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For those who have yet to discover the regenerative powers of turmeric, may we suggest warm milk with turmeric before bed. It’s good for digestion and brain health and even tastes good.

In a pot combine 8 oz of milk with 1/2 tsp. turmeric, 1 tsp. grated ginger and 1 tsp. maple syrup. Bring to a boil and strain. Cheers!

Today’s dietary supplements are serious business, even a religion for some people, with psychopharmacologists getting into the act and developing formulas that effect brain chemistry, without any FDA oversight.

LE caught up with Bryan Clay (“The World’s Greatest Athlete” — winner of the Decathlon gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics) and asked him what he thought about dietary supplements? He said that he has concerns because he doesn’t know exactly what is in them, and then added “I haven’t seen one where there isn’t an adverse consequence.”

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Mission: Restore is a foundation comprised of doctors who volunteer their time and experience at home and abroad, in a global program, providing complex reconstructive surgical care to women and children in need from remote areas where even basic medical care is unavailable.

Dr. Kaveh Alizadeh, the program’s director, spoke at a fundraiser in Manhattan 10/24.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

According to the United Nations, ‘non-communicable diseases’ — or NCDs — including heart attacks and strokes, cancers, diabetes and chronic resporatory disease account for 63% of deaths in the world today.

The Clinton Global Initiative 2011 Annual Meeting, last week, brought together a consortium of leading national and international, private and public organizations looking to raise awareness in this area and make commitments that demonstrate effective models of intervention.

Attendees included Doug Ulman, CEO, Lance Armstrong Foundation; Dr. Paul Farmer, Co-Founder, Partners in Health; Dr. John Seffrin, CEO, American Cancer Society; and Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, U.S. Department oh Health and Human Services.

The above panel (assembled for a press conference) said smoke from tobacco was the leading cause of NCDs. Dr Sefferin said it is the “most lethal behaviour pattern we know.” Dr. Koh added, “we want to protect people everywhere — there is no safe level of exposure.” Dr. Farmer talked about “building health systems that reach to the home” to address tobacco use. The FDA is seeking comprehensive smoke-free laws that include graphic warning labels (coming soon) in the U.S.

The “No-Smoking!” extremists should keep in mind that the United States would not exist today were it not for Ulysses S. Grant — a man who smoked 21 cigars a day.

When the panelists were asked about the obvious ill effects of electromagnetic radiations from cell phones and cell towers, contributing to NCDs, they all punted. Dr. Koh said “we need to study the science.” Dr. Farmer said “my specialty is infectious diseases.”

Commentary: The coming NCD tsunami will be more the result of “EMRs” than “tar”. There are radiation protectors being made that reduce the effects of EMRs on the body without effecting signal quality, strength and functionality of the device. Syenergy Environics out of New Delhi, India makes what they call the ‘Enviro Chip’The Radiation Protector for Mobile Phones and Computers.

Parents who smoke are often derided for exposing their children to second-hand smoke.

Perhaps the tables are being turned today, as young people expose their parents to second-hand radiation.

“90 % of health care is off-label.” Philips Sales Rep, June 11, 2011

One wonders what is less unsafe — “on” or off-label?

“The dose and time are high but acceptable.” Professor Michael Wallace of Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas — commenting on Cone Beam CT scans, at a recent conference on Image Guided Cancer Therapies.

Dr. Maria Siemionow, surgeon at Cleveland Clinic, led a team in 2008 that performed the first human face transplant in the United States. She recently addressed a gathering of Plastic Surgeons in New York at a conference called, Asthetic Plastic Surgery: The Next Generation.

In a talk called “Opening Pandora’s Box,” Dr. Siemionow presented the case of Connie Culp, a woman from Ohio shot in the face at close range by her husband with a shotgun. The damage left her blind in one eye and grossly disfigured. A team of experts from various fields at Cleveland Clinic decided she met the criteria for a full facial transplant. Two other similar procedures with different patients, in China and France have failed.

