Overexposed: A Photographer’s War With PTSD

“One of the truly great things about war … is that all you have to do is survive.”

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Marines run for cover after white phosphorus was accidentally fired at them by another company in Falluja, Iraq on November 9, 2004. 
[Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

As Ashley Gilbertson crept up the dark staircase of a minaret in Fallujah, he hovered closely behind advance troops of the United States Marines. Stepping around and over the rubble created by an earlier shelling of the mosque, Gilbertson could hardly see the two soldiers in lead.

Moments before starting their climb, Gilbertson argued to be the first person in the room. He wanted to take first shot at the insurgent who used this holy perch to prey on advancing U.S. forces. However, Lance Corporal William Miller and his partner, Lance Corporal Christian Dominguez, would not back down, and they took the lead that November afternoon. As Gilbertson took to the stairs, his partner Dexter Filkins mounted the steps behind him.

Guns at the ready, the convoy had just crested the first flight of crumbling stairs when gunfire erupted. Gilbertson was pushed backwards, tumbling down the steps. His face felt wet.

It was the blood of Lance Corporal Miller.

As the scene became chaotic, Gilbertson’s immediate reaction was to shoot back.

He didn’t.

He couldn’t.

And it wouldn’t matter.

The only weapon Gilbertson carries is a camera.

You don’t have time to start examining your emotions when you are in the middle of this kind of situation. You kind of push them to a deeper place in your mind and examine them later.

Tim Hetherington, on filming the documentary Restrepo

Photojournalists strap bulletproof vests to their chests, steady 60-pound packs on their backs, and hang camera equipment from their shoulders before trekking into the world’s most dangerous environments. They follow marine units, rebel militias, and protesters — stride-for-stride — into the field, through crumbling neighborhoods and down crowded streets. There, unarmed and exposed, they take pictures of combatants and the afflicted: civilians suffering in battle, hospitals straining to cope with the wounded, and the communities within which conflict lives.

Their industry rewards intimacy, often driving photographers closer to the sharp edge of conflict. But after capturing those last breaths and cities laid waste by violence, these photographers are left to scroll through the day’s shots before wiring the most gripping images to newsrooms around the world.

Some photographers try to lose themselves in the technical elements of their images: the exposures and f-stops, saturation and white balance. These aspects allow a modicum of control. The most successful are praised and rewarded for their work. The events that shock their humanity, serve as fuel for their professional career. But sometimes, when trauma weighs too heavily — when those recorded moments become too ‘decisive’ — photographers internalize what they’ve seen. Like soldiers, photographers can carry these wars home

“I don’t think you can go into the most traumatic situations that arise on earth, voluntarily, and come back unchanged,” said Ashley Gilbertson, who admits that his experience in Iraq is never far from thought.

Eight years after Gilbertson and Filkins climbed those steps, those perilous moments on the step have followed Gilbertson.

“A 22-year-old kid was killed because Ashley needed a photograph,” Filkins said. “He’s tormented by that.”

Growing up in Melbourne, Australia, Ashley Gilbertson took his first photograph at age 13. An avid skateboarder in his youth, Gilbertson’s spent his first rolls of film capturing his friends in the skatepark. Before long, he traded his boards and buddies for a passport and a camera bag. At some point, the lens took over.

By age 24, Gilbertson had photographed refugees in Indonesia, drug runners in Papua New Guinea, and displaced people in Eastern Europe. In 2002, as tensions escalated in the Middle East, he made his way to Iraq.

Between 2001 and the United States invasion of Iraq in March of 2003, Gilbertson worked sporadically as a freelance photographer documenting the struggles of the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. Abused by Saddam Hussein’s regime for decades, the Kurds had become a symbol of Iraq’s broken and violent government. Gilbertson had a front row seat as America’s next war flowed over Iraqi borders. During this period, Gilbertson met Ruth Fremson, a photographer at The New York Times, who passed his name on to her editor at the paper.

He came recommended, remembers Beth Flynn, the head photo editor at paper’s foreign desk. Flynn thought Gilbertson was intelligent, calm under pressure, and had a healthy assessment of risks in the field — qualities she believed critical for photographers working in high-risk areas. With the newspaper covering the war in Iraq in real time, they put Gilbertson on contract as a freelance photographer.

PTSD4.jpgRunning by a minaret of a mosque that was later bombed to the ground after Lcpl. William Miller was killed by an insurgent in the staircase, Marines push through the last part of southern Falluja as they encounter enemy who fought in what is seen by commanders as their last stand, on November 15, 2004. The hole in the minaret is from a tank round. They are marines from the Bravo company, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment 1st Marine Division fight to take control of the insurgent stronghold of Falluja. They have moved into an industrial area in the southern part of the city after fighting their way through the north where insurgents have been regrouping during the battle.

By fall 2004, Gilbertson, who was then holed up in the Times’ Baghdad Bureau waiting on assignments, caught word that the U.S. military was preparing a massive operation in Fallujah — a city carved up by local insurgent groups. That November, just as Gilbertson was packing up to leave Iraq for vacation in France, The New York Times offered him and their senior writer, Dexter Filkins, an embed with the 1/8 Marines. The military was calling the operation Phantom Fury.

The 1/8 Bravo of the United States Marine Corps was a 160-man battalion leading the sweep of Fallujah. The military hadn’t pushed into the city until that November 9, and the Marines were slowed to a trudge through Fallujah’s narrow streets, U.S. forces engaged in near-constant firefights. The risks for American forces, and the journalists covering them, were exceedingly high.

“”It reminded me a lot of the Black Hawk Down movie because every turn they made was potentially deadly,” said Flynn, who was monitoring Gilbertson from the Times’ headquarters in New York. “I kept telling Ashley that no picture is worth your life.”

Death seemed to be around every corner for the 1/8 marines. Gilbertson remembers that the operation suffered 6 fatalities and another 40 injuries in the week and both Gilbertson and Filkins, known by colleagues to be a risk taker, had narrowly escaped tragedy.

Together, the Times men sprinted across Fallujah’s highways amidst the whizzing of enemy bullets. They had slunk down narrow streets while incoming fire ricocheted off smoldering cars and into pock-marked buildings. They accompanied midnight reconnaissance missions through unknown city blocks, their night-vision goggles guiding the way. Under threat at all times, they only paused to eat their plastic-wrapped, pre-packaged meals, called M.R.E.s, and sleep — in full gear — in shifts as the Marines stood guard.

“I didn’t realize it was going to be that bad,” said Dexter Filkins, who had served as the New Delhi Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times before joining the Times. What happened in Fallujah was unpredictable.”

Conditions were so dangerous that Gilbertson and Filkins had to worry that the light of their laptops would alert insurgents of the military’s position. As a result, both men would file stories and photographs each day either zipped completely inside their sleeping bags or from rooftop port-o-potties.

“War is usually seven parts boredom, one part terror,” said Dexter Filkins, reciting a common refrain for soldiers of war. “But in Fallujah that ratio was reversed.”

Being on the front lines means photographers are consistently exposed to threats — the direct and the unseen. This level of risk is required, in part, because powerful photography demands intimacy: intimacy with the subject and the story. Photojournalist Robert Capa famously avowed, “If your photographs aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough.” That maxim remains central to the industry today.

Despite a lengthy and distinguished career, Capa is often remembered for his historic photographs of the Allied Forces landing on Omaha Beach in World War II. His proximity to the fight — riding shoulder-to-shoulder with soldiers as their boats breached enemy lines — showed the grittiness of the war and the documentary power of the photograph.

In 1955, the Foreign Overseas Press Club inaugurated the Robert Capa Gold Medal, awarded to the photographer whose work demonstrated exceptional quality, respect for the traditions of photography, and “exceptional courage and enterprise.” Capa had been killed by a land mine in 1954 while photographing an American war in Indochina. Sixty years later, Ashley Gilbertson received the Capa Gold Medal for his coverage of an American war in Fallujah.

Gilbertson crudely remembers sitting in a bar that January night in 2005, Robert Capa Medal in hand. Across from Dexter Filkins, also awarded that night, Joanna Gilbertson, Ashley’s wife of six years, recalls the highs and desperate lows of that moment.

“The worse off journalists are, the more rewarded they tend to be,” Joanna said. “Ashley felt like he traded Miller for his award.” And it’s that juxtaposition — career success built on a foundation of trauma and suffering — that lingers with journalists.

Sure, the bullets and bombs are still indiscriminate in battle, putting the life of the soldier or photographer in the balance. But today, participating in, or capturing, “history” in war may be more than it was in generations past.

Unlike the “Great Wars” of military lore, today’s conflicts are fought outside traditional battlefield. They’re fought amongst civilians, amidst neighborhoods, and against opponents without uniform. Instead of marching troops down the hillside with bugler and drummer in tow, modern militaries engage in battles tagged as “urban” or “kinetic.” In these new battles, the enemy is potentially everywhere, and the participants are almost constantly under duress. As a result, mental health experts now worry about the long-term consequences of wars like Iraq and Afghanistan.

“These are the first conflicts in the history of modern warfare where combatants were sent back to the combat zone again and again,” said Dr. Harry Croft, a distinguished life fellow with the American Psychiatric Association. United States troops can spend nearly a year in battle with only a few months’ rest, or “dwell time,” at home before returning to the field. Dr. Croft, who has worked with veterans since the war in Vietnam said, “A great human experiment is going on as we speak, and we don’t understand the impact of long deployment times and short dwell times.”

Alongside these troops are cadres of conflict photojournalists who trade in and out of conflict just as frequently. But while soldiers return home, traumatized by their own experiences, the experience for journalists, who are often just as vulnerable, is usually overlooked.

“There are two kinds of war correspondents,” said Joanna. “There are the ambulance chasers who go where the action is, take the pictures and throw them up as if to say, ‘This is what’s going on.’ Then there is the kind that gets emotionally invested in the story.”

“[The latter] are the ones that are more effective,” she said. “But they’re also the ones that are most affected.” She believes that Ashley is a member of the second group.

“Many of these journalists are very well educated, but quite psychologically naïve,” said Dr. Anthony Feinstein, from the dimly lit interior of his office at Stonybrook Hospital just outside of Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Feinstein completed his medical degree and served as an army field medic in his native South Africa before training in psychiatry at the University of London, in the United Kingdom. While interested in the issue of trauma and conflict, Dr. Feinstein worked extensively on mental health issues associated with multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and conversion disorder, until a Canadian journalist walked into his office in the late 1990s. The woman presented with a strange array of symptoms and then appeared to recover before relapsing a week later.

While Dr. Feinstein couldn’t find anything physically wrong with the woman, he wondered whether her symptoms were the product of stress associated with her work. Soon after, he asked his staff to dig into the available research on stress, trauma, mental illness, and journalists. His staff couldn’t find a single study. In 2002, Feinstein, who also teaches on the University of Toronto’s faculty of psychiatry, decided to conduct a study of his own.

