Weekend Roundup: China Bares Its Teeth

China’s reformist leader Deng Xiaoping famously counseled that his nation should “hide its strength and bide its time” as it grew to the top ranks of the global economy. President Xi Jinping has taken a different course. He is seizing the moment and baring China’s teeth.

Not unlike Ronald Reagan who declared in the 1980s that “America is back — standing tall,” Xi is signaling that the Middle Kingdom has returned and finally straightened its spine after being bent over by national humiliation going back to the Opium War, Western colonialism and Japanese occupation.

Xi’s stance was on display for all the world to see in the vast military spectacle on Tiananmen Square this week marking the 70th anniversary of the Allied defeat of Japan in World War II. That President Xi appeared alongside Vladimir Putin — with no prominent Western leaders from the U.S., Europe or Japan in attendance — was not only reminiscent of the Cold War, but a worrying premonition that the world once again risks dividing up into geopolitical blocs.

Writing from Beijing, Qin Xiaoying argues that “Western indifference” to China’s commemoration “is a foolish mistake” that only convinces the Chinese that the U.S. is out to contain China’s rise. The PLA Academy’s Ma Jun says China’s unprecedented military parade was an “act of transparency.” Looking on from Seoul, Key-young Son cites editor Andreas Herberg-Rothe and argues “that any future war in Asia. . . will not be a war of conflicting interests, but ‘a cultural war for mutual recognition.’ From Hong Kong, Lawrence J. Lau says there have been enough apologies from Japan and what is needed now is simply to tell the truth about what —> Read More

Doctors Play A Role In The Opioid Addiction Epidemic, Study Finds

We know how opioid addictions end: all too often, in death by overdose. About 16,000 Americans every year die of an overdose of opioid painkillers, such as oxycodone or fentanyl, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

We know less about how opioid addictions start. It’s much harder to find and study people who start taking too many pills than it is to count dead bodies. But it’s becoming clear that the opioid addictions, which have ruined millions of lives over the past decade, rarely begin the way you might imagine a life-ruining addiction begins — on some gang-ridden street corner.

Many start with an innocuous visit to the doctor’s office.

To begin to figure out how many, a team at the Mayo Clinic, led by pain specialist Dr. W. Michael Hooten, analyzed the medical records of 293 patients given a short-term prescription for opiates for the first time in 2009. These patients were being treated for acute pain — from traumas such as sprained ankles or major surgeries — so their doctors did not expect them to become long-term users of painkillers.

Yet just over 1 in 4 of these patients went on to use opioid painkillers for longer than 90 days, researchers found. A quarter of this subset engaged in so-called long-term use, defined as receiving at least 120 days’ worth of pills or more than 10 separate prescriptions.

It’s not yet clear how many of these patients developed an opioid addiction, Hooten said. (He’s planning on conducting further research in an effort to find out.) Past research has indicated that the “long-term” use category seems to be a key threshold for dependence: a large share of patients who take more than 120 days’ worth of opioids for longer than —> Read More

Get Ready for More Pluto Pics from New Horizons

One of the last images sent by New Horizons since its flyby, but that's about to change. Here, backlit by the Sun, Pluto's atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo. Image was taken about midnight EDT on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Pluto and shows structures as small as 12 miles across. The image, delivered to Earth on July 23, is displayed with north at the top of the frame.  Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

One of the last images sent by New Horizons since its flyby, but that’s about to change. Here, backlit by the sun, Pluto’s atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo in this image taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft around midnight EDT on July 15. This global portrait of the atmosphere was captured when the spacecraft was about 1.25 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Pluto and shows structures as small as 12 miles across. The image, delivered to Earth on July 23, is displayed with north at the top of the frame. Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

If you thought the New Horizons spacecraft flyby of the Pluto system happened waaaay too fast and you’re pining for more images and data, you are in luck. What the spacecraft has been able to send back so far is just the tip of the icy dwarf planet, so to speak.

Starting tomorrow, Saturday, September 5, 2015, the spacecraft will begin an “intensive” downlink session that will last for a year or more, sending back the tens of gigabits of data the spacecraft collected and stored on its digital recorders during the flyby. What will come first are “selected high priority” data-sets that the science team has been anxiously waiting for.
Read the rest of Get Ready for More Pluto Pics from New Horizons (850 words)

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Samsung Wants Its New Device To Put You To Sleep

You shouldn’t bring your smartphone to bed, but Samsung has a new device it’s hoping you’ll snuggle up with.

The Korean electronics company on Thursday revealed a gadget called SleepSense that slides under your mattress and keeps track of your slumbering habits. It communicates with a smartphone app, and Samsung claims it will keep track of your heart rate, breathing and movement during sleep with 97 percent accuracy.

There are already quite a few products that do similar things. But SleepSense has a couple of interesting other features: The device will give you advice tailored by Dr. Christos Mantzoros, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and it also includes a handy function that lets you spy on the sleep habits of your loved ones.

You read that correctly. Samsung doesn’t refer to it as such in its press materials, but the device does have a dedicated function that lets you monitor the sleep habits of someone you care about. You can put it in your aging mom’s bed and use a built-in “family care” option to get updates about her sleep sent directly to your email. Or, flip the equation: A worried dad could put a SleepSense in his high school student’s bed to make sure the kid’s actually getting quality shut-eye.

SleepSense will also communicate with other “smart” devices in your home: It can turn your TV off when it learns that you’ve fallen asleep, for example. Not that you were looking at a sleep-wrecking screen before bedtime, of course.

A representative for Samsung did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post about the device’s release date and price. In the meantime, our very own Arianna Huffington has a few ideas about how you can get better sleep — <a target="_blank" href="http://parade.com/411133/parade/go-to-sleep-with-arianna-tips-for-getting-more-zzzs/" —> Read More

Neurological Diseases vs. the California Stem Cell Agency: Disease-a-Week Challenge #16


First, a seeming digression from the subject of chronic illness.

In my youth, I worked as an aquarium diver for Marine World Africa USA in Redwood City, California. Five days a week, I would swim down into the tanks full of wildlife, spending time with sharks, dolphins, eels, seals and other creatures of the sea.

The most beautiful tank was a million-gallon tropical fish display, with giant groupers big as cars and tiny cleaner fish that swam in and out of their mouths, and angelfish, surgeonfish, damselfish, wrasses, and more in this man-made reef.

But then one day, the fish began to die. One by one I carried them out, these fish I knew as individuals. Their colors faded, and they died. After three weeks, the tank was almost empty. We turned off the heaters and changed to a cold sea collection of local fish.

We never knew what killed that underwater neighborhood. But what if there had been one single solution, to save the lives of many?

There was. And in later years, I saw it happen.

Hold that thought.

Now. Consider neurodegenerative (nerve-destroying) diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). All incurable.

What if they had a common weakness: might a single medication defeat them all?

If you go to the California stem cell agency web page, www.cirm.ca.gov, and look up the project of Steven Finkbeiner of the Gladstone Institutes, you will find an amazing possibility.

First, the problem.

“A major medical problem… is the growing population of individuals with neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson’s and Huntington’s…These diseases affect millions of people, sometimes during the prime of their lives, and lead to total incapacitation and…death.”

Millions of people, incurably ill, with no expectation but suffering and death? That is about —> Read More

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