Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

The Weight Loss Program That Got Better with Time

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Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 10:19 am

When you don’t hear what your body is telling you

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Ijeoma Oluo has a very interesting post on her experience in being body-deaf (the way some people are tone-deaf). And the comments to the article are also interesting. For example, I had not known that body-deafness is common among those who suffer from ADHD. Olumo writes:

It starts with the world’s most boring mystery.

Last week, in the middle of the night, I found myself doubled over in unbearable pain. Again. It was radiating up my back and wrapping around my ribcage. I had fallen asleep feeling fine and then woke up in agony. The pain didn’t subside for hours. After the pain meds didn’t work, pacing the floor didn’t work, sedatives didn’t work – I started to panic. Then I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

This was the second time in about a week or so that I’d experienced this sort of attack. And it was a pain I had remembered cropping up every few weeks for many years. I try to avoid googling body ailments because I always come out of such internet sessions hyperventilating, convinced I’m dying of cancer (find me a google search for a body ailment that doesn’t end in cancer and I’ll name my next pet after you). But I was desperate, and I knew that if this was happening to me with such frequency then it must be happening to other people as well and surely at least one of these people has found a solution.

I remembered that I had eaten the same meal from the same restaurant that I had eaten at the last time this attack of back pain happened. So I wondered if maybe it was some sort of allergic reaction that somehow caused back pain. Starting with that premise was a smart move because a search for “can certain foods cause back pain” quickly turned up an option for back pain associated with stomach upset. My searches said that sometimes stomach pain is felt through the back, and often is associated with IBS.

I knew almost nothing about IBS but further searches had my symptoms line up quite neatly with IBS (type C). I’ve had at least 20 years of digestive issues that I’ve regularly either written off as just having a “weird body” or decided that people who poop more than once a week are the weird ones. That’s sort of beside the point though, because I still need to see a doctor for a more firm diagnosis.

So why am I writing this?

I’m writing this because as I finished eating breakfast this morning, my back started hurting again. My immediate thoughts were, “Oh did I sleep weird?” “Was my posture that bad last night when I was watching tv in bed?” But the ache in my back wasn’t a sharp pain, it was the radiating, throbbing pain I’d had just last week. I looked down at the remains of my breakfast: Coffee with oat milk creamer, a bagel with butter, cantaloupe with yogurt – the really good full fat with added cream kind.

I’m lactose intolerant. My mom, sister, and brother are as well. My two sons are. With the addition of a partner who is also lactose intolerant I have often marveled at how in this household I’m the only one who can seem to indulge in dairy (within reason) without paying much of a price outside of some gas. I’ve had to pick my kids up from school early because the milkshake they begged for the night before had kept them in the bathroom the first two periods of school the next day. When I was their age I too used to have horrible stomachaches after eating dairy that left me pretty incapacitated for hours. But over the years that had faded to an extent that really surprised me.

As I stared at my breakfast and felt the pain radiating up my back I realized that I was likely experiencing stomach pain. I closed my eyes and tried hard to concentrate on my body. The feeling of unease that was filling me. Was that anxiety, my old friend? Yes. But behind that it was….nausea? Yes, that might be what nausea is to me today.

It might seem weird to have to sit and concentrate to figure out if you feel nauseous or not but as I realized that I was probably experiencing nausea it all clicked into a long, familiar pattern in my relationship with my body, especially with my digestive system. It doesn’t exist.

The relationship, that is. Pretty sure my digestive system hasn’t gotten up and walked away (although if it did, I likely wouldn’t have noticed).

The first time I passed out due to low blood sugar was in the first grade. It was certainly not the last. Years of iron supplements, vitamins, doctor recommendations, nothing helped. By the time I hit high school I was swooning like I was a white maiden in a Jane Austen novel who had just been told that we could only afford 5 household servants due to our now “reduced circumstances”.

There was about a 10 year period of time between  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 August 2022 at 10:13 am

Part 3 of a 4-part story of a psychiatric residency

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Scott Alexander has an interesting essay posted on July 12, 2016:

I’m back at Our Lady Of An Undisclosed Location hospital now as a final-year resident. You wouldn’t think a year would make so much difference, but it does.

Identifying residents by their year is easy. The first-years walk around, deer-in-the-headlights look to them, impossible to confuse with anybody except maybe a patient having a panic attack. The middle-year residents are a little more confident. And then the final year residents, leading teams, putting out fires, taking attendings’ abuse in stride.

(True story – last week an attending yelled at me for not knowing some minor detail about uraemic encephalopathy. Later I couldn’t find the detail he’d mentioned, so I asked for a reference, and he said it had been discovered by one of his friends at the big university hospital where he used to work, but the friend had died before he could publish his findings. I think the attending realized as he was talking that it might have been unreasonable to expect me to know a fact whose discoverer took it to the grave with him, but he didn’t apologize.)

It’s only sort of a facade. 99% of things that happen in a hospital are the same things that happened yesterday and the day before, so if you hang around long enough you can learn what to do, or at least which consultant you can call to make it not your problem anymore. On the other hand, Actual Pathology is still a gigantic mystery. I’m not sure this ever changes. One in every X patients with symptoms won’t have any of the things that could possibly be causing those symptoms, won’t respond to any of the treatments that are supposed to cure those symptoms, and you’ll still have family members and hospital administrators demanding that you fix it right now (and in psychiatry, X is probably a single digit number). All you can do is keep up the facade, put your skill at taking attendings’ abuse in stride to good use, and start learning necromancy so you can summon the one big university hospital researcher who studied it but never got a chance to publish their findings.

II.

Two of the most important things I learned during my third year were “Tell me more” and “[awkward silence]”.

“Tell me more,” works for every situation. Part of the problem with psychotherapy is that you’re always expected to have something to say. As a last resort, that thing is “Tell me more”. It sounds like you’re interested. It sounds like you care. And if you’re very lucky, maybe the patient will actually tell you something more, as opposed to their usual plan to stonewall you and hide all possibly useful information.

I saw something on Tumblr the other day which, despite being about a 9-1-1 operator, perfectly sums up being a doctor too: . . .

Continue reading.

Later in the essay:

And then there’s [awkward silence]. I learned this one from the psychoanalysts. Nobody likes an awkward silence. If a patient tells you something, and you are awkwardly silent, then the patient will rush to fill the awkward silence with whatever they can think of, which will probably be whatever they were holding back the first time they started talking. You won’t believe how well this one works until you try it. Just stay silent long enough, and the other person will tell you everything. It’s better than waterboarding.

