Ruminations

Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Heart of Men?

"Is it bad, is it egoistic when people who have been placed in certain positions try to do something that is beneficial for them, even when they know that by doing so they end up harming someone else?"
"[No one] could have been better than he [Joseph Goebbels] at transforming from a civilized, serious person into that ranting and raving hooligan."
"I just didn't listen [to Goebbels's 'total war' declaration of 1943]. Because it didn't interest me. That was a stupidity within me, I know this now."
"No, I wouldn't see myself as being guilty. Unless you end up blaming the entire German population for ultimately enabling that government to take control. That was all of us. Including me."
"The people who today say they would have done more for those poor, persecuted Jews, I really believe that they sincerely mean it. But they wouldn't have done it, either. By then, the whole country was under some kind of a dome. We ourselves were all inside a huge concentration camp."
Brunhilde Pomsel, shorthand writer, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels

Having reached the ripe old age of 105, Ms. Pomsel has had a long time to muse upon her enabling role as a cipher in the machinery of Nazi Germany; more than that, she aided and abetted the process of diminishing Europe's Jews from human beings to disposable scum. In introspection she feels she did no more and no less than anyone else in her place might have done. Thinking of her need to be employed, to be comfortable and accepted, knowing that there was a cost in what she pursued and it was a cost borne by millions of persecuted, ultimately exterminated Jews.

She is considered to be the last witness of the processes by which the Nazi regime focused on its goal of genocidal intent, the mass extermination of a despised 'race' to whom all the ills of the world were attributed. This institutionalized, bitter racism took second place to nothing; given equal treatment to the equally vital work of leading the Axis powers to eventual victory over the Allies. Nazi Germany succeeded to a surprising degree in its annihilation of Europe's Jews, but the victory of conquest on the world stage eluded it.

Ms. Pomsel was born in 1911 Berlin, and for a while she was a stenographer working for a Jewish lawyer, then went on in her early 20s to work as a typist for a right-wing nationalist. Soon afterward connections helped her land a position in the broadcasting station of the Third Reich from which, nine years later, she transferred to the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda where she worked under Goebbels. Goebbels, she recalled, was the mastermind, "an outstanding actor", the mastermind of denigration and hatred.

She had never, she insists, had any inkling of the plan to exterminate Jews en masse for she was not privy to that information. Her eyes and ears were busy elsewhere. Knowing nothing about Nazi war crimes let alone mass killings she was simply a hard-working woman hoping to achieve some measure of success in her working life. She remains a still-living participant in a historical event of immense significance representing the capacity of ordinary people to live in an era of bloody murder on a vast industrialized scale, but seeing nothing, hearing nothing, knowing nothing.
Der Stuermer caricatureTitle: Insatiable
The lead article is on the Moscow show trials. The cartoon caption: “Far be it from the Jews to enslave a single people. Their goal is to devour the entire world.”
October 1936 (Issue #41)

Accepting whatever their government instituted, willing themselves to believe that Germany was fighting a just war against nations seeking to destroy it; living their lives with no curiosity whatever related to business that didn't touch them personally because they would not let it and to remain untouched one must know nothing. So that later, in self defence the 'nicht schuldig' response could exonerate one from any and all responsibility, even though their acceptance of what they felt they could not change meant that they were enablers of evil.

A film produced by four directors is the venue and vehicle in which Ms. Pomsel describes her experiences and her thoughts. "A German Life" premiered in June in Germany, full of archival material, quotes from the propaganda minister, and interviews with Ms. Pomsel. Its purpose, meant to remind the world of the barbarity that proceeded with utter impunity to rid the world of a pestilence masquerading as an ethnic, cultural, religious, historical group of people who refused to go gently into that dark night but succumbed nonetheless.
"The dangers are still alive. It could happen again."
"One of the main aims of the film is to have the audience question: How would I have reacted? What would I have done in her situation for a new step in my career?"
Olaf Muller, film director

May, 1934 Issue of Der Stürmer

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Delectably, Gorgeously Female

"They would see boys going in, and we would put on our eye shadow, our wigs and skirts and dresses, and walk out and say, 'Hiiii'."
"I said OMG, really? Seriously? There are people who are like me? And then the idea came in my head, and I held on to it like a rope that would save me."
"I think winning the crown [as Miss Trans Star International] in Barcelona will give some hope, like planting a seed of hope [for other transgender people]."
"Imagine because of who you are, you have to leave your family, home and country -- I am speaking of Arab countries."
"I'm Arab, I'm Christian, I'm Israeli. All that is tied together. And I'm going to win."
"My father should be proud of me. My father is the father of Miss Trans Israel."
Talleen Abu Hanna, Miss Trans Israel, Tel Aviv
Talin Abu Hanah walks on stage during the first-ever Miss Trans Israel beauty pageant in Tel Aviv, Israel May 27, 2016. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Growing up in Nazareth, a majority Arab city in Israel, a young boy decided against karate and wanted to take ballet lessons instead. Into his teen years he experimented with his mother's cosmetics and tried on his sister's dresses. He had other friends who were as curious as he was about the opposite gender and wanting to express themselves and their personalities in that gender, forbidden and alluring.

When Ms. Abu Hanna was fifteen she went to a party and came across a woman who informed her that she was born male, still she couldn't believe what she heard and saw. But her friends knew far more than she did and explained all about gender reassignment surgery, an astonishing revelation to the young boy who yearned to be a girl. She had simply considered herself as an effeminate boy, and was resigned to life surreptitiously dressing and dreaming of being a woman but bearing the outward characteristics of  a man.

It was, after all, what her family expected of her, saw in her, felt she should be, and if they knew how deeply engrained her female-ness was under the facade of male-ness they would be unforgiving, and she knew this too. She eventually transitioned to female, shedding the veneer of a male and embracing the female within her, struggling to escape the confines of a male persona, a male life and its expectations of her.

A year later she was crowned as Israel's first transgender beauty queen when she won the Miss Trans Israel pageant and wore the Swarovski crown, becoming a celebrated figure, able to present herself as she truly is, unafraid and forward-looking, a role model for other young boys in the Arab world puzzled and concerned over who and what they truly are. And she is preparing to present herself in Spain on September 17 as a contestant for the global transgender pageant

Tallin
Israeli Christian wins first “Miss Trans Israel” pageant -- CBS News

She will, she says, represent Israel, out of "respect, because it is a democracy that has given me peace". Her 24-year-old Muslim university student boyfriend's name, Mohammed, has been tattooed on her wrist, though she is herself a member of the Catholic community, a Palestinian minority subset of the State of Israel whose Arab demographic represents a fifth of its eight million citizens.

