Posts Tagged ‘suicide’

Muenster attacker was lone German with mental health problems – minister

April 8, 2018

Reuters

MUENSTER, Germany (Reuters) – The man who drove a camper van into a group of people sitting outside a restaurant in the German city of Muenster on Saturday acted alone and appears to have had mental health problems, the regional interior minister said on Sunday.

Germany terror Munster attack photosAFP/GETTY

Germany terror: Emergency crews descended on the historic city centre

The man killed two people when he ploughed the vehicle into people seated at tables outside the Grosser Kiepenkerl eatery, a popular destination for tourists in the old town of the university city in western Germany. He then shot himself dead.

“We now know it was in all likelihood a lone perpetrator, a German,” Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Muenster, told reporters.

“There are lots of indications the person in focus had (psychological) abnormalities. This must be carefully investigated,” he said after paying his respects to the victims with national Interior Minister Horst Seehofer and state premier Armin Laschet.

There was no evidence of any link to Islamist militancy and the suspect was not a refugee, Reul said.

Broadcaster ZDF said police were searching his apartment and that he had contact with far-right extremists, but there was no evidence thus far that he was a far-right extremist himself.

In Berlin in December 2016, a Tunisian whose request for asylum was turned down and who had links to Islamist militants hijacked a truck and ploughed into a crowded marketplace. Twelve people, including the man driving the truck when it was hijacked, were killed.

Police said on Sunday they were still investigating possible motives and forensic investigators were scouring the scene of the attack for clues.

Seehofer described the attack as a “cowardly and brutal crime”. He, Laschet and Reul laid flowers in central Muenster and paid their respects to the victims of the attack.

“We have again experienced that … absolute security is unfortunately not possible,” Seehofer said, adding that the government would do everything possible to protect citizens.

Police stands guard in a street near a place where a man drove a van into a group of people sitting outside a popular restaurant in the old city centre of Muenster, Germany, April 7, 2018. REUTERS/Leon Kuegeler

Police said the perpetrator was aged 48. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported in its online edition that he was Jens R., who resided some 2 km (1.2 miles) from the crime scene.

A 51-year-old woman from the Lueneburg area in northern Germany and a 65-year-old man from the Borken area near Muenster were killed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a statement she was “deeply shaken”. In the months prior to the Berlin assault, Germany suffered a number of small-scale Islamist militant attacks, which some linked to Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open the country’s borders to an influx of migrants, many of them refugees from conflicts in the Middle East.

Saturday’s attack in Muenster came a year to the day of a truck attack in Stockholm in which a suspected Islamist militant sympathizer links killed five people.

On Saturday evening, the White House issued a statement sending U.S. President Donald Trump’s “thoughts and prayers” to the families of those killed.

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted: “All my thoughts are with the victims of the attack in Muenster. France shares in Germany’s suffering”.

Writing by Paul Carrel; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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Eighty-six US teenagers have been killed by gun violence in the 50 days since Parkland, Florida school shooting

April 6, 2018

Gun epidemic: ‘There will be no national headlines, but we lost another teenager here last night’

By Clark Mindock New York
The Independent

At least 86 teenagers have been killed by bullets in America in the 50 days since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Taken together, the stories of the dead paint a tragic portrait of gun violence that threatens teenagers across the United States. Data detailing accidental discharges, domestic violence, robberies gone awry and a number of other events, appears random in its geography and the cultural class affected, but chillingly predictable in the volume year after year.

The deceased represent the every day victims of the gun epidemic. They are the ones that many of the Parkland kids are trying to draw America’s attention to. And, you may not have heard of any of them.

“There will be no national headlines, but we lost another teenager here last night,” South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg tweeted on February 18, hours after the shooting death of Daekwon Tobar, a 17-year-old, who was shot on the way home from the store with his grandmother, and who friends and family later described as a quiet boy just learning “how to be able to look a person in the eye. How to fill out a resume and a cover letter.”

Just hours before Daekwon’s death, the Parkland students had stood in front of a federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to rally against gun violence. One student, Emma Gonzalez, had tearfully declared “BS” on the politicians who she said say nothing can be done to stop the violence that had just visited her school.

“Locally we’re doing everything we can think of to stop gun violence. What will state and national leaders do to help?” Mr Buttigieg’s tweet continued.

