Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Cheat Sheet for Keeping Resolutions

People Who Have Stuck to Their Vows Share the Secrets of Their Success; the Limits of Willpower.

It is no secret that the odds against keeping a New Year's resolution are steep. Only about 19% of people who make them actually stick to their vows for two years, according to research led by John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.
But those discouraging statistics mask an important truth: The simple act of making a New Year's resolution sharply improves your chances of accomplishing a positive change—by a factor of 10. Among those people who make resolutions in a typical year, 46% keep them for at least six months. That compares with only 4% of a comparable group of people who wanted to make specific changes and thought about doing so, but stopped short of making an actual resolution, says a 2002 study of 282 people, led by Dr. Norcross and published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.
To explore what separates the winners from the losers, I tracked down several people who have kept their resolutions for a while...

Their stories illustrate several rules for success. Contrary to popular belief, the secret isn't willpower, Dr. Norcross says; people who rely on hopes, wishes or desire actually fail at a higher rate than others. Instead, the successful resolution-keepers made specific, concrete action plans to change their daily behavior.

Good News in the Daily Grind

A good review of the relative health benefits of coffee consumption in the WSJ here.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Doing Good by Paying Forward

This fall, Kiva, one of the leading organizations in a niche that includes others like DonorsChoose and the eBay-owned MicroPlace, came under fire in a blog post by a microfinance researcher named David Roodman. He took Kiva to task for inaccurate information on its Web site about how the loans, made to entrepreneurs in the developing world by its users, actually worked.
Many of those business owners, it turned out, had received their money already; they weren’t left waiting to, say, repair their motorcycle taxis until enough Americans pitched in with $20 loans.
Kiva has since changed its site to reflect this reality more accurately. But the incident poses a question about other organizations that try to provide a direct connection between you and the beneficiaries of your donations or investments: can any of them truly deliver on the promise that many of them imply — that your dollars will go to the particular people or project leader you’ve picked out?
This week, I put that question to some of the leading organizations in this niche.

Here’s what they had to say.

Ami Vitale Movie of India

Check out this link to see what happens when one combines incredible photographic talent with the newer DSLRs, which can also do video...

Bono and Glen Hansard "Stand By Me"

Would have liked to have been at Grafton street yesterday, where Hansard and Bono were busking for a charity for homeless and people with AIDS, Dublin Simon Community.


New Inherited Eye Disease Discovered

ScienceDaily (Dec. 25, 2009) — University of Iowa researchers have found the existence of a new, rare inherited retinal disease. Now the search is on to find the genetic cause, which investigators hope will increase understanding of more common retinal diseases.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Most Meaningful Gift Idea

Nicholas Kristof Recommendations for charity in the areas of international development and health organization here.

I would of course highly recommend Orbis as well..

This time of year I’m always barraged with inquiries about well-run charitable groups doing effective work. So let me tell you about some of the organizations that I’ve encountered that tackle global poverty in innovative ways.
So here’s my quirky holiday list of nifty, unknown charities:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Disease Risk Depends on Which Parent a DNA Variant Is Inherited From

Icelandic biologists have discovered that the genetic risk of several common diseases, like Type 2 diabetes and cancer, can depend on which parent a DNA variant is inherited from.
Another explanation is that the missing heritability lies in aspects of cell biology that are not yet understood.

Decode scientists have found one such instance. They report in Friday’s Nature that a DNA variant increases a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes by 30 percent if inherited from the father, but reduces the risk by 10 percent if comes from the mother.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Surgery, a Tangled Tumor Meets Its Match

Here is a description of a 43 hour liver surgery...

He had come to NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center to be treated by Dr. Tomoaki Kato, one of the few surgeons willing to take on such difficult, risky cases. Dr. Kato is an expert in ex vivo resection — taking out organs and operating on them outside the body to remove tumors that cannot be treated in any other way, and then sewing the organs back in. The procedures are grueling surgical marathons that can easily last 30 hours or more, involve a dozen surgeons and anesthesiologists and cost more than $300,000.

“If you don’t do it, the patient will have no chance to live,” Dr. Kato said.

CT Scans Linked to Cancer

The risk of cancer associated with popular CT scans appears to be greater than previously believed, according to two new studies published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The findings support caution against the overuse of CT scans and other medical technologies that use radiation. The studies also bolstered the rationale behind controversial new breast-cancer screening guidelines, which pushed back the recommended age for annual mammograms to 50 from 40. Mammograms also use radiation, but in smaller doses.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Dublin, Ireland (December 12, 2009) – Niall Sherlock (25), a teacher and runner from Dublin 15 became the first European to finish the Great Ethiopian Run all the while helping raise 3,000 euros for Orbis Ireland’s eye-care projects in the country.

With close to 40,000 participants, the race was the largest ever race on the African continent.

The Castleknock local completed the 10k race in aid of charity, Orbis Ireland, in a respectable time of 34 minutes and 50 seconds given the challenging conditions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lessons From the War Zone

This is a great article, which deserves to be read in its entirety. It speaks generally to the wisdom acquired by expanding one's experiences outside of one's immediate environment, and specifically to the impact on physicians of time spent caring for patients in the "War Zone." Although I have not spent time in such a situation, I am certain that my prior years overseas and now frequent short-term mission trips have tangibly and intangibly helped me become a better physician. Tangibly, I have had the opportunity to manage medically and surgically much more complex disease (and in much higher volume) than seen in the States. Intangibly, the benefit has been along the lines of ingraining the incredible privilege of being a physician--having a "job" in which I can help others quite directly. These experiences have also given me a different perspective on health care than many of my colleagues. Helping others at the edges of survival in marginal governments with minimal infrastructure and government has also led to a jaundiced view of the entities who have insinuated themselves into health care here for selfish interests--the usual suspects--greedy insurance executives, ambulance chasers and other entities who act to erode basic physician-patient trust and care in our society.

Not long ago I saw my former chairman again for the first time in nearly 20 years. He was older and slightly grayer, and still possessed of the stunning carriage that made him stand out in a room. But as I stood before him, what I remembered was not his having served in Vietnam nor even his remarkable skill, but his profound respect for the humanity of those he cared for, whoever they might have been.