It is painful for her that her family no longer wishes to have any familial relations with one of their own who became openly gay and then completed the transformation as a transgender person. She had been outed by a boy scout in her troop, years ago. After that, in fear of violence directed at her from a furious relative in the interests of 'family honour' being tarnished at her unforgivable sin, she left her home. Her mother had given her $100 to enable her to travel and she ended up in Tel Aviv.

She had gone to Thailand in 2015 to begin the transition to female. She now lives with the attitude of acceptance, using women's bathrooms with most people surrounding her in Tel Aviv recognizing her as a woman. The Israeli government provides her with a stipend in support of people transitioning. She hopes eventually to be recognized as someone who can give advice, to be given respect when she counsels Arab parents to love and accept their children for themselves, however they happen to be.


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Monday, August 29, 2016

Primal Fire

"We realized that the discovery of controlled fire must have caused a significant shift in the way humans were interacting with each other and with the environment [factors known by scientists to drive the emergence of infectious diseases]."
Rebecca Chisholm, biologist, University of New South Wales, Australia

"I hope these studies [primal emergence of humans controlling fire and consequences therefrom] will spur us to think more about fire, and take it in all the different directions it can go."
Caitlin Pepperell, professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

fire
The first evidence of early humans using fire dates back to more than a million years, but the practice did not become routine until about 650,000 years later, the latest research indicates. Photo: Reuters
When early man understood the function of fire pertaining to its practical domestic use, it became the most valuable commodity available to enterprising humankind, seeking above all to fulfill the obligation that nature blueprinted all her creatures with: striving to succeed with the imperative to survive. Basic human ingenuity even in its primitive form enabled humankind to understand the function and facility of crude tools to make life just a trifle easier; tools to prevent carnivores other than man from their own destiny, to destroy so they too could survive.

Tools to help manipulate early hominids' environment in any way that could prove to be helpful; defence, offence, carving, skinning, cutting and slicing. But only fire had a range of valuable and practical purposes that no other element gave promise to; it could help fend off attacks by other wild animals who feared fire, it could warm those close to it during cold, dark nights, it could illuminate and give light during the night hours, and above all, it could roast and cook meat for much easier consumption.

Tending a fire, seeing it would never be extinguished must have been a very important task, until it was understood that flint and dry mosses could help initiate new, controlled fires. So that when males went out hunting, with their superior physical strength and their sharpened flint-and-sinew-and-stick weapons to bring down the day's slaughter, women could be left at the hearth to tend the fire and look to the welfare of the hugely dependent young.

The immense evolutionary advantage conferred on humankind with the discovery that fire could be a volatile, but sometimes-obedient pet to add huge quality to life, is legendary; a gift from the gods -- or the one called Gaea. But science is never content to sit on its laurels, hypothetical or proven, and other theories are always waiting in the wings to be expressed.

One such is a study published by scientists who identified a genetic mutation in modern humans, one that permits us to metabolize certain toxins, smoke among them, at a safe rate so that we would not be overwhelmed completely unless that inhalation was too severe. No other primates shared that same newly-detected genetic sequence, not even Neanderthals and Denisovans. These researchers feel that this was a genetic adaptation to our supreme advantage.

In response to breathing in smoke toxins, which would be commonly the case when early humans lived in caves and built fires in them with smoke resulting and circulating in the near proximity to be breathed in by whomever would be there, a slow process of selection in response to the smoke toxins occurred since the risk of respiratory infections, the suppression of the immune system and disruption of the reproduction system would have completely negated the progress realized by fire's use.

This mutation, it is hypothesized, granted 'modern' humans (homo sapiens), an evolutionary head-start over Neanderthals, according to Gary Perdew, professor of toxicology at Pennsylvania State University, one of the paper's authors. The mutation theory, if correct, may have been the enabler to allow modern humans to become inured against adverse effects of fire; a bit of serendipity not shared by other species.

Another study recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences makes the suggestion that profound new damage accompanied the advantages to humans with the use of fire. It might have initiated the spread of tuberculosis through bringing people in close contact with one another in early groups that assembled for mutual protection, and shared in close quarters all the advantages they had, including fire.

The most natural reaction to smoke infiltrating one's breathing apparatus is to involuntarily cough to clear passages. Incessant coughing as a result of ongoing and prolonged exposure to smoke would have the effect of damaging lungs. Biologists Rebecca Chisholm and Mark Tanaka from the University of New South Wales simulated the manner in which ancient soil bacteria could have evolved as infectious tuberculosis agents when fire and the heat it produced helped tuberculin bacteria to evolve.

As for gender-assigned roles, it is entirely feasible that these became set in the minds of inherited generations from the time that men took their superior strength and their hunting tools out to the fields and forests to bring home the raw meat to be cooked over the fires that women were left to tend, along with their offspring.

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Sunday, August 28, 2016

Surrogacy Altruism's Public Cost

"One thing we encourage all our surrogates to do -- who are in a marriage or a partnership -- is to write a letter to their partner to thank them for being that support."
"Having support is so vital to this process. We talk to all our intended parents about how vital it is to support the surrogate's entire family."
Lela Swanberg, founder, Canadian Fertility Consulting, B.C.
CTV News Channel

"It's [childbirth surrogacy] something that she has always wanted to do and continues to want to do until she can't do it any more. Her thinking is that there are a lot of people out there who can't experience what it's like to have a child, and she is in a position to give them that gift. It's a very selfless act on her part, and I just thought: What a great thing."
"The only thing that's ever crossed my mind is if she had an issue giving birth and it cost her her life, because that can happen. And that's the only thing that's ever crossed my mind."
"I was in charge of everything [partner-pregnancy-duty]: The kids, the cooking, the housekeeping. My job was just to make sure she was staying healthy for the surrogacy because it was high-risk ... It was just my job to make sure that she was OK and the babies were OK."
"I've never felt resentment. It's something she wants. She supports me. So I support her."
"There are the days when the hormones kick in. We've had our disagreements about stuff. But just like any other issue that comes up in a marriage, you deal with it. When that stuff starts to happen, I just tend to walk away and let her have her space and I have my space. We discuss it later."
"We couldn't have our own [children, together], but we could have them for other people."
"After almost every surrogacy [she says], 'I'm not doing that again'. And then somebody asks her and she feels she has to, and we start again She will do it for as long as her body allows her to do it, and I'll support her every time."
"Meeting families and seeing how happy they are when they have a child is pretty amazing."
Steve Berkeley, 50, police officer, Woodstock, Ontario