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Marines rest in a mosque after a heavy night of house-to-house fighting and an ambush that killed one marine and wounded seven more on November 11, 2004. To the far right, Lcpl. William Miller sleeps by his friend, Lcpl. Demarkus Brown. Miller died two days later escorting journalists inside a minaret, and Brown died one week later. [Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

According to Feinstein’s groundbreaking findings, subsequently published as a book-turned-documentary, Journalists Under Fire, nearly a third of “war journalists” are at risk of developing PTSD during their careers. In other words, journalists are roughly six times more likely to suffer PTSD than non-journalists — an incidence rate almost identical to that of soldiers.

“Journalists, in general, are pretty resilient given their diet of all this traumatic exposure all the time, but the exception is war correspondents,” said Dr. Elana Newman, a trauma psychologist at the University of Tulsa and member of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.

Discussing Feinstein’s initial findings, Dr. Newman said, “Amongst these elite [war journalists] you see high levels of PTSD, depression and alcohol abuse when you compare it to the other studies. Nearly 28 or 29 percent of these journalists suffer from PTSD, and 21 percent suffer depression.”

“I killed someone. It’s my fault,” Gilbertson said, sobbing amidst the static of his satellite phone.

Those were the first words Joanna Bernstein, Gilbertson’s girlfriend at the time, remembers hearing on the evening of Nov 14, 2004. Gilbertson was on a rooftop at Camp Fallujah in Iraq as he recounted the death of L.Cpl. Miller to Joanna.

“It wasn’t your fault,” she repeated into the receiver, trying to console him.

Gilbertson then called Beth Flynn, his editor at the New York Times, who arranged his speedy removal from Fallujah. No one in the New York office knew the specifics of the event, but they agreed that Ashley had to get out.

The next morning, November 15, Gilbertson flew on a military aircraft from Fallujah to Baghdad, where he stayed overnight before boarding a flight to Amman, Jordan. Three days after he had watched as L. Cpl Miller’s body was removed from the minaret in Fallujah, Ashley met Joanna in Paris.

On their flight to New York, Joanna tried to break some of the tension with a trick she’d learned from her grandfather. After being served dessert on the plane, she asked Ashley if her dish smelled funny. When he leaned in to investigate, she rubbed it in his face. Instead of laughing, Ashley, who had always been easygoing with Joanna, got angry.

In the first weeks at home, Gilbertson got angry often. He got angry at the subways, and at the lines in the grocery store. He got angry with businessmen who complained about the puddles outside Manhattan subway stations. Most of all, he got angry with people he called “armchair philosophers”: individuals who opined about the war without ever having emptied Iraqi sand from their boots.

Through photographs, Ashley wanted to bring the war home to the millions of Americans. But after he returned, Ashley didn’t see an America at war, and he had little patience for anyone who hadn’t walked the sharp edge of conflict.

“One of the truly great things about war that people don’t understand is that all you have to do is survive.” Gilbertson said. “You don’t have to make small talk with some shit-bag on the subway about how busy the day is.”

War simplifies and sharpens life, he said. Often, it made “regular life” unbearable.

This frustration with day-to-day life stemmed from an addiction to what Gilbertson calls the “survival mode.” In Iraq, or more generally in war, everything was in focus. He was always alert.

“You don’t emotionally process what you’re going through,” Gilbertson said. “You just keep going.”

But that level of focus can become unsettling when walking the streets of Manhattan. His frenzied conversations, combined with an even shorter fuse, signaled to many friends and family that something was wrong.

Most significant was Ashley’s reactions to the people closest to him. Often blowing up into fits of anger without significant provocation, Ashley — also a heavy drinker — began to binge the point of “stupification,” as Joanna called it.

“Ash hated everyone at this time,” Joanna said, remembering countless bar fights Gilbertson would have with strangers. “If you hadn’t been to Iraq, he thought you wouldn’t understand.”

PTSD has an interesting, if confused, history in the landscape of mental illness. While it was only added to the DSM, or Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, in 1980, PTSD’s symptoms can usually be traced back to the earliest experiences of war.

Recorded in ancient Roman texts, and mentioned throughout the western canon of military history, PTSD has had a number of labels: “battle rattle,” “war fatigue,” “shell shock,” or “soldier’s heart.” In WWI, infantrymen from Britain and France, hobbled by what they’d seen in combat, would be carted off the battlefield to front-line hospitals where doctors, who at the time knew little about how the brain processed trauma, would prescribe bed rest and proper meals in the hopes that the soldiers would recover.

As the field of medicine advanced and the monitoring of soldiers’ symptoms improved, a formal diagnosis started to coalesce. However, it was the fallout after the war in Vietnam that prompted health professionals to re-think the relationship between war and mental illness.

Soldiers would return claiming myriad issues: some might suffer fatigue, due to poor sleep, recurring nightmares, or general jumpiness. Others would suffer heart palpitations, chronic chest pain, tremors, various joint and muscle pains, or even loss of voice or hearing. In some cases, like the woman that caught Dr. Feinstein’s attention in the late 1990s, individuals could even suffer functional paralysis, a condition in which the body suffers stroke-like symptoms that can render the individual immovable.

However, the primary case studies for PTSD were still soldiers, and it would take more than two decades before experts would extend the diagnosis beyond those who pulled triggers.

Today, photojournalists like Ashley Gilbertson can develop PTSD while snapping a shutter.

“Some photojournalists fall apart after the first assignment, while others handle it for decades.,” said Corrine Dufka, a retired photographer, who is now a senior researcher on West Africa for Human Rights Watch in Washington, D.C.. “[Photographers] are in the death and danger business, and you never know how they will react.”

Unfortunately, despite access to modern brain scans, advanced clinical trials, and even long-term studies of the disorder, the mental health community has been unable to identify indicators to determine when, or whether, an individual exposed to trauma will in fact experience PTSD. For most frontline journalists, each assignment becomes a game of Russian roulette.

“The only certain way to prevent PTSD is not to send men, and now women, to war,” write Edgar Jones and Simon Wessely, in their 2006 book Shell Shock to PTSD. “None of pre-deployment screening, forward psychiatry during combat or debriefing after combat prevents PTSD.”

Iraq had become my initiation, my rite of passage, but instead of granting me a new sense of myself, or a new identity, Iraq had become my identity. Without Iraq, I was nothing.

Ashley and Joanna Gilbertson in “Last Photographs,” Virginia Quarterly Review, 2007

Most mornings I found Ashley Gilbertson in his signature white, button-down shirt and black jeans, sitting at his large black-brown wooden desk in his basement office, laptop computer open in front of him.

Gilbertson has soft features, and long, tightly curled dirty-blond hair — cartoonish and free-wandering. His greetings were always cheery — a quick “Hey man” and a generous, wry smile. In the months we had spent together, Ashley could be blunt, and even impatient, but he was always courteous to newcomers, acquaintances, and just about every barista in New York’s West Village.

Some days, when the smile seemed a little forced, and the jokes less frequent, I could tell that Ashley was distracted, bothered, or both. I could never be sure what was on his mind, but some moments the reasons seemed clear.

PTSD3.jpgMarines from Bravo company, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment detain an insurgent after they shot him and his two comrades in the neighborhood nicknamed “Queens” during the battle for Falluja, Iraq on November 13, 2004. [Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

In late October 2011, Gilbertson was asked by his staff at VII Photo Agency to review and re-draft his professional archive. In part, this meant working through the thousands of frames from his time in Iraq. Gilbertson filtered through most of the photo sets in his collection, but left Iraq for last.

One morning that month, Gilbertson’s eyes were hard, and his facial expression flat. With the slightest hesitation, Gilbertson started clicking through the photographs that defined his career, only seven years prior.

He stopped on his first front-page feature photograph for The New York Times. The picture, taken from the open door of a U.S. military helicopter in flight, captured a machine gunner manning an imposing 50-caliber weapon bolted to the floor of the aircraft, as the chopper buzzed at low altitude through waning afternoon sun.

A few frames later, Ashley paused on a picture of Dexter Filkins, the New York Times reporter he’d worked with in Fallujah. Filkins is caught mid-stride, eyes focused on something left of the frame, wearing a flak jacket and helmet. Ash broke the silence with a chuckle, noting the plastic spoons stuffed into the left chest pocket of Filkin’s bulletproof vest.

Filkins didn’t go anywhere without his spoons, said Gilbertson, with a smile. Filkins had told him that he could never rely on the army to provide cutlery.

But Gilbertson grew quiet as he pressed his laptop’s right arrow, flipping to the next frame. In the photographs, soldiers are frozen in high action — alive — by the Nikon D100 digital camera Gilbertson now keeps in a small, red, plastic container, stacked in the closet adjacent his desk. He mentioned Marines by name, and discussed how some of them died. Gilbertson could still remember down to the minute, how long after each photograph was taken that the soldier was killed.

“I think [photographers] get a lot closer to this stuff than writers do. It’s not that writers aren’t also looking for the human drama,” Filkins said, “but some photographers are better at doing that than others. Ashley saw things that I didn’t.”

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Lance Cpl. William L. Miller volunteers himself for Medivac training before battle, choosing the part of a wounded marine at Camp Falluja, Iraq on November 5, 2004. Ten days later, Gilbertson saw Miller on a stretcher again; this time he wasn’t acting. Miller was shot point blank by an insurgent hiding in a darkened minaret. He died en route to the medical facility. [Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

“There is something about the visual memory that is even more ingrained, more difficult to process. And photographers are often forced to go back and look at the photograph, over and over again,” said Dr. Jack Saul, Gilbertson’s psychiatrist and trauma specialist. I think photographers are more exposed, visually, than regular reporters.”

Other clinicians seem to agree.

Some experts suggest that physical photographs, when compared to text of the same incident, exact a different cost. One reason: it can be difficult for photographers to place discrete photographs into a comprehensible narrative.

Santiago Lyon of the Associated Press explains that for a print journalists assigned to cover a traumatic event, their process involves asking questions of the witnesses, researching similar events, and observing the reactions of others. Then they get to control the story, choosing the words and descriptions that best capture the event.

Photographers often engage people in similar fashion, but unlike writers, photographers are left with flashes of the story without the opportunity to alter the content, or shape their material in the same way.

Some photographers have tried to construct their own narratives as a way to process the trauma they’ve seen. Dr. Newman, a trauma researcher at the University of Tulsa, remembers a photographer who personally arranged his photographs to music after filing them for publication. He told Newman that watching the arrangement over and over again allowed him to lower his level of anxiety.

Filmmaker and photojournalist Tim Hetherington seemed to replicate the same process by creating a video documentary in 2010, which knit together a series of scattered or otherwise random video clips and images. He called it “Diary.” In May 2011, Hetherington and fellow photographer Chris Hondros were killed while photographing the conflict in Libya.