The 22 hour procedure on Connie Culp was done in December 2008, with the face of a recently deceased female donor. Since then Ms. Culp has had a face lift of her new face. She is back working and according to the doctor is fully “integrated into society.”

While deemed a success, Dr. Siemionow is the first to acknowledge the many issues related to this procedure going forward.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

Global demand for aluminum is expected to increase significantly over the next 5-10 years.

From aluminum-can based consumer products in China and Brazil, to airplanes and cars, the growth in aluminum is being driven by its sustainable properties — recyclability, flexibility, functionality, and relative low cost. The beverage industry considers the “shaped can” to be the holy grail of packaging. Even craft brewers are embracing the perceived hipness of putting their “brand in a can.”

The recent Aluminum Summit in New York brought together industry leaders: Alcoa, Novelis, Rio Tinto, and others, for two days of sessions on all aspects of the aluminum business.

Phil Martens, President and CEO, Novelis participated in a keynote interview, in which he offered an overview of the global opportunities and challenges facing the aluminum industry and his company, Novelis.

Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, Novelis is a $10 billion world leader in aluminum rolled products and beverage can recycling.

During the Q&A, a questioner from Coke-Cola asked Mr. Martens about Bisphenol A (BPA) risks from aluminum cans? Martens replied “if you eat it and touch it over 20 years you are going to get cancer — we have to manage through it.” He then added that “the views are not consistent enough to stop using it, but we have to find something that goes away from BPA.” 

While acknowledging concern, the American FDA has yet to rule against the use of BPA in the liner of aluminum cans. This is an example of government and industry failing to do the right thing to protect society.

Canada declared BPA to be a toxic substance in September 2010, and along with the EU has restricted its use in baby products.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

The outsourcing of “surrogate” motherhood to India is part of the recent growth in medical tourism around the world, driven largely by Americans seeking alternatives to their own health care system.

“Made In India” is an award winning, feature length documentary — produced and directed by Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha. The film explores the subject of surrogacy through the experience of an American couple that hires an Indian woman to carry their baby.

While presenting “Made In India” at the New York Indian Film Festival, the filmmakers said they were feminists, who had an interest in reproductive rights, but added that their perspective on this project was not one of “promoting” or “condemning” surrogacy. Instead they wanted to share a “complicated story.”

The focus of the documentary is on the “transactional” aspects of surrogacy. Ms. Haimowitz commented that no matter how educated or empowered someone is, “we all negotiate life.” The filmmakers recognize the moral questions surrounding surrogate motherhood, and hope that others will explore the subject from those perspectives.

Even trying to remain neutral, the film does reveal some of the collateral damage that can be wrought when strong willed individuals pursue their ‘dreams’ (of having a baby) on their own terms.

The State of New York Department of Health just concluded a conference on how the health care system in New York deals with children and families living with rare genetic disorders.

Genetic diseases in children often include nutrition related concerns. As a result, dietary treatment, including specialized “medical food,” is often the primary therapy for those born with metabolism problems (e.g. PKU). 

For those in need of “medical food,” the bill can be exorbitant — $40,000/person, for a year’s supply of “specialized nutrition!”

There is currently a bill in the U.S. Congress called the Medical Foods Equity Act, “that would (according to National PKU Alliance literature) require all health insurance plans, including federal programs, to cover the cost of medical foods for the treatment of inborn errors of metabolism.” LE asked a rep from the PKU Alliance why the price was so high for their medical food? She said it was because of the “amino acids.”

One of the manufacterers of this special food is Nutricia. Their literature has the line “innovation in metabolic nutrition.” The hope in industry is to get politicians to go along with mandating the use of their product in the health care system, and then mandating that the government and insurance companies pay for it regardless of the price.

How often today we see innovation that seems good but when looked at holistically actually multiplies disorder in society, rather than correcting it.

Next to the Nutricia booth at the conference was a rep from St. Margaret’s Center in Albany, NY — “a licensed skilled nursing facility with over a hundred years of experience meeting the needs of medically fragile children” (according to conference literature). LE asked a rep from the Center how they treat children with “Anencephaly” (a condition resulting in limited brain formation). She said babies with that condition usually die by the time they are three years old. When asked if nutrition was withheld she said “yes.” So the babies die of starvation.