Written by Leisureguy

10 August 2022 at 12:26 pm

The Psychology of Killing

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Perhaps it’s an artefact of the algorithms of the streaming services I watch, but TV series involving murder seem to be amazingly easy to fine — not perhaps so common as grass, but maybe as common as roses. In fact, just last night I watched a movie based on a George V. Higgins novel, Cogan’s Trade (which was a sequel to his first novel, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, both eminently worth reading). The 2012 movie, Killing Them Softly, starred Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini, and it was a good watch. (It’s on Primevideo.com up here; apparently not available right now in the US.)

So what causes killing to be so common? FiveBooks.com has an interesting interview with Gwen Adshead, a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist who works in prisons and secure psychiatric hospital providing therapy to violence perpetrators who have mental health problems. In the course of the interview Dr. Adshead recommends five books, as the site name suggests. The interview begins:

Let’s start by looking at the topic you’ve chosen: the psychology of killing. How did you become interested in this area?

I’m a forensic psychiatrist and psychotherapist. A forensic psychiatrist is someone who specialises in the assessment and treatment of people who have offended while they were in some kind of abnormal mental state. There are two questions there: first, the legal question—does this abnormal state affect their legal responsibility?—and secondly, if the offender is mentally ill, do they need to be treated in secure hospital rather than go to prison?. That treatment will be designed to look not only at their mental health, but also their risk to the public.

Mental health problems are rarely a risk factor for crime generally, so a forensic psychiatrist won’t be dealing with people who are committing minor crimes, like shoplifting . We tend only to get involved in crimes of violence, and usually where that violence has been fatal. So most of my working life has involved assessing people who have committed serious acts of violence, or who are threatening to do so. For a long time I ran a therapy group for people who had killed a family member while they were mentally ill. I’ve also been involved in assessing mothers who have been abusive, or are considered at risk of abusing their children.

So this has been my bread and butter for about thirty years—an interest in the mental states that give rise to killing.

The obvious question, to me, is: if one commits murder, does that not indicate that, almost by definition, that the assailant is undergoing an abnormal mental state?

That question has always been of great significance, and one that humans have asked themselves for thousands of years. What is fascinating about humans is the many ways in which we do kill each other. We are one of the few animals that kill each other in different ways. Chimpanzees, for example, do have very serious fights, competitions over power, which can be fatal. And chimpanzee tribes can wage war on other chimpanzee tribes, killing in the process. But killing in the way that we kill appears to be pretty unique. Killing over territory is one thing, but we also kill over money, over politics and in the context of relationship disturbance; and that last context is quite unusual.

For as long as we have had recorded data about humans, we’ve written about the impact of murder. I don’t think there’s legislation in any culture in any age which hasn’t set aside some kind of law or ruling about how and when you can kill somebody, and what should happen to people who kill.

Take the Old Testament. There are rules in there about killing that are very specific. The Ten Commandments separate killing from murder, for example. Traditionally, in many cultures, if you killed somebody, you had to make restitution to their family. That didn’t always mean being killed yourself. Different countries and ethnic groups have had different rules, but all human societies have developed rules about killing, in what circumstances it might be legitimate to kill, and what punishments and sanctions there should be for the different kinds of killing.

The first thing to say about homicide is that it is not all the same. I think that’s one of the things I didn’t understand when I started out. Like anybody else, I thought that all killers must be really odd or mad. That if you killed once, you must be permanently in a homicidal state of mind. But once I began to spend time with people who had killed, I learned that killing is often highly contextual and arises from a specific set factors that are present at that time; which may never occur again. Someone who’s killed their wife in a jealous rage is not likely to be a threat to the general public; although they might be dangerous to future wives, of course.

So does that mean that everyone has the capacity for murder? . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

9 August 2022 at 3:10 pm

Burn, baby, burn: The new science of metabolism

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In October of 2021, David Cox reported in the Guardian:

Losing weight may be tough, but keeping it off, research tells us, is tougher – just not for the reasons you might think.

As the director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the USDA Nutrition Center Tufts University, Massachusetts, Susan Roberts has spent much of the past two decades studying ways to fight the obesity epidemic that continues to plague much of the western world.

But time and again, Roberts and other obesity experts around the globe have found themselves faced with a recurring problem. While getting overweight individuals to commit to shedding pounds is often relatively straightforward in the short term, preventing them from regaining the lost weight is much more challenging.

According to the University of Michigan, about 90% of people who lose significant amounts of weight, whether through diets, structured programmes or even drastic steps such as gastric surgery, ultimately regain just about all of it.

Why is this? Scientists believe that the answer lies in the workings of our metabolism, the complex set of chemical reactions in our cells, which convert the calories we eat into the energy our body requires for breathing, maintaining organ functions, and generally keeping us alive.

When someone begins a new diet, we know that metabolism initially drops – because we are suddenly consuming fewer calories, the body responds by burning them at a slower pace, perhaps an evolutionary response to prevent starvation – but what then happens over the following weeks, months, and years, is less clear.

“Does metabolism continue to go down, more than it should,” asks Roberts, “or does it initially go down, and then bounce back? This is an enormously controversial topic, and one that we’re looking to address.”

Over the next three to four years, we may get some answers. Roberts is co-leading a new study, funded by the National Institutes of Health in the US, which will follow 100 individuals over the course of many months as they first lose and then regain weight, measuring everything from energy expenditure to changes in the blood, brain and muscle physiology, to try to see what happens.

The implications for how we tackle obesity could be enormous. If metabolism drops and continues to stay low during weight loss, it could imply that dieting triggers innate biological changes that eventually compel us to eat more. If it rebounds to normal levels, this suggests that weight regain is due to the recurrence of past bad habits, with social and cultural factors tempting us to go back to overeating.

“If someone’s metabolism really drops during weight loss and doesn’t recover, it shows we have to put all of our money on preventing weight gain in the first place,” says Roberts. “Because once it’s happened, you’re doomed. If metabolism rebounds, it means that the lessons about eating less because you’ve now got a smaller body haven’t been learned effectively. So we might need to encourage people who have lost weight to see psychologists to work on habit formation. These are such different conclusions that we really need to get it right.”

This is just one of many ways in which our understanding of metabolism is evolving. In recent years, many of the traditional assumptions, which had long been accepted as truth – that exercise can ramp up metabolism, that metabolism follows a steady decline from your 20s onwards – have been challenged. For scientists at the forefront of this field, these answers could go on to change many aspects of public health.

The age myth

In mid-August, a paper emerged in the journal Science that appeared to challenge one of metabolism’s universal truths. For decades, scientists have accepted that metabolism begins to slow down in early adulthood, initiating a steady descent that continues through middle age and later life, inevitably resulting in the phenomenon known as “middle-aged spread”.

But this may not actually be true. Over the past few years, Herman Pontzer, an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University, North Carolina, and more than 80 other scientists have compiled data from more than 6,400 individuals – from eight days to 95 years old – that shows something very different.