It took the war to teach…that you were as responsible for everything you saw as you were for everything you did.

Michael Herr, Dispatches

While the mental health community had taken note of PTSD and its symptoms by 1980, it would be years before editors and newsroom executives caught up. In part, photographers were resistant to admit their own vulnerability.

“My view may sound harsh, but if you go to war because you want to, don’t moan if it hurts you,” said Gary Knight, an award-winning photographer and colleague of Gilbertson at VII Photo Agency.

Knight, who was a participant in Anthony Feinstein’s study on war journalists, said that Feinstein found him to be “quite well-adjusted.” While Knight admits that he’s seen journalists stressed or ill at-ease in the field, he says it’s nearly impossible to figure out the true cause.

In addition, Knight affirmed a popular claim made by most conflict photographers: being a war correspondent appeals to a particular type of person.

“I think many people who choose this profession have a disposition for outrageous behavior,” said Knight, who has covered conflicts in over 90 countries throughout his career. “The mantra seems to be, ‘If you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space.’ Journalists are the last people we should be worrying about.”

Often, it is this mentality that has plagued photographers trying to cope with the trauma they’ve seen in conflict. For many sufferers, they looked for alternative coping strategies, whether through alcohol, substance abuse, or high-risk hobbies.

“If you had a hard time processing your experience, one’s problems were solved at the bar,” said Santiago Lyon, a career photographer-turned director of photography for The Associated Press. “Some people will tell you that the camera is a shield, but I don’t subscribe to that view.”

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Marines and Iraqi Intervention Forces take and return fire while they evacuate 5 Iraqi civilians who were wounded in fighting between the military and the Mujahadeen in Falluja, Iraq on November 12, 2004. [Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

In 1994, Kevin Carter, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in photography, committed suicide by asphyxiating himself in the cabin of his car. Carter’s award winning photograph — taken of a malnourished Sudanese child squatting in the desert as a vulture lurked in the background — graced the pages of untold international newspapers and magazines.

Carter was a member of the rambunctious, risk-taking group called the Bang-Bang Club, now immortalized by Hollywood in a 2010 film of the same name. The group garnered significant international attention for their documentary photography work on apartheid-era violence in their native South Africa. But the photograph that made Carter’s career, also seemed to destroy his life.

In a 1994 Time Magazine article, fellow reporters and friends questioned the ethics of Carter, particularly when it came to his storied photograph: Why hadn’t he helped the vulnerable girl he’d captured on film?, they asked. Many photographers pushed back and expressed support for Carter and his actions: it was not the photographer’s responsibility to intervene; bearing witness and taking the photo, which The New York Times called “an icon of starvation,” was a humanitarian act. Regardless of the moral or ethical debate surrounding Carter’s decision to take the photograph, the trauma that he’d seen in his career began to overwhelm.

In his suicide note, Carter wrote: “I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings and corpses and anger and pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police … of killing executioners.” He was 33 years old.

“What [Anthony Feinstein] did was make [journalists] aware of something that we all knew existed, but were all pretty ignorant about,” said Santiago Lyon, director of photography for the Associated Press. “It sparked a change in the mindset of the newsroom.”

The British Broadcasting Corporation and CNN led the charge by offering post-deployment debriefing sessions and self-diagnostic tools to individuals working in conflict zones or otherwise exposed to violence. Under the stewardship of former international correspondent Chris Cramer, CNN became an industry leader, eager to keep their reporters healthy — physically and mentally.

As awareness grew, Dr. Feinstein was hired to consult and advise CNN and the BBC on strengthening their policies regarding mental health. The Associated Press hired Dr. Jack Saul, Gilbertson’s psychiatrist, for the same purpose. In addition, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which began as a program at Michigan State University in 1991, expanded their scope and size, providing additional resources regarding the physical and mental risks for journalists in the field.

These support efforts for journalists and their mental health soon extended beyond the deployment period to their time at home.

“We are trying to capture any lessons learned from our deployments and maintain that contact with our correspondents when they get home,” said Harris Silver, the high-risk deployment manager for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “We want to ensure that our journalists aren’t dropped as soon as they get back.”

Santiago Lyon said it’s most important to understand the sensitive nature of trauma. During his career, Lyon was kidnapped and wounded in the field. In his nine year tenure at the AP, Lyon has instituted a specialized program for any AP journalist who wants assistance with the trauma they’ve experienced.

“We seek out experts in the field to provide our colleagues with the support they need,” Lyon said of the AP. “Trauma is a specialty in psychology and I don’t think that your average employee assistance program is sufficient.”

Dr. Feinstein has also made his self-diagnostic tool, a survey that can taken by any journalists in the field, available on request. The document charts a respondent’s answers and measures the discomfort or symptoms of trauma. These results can then be shared with the company’s psychologists — at the journalist’s request — and can help monitor how the individual is coping with their assignment. In addition to the survey, most news organizations have created 24/7 confidential counseling lines for any journalist in need of further assistance.

But for all the advancements in company policies, stigma around mental health remains the most significant challenge in the war against PTSD.

Even in the fall of 2004, after Gilbertson returned, there persisted a professional mythology about a photographer’s toughness, Gilbertson said. Advancement came, at times, merely from risking your life in the field.

“I remember the first time Ash got shot at [in Samara, Iraq],” said Joanna. “He used to be the last person in the [New York Times] bureau in Iraq, waiting around for assignments. After that close call, he broke into the established pecking order. At the newspaper, you have to earn your stripes.”

Sometimes this mentality keeps photographers from sharing their concerns with editors.

After L.Cpl. Miller’s death, Gilbertson was hesitant to tell The New York Times about the incident. Until an interview for this piece, Beth Flynn, Gilbertson’s editor at the Times, didn’t know Gilbertson was worried about getting fired in the aftermath of the Marine’s death. Flynn says termination of his contract was never suggested, but Gilbertson’s position as a freelancer made him feel vulnerable. After all, a photographer’s ability to work is their only leverage. If Gilbertson couldn’t do it because of the trauma he’d seen, he believed the newspaper would get someone else who could.

Over the last two decades, traditional news outlets have lost significant revenue, resulting in cutbacks in expensive departments. In most media houses, these budgetary changes meant foreign and international desks were often the first departments to lose funding.

As the number of full-time staffers shrunk, organizations looked to freelancers to plug the gaps. These freelancers often travel on their own dollar, or happen to live overseas, and usually lack sufficient medical insurance. As private contractors, freelancers market their consistency and quality in an effort to maintain relationships with editors in the industry. For these photojournalists to admit to suffering some form of mental illness, or that this suffering might impact their work, is risking unemployment, or so they believe.

“I work with a lot of freelancers, and they often come back without medical insurance and don’t get any of the benefits,” said Dr. Saul, who still counsels reporters in his office in Manhattan. “They can be on an assignment, get hurt, and their organization doesn’t feel any sort of responsibility to take care of them.”

“Outside major news organizations, support just doesn’t exist,” Gilbertson said. “You’re expected to come back, take a week’s holiday in the Bahamas and go back to work. Unfortunately, that is not how trauma works.”

“Support, like medical insurance and disaster coverage, depends on your working relationship,” said Robert Nickelsberg, a photographer who spent 25 years covering Asia and the Middle East for Time magazine. Nickelsberg now freelances from his home in New York, but is cautious about today’s ill-defined and poorly regulated media industry. Freelance photojournalists are picked up and dropped as the demand for content dictates, he said, adding that just because a photographer is working, doesn’t necessarily imply that they’re going to be covered by the organization.

But even as media organizations grow cognizant of their responsibility for the physical risks on the job, sometimes these policies fail to include mental health coverage. As Gilbertson maintains, “PTSD is not a recognized wound of war.”

Unfortunately, even if some journalists recognize war’s effect on their mental health, they are often trapped in war zones. The story is simple: if the photographs that established a person’s career were taken in conflict, covering war can quickly become their specialty.

“Freelancers often get stuck doing war coverage, and they don’t feel like they have an alternative other than to go back out into the field,” said Dr. Saul. “They may even want to stop, but because they haven’t developed their freelance work domestically, that isn’t an option.”

For Gilbertson, this rang true. He’d grown up in Iraq, at least professionally. He’d received awards and developed credibility by taking dramatic and traumatic photographs where few people had ventured. His persona, the courageous photojournalist embedded at the “tip of the spear,” had turned the war in Iraq into his calling card at The New York Times. But if Iraq made Gilbertson’s career, it jeopardized everything else.

PTSD5.jpg

Marines file back through a ravaged street from a mosque to their firm base at the southern end of Falluja on November 15, 2004. Lcpl William Miller was killed by an insurgent hiding in the mosque’s minaret. The marines later leveled it with two 500 lb. bombs. [Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

“Iraq had become my initiation, my rite of passage,” wrote Gilbertson in a 2007 article coauthored by his wife Joanna, for the Virginia Quarterly Review. “Instead of granting me a new sense of myself and a new identity, Iraq had become my identity.”

Gilbertson decided to return to Iraq in 2006, a decision that Joanna and his psychiatrist thought ill-advised. Dr. Saul warned, “If you go back to Iraq now, you’ll probably keep going back.” Joanna told him, “You’re fucking crazy.”

“I could easily rationalize my desire [to go back] to anyone who asked,” Gilbertson wrote. “I told them I wanted to have one last look, that I needed to shoot the place differently, outside the constraints of daily coverage. I wanted to photograph Iraq emotionally, to react to my feelings on the spot instead of bottling them up as I’d done in the past.” Ashley was persuasive, and The New York Times was interested. He flew to Baghdad in March of that year.

The now 27-year-old photographer began his rotation embedded with the U.S.Marines in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. After two weeks with American forces, Gilbertson switched embeds to join the Kurdish Peshmerga, a military force that had just begun to patrol the capital and fill the security details left by departing American troops.

On the afternoon of March 27, Gilbertson, working with New York Times reporter Edward Wong, heard reports of Sunni Arab woman being forcibly evicted from a Shiite enclave in a suburb of Baghdad. The Peshmerga responded with Gilbertson and Wong in tow.

Gilbertson still remembers Suaana Saadoun’s imposing figure and stubborn refusal to leave her home. A mother and grandmother who’d recently moved back to Iraq from Syria, Gilbertson photographed a triumphant Saadoun as she watched the Kurdish Peshmerga load her would-be evictors into the back of their military vehicle.

Joanna remembered receiving a call from Ashley that night. “He was so happy,” she said, which was rare when he was on assignment in Iraq. He told her that the other Sunni families in the neighborhood had even applauded the Kurdish military that afternoon, a rare occurrence in the embattled city.

The next morning, however, Gilbertson awoke to the news that Saadoun was shot dead while walking to her local bakery. Allegedly, her murderers had been members of the same Shiite group that attempted to evict her the day before.