It all seemed consistent with the bi-polar (all or nothing) way people tend to look at things today. In one booth — a company trying to compel society to pay $40,000/person/year, for a protein powder mix to treat a genetic disorder, and right next to them a nursing center that allows children to starve to death, as a way to treat another genetic disorder. Both are unjust.

Artwork: Kara Walker

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, an OB/GYN and prominent early leader of the abortion rights movement, died on February 21, 2011 at the age of 84.

In a 1974 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Nathanson commented on concerns that the babies he was aborting were human lives being killed. He said he was “deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had in fact presided over 60,000 deaths.”

Several years later, Nathanson stopped performing abortions. When ultrasound came out he asked a colleague to film the abortion of a 12 -week-old fetus. That 28 minute film is called Silent Scream. He said it caused him to be “shaken to the roots of my soul by what I saw.”

Dr. Nathanson spent the final years of his life speaking out against abortion. In his 1996 autobiography, “The Hand Of God,” Nathanson wrote: “Abortion is now a monster so unimaginably gargantuan that even to think of stuffing it back into its cage is ludicrous beyond words. Yet this is our charge — a herculean endeavor.”

Is it possible for people  to be moderate smokers (<5 sticks/day)?

Are there (mental) health benefits associated with moderate smoking?

At the recent BIOCEO & Investor Conference in NYC, one of the sessions dealt with “novel treatment options” for Major Depressive Disorder MDD — a condition affecting more than 20 million Americans.

The panel included Dr. Alexander Glassman, Chief, Clinical Psychopharmacology New York State Psychiatric Institute, along with representatives of 3 companies with novel phase 2/3 drugs for treating MDD, awaiting FDA aproval.

In his remarks, Dr. Glassman commented that “cigarettes are the best augmenters of anti-depressants.” Later in a conversation he mentioned a test done in Mexico that showed nicotine patches reducing the symptoms of depression. He added that he thought it was possible for “some” people to be moderate smokers.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Innovations in heart failure therapy are making it possible for patients to live longer with greater quality of life. Today’s Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)* and Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy Defibrillator (CRT-D) offer customized therapy, with doctors able to remotely triage their patients.

In addition, the Heart Mate II Left Ventricular Assist Device LVAD (lower photo) has been developed to augment the pumping ability of a heart that can’t manage on its own. Designed to be a “bridge-to-transplantation” or “destination therapy” for those ineligible for transplant, the LVADs are supposed to extend life up to seven years.

Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has an ICD and an LVAD, along with numerous stents and grafts throughout his body. There has been talk in recent days of Mr. Cheney possibly seeking a heart transplant, which at his age (70 on 1/30/11) raises ethical questions (presuming Mr. Cheney would go to the head if the line).

In the last 12 months, 2100 heart transplants were performed in the U.S. Some in the field say 30,000+ patients are on the waiting list to get a heart. The industry says >65 years of age is a “contra-indication” to transplant. That means it shouldn’t be done for someone of Mr. Cheney’s age and condition because the liklihood of success is very small and it deprives someone else of a heart.

*Safety issues related to some Boston Scientific defibrillators have supposedly been resolved, according to the FDA.

Melissa Febos, author of Whip Smart, was part of a special symposium called Sex, Sadomasochism, and Psychoanalysis, at the American Psychoanalytic Association’s 100th Anniversary Conference.

While getting an MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, ten years ago, Ms. Febos was a dominatrix at a dungeon in Manhattan. She said she did it to help pay for her heroin addiction at the time, and that telling her secrets (in the memoir) helped save her life.

In recounting her experiences, she said “I violated my boundaries.” She commented on the “disintegration of the lines” that resulted in a “top from bottom” countertransference, not unlike what can happen between psychoanalysts and their patients. “It was the same scenes every week and no one seemed to grow.” In the end she said — “How do I reconcile the damage I did to others? The harm is irreconcilable.” But added, “I keep stumbling toward the best honesty that I’m capable of.”

