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The Balloonist

By MacDonald Harris and Philip Pullman

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Tag: Medicine


Birth Control Recall: Pfizer Warns of Unintended Pregnancies

The pharmaceutical manufacturer says the million packets of mis-packaged birth control pills it is recalling won’t harm women’s health, but it acknowledges that they could fail to prevent users from becoming pregnant.

Posted on Feb 1, 2012 READ MORE

Alejandro Forero Cuervo (CC-BY)

California Medical Assn. Says Pot Should Be Legal

With the Obama administration threatening to seize medicinal marijuana dispensaries in the state, the California Medical Association voted Friday to support the decriminalization of marijuana. The association, the state’s largest physician organization, originally opposed California’s 15-year-old medical marijuana initiative. (more)

Posted on Oct 17, 2011 READ MORE

U.S. Deliberately Infected Guatemalans With Sexually Transmitted Diseases

The United States conducted experiments on unsuspecting Guatemalans in the 1940s in order to test the effectiveness of penicillin on STDs. According to the BBC, “some 1,300 prisoners, psychiatric patients and sex workers were deliberately infected with syphilis, gonorrhea” and other diseases. (more)

Posted on Sep 1, 2011 READ MORE

Fitsum Belay (CC-BY-ND)

Get Ready for Medicinal MDMA

A team of scientists in Britain is championing the cancer-fighting properties of Ecstasy, the touchy-feely party drug that makes you feel great whether or not it’s punching holes in your brain.

Posted on Aug 21, 2011 READ MORE

Circumcision Gadget Is Easier and Safer, but Does It Hurt?

It has been shown that heterosexual men are significantly less likely to spread HIV when they are circumcised. Rwanda hopes to circumcise 2 million men across the spectrum of ages using a new device that promises to be cheaper, safer and easier than alternatives.

Posted on Aug 7, 2011 READ MORE

Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

The Body Baggers of Iraq

On this week’s episode of Truthdig radio in collaboration with KPFK: Unconstitutionally crowded prisons, battlefield medicine, a very special segment on the Marines who collect their dead in Iraq, and just a little bit of Jesus. Plus: Reese Erlich reports from Egypt.

Posted on Jun 15, 2011 READ MORE

The Body Baggers of Iraq

On this week’s episode of Truthdig Radio in collaboration with KPFK: Unconstitutionally crowded prisons, battlefield medicine, a very special segment on the Marines who collect their dead in Iraq, and just a little bit of Jesus. Plus: Reese Erlich reports from Egypt. Update: Full transcript.

Posted on Jun 15, 2011 READ MORE

Vintage Collective (CC-BY)

Scientists Find the ‘Holy Grail of Heart Research’

Researchers in the U.K. have found a way to make the hearts of mice repair themselves—a feat that the British Heart Foundation calls the “holy grail” (when applied to humans, we’re guessing). (more)

Posted on Jun 8, 2011 READ MORE

Wikimedia Commons / Halebtsi

R.I.P., Dr. Death

Dr. Jack Kevorkian, crusading physician for the cause of assisted suicide, died Friday in a hospital in his home state of Michigan. It was, relatively speaking, a natural death for the 83-year-old, who had been suffering from heart and kidney troubles in recent weeks.

Posted on Jun 3, 2011 READ MORE

Japan Killing 410,000 Chickens Over Bird Flu Fears

Japanese authorities aren’t waiting for test results, although it will take days to cull the animals. A strain of flu was identified at a poultry farm, prompting a series of safety precautions.

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 READ MORE

Getting High on Bath Salts

Apparently America’s latest drug craze is a chemical powder that is marketed as bath salt. AP reports the horrific story of one man who abused the substance and then attacked himself with a skinning knife. A quick Google search tells us this might not be the widespread phenomenon AP suggests, but we’ll keep our ears open.

Posted on Jan 25, 2011 READ MORE

Flickr / .candy (CC-BY-SA)

Aspirin: Cancer-Fighting Wonder Drug?

