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The GOP makes excuses — weak excuses

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Judd Legum has a good column at Popular Information that destroys the GOP’s current excuses:

The federal government’s response to the COVID-19 epidemic in the United States has been a disaster. As of Tuesday, there were more than 170,000 confirmed infections, the most in the world. While the virus spread in China and elsewhere, the federal government conducted virtually no testing, allowing COVID-19 to spread within communities undetected. During these critical weeks, there was no effort to stockpile protective equipment for health care workers or ramp up production of critical medical devices like ventilators. Already, more than 3,400 people have died. And it’s projected to get much worse.

How did this happen?

Appearing on the radio with conservative media personality Hugh Hewitt, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the federal government was distracted because the House of Representatives impeached Trump. “[I]t came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government because everything every day was all about impeachment,” McConnell said.

If the federal government failed to respond to an imminent pandemic because it was too concerned about the political fate of Trump, it would be an outrage. But the reality is even worse.

Years before Trump was impeached, he decimated the government’s capacity to respond to a pandemic. Moreover, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2020 at 8:11 pm

Dr. Greger on diet vs. exercise in the obesity epidemic

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2020 at 6:49 pm

What Is “Public Health” and What Does It Mean for the Coronavirus and COVID-19?

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A comment from The Eldest pointed out that calling a medical anthropologist an expert in public health is incorrect. So I thought that this article by Omar Saeed would be of interest:

The coronavirus-related shutdown of schoolsworkplaces, community events, and mass gatherings can be summarized with one increasingly desperate plea: “Please take this seriously!” During a confusing time for young people across the country and the world, we can turn to the field of public health to understand why the COVID-19 pandemic merits such a drastic response.

The fact that no one in our generation has ever dealt with anything like this makes it difficult to wrap our heads around it. Many students who learned that their universities were moving online found themselves with ample time and took the situation as an excuse to party. The urge to celebrate the shutdown of live classes and partake in an extended spring break is a natural response from those who don’t understand the severity of the public health impact.

So what can the field of public health teach us about what’s going on? I’m a current medical student who’s also pursuing a masters of public health. To help explain how our officials are responding to COVID-19, let’s take a look at the history of my field of study and how it’s relevant right now.

What is public health?

At its core, public health is quite literally just about the health of the public; it’s about community-level care and — most importantly — prevention, especially of disease, injuries, infections, and other negative health outcomes. Public health is often promoted by the government through educational programs, like anti-smoking campaigns; public policies, like anti-pollution laws; services, like community health screenings; and research, like work that tracks the spread of disease.

To put it simply, think of it in terms of big pictures and close-ups: While medicine treats individuals within communities, public health focuses on communities as a whole.

COVID-19 has been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), the organization rooted within the United Nations whose responsibility it is to direct international public health responses. So what does that mean? First, drawing on the basics of public health, we must understand the phases of disease spread. We can look to epidemiology, the subcategory within public health that studies disease, for guidance. An outbreak is when there is a sudden spike in disease transmission within a certain region. Outbreaks that occur over a widespread area (i.e., within a country) are considered epidemics, as explained by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An epidemic [click that link — LG] that has spread around the world is technically considered and often labeled a pandemic.

Pandemics don’t occur often, but when they do, they are often deadly. One major example is the 1918 Spanish Flu, which has been referenced regularly as people discuss COVID-19. As noted by the CDC, it was “the most severe pandemic in recent history.” It’s been estimated that the 1918 influenza infected nearly one-third of the world’s population and caused at least 50 million deaths. Back then, there were no national public health agencies to mitigate the damage, but the flu gave rise to a revolution in public health so that, today, we can at least control part of that narrative.

What can public health teach us about COVID-19?

Public health has a lot to teach us about how to fight COVID-19, both medically and as community members.

Previous pandemics like the 1918 Spanish Flu and the 2009 H1N1 Flu (aka the swine flu) have reinforced the notion that antiviral treatments (to treat the illness) and vaccines (to prevent infection) are two of the most important medical interventions for reducing illness during pandemics. But there hasn’t been a chance to develop these interventions when it comes to COVID-19 because it’s caused by a novel strain of coronavirus that was not discovered in humans until recently.