It appears that between the ages of 20 and 60 our metabolism stays almost completely stable, even during major hormonal shifts such as pregnancy and menopause. Based on the new data, a woman of 50 will burn calories just as effectively as a woman of 20.

Instead, there are just two major life shifts in our metabolism, with the first occurring  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 August 2022 at 12:39 pm

A Uranium Ghost Town in the Making

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Mark Olalde and Maya Miller report in ProPublica:

The “death map” tells the story of decades of sickness in the small northwest New Mexico communities of Murray Acres and Broadview Acres. Turquoise arrows point to homes where residents had thyroid disease, dark blue arrows mark cases of breast cancer, and yellow arrows mean cancer claimed a life.

Neighbors built the map a decade ago after watching relatives and friends fall ill and die. Dominating the top right corner of the map, less than half a mile from the cluster of colorful arrows, sits what residents believe is the cause of their sickness: 22.2 million tons of uranium waste left over from milling ore to supply power plants and nuclear bombs.

“We were sacrificed a long time ago,” said Candace Head-Dylla, who created the death map with her mother after Head-Dylla had her thyroid removed and her mother developed breast cancer. Research has linked both types of illnesses to uranium exposure.

Beginning in 1958, a uranium mill owned by Homestake Mining Company of California processed and refined ore mined nearby. The waste it left behind leaked uranium and selenium into groundwater and released the cancer-causing gas radon into the air. State and federal regulators knew the mill was polluting groundwater almost immediately after it started operating, but years passed before they informed residents and demanded fixes.

The contamination continued to spread even after the mill closed in 1990.

The failures at Homestake are emblematic of the toxic legacy of the American uranium industry, one that has been well-documented from its boom during the Cold War until falling uranium prices and concerns over the dangers of nuclear power decimated the industry in the 1980s. Uranium mining and milling left a trail of contamination and suffering, from miners who died of lung cancer while the federal government kept the risks secret to the largest radioactive spill in the country’s history.

But for four decades, the management of more than 250 million tons of radioactive uranium mill waste has been largely overlooked, continuing to pose a public health threat.

ProPublica found that regulators have failed to hold companies to account when they missed cleanup targets and accepted incorrect forecasts that pollution wouldn’t spread. The federal government will eventually assume responsibility for the more than 50 defunct mills that generated this waste.

At Homestake, which was among the largest mills, the company is bulldozing a community in order to walk away. Interviews with dozens of residents, along with radon testing and thousands of pages of company and government records, reveal a community sacrificed to build the nation’s nuclear arsenal and atomic energy industry.

Time and again, Homestake and government agencies promised to clean up the area. Time and again, they missed their deadlines while further spreading pollution in the communities. In the 1980s, Homestake promised residents groundwater would be cleaned within a decade, locals told the Environmental Protection Agency and ProPublica. After missing that target, the company told regulators it would complete the job around 2006, then by 2013.

In 2014, an EPA report confirmed the site posed an unacceptable cancer risk and identified radon as the greatest threat to residents’ health. Still, the cleanup target date continued shifting, to 2017, then 2022.

Rather than finish the cleanup, Homestake’s current owner . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

8 August 2022 at 12:16 pm

Doctors don’t want to take jobs in antiabortion states

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Christopher Rowland has an interesting article in the Washington Post (gift link, no paywall). From the article:

. . . One large medical recruiting firm said it recently had 20 obstetrician-gynecologists turn down positions in red states because of abortion laws. The reluctance extends beyond those interested in providing abortion care, as laws meant to protect a fetus could open doctors up to new liabilities or limit their ability to practice. . .

One large health-care staffingfirm, AMN Healthcare, said clients in states with abortion bans are having greater trouble filling vacancies because some prospective OB/GYN candidates won’t even consider opportunities in states with new or pending abortion bans.

Tom Florence, president of Merritt Hawkins, an AMN Healthcare company, cited 20 instances since the Supreme Court ruling where prospects specifically refused to relocate to states where reproductive rights are being targeted by lawmakers.

“To talk to approximately 20 candidates that state they would decline to practice in those restrictive states, that is certainly a trend we are seeing,” Florence said. “It is certainly going to impact things moving forward.”

Three candidates turned down one of the firm’s recruiters, who was working to fill a single job in maternal fetal medicine in Texas, he said: “All three expressed fear they could be fined or lose their license for doing their jobs.”

In another example, a physician contacted by phone by an AMN Healthcare recruiter trying to fill a post in an antiabortion state “simply said, ‘Roe versus Wade,’ and hung up,” Florence said.

Florence said the shift has especially serious implications for small, rural hospitals, which can afford just a small number of maternal specialists or, in some cases, only one.

“They can deliver hundreds of babies each year and see several thousand patients,” he said. “The potential absence of one OB/GYN that might be in their community, if not for the Supreme Court decision, is highly significant. The burden will be borne by the patients.”

Tellingly, Florence added, none of the recruiters had encountered a single physician seeking to practice in a state because it had banned abortion.

There’s quite a bit more, so read the whole thing (gift link, no paywall).  Conservatives have sown the wind; now they reap the whirlwind.

Written by Leisureguy

6 August 2022 at 11:17 am

Why Power Brings Out Your True Self

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Lord Acton took the view that power corrupts, but it seems rather to reveal the corruption already present in the person. Matthew Hutson wrote in Nautilus back in 2017:

At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama told the crowd, “Being president doesn’t change who you are. It reveals who you are.”

Growing up, Michelle said, she and Barack learned important lessons from their families about “dignity and decency” and “gratitude and humility.” “At the end of the day,” she said, “when it comes time to make that decision, as president, all you have to guide you are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are.”

Research in cognitive science reveals the former First Lady is right: Power exposes your true character. It releases inhibitions and sets your inner self free. If you’re a jerk when you gain power, you’ll become more of one. If you’re a mensch, you’ll get nicer. So if you happen to all of a sudden become president, or at least president of your lab or book club, what inner self will come out?

Psychologists generally define power as control over others, by providing or withholding resources, without social interference. Tapping your true nature, though, begins with feeling powerful. Getting the corner office boosts creativity and reduces conformity.

In a 2008 experiment, undergraduates were asked either to recall a time they had power over someone or to recall a time someone had power over them.1 Then they were asked to draw an alien creature. Some were shown an example creature that had wings. When feeling powerless, seeing a creature with wings increased the chance a student would add wings to his own creature, a demonstration of conformity. Those made to feel powerful, however, remained unaffected by the example, following their own creative urges.

Power also makes people more likely to act on their desires. In one experiment, those made to feel powerful were more likely to move or unplug an annoying fan blowing on them.2 When working with others, the powerful are also more likely to voice their opinions. In another experiment, students were paired for a joint task.3 The one assigned to be the leader of the pair typically expressed her true feelings and attitudes more than her subordinate did.