Gilbertson returned to Saadoun’s house that afternoon. This time he captured the tears, wailing, and disbelief of her family. “I felt like a bastard taking photographs of them now, framing their pain,” Gilbertson wrote of the event. “But I had to tell their story.”

But Gilbertson had told this particular story too many times. Five years after Gilbertson first stepped foot in the country, he was still snapping photographs of death in Iraqi streets. The steady diet of violence had left Gilbertson swallowed by his own experiences; powerless — he felt — against the persistence of trauma.

“Covering the war used to make me feel like I was doing something important,” Gilbertson wrote in the weeks following his embed with the Kurds. “I have grown to accept that people will not stop dying because I take their pictures.”

PTSD1.jpg

Caption: Marine Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer, 21, was killed by a sniper on July 21, 2007, in Karmah, Iraq. His bedroom in East Northport, NY, was photographed in February, 2009. [Ashley Gilbertson / VII]

Last January, I met Ashley midmorning, outside an apartment complex in lower Manhattan. Dressed in a black full-length coat, cameras and a tripod in hand, Gilbertson was leaning against a street sign, smoking his favorite: Marlboro cigarettes.

“How are you this morning?” he said, offering me a still-warm coffee as I arrived.

New York Magazine was writing a story about Private Danny Chen, an Asian-American Marine who committed suicide in Afghanistan after being bullied by fellow soldiers. The magazine called Gilbertson and asked if he’d be willing to take pictures of Danny’s parents, the shrine they had erected in the family’s East Village apartment, and, specifically, Pvt. Chen’s bedroom.

Since returning from Iraq in 2006, Gilbertson had been photographing the bedrooms of men and women soldiers killed while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Captured in black and white on traditional film, the wide-angle images showed soldiers’ rooms perfectly preserved by their families.

In 2007, his project, named Bedrooms of the Fallen and published in The New York Times Magazine, won a National Magazine Award. The accolade only pushed Gilbertson further, expanding overseas, capturing the bedrooms of NATO soldiers in their respective countries.

On this mild January morning, Gilbertson and I wandered through the apartment complex in search of the “D” wing, and the suite of Mr. and Mrs. Chen. After an awkward three-way conference call with the translator, who was running late, we were welcomed inside by Mrs. Chen. Instead of the three hours we expected, we were told that the Chen’s had plans for 11 a.m., and they refused to be late. That left just 20 minutes to take all the photographs the magazine would need.

As Gilbertson set up his digital camera to photograph the living room, he engaged the parents in conversation through the translator. Gracious but focused, he sprinkled questions with apologies and took a moment to compliment the photo of their departed son. I stood. Quiet. Witness to a delicate cultural exchange: a photographer who spoke the language of loss and a family mourning the death of their only child.

“How many minutes do we have left?” Gilbertson asked me, attention trained on the eyepiece of his camera, lens pointed on Pvt. Chen’s parents, both standing astride a portrait of their son captured in military dress.

“Eight minutes,” I replied.

As we moved towards Danny Chen’s bedroom, a room Mrs. Chen had avoided entering since news of her son’s death, Ashley quickly exchanged his digital camera for the film-loaded Hasselblad, the same camera he’s used to photograph 27 bedrooms around the world.

I counted.

12… 13… 14… Off.

Ashley clicked the shutter closed.

Fifteen-second exposures; Ashley’s camera was crammed so close to the bedroom’s doorframe that he had to remove his glasses to focus each shot.

He clicked the shutter open again.

12… 13… 14… Off.

Those fifteen seconds burned into Gilbertson’s film the Hentai poster — a popular form of Chinese animation — above Chen’s bed, the calendar hanging slightly askew beside a light-filled window, the ruffled comforter left untouched, a stuffed monkey lying face down on his bedside table, the spotless desk and the neatly-stacked DVDs and video games. Looking at the stark black and white photograph, you’d think Danny Chen was expected home in moments. That is, until you saw the large wooden box on the floor. Closed, it contained all of Pvt. Chen’s belongings, returned by the army in memoriam last October.

Bedrooms of the Fallen had originally been Joanna’s idea. The project grew, in part, out of Ashley and Joanna’s mutual frustration with The New York Times’ production of’ “Faces of the Dead,” a database of headshots, names, and the hometowns of soldiers killed in battle.

“The military does this amazing job of creating warriors,” said Joanna. “But in that process, something is lost.”

For the Gilbertson’s, these soldiers were “somebody” before they went to war, and their sacrifice deserved memorializing. Ashley, like many photographers at the time, had tried to photograph military funerals at Arlington National Cemetery, but even these images lacked something.

At the Look3 photography festival in 2006, Joanna was attracted to a particular photograph. This time it was a picture of a closet, empty, save a single hanging dress. “It captured the things people left behind,” Joanna remembered. She thought it was powerful in its simplicity.

“Photographers need to create stories that are … digestible,” Gilbertson once told me, quickly adding that he hates that word. “But those stories have to remind this country that we’re actually at war.”

Photographing empty bedrooms, the living mausoleums of American men and women killed in a foreign war, was visually powerful without being graphic. The images were humble. But most importantly for Ashley, they were human.

“Photographs of a thousand more bloody soldiers won’t change anything,” he said. “I can’t make [the public] care about the war by bashing them over the head with it.”

But the Bedrooms project also provided Joanna, after years of waiting, an opportunity to be part of the profession that nearly tore the two of them apart.

“The first time he went was a disaster,” said Joanna. She told Ashley that the project was important for his healing, and promised she would always be there for him, but would never accompany him on the shoots.

Gilbertson spent more than six months talking with the family of Thomas Gilbert, learning everything he could about him. More importantly, the time allowed him to gain the family’s trust to photograph the bedroom; the last surviving memorial to their son. The result, Gilbertson said, was the most authentic war photography he’d every shot.

Recommended

Seeing God in the Third Millennium

Today, sitting in his basement office with a half-finished beer on his desk, Gilbertson can still see three medium-sized, black and white prints of his most recent bedrooms shoots on his bookshelf.

The past few weeks had produced an initial draft of his upcoming photography book. Between the two covers, more than 40 separate bedrooms of soldiers from around the world would be displayed, with Ashley’s own writing filling in the white spaces.

“I’m doing the best I can because someone paid for my life with theirs.” Gilbertson said, before taking another swig of his beer. “Bedrooms of the Fallen is my apology.”

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/overexposed-a-photographers-war-with-ptsd/266468/

Renee O\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’conner Tara Reid

How Men Can Avoid Common Mistakes After Divorce

Reviewed by Kimball Johnson, MD

Adapting to life after divorce is hard for guys under the best of circumstances. But you can make it easier on yourself, your ex, and your children if you avoid some of the most common mistakes.

1. Dating Too Soon

Too many men seek out a new relationship before the dust has settled on their divorce, says psychologist Sam J. Buser, PhD, coauthor of The Guys-Only Guide to Getting Over Divorce. They rush into new relationships — and often into new marriages — within the first year.

“That’s no doubt the biggest mistake,” says Buser, who is based in Houston.

Buser says that men often jump into dating because they’re lonely, vulnerable, and sad, and they’re looking for someone to help them feel better.

“The relationships they start do not often work out in the long run,” he says. “I advise my patients to wait at least two years. I’ve never had a man take me up on that advice, but I do try to slow them down.”

He also advises men to date casually at first.

“Tell the woman you’ve just been through a tough divorce and that you’re not ready for a committed relationship,” he suggests. “Acknowledge that it is not the right time for that.”

2. Isolating Yourself

After a divorce, it’s easy for guys to let themselves become isolated, especially if the ex gets custody of the kids. That’s another big mistake. It can worsen feelings of depression, guilt, and loneliness, a potentially dangerous mix. Divorced men are twice as likely to commit suicide as married men. 

Divorced men are also more prone to alcohol problems, so be careful of starting down that road. 

“You don’t have to drink every day to have a problem,” Buser says. “Drinking a six pack is a binge.”

Buser’s advice: Connect with other guys. Call up old friends, join a softball team, a club, or a professional association.

“Expand your social and professional network to avoid isolation.”

He also says that the aftermath of a divorce is great time to go back to school. It keeps you active, stimulates your mind, potentially advances your career, and gets you out of the house.

3. Introducing Your New Partner to Your Kids Too Soon

You’ve met someone new. You’re excited and happy. Good for you. Just don’t make the mistake of expecting your kids to be upbeat about it.

“The last thing the kids want to see is parents getting involved with someone else,” says Gordon E. Finley, PhD, a psychologist who specializes in issues facing divorced men and an emeritus professor of psychology at Florida International University in Miami. “They are going to be unhappy. Date when you feel ready, but leave the kids out of it.”

Buser agrees. “Focus on the other adult when starting a relationship,” he says. “She can meet the kids when you know you are serious.”

Rebekah Emily Symons

EPA finalizes stricter soot pollution limits

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration on Friday tightened limits on harmful soot pollution from sources including power plants, diesel engines and burning wood.

The new standards, which the Environmental Protection Agency was under court order to finalize, limit annual average soot emissions by the end of decade to about 12 micrograms per cubic meter of air from the standard of 15 micrograms set in 1997.

Individual states will be responsible for deciding how to cut emissions of the fine particulates, which can lodge deep in the lungs and threaten the elderly, people with heart disease and children. Health problems associated with the pollution include premature death, acute bronchitis and asthma.

“More mothers like me will be able to rest a little easier knowing that our children and our children’s children will have healthier air to breathe for decades to come,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who has two sons with asthma, told reporters in a conference call about the rules.

Industry groups and some lawmakers have complained the soot standards are too costly. The standards “impose significant new economic burdens on many communities, hurting workers and their families,” a group of senators including global warming skeptic Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, and Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, said in a letter on Friday to Jackson.

New power plants, machinery at ports and other industrial sources of soot could find it hard to get operating permits in places found in violation of the limits.

The American Petroleum Institute, an industry group, said it feared the new rule “may be just the beginning of a ‘regulatory cliff’” including forthcoming EPA rules on smog and greenhouse gas emissions.

“EXCITING AND ENERGIZING”

The EPA, however, estimated that by 2030 the soot rules would prevent up to 40,000 premature deaths and that health care bills would be cut by $4 billion to $9 billion annually. Costs on industry to implement the rules would range from $53 million to $350 million, it said.

The agency said only seven counties, all of them in central or southern California, are projected to fail to meet the standard by 2020. The rest of the counties can rely on air quality standards that have already been finalized to meet the limits, it said.

Many observers have speculated Jackson could step down from the EPA next year, after four years fighting Republicans in Congress. She did not comment on the speculation on the call, saying only there was still plenty to do at the EPA, work that is “exciting and energizing.”

Her agency is expected to roll out more pollution rules on power plants, refineries and boilers that were delayed during the election year.