For what he had taught me, first as a doctor-in-training and later as a fully trained surgeon and teacher, and what I recalled were the moments he urged us not to be tardy with our patients, to change out of our surgical scrubs into neat street clothes when leaving the operating rooms to see patients, and to be mindful, always, of even the smallest details of our patients’ experiences.

War, we are now learning, can have wide-ranging, complex and not always positive effects on doctors who serve. But one thing is certain: seeing the casualties of combat does more than produce war doctors capable of caring for any injury. It has the paradoxical power to create doctors with an extraordinary appreciation for all humanity.

Here is another link to discussions on the above article.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The truth about grit

A great article which seems to resonate with what I have seen in life...

Modern science builds the case for an old-fashioned virtue - and uncovers new secrets to success

In recent years, psychologists have come up with a term to describe this mental trait: grit. Although the idea itself isn’t new - “Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison famously remarked - the researchers are quick to point out that grit isn’t simply about the willingness to work hard. Instead, it’s about setting a specific long-term goal and doing whatever it takes until the goal has been reached. It’s always much easier to give up, but people with grit can keep going.

The hope among scientists is that a better understanding of grit will allow educators to teach the skill in schools and lead to a generation of grittier children. Parents, of course, have a big role to play as well, since there’s evidence that even offhand comments - such as how a child is praised - can significantly influence the manner in which kids respond to challenges. And it’s not just educators and parents who are interested in grit: the United States Army has supported much of the research, as it searches for new methods of identifying who is best suited for the stress of the battlefield.
After developing a survey to measure this narrowly defined trait - you can take the survey at www.gritstudy.com - Duckworth set out to test the relevance of grit. The initial evidence suggests that measurements of grit can often be just as predictive of success, if not more, than measurements of intelligence. For instance, in a 2007 study of 175 finalists in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Duckworth found that her simple grit survey was better at predicting whether or not a child would make the final round than an IQ score.
“I first got interested in grit after watching how my friends fared after college,” Duckworth says. She noticed that the most successful people in her Harvard class chose a goal and stuck with it, while others just flitted from pursuit to pursuit. “Those who were less successful were often just as smart and talented,” Duckworth notes, “but they were constantly changing plans and trying something new. They never stuck with anything long enough to get really good at it.”

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Millions in U.S. Drink Dirty Water, Records Show

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

The Happiness Project

One of my must read blogs over the past several years has been the  "The Happiness Project." The author of this blog, Gretchen Rubin, has a very lively and engaging writing style, characterized by a very personal  authenticity, which sets her blog apart from every other self-improvement type blog I have come across. She now has a new book out as well!

Requiem for the Dollar

James Grant, the mentor of my main source of financial advice, Bill Fleckenstein, has an excellent editorial in the WSJ...

Ben S. Bernanke doesn't know how lucky he is. Tongue-lashings from Bernie Sanders, the populist senator from Vermont, are one thing. The hangman's noose is another. Section 19 of this country's founding monetary legislation, the Coinage Act of 1792, prescribed the death penalty for any official who fraudulently debased the people's money. Was the massive printing of dollar bills to lift Wall Street (and the rest of us, too) off the rocks last year a kind of fraud? If the U.S. Senate so determines, it may send Mr. Bernanke back home to Princeton. But not even Ron Paul, the Texas Republican sponsor of a bill to subject the Fed to periodic congressional audits, is calling for the Federal Reserve chairman's head.
The Fed's M.O. is price control. It fixes the basic money market interest rate, known as the federal funds rate. To arrive at the proper rate, the monetary mandarins conduct their research, prepare their forecast—and take a wild guess, just like the rest of us. Since December 2008, the Fed has imposed a funds rate of 0% to 0.25%. Since March of 2009, it has bought just over $1 trillion of mortgage-backed securities and $300 billion of Treasurys. It has acquired these assets in the customary central-bank manner, i.e., by conjuring into existence the money to pay for them. Yet—a measure of the nation's lingering problems—the broadly defined money supply isn't growing but dwindling.
The Fed's miniature interest rates find favor with debtors, disfavor with savers (that doughty band). All may agree, however, that the bond market has lost such credibility it once had as a monetary-policy voting machine. Whether or not the Fed is cranking too hard on the dollar printing press is, for professional dealers and investors, a moot point. With the cost of borrowing close to zero, they are happy as clams (that is, they can finance their inventories of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities at virtually no cost). The U.S. government securities market has been conscripted into the economic-stimulus program.
On the matter of comparative monetary policies, the most expressive market is the one that the Fed isn't overtly manipulating. Though Treasury yields might as well be frozen, the gold price is soaring (it lost altitude on Friday). Why has it taken flight? Not on account of an inflation problem. Gold is appreciating in terms of all paper currencies—or, alternatively, paper currencies are depreciating in terms of gold—because the world is losing faith in the tenets of modern central banking. Correctly, the dollar's vast non-American constituency understands that it counts for nothing in the councils of the Fed and the Treasury. If 0% interest rates suit the U.S. economy, 0% will be the rate imposed. Then, too, gold is hard to find and costly to produce. You can materialize dollars with the tap of a computer key.
A proper gold standard promotes balance in the financial and commercial affairs of participating nations. The pure paper system promotes and perpetuates imbalances. Not since 1976 has this country consumed less than it produced (as measured by the international trade balance): a deficit of 32 years and counting. Why has the shortfall persisted for so long? Because the U.S., uniquely, is allowed to pay its bills in the currency that only it may lawfully print. We send it west, to the central banks of our Asian creditors. And they, obligingly, turn right around and invest the dollars in America's own securities. It's as if the money never left home. Stop to ask yourself, American reader: Is any other nation on earth so blessed as we?
There is, however, a rub. The Asian central banks do not acquire their dollars with nothing. Rather, they buy them with the currency that they themselves print. Some of this money they manage to sweep under the rug, or "sterilize," but a good bit of it enters the local payment stream, where it finances today's rowdy Asian bull markets.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Aid Gives Alternative to African Orphanages

This is a good article, however, I believe that financial aid should also be extended to native Africans who adopt people outside of their family as well..like my friend, Mirriam Magada...