We are less deliberative and more persistent in pursuing our goals when we gain power. In one of a series of experiments, researchers asked students to recall having or lacking power, then asked how much time and information they would need to make various decisions, including which roommate to live with or which car to buy.4 Those who felt powerful said they’d need less time and information. In a second experiment, participants made to feel powerful spent more time trying to solve an impossible geometric puzzle. In a third, they were quicker to interrupt someone who disagreed with them.

Overall, power makes us feel authentic. In one study, participants recalled a time they had power or a time they lacked it.5 Then they rated their personality traits in three contexts:  . . .

Continue reading.

See previous post that lets us see the authentic nature of US Border Patrol agents.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2022 at 12:51 pm

Long COVID comes in three forms

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Despite public behavior — no masks or distancing in most stores, people unmasked in crowds — Covid has not gone away, and for some the Covid experience has been long-lasting. Now scientists are getting a better picture of long Covid (aka post-Covid syndrome, or PCS). The Hill has a brief report, with video at the link, that begins:

  • New research from scientists from King’s College London supports the idea that there are three different types of long COVID, each with their own symptoms.
  • Researchers studied more than 1,000 people suffering from post-COVID syndrome and found that there are three different subtypes of the condition.
  • The first subtype consisted of respiratory symptoms, the second neurologic and third autoimmune.

There are three different kinds of long COVID, and all have their own set of symptoms, according to researchers.

In a new preprint study — which means it has yet to be peer reviewed — on MedRxiv, a site that distributes unpublished research in the health sciences, scientists from King’s College in London analyzed the experiences of thousands of people across the U.K that were infected with the virus.

Researchers focused on 1,459 people living with post-COVID syndrome — which study crafters defined as having symptoms for at least 12 weeks after being infected with the virus — and were able to place patients into three main “symptom profiles.”

PCS patients — which are also referred to colloquially as long COVID patients — placed in the first group suffered from respiratory symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath or palpitations.

The second group was made up of long COVID patients who experienced neurological symptoms like . . .

Continue reading.

FWIW, I continue to wear a mask in stores and in crowds. No Covid so far, knock on wood.

Written by Leisureguy

4 August 2022 at 12:21 pm

MIT engineers develop stickers that can see inside the body

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Amazing. Jennifer Chu reports for MIT News:

Ultrasound imaging is a safe and noninvasive window into the body’s workings, providing clinicians with live images of a patient’s internal organs. To capture these images, trained technicians manipulate ultrasound wands and probes to direct sound waves into the body. These waves reflect back out to produce high-resolution images of a patient’s heart, lungs, and other deep organs.

Currently, ultrasound imaging requires bulky and specialized equipment available only in hospitals and doctor’s offices. But a new design by MIT engineers might make the technology as wearable and accessible as buying Band-Aids at the pharmacy.

In a paper appearing today in Science, the engineers present the design for a new ultrasound sticker — a stamp-sized device that sticks to skin and can provide continuous ultrasound imaging of internal organs for 48 hours.

The researchers applied the stickers to volunteers and showed the devices produced live, high-resolution images of major blood vessels and deeper organs such as the heart, lungs, and stomach. The stickers maintained a strong adhesion and captured changes in underlying organs as volunteers performed various activities, including sitting, standing, jogging, and biking.

The current design requires . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 11:01 am

Posted in Medical, Technology

Potential treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

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Ayanna Tucker reports from Johns Hopkins University:

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have helped develop a nanobody capable of getting through the tough exterior of brain cells and untangling misshapen proteins that lead to Parkinson’s disease, Lewy body dementia, and other neurocognitive disorders.

The research, published last month in Nature Communications, was led by Xiaobo Mao, an associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine, and included scientists at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Their aim was to find a new type of treatment that could specifically target the misshapen proteins, called alpha-synuclein, which tend to clump together and gum up the inner workings of brain cells. Emerging evidence has shown that the alpha-synuclein clumps can spread from the gut or nose to the brain, driving the disease progression.

Nanobodies—miniature versions of antibodies, which are proteins in the blood that help the immune system find and attack foreign pathogens—are natural compounds in the blood of animals such as llamas and sharks and are being studied to treat autoimmune diseases and cancer in humans. In theory, antibodies have the potential to zero in on clumping alpha-synuclein proteins, but have a hard time getting through the outer covering of brain cells. To squeeze through these tough brain cell coatings, the researchers decided to use nanobodies instead.

The researchers had to shore up the nanobodies to help them keep stable within a brain cell. To do this, they genetically engineered them to rid them of chemical bonds that typically degrade inside a cell. Tests showed that without the bonds, the nanobody remained stable and was still able to bind to misshapen alpha-synuclein.

The team made seven similar types of nanobodies, known as PFFNBs, that could bind to alpha-synuclein clumps. Of the nanobodies they created, one—PFFNB2—did the best job of glomming onto alpha-synuclein clumps and not single molecules, or monomer of alpha-synuclein, which are not harmful and may have important functions in brain cells.

Additional tests in mice showed that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 9:34 am

When the dog catches the car: Republicans successes bring backlash

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Heather Cox Richardson writes:

Today, voters in Kansas overwhelmingly rejected an amendment to their state constitution that would have stripped it of protections for abortion rights. With 86% of the vote in, 62% of voters supported abortion protections; 37% wanted them gone. That spread is astonishing. Kansas voters had backed Trump in 2020; Republicans had arranged for the referendum to fall on the day of a primary, which traditionally attracts higher percentages of hard-line Republicans; and they had written the question so that a “yes” vote would remove abortion protections and a “no” would leave them in place. Then, today, a political action committee sent out texts that lied about which vote was which.

Still, voters turned out to protect abortion rights in such unexpectedly high numbers it suggests a sea change.

It appears the dog has caught the car, as so many of us noted when the Supreme Court handed down the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision on June 24. Since 1972, even before the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, Republican politicians have attracted the votes of evangelicals and traditionalists who didn’t like the idea of women’s rights by promising to end abortion. But abortion rights have always had strong support. So politicians said they were “pro-life” without ever really intending to overturn Roe v. Wade. The Dobbs decision explicitly did just that and has opened the door to draconian laws that outlaw abortion with no exceptions, promptly showing us the horror of a pregnant 10-year-old and hospitals refusing abortion care during miscarriages. Today, in the privacy of the voting booth, voters did exactly as Republican politicians feared they would if Roe were overturned.

But this moment increasingly feels like it’s about more than abortion rights, crucial though they are. The loss of our constitutional rights at the hands of a radical extremist minority has pushed the majority to demonstrate that we care about the rights and freedoms that were articulated—however imperfectly they were carried out—in the Declaration of Independence.

