that developed an imperfect form of the disease.

The key to their success, said the lead researcher, Rudolph E. Tanzi of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was a suggestion by his colleague Doo Yeon Kim to grow human brain cells in a gel, where they formed networks as in an actual brain. They gave the neurons genes for Alzheimer’s disease. Within weeks they saw the hard Brillo-like clumps known as plaques and then the twisted spaghetti-like coils known as tangles — the defining features of Alzheimer’s disease.

The work, which also offers strong support for an old idea about how the disease progresses, was published in Nature on Sunday.

Fracking Chemicals, Brought to You by Susan G. Komen

Mother Jones, By Julia Lurie, October 9

Here’s some news that frankly, I initially thought was a spoof: for the second year in a row, breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen for the Cure—which caused massive outrage when it defunded Planned Parenthood in 2012—has partnered with Baker Hughes, a leader in the fracking industry. The Houston-based oilfield services company will donate $100,000 to Komen over the year and sell 1,000 pink-painted drill bits used for fracking.

According to Baker Hughes’ “Doing Our Bit for the Cure” campaign website, “The pink bits serve as a reminder of the importance of supporting research, treatment, screening, and education to help find the cures for this disease, which claims a life every 60 seconds.”

The irony here is that one of the primary criticisms of fracking is that the fracking process injects possible and known carcinogens, including benzene, formaldehyde, and sulfuric acid, into the ground and surrounding environment. A 2011 senate investigation of 14 leading fracking companies found that, between 2005 and 2009—far from the height of the fracking era—the companies had “injected 10.2 million gallons of fracturing products containing at least one carcinogen.”

Also, Hullabaloo: Little pink bits

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