In a country as desperately poor as Malawi, children placed in institutions are often seen as the lucky ones. But even as orphanages have sprung up across Africa with donations from Western churches and charities, the families who care for the vast majority of the continent’s orphans have gotten no help at all, household surveys show. Researchers now say a far better way to assist these bereft children is with simple allocations of cash — $4 to $20 a month in an experimental program under way here in Malawi — given directly to the destitute extended families who take them in. That program could provide grants to eight families looking after some two dozen children for the $1,500 a year it costs to sponsor one child at the Home of Hope, estimated Candace M. Miller, a Boston University professor and a lead researcher in the project.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Time management: How an MIT postdoc writes 3 books, a PhD defense, and 6+ peer-reviewed papers — and finishes by 5:30pm

Great post which echoes much of how I try to organize my time as well uvealbues..

Cal Newport - MIT postdoc, author, and founder of Study Hacks...
Below, you’ll learn:
  • How to use fixed-schedule productivity — similar to the Think, Want, Do Technique — to consciously choose what you want to work on and ignore worthless busywork
  • When to say no — and how to do it
  • How a $60,000-a-speech professional manages his time
  • Case study: How to use email for maximum time productivity
Read on.
I call this approach fixed-scheduled productivity, and it’s something I’ve been following and preaching since early 2008. The idea is simple:
  • Fix your ideal schedule, then work backwards to make everything fit — ruthlessly culling obligations, turning people down, becoming hard to reach, and shedding marginally useful tasks along the way.

'Comfort food' relieves stress: Australian study

SYDNEY (AFP) – A high-fat, high-sugar diet could have the same effect on brain chemistry as mood-altering drugs, giving scientific support to the craving for "comfort food", Australian researchers said on Tuesday.

I know more a few who could have sent this in...

From Postsecret

Organizing the Chaos of Online Travel Tips

Then I remembered Gliider, a browser tool that saves and organizes travel research. I downloaded the free add-on for Firefox, which deposited a small arrow icon on my browser navigation bar that, when clicked, opened a sort of file box. There I created a “trip” to Panama City, and began selecting, dragging and dropping text and photos from the Web into handy folders with labels like flights, hotels, see and do.

I could share the stash with friends and e-mail myself PDF dossiers of smartly organized information, ready to print out as a bespoke travel guide. (In January, iPhone users will be able to carry their Gliider content via an app.)

Gliider, I learned, is just one of a growing number of new online tools to help travelers plan where to go and what to do when they get there.

Knowing What’s Worth Paying for in Vitamins

Yet, when it comes to vitamins — which I take only when I feel run down — I turn to name brands like Centrum or Nature Made. My thinking has been: Why mess around with quality when it comes to the essential ABCs?

But now that I’ve done some research, I might soon change my vitamin-buying ways.
Read on to find out why.


Americans love vitamins. About half of adults take a daily multivitamin, according to industry data. And according to some theories, the economic downturn has inspired them to fortify themselves by swallowing more.

Sales over the last decade had been growing by about 4 percent annually. But this year, as more people are taking their health into their own hands, perhaps hoping to stave off doctor bills, vitamin sales are expected to grow by 8 percent to a total of $9.2 billion, according to Nutrition Business Journal, a market researcher and publisher.

About 42 percent of shoppers purchase their vitamins at natural and specialty retail outlets, like GNC and Whole Foods, according to the journal, while only 23 percent take the discount approach and buy their bottles at supermarkets and club stores. The other 35 percent buy through mail order or from a health care provider.

Of course, it’s controversial whether we should be taking vitamins at all. Recent studies have indicated that taking a multivitamin won’t protect you from heart disease or cancer. And experts maintain that if you eat well, you don’t need vitamin supplements.

“The evidence shows that a healthy diet and exercise are the best way to ward off disease; a vitamin cannot replace those benefits,” says Eric Rimm, associate professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

PRICE MAY NOT MEAN QUALITY While the Food and Drug Administration regulates vitamins as part of the nutritional supplement industry, it does not test them before they are put on the shelves. The F.D.A. places the responsibility on the manufacturer to ensure that its dietary supplement products are safe before they are marketed. All of which means that no matter what the price, quality is not assured.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Orbis program on World Sight Day

Medical Director, Hunter Cherwek, in an Orbis from Chittagong..

Uganda: Out of the Wild

Uganda's "Impenetrable Forest," home to half the world's population of Mountain Gorillas, is also a hotbed for a number of deadly diseases that cross the species barrier from animals to humans. READ MORE

Monday, November 30, 2009

Best Visual Illusions of the Year

The Top Three Winners of the 2009 Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest were:

We May Be Born With an Urge to Help

What is the essence of human nature? Flawed, say many theologians. Vicious and addicted to warfare, wrote Hobbes. Selfish and in need of considerable improvement, think many parents.

But biologists are beginning to form a generally sunnier view of humankind. Their conclusions are derived in part from testing very young children, and partly from comparing human children with those of chimpanzees, hoping that the differences will point to what is distinctively human.
An interesting bodily reflection of humans’ shared intentionality is the sclera, or whites, of the eyes. All 200 or so species of primates have dark eyes and a barely visible sclera. All, that is, except humans, whose sclera is three times as large, a feature that makes it much easier to follow the direction of someone else’s gaze. Chimps will follow a person’s gaze, but by looking at his head, even if his eyes are closed. Babies follow a person’s eyes, even if the experimenter keeps his head still.

People Hear With Skin as Well as Their Ears

We hear with our ears, right? Yes, but scientists have known for years that we also hear with our eyes. In a landmark study published in 1976, researchers found that people integrated both auditory cues and visual ones, like mouth and face movements, when they heard speech.

Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades

MARTINSVILLE, Ohio — With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.
From the ailing resorts of the Florida Keys to Alaskan villages along the Bering Sea, the program is now expanding at a pace of about 20,000 people a day.
Nationwide, food stamps reach about two-thirds of those eligible, with rates ranging from an estimated 50 percent in California to 98 percent in Missouri. Mr. Concannon urged lagging states to do more to enroll the needy, citing a recent government report that found a sharp rise in Americans with inconsistent access to adequate food.