We care about a lot of things that have been thin on the ground for a while.

We care about justice:

Today, the Senate passed the PACT Act in exactly the same form it had last week, when Republicans claimed they could no longer support the bill they had previously passed because Democrats had snuck a “slush fund” into a bill providing medical care for veterans exposed to burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, the bill was unchanged, and Republicans’ refusal to repass the bill from the House seemed an act of spite after Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an agreement on a bill to lower the cost of certain prescription drugs, invest in measures to combat climate change, raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, and reduce the deficit. Since their vote to kill the measure, the outcry around the country, led by veterans and veterans’ advocate Jon Stewart, has been extraordinary. The vote on the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022 tonight was 86 to 11 as Republicans scrambled to fix their mistake.

In an ongoing attempt to repair a past injustice, executive director of the Family Reunification Task Force Michelle Brané says it has reunified 400 children with their parents after their separation by the Trump administration at the southern border. Because the former administration did not keep records of the children or where they were sent, reunifying the families has been difficult, and as many as 1000 children out of the original 5000 who fell under this policy remain separated from their parents. [This is fucking shocking. – LG]

And we care about equality before the law:

Today, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, and Alexander Mallin of ABC News reported that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 August 2022 at 7:58 am

Plant-based processed meat substitutes: Not so good

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Because I follow a whole-food plant-based diet, I don’t explore refined and highly processed foods, though I did once try a Beyond burger (meh).

I do “process” some foods in various way — rinsing, peeling, chopping, blending, steaming, roasting, sautéing, fermenting — but that’s a far cry from manufacturing foods from refined ingredients and including a variety of additives (flavor, coloring, salt, cheap oil, preservatives) to be sold packaged under a brand name. That kind of “food” I skip, and that takes care of manufactured meat substitutes. 

Two recent studies show the drawbacks of manufactured (aka “highly processed,” “ultraprocessed”) foods.

Unintended Consequences: Nutritional Impact and Potential Pitfalls of Switching from Animal- to Plant-Based Foods

Abstract:

Consumers are shifting towards plant-based diets, driven by both environmental and health reasons. This has led to the development of new plant-based meat alternatives (PBMAs) that are marketed as being sustainable and good for health. However, it remains unclear whether these novel PBMAs to replace animal foods carry the same established nutritional benefits as traditional plant-based diets based on pulses, legumes, [grains,] and vegetables. We modelled a reference omnivore diet using NHANES 2017–2018 data and compared it to diets that substituted animal products in the reference diet with either traditional or novel plant-based foods to create flexitarian, vegetarian, and vegan diets matched for calories and macronutrients. With the exception of the traditional vegan diet, all diets with traditional plant-based substitutes met daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, iron, and Vitamin B12 and were lower in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar than the reference diet. Diets based on novel plant-based substitutes were below daily requirements for calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and Vitamin B12 and exceeded the reference diet for saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. Much of the recent focus has been on protein quality and quantity, but our case study highlights the risk of unintentionally increasing undesirable nutrients while reducing the overall nutrient density of the diet when less healthy plant-based substitutes are selected. Opportunities exist for PBMA producers to enhance the nutrient profile and diversify the format of future plant-based foods that are marketed as healthy, sustainable alternatives to animal-based products. View Full-Text

A metabolomics comparison of plant-based meat and grass-fed meat indicates large nutritional differences despite comparable Nutrition Facts panels

A new generation of plant-based meat alternatives—formulated to mimic the taste and nutritional composition of red meat—have attracted considerable consumer interest, research attention, and media coverage. This has raised questions of whether plant-based meat alternatives represent proper nutritional replacements to animal meat. The goal of our study was to use untargeted metabolomics to provide an in-depth comparison of the metabolite profiles a popular plant-based meat alternative (n = 18) and grass-fed ground beef (n = 18) matched for serving size (113 g) and fat content (14 g). Despite apparent similarities based on Nutrition Facts panels, our metabolomics analysis found that metabolite abundances between the plant-based meat alternative and grass-fed ground beef differed by 90% (171 out of 190 profiled metabolites; false discovery rate adjusted p < 0.05). Several metabolites were found either exclusively (22 metabolites) or in greater quantities in beef (51 metabolites) (all, p < 0.05). Nutrients such as docosahexaenoic acid (ω-3), niacinamide (vitamin B3), glucosamine, hydroxyproline and the anti-oxidants allantoin, anserine, cysteamine, spermine, and squalene were amongst those only found in beef. Several other metabolites were found exclusively (31 metabolites) or in greater quantities (67 metabolites) in the plant-based meat alternative (all, p < 0.05). Ascorbate (vitamin C), phytosterols, and several phenolic anti-oxidants such as loganin, sulfurol, syringic acid, tyrosol, and vanillic acid were amongst those only found in the plant-based meat alternative. Large differences in metabolites within various nutrient classes (e.g., amino acids, dipeptides, vitamins, phenols, tocopherols, and fatty acids) with physiological, anti-inflammatory, and/or immunomodulatory roles indicate that these products should not be viewed as truly nutritionally interchangeable, but could be viewed as complementary in terms of provided nutrients. The new information we provide is important for making informed decisions by consumers and health professionals. It cannot be determined from our data if either source is healthier to consume.

Introduction

By 2050, global food systems will need to meet the dietary demands of almost 10 billion people. To meet these demands in a healthy and sustainable manner, it is put forward that diets would benefit from a shift towards consumption of more plant-based foods and less meat, particularly in Western countries1. This has raised questions whether novel plant-based meat alternatives represent healthy and nutritionally adequate alternatives to meat2,3,4,5.

The new generation of plant-based meat alternatives such as the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger are becoming increasingly popular with consumers. Their success has led other international food companies—including traditional meat companies—to invest in their own product versions6. The global plant-based meat alternative sector has experienced substantial growth and is projected to increase from . . .

Continue reading.

Always keep in mind that the main priority of corporations is their profits, not your welfare.

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2022 at 10:48 am

Ground ginger to reduce muscle pain

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I was shocked by this from the video below:

You may recall that I’ve previously explored the use of spinach for athletic performance and recovery, attributed to its “anti-inflammatory effects.” Most athletes aren’t using spinach to beat back inflammation, though; they use drugs, typically non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, which is used by up to 95 percent of collegiate athletes and three quarters of kids playing high school football. They aren’t only using it for inflammation, though, but also prophylactically “prior to athletic participation to prevent pain and inflammation before it occurs. However, scientific evidence for this approach is currently lacking, and athletes should be aware of the potential risks in using NSAIDs as a prophylactic agent,” which include gastrointestinal pain and bleeding, kidney damage, and liver damage.

