National / International News
Miles O’Brien, a science correspondent for PBS Newshour, had his arm amputated after he suffered an injury while he was on assignment last year.
“It was quite a fluke,” said O’Brien. “I had been on a reporting trip and a case fell on my arm. A bruise turned into something potentially life threatening.”
By the time he got to a doctor it was too late to save his arm. He now uses a prosthesis. But not all the time.
“There’s one that I use for bicycling, one that I use when I am driving,” said O’Brien. As for the day to day, he added, he’s learn to live with one arm.
That’s largely because the current technology hasn’t produced the ideal replacement yet.
“When you think about what your hand does for you, that’s a huge engineering challenge,” said O’Brien. “The challenge of replacing the human arm, and in particular the human hand, is tremendous.
But he’s optimistic because there’s been a lot of progress in related technologies, from batteries to sensors to computers that recognize patterns. The last, especially, has him most excited.
Computers, he explained, can now identify patterns in the remaining muscles in his stump. That means they know the patterns which signal that he wants to move his wrist or finger.
“And something that’s made of silicon, metal and and plastic would do my bidding,” said O’Brien.
The placebo effect has always been a bit of a mystery to science. Give patients a pill filled with sugar or in an injection of saline but tell them it's medicine, and a percentage of them will report feeling better.
A recent study in a handful of Parkinson's patients suggests you can boost the effects of the placebo even further by telling patients the drug costs a lot of money.
In the experiment by Alberto Espay and his colleagues at the University of Cincinnati, the patients received saline but were told they were testing the efficacy of two real drugs – one that cost $100, and another that cost 15 times as much.
“When they received the cheap formulation, they got better, but nowhere near those who received the expensive medication,” Espay says.
In fact, the people who thought they were getting the expensive drug did almost as well as when they were on a real drug. What the patients experienced was real, but it was entirely due to the placebo effect.
Espay believes that cost affects the placebo because so many of us believe that expensive things are better.
“We feel the more be pay, perhaps the more value we're getting,” he says. “And of course that isn't true.”
It isn’t true, unless we believe it is, explains George Newman, a professor of psychology at Yale School of Management whose research has demonstrated that the pleasure we get from objects is determined by what we believe about them.
For, example, if we believe we are drinking a $200 bottle of wine, it tastes better, and the regions of the brain devoted to pleasure light up more brightly than if we think it's a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck.
“What we're believing about the world, what we're imagining about the word directly effects how we experience things even very tangible things like the effectiveness of medication,” Newman says.
In this case, cost creates a bias in patient's expectations, says Ted Kaptchuk, director of the placebo studies program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. And that's not necessarily a bad thing.
“But it's a bias we want to utilize, we want to maximize,” Kaptchuk says. “We want to optimize in clinical practice.”
But before drug manufactures start raising prices in the name of science, Kaptchuk says there are plenty of ethical ways to raise patient expectations. And most of them, like improvements in listening and attentiveness by physicians, are free.
Political tensions are high around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to Congress Tuesday, but that shows no sign of impacting aid agreements between the U.S. and Israel.
In 2007, the Bush administration agreed to give Israel $30 billion in military aid over ten years. 75 percent of that money comes back to the U.S.—Israel uses it to buy weapons systems from American defense contractors.
“So it’s everything from Hellfire missiles to airplanes," says Haim Malka, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “U.S. aid to Israel accounts for about 20 percent of Israel’s total defense budget.”
The U.S. also gives Israel supplemental aid for things like its Iron Dome anti rocket system. And the U.S. allows tax breaks for donations and investment in Israel.
“U.S. funds invest in Israel, annually, roughly $1.5 billion,” says Avner Cohen, a professor of nonproliferation studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
The U.S. mainly gives Israel military aid. Non-military economic aid dried up as Israel’s economy grew.
That's how many pages of emails were turned over to the State Department by Hillary Clinton's aides in order to comply with new federal requirements. As the WSJ reports, Clinton's extensive use of a private email account goes against current rules that emails be archived on department servers as part of the Federal Records Act.-130.05 points
In a recent study on the efficiency of two drugs, patients were told the two cost $100 and $1500 respectively. The group treated with the more expensive drug saw much more improvement. The catch? Both medicines were placebos, with the only difference being the perceived price. In fact, the people who thought they were getting the expensive drug did almost as well as when they were on a real drug. What the patients experienced was real, but it was entirely due to the placebo effect.$100,000 per year
About half of West Coast union longshoremen make at least that much, and some make more than three times that. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union's power and influence was felt last month when a labor dispute that nearly shut down ports along the coast, and this week the LA Times is looking into how dockworker wages have remained so high.130,000
In 2008, the number of "non-domiciled" residents in the UK — that's citizens who can show their fathers were not born in the UK, or that they have a home elsewhere they plan to return to — surged to 130,000. That's because non-dom status also comes with an Edwardian-era tax break on foreign income, which has attracted the uber wealthy of Britain. As reported by the NY Times, the wake of the HSBC scandal in Switzerland has called the antiquated tax loophole into question.50 percent
The portion of Americans who think it's important the U.S. be number one economically, up from 39 percent in 2007. That's according to a new Gallup poll, which also showed that priority was slightly split along party lines. Republicans were more likely than Democrats to think economic supremacy was important.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to a joint meeting of Congress on Tuesday. The speech highlights differences between the U.S. and Israel on how to stop Iran from going nuclear.