Aspirin has been touted as a potential heart helper, and Tuesday, the British medical journal The Lancet released some evidence that the humble analgesic might also reduce the risk of dying from various forms of cancer, and by an impressive percentage in some cases.

Posted on Dec 7, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / Sarah C (CC-BY-ND)

Health Care Bill Might Make ‘the Pill’ Free

Catholic groups are less than thrilled at the prospect that Uncle Sam might get into the contraception business. Nonetheless, a panel set to convene this month could decide that preventing unwanted pregnancies qualifies as the kind of complementary preventive care for women required by Obamacare.

Posted on Nov 1, 2010 READ MORE

Centers for Disease Control / Dr. G. William Gary Jr.

Cold Virus Linked to Childhood Obesity

It could be that obese kids are just likelier to catch colds, but research suggests that adenovirus 36 may actually be rewriting fat cells in children, causing them to gain more weight.

Posted on Sep 20, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / sirtrentalot (CC-BY-ND)

Heavy Drinkers Live Longer Than Nondrinkers

A study has found that people who drink a lot of alcohol tend to live longer than people who never touch the stuff. So much for not burning the candle at both ends. But don’t go crashing that frat party just yet: People who drink in moderation, as in one to three drinks a day, live longest of all.

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 READ MORE

Wikimedia Commons / Bogdan

Chronic Pain? Pot May Do the Trick

This may seem like the results of a study by Professor Obvious, but a research team out of McGill University Health Center in Montreal has determined that smoking marijuana might help chronic pain sufferers manage their symptoms.

Posted on Aug 30, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / Sonja Pieper (CC-BY-SA)

Drink Up, Ladies

There are three kinds of studies we hear about. (1) Something incredibly obvious turns out to be true. (2) Something you like is good for you. (3) Something you like is bad for you. Obviously we prefer No. 2s, like this study out of Norway that says drinking wine—especially if you’re a woman—might make you smarter.

Posted on Aug 18, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / notsogoodphotography (CC-BY)

HIV-Positive Pop Star Could Go to Prison

Twenty-eight-year-old German singer Nadja Benaissa faces prison time for allegedly having unprotected sex with multiple partners without informing them that she has the virus that causes AIDS.

Posted on Aug 16, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / jepoirrier (CC-BY-SA)

Breakthrough Test for Alzheimer’s

Researchers say they have developed a 100 percent accurate spinal tap test for the brain disease. Brain scans, too, have become a potentially important tool in diagnosing the disease. The new tests are significant because Alzheimer’s can begin more than a decade before symptoms show up and because there is hope that new drugs could be effective.

Posted on Aug 10, 2010 READ MORE

Full Face Transplant Recipient

Spanish doctors say they are ready to release “Oscar,” the recipient of the first 100 percent face transplant. Previous transplants in France and the United States were only partial. Warning: This video might disturb some viewers.

Posted on Jul 26, 2010 READ MORE

Why We Can’t Just ‘Look Forward’

The years of detainee abuse and constitutional violations cannot be dismissed so easily, because the past is still with us—and so are the dangers that drew America’s leaders toward the dark side.

Posted on Jun 9, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / JosephLenoardo (CC-BY-SA)

Marijuana Delivery Services Evade Bans on Dispensaries

A flourishing and unregulated industry of pot delivery services is circumventing bans on storefront dispensaries and bringing medical marijuana directly to homes, offices and more unconventional locations across California, records and interviews show.

Posted on Jun 6, 2010 READ MORE

Wikimedia Commons

A One-Shot Treatment for Breast Cancer

British researchers have demonstrated that a single, targeted dose of radiation in treating breast cancer can be just as effective as the prolonged course of radiotherapy that is commonly used to treat the disease.