“This is the most urgent time for our feeding programs in our lifetime, with the exception of the Depression,” he said. “It’s time for us to face up to the fact that in this country of plenty, there are hungry people.”
A recent study by Mark R. Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, startled some policy makers in finding that half of Americans receive food stamps, at least briefly, by the time they turn 20. Among black children, the figure was 90 percent.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Join the Campaign to End Blindness

To: The International Community

Sponsored by: Sight Savers USA

More than 40 million people in the developing world can’t see their children, parents, and friends because they are blind, yet most blindness can be prevented or cured with inexpensive medicine or operations. With our partners we have the medicines and medical know-how to give millions of people the gift of sight. But do you and I have the will?

Many cures for blindness are tragically simple. Trachoma infection causes horrible pain, scarring and eventually blindness… and it affects millions of children around the world. But a simple $8 operation can fix these problems, sparing a child years of infections resulting in a lifetime time in the dark. Cataract surgery, to replace the eye’s cloudy lens and restore sight, costs $28 for an adult, $121 for a child.

We have the power to stop the tragedy of needless blindness by urging the international community to increase assistance for medicine and medical care that can cure or prevent blindness, and by creating opportunities for blind people who can’t be enabled to see.

Join the call now to help put an end to preventable blindness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Last Lion in Kenya

The lion cub pictured above is named Gabriella and lives at an animal orphanage in Nairobi. The Pride of Kenya website reports she lives there because she was left parentless due to a human-lion conflict. (Presumably this explanation means her mother was killed by humans). The post about her goes on to say that her life expectancy in captivity is about 22 years.
In 20 years, according to one estimate, wild lions could be extinct in Kenya. So it is reasonable to wonder if she could be the last, or one of the few lions left in that country in two decades. If she still is alive then, and all the wild lions have been killed via poisonings and habitat loss, there will be no lions left in the wild there - but is a lion living in a cage that has been reared in captivity still a wild animal?

Congo's 'Mother Lode' of Gorillas Remains Vulnerable

A new study by the Wildlife Conservation Society says that western lowland gorillas living in a large swamp in the Republic of Congo -- part of the "mother lode" of more than 125,000 gorillas discovered last year -- are becoming increasingly threatened by growing humans activity in the region.

Factors from Common Human Bacteria May Trigger Multiple Sclerosis

Current research suggests that a common oral bacterium may exacerbate autoimmune disease. Multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease where the immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, affects nearly 1 in 700 people in the United States. Patients with multiple sclerosis have a variety of neurological symptoms, including muscle weakness, difficulty in moving, and difficulty in speech.

One in Four Borrowers Is Underwater

The proportion of U.S. homeowners who owe more on their mortgages than the properties are worth has swelled to about 23%, threatening prospects for a sustained housing recovery.

Nearly 10.7 million households had negative equity in their homes in the third quarter, according to First American CoreLogic, a real-estate information company based in Santa Ana, Calif.
Mortgage troubles are not limited to the unemployed. About 588,000 borrowers defaulted on mortgages last year even though they could afford to pay -- more than double the number in 2007, according to a study by Experian and consulting firm Oliver Wyman. "The American consumer has had a long-held taboo against walking away from the home, and this crisis seems to be eroding that," the study said.
Borrowers with negative equity are more likely to default if they live in a state where the bank can't pursue their assets in court, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

But borrowers who are less than 20% under water are likely to maintain their mortgage if their loan is modified and the payments reduced, said Sanjiv Das, head of Citigroup's mortgage unit. "Beyond 120%, the most effective modification is a complete loan restructuring, including a principal reduction."

Mortgage companies have been reluctant to reduce mortgage principal over worries about "moral contagion, with people not paying their mortgage or redefaulting because they believed the bank would reduce their principal," Mr. Das said.

Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government

WASHINGTON — The United States government is financing its more than trillion-dollar-a-year borrowing with i.o.u.’s on terms that seem too good to be true.

But that happy situation, aided by ultralow interest rates, may not last much longer.

Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.

Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Non-profit organization Nuru utilizes Macs to end extreme poverty

There are quite a few non-profit organizations that help impoverished nations, but none seem to have the grassroots approach of Nuru. This one-year old non-profit is using education to help communities, help themselves and they’re using technology to do it.

Nuru was formed by Jake Harriman, a platoon commander in the Infantry and an elite unit of Marines called Force Recon. Harriman served two tours of duty in Iraq where he realized that the key to ending terrorism was to end extreme poverty.

Harriman’s thoughts can be seen in a video called “The End.” In his words, “terrorists rely on an endless supply of people living in extreme poverty, with no other options in life. The only chance we have to see the end of terrorism, is to end extreme poverty.”

Here is the link to his video story...

Ron Dhindsa speaking about the Maryland Leadership Workshop

The Maryland Leadership Workshop (MLW) has been positively impacting lives for decades. Hear Brother Ron's speech about MLW at the link below...

Malaria Gaining Resistance to Best Available Treatment

WASHINGTON — Malaria that is resistant to the best available drug is more widespread in Southeast Asia than previously reported, new research shows. The worrisome finding poses a risk that travelers could carry this strain of the malaria parasite to other parts of the globe and unwittingly spread it, scientists reported November 19 at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

sciencenewsThe frontline drug in question is called artemisinin, the most potent medication currently in use against malaria. Signs of malarial resistance to artemisinin have surfaced over the past several years in Cambodia. The new findings confirm that resistant malaria has now cropped up beyond a spot on the border of Thailand and Cambodia where it was initially detected. Now it has appeared in Vietnam and in two spots along the Burma border with Thailand and China.

Cat licked, now computers tackle human brain

Supercomputers complex enough to think like human beings may be only a decade away, researchers at IBM have said.

Scientists in pursuit of machines that mimic a brain — a staple of science fiction but in practice a supremely difficult technological feat — have used a huge supercomputer to simulate the processes carried out by a cat’s cerebral cortex.

The computer simulated the flow of data through more than one billion neurons and ten trillion synapses, exceeding the activity inside a cat’s brain, according to researchers.

IBM scientists also said that they have created an algorithm called BlueMatter aimed at mapping the vast number of connections inside a human brain. Researchers hope that the ability to map the human brain will lead to a proper understanding of how it processes information.