"It's been happening for so long it's just kind of normal. Like, when she said she was pregnant again we were just like, 'Oh, OK'. I never think of it as 'Oh, we are getting a new brother or sister'."
"It's just Mom having a baby for someone else."
"For us, it's just been happening so long. It doesn't really change our lives other than we have to clean a bit more when she can't any more. [We] just have to remember that someone else is really benefiting from us having to put up with our mum being pregnant"
Chelsey, 20, eldest daughter of Christine Berkeley

"When I get the couples' profiles I always take a look and then we share and go through them together, because it's a journey -- a joint journey."
"There's never been anything but 100 percent support from Steve, from the kids I'm lucky that way."
Christine Berkeley, surrogate childbirth volunteer
Pregnancy surrogate Paula Capa talks to the Star while on a retreat for surrogates at the BenMiller Inn in Goderich, Ont. in July.
 (J.P. MOCZULSKI / The Toronto Star

So far in her surrogacy career, Christine Berkeley -- the mother of two girls, 20 and 14, and an eight-year-old son and a stepson -- there have been four pregnancies more, giving birth children; one set of twins; for utter strangers. People who want to have children of their own but who for some reason or another have been unable to conceive. That would include same-sex couples. So Christine, out of the goodness of her heart, is willing to do so for them; go through in vitro fertilization and everything associated with carrying a pregnancy to term, and finally giving birth and surrendering the result to a grateful couple.

She is far from the only woman in Canada doing this. And since under Canadian law no one can charge 'clients' for the surrogacy role they undertake on their behalf, only expenses related to the pregnancy can be charged to the expectant parents awaiting childbirth by way of a surrogate. These are women who appear to respond to the plight of other women (or men) whose child-bearing potential has been negatively impacted for whatever physical reason. And their clients, those awaiting the chance to have a child through surrogacy are grateful.

They are also in many instances, not Canadians. People from the United States, from Australia, from Spain, for example, working through a Canadian agency that connects willing surrogates with would-be parents from abroad. The commitment on the part of the women facing pregnancy, bearing someone else's child for a nine-month period of their lives, including the impact it has on their personal lives and the lives of those around them, is considerable. But these women are answering a call, and they gain satisfaction from responding to that call.

It does sound a bit sanctimonious to hear the founder of the B.C-based consulting clinic, urging notice of the sacrifices made by family members of surrogate mothers. By Mr. Berkeley's account of his personal aid to his wife, his patient understanding is in no need of praise; his relationship with his wife surviving each of these impositions is all the reward he seems to need. He views his wife, and perhaps she views herself as a kind of fairy godmother with an endearingly admirable gifting complex. His own pathology, in a sense matches hers; his being a martyr complex.

But human relationships are complex, and clearly what works for some would never pass the grade for others. Mrs. Berkeley has thus far undergone, in a ten-year-span of her life, a total of four extra pregnancies beside carrying her very own children to birth. And these acts give her a profound sense of accomplishment. Christine recounts how accepting her own children were with the information that Mummy was pregnant again: "The children were very like, 'OK, What's for supper?' and that was that." How else do children respond other than matter-of-factly with such issues, honing in on what is more immediately important in their lives?

Mrs. Berkeley and her family appear well prepared to bear the personal cost of their mother's fixation on being a bearer of children for other people. What none of them appear to find necessary to give second thought to, is the cost and the burden on the Canadian health care system. This is a user-pay plan of universal health care provision, and the cost of these pregnancies is not borne by the parents from abroad but by Canadian citizens paying their various forms of taxation to ensure the health plan can be kept afloat.

It is, and it is a very good system, but it is burdened and it is costing provincial and federal governments more and more as time progresses to be able to offer complete health care needs to Canadian citizens. It's all very well for Mrs. Berkeley to confer with her family over which of the many applicants for surrogacy she will end up favouring with her offer to carry their baby. But she has not consulted with other Canadians over how they feel about paying for the medical costs of bearing children for people abroad, and that's a shame.

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

"Early on we realized Jeremy wasn’t really ordinary. We briefly considered sending him to a charter school or a school for the gifted and talented, but in the end there wasn’t much of a choice because he was way too advanced to be enrolled in any traditional schools. So I quit my career to dedicate my time to teaching Jeremy myself. I have been homeschooling him ever since."
Shuler
Photo: Shuler family
"When we were looking at different programs we wanted some place that would acknowledge his achievements already so he wouldn’t have to go through several years of learning the same things over and over again. When I looked at Texas Tech University, their curriculum had more variety, offered the flexibility we wanted for travel and recognized the work Jeremy had already completed."
Harrey Shuler, mother of Jeremy, 12

"The curriculum was well-designed. I learned a lot of new things, especially writing skills from English to astronomy courses. Before TTUISD I was mostly a math and science person, but at TTUISD I learned a lot of curriculum in other subjects."
"I loved graduation. It was cool seeing all of the other students graduating alongside me and meeting all of the TTUISD people. I really enjoyed TTUISD because it allowed me to get an actual high school diploma to be able to go to college, but it had the flexibility we needed for me to finish school. Overall, it made me a lot more experienced and prepared me for college."
"I was excited when I found out I got accepted to Cornell. It is the best choice for me."
Jeremy Shuler
Shuler
Photo: Shuler family
"We have accepted Jeremy into our undergraduate program here at Cornell Engineering. He is a very advanced student for his age who already has demonstrated an incredible ability to learn at the collegiate level."
"While this is highly unusual, we feel that with the strong support of his parents – who will be moving here to provide him a place to live and study – and his unusual talents and thirst for knowledge, he will be able to thrive as an engineering student and take advantage of all that Cornell has to offer."
Cornell Engineering Dean Lance Collins

The emergence of a genius is always astonishing. Human beings come in all sizes, shapes and colours, their minds and capabilities inherited by familial genetics, their familial exposure and guidance and cultural heritage shaping their social and conscious-values frame of mind. But their brain power and its potential, seen in precocious infants, developing as they grow, elicits both pride and curiosity from the world at large.

There is a young boy, now twelve years of age, born to two academically accomplished people in Texas, whose amazingly swift transition from newborn to intellectual brilliance surely represents an extreme rarity. This is a child who began talking at six months of age, and whose flexible brain became adept at recognizing letters of the alphabet -- two alphabets, since his mother is Korean -- by one-and-a-half, when six months later he became a competent reader.

ShulerPhoto: Shuler family

Harrey and Andy Shuler realized fairly quickly that their son was highly unusual, that their experience with him would have no precedents, and there would be few developmental yardsticks; that they would be raising a child whose capacity to learn was astoundingly beyond even the capability of children ordinarily placed in the genius category. Young Jeremy just kept breaking all recognized milestones of childhood emerging into youth.