The 86 number — determined through an analysis of data from the Gun Violence Archive, which aggregates local media reports on gun violence and therefore may under-represent the true number of deaths, by The Independent — shows that on average one-and-a-half teenagers were killed each day from the morning of February 14 through April 5, the 50 day mark. Just 14 days saw no reported teenager gun deaths, while 24 days saw two or more deaths, and 12 days saw one death.

Their names, and their stories, are too numerous to individually describe here, but they share a common theme. In many cases, the deaths came from family members, or fellow teenagers who happened to find a gun either illegally or unsecured in their homes.

Most cases appear to involve a handgun — not a semi-automatic rifle like the one used in Parkland, and which receives a lion’s share of media coverage — a fact consistent with general gun death statistics which indicate 65 per cent of gun deaths in the United States involve a hand gun, according to the FBI.

“The fact that children and teens continue to die by gun fire at the rates that they do is totally unacceptable, and underscores the need for action to stop these deaths,” Adam Skaggs, the chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, told The Independent.

“I think the conversation needs to recognise that, as horrific as they are, the types of crimes like the shooting in Parkland are not the real face of gun violence in this country,” Mr Skaggs continued. “The vast majority of people who die by gun fire are not killed in mass shootings, but they’re killed in everyday gun violence, they’re killed in domestic violence incidents, and they’re killed by suicide.”

Since the Parkland shooting, a flurry of laws have been passed at the state level across the United States to address the issue, while the federal government has largely refrained from legislating.

While President Donald Trump invited student survivors of that massacre to the White House for a listening session, and later appeared interested in pushing Congress to consider a host of issues including raising the age limit to buy guns, he later bowed to pressures from America’s gun lobby — including the National Rifle Association (NRA) — and settled on instructing his Justice Department to find a way to ban bump stocks that allow users to fire semi-automatic weapons at near-automatic rates.

The majority of changes to gun laws in the US have been at the state and local level. In Florida — a state known for lax gun restrictions — politicians defied the NRA to pass rare gun control and school safety bill in the state, allocating $400 million for school security. In Vermont, a state with virtually no gun laws, politicians pushed through a bill to raise the age to buy guns, implement mandatory background checks on private gun sales, and ban large capacity magazines. New York, which is already known for having some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, passed a law that would allow law enforcement to take guns from people convicted of domestic violence.

But, as those measures and others bounced around statehouses across the country, teenagers kept dying.

The deaths in the past 50 days include 15-year-old Kevin Robinson, who was shot in St Louis, Missouri, on February 22, the same day CNN held a town hall in Southern Florida in which Florida Senator Marco Rubio refused to say he would stop taking money from the NRA when challenged by Parkland survivor Cameron Kasky to do so. Within two hours of that programme ending, police found Kevin shot to death in his home alongside his mother and mother’s boyfriend. A 4-year-old was found pretending to be asleep in a nearby room.

They include the death of 17-year-old Carlos Morales, who was shot outside an Orlando home after getting into heated argument with a fellow teen on March 24; and the death of 19-year-old Billy Ray Robles, who was shot by a younger boy following an altercation on a party bus that same day. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators had taken to the streets that day in communities across the country for the March for Our Lives rally that was organised in response to the Parkland violence.

A  14-year-old Mississippi girl named Dijonae White was shot by her 9-year-old brother with their mother’s live-in boyfriend’s unsecured gun when she would not give up a video game controller when he asked. A 13-year-old and 17-year-old shot themselves in the head in their school bathrooms in Ohio and Missouri, respectively. Kaiden Vague, a boy with high functioning autism who frequented his local gun range in Santa Barbara, California shot himself at that same gun range on his 16th birthday.

The list goes on: A 16-year-old prospective high school football player was killed in Tennessee; a 16-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy shot themselves in the woods together in Ohio; a 15-year-old killed himself in a suburb of Phoenix while playing Russian Roulette with a stolen revolver.

A little over a week ago, 17-year-old Indiana boy William Garrett Sands arrived at a party in a friend’s basement. Nathan Derickson, 19, the host of the party, was house sitting for his parents who were out of town for the night, and the group thought it would be a fun time to get together without parents around.

Mr Derickson had grabbed a pistol from his mother’s nightstand in preparation for the event, saying later — as is often the argument for an individual owning a rifle is — that he thought it would help him in case an intruder came by.