That means public health measures must be emphasized right now, including social distancingself-quarantining, and handwashing. Notably, long before the COVID-19 outbreak, way back in 2003, public health research estimated that 1 million deaths a year could be prevented if everyone just washed their hands.

We can look to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) for definitions of these other key terms. Social distancing means  . . .

Continue reading. There’s more. And check out the links.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2020 at 5:58 pm

The psychiatrist at the centre of the opioid crisis

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Emiliano Rodríguez Mega writes in Nature:

On a cold Friday night in February 1995, addiction researcher Nora Volkow and her husband got into their car after a long day at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. Ice had covered the trees and the roads, making them sparkle. But as the couple drove down a slope, the tyres lost their grip. The vehicle spun out of control. Volkow curled up to shield herself as an oncoming car crashed into her door.

Metal bit into her flesh. The pain was unrelenting. Finally, the fire service arrived to break her free and an ambulance rushed her to the nearest emergency department, where a doctor gave her Demerol, a powerful and highly addictive opioid painkiller also known as pethidine, which is similar to morphine.

Volkow had spent countless hours talking to people with addiction and had read hundreds of papers on the mechanisms of drug abuse. Neither prepared her for what happened next.

“It was extraordinary, those impressive sensations,” she says. A moment of ecstasy, one she describes as comparable only to long-lasting sexual pleasure, eclipsed all other feelings. She stayed on the medication for another few days and was sent home with more. But she decided not to take it. She was afraid — she knew many of her patients could not stop once they started. She would get through the pain without the help of drugs.

That night, a discomfort she had never felt before overran her body. She felt restless, agitated, desperate. Volkow took a painkiller and, like an apparition, the feeling faded away. “It was then that I realized how fast dependence develops,” she says. “It also made me realize that I’m very afraid of opiates.”

Twenty-five years later, Volkow’s name has become widely known in the addiction field and beyond. As a neuroscientist who has directed the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in Rockville, Maryland, since 2003, she has championed the idea of addiction as a disease of the brain rather than a moral failing. Under her direction, NIDA has prioritized research on the biological basis of addiction, and fought against the mistreatment of drug abusers in both the medical and criminal-justice systems.

Her quest has taken on a new urgency as the United States finds itself contending with shifts in the legal status of cannabis, a growing market for electronic cigarettes, a sudden comeback of cocaine and methamphetamine, and a two-decade-old opioid epidemic that has devastated many parts of the country: opioid overdoses have killed nearly half a million people in the United States (see ‘Tackling the opioid epidemic’). In response, her agency has started projects to monitor drug use and has ploughed money into medications that can reduce the cravings and pleasurable effects of drugs. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

1 April 2020 at 12:51 pm

Experimental AI tool predicts which COVID-19 patients develop respiratory disease

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ScienceDaily has an interesting report:

An artificial intelligence tool accurately predicted which patients newly infected with the COVID-19 virus would go on to develop severe respiratory disease, a new study found.

The work was led by NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University, in partnership with Wenzhou Central Hospital and Cangnan People’s Hospital, both in Wenzhou, China.

Named “SARS-CoV-2,” the new virus causes the disease called “coronavirus disease 2019” or “COVID-19.” As of March 30, the virus had infected 735,560 patients worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the illness has caused more than 34,830 deaths to date, more often among older patients with underlying health conditions. The New York State Department of Health has reported more than 33,700 cases to date in New York City.

Published online March 30 in the journal Computers, Materials & Continua, the study also revealed the best indicators of future severity, and found that they were not as expected.

“While work remains to further validate our model, it holds promise as another tool to predict the patients most vulnerable to the virus, but only in support of physicians’ hard-won clinical experience in treating viral infections,” says corresponding study author Megan Coffee, MD, PhD, clinical assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Disease & Immunology within the Department of Medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

“Our goal was to design and deploy a decision-support tool using AI capabilities — mostly predictive analytics — to flag future clinical coronavirus severity,” says co-author Anasse Bari, PhD, a clinical assistant professor in Computer Science at the Courant institute. “We hope that the tool, when fully developed, will be useful to physicians as they assess which moderately ill patients really need beds, and who can safely go home, with hospital resources stretched thin.”