He began studying pre-calculus by age five. Even the fact that both his parents were aerospace engineers giving little Jeremy a huge leg-up in genetic inheritance and intellectually stimulating guidance, could not conceivably account for his incredibly accelerated capacity to absorb, integrate and synthesize information, making sense of everything and becoming supremely confident and comfortable in areas of human intelligence and science that would challenge most brilliant adult minds.

His mother Harrey, placed her post-doctoral plans on a temporary hold while she devoted herself to her son's absorbing journey into advancing his knowledge, enlarging his brain's capacity to absorb arcane data bedevilling to most, but comprehensively well understood by him, until he sped past his mother's ability to infuse him with any new and challenging knowledge beyond what she had already introduced him to.

By age ten he took the SAT, the standardized testing for college admissions in the United States. As an objective measure of his intellectual prowess and acquired knowledge, this would be a milestone of another kind for his parents. He scored higher than 99.6 percent of all the others aspiring to college admissions taking the test in that year. His youth, however, was recognized as an impediment to legal college admission.

Then Jeremy made application to Cornell University, his father's alma mater, and where his grandfather just happens to be a professor. The engineering department accepted his application, after meeting with Jeremy and examining the extent of his knowledge and judging his demeanor; requiring that he live with his parents. "While this is highly unusual, we feel that with the strong support of his parents and his unusual talents and thirst for knowledge, he will be able to thrive", stated Cornell engineering dean Lance Collins.

ShulerPhoto: Shuler family

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Friday, August 26, 2016

Celestial Bodies Boding The Future

Those who enter into this sanctuary ought to be devoted without reserve to the service of Urania [Rosenfeld 2009]. She is the goddess for whom the astronomer is the priest, and for whom he produces "oracles" -- but the "oracles" are earned, wrought by his perseverance. He enjoys no respite but days sombre and sad, the moments when Nature adds to all his shadows that of clouds. His day is interrupted, sectioned by different observations. The Sun occupies the morning, midday, and evening. When that star disappears, the other planets and stars reveal themselves, heralding other work. Astronomers often share the work amongst themselves, but those who would embrace all astronomical duties require an iron constitution. It is necessary that the zeal for science awakens at the moments indicated in the night. It is necessary that the zeal for science wards off sleep, so that the astronomer is awake for the duration of the night. It is necessary that those watches recur, and that the astronomer sacrifice himself to the work following observing, and still observe the stars every night. It is necessary that the eye be attached to the refractor, and the ear to the clock, whether the body be upright, bent, or, as frequently happens, supine to observe the zenith. The cold of the night, winters, fatigue, and the dangers of insomnia matter not!
Jean-Sylvain Bailly, French astronomer, 1736-1793 ... (translation) R.A. Rosenfeld, RASC Archivist, The Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

To read that is to observe that the astronomer's lot is a heavy one, full of responsibility to science and astronomy, in a prodigious effort throughout the ages to discover the origin of the Universe and the Abiogenesis of all life forms, mysteries upon mysteries; how did nature formulate all that exists, and is there a why? and when did she decide in her infallible wisdom to create humankind, and if the Universe is endless, timelessly forever, surely there exist other highly intelligent beings capable of manipulating the natural landscapes into which they have been wrought into existence, and where are they?

Hypotheses abound over whether other life forms like ourselves exist,where they might find atmospheric conditions conducive to their origins and the level of intelligence they might achieve and their possible understanding of science and applications of technologies all their own. Might they be interested in humanity as it exists on Earth? Of course there is always the possibility that humankind suffers a particular type of hubris in considering itself intelligent to begin with; an observation uncertain to be shared by other life-forms.

Humans certainly seem to feel that if such life forms exist out there in the immensity of outer space we should know about their existence, and possibly make cautious and determined contact. Others feel the possibility that if intelligent life exists outside our solar system they might be intelligent enough not to make any overtures yet alone respond to ours, that would alert human life to their existence, after presumably examining human foibles.

But the search certainly goes on; in our times by radio-telescope and by search groups such as SETI, using powerful universal computer linkages and those tireless telescopes to try to detect any possible message that might be circulating in the upper atmosphere, possibly to float into our own, heralding other natural species whose existence would serve to answer that ages-old question: Are we alone in the Universe?

The latest discovery by astronomers and other scientists whose work on the Pale Red Dot project led them to the detection of a very small red dwarf star named Proxima Centauri, just over four light-years away from us, and a planet circling it with a mass similar to that of Earth's, and which has been named Proxima b, tantalizes with the prospect of life at a pittance of a distance from Earth.

If the right kind of propulsion technology were to be created by physicists and scientists and engineers, to be capable of sending a human being into the upper atmosphere and beyond in a determined effort to reach Proxima b, it would take the entire lifespan of that human to achieve. Yet
this distance is what astronomers consider to be the close distance, in a vastness where time and space is all stunningly relative.

A device named the High-Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher identified Proxima b, the new planet. A device capable of detecting light-spectrum shifts so infinitesimally minuscule it can be compared to movement similar to a metre per second in space. This turns out to be the perfect discovery scenario; a star small and cool, with a planet revolving around it betraying its existence by making that star wobble just slightly off its course at the approach and departure of the planet at its nearest approach during its orbit.

This planet just discovered, orbits every 11 days; Earth's orbit is much, much, much longer in duration. Astronomers are agog over the potential of a stable atmosphere that might invite the formation of an intelligent life form - actually any form of life. Astronomers are so devoted to their craft, it is the be-all and end-all of their existence. They seek to discover secrets of nature that might conceivably forestall the end of our existence.

Impressive stuff. That much brainpower working with that level of technology, peering into all-powerful Nature's intentions and devices.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Depression and Treatment

"There is a paradigm shift. We're starting to listen to the people we treat."
"We're increasingly realizing that there is a proportion of patients who are either unwilling for philosophical reasons [to take antidepressants] or find it difficult to tolerate them."
"It's not the uneducated people who resort to these kinds of alternative therapies, but well-educated sophisticated patients who suffer from depression or anxiety."
"There will always be [psychiatrists] who will be more dogmatic about it. But I think there is room for all options, and I think we owe it to our patients to have a more broader perspective on this [mental health treatment options]."
Dr. Arun Ravindran, senior scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto

"Instead of taking a pill, you're going to do yoga, that's great too. [But St.John's wort? I think] the fish stuff has been oversold."
"You need to watchfully wait. Explain that [mild, transient depression] is normal, that people have ups and downs. And if it persists, then it may need treatment."
Dr. Allen Frances, psychiatrist, founding editor: the Journal of Personality Disorders and the Journal of Psychiatric Practice

Jim Young/Reuters
There is no disagreement between these two mental health experts. Both agree that severe forms of depression will require that antidepressants continue to be prescribed as part of therapy to help people cope with the degree of their illness. Dr. Frances was the lead author in the fourth edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the veritable tome of mental illness that mental health care professionals have become reliant upon for its illness identification guidelines and recommendations.