Nothing to Sneeze At: Doctors' Neckties Seen as Flu Risk

I have, with some reluctance, decreased my use of neckties since 2006 when the evidence came out of Britain that ties may be significant fomites. The difficulty is maintaining a professional dress code without a tie...

The list of things to avoid during flu season includes crowded buses, hospitals and handshakes. Consider adding this: your doctor's necktie.

Neckties are rarely, if ever, cleaned. When a patient is seated on the examining table, doctors' ties often dangle perilously close to sneeze level. In recent years, a debate has emerged in the medical community over whether they harbor dangerous germs.

In June, the American Medical Association considered Resolution 720, which advocates a new dress code for doctors "due to evidence that neckties, long sleeves and other clothing items and accessories have been implicated in the spread of infections in hospitals." An AMA committee is seeking solid scientific evidence before it brings the matter to a vote.

The British Medical Association already decided the issue. It recommended in 2006 that physicians jettison "functionless" articles of clothing, including neckties, "as superbugs can be carried on them."
A search of the literature turned up ample evidence that patients don't pay much attention to how doctors dress. In one study, patients who were quizzed after clinic visits were mistaken 30% to 50% of the time about whether the doctor had been wearing a tie.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nobel Funk Off: Nelson Mandela and Friends Jamming

EyeWriter Lets Paralyzed People Draw and Write with Their Eyes

Intel Makes Leap in Device to Aid Impaired Readers

Despite all of the advances in digital technology, too few high-tech products have emerged to help the blind read books or other paper documents, or to make reading such texts easier for people with impaired vision or language-related learning disabilities.

A few years back, a breakthrough was made with text-to-speech software that could be installed on a specific mobile phone, but with limitations due to the phone's small screen and buttons, and restricted processor power.

Now, Intel, the giant chip maker, is attacking this problem with a new product: the Intel Reader. It's a chunky, book-size device with a computer-grade processor and a large, forward-facing screen that can be viewed easily while its downward-facing camera is shooting text for translation into audio and giant text. It also has raised buttons that are easy to find via touch.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Video: Arm Chair Reaches 98,268 Feet in New Toshiba Commercial

Some amazing things happen in the Black Rock Desert...uvealblues
From Gizmodo

The latest object to shoot high-def video from the edge of space is…an arm chair. To promote its REGZA SV LCD TVs (LED backlight, local dimming), Toshiba trekked into the Black Rock Desert with a helium balloon. Watch the result:

7 Healthy Foods That Will Fill You Up and Prevent Overeating

...So let's boil this down. There are nutrient-filled foods that will keep you full for a long time and quite easy to find at any local grocery store. If you eat these better quality foods, you won’t need to overeat and frankly, you may not be as tempted by the glazed donuts that Marcy brought into the office.

Here are a handful of the foods that we are talking about.
Where are these in your diet today? Are any of them included? Is anyone snacking on all of these each week?

Algae and Light Help Injured Mice Walk Again

Interesting article on optogenetics...

Then the light went off, and the mouse stopped. Sniffed. Stood up on its hind legs and looked directly at the students as if to ask, “Why the hell did I just do that?” And the students whooped and cheered like this was the most important thing they’d ever seen.
Because it was the most important thing they’d ever seen. They’d shown that a beam of light could control brain activity with great precision. The mouse didn’t lose its memory, have a seizure, or die. It ran in a circle. Specifically, a counterclockwise circle.

Precision, that was the coup. Drugs and implanted electrodes can influence the brain, but they are terribly imprecise: Drugs flood the brain and affect many types of neurons indiscriminately. Electrodes activate every neuron around them.

Treating Parkinson’s and other brain diseases could be just the beginning. Optogenetics has amazing potential, not just for sending information into the brain but also for extracting it. And it turns out that Tsien’s Nobel-winning work — the research he took up when he abandoned the hunt for channelrhodopsin — is the key to doing this. By injecting mice neurons with yet another gene, one that makes cells glow green when they fire, researchers are monitoring neural activity through the same fiber-optic cable that delivers the light. The cable becomes a lens. It makes it possible to “write” to an area of the brain and “read” from it at the same time: two-way traffic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

In House, Many Spoke With One Voice: Lobbyists’

Appalling, yet not surprising...uvealblues

WASHINGTON — In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.

Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.
E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.
The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.

Members of Congress submit statements for publication in the Congressional Record all the time, often with a decorous request to “revise and extend my remarks.” It is unusual for so many revisions and extensions to match up word for word. It is even more unusual to find clear evidence that the statements originated with lobbyists.
The e-mail messages and their attached documents indicate that the statements were based on information supplied by Genentech employees to one of its lobbyists, Matthew L. Berzok, a lawyer at Ryan, MacKinnon, Vasapoli & Berzok who is identified as the “author” of the documents. The statements were disseminated by lobbyists at a big law firm, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal.

Triumph of a Dreamer

This Nicholas Kristof written testimony to human courage and determination is a worthwile read...

Any time anyone tells you that a dream is impossible, any time you’re discouraged by impossible challenges, just mutter this mantra:Tererai Trent.

Of all the people earning university degrees this year, perhaps the most remarkable story belongs to Tererai (pronounced TEH-reh-rye), a middle-aged woman who is one of my heroes. She is celebrating a personal triumph, but she’s also a monument to the aid organizations and individuals who helped her. When you hear that foreign-aid groups just squander money or build dependency, remember that by all odds Tererai should be an illiterate, battered cattle-herd in Zimbabwe and instead — ah, but I’m getting ahead of my story.
Tererai was born in a village in rural Zimbabwe, probably sometime in 1965, and attended elementary school for less than one year. Her father married her off when she was about 11 to a man who beat her regularly. She seemed destined to be one more squandered African asset.
(Read on)

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Escape Materialism and Find Happiness

Money can’t buy you love. It can’t buy you happiness either. Today’s materialistic world often urges us to buy the coolest gadgets, the trendiest clothes, bigger and better things, but research shows that possessions and purchases don’t buy us happiness. According to an article on CNN, "by and large, money buys happiness only for those who lack the basic needs. Once you pass an income of $50,000, more money doesn’t buy much more happiness [according to happiness studies]." So while we are being pushed towards materialism, it’s for monetary gain by corporations, not for our own happiness.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to escape the trap of materialism, and find happiness in ways other than buying stuff online or finding joy in the mall. But it’s possible.
Here’s a guide to finding a materialism-free life and discovering true happiness.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Far From a Lab? Turn a Cellphone Into a Microscope