Posted on Jun 6, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Another Reason to Lay Off the Cocaine

Although it has enjoyed a seemingly unrelenting resurgence since, say, the late ’90s, cocaine could fall from druggie glory if more people were hip to one particularly distressing potential side effect ... (continued)

Posted on Jun 1, 2010 READ MORE

book cover

Tony Platt on Rebecca Skloot’s Life of Henrietta Lacks

The strange and disturbing story of racist medical ethics and the “benevolent deception” practiced on a nearly forgotten woman who inadvertently continues to live posthumously.

Posted on Apr 9, 2010 READ MORE

Centers for Disease Control

Can Seeing an Illness Protect You From It?

Researchers in Canada showed young adults photos of obviously diseased people and found that the subjects’ immune systems were significantly more aggressive when later exposed to a glop of bacteria. Test subjects got a negligible boost from similarly upsetting, but not disease-y, images.

Posted on Apr 5, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / jpctalbot

Flea Remedies Kill Too Many Pets, EPA Warns

The Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on topical flea treatments after reports of injured pets surged 65 percent in 2008. The agency said Wednesday that it had received complaints of 44,263 injured pets and about 600 deaths for that year.

Posted on Mar 17, 2010 READ MORE

Let the Haitians In

Haitians need to be allowed into the United States, legally, compassionately and immediately. I visited hospitals and clinics in Port-au-Prince, with thousands of people waiting for care, and amputations happening with ibuprofen or Motrin, if patients were lucky.

Posted on Jan 26, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / joey.parsons

High Blood Pressure Linked to Dementia

Before we scare you, keep in mind that if everyone in America who experienced high blood pressure—that’s about a third of us—got dementia, you would know about it. However, new research suggests that the relationship between hypertension and dementia is more pronounced and alarming than doctors previously understood ... (continued)

Posted on Jan 25, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / jwillier2 (CC-BY-ND)

That Weekend Rest Isn’t Helping

Our culture tends to reward multitasking, sleep-deprived go-getters, but a new study confirms that catching up on sleep over the weekend just doesn’t work. After weeks of less than seven to nine hours a night, “banking” a long stretch on your days off isn’t going to repair your memory, immune system or ability to drive a car. (Continued)

Posted on Jan 13, 2010 READ MORE

U.S. Ends AIDS Immigration Discrimination

For 22 years, people with HIV and AIDS have been banned from entering the U.S. It’s pretty difficult to throw a global AIDS conference under such circumstances, which is why the policy is coming to an end.

Posted on Jan 3, 2010 READ MORE

Flickr / Rosser321

Uninsured Twice as Likely to Die in ER

A new Harvard study has uncovered another disturbing reality of America’s broken health care system: Trauma patients without insurance are almost twice as likely to die in the emergency room. Researchers were unable to determine why, but hospitals’ eagerness to transfer the uninsured could be to blame.

Posted on Nov 16, 2009 READ MORE


Posted on Oct 25, 2009 READ MORE


Boom Times for Pot Growers

The lousy economy has driven some Californians into the marijuana industry, which is doing a lot better than, say, construction. According to this Miller-McCune profile, California will grow an estimated $15 billion worth of weed in 2009, a good portion of it in the backyards and basements of amateurs and newcomers.

Posted on Oct 20, 2009 READ MORE

Flickr / TheTruthAbout

High Times for States’ Rights

The Justice Department is officially going to quit harshing the mellow of the 13 states that have medical marijuana laws on the books. Dispensaries and patients will no longer have to worry about federal raids—unless they’re “drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law.”

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 READ MORE

Keith Olbermann: Saving American Lives

The “Countdown” host, having just emerged from a personal encounter with the system, pulls out all the stops for a special hour-long comment on the need for health care reform.

Posted on Oct 7, 2009 READ MORE

football players
Flickr / SteelCityHobbies

NFL Players Give Away Their Brains

Recent autopsies on the brains of former football players showed that concussions cause a lot more brain damage than previously suspected. To contribute to a better understanding of the problem, three current and 40 retired NFL players have agreed to donate their brains to a program at Boston University.