Yet a growing group of psychiatrists is now becoming increasingly comfortable with a more flexible approach in treating the various gradients of depression. Mild to moderate depression, they feel, can be successfully treated and perhaps unsurprisingly, with physical action. Jogging, swimming, dancing, brisk walking; in fact any form of aerobic exercise that effectively increases breathing and heart rate. Yoga is particularly noted for its efficacy in this regard, for treatment of moderate depression.

The latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry issued from the Canadian Network for Mood and Anxiety Treatments goes so far as to recommend exercise as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression for adults. An additional recommendation is use of the herbal remedy, St. John's Wort. Both recommendations can be identified as 'folk remedy', for people have long recognized the utility of exercising the body to enhance both physical and mental health.

A second-line, add-on therapy notes the usefulness of yoga and omega-3 fatty acids. This represents a turnaround in conventional treatments, conventionally heavily reliant on prescription drugs, in a treatment environment that has long been skeptical of the use of and usefulness of alternative medicine "in a blanket kind of way", observed Dr. Ravindran, admitting the time has come to take heed of what people suffering from depression have themselves divined as reliable first-stage remedies.

Guidelines still focus on conventional therapy as best practise for people suffering with major depressive disorders. Drugs and/or psychotherapy should come first to mind in consideration, followed by complementary or alternative treatment. Conventional drug treatment is not particularly beloved by many. With use of the Prozac-type drug class SS-RIs [selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors] as example, sexual dysfunction comes in at 30 to 40 percent.

Aside from which evidence is increasing that medication for mild depression has little advantage over placebos "and it brings all the side effects", noted Dr. Frances, adding that "the literature is clear that exercise helps". Behind all the misery of depression, there is stress brought by life-events. Sadness and stress, commented Dr. Francis, reflect life; mild, transitory depression will in most instances, improve on its own, over time.

Canadians are among the greatest users  of antidepressants worldwide. Two years ago, 47.1 million antidepressant prescriptions were filled, resulting in pharmaceutical sales of $1.91 billion in that class of drugs. Family doctors prescribe the major proportion of the antidepressants for their patients resulting in an estimated 11 percent of the Canadian population on an antidepressant. In tandem, alternative therapy use has grown in prevalence.

The last word from Dr. Frances is that life is not a predictable constant, and people living normal lives are exposed to vicissitudes of fortune, some good some not. In response, people have their 'ups' and their 'downs' expressed in depression brought on by events beyond their capacity to prevent, or sometimes in unforeseen consequence of their actions. It is if and when that depression persists that professional treatment may be required.


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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Bedtime!!

"We know that in the United States preschool-aged children's wake time is a less modifiable behaviour than encouraging an early bedtime."
"They could just stay up late and sleep in, but for many families these days, young children need to get up, not so much because they physiologically want to wake up, but because their family needs to go to work or school."
"It's also plausible that above and beyond sleep variations, having a regular routine could theoretically have an independent effect on adolescent obesity."
"Getting the television out of the child's bedroom is a good place to start [to avoid bedtime distractions]."
Dr. Sarah Anderson, Ohio State University College of Public Health
Girl sleeping in bedMeiko Takechi Arquillos
 
It is common knowledge -- in any event it should be and particularly among parents of young children -- that young and very young children have sleep requirements far in excess of  their older siblings, and certainly far more than adults. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine published recent recommendations of ten to thirteen hours of sleep every day (naps and night-time sleep included) for optimal health.

A new study, published in The Journal of Pediatrics, posits an additional reason why young children should have adequate sleep. Lead author of the study, Dr. Sarah Anderson, suggests that accustoming a child to an early bedtime represents the most reliable method of making certain that young children do receive the amount of sleeping hours they require to be healthy.

Close to a thousand preschool children were tracked for this study which began in 1995. The researchers discovered that of the children whose routine was bedtime at 8:00 p.m. or earlier, ten percent became obese teenagers. Those children whose bedtime routine was 9:00 p.m. or later, however saw 23 percent of those in their teen years being obese. The study focused on the finding of insufficient sleep in the early years leading to a greater incidence of obesity by the teen years.

It did not attempt to go further, to analyze just why this occurs. Other studies, however, have looked at cause and effect. And some of that research concludes that children lacking sufficient sleep in their early years  are subject to hormonal balance changes, impacting appetite and metabolism. It has been suggested that children whose routine is a late bedtime may snack in the evening, consuming more calories than their early-sleep peers and setting up a pattern deleterious to overall health.

Parents who make a concerted effort to establish a nightly ritual, with the intention of habituating their children to early bedtimes are preparing their children for a lifetime of improved sleep patterns. Consistency and firmness in beginning such a routine when children are young, culminated in better outcomes for the children, according to research.

A  consistent bedtime routine has been identified with sleep quality, children resting and sleeping more comfortably and as a result being less likely to be disturbed during the night. Parents have been urged by experts to accustom the child to anticipate regular activities in an expected order on a nightly basis. All preparatory to a child looking forward to bedtime.

Age
Recommended
May be appropriate
Not recommended
Newborns
0-3 months

14 to 17 hours
11 to 13 hours
18 to 19 hours
Less than 11 hours
More than 19 hours
Infants
4-11 months

12 to 15 hours
10 to 11 hours
16 to 18 hours
Less than 10 hours
More than 18 hours
Toddlers
1-2 years

11 to 14 hours
9 to 10 hours
15 to 16 hours
Less than 9 hours
More than 16 hours
Preschoolers
3-5 years

10 to 13 hours
8 to 9 hours
14 hours
Less than 8 hours
More than 14 hours
School-aged Children
6-13 years

9 to 11 hours
7 to 8 hours
12 hours
Less than 7 hours
More than 12 hours
Teenagers
14-17 years

8 to 10 hours
7 hours
11 hours
Less than 7 hours
More than 11 hours
Young Adults
18-25 years

7 to 9 hours
6 hours
10 to 11 hours
Less than 6 hours
More than 11 hours Sleep Foundation. Org

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Emergency Medical Response

"There's always been a real concern, around the mouth-to-mouth piece, about safety and infections."
"People do want to help -- it's not necessarily a question of not wanting to help. It's just this idea of being that close to somebody. [Some people worry about] doing it right [but more about personal risk]."
"[CPR {cardiopulmonary resuscitation} training takes place in] lovely clean rooms, using very clean, asexual mannequins [bearing little resemblance to the messiness of real-life situations]."
"Some of the people we talked to [in the research process] just really couldn't imagine even getting close enough to understand if the person had had a cardiac arrest."
"I'm not sure that people actually understand that, if you don't do something, the person will die."
Katie Dainty, scientist, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St.Michael's Hospital, Toronto
Learn CPR
CPR IN THREE SIMPLE STEPS
(Please try to attend a CPR training course)  CLICK HERE FOR A VIDEO DEMONSTRATION

1. CALL Check the victim for unresponsiveness. If the person is not responsive and not breathing or not breathing normally. Call 911 and return to the victim. If possible bring the phone next to the person and place on speaker mode. In most locations the emergency dispatcher can assist you with CPR instructions.
2. PUMP
If the victim is still not breathing normally, coughing or moving, begin chest compressions.  Push down in the center of the chest 2-2.4 inches 30 times. Pump hard and fast at the rate of 100-120/minute, faster than once per second.

