As many as 75 federal scientists may have been exposed to anthrax

Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Up to 75 scientists who work at a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biosecurity lab in Atlanta may have been exposed to anthrax, because researchers there did not follow procedures for inactivating the deadly and highly contagious bacteria.

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Bars in Alaska offer free pregnancy tests


Bars in Alaska have installed free pregnancy tests in their women's bathrooms in an effort to curb drinking among pregnant women. The tests are subsidized by the state of Alaska as part of a campaign to reduce fetal alcohol syndrome, which is more prevalent in Alaska than in any other state.

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Snowdenbot performs tele-diagnosis and offers aid to reporter who had first epileptic seizure

Edward Snowden routinely hangs around at the New York ACLU offices by means of a BEAM telepresence robot, through which he can meet with journalists for "face-to-face" interviews. During a recent interview with Julia Prosinger from Der Tagesspeiggel, Prosinger had her first-ever epileptic seizure, brought on by the flickering screen where he appeared.

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Inside the design of 3D printed back-braces and fairings

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Joris writes, "I did an interview with Scott Summit who designs beautiful 3D printed fairings and back braces. 3D printing lets the customer customize them and makes the orthopedic implant become much more a part of themselves and their lives."

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Miles O'Brien on life after losing an arm

Television journalist, Miles O'brien, who lost an arm after an accident, gets ready for his day.


Television journalist Miles O'Brien gets ready for his day. (Photo: Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos/New York Magazine)

While on assignment in the Philippines in February, reporter Miles O’Brien had an accident and lost his left arm. In the weeks that followed, he learned that every movement, no matter how small, requires rethinking. In this week's New York Magazine, he describes his "Life, After."

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Long-term weight loss considered nearly impossible


Here's a CBC science piece quoting several obesity experts argues that long-term weight loss is almost impossible, saying that (uncited) meta-analyses of weight-loss intervention found that in the 5- to 10-year range, most weight-loss was reversed. According to Tim Caulfield, who holds a Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, this is an open secret in scholarly and scientific weight-loss circles, but no one wants to talk about it for fear that it will scare people off of healthier eating and exercise regimes, which have benefits independent of weight-loss.

I found the article frustrating. While I am willing to stipulate that the data on long-term weight-loss suggests extreme difficulty, I wish the journalist had found biologists or doctors to discuss the issue, and had cited actual, specific research to support the claims made, which would make it easier to parse the nuances in the piece. It's not that I think that interdisciplinary lawyers with an undergraduate science background have something to say on this (I am 100 percent for interdisciplinary researchers, especially on complex questions like obesity), and while I think that psychologists like Traci Mann have a lot to say about some dimensions of weight-loss, it would have been great to find out what endocrinologists and other bioscience-types had to say about the phenomenon.

For my part, I went from about 250 lbs to about 170 in 2002/3, by eating a very low-carb diet. This morning, I weighed in at 176 lbs. I attribute my sustained weight loss to daily swimming (which I do for physiotherapy for chronic back pain) and a moderate-carb diet, as well as a two-day-a-week 600 calorie fasting regime.

Which is to say, it's a ton of work to stay where I am, and I know from past experience that if I skip swimming for a few days, or let myself go nuts on carbs for more than a day or two, or skip fasting-days (which aren't really fasting -- just very low-calorie days) that my weight creeps up. I pretty much never eat without making a complex (and tediously unwelcome) calculation about what I'm about to consume, and I often experience guilt while eating "bad" food and shame afterwards.

Clearly, this is less than optimal!

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Crowdfunding the Drinkable Book: a book of silver-doped water-filters for the developing world

Jonathan writes, "The Drinkable Book is a water filter and an instruction manual for how and why to clean drinking water. The drinking paper uses a thick, sturdy sheet of paper embedded with silver nanoparticles, which are lethal for microbes. Funds will go to print 1,000 Drinkable Books and distribute them in Ghana, Haiti, India, and Kenya with water nonprofit Waterislife."