But there was no intruder — just friends in a basement. After several people handled the gun, Mr Derickson picked it up and pointed it at William. He later said he thought it was unloaded when he pulled the trigger.

Just like that, William became another teenager to be killed by a gun since Valentine’s Day in America.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/parkland-shooting-us-teenagers-killed-gun-violence-florida-school-gun-control-nra-march-lives-a8290401.html

Woman behind YouTube HQ shooting identified

April 4, 2018

New York Post

 Image may contain: 1 person

The woman behind Tuesday’s shooting at YouTube headquarters is a vegan bodybuilder who used the video-sharing website regularly in years past — and once posted a clip claiming her content was being “discriminated and filtered,” a report says.

Nasim Aghdam, 39, of Southern California, is said to be the deceased suspect, according to NBC Bay Area’s Investigative team.

She apparently had her own YouTube channel — under the name “Nasim Wonder 1” — which she used to promote her healthy living style and hatred for animal abuse.

Aghdam also let her voice be heard on Instagram, where she posted photos and videos on a weekly basis.

“What do you think about freedom of speech and does it really exist in western countries!?” she captioned one video, posted on March 25.

The issue of free speech was apparently very important to Aghdam — and one she spoke about constantly while criticizing YouTube, NBC reports.

“Be aware,” she wrote in a post from 2017, which was reportedly published on her personal webpage.

“There is no free speech in real world and you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system,” Aghdam said. “Videos of targeted users are filtered and merely relegated, so that people can hardly see their videos.”

Aghdam even went so far as to quote Adolf Hitler, saying: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it,” according to NBC.

Most of the woman’s content is bizarre and includes composite images and edited videos that she appears to have created herself.

One pic shows Aghdam standing alongside a male lion — while wearing an elegant ball gown. Others show her donning traditional Muslim garb.

On YouTube, Aghdam claimed to be a “strong Persian girl” with Iranian ties.

Her boyfriend is reportedly one of the people who was shot Tuesday at the company’s headquarters in San Bruno, Cali., along with two women. The victims all worked there.

Armed with a 9mm handgun, Aghdam reportedly drove to the building from her home in Southern California. Authorities said her last known residence was in the San Diego area.

Sources told NBC that Aghdam went by many different aliases.

She has been posting videos on YouTube since 2011, the sources said.

Her most recent post came three weeks ago and was titled “Leg Exercises At Home Fitness.”

The video in which Aghdam complains about her content being “discriminated and filtered on YouTube” was posted in January 2017.

In others, she gives workout tutorials — using the term “Vegan Fitness Bodybuilding.”

The clips have since been scrubbed and her account has been deleted. The Instagram page purportedly belonging to Aghdam was also taken down on Tuesday night, as well.

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Woman wounds three at YouTube headquarters in California, then kills herself

April 4, 2018

Reuters

SAN BRUNO, Calif. (Reuters) – A woman who had voiced complaints online about YouTube opened fire with a handgun at the tech company’s headquarters near San Francisco on Tuesday, wounding three people before shooting herself dead, authorities and media said.

It was the latest in a string of mass shootings in the United States in recent years. Most recently, the massacre of 17 people at a Florida high school has led to calls for tighter curbs on gun ownership.

Police did not identify the suspect or say what might have motivated Tuesday’s shooting at YouTube, a video-sharing service owned by Alphabet Inc’s Google which employs nearly 2,000 people at the San Bruno, California offices.

The woman approached an outdoor patio and dining courtyard on the campus around lunchtime and began to fire before entering the building, police said.

An affiliate of ABC and other local media, citing unnamed sources, identified the woman as Nasim Aghdam.

San Bruno police officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the identity of the attacker.

YouTube spokeswoman Jessica Mason could not immediately be reached for comment on the identification by media.

The website NasimeSabz.com, which media said was linked to the attacker, had several posts about Persian culture and veganism, interspersed with screeds against YouTube.

Those complaints included claims the company was not sharing enough revenue with people who create videos for the platform.

“There is no equal growth opportunity on YouTube, or any other video-sharing site, your channel will grow if they want to,” read one posting on the site.

A YouTube account in the name of Nasime Sabz was deleted on Tuesday evening.

A U.S. government security official told Reuters there was no known connection to terrorism.