Posted on Sep 14, 2009 READ MORE

We’ve Seen This Trigger Before

The “trigger mechanism” is gaining momentum after President Obama’s speech to Congress. Once again, lawmakers turn to legislative subterfuge to kill popular common-sense reform.

Posted on Sep 10, 2009 READ MORE

From ‘Do No Harm’ to Torture

A new report by Physicians for Human Rights reaches a sickening but inescapable conclusion: “Health professionals played central roles in developing, implementing and providing justification for torture.”

Posted on Sep 3, 2009 READ MORE

Flickr / The Pug Father

Marines Practice Battlefield Medicine on Live Pigs

The L.A. Times sets the scene: “Two enlisted Marines are kneeling on the ground, quickly stuffing gauze into a gaping wound in a pig’s belly to stop the bleeding. ... An officer, just inches from its snout, monitors its breathing and keeps the pig’s thick tongue from blocking the airway. At the other end of the 150-pound swine, a Marine corporal has inserted a thermometer into its anus.”

Posted on Aug 10, 2009 READ MORE

What Really Causes Autism? Thousands of Parents Still Blame Vaccines

Tens of thousands of parents are refusing to accept the medical research that shows little correlation between vaccines and autism and are taking on the medical establishment.

Posted on Jul 22, 2009 READ MORE

Man or Mouse

Posted on Jul 12, 2009 READ MORE    

Original: Flickr / be_khe

Coffee Cure for Alzheimer’s?

Tell this to the next nudnik who gives you a hard time for sucking down a cup of joe: A study of mice suggests that coffee could reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s and prevent the onset of dementia. Old mice that consumed the equivalent of five cups of coffee a day showed improved cognitive function, and some young mice, when properly juiced, managed to avoid the disease altogether.

Posted on Jul 6, 2009 READ MORE

A Doctor in the House

When it comes to the problem of health care costs, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t just do what I do, which is to have a sister who is a doctor.

Posted on Jul 3, 2009 READ MORE

Flickr / TheGiantVermin

FDA Experts Recommend Pain Drug Ban

The Food and Drug Administration’s expert panel has recommended the agency ban Vicodin and Percocet. Both drugs contain acetaminophen, which is known to cause liver damage. The panel also recommended reducing the standard doses of over-the-counter acetaminophen products, such as Tylenol.

Posted on Jul 1, 2009 READ MORE

AP photo / Esteban Felix

Health Care Reform by Medicare Expansion

The best way to achieve universal health care in the U.S. is by expanding the popular and effective federal Medicare program. This restructuring would gradually extend benefits, first to the most needy and eventually to the entire population.

Posted on Jun 20, 2009 READ MORE

Flickr / leafbug

Childhood Diabetes on the Rise in Europe

A new study suggests that the number of children in Europe diagnosed with diabetes will double by 2020. After examining tens of thousands of cases, researchers said the cause of the increase remains largely unknown.

Posted on May 28, 2009 READ MORE

Flickr / kwerfeldein

Doctors Issue Cola Warning

Forget about cavities. Doctors report in the International Journal of Clinical Practice that excessive cola drinking can cause paralysis and a host of other serious health problems. Extreme symptoms were suffered by people who drank as much as three liters of cola a day. That kind of soda binging is becoming less rare, says one doctor.

Posted on May 25, 2009 READ MORE

Putting the ‘Care’ in Health Care

Sadly, we have developed a system that rewards procedures over primary care. The incentives tip toward the kind of medicine that is performed with hands, tools and technology over the medicine that is practiced with eyes, ears and mind.

Posted on Apr 2, 2009 READ MORE

Now It’s Personal

The last thing the surgeon said to me before they rolled me into the operating room was, “You know, if you and Obama had your way with health care, it wouldn’t be me doing this operation. It would just be some guy.”

Posted on Mar 16, 2009 READ MORE

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