Environmentalists and health groups applauded the soot rules, which federal clean air laws require to be reviewed every five years.

Carol Browner, who served as EPA administrator from 1993 to 2001, said American innovation has found ways to meet pollution standards while contributing to new technology and jobs.

“We don’t have to choose between a healthy economy and healthy air and lungs,” she said. “We can have both.”

Alizee Vertaald Meredith Vieira

WeightWatchers is the best diet plan to follow if you want to shed the pounds, according to NHS research

  • 80% of patients referred to three popular diet plans lost more than 11lbs
  • Slimmers signed up to WeightWatchers were most likely to lose a significant amount of weight

By Claire Bates

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Patsy Kensit was recently unveiled as Weight Watchers Celebrity Ambassador. The diet plan was the most effective at helping patients shed weight in a recent study

Patsy Kensit was recently unveiled as WeightWatchers Celebrity Ambassador. The diet plan was the most effective at helping patients shed weight in a recent study

Slimmers who have failed to shed the pounds on their own should consider trying a popular diet programme, according to an independent study.

NHS research revealed 80 per cent of patients referred to plans such as Slimming World and Rosemary Conley lost more than 11lbs. However, the most successful slimmers were signed up to WeightWatchers.

The report published in the Journal of Public Health looked at over 1,400 would-be slimmers in North Somerset in a scheme organised by local NHS doctors. Patients were put on one of the three popular diet plans.

It found patients attending Weight Watchers were 54 per cent more likely to lose 11lbs than those on Slimming World and Rosemary Conley. They were also 81 per cent more likely to shed five per cent of their total body weight. This effect was sustained a year down the line.

The aim of the research was to analyse the effectiveness of the NHS paying for overweight people to sign up to established slimming programmes.

It follows a study published last year in The Lancet that found overweight and obese adults referred to Weight Watchers lost more than twice as much weight when compared with those who received standard care in GP-organised classes.

Another independent study ‘Lighten Up’ published also last year in the British Medical Journal concluded that community based weight loss programmes were more effective and cheaper than those provided by specially trained health professionals.

Diet plans like WeightWatchers now offer mobile phone apps to help slimmers stay on track when on the move

Diet plans like WeightWatchers now offer mobile phone apps to help slimmers stay on track when on the move

The North Somerset study was overseen by Dr Karen Dixon, a weight specialist who said: ‘Patients were offered 12 free weekly sessions at one of three commercial providers: Weight Watchers, Slimming World or Rosemary Conley Diet and Fitness Clubs (Rosemary Conley).

‘NHS slimming on referral can successfully achieve short-term weight loss. Patients attending Weight Watchers were most likely to lose weight than those attending other providers.’

Zoe Hellman, Head of Public Health at Weight Watchers said: ‘This latest paper reinforces what we already know to be true, that there is growing and compelling evidence which shows that partnerships between Weight Watchers and the NHS does work.’

Currently over 26 per cent of the adult population in the UK are classed as obese. By 2050 obesity is predicted to affect 60 per cent of men and half of women.

Problems associated with being overweight and obesity are now estimated to cost the NHS £5.1 billion a year and are projected to reach £9.7 billion by 2050.

VIDEO Charles Barkley on his Weight Watchers success 

Nigel Hawthorne Jacinta Stapleton

Regular Aspirin Use May Boost Eye Problem Risk

Dec. 18, 2012 — Taking aspirin regularly appears to slightly raise the risk of the eye condition known as age-related macular degeneration or AMD, new research suggests.

The increased risk only occurred with people who had taken aspirin regularly 10 years before they were diagnosed with the potentially blinding eye disease. They had taken aspirin at least twice a week for more than three months, says researcher Barbara E.K. Klein, MD, MPH.

The risk was for the type of macular degeneration known as wet or neovascular AMD, says Klein, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine, Madison.

Wet macular degeneration is generally more severe than another version, known as dry macular degeneration.

Although people taking aspirin regularly were two times more likely to get the condition, Klein says the absolute risk is still low because the condition is not common. About 1% of people aged mid-40s and older get wet macular degeneration, she says.

Klein studied nearly 5,000 men and women, ages 43 and older. She followed them for 20 years, although not all of them stayed in the study that long.

The research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Aspirin & Eye Problems: Study Details

Previous research findings about aspirin use and macular degeneration risk have been mixed.

As aspirin use and macular degeneration are increasing, Klein decided to follow men and women over many years to see if she could find a link.

Nearly 20% of adults, or 1 in 5, take aspirin regularly. Some use it for temporary relief of pain or fever. Others take it daily to prevent heart attacks.

The macula is a small area of the retina, the tissue lining the back of the eye, that is responsible for central vision.

Klein looked at wet (late) and dry (early) macular degeneration for the study. Both are potentially blinding conditions.

Over the course of the study, 512 people were diagnosed with early AMD and 117 with late AMD.

Although regular use of aspirin 10 years before the diagnosis was linked with late macular degeneration, aspirin use five years before the diagnosis was not linked with an increased risk of either form of AMD.

Klein can’t explain the link and says it requires more study. “The absolute risk of this is small,” she says. “There are so many folks who have been put on aspirin for [heart disease] prevention. … The [heart] protective effect is still primo.”

One co-author, Ronald Klein, MD, MPH, has served as a consultant for Pfizer, which makes AMD medicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and support from Research to Prevent Blindness.

Aspirin & Eye Problems: Perspective

“This study is suggestive that there may be a relationship but it is by no means definitive,” says George Williams, MD, professor and chair of the department of ophthalmology at Oakland University’s William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Mich.

Williams says a weakness in the study is that the men and women self-reported the aspirin use, so it may not have been totally accurate.

If a cardiologist has recommended aspirin for heart disease protection, Williams says, “I would not take anyone off it.”

People who take aspirin regularly should consider their risk of macular degeneration and the benefits of taking aspirin, says Michael Tolentino, MD, medical director of the Macular Degeneration Association and an ophthalmologist in Lakeland, Fla.

People at higher risk for the disease include those with a family history, those with light eyes, and smokers.

“Everything is a risk-benefit ratio,” he says.

He reports serving as consultant for Novartis, Genentech, Alarcon, and other companies involved in eye drugs.

Alexis Bledel Sienna Miller

Boeing demos unmanned craft in South Korea

Published: Dec. 19, 2012 at 6:33 AM

NONSAN, South Korea, Dec. 19 (UPI) – Pilotless capabilities available for integration onto South Korean army helicopters have been demonstrated by Boeing of the United States.

Boeing said the capabilities — to support intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, resupply and other missions — were showcased at the Republic of Korea Aviation School using its Unmanned Little Bird demonstrator aircraft, a variant of the MD 500 helicopter operated by South Korea.

The UBL Bird flew autonomously for about 25 minutes, the company said.

The MD 500 was assembled for the Korean military by Korea Air Aerospace Division from 1976-87 under license from Boeing heritage companies Hughes Helicopters and McDonnell Douglas. KAL assisted in transporting the Unmanned Little Bird to the demonstration site, continuing collaboration between the two companies.

“Boeing and KAL continue to build on a history of collaboration to offer our customers innovative solutions, grow new business, and expand Korea’s aerospace and defense industry capabilities,” said Joseph Song, vice president and managing director for Boeing’s defense, space and security business in South Korea.

Cher Isla Fisher

The Solution to Human Regeneration May Hang in a Long-Neglected Branch of Science

Electricity, not DNA, could be the key to unlocking a medical breakthrough.

dissection.jpg

A plate from the De Bononiensi scientiarum et artium instituto atque academia commentarii, produced between 1731 and 1791 (BibliOdyssey).

One night in the late 1700s, Luigi Galvani, an anatomy professor at the University of Bologna, strung up butchered frog legs on his balcony. This in itself was not unusual – they were, in all likelihood, awaiting the dinner plate. But on this night, with the air crackling with electricity from a storm, Galvani noticed something odd: when he touched the legs with a pair of scissors, they twitched. The professor’s curiosity was piqued. Soon thereafter, he hung some dissected frogs legs in his laboratory – where, as it happened, he also kept a newfangled machine that captured static electricity, known as a Leyden jar. Anytime the jar was on and someone touched the legs with a metal scalpel, they jumped. It was almost as if they were possessed. 

Galvani wondered if this strange phenomenon could be related to electrical currents. Perhaps the limbs contained some sort of charge, an “animal electricity” essential for life. He thought that this charge was undiscovered biological juice, and, while he was wrong, Galvani was perhaps the first person to purposefully stimulate exposed nerve cells with electricity. Years later, he noted his achievement in a book that recounted more than a decade of such research: “And still we could never suppose that fortune were to be so friend to us, such as to allow us to be perhaps the first in handling, as it were, the electricity concealed in nerves, in extracting it from nerves, and, in some way, in putting it under everyone’s eyes.”

In the years that followed, Giovanni Aldini, Galvani’s nephew and former assistant, went further. In 1802, he connected a primitive battery to a recently severed ox head. It was as if the animal came back to life: its eyes flew open; its ears wriggled; its tongue jerked. Aldini attempted a similar experiment on the corpse of a murderer who’d been hanged in London’s infamous Newgate Prison. The effects were much the same: “The jaw began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horrible contorted, and the left eye actually opened.” 

These ghoulish experiments were well known in scientific and popular circles– Mary Shelley used the notion that electricity could animate life as the foundation for Frankenstein–and interest in the effects of electricity on living creatures continued for the next 150 years. Many efforts were little more than quackery. In England during the 1800s, for instance, electricity was used to treat everything from hysteria to melancholia. Yet the flegdling field of bioelectricity was stalled by a rival branch of science, not fringe thinking. DNA was discovered in the 1950s. A tidal wave of interest followed, and it swept aside the studies that descended from Galvani’s.

The search for the commands that shape our bodied became an investigation of the extraordinary interplay between genes and proteins. But as successful as the current approach has been, it does have limits. 

It is odd that electricity has been so negelected, because it is everywhere in our bodies. Ions flow in and out of our cells. Voltage pulses speed down our nerves. We are, in effect, walking electrical networks. The significance of this is readily accepted when it comes to the nervous system and the heart – think of the electrical pads used to revive someone after a heart attack. But in many ways, we remain stuck in an eighteenth century mindframe, aware of the electric signals that course through our bodies but oblivious to the ways in which they could play a subtler, and more profound, role in our development.

Not all of the blame for this is the result of the focus on proteins and DNA. There’s also the legacy of bioelectrical research, which has teetered between genuine scientific insights and frivolous nonsense. It would take someone who knew little about the field’s reputation, and who wasn’t concerned about how his interests would appear to colleagues, to pick up the line of inquiry, and return to the question of regeneration.

* * *

levin.jpg

Michael Levin, director of Tufts University’s Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology (Kathi Bahr).