Today, Ms. Febos teaches writing at The New School in NYC.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“Who is it that can tell me who I am?” Shakespeare, King Lear Act 1: Scene IV

The American Psychoanalytic Association is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this week in NYC.

A survey done by a reporter, of some of the nation’s leading mental health professionals, indicated a high concentration of patient issues in the following areas: anxiety, narcissism, entitlement, no father figure, computer time, video games, porn, non-reflectiveness, short-term gratification, eating disorders, and trauma.

One of the presenters said that “meaninglessness” has become a public health crisis.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Center held a workshop today called: Exploring the Environmental Causes of Autism and Learning Disabilities.

Dr Philip Landrigen, Chairman of the Department, describes Autism as “a complex, serious, biologically based disorder of brain development, first described in 1943.” The term ‘autism spectrum disorder’ (ASD) has come into use in recent years and encompasses: autistic disorder, Asperger’s syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder — not otherwise specified.

In the 1940’s, 1 in 10,000 American children was diagnosed with autism. Today that number is 1 in 110 — with an increase of 600% in the last 20 years.

Recent findings show evidence for environmental factors contributing to ASD, with studies demonstrating the sensitivity of the developing brain to external exposures such as lead, ethyl alcohol and methyl mercury. Dr. Landrigan says “the most powerful proof-of-concept evidence derives from studies specifically linking autism to exposures in early pregnancy — thalidomide, misoprostol, and valproic acid; maternal rubella infection; and the organophosphate insecticide, chlorpyrifos.”

One of the attendees asked about cell phones and portable devices carried and used by pregnant women. Are they harmful to the fetus? The panel didn’t want to go there. Nor did they address the effects of MRIs and CT scans on pregnant women and their babies.

The contradiction here is that while they are calling attention to chemicals that can adversely impact a developing brain, the doctors then turn around and advocate for children with autism being given “novel therapeutics” — including antipsychotic drugs, that can also have profoundly adverse effects on developing brains.

 

Striking more than half of the patients who die while hospitalized, pulmonary embolism is the single most preventable cause of hospital deaths.

According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, vena cava filters (like the one shown), when used in conjunction with anticoagulants, have been shown to reduce the risk of symptomatic pulmonary embolism.

But there are risks and potential complications to using these devices, also known as caval interruption devices, especially when they are left in longer than prescribed.

At this year’s Veith Symposium, on vascular education, two doctors debated the need for stricter criteria for use of caval interruption devices (CIDs). Afterward, the doctors in the room were asked to vote with a show of hands for more criteria, or keeping the status quo. Only one doctor voted for more criteria and one hundred or so for the status quo.

So even with FDA concerns for CIDs and some fatal outcomes, most doctors want to stay the course with these devices. Why is that? One reason might be that the salary structure of many vascular surgeons is tied to their revenue generating skills, and these devices along with the procedures to deploy them can be costly. For people on Medicaid this device and procedure are heavily promoted.

Each year 2 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and 200,000 die from it — more than all the people who die from HIV/AIDS, breast cancer and car accidents combined.

Compression hosiery is proven to help reduce the chance of clotting in people at risk, especially those who fly a lot.

Prices range from $25 – $90 for a pair of compression socks. But given the alternative, it might be a good investment.

In a study titled: Depression And Excessive Computer/Internet Use Among Children, Dr. Ping Wu and her team at Columbia University are perhaps the first psychiatrists to study the effects of computer use on American youth.

The goal was “to examine the relationship between depression and extent of computer/internet use among children and adolescents.”

Their conclusion was that “adolescents’ levels of computer/internet use are significantly associated with their depressive symptoms over time. The relationship seems to be bidirectional.” Those who are depressed are more likely to spend significant time online, and those who are online more than 5 hours a day are more likely to be depressed. Dr Wu said that viewing “porn” made the symptoms worse.

In 1976, the American Food and Drug Administration banned Red Dye #4 because it caused tumors in animals.

Today Red Dye #40, found in various products including Kool Aid, has been found to produce adverse reactions in children, including: temper tantrums, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior and the inability to concentrate.