3. BLOW Tilt the head back and lift the chin. Pinch nose and cover the mouth with yours and blow until you see the chest rise. Give 2 breaths.  Each breath should take 1 second.
CONTINUE WITH 30 PUMPS AND 2 BREATHS UNTIL HELP ARRIVES
Signs of a cardiac arrest, readily recognizable to medical personnel, elude the ordinary person who has never been exposed to such situations. A sudden collapse, no pulse found, no sign of breathing or gasping for air, along with "agonal"* breathing and loss of consciousness would all terrify any onlooker, miserable to be in close proximity with someone who is obviously suffering a life crisis, but fearing to take the initiative to become involved. 

In 2010 new guidelines were published recommending that witnesses to an adult collapse with no training, set aside "rescue breaths" that always alternated with chest compressions, and just focus on achieving rapid and deep chest compressions. Evidence failed to support the continuation of the original CPR methodology that used both chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. All of which would make it easier for bystanders to make the decision to help someone in distress.

A survey recently published in an issue of the Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine found that Canadians and in particular women feel more comfortable employing hands-only CPR and side-stepping the breathing element requiring mouth-to-mouth contact. That our impulse to be of assistance in emergency situations is tempered hugely by just who it is who is experiencing that distress. If it's someone known, a family member, a friend, a neighbour, chances are good intervention will take place. If it's a stranger, and more precisely someone who looks unclean or down-and-out, people are more inclined to hang back.

Fifty percent of those interviewed stated they would be prepared to make the attempt to save the life of a stranger or someone of a decidedly unkempt appearance. Most of the people surveyed were unable to recognize a cardiac arrest, and only 41 percent knew that cardiac arrest equates with a heart that has stopped beating, while 21 percent confused cardiac arrest with a heart attack (where the heart hasn't stopped). And, as far as awareness of the simpler new CR guidelines, only 14 percent knew of them.

Most people thought that 50 percent or more of people in cardiac arrest would survive outside a hospital where immediate attention would be given, whereas the more accurate rate of survival is about eight percent. Annually in Canada, roughly 40,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur. Early CPR intervention and defibrillation is capable of increasing survival opportunities by 75 percent or more.

The primary drawback for people witnessing such an event and holding back from the impulse to help is fear of contracting an infectious disease with mouth-to-mouth contact. Even so, the actual risk of infection is remote. The Toronto researchers, lead author Dr. Dainty and graduate student Lindsay Cheskes [polled 428 adults who were asked among other things how they would react in various hypothetical situations.

If the victim happened to be a family member or a friend the willingness to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation followed through, but when the person requiring assistance was a stranger 55 percent admitted to willingness to perform hands-only CPR as opposed to mouth-to-mouth, at 39 percent Even so, only 58 percent were willing to undertake compression-only resuscitation if the person in need fell into an "unkempt/homeless" category.

Finally, 28 percent of those questioned stated they would be prepared to perform mouth-to-mouth on the "unkempt/homeless". As for the new guidelines, the emphasis is on pushing hard and fast at the centre of the chest, squarely between the nipples, at a rate of 100 compressions per minute, with no concern about breaking ribs; they would heal, the situation if left unchecked would not.
*Agonal respirations are an inadequate pattern of breathing associated with extreme physiological distress, particularly periarrest states (that is, it is usually seen just prior to cardiac arrest, as well as during and for some time after). Although not always seen during arrest, it is not uncommon, and there is some evidence that it may be associated with better outcomes than arrests without agonal breathing. Whatever the case, it can easily be confused for ordinary respiration, leading to the mistaken impression that the “breathing” patient must also have a pulse; this confusion is part of why the American Heart Association no longer recommends checking for breathing as part of layperson’s CPR.
EMS Basics

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Monday, August 22, 2016

What're The Prospects of Summer Olympics Vanishing at Century's End?

After crossing the finish line in Rio's scorching heat, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee were initially too exhausted to celebrate.
After crossing the finish line in Rio's scorching heat, Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee were initially too exhausted to celebrate.  (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)
"You could take a risk, and plan your Olympics, and maybe not get the hot days you expect, but that would be a big risk when there are many billions of dollars at stake."
"It's tricky to measure and tricky to predict, but it'll come to be understood as the best indicator of heat stress on the body [rising humidity levels]."
"At [37 C] and 100 percent humidity, you can walk slowly, outdoors, but if you try to run, you can certainly die. It's a matter of just the basic physics of it."
"I'm trying to think of ways to basically bring the future forward, to get the future in people's eyes today, and this is one."
Kirk Smith, researcher, University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health

"Projections out to the early 22nd Century, which carry even more uncertainty, suggest the last cities in the northern hemisphere with low-risk summer conditions for the Games will be Belfast, Dublin, Edinburgh and Glasgow." 
Future Summer Games feasibility study

"A global-mean warming of roughly 7 C would create small zones where metabolic heat dissipation would for the first time become impossible, calling into question their suitability for human habitation."
2010 study excerpt, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

"[Cities in the Persian Gulf region] are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans owing to the consequences of increasing concentrations of anthropogenic greenhouses gases."
2014 paper excerpt, Nature Climate Change
"It is reasonable to think that this will only become a larger issue in the future. If we commit to such extravagant warming, the health of elite athletes running marathons will be the least of our worries [considering infinitely greater numbers of people ordinarily work outdoors in their various professions]."
Matthew Huber, Purdue University

Athletes compete in the women’s marathon at the Summer Olympics on Aug. 14. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

The future for the Olympics may look fairly different than what pertains at the present time. Olympians representing their nations' medal aspirations were challenged in the 2016 Summer Games at Rio; concerns over the crime rate, the threat of Zika virus, and the unsanitary conditions, the pollution on beaches and the ocean where many of the summer events were taking place, all represented unusual conditions to be worked around. And perhaps none were as everpresent as the summer heat in Brazil, sapping energy from athletes requiring all their unimpaired strength and energy to succeed.