Modern medicine clutches at a number of dreams. Some, like developing an AIDS vaccine, can seem tantalisingly close. Others, like curing cancer or preventing the ravages of aging, have frustrated great minds for so many years that we’ve learned to temper our expectations.

And then there’s regeneration. The idea that humans could regrow missing or diseased organs or limbs often feels like fantasy. But why? There are, after all, many species that can accomplish the task with ease. A decapitated flatworm will grow a new head, replete with a new brain. For the first week of their lives, tadpoles can replace lost tails. And the axolotl, or Mexican salamander, has the ability to regenerate everything from its limbs and tail to its spinal cord and skin, all without any evidence of scarring. Even some mammals have limited regenerative abilities: every year, deer regrow exact replicas of the antlers they shed, and in some circumstances, young mice and rats can lose a leg and grow it back.

Humans hang onto a sliver of regenerative ability as well. If a child experiences a neat slice through the end of his fingertip, that tip will grow back — a talent that disappears sometime between the ages of seven and eleven. The Greek legend of Prometheus, the god who was cursed to have an eagle peck out his liver each day, only to grow it back every night, contains a grain of physiological truth: were you to lose part of your liver, it would, in fact, regenerate. With the exception of our skin, it’s the only human organ that has that capability.

But what if we could go further than skin and liver cells? What if we could signal to our bodies to regrow damaged retinal tissue – or even to regrow an entire eye? What if we could regrow lost limbs? Michael Levin doesn’t think this is an outlandish fantasy: in fact, he thinks he may be on the path to figuring out how to do precisely that.

Levin is director of Tufts University’s Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology in Medford, near Boston. His thinks that the key to regeneration  — the key to pattern, to shape — may be found in the electrical signals that are transmitted among all our cells, much like the ones and zeros that zip along a computer’s hard drive. Manipulating these electrical signals has already led to results that seem more suited to X-Men than a scientific journal: Levin’s lab has produced four-headed flatworms and grown an eye from scratch on a tadpole’s belly. Over the course of the next year, Levin will begin experiments on mammals. Success could make human regeneration a reality in our lifetimes.


This is an exclusive extract from Electric Shock, the new article from MATTER, an online publisher focused on long-form science and technology writing. Visit readmatter.com to purchase the full article. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/the-solution-to-human-regeneration-may-hang-in-a-long-neglected-branch-of-science/266416/

Nigel Hawthorne Jacinta Stapleton

Venezuela’s Chavez improving after surgery complications

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez suffered unexpected bleeding caused by a six-hour cancer operation in Cuba, the government said, although the ailing president’s condition began to improve on Thursday.

The 58-year-old’s health has deteriorated dramatically since he won re-election two months ago, casting doubt on the future of his “21st century socialism” project, which won him huge support among the poor but infuriated adversaries who denounce him as a fledgling dictator.

Officials said Chavez’s medical team in Havana had to use “corrective measures” to stop the bleeding which resulted from Tuesday’s surgery, his fourth cancer operation in 18 months. But they said his condition had improved since then.

“In the last few hours, his process of recovery has evolved from stable to favorable,” Vice President Nicolas Maduro told a rally of Socialist Party supporters, who cheered as he spoke.

“That allows us to continue saying that there is a growing recovery in Comandante Hugo Chavez’s situation.”

The president claimed he was cured earlier this year, and was able to campaign for re-election in October, but now looks to be fighting for his life again. Officials have stressed that his post-operation process will be long and complex.

The ashen faces of cabinet ministers and somber tone of their terse official statements since Tuesday’s surgery appeared to suggest top government officials are preparing for the worst.

The president has refused to divulge details of the cancer that was diagnosed in June of last year.

He won re-election by a big margin in October and is due to start a new six-year term on Jan. 10. According to the constitution, if he is unable to do so or steps down after starting a new term, an election must be held within 30 days.

On Saturday, Chavez anointed Maduro as his heir apparent in case he had to step down – the first time since he took office in 1999 that he has named a successor.

The 50-year-old Maduro, a former union organizer and loyal Chavez disciple who is seen as a pragmatic moderate, would be the ruling party’s candidate.

‘FATHERLAND IS SAFE’

The president of Uruguay, Jose Mujica, said he planned to visit Chavez in Cuba, and Venezuelans held vigils and gathered in plazas to pray for their president’s swift return.

State TV launched a spot that opens with Chavez’s voice thundering “I am no longer myself, I am the people,” followed by Venezuelans of all ages telling the camera: “I am Chavez.”

Another shows short clips of Chavez singing folk songs with supporters and reciting poetry. One rally for a “Chavista” candidate in Sunday’s regional elections kicked off with a recording of the president singing the national anthem.

The Information Ministry published a document with the words “Loyalty to Chavez – The fatherland is safe” over a picture of Chavez and Maduro sitting below a painting of liberation hero Simon Bolivar. Chavez is shown holding an ornate golden replica of Bolivar’s sword.

Senior government officials have begun cautiously preparing people for the reality that Chavez may not survive.

“At the same time as we pray, we should be ready to turn our sadness and pain into a force that can mobilize the people,” Aristobulo Isturiz, a top ally of the president, told a rally of red-clad supporters.

Even if he dies, Chavez is likely to cast a long shadow over Venezuela’s political landscape for years – not unlike Argentine leader Juan Peron, whose 1950s populism is still the ideological foundation of the country’s dominant political party.

Elections shortly after the Venezuelan leader’s death could create an awkward scenario for the opposition. Campaigning on day-to-day concerns such as crime and inflation would be difficult in such an emotionally charged atmosphere.

BEYOND VENEZUELA

The implications of Chavez’s illness go far beyond Venezuela. Regional allies, most notably Cuba, have for years relied on him for subsidized oil and fuel shipments.

It could also slow the resurgence of the left in Latin America and weaken a global “anti-imperialist” alliance stretching as far as Syria and Iran that has sought to undermine the influence of the United States.

Energy companies are keenly watching events and hope a change in government will lead to greater access to the country’s vast crude oil reserves – the world’s largest. Years of combative state takeovers have alienated major oil companies.

Investors who pack their portfolios with Venezuelan bonds, among the highest-yielding and most widely traded emerging market debt, are hoping for more fiscal responsibility after a year of blowout campaign spending.

Venezuela’s opposition has begun discussing which candidate they might field in a new presidential election.

Henrique Capriles, a state governor who lost to Chavez in October but galvanized the opposition with a nationwide house-to-house campaign tour, is the obvious choice to face Maduro.

But he may not be able to count on the support of all the 20 or so parties that make up the opposition’s coalition, some of which are anxious to field their own candidate. The opposition hopes to retain its seven state governorships out of 23.

The key will be whether Capriles can win re-election on Sunday as governor of Miranda state, where he faces a challenge from Elias Jaua, a Chavez protege and former vice president. If Capriles loses, half a dozen opposition figures could emerge as possible candidates for a new presidential election.

The polls in Miranda are mixed, with one showing Capriles way ahead and another giving Jaua a 5 percentage point lead.

Rallies for Socialist Party candidates ahead of Sunday’s vote have become mass vigils for the president’s health.

“We have a great chance to win all 23 governorships. That would be the best support we can give Chavez,” the president’s brother Adan, who is running for re-election in Barinas state, told a rally.

Kyla Cole Rosa Blasa

Coach out $8,100 as tournament is canceled

Published: Dec. 18, 2012 at 3:34 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 18 (UPI) – A North Carolina high school basketball coach says he has an $8,100 credit card charge for airplane tickets to send his team to a tournament that was canceled.

Coach Ty Baumgardner, of nationally ranked Olympic High School in Charlotte, prepaid for 20 tickets with his personal credit card and was given an assurance the tournament would refund the purchase. His team and staff were to participate in the post-Christmas Gulfshore Invitational in Naples, Fla., but learned the event was canceled after corporate sponsorship for the event fell through, teams began to drop out and a promised travel stipend could not be honored, The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer reported Tuesday.

The airline, US Airways, has not offered to refund the charges, Baumgardner said, adding, “US Airways has always been very helpful, but the people we’ve talked to so far say their policy is [that] tickets are non-refundable. They can give a credit but it’s $150 to change destinations. Maybe they’ll show some holiday cheer and help us out.”

John Goodman Rebecca Demorney

Study: Waiting to Have Kids May Reduce Risk of Breast Cancer

Women who waited 15 years after their first period to have children had 60 percent less chance of developing an aggressive form of breast cancer.

4198742676_f0200181f7_z615.jpg

anyjazz65/Flickr

PROBLEM: There have been some indications that maternity might be a protective factor against breast cancer. The most common type of breast cancer, ER positive, occurs less among women who’ve carried a child to term and who breast-feed. Breast-feeding, additionally, has also been shown to decrease the risk of one the most aggressive breast cancers: “triple-negative.” But as yet, not enough is known about the relationship between reproductive history and one’s risk of developing any types of breast cancer.


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  • We’re Less Likely to Recognize Symptoms of Depression in Men
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  • Attitude About Aging Improves With Age

METHODOLOGY: In this observational study, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center looked at data from almost 2,000 women between the ages of 20 and 44. About half had a history of breast cancer; their reproductive histories were compared, by sub-type, with the women who had never had the disease.

RESULTS: The longer women waited before having their first child after their first period, the lower their risk of triple-negative breast cancer. At the peak of the findings, a 15-year interval was associated with a 60 percent reduction in risk.

Breast-feeding, too, was associated with an inverse risk of the same sub-type of breast cancer. But no associations between childbirth or breast-feeding were found for ER positive or HER2-overexpressing breast cancers.

IMPLICATIONS: A rare but aggressive form of breast cancer occurs most often in African American women who, according to lead author Christopher Li, are more likely to start having children at a younger age and are less likely to breast-feed. The association he found between delayed childbirth and breast cancer risk could possibly explain why African American women appear to be more susceptible to the disease, and indicates a possible way of reducing their risk.

However, correlation in this case does not even begin to approach causation, and the researchers are breaking a lot of new ground here — this is one of the first studies to look at breast cancer in premenopausal women. While there is now enough evidence, they say, to suggest that breast-feeding is a well-established protective factor against triple-negative breast cancer, the rest of their findings remain to be verified.

The full study, “Reproductive factors and risk of estrogen receptor positive, triple-negative, and HER2-neu overexpressing breast cancer among women 20-44 years of age,” was published in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2012/12/study-waiting-to-have-kids-may-reduce-risk-of-a-type-of-breast-cancer/266372/

Julia Brendler Theresa Russel

Bangor Cathedral breaks 1,400-year-old tradition of only allowing boys to perform with first all-female choir

  • Bangor Cathedral in North Wales has formed an all-girl choir for the first time in its 1,437 year history

By Lucy Waterlow

|

A cathedral has formed an all-female choir for the first time in its 1,437 year history.