Now an engineer, using software that he developed and about $10 worth of off-the-shelf hardware, has adapted cellphones to substitute for microscopes.
“We convert cellphones into devices that diagnose diseases,” said Aydogan Ozcan, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and member of the California NanoSystems Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, who created the devices. He has formed a company, Microskia, to commercialize the technology.
ls on the slide digitally at the same time,” he said, so that it’s possible, for example, to see immediately the pathogens among a vast population of healthy cells. “It’s a way of looking quickly for a needle in a haystack,” he said.
THE cellphone systems may be particularly helpful in screening for malaria, said Yvonne Bryson, a professor and chief of the pediatric infectious diseases division at the David Geffen School of Medicine at U.C.L.A. She has collaborated with Dr. Ozcan on several grants. “Right now you need a microscope, and you need trained people,” Dr. Bryson said. “But this device would allow you to work without either in a remote area.”
M. Fatih Yanik, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “This makes it possible for ordinary people to gather medical information in the field just by
using a cellphone adapted with cheap parts.”

Sunday, November 08, 2009

How a Blind Teen "Sees" with Sound

A Coffee a Day Keeps Liver Disease at Bay

WASHINGTON Researchers in the United States have found another good reason to go to the local espresso bar: several cups of coffee a day could halt the progression of liver disease, a study showed Wednesday.

Sufferers of chronic hepatitis C and advanced liver disease who drank three or more cups of coffee per day slashed their risk of the disease progressing by 53 percent compared to patients who drank no coffee, the study led by Neal Freedman of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI) showed.

For the study, 766 participants enrolled in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-Term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) trial -- all of whom had hepatitis C which had not responded to treatment with anti-viral drugs -- were asked to report how many cups of coffee they drank every day.

The patients were seen every three months during the 3.8-year study and liver biopsies were taken at 1.5 and 3.5 five years to determine the progression of liver disease.

"We observed an inverse association between coffee intake and liver disease progression," meaning patients who drank three or more cups of java were less likely to see their liver disease worsen than non-drinkers, wrote the authors of the study, which will be published in the November issue of Hepatology.

Phys Ed: Why Doesn’t Exercise Lead to Weight Loss?

For some time, researchers have been finding that people who exercise don’t necessarily lose weight. A study published online in September in The British Journal of Sports Medicine was the latest to report apparently disappointing slimming results. In the study, 58 obese people completed 12 weeks of supervised aerobic training without changing their diets. The group lost an average of a little more than seven pounds, and many lost barely half that.
How can that be? Exercise, it seems, should make you thin. Activity burns calories. No one doubts that.

Chemicals in Our Food, and Bodies

Your body is probably home to a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA. It’s a synthetic estrogen that United States factories now use in everything from plastics to epoxies — to the tune of six pounds per American per year. That’s a lot of estrogen.

More than 92 percent of Americans have BPA in their urine, and scientists have linked it — though not conclusively — to everything from breast cancer to obesity, from attention deficit disorder to genital abnormalities in boys and girls alike.
Now it turns out it’s in our food.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Guinea-Bissau, the World's First Narco State

The volume of drugs passing through the tiny coastal nation has multiplied many times over since the cartels arrived. The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that a quarter of all cocaine consumed in Western Europe — worth $18 billion on the streets — passes through West Africa, most of it via Guinea-Bissau. In this photo, men affiliated with the cartels prepare capsules containing cocaine that will be swallowed and then smuggled into Europe.

After Setbacks, Small Successes for Gene Therapy

Not long ago, gene therapy seemed troubled by insurmountable difficulties. After decades of hype and dashed hopes, many who once embraced the idea of correcting genetic disorders by giving people new genes all but gave up the idea.

Dr. Patrick Aubourg
The red areas of four cells got the added gene and are using it to fight a brain disorder.

But scientists say gene therapy may be on the edge of a resurgence. There were three recent, though small, successes — one involving children with a fatal brain disease, one with an eye disease that causes blindness and one with children who have a disease that destroys the immune system

Sunday, November 01, 2009

New Life for the Pariahs

Perhaps the most wretched people on this planet are those suffering obstetric fistulas.
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Nicholas D. Kristof
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This is a childbirth injury, often suffered by a teenager in Africa or Asia whose pelvis is not fully grown. She suffers obstructed labor, has no access to a C-section, and endures internal injuries that leave her incontinent — steadily trickling urine and sometimes feces through her vagina.
She stinks. She becomes a pariah. She is typically abandoned by her husband and forced to live by herself on the edge of her village. She is scorned, bewildered, humiliated and desolate, often feeling cursed by God.
I’ve met many of these women — or, often, girls of 13, 14, 15 — in half a dozen countries, for there are three million or four million of them around the world. They are the lepers of the 21st century.
Just about the happiest thing that can happen to such a woman is an encounter with Dr. Lewis Wall, an ob-gyn at Washington University in St. Louis. A quiet, self-effacing but relentless man of 59, Dr. Wall has devoted his life to helping these most voiceless of the voiceless, promoting the $300 surgeries that repair fistulas and typically return the patients to full health.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ill-Conceived Ranking Makes for Unhealthy Debate

In the Wrangle Over Health Care, a Low Rating for the U.S. System Keeps Emerging Despite Evident Shortcomings in Study

During the health-care debate, one damning statistic keeps popping up in newspaper columns and letters, on cable television and in politicians' statements: The U.S. ranks 37th in the world in health care.
The trouble is, the ranking is dated and flawed, and has contributed to misconceptions about the quality of the U.S. medical system.
Among all the numbers bandied about in the health-care debate, this ranking stands out as particularly misleading. It is based on a report released nearly a decade ago by the World Health Organization and relies on statistics that are even older and incomplete.
Few people who cite the ranking are aware that some public-health officials were skeptical of the report from the outset. The ranking was faulted because it judges health-care systems for problems -- cultural, behavioral, economic -- that aren't controlled by health care.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Suffering, Writ Large

Photojournalism that  captures the suffering of women and children in the Congo here.