What's so different about future such events? Well, for one thing, environmental impact of Climate Change, that's what. Which makes the eventual future choice of venues problematical to say the very least. Fewer major cities, according to a new study just published in the journal the Lancet, will be capable in the future of safely providing an Olympics venue for the Summer Games. By the end of the century, this will present as a real problem.

We can shrug with the realization that very few of us will live to see the end of this century. But of course the very young and their children most certainly will, and they represent our successors. How people will fare, in adapting to changing environmental conditions which will inevitably alter the way we live and how we live will depend on acclimatization only to a degree. There is just so much the human body can tolerate; perhaps the rest will depend heavily on how through science, we will manage to continue to manipulate the environment in our favour.

The study published in the Lancet, of which Mr. Smith was the lead author, focused on the theory of "wet-bulb globe temperature" referring to how temperature, humidity, wind and heat radiation combine; a combination which at elevated levels becomes too onerous to be borne by the human body. If it's too humid, a struggle ensues as our bodies attempt to cool through evaporation through our sweat glands. And this happens at even relatively mild temperatures. High wet-bulb temperatures paired with ordinary heat become intolerable for humans.

High humidity linked with 24 C heat becomes a menacing danger zone for people engaging in heavy physical activity, whether it's work-related or leisure-time sport-related, let alone for professional-grade athletes competing at world sport venues. The study set out to calculate how frequently an unbearable wet-bulb global temperature might occur in northern hemisphere cities sufficiently large to host the Summer Olympics by the year 2085, on the assumption that global warming continues.

On the assumption that a ten percent chance of extreme conditions would prevent the Olympics from proceeding, since it would be unacceptable to spend hugely on the event, then be forced to cancel a important outdoor event due to weather, things do not look promising for the future. If it is assumed that a 26 C wet-bulb (in shade) temperature prevailed as a tolerable limit, only eight Northern Hemisphere cities outside Western Europe would represent a low risk for hosting the Games by the year 2085. Two in Canada are Calgary and Vancouver.
The coach of Poland's Olympic handball team wipes sweat from his face. (Ben Curtis/AP)

Reto Knutti, a climate researcher at ETH Zurich responsible for publishing some papers himself on the dangers of human heat stress resulting from climate change, agrees with the paper's conclusions: "I'm confident that the analysis is solid and the results make sense", he stated, adding the research did not go so far as to imply extreme warming would put an end to the Olympics, only that the Games might be channelled differently in the future.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Coping With Foreign Invasive Species

"It's [emerald ash borer larvae] basically girdling and strangling the tree. It [the tree] can't move water. It can't move nutrients. It's like the circulation system of the tree. By the time you see this, when it's gone all the way around the main trunk, the tree can't survive. It kills 99 percent of the trees [it infects] and most of it happens before you even know it's there."
"Those [introducing parasitoid wasps as biological control agents] are the only real options at this point. Otherwise it's a matter of removing what you can't save, replanting and moving on. It [the beetle] is still a pretty devastating insect."
"It's a very long-term project. It will take a long time for populations of wasps to build up to levels where we can see any impact. But in its native range in China, the [beetle] has a range of parasitoids that keep it under control."
"They're not a kind of [insect to] sting or bite [ash borer-parasitic wasps] you, or [likely to] really want [to have] anything to do with you."
Krista Ryall, ecologist/entomologist, senior research scientist, Canadian Forest Service
Bilberry Creek Ravine forest, Orleans, Ontario
Anyone who ventures into the forest can see what's happening to ash trees. They've been dying; once infected it doesn't take that long. And it's beyond sad. An important part of the forest is being killed off and everywhere one looks in an urban setting or in a woodland there are gaps being created where dead trees abound. Ashes begin to lose their bark when they've been attacked by the emerald ash borer even as boughs distinguish themselves by dead foliage.

Injections used by botanists to try to extend the life of ash trees are expensive, quite an investment if a property owner wants to save a treasured ash shading property and beautifying it, yet the effect is temporary, it wears off and the property owner is back to square one. It's a shoulder-shrugging admission that the temporary solution is just that; temporary, and a waste of time, energy and money, leaving little option but to allow the tree to die.

Oobius agrili non-stinging parasitic wasp fights emerald ash borer eggs
The oobius agrili parasitic wasp is very small and doesn't have a stinger. It lays its eggs within emerald ash borer eggs, killing the host egg. (Houping Liu/Michigan State University)

But Dr. Ryall and her colleagues from the Canadian Forest Service have embarked on a much larger experimental study which they hope will present a solution in time. They have taken possession of adult wasps grown in ash trees at a U.S. Department of Agriculture station in Michigan. Short sections of trees called mini-bolts are hung on still-living ash trees which have been infested with the beetle larvae in the hope that the mature female wasps will respond to emerald ash borer eggs or larvae, to lay their eggs upon.

The project is four years into its process at about a dozen test sites in Ontario and Quebec. There are two types of wasps, one that attacks the eggs of the ash borers and another which feeds on its larval stage, both native to China, where the borer itself comes from. Site examination has thus far revealed that the egg-eating wasps appear to be doing the work anticipated, while it is as yet unclear whether the larvae-eating wasp has been equally successful in adapting to the work in Canada they are known for in China.


 Barry Lyons, a forest entomologist for Natural Resources Canada, stands next to two "oobinators" full of oobius agrili eggs.
Barry Lyons, a forest entomologist for Natural Resources Canada, stands next to two "oobinators" full of oobius agrili eggs. (CBC News)
 
The emerald ash borer's existence was first noted in 2002 in North America. It has since spread in both provinces and throughout 27 eastern American states. Eggs of the small green beetle are laid in crevices in ash tree bark with the larva burrowing into the tree, cutting channels under the bark that serve to choke off the flow of water and nutrients. The result has been the death of tens of millions of North American ash trees.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Neurological Rehabilitation

"It was kind of a shock. And it's really moving now: there's a lot of nerves touching muscles that are getting stronger ... Every iteration, it just gets more and more exciting."
"I still need help from people because they have to, for instance, put a shaver into my hand, but I can now hold that shaver and manipulate it to shave my face."
"I'm not quite at the point where I can get a cup off the table, but I can envision myself doing that. I know I will be able to do that eventually -- so it's exciting to see that."
"It's just a matter of time It's all about independence. It was a long wait, but it was worth it."
Tim Raglin, quadriplegic, Carp, Ontario