ABC News, citing unnamed law enforcement sources, said the suspect was 35 to 40 years old, and lived in Southern California.

A YouTube product manager, Todd Sherman, described on Twitter hearing people running, first thinking it was an earthquake before he was told that a person had a gun.

“At that point every new person I saw was a potential shooter. Someone else said that the person shot out the back doors and then shot themselves,” Sherman said in a tweet.

“I looked down and saw blood drips on the floor and stairs. Peeked around for threats and then we headed downstairs, and out the front,” Sherman said.

In a recording of a 911 call posted online by the Los Angeles Times, a dispatcher can be heard saying: “Shooter. Another party said they spotted someone with a gun. Suspect came from the back patio … Again we have a report of a subject with a gun. They heard seven or eight shots being fired.”

Dozens of emergency vehicles quickly converged on the YouTube campus, and police could be seen on televised aerial video systematically frisking several employees leaving the area with their hands raised.

One victim, a 36-year-old man, was listed in critical condition at San Francisco General Hospital. A 32-year-old woman was listed in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman in fair condition. Authorities did not release names of the victims.

The three patients taken to San Francisco General Hospital were all awake, Dr. Andre Campbell, a trauma surgeon at the hospital, told a news conference. All were victims of gunshot wounds, Campbell said, but none of them had undergone surgery.

A fourth person was taken to a local hospital with an ankle injury from fleeing the scene.

“It’s with great sadness that I tell you – based on the latest information – four people were injured in this horrific act of violence,” Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said in letter to employees posted on Twitter.

Police officers and crime scene tape are seen at Youtube headquarters following an active shooter situation in San Bruno, California, U.S., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

“I know a lot of you are in shock right now. Over the coming days, we will continue to provide support to help everyone in our Google family heal from this unimaginable tragedy.”

In a separate tweet, Pichai said he and YouTube Chief Executive Susan Wojcicki were “focused on supporting our employees and the @YouTube community through this difficult time together.”

President Donald Trump said on Twitter that he had been briefed on the shooting.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with everybody involved,” Trump tweeted. “Thank you to our phenomenal law enforcement officers and first responders that are currently on the scene.”

In response, Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey tweeted: “We can’t keep being reactive to this, thinking and praying it won’t happen again at our schools, jobs, or our community spots. It’s beyond time to evolve our policies.”

Last month, YouTube announced it would ban content promoting the sale of guns and gun accessories, as well as videos that teach how to make guns.

Female mass shooters are rare. A recent Washington Post analysis shows only three of 150 U.S. shootings with more than four victims since 1966 were carried out by women. In 2015, a husband and wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York, Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago, Mark Hosenball in Washington, D.C.; Andrew Hay in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Salvador Rodriguez, Heather Somerville, Noel Randewich, Stephen Nellis and Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco; Keith Coffman in Denver; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney and Clarence Fernandez

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Suspect in YouTube Shooting Posted Rants About the Company Online

 Image may contain: 1 person

The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit has confirmed the identity of the shooter who opened fire on YouTube’s campus in San Bruno Tuesday. Nasim Aghdam, 39, lived in Southern California and appears to have had a robust presence on YouTube.

In a video posted in January 2017, she says YouTube “discriminated and filtered” her content. In the video, Aghdam says her channel used to get lots of views but that after being “filtered” by the company, it received far fewer views.

In one online rant, she complained that YouTube censored her content by imposing an age restriction on one of her workout videos because they were too racy. She says the company failed to do the same thing for stars like Miley Cyrus and Nicki Minaj, whose videos, she says, are inappropriate for children.

In a Facebook post from February 2017, Aghdam blasted YouTube saying, “There is no equal growth opportunity on YouTube.”

On her personal webpage, she posted another rant about YouTube saying, “Be aware…there is no free speech in real world and you will be suppressed for telling the truth that is not supported by the system. Videos of targeted users are filtered and merely relegated, so that people can hardly see their videos.” Aghdam also quotes Adolf Hitler, saying, “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

On her Instagram account she posted a video along with a caption reading, “What do you think of freedom of speech and does it really exist in western countries?”

Nasim Aghdam, suspected YouTube shooter, posted this picture of herself on her website.

It appears Aghdam controlled multiple YouTube channels, including one with videos of her speaking Farsi. Aghdam posted videos about an array of topics including hand art and animal rights.