"The photography in “Congo/Women” — together with essays and video interviews online — explores the systemic violence against women, and the political and economic factors that sustain it. The images are provocative and disturbing: a malnourished child being measured in a clinic; the severed arm of a mother of three, lost while defending her children; a 70-year-old victim of gang rape awaiting couunseling; child soldiers leaning against a fence, machine guns in tow."

Science in Pictures: Honeybees, Artificial Monkeys, and a Rare Crow

Neat images here

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Missed Kicks Make Brain See Smaller Goal Post

Flubbing a field goal kick doesn’t just bruise your ego — new research shows it may actually change how your brain sees the goal posts.
In a study of 23 non-football athletes who each kicked 10 field goals, researchers found that players’ performance directly affected their perception of the size of the goal: After a series of missed kicks, athletes perceived the post to be taller and more narrow than before, while successful kicks made the post appear larger-than-life.
Professional athletes have long claimed that their perception changes when they’re playing well — they start hitting baseballs as large as grapefruits, or aiming at golf holes the size of a bucket — but many scientists have been slow to accept that performance can alter visual perception.

Findings About Veracity Of Peripheral Vision Could Lead To Better Robotic Eyes

ScienceDaily (Oct. 18, 2009) — Two Kansas State University psychology researchers have found that although central vision allows our eyes to discern the details of a scene, our peripheral vision is most important for telling us what type of scene we're looking at in the first place, such as whether it is a street, a mountain or a kitchen.

Cold Sore Virus Linked To Alzheimer's Disease: New Treatment, Or Even Vaccine Possible

ScienceDaily (Dec. 7, 2008) — The virus behind cold sores is a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease sufferers, University of Manchester researchers have revealed.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Grand Rounds is up at "Survive the Journey"

Here is the link. The theme is participatory medicine.
It includes this delightful clip from CIO Blogger, Brad Ahier...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Nutrition: Lower Depression Risk Linked to Mediterranean Diet

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet — packed with fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, olive oil and fish — is good for your heart, many studies have found. Now scientists are suggesting the diet may be good for your mental health, too.

The Young and the Neuro

In 2001, an Internet search of the phrase “social cognitive neuroscience” yielded 53 hits. Now you get more than a million on Google. Young scholars have been drawn to this field from psychology, economics, political science and beyond in the hopes that by looking into the brain they can help settle some old arguments about how people interact.
These people study the way biology, in the form of genes, influences behavior. But they’re also trying to understand the complementary process of how social behavior changes biology.

In other words, consciousness is too slow to see what happens inside, but it is possible to change the lenses through which we unconsciously construe the world.
Since I’m not an academic, I’m free to speculate that this work will someday give us new categories, which will replace misleading categories like ‘emotion’ and ‘reason.’ I suspect that the work will take us beyond the obsession with I.Q. and other conscious capacities and give us a firmer understanding of motivation, equilibrium, sensitivity and other unconscious capacities.
The hard sciences are interpenetrating the social sciences. This isn’t dehumanizing. It shines attention on the things poets have traditionally cared about: the power of human attachments. It may even help policy wonks someday see people as they really are.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Award for Humanitarian Leadership

The National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) today announced that the Civil Air Patrol will be presented with the NBAA Al Ueltschi Humanitarian Award in recognition of the organization’s efforts to provide disaster relief for people and communities in times of crisis.
Al Ueltschi, the award’s namesake, has been widely recognized for his lifetime of dedication to philanthropic causes. He was instrumental in the development of ORBIS, an international non-profit organization dedicated to preventing blindness and saving sight. Ueltschi, who has served as ORBIS’s chairman for more than 20 years, has made a number of significant financial contributions to the organization and has been instrumental in developing many of its most important initiatives.

Monday, October 05, 2009

How Ice Can Save Your Life

My brother, who is in charge of lifeflight for the Medical College of Virginia, notes that they have been using hypothermia in cardiac arrests over the past five years...


Therapeutic Hypothermia' Can Protect the Brain in the Aftermath of Cardiac Arrest


For decades, conventional wisdom in treating patients with cardiac arrest was that if the heart stopped beating for longer than six to 10 minutes, the brain would be dead. Now a new treatment being embraced by a growing number of U.S. hospitals suggests that patients can be brought back to a healthy life even if their heart is stopped for 20 minutes, perhaps longer.
The difference is profound. In recent months around the U.S., doctors and nurses say, cardiac-arrest patients who would previously have been given up for dead have been revived and discharged to return to their families and jobs with all or nearly all of their cognitive abilities intact.


Tracing the Origins of Human Empathy

Chimpanzees' Caring Behavior Toward Others Hints at the Emotion's Antiquity; the Mystery of the Contagious Yawn


Even so, Dr. de Waal contends that empathy, sympathy and compassion are traits shared by every species with a rudimentary capacity for self-awareness. While chimps can be combative and violent, they more often comfort and help each other. Capuchin monkeys enjoy giving to others. Elephants and dolphins aid companions in need. Whales can display something akin to gratitude. Even mice appear to have an ability to sense what their cage-mates are experiencing, says a recent study by researchers at McGill University.

Key cancer spread gene found

Scientists have pinpointed a gene linked to more than half of all breast cancers.

The Consistent Smile of Barack Obama

Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama recently posed for around 135 photographs with UN delegates during a reception that was held at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. Eric Spiegelman took these photos from the Whitehouse Flickr stream and turned them into a short time-lapse video.
The end-result is fairly interesting. The President has exactly the same smile in every single picture.

Barack Obama's amazingly consistent smile from Eric Spiegelman on Vimeo.

(From Avanish Kaushik via labnol)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

E. Coli Path Shows Flaws in Beef Inspection

Vegeterianism anyone? Actually this article highlights the exact reason why some of my friends are strict vegeterians...

Stephanie Smith, a children’s dance instructor, thought she had a stomach virus. The aches and cramping were tolerable that first day, and she finished her classes.