It would be a castrophe for a child to be diagnosed as having ADHD — if in fact Kool-Aid was the root cause of the problem, especially since many psychiatrists are giving “psychotropes” to children with ADHD.

It’s common practice in child and adolescent psychiatry, in the U.S., for patients to be medicated — without a full assessment of their problems and without therapy.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The American Academy Of Child And Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports that between 7 and 12 million American youth suffer from mental, behavioral or developmental disorders at any given time. According to their press release — “AACAP is the leading national professional medical association dedicated to treating and improving the quality of life for children, adolescents and families affected by these disorders.”

In their program guide, for this year’s Annual Meeting, AACAP says — the vendor that had the bags produced for the meeting adhered to “a manufacturing code of conduct regarding child labor.” Coincidentally, it’s a common practice in psychiatry for children to be used in clinical trials to test psychotropic drugs. One of the sessions was titled: Monitoring the Use of Psychotropic Medications in Foster Children.

Dr. John March, Chairman of the Duke Clinical Research Institute, gave a talk titled Perils in Psychiatric Drug Development. His clinic has performed 600 trial in the last 15 years. Afterward, I asked him about using children in clinical trials for SSRIs. His response was, “I’m a big fan of it. I like to see studies in children.” He added that the only reason they are not currently doing SSRI trials with children is because of the lack of funding. The lack of funding is most likely the result of “fatal and negative past trials.” Dr. March admitted in his talk “we need better medications.”

With “no” evidence of benefits outweighing risks, unproven and dangerous psychotropes are being given “off-label” to children — some only 2 years old. The result can be permanent endocrine, metabolic and neural damage.

A forum for discussion of business, legal and health issues related to marijuana as a medical therapy, just wrapped up in New York.

Fourteen states and D.C. currently have marijuana laws on the books and four more states are attempting to pass bills or ballot initiatives this year.

Paul Stanford, CEO and founder of the The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, talked about the IDF — Israeli Defense Force, using cannabis for years to treat PTSD. And now Canadian troops involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, suffering from PTSD, are going to Israel to get treated with it.

Beyond PTSD, there is growing evidence for the efficacy of cannabis in treating diabetes (reducing retinopathy) and various cancers, and even reducing the likelihood of getting alzheimers. In addition, bi-products — such as: oil, paper and rope can reduce the need for cutting down trees and importing foreign oil.

Mr. Stanford claims that if 4% of the available farm land in the U.S. was dedicated to cannabis production, it would alleviate the need for foreign oil.

Could it be that cannabis is supperior in medical efficacy to some of what is coming out of Big PhRMA, and with fewer risks? The evidence seems to suggest that..

Gina Khan — hair care guru from San Francisco (top photo), is just back from Japan and concerned about an emerging trend there — where women get hair coloring in drug stores and apply it themselves, rather than going to hair salons.  

Recognizing the economic realities that make $300 hair color treatments out of the question for most people in Japan and the U.S., Ms. Khan is advocating for low maintenance “base adjust” hair coloring every 10-12 weeks. In her salons she offers a $110 session with a “junior” staff person, and a $40 session with a trainee, supervised by Ms. Kahn.

At the recent Intercoiffure Fall Atelier, some trends we noted include: more people with thinning hair, more ammonia free hair dyes, and 1950’s hair styles.

There is a growing body of evidence that points to the increased risk of cancer from hair dyes, especially for those who get regular treatments.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The Avon company sponsored a two day event (10/16-17) in New York City, to raise money for Breast Cancer education, research and treatment. One of the other sponsors was Genetech, maker of Avastin — the world’s best selling cancer drug, used to treat lung, colon, kidney, brain and breast cancer.

In July of this year, an FDA advisory panel voted 12-1 saying Avastin wasn’t benefiting breast cancer patients and that the side effects and risks outwayed benefits. In September, the FDA postponed a ruling, on whether to revoke approval of Avastin for breast cancer treatment until December 17, 2010. There are reports of heavy lobbying on both side. Normally the FDA follows the recommendations of its advisory panels.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

With all the talk about raising hundreds of millions of dollars to find a cure for breast cancer, one has to wonder why more isn’t being said about the choices women make — that contribute to their risk of getting breast cancer.