There was one study in particular that freaked everyone out: A study of thousands of marathon runners found that those taking over-the-counter pain killers before the race had five times the incidence of organ damage. Nine were hospitalized—three with kidney failure after taking ibuprofen, four with gastrointestinal bleeding after taking aspirin, and two with heart attacks, also after aspirin ingestion. In contrast, none of the control group ended up in the hospital. No pain killers, no hospital. What’s more, the analgesics didn’t even work. “Analysis of the pain reported by respondents before and after racing showed no major identifiable advantages” to taking the drugs, so it appeared there were just downsides.

Watch the video:

Written by Leisureguy

2 August 2022 at 8:28 am

Posted in Daily life, Medical, Science

‘They’re Just Going to Let Me Die?’ One Woman’s Abortion Odyssey

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Men should not be passing laws on abortion. This long read from the NY Times (gift link, no paywall) tells a harrowing story:

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Madison Underwood was lying on the ultrasound table, nearly 19 weeks pregnant, when the doctor came in to say her abortion had been canceled.

Nurses followed and started wiping away lukewarm sonogram gel from her exposed belly as the doctor leaned over her shoulder to speak to her fiancé, Adam Queen.

She recalled that she went quiet, her body went still. What did they mean, they couldn’t do the abortion? Just two weeks earlier, she and her fiance had learned her fetus had a condition that would not allow it to survive outside the womb. If she tried to carry to term, she could become critically ill, or even die, her doctor had said. Now, she was being told she couldn’t have an abortion she didn’t even want, but needed.

“They’re just going to let me die?” she remembers wondering.

In the blur around her, she heard the doctor and nurses talking about a clinic in Georgia that could do the procedure now that the legal risks of performing it in Tennessee were too high.

She heard her fiancé curse, and with frustration in his voice, tell the doctor this was stupid. She heard the doctor agree.

Just three days earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the constitutional right to abortion. A Tennessee law passed in 2020 that banned abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy had been blocked by a court order but could go into effect.

Ms. Underwood never thought any of this would affect her. She was 22 and excited to start a family with Mr. Queen, who was 24.

She and Mr. Queen had gone back and forth for days before deciding to terminate the pregnancy. She was dreading the abortion. She had cried in the car pulling up to the clinic. She had heard about the Supreme Court undoing Roe v. Wade but thought that since she had scheduled her abortion before the decision, and before any state ban took effect, the procedure would be allowed.

Tennessee allows abortion if a woman’s life is in danger, but doctors feared making those decisions too soon and facing prosecution. Across the country, the legal landscape was shifting so quickly, some abortion clinics turned patients away before the laws officially took effect or while legal battles played out in state courts.

Century-old bans hanging around on the books were activated, but then just as quickly were under dispute. In states where abortion was still legal, wait times at clinics spiked as women from states with bans searched for alternatives.

It was into this chaos that Ms. Underwood was sent home, still pregnant, and reeling. What would happen now? The doctor said . . .

Continue reading. (gift link, no paywall)

Written by Leisureguy

1 August 2022 at 11:24 am

The lasting anguish of moral injury

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Constance Summer writes in Knowledge magazine:

On a Sunday evening in September 1994, David Peters drove to a church service in Beckley, West Virginia, as the sun set over the horizon. He was 19 years old, just back from Marine Corps boot camp. He hadn’t been behind the wheel of a car all summer.

The road curved, and Peters misjudged the turn. Rays from the dipping sun blinded him. The car hit the median and headed straight at an oncoming motorcycle. And then, Peters says, “Everything went crash.”

His friend, sitting in the passenger seat, seemed fine. Peters got out of the car. The driver of the motorcycle was alive, but the woman who’d been riding behind him was now laid out on the pavement. Peters quickly realized she was dead.

Now an Episcopal priest in Pflugerville, Texas, outside Austin, Peters says there have been periods during the last 28 years when he’s found the knowledge that he killed someone almost unbearable. “I felt like I wasn’t good anymore,” he says. At times, he even wished he were dead. Years after the accident, he purchased a motorcycle, thinking “that’d be sort of justice if I died on a motorcycle.”

Moral injury results from “the way that humans make meaning out of the violence that they have either experienced or that they have inflicted,” says Janet McIntosh, an anthropologist at Brandeis University who wrote about the psychic wounds resulting from how we use language when talking about war in the 2021 Annual Review of Anthropology.

Although research on moral injury began with the experiences of veterans and active-duty military, it has expanded in recent years to include civilians. The pandemic — with its heavy moral burdens on health care workers and its fraught decisions over gathering in groups, masking and vaccinating — intensified scientific interest in how widespread moral injury might be. “What’s innovative about moral injury is its recognition that our ethical foundations are essential to our sense of self, to our society, to others, to our professions,” says Daniel Rothenberg, who codirects the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University.

Yet moral injury remains a concept under construction. It is not an official diagnosis in psychiatry’s authoritative guide, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). And until the recent publication of a major study on the subject, researchers and clinicians lacked well-defined criteria they could use to determine if someone has moral injury, says Brett Litz, a clinical psychologist at VA Boston Health Care System and Boston University. “The prevalence of moral injury is utterly unknown, because we haven’t had a gold standard measure of it,” he says.

‘It starts working on your head’

Moral injury was first described by Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist in Boston, who defined it as  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

31 July 2022 at 7:56 am

Inside an international network of teenage neo-Nazi extremists

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Nick Robins Early, Alexander Nabert, and Christina Brause report in Insider:

Last year, a 20-year-old named Christian Michael Mackey arrived at the Phillips 66 gas station in Grand Prairie, Texas, hoping to sell his AM-15 rifle to make some quick cash. He’d said he wanted to buy a more powerful gun, something that could stop what he called a “hoard of you know what.”

Mackey told an online group chat he’d started looking at Nazi websites at around 15-years-old, when he began spending hours on white nationalist message boards and talking to other extremists on Instagram and encrypted messaging apps like Telegram. Five years later, he was active in a network of violent neo-Nazi groups that organized and communicated through online group chats. He described himself as a “radical Jew slayer.”

When Mackey met his buyer in the gas-station parking lot in January 2021, he didn’t know he had walked into a sting. The woman purchasing his rifle was a paid FBI source with numerous felonies, and Mackey was arrested as soon as the gun changed hands. At his detention hearing a month later, an FBI agent said authorities had found a pipe bomb in Mackey’s parents’ house, where he lived.

Mackey’s stepfather told local news soon after the arrest that his stepson had been radicalized online, and footage showed him ripping up a copy of “Mein Kampf” in Mackey’s bedroom. FBI records and court documents indicated that Mackey had posted more than 2,400 messages in one neo-Nazi Instagram group chat alone, and had told another user “I’m just trying to live long enough to die attacking.”

Stories like this have increasingly played out across the US and around the world in recent years — young people, overwhelmingly white and male, who have become involved in a global network of neo-Nazi extremist groups that plot mass violence online.