Then her diarrhea turned bloody. Her kidneys shut down. Seizures knocked her unconscious. The convulsions grew so relentless that doctors had to put her in a coma for nine weeks. When she emerged, she could no longer walk. The affliction had ravaged her nervous system and left her paralyzed.
Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.
“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ”Ms. Smith said.
In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.
Ms. Smith’s reaction to the virulent strain of E. coli was extreme, but tracing the story of her burger, through interviews and government and corporate records obtained by The New York Times, shows why eating ground beef is still a gamble. Neither the system meant to make the meat safe, nor the meat itself, is what consumers have been led to believe.
Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say. Despite this, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Buzz: Targeting Cancer With Bee Venom

In Animal Studies, Tiny Composite Spheres Deliver Drug Directly to Tumor Sites; 'It's Like an Injection'

A bee sting can be painful, but its venomous payload might hold promise for a beneficial purpose—fighting cancer.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have used an ingredient of bee venom called melittin to shrink or slow the growth of tumors in mice. Melittin's anti-tumor potential has been known for years, but it hasn't been used as a drug because it also attacks healthy cells, including vital red blood cells.
Now the researchers have found a way, using the burgeoning field of nanotechnology, to pinpoint tumors for attack by melittin while largely shielding healthy cells. They do this by attaching the bee-venom ingredient to nanoparticles, which are ultra-tiny, synthetically manufactured spheres. The resultant product, called nanobees, are injected into the blood stream where they circulate until they reach and attack cancerous tumors. The approach also has the potential to avoid some of the toxic side effects seen in older cancer therapies like chemotherapy.


Burst of Technology Helps Blind to See

A nice summary of current ophthalmology research here...

Scientists involved in the project, the artificial retina, say they have plans to develop the technology to allow people to read, write and recognize faces.

Advances in technology, genetics, brain science and biology are making a goal that long seemed out of reach — restoring sight — more feasible.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

With Genetic Gift, 2 Monkeys Are Viewing a More Colorful Worl

Dalton and Sam are male squirrel monkeys, about a foot tall. Their ancestors lived by eating fruit and insects and dodging falcons in the forest canopy of Central and South America. Dalton and Sam lead a more protected life in the laboratory of Jay and Maureen Neitz at theUniversity of Washington, Seattle. Recently, the Neitzes endowed them with a new genetic gift: the ability to see the world with full color vision.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Rx for money woes: Doctors quit medicine

Some physicians, fed up with the costs of their practice, are ready to hang up their stethoscopes and shift careers.

Prosthetic Retina - 'Bionic Eye' Artificial Vision Enhancers Being Put To The Test

In a survey conducted about patients’ expectations of electronic retina prostheses (retina implants) a decade ago, visually impaired or blind patients with degenerative retina conditions stated they would be happy if they were able to regain some mobility and recognize faces and read again.
According to the presentations given at the international symposium “Artificial Vision” September 19th, 2009 at the Wissenschaftszentrum Bonn, that's gotten a lot closer.

7 Solid Health Tips That No Longer Apply

Are you taking a daily aspirin or multivitamin to stay healthy? Avoiding eggs and choosing no-cholesterol margarine over butter? Convinced that jogging will ultimately kill your knees? Advice that was once considered gospel truth among the medical community is now being questioned

Drug-electricity combo makes paralysed rats sprint

Rats with severed spinal cords and no feeling in their hind limbs can walk, run, step sideways and jog backwards without re-growing the nerves between the injured site and the brain, raising the prospect of a treatment for people with spinal injuries.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Touched by Mortality

An excellent essay by Garrison Keiller from the vantage point of being a patient after a stroke...

The doctor who saw me in the E.R. wrote in her report: “nice 67 y.o. male, flat affect, awake, alert and appropriate.” I had appeared with slurred speech and a balloon in my head, had driven myself to United Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, parked in No Parking, walked in and was triaged right in to a neurologist who trundled me into the M.R.I. Space-Time Cyclotron for 50 minutes of banging and whanging that produced a picture of the stroke in the front of my brain, so off to the Mayo Clinic I went and the St. Mary’s Hospital Neurology I.C.U. and was wired up to monitors. A large day in a nice 67 y.o. man’s life.

But when the doctor talks about how you must go on a powerful blood thinner lest a stray clot turn your fine intellect into a cheese omelet, you must now accept being 67 y.o. and do as he says. You had intended to be a natural wonder, an old guy who still runs the high hurdles, but mortality has bitten you in the butt.
I like this hospital. St. Mary’s is a research and teaching hospital so you get to observe troops of young residents go by, trailing close behind Doctor Numero P. Uno, and watch them try to assume the air of authority so useful in the medical trade. The nurses, of course, are fabulous. Like many nice 67 y.o. men, I am even more awake and alert around attractive young women. A dark-haired beauty named Sarah brings me a hypodermic to coach me on self-administered shots of heparin, and without hesitation I plunge it into my belly fat.
No man is a coward in the presence of women.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Americans Have Been Taken Hostage

Dylan Ratigan from MSNBC calling it as he sees it ... 

The American people have been taken hostage to a broken system.
It is a system that remains in place to this day.
A system where bank lobbyists have been spending in record numbers to make sure it stays that way.
A system that corrupts the most basic principles of competition and fair play, principles upon which this country was built.
It is a system that so far has forced the taxpayer to provide the banks with the use of $14 trillion from the Federal Reserve, much of the $7 trillion outstanding at the US Treasury and $2.3 trillion at the FDIC.
A system partially built by the very people who currently advise our President, run our Treasury Department and are charged with its reform.
And most stunningly -- it is a system that no one in our government has yet made any effort to fundamentally change.
As hostages -- was there any sum of money we wouldn't have given AIG?
Why did we pay Goldman Sachs and all the other banks 100 cents on the dollar for their contracts with AIG, using taxpayer money, while we forced GM and others to take massive payment cuts?
Why hasn't any of the bonus money paid to the CEOs that built this financial nuclear bomb been clawed back?
And more than anything else -- why does the US Congress refuse to outlaw the most anti-competitive structure known to our economy, one summed up as TOO BIG TOO FAIL?
Why is this? Who does our Government work for? How much longer will we as Americans tolerate it? And what, if anything, can we do about it?
As we approach the anniversary of the bailouts for our banks and insurers -- and watch the multi-trillion taxpayer-funded programs at the Federal Reserve continue to support banks and subsidize their multibillion bonus pools, we must ask if our politicians represent the interests of America? Or those who would rob America of its money and its future?
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