Factors that are not genetic include: taking “the pill,” abortion, menopausal hormone therapy, and breast imaging screening tests (PEM, BSGI). Additionally, women who have breast implants are more likely to have a mammogram that fails to diagnose a tumor.

Often times progress in science can be harmful to organic and holistic living.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Warning: Pork is highly addictive, especially for politicians, bankers and union bosses.

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” Winston Churchill

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Future studies will likely show that mobile devices are more harmful to humans than smoking — for a variety of reasons, not just physical.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

Lance Armstrong (far right) was part of a panel today, at the Clinton Global Initiative, on Addressing Cancer In The Developing World.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta led the discussion, that included: HRH Princess Dina Mired, Charles Patrick Almazor, Paul Farmer and Felicia Knaul.

The conversation focused on cancer, joining the communicable diseases: HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria etc, as a killer in developing countries — and the need for the world community to help with prevention and treatment.

Mr. Armstrong mentioned that President Nixon declared war on cancer in 1971, but since then people have grown indifferent to cancer, because of its regularity. He added that “if you can keep a 17 year old from smoking you just cured him — you prevented what could have happened.”

Smoking was mentioned as a leading “preventable” cause of cancer, but the panel seemed derelict in not mentioning others, including: cell phones, mobile devices, hormone replacement therapy, the birth control “pill,” and some preservatives, to name just a few “first world” contributors to cancer.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

The 19th Annual Twin Towers Classic International Martial Arts Championships were held this weekend in New York City. Partipants included boys and girls, some under 5 years of age, along with men and women, many over 50.

The instructors I spoke with talked about the holistic nature of martial arts training, including personal development and mental toughness. They said that young people who train in martial arts are less likely to get into fights, because of their mental discipline and emotional self-control.

One mother mentioned that karate helped her daughter learn “patience and respect.” She said that children with AD/HD  show improvement with martial arts training. A teenage black belt said she likes the “high” she gets from karate, adding that it helps her with cheerleading.

Michelle Framer from Columbia, Maryland, came with her daughter to the competition. She won two trophies, her daughter one. Michelle credits martial arts with helping her to overcome Type II diabetes. She also likes how the training creates an environment for goal setting and accomplishment.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

For various reasons, an increasing number of people are losing their teeth — two million in the U.S. last year, just from sports injuries. In addition, many are losing teeth due to poor health, nutrition and advanced age.

Research has shown that missing teeth can lead to additional health problems, mental illness, reduced life span, and even dementia.

Dr. Carlo Marinello, of the University of Basel in Switzerland, has done research that he says shows a definite link between missing teeth and alzheimers.

People with missing teeth should try to get them replaced, however that can be difficult because of the expense and the lack of insurance coverage in this area.

The good news is that progress in dentistry now offers a greater range of treatment options for patients with missing teeth, at varous price points — from single tooth implants and prosthetics to full-arch restorations.

Many general practitioner dentists are qualified to do implants, so going to a specialist is not required. There are excellent dentists who are willing to work with patients on pricing. Some patients might also be candidates for clinical trials sponsored by companies like Nobel Biocare — that manufacture implants and prosthetics. Dentists would know more about that treatment option.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

With at least 32% of American adults suffering from hypertension and 70% of that group walking around untreated, the drug companies see big growth opportunities and profits coming from America’s lifestyle choices.

Which is why it was nice to find a “non-drug” option for treating hypertension, at the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the American Society of Hypertension, going on this week in New York.

A company called RESPeRate sells a device that can help reduce the number of breaths a person takes per minute, and over time lower blood pressure by significant amounts. The way it works is the device taps the body’s natural tendency to follow musical rhythms and composes personalized guiding tones to change the pattern of breathing and gradually reduce its rate to less than 10 breaths per minute. It is recommended to be used for 15 minutes a day. The $300 device is a bargain compared to some of the hypertension medicine out there, and with no side effects.