In 2009, she protested the military’s use of pigs in training exercises. A news report by The San Diego Union Tribune shows a photo of Aghdam holding a plastic sword and spattered in blood as part of the demonstration by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

Read the rest:

https://www.nbcbayarea.com/investigations/Suspect-in-You-Tube-Shooting-Posted-Rants-About-the-Company-Online–478711713.html

Do Antidepressants Work? Or are they just a way to get you to take more drugs? More people in the United States are on antidepressants, as a percentage of the population, than any other country in the world

March 13, 2018

The most comprehensive study on them has recently been published, showing mostly modest effects.

Antidepressants are widely used, but there are still so many unanswered questions about them. Credit Jonathan Nourok/Getty Images

More people in the United States are on antidepressants, as a percentage of the population, than any other country in the world. And yet the drugs’ efficacy has been hotly debated.

Some believe that the short-term benefits are much more modest than widely thought, and that harms may outweigh benefits in the long run. Others believe that they work, and that they can be life-changing.

Settling this debate has been much harder than you might think.

It’s not that we lack research. Many, many studies of antidepressants can be found in the peer-reviewed literature. The problem is that this has been a prime example of publication bias: Positive studies are likely to be released, with negative ones more likely to be buried in a drawer.

In 2008, a group of researchers made this point by doing a meta-analysis of antidepressant trials that were registered with the Food and Drug Administration as evidence in support of approvals for marketing or changes in labeling. Companies had to submit the results of registered trials to the F.D.A. regardless of the result. These trials also tend to have less data massaging — such as the cherry-picking of outcomes — than might be possible in journals.

The researchers found 74 studies, with more than 12,500 patients, for drugs approved between 1987 and 2004. About half of these trials had “positive” results, in that the antidepressant performed better than a placebo; the other half were “negative.” But if you looked only in the published literature, you’d get a much different picture. Nearly all of the positive studies are there. Only three of the negative studies appear in the literature as negative. Twenty-two were never published, and 11 were published but repackaged so that they appeared positive.

A second meta-analysis published that year also used F.D.A. data instead of the peer-reviewed literature, but asked a different question. Researchers wondered if the effectiveness of a study was related to the baseline levels of depression of its participants. The results suggested yes. The effectiveness of antidepressants was limited for those with moderate depression, and small for those with severe depression.

The take-home message from these two studies was that the effectiveness of antidepressants had been overstated, and that the benefit might be limited to far fewer patients than were actually using the drugs.

These points, and more, were made in a paper written by John Ioannidis in the journal Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine in 2008. He argued that the study designs and populations selected, especially the short length of many studies, biased them to positive results. He argued that while many studies achieved statistical significance, they failed to achieve clinical significance. He argued that we knew too little about long-term harms, and that we were being presented with biased information by looking only at published data.

This paper — “Effectiveness of Antidepressants: An Evidence Myth Constructed From a Thousand Randomized Trials?” — sowed lingering doubts about the use of antidepressants and the conduct of medical research. But recently, the most comprehensive antidepressants study to date was published, and it appears to be a thorough effort to overcome the hurdles of the past.

Researchers, including Dr. Ioannidis this time, searched the medical literature, regulatory agency websites and international registers for both published and unpublished double-blind randomized controlled trials, all the way till the beginning of 2016.

They looked for both placebo-controlled and head-to-head trials of 21 antidepressants used to treat adults for major depressive disorder. They used a “network meta-analysis technique,” which allows multiple treatments to be compared both within individual trials directly and across trials indirectly to a common comparator. They examined not only how well the drugs worked, but also how tolerated the treatment was — what they called acceptability.

They found 522 trials that included more than 116,000 participants. Of those, 86 were unpublished studies found on trial registries and company websites. An additional 15 were discovered through personal communication or by hand-searching review articles. The authors went an extra step and asked for unpublished data on the studies they found, getting it for more than half of the included trials.

The reassuring news is that all of the antidepressants were more effective than placebos. They varied modestly in terms of efficacy and acceptability, so each patient and doctor should discuss potential benefits and harms of individual drugs.

Further good news is that smaller trials did not have substantially different results from larger trials.