The 14 girls – aged from seven to 17 – are the first female singers to lead services at Bangor Cathedral in North Wales since it was established in the 6th Century.

Many cathedrals have traditionally always had all-male choirs but Archdeacon of Bangor, Paul Davies, said the institutions are now waking up to the fact ‘girls can sing as well as boys’.

Girl power: Bangor Cathedral in North Wales has an all-female choir for the first time in its 1,437 year history

Girl power: Bangor Cathedral in North Wales has an all-female choir for the first time in its 1,437 year history

Time for equality: The 14 girls - aged from seven to 17 - are the first female singers to lead services at the cathedral since it was established in the 6th century

Time for equality: The 14 girls – aged from seven to 17 – are the first female singers to lead services at the cathedral since it was established in the 6th century

He said: ‘There was a perception that the purest form of treble voice is that of a young boy. But slowly all cathedrals are realising that, actually, girls can sing as well as boys.’

Bangor Cathedral has broken its own ancient tradition going back to 575 AD of only allowing boys and men to sing this Christmas with their all-girl group.

The dean of Bangor, the Very Rev Dr Sue Jones, said the all-girls choir was her idea and she’s delighted it has now come into fruition.

She said: ‘I saw it as my mission to try and encourage and bring girls into the worshiping life of the cathedral.

‘There is a problem getting boys to join the cathedral choir. I think it’s not cool in society for boys to be part of a choral tradition.

‘After 1,437 years, this marks the beginning of a new part of our choral tradition here. It is a natural development that will help to ensure that both boys and girls will be in the choirs, which sing praises for many years to come.’

Choirs of men and boys have been singing in the cathedrals and chapels of Britain, almost without interruption, for more than a thousand years.

New chapter: As choir numbers were dwlindling because it wasn't seen as 'cool' for boys, allowing girls to take part could help prevent the tradition dying out

New chapter: As choir numbers were dwlndling because it wasn’t seen as ‘cool’ for boys, allowing girls to take part could help prevent the tradition dying out

In Britain more than 70 still sing regularly for worship – and that number could rise with the introduction of female choirs.

But director of the new all-girls choir Paul Booth said it would take a few years before the group rivalled the men’s choir.

He said: ‘This choir is in its infancy. It will take us a year or two to establish a repertoire and to make sure we know what we are doing.

‘But I think they will be absolutely brilliant and on an equal footing with any choir in the land.’

Fiona Coutts, 15, said the first all-girls choir was a big step in securing the cathedral’s choral tradition.

She said: ‘There has been quite a bit of pressure but things are moving with the times now. I think if we don’t have a girls choir the choral tradition might die out.’

The all-girls choir will sing at evensong in Bangor Cathedral every Monday during term time.

Girls allowed: The choir will sing at evensong in Bangor Cathedral every Monday during term time

Girls allowed: The choir will sing at evensong in Bangor Cathedral every Monday during term time

Breaking with tradition: Bangor Cathedral was established in the 6th century and has now opened its choir doors to women

Breaking with tradition: Bangor Cathedral was established in the 6th century and has now opened its choir doors to women

Susan George Melanie Griffith

COL BKB: UNLV 62, UTEP 60

Published: Dec. 17, 2012 at 10:31 PM

EL PASO, Texas, Dec. 17 (UPI) – Bryce Dejean-Jones and Anthony Marshall teamed up for 23 points Monday, hoisting 18th-ranked Nevada-Las Vegas to a 62-60 win over Texas-El Paso.

Dejean-Jones contributed 12 points and Marshall added 11 as the Runnin’ Rebels (9-1) recorded a seventh consecutive victory.

Also contributing in the win were Anthony Bennett and Katin Reinhardt, each of whom put in 10 points.

Miners (3-5) were paced by Julian Washburn with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Also reaching double figures for UTEP was Konner Tucker with 12 points in his first game of the season.

Alexis Bledel Sienna Miller

CORRECTION: Researchers say form of Ecstasy may heal combat trauma

[Corrects story posted Dec 5, 2012 as 20121205elin013. In 10th paragraph, corrects title of professor; in 11th paragragh, corrects percentage of patients who benefited to at least 74 percent from more than 80 percent.]

CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – A South Carolina psychiatrist and his wife, a nurse, have taken an uncommon, controversial approach to helping war veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder by treating them with MDMA, a pure form of the party drug known as Ecstasy.

Their studies have found that the psychoactive stimulant decreases fear and defensiveness while increasing trust in those who take it as part of a therapy program, say Dr. Michael Mithoefer and Ann Mithoefer.

The MDMA-assisted therapy could eventually provide relief for thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who suffer from combat trauma, the Mithoefers say, noting that nearly 300 military personnel from around the country have contacted them seeking help.

Though concerns may arise about creating drug dependence or abuse by administering a tightly controlled substance, Dr. Mithoefer said he hasn’t seen that problem. The couple’s use of MDMA in studies has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, he said.

MDMA “does cause some euphoria. But for people with PTSD, it can be pretty intense anxiety as well,” he said. “You need to have the support there. This is not a take-home medicine.”

Not everyone is convinced the benefits outweigh the potential dangers.

Ron Acierno, director of the PTSD clinical team at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, said the Mithoefers’ results were interesting, but he remains skeptical of the treatment.

“I don’t think any VA is going to touch this with a 10-foot pole because of the type of drug it is,” Acierno said. “It’s hard to switch conceptual gears that it might actually be very useful for a relatively common emotional disorder.”

“Because the abuse potential is high, we have to be very careful about it,” he said.

SHIFTING CONSCIOUSNESS

Dr. Mithoefer, an assistant professor in the Medical University of South Carolina’s department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, said he has long been interested in experiential techniques that help patients shift their consciousness to revisit their traumas.

He developed the protocol for MDMA-assisted therapy in 2001 and published the first completed study of its effect on patients with trauma in 2010. He found that after two months of treatment, at least 74 percent of the patients, including rape victims and a veteran, no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis.

A follow-up review of those patients, published last month in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, showed more than 80 percent of them still had lasting benefits 3-1/2 years after treatment.

The Mithoefers currently are treating 24 veterans, firefighters, police officers or victims of military sexual trauma who have chronic PTSD that hasn’t been helped by other kinds of treatment. This three-year study will be completed in 2014.

The participants travel to Dr. Mithoefer’s private practice in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, for treatment over a period of five to eight months. After being screened to eliminate anyone with cardiovascular problems or a psychotic disorder, patients are given a series of doses of MDMA.

The Mithoefers are both present for the eight-hour drug-assisted sessions, which include therapy and support. The patients also participate in therapy before, in-between and after the medication sessions, they said.

Those who suffer from PTSD often can’t sleep, have nightmares, isolate themselves emotionally and avoid “anything that reminds them of Iraq,” including crowds, fireworks or overpasses, Ann Mithoefer said.

The use of MDMA seems to help the brain learn to process traumatic memories without becoming overwhelmed by emotion or fear, Dr. Mithoefer said.

“People have said things like, ‘It’s changed my relationship to my emotions,’” he said. “They realize, ‘I don’t have to be so afraid of the fear anymore.’”

Other studies that might include veterans are pending in Colorado and Canada and are being planned in the United Kingdom, Israel and Australia, said Brad Burge, a spokesman for the nonprofit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which funds the research efforts.

The Santa Cruz, California-based organization said the pure MDMA used in treatment is different from Ecstasy, which often contains other harmful substances. Ecstasy’s recreational use has caused deaths from heat exhaustion or over-hydration, Dr. Mithoefer said.

Medical use of recreational drugs has been taboo since the 1960s, but the nonprofit is investing $10 million over 15 years in an effort to win FDA approval for MDMA as a prescription medicine in the United States.

“The taboos are lifting, and people are getting practical about science,” Dr. Mithoefer said. “If we took away everything in medicine that is being abused outside of medicine, we wouldn’t have too much left.”

Roland Griffiths, a professor in the psychiatry and neuroscience departments at Johns Hopkins University, called the Mithoefers’ research “groundbreaking.”

“It’s a potentially important, new application of use for a set of compounds that have not been available for clinical research for decades now,” Griffiths said. “PTSD is an awful, awful disease … I don’t think we should stick our heads in the sand.”

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/WJSlBm Journal of Psychopharmacology, online November 20, 2012.

Jacinta Stapleton Portia De Rossi

Greyhound crashes in British Columbia

Published: Dec. 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

MERRITT, British Columbia, Dec. 17 (UPI) – A Greyhound coach bus crashed on a highway in Canada’s British Columbia province, officials said, adding that no one was seriously injured in the incident.

The crash happened on the Coquihalla Highway north of Merritt early Sunday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

“At one o’clock a.m., it was reported an incident took place with one of our coaches,” said Timothy Stokes, a spokesperson for Greyhound. “There were approximately 42 people on board at the time. No serious injuries reported. As recommended by the RCMP, we did transport those 42 passengers on a second bus to the hospital as a precaution.”

Stokes said it was unclear exactly how many passengers were injured.

source Amanda Doherty

Lundbeck’s alcohol dependency drug wins EU green light

A customer takes a bottle of vodka from a shelf at a Russian supermarket in Benidorm, November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Heino Kalis

A customer takes a bottle of vodka from a shelf at a Russian supermarket in Benidorm, November 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Heino Kalis

LONDON | Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:04pm EST

(Reuters) – A novel drug to fight alcohol dependency was given a green light by European regulators on Friday, providing a boost to Danish drugmaker Lundbeck at a time when its top product faces a big drop in sales.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday it recommended approval of Selincro in conjunction with counseling for the reduction of alcohol consumption in adults dependent on drink.

Recommendations from the EMA are normally endorsed by the European Commission within two or three months, implying the drug could be launched in Europe early next year.

That is good news for Lundbeck, which needs new drugs to replace lost sales from antidepressant Cipralex, sold as Lexapro in the United States and Japan, which is now coming off patent.

Alcohol abuse is theoretically a vast market, although it is unclear whether doctors will be ready to prescribe a drug as a treatment and whether Lundbeck has the marketing muscle to make a big impact.

Lundbeck Chief Executive Ulf Wiinberg told Reuters last week that Selincro was “a bit of a joker in our portfolio” because of uncertainty as to how it will be used in practice.

The drug, which blocks the action of opioid receptors in the brain, was licensed to Lundbeck from Finland’s Biotie Therapies and shares in Biotie jumped as much as 16 percent on the news, while Lundbeck rose around 1 percent.

“Clearly, the news is a much-needed boost to sentiment for the (Lundbeck) shares,” said Deutsche Bank analyst Tim Race.

“However, we suspect the market will refrain from pricing-in significant upside from the drug given uncertainties in reimbursement and Lundbeck’s ability to penetrate this market without a major partner.”

Race said current consensus forecasts suggested modest sales of 540 million Danish crowns ($95 million) in 2016.