"The recovery has been slow, and we have fought some unforeseen obstacles. But he has helped to show us what the recovery for these procedures looks like and how much dedication is required by the patient."
Dr. Kirsty Boyd, surgeon, Peripheral Nerve and Trauma Clinic, The Ottawa Hospital
Ottawa Hospital surgeons Kirsty Boyd performed a nerve transplant in the arm of quadriplegic Tim Raglin at the Ottawa Hospital, February 23, 2015. The first-in-Canada surgery at the Ottawa Hospital is designed to restore some function to his hand. (Jean Levac/ Ottawa Citizen) ORG XMIT: 0228 nerve
Ottawa Hospital surgeon Kirsty Boyd performed a nerve transplant in the arm of quadriplegic Tim Raglin at the Ottawa Hospital in February. (Jean Levac/ Ottawa Citizen)

Tim Raglin one August day in 2007 did what he had done countless times during the summer months. He dove from the dock of his family's cottage. It was a deep dive, and the water level was unusually low that summer. When he hit bottom his head smashed on the sandy floor of the lake, then he floated to the surface, incapable of moving a muscle. Friends and relatives retrieved him from the water. For nine years he has been unable to move his hands and legs.

That diving accident shattered a vertebra in his cervical spine leaving him a quadriplegic. He could flex his shoulders and biceps, but beyond that, he was paralyzed. He has since been entirely dependent on others, his own agency locked up tight. It has taken time, but since a groundbreaking operation he underwent over a year ago, he has gradually and incrementally begun to have his brain-nerve connections restored. He now awaits the arrival of a more complete restoration over time.

As do the surgeons whose intervention on his behalf has reflects a brave new world in neurosurgery. In 2013 Tim Raglin had read of a ground-breaking nerve operation, reported in the Journal of Neurosurgery. He mentioned it to his doctor and was then referred to Dr. Boyd of the Ottawa Hospital, a protege of Dr. Susan Mackinnon, a Canadian-born surgeon who had pioneered the delicate operation where she practises, in St.Louis, Missouri.

Dr. Boyd agreed to undertake the surgery on his behalf, and Dr. Mackinnon came to Ottawa to help. The surgeons rerouted nerves in the man's right arm, taking a functioning nerve that controlled his elbow, to suture it onto a pathway toward his right hand. Damaged nerves regrow, but painfully slowly; about one millimetre daily, and this nerve had to grow 30 centimetres to reach the muscles in Mr. Raglin's hand.

A year later, he can unfold his fingers from the palm of his hand, and he is able to grip everyday implements like a fork, a shaver, a toothbrush. Because his hand muscles have atrophied as a result of disuse, they have to be rebuilt to be useful with physical therapy and practise. His brain must also adjust to the new system now in place, to make that successful connection.

The surgeons had bypassed the spinal cord injury through connecting a nerve still capable of communicating with his brain -- to a nerve that once controlled part of his hand, by a nerve that bent his elbow -- but the brain must recognize that new pathway. Like everything else about the devastating loss of function and the remediative work to restore function, it takes an excruciating amount of time for restoration to take place.

Dr. Boyd co-founded the Peripheral Nerve and Trauma Clinic with Dr. Gerald Wolffe. The clinic was the recipient of two vital research grants to study other nerve transfers in spinal cord injury patients. And that research is set to be conducted together with Washington University in St. Louis. The dream of normalcy so long unanswered for patients with spinal cord injuries appears now to be well established on the horizon of medical science.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

Faster, Cheaper, Better

"The upside, the great one, is you don't need to drill and you don't need an injection [anaesthetic or freezing to prepare for the dental drill hitting nerves resulting in pain, preparatory to filling a tooth with a cavity]."
Dr. Margherita Fontana, professor of cariology, University of Michigan

"Being able to paint it [S.D.F.: silver diamine fluoride] on in 30 seconds with no noise, no drilling is better, faster, cheaper."
"I would encourage parents to ask for it. It's less trauma for the kid."
"S.D.F. reduces the incidence of new caries and progression of current caries by about 80 percent."
Dr. Richard Niederman, chairman, epidemiology and health promotion department, New York University College of Dentistry
Chart of Permanent Teeth
Remember the controversy about whether or not to add fluoride to municipal water treatment systems? It held out great promise as a preventive for decay in children's teeth. And once fluoride did come on stream, its promise was realized. It made a tremendous difference in the health of a population's teeth with children requiring far fewer fillings as cavities were reduced, and everyone was thrilled.

Everyone? Well, not quite. Some municipalities, heeding the outcry of their citizens have actually reversed the trend, listening to the insistence that people had no wish to have their potable water adulterated with any chemical they were suspicious of, and they were suspicious of fluoride as an additive. So, in some instances, proof positive that fluoride works and children had healthier teeth as a result, wasn't sufficiently persuasive for the additive-aversion public.

In Japan, where stoicism in dental treatment is a real advantage, since dentists there proceed with any type of treatment without first ensuring patients are treated against pain, since freezing or any kind of anaesthetic isn't part of conventional dentistry in that country, the silver diamine fluoride solution has been used for decades. It has only just been introduced to North America. And dentists in the U.S. have taken it up with gusto.

Great for children and good for elderly patients, evading pain and anxiety while providing timely, inexpensive and efficient care for teeth. Preschoolers are often treated in a hospital setting under general anaesthesia, though there are concerns that anaesthesia use may be risky for the developing brain. "S.D.F. gives us an opportunity to decrease the number of toddlers with cavities going to the OR.", Dr. Arwa Owais, professor of pediatric dentistry at University of Iowa, points out.

Silver diamine fluoride kills decay-causing bacteria, therefore there is no need for that wretched and painful drilling that precedes filling in conventional dentistry. The studies that were so emphatic that fluoride in municipal water supply would have a beneficial effect on residents' teeth, particularly those of children vulnerable to early caries, were right on. And studies of S.D.F. similarly conclude that cavity progression is effectively halted and prevented with S.D.F.

The cost element is nothing to ignore, since conventional dentistry is time-consuming and expensive. Conventional drilling-and-filling averages in at $151 for a cavity as opposed to $25 for the S.D.F. treatment that takes no time at all, and is simply brushed on the teeth. Sounds super-great. As long as one isn't too sensitive to the downside, and whenever something sounds too good to be true, sometimes it is.

Well, the new treatment is good. But it does come with the warning that silver diamine fluoride has the effect of blackening the decay on a tooth even while it kills the bacteria, stopping the infection dead. Adults requiring dental treatment will weigh the pros and cons and for most people the sight of black areas on white teeth doesn't equate with an attractive presentation. As long as this occurs, the choice will continue to be limited to drill-and-fill.

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