It also did not appear that industry sponsoring of trials correlated with significant differences in response or dropout rates. But — and this is a big “but” — the vast majority of trials are funded by industry. As a result, this meta-analysis may not have had enough data on non-industry trials to accurately determine if a difference exists.

There were also signs of “novelty” bias: Antidepressants seemed to perform better when they were newly released in the market but seemed to lose efficacy and acceptability in later years.

The bad news is that even though there were statistically significant differences, the effect sizes were still mostly modest. The benefits also applied only to people who were suffering from major depression, specifically in the short term. In other words, this study provides evidence that when people are found to have acute major depression, treatment with antidepressants works to improve outcomes in the first two months of therapy.

Because we lack good data, we still do not know how well antidepressants work for those with milder symptoms that fall short of major depression, especially if patients have been on the drugs for months or even years. Many people probably fall into that category, yet are still regularly prescribed antidepressants for extended periods. We don’t know how much of the benefit received from such use is a placebo effect versus a biological one.

I asked Dr. Ioannidis if the results of this new study were as radical as many news articles had suggested. He confirmed that this was a much-larger meta-analysis — with about 10 times more information — than the ones from a decade ago, with more unpublished data and more antidepressants covered. He’s also hopeful that future studies will be even better at informing individual-level responses, which might help to see if some patients benefit substantially even when others don’t seem to benefit at all.

But he thought that some of the exuberance in the news media might be a little overblown. “I am afraid that some news stories gave very crude interpretations that may be misleading, especially when their titles were too absolute, like ‘the drugs work’‘the debate is over’ and so forth,” he said. “The clinical (as opposed to statistical) significance of the treatment effects that we detected will continue to be contested, and it is still important to find ways that one can identify the specific patients who get the maximum benefit.”

Even with so much research on antidepressants, there are still many unanswered questions. It’s unclear if drug companies would be interested in the results, or indeed why they would be. The drugs are already being widely used, and no regulatory agency is requiring more data. If patients want answers, they will need to demand the research themselves.

Aaron E. Carroll is a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine who blogs on health research and policy at The Incidental Economist and makes videos at Healthcare Triage. He is the author of The Bad Food Bible: How and Why to Eat Sinfully. @aaronecarroll

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Unless you become like little children

Perhaps the most used phase in the Bible is: “Do not be afraid.”

Learn more (at the search term):

Lots of information on this site about what happens when we over-use medication instead of meditation:

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(Always see your doctor….)

 (Whenever everything else fails, God will take you Back)

Are iPhones Bad for Kids?

March 11, 2018

CreditPatricia Wall/The New York Times

THE ART OF SCREEN TIME 
How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life
By Anya Kamenetz
266 pp. PublicAffairs. $27.

BE THE PARENT, PLEASE
Stop Banning Seesaws and Start Banning Snapchat
By Naomi Schaefer Riley
251 pp. Templeton Press. $24.95.

There’s one in every neighborhood: a parent who allows unlimited screen time. They exist to make the rest of us feel better. Our own offspring might spend hours texting or watching cartoons. But at least we have rules. Our kids can sustain a conversation, cope with fleeting moments of boredom and last a birthday party without demanding a video game.

When we pass these other families in the supermarket, their dazed toddlers staring into iPads, we think — smug but terrified — we’re not that bad.

Or are we? Two new books about kids and screens — Anya Kamenetz’s “The Art of Screen Time” and Naomi Schaefer Riley’s “Be the Parent, Please” — examine the evidence and offer advice for anxious parents. How much screen time is too much? Is “digital media” like food: O.K. if you consume good-quality ingredients, in moderation? Or is it more like cigarettes or even heroin, possibly unsafe at any dose? And might screens be just another way to guilt parents — and mothers, in particular — into thinking that we’re not doing enough?

Alas, the evidence is incomplete. Researchers aren’t allowed to overstimulate a random sample of babies to see what happens to their brains. (Though as Kamenetz says, you can do this to mice, and they go a little nuts.) Scientists even have trouble running studies in which some participants watch less; one said he could get families to reduce their screen times only by 20 minutes. And the iPad hasn’t even celebrated its eighth birthday.

But there are worrying correlations. Kids who watch more than two hours of TV per day have double the risk of childhood obesity. Those who watch screens before bed sleep less, making it harder to concentrate and learn. And simulated violence can desensitize children to real-life suffering, and is linked to increased anxiety and fear.