Surprise Predictors

For the study, demographic, laboratory, and radiological findings were collected from 53 patients as each tested positive in January 2020 for the SARS-CoV2 virus at the two Chinese hospitals. Symptoms were typically mild to begin with, including cough, fever, and stomach upset. In a minority of patients, however, severe symptoms developed with a week, including pneumonia.

The goal of the new study was to determine whether AI techniques could help to accurately predict which patients with the virus would go on to develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome or ARDS, the fluid build-up in the lungs that can be fatal in the elderly.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2020 at 11:38 am

Posted in Health, Medical, Science, Software, Technology

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The Unbelievable Tale of Jesus’s Wife

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Ariel Sabar has in the Atlantic a lengthy but fascinating account of his tracking down how that papyrus fragment that referred to the wife of Jesus came about. It reads like a Dan Brown novel (one of which may have sparked the idea), but without the violence. The academic who pushed the papyrus fragment, Karen King, comes out looking not very good. The story begins:

On a humid afternoon this past November, I pulled off Interstate 75 into a stretch of Florida pine forest tangled with runaway vines. My GPS was homing in on the house of a man I thought might hold the master key to one of the strangest scholarly mysteries in recent decades: a 1,300-year-old scrap of papyrus that bore the phrase “Jesus said to them, My wife.” The fragment, written in the ancient language of Coptic, had set off shock waves when an eminent Harvard historian of early Christianity, Karen L. King, presented it in September 2012 at a conference in Rome.

Never before had an ancient manuscript alluded to Jesus’s being married. The papyrus’s lines were incomplete, but they seemed to describe a dialogue between Jesus and the apostles over whether his “wife”—possibly Mary Magdalene—was “worthy” of discipleship. Its main point, King argued, was that “women who are wives and mothers can be Jesus’s disciples.” She thought the passage likely figured into ancient debates over whether “marriage or celibacy [was] the ideal mode of Christian life” and, ultimately, whether a person could be both sexual and holy.

King called the business-card-size papyrus “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife.” But even without that provocative title, it would have shaken the world of biblical scholarship. Centuries of Christian tradition are bound up in whether the scrap is authentic or, as a growing group of scholars contends, an outrageous modern fake: Jesus’s bachelorhood helps form the basis for priestly celibacy, and his all-male cast of apostles has long been cited to justify limits on women’s religious leadership. In the Roman Catholic Church in particular, the New Testament is seen as divine revelation handed down through a long line of men—Jesus, the 12 apostles, the Church fathers, the popes, and finally the priests who bring God’s word to the parish pews today.

King showed the papyrus to a small group of media outlets in the weeks before her announcement—The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and both Smithsonian magazine and the Smithsonian Channel—on the condition that no stories run before her presentation in Rome. Smithsonian assigned me a long feature, sending me to see King at Harvard and then to follow her to Rome. I was the only reporter in the room when she revealed her find to colleagues, who reacted with equal parts fascination and disbelief.

“The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife” papyrus (Karen L. King / Harvard / AP)

Within days, doubts mounted. The Vatican newspaper labeled the papyrus “an inept forgery.” Scholars took to their blogs to point out apparent errors in Coptic grammar as well as phrases that seemed to have been lifted from the Gospel of Thomas. Others deemed the text suspiciously in step with the zeitgeist of growing religious egalitarianism and of intrigue around the idea, popularized by The Da Vinci Code, of a married Jesus. The controversy made news around the world, including an article in these pages.

A year and a half later, however, Harvard announced the results of carbon-dating tests, multispectral imaging, and other lab analyses: The papyrus appeared to be of ancient origin, and the ink had no obviously modern ingredients. This didn’t rule out fraud. A determined forger could obtain a blank scrap of centuries-old papyrus (perhaps even on eBay, where old papyri are routinely auctioned), mix ink from ancient recipes, and fashion passable Coptic script, particularly if he or she had some scholarly training. But the scientific findings complicated the case for forgery. The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife had undergone—and passed—more state-of-the-art lab tests, inch for inch, than almost any other papyrus in history. . .

Continue reading. This is just the beginning…

Written by LeisureGuy

31 March 2020 at 11:31 am

What are the best foods?

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Written by LeisureGuy

30 March 2020 at 11:30 am

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