More important for Lundbeck will be the verdict from regulators in North America and Europe late next year on a new antidepressant being developed with Japanese partner Takeda Pharmaceutical that analysts see as a potential $1-2 billion-a-year seller.

Developing new treatments for depression has proved an uphill battle for drugmakers in recent times but vortioxetine has produced encouraging clinical trial results and its unique mode of action and flexible dosing could make it a winner.

Another approval prospect for next year is Abilify Maintena, a once-monthly version of schizophrenia drug Abilify that Lundbeck is working on with Otsuka.

Further out, Lundbeck is also developing a drug for the symptoms of Alzheimer’s that will be ready to go into final-stage clinical testing next year and could be partnered with a larger drug company.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Chris Wickham and Mark Potter)

Emma Watson Valeria Golino

Don’t Miss Ulta’s Biggest Cyber Monday Ever!

$10 off $50 Ulta.com purchase! Use coupon code 85277, exclusions apply.

$20 off $100 Ulta.com purchase! Use coupon code 82293, exclusions apply.

Susan George Melanie Griffith

Russian parliament votes for public smoking ban

Local residents meet during sunset, with the Metallurgical Plant seen in the background, in the Southern Urals city of Magnitogorsk, July 13, 2012. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

Local residents meet during sunset, with the Metallurgical Plant seen in the background, in the Southern Urals city of Magnitogorsk, July 13, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin

MOSCOW | Fri Dec 14, 2012 11:02am EST

(Reuters) – Russia took a step towards clamping down on the tobacco industry on Friday as a bill to ban smoking in public spaces and to restrict tobacco sales sailed through its first reading in parliament.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has said that 44 million Russians, nearly one in three, are hooked on smoking, and almost 400,000 die every year of smoking-related causes.

Under the draft legislation tobacco advertising will be outlawed and smoking in public places such as restaurants, bars and hotels will be phased out. It will also ban kiosks and outlets in stations from selling cigarettes, much to the consternation of the kiosk owners who say they could be put out of business.

Deputies in the Russian Duma, the country’s lower house of parliament, voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill at its first reading, with 429 votes in favor and two abstentions.

Deputy Health Minister Sergei Velmyaikin said in the Duma that the purpose of the bill was not to reduce the number of smokers, but to prevent that number growing.

Foreign tobacco firms, including British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Japan Tobacco, and Philip Morris, control more than 90 percent of Russian sales and have been lobbying to soften the proposed legislation.

Russia is the largest tobacco market after China. The cigarette market was estimated at be worth around $22 billion in 2011 by Euromonitor International.

Lawmakers had initially thought that the legislation might come into force early next year but following delays the second reading is not now expected until spring 2013. If passed, the restrictions will be phased in and are expected to be fully in force by 2016.

Russia’s Finance Ministry has previously announced plans to increase the excise duty on tobacco by around 40 percent for 2013 and 2014, and by 10 percent a year after 2015. The Health Ministry supports a greater increase in duty.

(Additional reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Natalia Ishchenko; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

Alyssa Milano Emma Watson

Girl, 8, with face tumour the size of a football to have life-saving surgery before it strangles her

  • Trinny suffers from a severe form of bone disease called Fibrous dysplasia
  • The tumour is benign but has grown so quickly it has blinded her in one eye and threatens to strangle her if no action is taken
  • Mother has praised her daughter who has bravely dealt with condition for half her lifetime

By Claire Bates

|

An eight-year-old girl with a football-sized facial tumour is to have pioneering surgery before it strangles her.

The rare growth first appeared when Trinny Amuhirwe was four-and-a-half, and she twice underwent surgery in her home country of Uganda to remove it.

However, each time the bone tumour has grown back more quickly and it now weighs 4.4lbs.

Scroll down for video

Trinny (aged three months left) has had two operations to tackle her facial tumour. She is pictured (right) after her second operation in September 2011 in Uganda

Since then Trinny has lost sight in one eye due to the swelling and her teeth are being pushed out of place.

THE RARE DISORDER THAT REPLACES BONE WITH SCAR TISSUE

Fibrous dysplasia is a rare bone disease that destroys and replaces normal bone with fibrous (scar-like) tissue.

As the bone grows, the softer, fibrous tissue expands, weakening the bone and making it more prone to fractures.

One or more bones can be affected and it can vary in severity.

Mild cases usually cause no signs or symptoms and develops during the teens.

More-serious cases of fibrous dysplasia may result in bone pain and deformity and are more common in under-10s.

There is no cure for fibrous dysplasia. Treatment focuses on treating signs and symptoms.

The bone lesions may stop when the child reaches puberty.

NIH/Mayo Clinic

Now she will undergo a pioneering surgery at the Cromwell Hospital in London. British experts will attempt to remove all of the benign tumour using the latest technology before reconstructing her face.

The 15-hour operation was made possible by UK charity Facing the World, who flew Trinny and her mother Sarah, 30, from Uganda to the UK for treatment.

Graham Banton, director of Facing the World, said: ‘This is a massive operation undertaken by some of the best surgeons in the world.

‘We hope to be able to remove all the infected bone tissue which will save Trinny’s life and give her back her sight.

‘Using advanced diagnostic and mapping techniques our doctors were able to pinpoint precisely the size and depth of the tumour.

‘Without treatment there would be no hope for Trinny, but thanks to the generosity of our patrons and the expertise of our surgeons, she has a chance.’

Trinny has Fibrous dysplasia – a bone disease that destroys and replaces normal bone with fibrous bone tissue.

Mrs Amuhirwe says over the years she has watched her daughter’s face become almost unrecognisible.

Trinny stands outside Buckingham Palace in London. She flew to London with her mother for surgery thanks to the charity Facing the World

Trinny stands outside Buckingham Palace in London. She flew to London with her mother for surgery thanks to the charity Facing the World

 Trinny Amuhirwe and Sarah

Trinny Amuhirwe and Sarah

The mother-of-three said: ‘In the beginning it was like a small piece of bone sticking out of her face.

‘I thought it would eventually disappear – but it continued to grow. After the first operation the tumour grew back in just two months.

‘Since then it’s taken over her face. I can’t bear to see her like this but she’s been so brave about it.’

Following surgery the schoolgirl will be sedated and moved into intensive care – estimated to cost around £65,000.

All surgeons involved are giving their time free of charge and Facing the World are paying for all of Trinny and Sarah’s living cost – but are entirely dependent on public donations.

Each year Facing the World help up to eight children with extreme facial disfigurements from all over the world. 

The charity was founded in 2002 by two craniofacial surgeons Martin Kelly and Norman Waterhouse after Mr Kelly met a young girl in need while volunteering in Afghanistan.

To donate visit www.facingtheworld.net

VIDEO: Girl with face tumour size of football comes to UK for life-saving surgery 

Argentinian Cheerleaders Gail Porter

Daylight savings tied to bump in heart attack rates

NEW YORK | Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:56pm EST

(Reuters Health) – Setting the clock ahead for daylight savings time may set the scene for a small increase in heart attacks the next day, according to a small new study that suggests sleep-deprivation might be to blame.

Researchers at two Michigan hospitals reviewed six years of records and found that they treated an average of 23 heart attacks on the Sunday Americans switched to daylight savings time. That compared to 13 on a typical Sunday.

“Nowadays, people are looking for how they can reduce their risk of heart disease and other ailments,” said Dr. Monica Jiddou, the study’s lead author and a cardiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

“Sleep is something that we can potentially control. There are plenty of studies that show sleep can affect a person’s health,” she added.

But one cardiologist not involved with the new study cautioned that people should be careful interpreting the findings.

“We haven’t generally thought that missing an hour of sleep causes heart attacks. This may or may not hold up,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, chair of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.

This is not the first study, however, to find a connection between semiannual time shifts and heart attack rates.

A 2008 Swedish report, for instance, found the chance of a heart attack increased in the first three weekdays after the switch to daylight savings time, and decreased the Monday after the clocks returned to standard time in the fall. (See Reuters Health article of October 30, 2008. reut.rs/Z6cSH2)

Jiddou told Reuters Health that her team, which published its findings in The American Journal of Cardiology, wanted to see if their respective hospitals experienced the same increase and decrease in heart attacks seen in the Swedish study.

For the new work, she and her colleagues reviewed records for the 328 patients who were diagnosed with a heart attack during the week after a time change between 2006 and 2012, and for the 607 heart attack patients who were treated two weeks before and after the time shifts.

They found that except for the small increase on the Sunday that daylight savings time kicked in, there were no significant differences in heart attack rates in the first week after the spring clock change or in the fall, when people set clocks back. The authors note, however, that the small trends they observed suggest shifts to and from daylight savings time may be linked with small increases in heart attacks in the spring, and small decreases in the fall.

They speculate that sleep-deprivation resulting from the time changes could raise levels of stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals just enough to trigger a heart attack, especially in those already at high risk.

Though the slight increase in heart attacks in the days following time shifts were so small they could have been due to chance, Jiddou told Reuters Health that she believes the problem was the size of the study population.

“(The findings) weren’t significant, but I think a lot of that is just because we didn’t have the numbers,” Jiddou.

“The numbers aren’t necessarily striking, but the trends make you stop and think,” she added.

Nissen told Reuters Health that the study looks at a good question and that he applauds the researchers’ efforts, but stressed the limitations of the results.

“Whenever you do this type of study you worry whether it’s by chance or not,” he said. “The size of the effect is not huge even though I realize the data on the first day seems worse.”

Jiddou said she doesn’t think the average person should be overly concerned, “but I think it’s something that they should be aware of.”

SOURCE: bit.ly/W391bW The American Journal of Cardiology, online December 10, 2012.

Paula Jones Josie Bissett

My Beauty Purchases

My recent beauty purchases:

Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer SPF 15 With Dermaxyl Complex SPF 15 With Dermaxyl Complex
I use this primer everyday!  It creates the perfect canvas for foundation application, while helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and pores for visibly softer skin.  Love it!

Yves Saint Laurent ROUGE PUR COUTURE Glossy Stain 5 Rouge Vintage
This is a new product I’m trying.  It claims that is coat your lips with this lip color that offers a lightweight texture, which immediately melts onto lips. Glossy Stain delivers intense glossy color for an extremely long-lasting shine.  So far so good.

Cle de Peau Beaute Concealer Ocher
There’s a reason why it continues to win “Best Concealer!” Moisturizing and blends perfectly to conceal dark circles, spots and imperfections.  It’s worth the premium price.

NARS Blush Orgasm
This is a staple in my beauty routine, a classic blush.

Smashbox Brow Tech
I love the angled, long-wearing waterproof gel pencil for easy filling and defining along with a brow brush applicator to groom brows perfectly into place.  No need for sharpening!

Sarah Ryan Kristen Wiig