Canadian authorities earlier this year arrested a 19-year-old on terrorism charges after they say he tried to join a neo-Nazi group similar to the ones Mackey was involved in. In April, a 15-year-old in Denmark was charged with recruiting for a neo-Nazi organization banned in the country. A 16-year-old became the UK’s youngest terrorism offender after joining that same group, where he researched terror manuals and discussed how to make explosives. Others made it further along in their plots, like a 21-year-old who planted a bomb outside the Western Union office in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.

As far-right extremism has grown over the past decade, so too has the notoriety of various groups and their leaders. Far-right gangs such as the Proud Boys as well as suit-and-tie-wearing white nationalists like Richard Spencer regularly make headlines. But there are also lesser-known groups with more directly violent aims that follow an ideology called accelerationism — the belief that carrying out bombings, mass shootings, and other attacks is necessary to hasten the collapse of society and allow a white ethnostate to rise in its place.

Countries including the United Kingdom and Canada have designated accelerationist groups such as Atomwaffen Division, Feuerkrieg Division and The Base as terrorist organizations. Atomwaffen, which is now largely defunct, was linked to at least five murders in the US alone. The Base’s leader was sentenced in May to four years in prison after plotting to kill minorities and instigate a race war.

Experts trace the origins of groups like these to a neo-Nazi website called Iron March that went offline in 2017, and which notoriously helped extremists from many countries forge international connections and spread accelerationist propaganda.

The ideology has been linked to the 2019 Christchurch massacre in New Zealand, where a white nationalist killed 51 people at two mosques while livestreaming the attack online, and a shooting earlier this year at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY where 10 people were killed.

As part of a joint investigation that Insider undertook with Welt Am Sonntag and Politico, reporters gained access to two dozen internal chat groups linked to a broader network of neo-Nazi accelerationists. Comprising 98,000 messages from about 900 users, the data includes photos, videos, text, and voice messages.

Various participants in the groups have been charged with a range of crimes related to plots to bomb or burn down synagogues and gay bars, attack anti-fascist activists, and illegally traffic firearms. In chat logs that reporters reviewed, members showed off homemade explosives, encouraged one another to kill minorities, and discussed how to get access to weapons.

The scores of messages and propaganda in these chats provide a glimpse into one of the most dangerous corners of modern far-right extremism. It is increasingly international, intent on radicalizing young people, and committed to using violence to further its fascist ideology.

Rather than a centralized group, it is a loosely connected network that rises and falls as its members are killed or arrested — but never seems to entirely go away. And unlike extremist groups that want to integrate their beliefs into political parties or run for local office, the aim of accelerationist groups like these is primarily to create violent chaos. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

30 July 2022 at 4:57 pm

Pacemaker 6-week checkup

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I updated the pacemaker post with what the six-week check-up produced. You can read the full report in the section added to the end of the post at the link, but three things I thought important:

  1. Expected battery life is now 12 years. (At that point, a new pacemaker will replace the one I have now.)
  2. The Wife commented today that, since the pacemaker’s been installed, she’s noticed that I seem to have lost a dullness of edge that I had gradually developed. It’s as though the pacemaker’s operation has sharpened my cognitive processes, so that my responses are quicker and more on target. It took a while to notice the difference, but it’s definite.
  3. They gave me a remote monitor — a passive recipient of data from my pacemaker, which the monitor will ping each night then transmit the data to the pacemaker clinic for review. They’ll then let me know if I should ever need to come in for adjustments to the pacemaker programming. (The monitor only receives data from my pacemaker; it cannot transmit data to the pacemaker.)

I post this information about my pacemaker adventure for those who might be considering such a thing or know someone who’s been through it.

Of course, this visit and the monitor were free: I live in Canada, which like other advanced nations includes healthcare as a government service. Parking, however, was not free, so this visit (and bringing home the monitor) cost $3.50 in parking fees.

Written by Leisureguy

26 July 2022 at 2:41 pm

A Popular Theory About Depression Wasn’t “Debunked” by a New Review

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Ruairi J Mackenzie writes in Technology Networks in the Neuroscience News and Research section:

A new paper that reviews the evidence around the serotonin “chemical imbalance” theory of depression has caused an online storm, with figures from across psychiatry commenting on the study’s merits and limitations. In this article, we cut through the hype and take a look at what the paper has changed about our understanding of depression.

Psychiatry gave up on the “chemical imbalance” theory long ago

The review article, published by an international research team including first author Prof. Joanna Moncrieff, aimed to assess the available evidence for and against the serotonin theory of depression systematically. The team explain this theory near the start of their paper: “[The theory is] the idea that depression is the result of abnormalities in brain chemicals, particularly serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine or 5-HT).” The theory has been around for decades, but their overarching conclusion is that it is not correct, given that there appears to be no link between measurable serotonin concentration and depression.

The reaction of many academics to this finding can be summed up, briefly, as “Obviously!” In comments to the UK-based Science Media Centre, Dr. Michael Bloomfield, consultant psychiatrist and head of the translational psychiatry research group at University College London (UCL), said, “The findings from this umbrella review are really unsurprising. Depression has lots of different symptoms and I don’t think I’ve met any serious scientists or psychiatrists who think that all causes of depression are caused by a simple chemical imbalance in serotonin.”

Prof. Phil Cowen, a professor of psychopharmacology at the University of Oxford, said, “No mental health professional would currently endorse the view that a complex heterogenous condition like depression stems from a deficiency in a single neurotransmitter.”

Prof. Allan Young, director of the Centre for Affective Disorders at King’s College London, said, “Most psychiatrists adhere to the biopsychosocial model with very few people subscribing to a simple “chemical imbalance” theory.”

While the review has made headlines for “debunking” the serotonin imbalance theory, the reaction from many researchers suggests that this idea, in fact, has not been treated seriously within the field itself for years.

Psychiatry forgot to tell the public that it gave up on the “chemical imbalance” theory long ago

If you read the above point and felt rather perplexed to discover that the chemical imbalance theory has actually been in the academic wastebin for some years, you are not alone. The review authors highlighted a study (n = 893) that found that 88.1% of respondents believed a “chemical imbalance” to be a cause of depression. This idea, the authors point out, was heavily pushed by drug companies aiming to sell serotonin-selective reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) compounds. Eli Lilly, for example, promoted their compound Prozac in 2008 with the following: “Many scientists believe that an imbalance in serotonin, one of these neurotransmitters, may be an important factor in the development and severity of depression. PROZAC may help to correct this imbalance by increasing the brain’s own supply of serotonin.”