Photo

CreditPatricia Wall/The New York Times

Kamenetz, lead digital education correspondent for National Public Radio, is the more soothing voice. She points out that not every child — or even every heavy user — will suffer ill effects. As with food allergies, ”for lots of kids, a peanut is just a peanut.” She advocates an approach inspired by Michael Pollan’s well-known dictate on food: “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others.” (Her most upsetting conclusion, echoed by Riley and the American Academy of Pediatrics, is that parents should watch alongside toddlers.)

Riley, a former New York Post columnist who is a visiting fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, sees an insidious cultural problem and a moral failure by parents. She compares screens to alcohol and gambling: Not every child will get hooked, but it’s better to be safe. And by handing our kids screens, we are choosing “not to parent.”

Riley advocates radically scaling back children’s screen time, and intensively surveilling online behavior. “Many kids will be fine even without these restrictions, and some kids will fall into trouble even with them. But as parents, it’s time for us to stop playing the odds.”

I might bristle at Riley’s scolding tone, but I recognize her description of a friend who’s in a “constant low-level battle” over screens with her three sons. “It was like watching her swat flies. As soon as she sent one child outside or got one to read a book, another would sneak on to a computer.”

Even if digital media isn’t diabolical, it has opportunity costs. The hours kids spend on devices is time they could have spent reading, studying, interacting with other humans or frolicking outdoors (there’s a bit of nature worship in Riley’s book).

Of course, many parents can’t go an hour without consulting screens themselves. In a 2014 study, researchers in a fast-food restaurant observed caregivers on smartphones, ignoring children’s bids for attention. The caregivers finally scold the children or issue “robotic” instructions, sometimes without even looking up.

But is this proof that screens make us terrible parents? If we’re using them while driving, then definitely. Car crashes are a leading cause of death in school-age children, and cellphones are a factor in a quarter of fatal crashes.

But in the rest of life, the net impact is less clear. Modern parents spend far more time with their children than parents did in the 1960s. Yes, a mother reading work emails at the playground has briefly stopped interacting with her child. But Kamenetz — a mother of two — says if she couldn’t do that, she’d need to be at the office.

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CreditPatricia Wall/The New York Times

We know it’s crucial to stimulate and speak to young children, and our generation of parents complies to a possibly unprecedented — and exhausting — degree. Kamenetz notes that we need occasional breaks from this. She bemoans “an ideological stance that judges mothers for not being fully available to their children at all times and that scapegoats working-class families in particular.”

Class issues buzz around conversations about screen time. We’ve all read about the Silicon Valley executives who won’t let their children go online. Mothers who used to boast that their babies drank only breast milk now claim their preschoolers have never touched an iPad. (These same children will later be dispatched to pricey, screen-free summer camps.)

Low-income families — and especially single parents — can’t afford to police their children’s screen use as assiduously. Kamenetz writes that this requires more social supports, like guaranteed paid parental leave. I’d argue that universal health care and a higher minimum wage would help, too.

Of course, screens are an issue even in countries with great social services. In 2016, the city of Helsinki ran a campaign warning Finnish parents that they were neglecting children by spending too much time online.

In France, where I live, parents are struggling to get their heads around the dangers. The government recently announced that, from September, it will ban phones in primary and secondary schools, for reasons of “public health.” There are permissive parents to scoff at here too, but they generally advocate setting firm limits. Meal times are typically sacrosanct, screen-free zones.

Most French parents already believe in a conclusion that Kamenetz and Riley endorse: If you don’t constantly entertain kids, they’ll learn to entertain themselves. And the French are suspicious of too much of anything. The biggest reason I hear for why kids don’t spend more time on devices isn’t that screens are terrible; it’s that they don’t have time.

That’s basically Kamenetz’s message too. Her best advice might be to prioritize other activities, and allow screens only afterward. “You will be more effective as a parent, and have more fun as a family, if you drop the guilt and embrace the good that screens have to offer, while balancing media with other priorities.”

Sleep is paramount: She recommends no screens before bedtime, and none in bedrooms, ever. And she advocates communication over surveillance, making questions like “what did you see online today?” part of dinnertime conversations.