Our goals include: 1) Engage local communities in protecting and cleaning their drinking water. WATERisLIFE has ties to rural communities in Ghana, Haiti, Kenya, and India, where feedback from local folks in these communities will be gathered in Fall 2014 through Winter 2015. "WATERisLIFE is a big believer in "boots on the ground," according to founder Ken Surritte. So the books will go with teams traveling to parts of Africa and India, where they'll hold educational sessions on maintaining a clean water source."

2) Theresa will also explore other filter prototype designs to determine the best way to clean water with this pAge drinking paper technology. While in South Africa, Theresa worked with Corinne, a MS engineering student from Carnegie Mellon University. Corinne has led a group of students to design an emergency water filter using pAge filters. This new filter design also shows great potential, especially for emergency response and disaster relief applications! Initial field studies on this new filter prototype will start at the end of the summer 2014.

3) The number of books needed is many more than Theresa has ever made in the lab, and the production needs to be scaled up.

The Drinkable Book

Fun with the health insurance industry

Julie Rovner explains why some people still won't have coverage for pre-existing conditions until the end of this year. Bonus: A delightful peek into Cigna's IT department.

Phoenix Jones conducts fitness-based Seattle superhero purge


Seattle superhero Phoenix Jones (previously) has purged the membership of Rain City Superheroes, dissolving and reforming the superhero group with new, stringent membership requirements, including the ability to do five pull-ups and 25 sit-ups in two minutes.

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Number of cancer survivors in US expected to grow 30% over next decade

A new report from the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute says the population of cancer survivors in the US will expand by 30% in the next ten years. LA Times:
As of Jan. 1, there were nearly 14.5 million people alive in the United States who had been diagnosed with some type of cancer. By 2024, that figure is projected to reach 18.9 million, according to a report released Sunday by the American Cancer Society. The authors of the report – from the ACS and the National Cancer Institute – define a cancer “survivor” as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and is still alive.
Here's the full report from the ACS.

Should a past mental health episode mean this mom loses her child?

Steve Herbert for ProPublica


Steve Herbert for ProPublica

At ProPublica, the story of a young woman who had a mental health crisis -- a psychotic episode -- and as a result, lost custody of her infant daughter. In the crisis incident, the mom became delusional and believed her child had been raped. The child had not been assaulted, nor was she ever harmed by her mom. Four years later, the mom is receiving effective treatment for her postpartum depression and psychosis, and capably raising a son. Yet, the courts in Kansas still won't give back her daughter, arguing she is unfit based an principle sometimes called "predictive neglect." Is this right?

A scarf woven from Jay Lake's genome


Here's a scarf woven from data representing the genome of talented sf writer and good guy Jay Lake, who died of cancer this week. Last summer, Jay's friends raised funds to sequence his genome in the hopes of finding a targeted cure. Astrid Bear used the data to weave the scarf, focusing on the 143 pairs of chromosome 18, which was the identified culprit in Jay's cancer. The scarf itself is a thing of beauty, and Jay loved it.

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Four things you didn’t know about seasonal allergies

Maggie Koerth-Baker on the science of the snuffles of spring. Relief may not be at hand without drugs, but knowledge has its comforts.

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Amazon's illegal drug trade

At Slate.com, Ford Vox has an investigative piece on how Amazon.com will deliver steroids, muscle relaxants, and prescription antibiotics right to your door, despite the fact that the sale of various drugs without a pharmacy license or a doctor's prescription is against the law.

More in US die from prescription narcotics than car crashes, guns, suicide

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More than 100 Americans die each day from prescription drug overdoses, mostly painkillers. That's more daily deaths than from car accidents, gunshot wounds, or suicides. In California, two county District Attorneys are suing five of the biggest drug companies in the world, and the lawsuits include the same kind of arguments once used against big tobacco industry, demanding "public protection."

Warren Olney's "To the Point" radio show has a segment on the topic today:

The companies are accused of a "campaign of deception" to persuade doctors that narcotic painkillers are safer than they really are. But the narcotic painkillers involved have been approved by the FDA. Is a government agency helping create a "population of addicts?" What's the role of physicians who write the prescriptions? Are they ill-informed, poorly trained or trying to make money?
More on the case at advocacy group harmreduction.org, and there's a Los Angeles Times writeup here.