An alternative way (along with diet and exercise) is to meditate.

On January 15, 2010 the McNeil Company, a division of Johnson & Johnson, announced the recall of some of its over-the-counter products, including Tylenol and St. Joseph aspirin.

Two days ago I went into a Manhattan Duane Reade and bought what I had been told (by a Duane Reade employee) was “good” (post-recall) St. Joseph aspirin. But when I got home and checked the batch numbers against the McNeil website, it turns out the St. Joseph aspirin I bought was among the tainted batches.

Almost four months after the first recall, potentially dangerous aspirin are still on store shelves. To make matters worse, the store manager later said he wasn’t even aware that St. Joseph was among the recalled items.

St. Joseph aspirin is one of America’s most trusted brands. It’s a shame that some CFO, trying to squeeze another penny of profits out of each bottle, would jeopardize the brand and people’s health.

Yesterday, St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York’s Greenwich Village closed, after serving the community for 160 years.

The mood outside was emotional as workers left the building for the last time. One employee, a trauma technician, who had worked at St. Vincent’s for nine years summed up the feelings of many when he said — “We were a dysfunctional family, but we saved a lot of lives.”

Perhaps if the hospital’s board had been less dysfunctional, they would still be saving lives.

Photographs: Stephen Wise

April is Autism awareness month.

With over 700,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, many people are involved with caring for children and adults with autism.

YAI, a national institute for people with disabilities, is holding their 31st Annual Conference this week in New York City. One of the sessions yesterday, dealt with the benefits of using classroom “meditation” for children with autism and multi-disabilities. The presentation showed in a convincing way how meditation reduced anger and self-abuse, while increasing attention spans, information retention, compassion and self-esteem among those who participated.

In 2006, the FDA approved the use of Risperidone (a psychotrope) for people with autism who exhibit aggressive behavior. Risperidone is a serious drug with serious side effects. Hopefully psychiatrists will be creative and compassionate in using the various other tools available to them — in their care-giving toolbox (including meditation) — before resorting to prescribing psychotropes, especially for children.

Photograph: Stephen Wise

“A turn of the crank              is all that you need to start a revolution.”             Scarlett Parker

The health care bill before Congress is supposed to help reduce the number of uninsured Americans. But in fact, if approved it will hit up the uninsured the same way this sidewalk hustler hits up visitors to New York City. 

The way it works is — the hustler offers the tourist a music CD, presumably for free. If the tourist accepts, the huster signs the disc and then asks for a donation, typically $10- $20. Through jive talk and intimidation the victim usually coughs up the money. The cops call it “aggressive solicitation.”

That’s the way it will be, for the uninsured, if this health care bill is passed. They’ll have to pay for insurance they may not want or can’t afford — or else pay the government a penalty.

The reason health care reform is necessary at this time, is due largely to the waste, fraud, and abuse in the health care system; in Washington and on Wall Street. This bill does little or nothing to address that, nor does it address the systemic forces that are driving costs to unjust and unsustainable levels.

This health care bill will compel people to participate in a broken and unhealthy system, but not adequately address fixing the broken and unhealthy system.

With all that is happening in health care today, nutrition is more important than ever. But at the same time we have to understand that we are “spiritual beings,” and need to know how the whole “person” works, in order to really live.

The American Psychoanalytic Association just completed their Annual Meeting in NYC. One of the panels dealt with “Uses and Misuses of Temptation” — in the relationship between the analyst and patient.

This description of the panel is taken word-for-word from their program guide:

“How far can we let ourselves go in our wishes, fantasies, and temptations at work? What are the limits of our desires as analysts? How sexually aroused should we become with an attractive patient in an erotic transference? How much murderous hatred should we feel with a rejecting, negativistic patient? How much self-scrutiny at work is useful; how much is tormenting and distracting? How do we sort out our own needs from our patients’? When and how can we connect them?”

Yikes! Who’s helping the analysts?

Sculpture: Olaf Breuning

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