This attitude wasn’t just a marketing ploy embraced by an unwitting public – Northwestern University’s Dr. Christopher Lane highlighted in a commentary in Psychology Today a 2005 study that explored the disconnect between advertisements of SSRIs and the scientific evidence to support their use. Lane quotes Daniel Carlat, the editor of The Carlat Psychiatry Report, “I’ll often say something like the way Zoloft works, is, it increases the level of serotonin in your brain (or synapses, neurons) and, presumably, the reason you’re depressed or anxious is that you have some sort of a deficiency. And I say that [chuckles] not because I really believe it, because I know the evidence really isn’t there for us to understand the mechanism.”

Lane further highlights that another study, this time a survey of 237 psychology students, which found that 46% had heard a physician explain the chemical imbalance theory to them. While academia long ago dismissed the imbalance theory, that message appears not to have reached the public.

Whether SSRIs are effective or not isn’t in question

While the original review paper focuses mainly on the serotonin theory, an accompanying article by Moncrieff and her coauthor Mark Horowitz in The Conversation took a different tack, arguing that the evidence against the serotonin hypothesis also disproves the need for SSRIs full stop. “We conclude that it is impossible to say that taking SSRI antidepressants is worthwhile, or even completely safe,” they write. This conflation has been a particular source of frustration among commenting psychiatrists. “Many of us know that taking paracetamol can be helpful for headaches and I don’t think anyone believes that headaches are caused by not enough paracetamol in the brain,” writes Young. “There is consistent evidence that antidepressant medicines can be helpful in the treatment of depression and can be life-saving.”

Young’s statement is backed up by a significant body of research. While a debate separately exists around the critical element of whether antidepressants are more helpful than placebo, Moncrieff and Horowitz’s review can’t add any evidence to the pile either way, although Moncrieff has previously authored peer-reviewed articles highly critical of a drug-based approach to treating mental health. “It is important to point out that this study did not in fact look into the effectiveness of antidepressants directly. Antidepressants with serotonergic activity were already being used effectively for patients with depression prior to the theory of serotonin changes of depression,” commented Dr. Livia de Picker, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp.

Is depression even a single disease?

While Moncrieff’s review is focused on disproving the idea of a particular cause of depression, perhaps the focus of debate should instead be on the idea that depression is a single disease. “Today, it is largely accepted that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

25 July 2022 at 3:12 pm

The audacious PR plot that seeded doubt about climate change

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Dishonesty and bad faith are endemic in business and politics — and doubtless in all large swaths of human relations — and those will be what will destroy us. Ignoring reality is a strategy for failure because reality endures.

Jane McMullen reports for BBC News:

Thirty years ago, a bold plan was cooked up to spread doubt and persuade the public that climate change was not a problem. The little-known meeting – between some of America’s biggest industrial players and a PR genius – forged a devastatingly successful strategy that endured for years, and the consequences of which are all around us.

On an early autumn day in 1992, E Bruce Harrison, a man widely acknowledged as the father of environmental PR, stood up in a room full of business leaders and delivered a pitch like no other.

At stake was a contract worth half a million dollars a year – about £850,000 in today’s money. The prospective client, the Global Climate Coalition (GCC) – which represented the oil, coal, auto, utilities, steel, and rail industries – was looking for a communications partner to change the narrative on climate change.

Don Rheem and Terry Yosie, two of Harrison’s team present that day, are sharing their stories for the first time.

“Everybody wanted to get the Global Climate Coalition account,” says Rheem, “and there I was, smack in the middle of it.”

The GCC had been conceived only three years earlier, as a forum for members to exchange information and lobby policy makers against action to limit fossil fuel emissions.

Though scientists were making rapid progress in understanding climate change, and it was growing in salience as a political issue, in its first years the Coalition saw little cause for alarm. President George HW Bush was a former oilman, and as a senior lobbyist told the BBC in 1990, his message on climate was the GCC’s message.

There would be no mandatory fossil fuel reductions.

But all that changed in 1992. In June, the international community created a framework for climate action, and November’s presidential election brought committed environmentalist Al Gore into the White House as vice-president. It was clear the new administration would try to regulate fossil fuels.

The Coalition recognised that it needed strategic communications help and put out a bid for a public relations contractor.

Though few outside the PR industry might have heard of E Bruce Harrison or the eponymous company he had run since 1973, he had a string of campaigns for some of the US’s biggest polluters under his belt.

He had worked for the chemical industry discrediting research on the toxicity of pesticides; for the tobacco industry, and had recently run a campaign against tougher emissions standards for the big car makers. Harrison had built a firm that was considered one of the very best.

Media historian Melissa Aronczyk, who interviewed Harrison before he died in 2021, says he was a strategic linchpin for his clients, ensuring everyone was on the same page.

“He was a master at what he did,” she says.

Before the pitch, Harrison had assembled a team of both seasoned PR professionals and almost total novices. Among them was Don Rheem, who had no industry credentials. He had studied ecology before becoming an environmental journalist. A chance meeting with Harrison, who must have seen the strategic value of adding Rheem’s environmental and media connections to the team, led to a job offer on the GCC pitch.

“I thought, ‘Wow, this is an opportunity to get a front row seat at probably one of the most pressing science policy and public policy issues that we were facing.’

“It just felt enormously important,” Rheem says.

Terry Yosie – who had recently been recruited from the American Petroleum Institute, becoming a senior vice-president at the firm – remembers that Harrison began the pitch by reminding his audience that he was instrumental in fighting the auto reforms. He had done so, in part, by reframing the issue.

The same tactics would now help beat climate regulation. They would persuade people that the scientific facts weren’t settled, and that alongside the environment, policy makers needed to consider how action on climate change would – in the GCC’s view – negatively affect American jobs, trade and prices.

The strategy would be implemented through an extensive media campaign, everything from placing quotes and pitching opinion pieces (so-called op-eds), to direct contacts with journalists. . .

Continue reading. The report includes a link to a video, which can be viewed only in the UK, that provides more information:

Big Oil v the World

Drawing on thousands of newly discovered documents, this three-part film charts how the oil industry mounted a campaign to sow doubt about the science of climate change, the consequences of which we are living through today.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (UK Only)

It is thanks to the efforts of such PR professionals and the industries that funded them that we face the climate catastrophe that is our future.

A quotation commonly attributed to Vladimir Lenin (though not found in any of his works): “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them.” Though Lenin may not have written or said those words, it certainly seems true that capitalists will embrace their own destruction so long as they make money from it. In this, they resemble alcoholics who embraces illness and death so long as they can drink, cigarette smokers who continue smoking even while fighting lung cancer, and gambling addicts who will continue to play until all their money is gone and their credit is exhausted and their lives are ruined. In other words, capitalists are addicts who are willing to destroy anything for their fix, and now they are well on their way to destroying our livable world.

Written by Leisureguy

25 July 2022 at 10:04 am

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