I liked Kamenetz’s unpanicky, thoughtful critique. Both writers digest lots of material. (Kamenetz helpfully includes a four-page summary.) While it wasn’t thrilling to consume even well-written books on kids and screens, it was worth reflecting on the evidence, and reckoning with my family’s relationship to these consuming devices. Then I could return to checking my email.

Suicide deaths are far more common in the U.S. than in many other economically advanced nations

February 28, 2018

Two Princeton economists share their provocative theory in this episode of Moving Upstream

 Image may contain: indoor
Why ‘Deaths of Despair’ May Be a Warning Sign for America – Moving Upstream
The suicide rate among white Americans is a warning sign for our society, argues Princeton economists Angus Deaton and his wife Anne Case, in this episode of Moving Upstream.

Two Princeton economists are sounding off on what they consider to be warning signs of a crisis of American capitalism.

Prof. Anne Case and Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton see increases in suicides and other “deaths of despair”—particularly among middle-aged, white Americans—as a sign that “something is not right,” with society.

If we can only generate good lives for an elite that’s about a third of the population, then we have a real problem.

 

The husband and wife team are continuing to research why suicide deaths are far higher in the U.S. than in many other economically advanced nations.

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-deaths-of-despair-may-be-a-warning-sign-for-america-moving-upstream-1519743601
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“No life is complete without pain, suffering and death.” — Viktor Frankl
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Image may contain: text
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First Thought From Peace and Freedom
.
St. Ignatius of Loyola believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God-centered and less self-centered existence.
.
Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by  St Ignatius of Loyola to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
.
Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
.
When the Big Book was first published, Fr. Eddie Dowling bought a copy in St. Louis to read. He was so taken by the book, he took the train to New York City to meet Bill Wilson, whom people said had written the book. When Fr. Dowling met Bill W. he asked him, “Where did you get all this Ignatian teaching?”
.

Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?

John Paul II also said,  “No faith, no miracles….”

When we are on the doorstep of death, it’s too late to develop a spiritual framework that will sustain us. That’s why so many people invest large parts of their life in spiritual development using religion or whatever else is most helpful to them…

Below is a list of resources that can be of use to everyone and anyone who “fears” death…. Or for your loved ones who seem disconnected from the spiritual reality of death…

 (This is our most complete look at resources for people reaching out on a spiritual level….)

Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
.
Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”
.
A basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
.
In other words: stay in the present moment.
.
How come we refuse to believe?
.
It is interesting to me that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches newcomers to believe in what they were often taught as very young children — but they somehow refused or neglected to believe.
.
The Twelve Steps of AA start with “We admitted that we were powerless…” The very start of AA suggests humility and self-abandonment. By the Third Step, alcoholics are taught to put all their trust in a Higher Power.
.
Self-abandonment can also be thought of as surrender. Each of us knows in our heart when its time for that…
.
Humility, self -abandonment, trust in God and the “Christian way of life”  are the tonic used by patient, kind, forgiving, useful people to keep their lives in order.
.
The readings also remind us today of an old friend, now gone to his heavenly reward, who often said, “God won’t give us more than is equal to the strengths of the gifts he has given us.” In other words, “Fear not, God is on our side.”
.
I have come to ask myself at the start of each day: What are we seeking — and What are we using to get there?

Tending to the spirit of the dying

December 28, 2017

James Low For The Straits Times

Responding to earlier articles on euthanasia, a doctor advocates better spiritual care of the dying.

Image result for patient in hospital bed, photos

We humans must be the only creatures in this universe who grapple with the awareness that our existence in this world will come to an end some day in the future.

Death awareness starts from the age of five when one attempts to make sense of events, people and the surrounding world. In trying to find the meaning of life, existence and death, we contemplate the past, present and future in relation to the universe that we live in. The why, how and what-if questions plague most humans at various points in life regardless of what our belief systems may be and whether we are atheists or profess a religion.

This existential or spiritual dimension of humans is part of the multi-dimensional human model first described by the late psychiatrist George Engel in the 1970s.

As one nears the end, spiritual issues take on greater significance. The late Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the palliative care movement, proposed the concept of “total pain” based on Dr Engel’s model of the human.

Pain in terminally ill patients emanating as physical or psychological pain may progress into spiritual pain when the patient doubts the value and worth of his existence. This may be compounded by the perceived hopelessness, meaninglessness, guilt and a sense of being a burden to family and friends. A sense of fear, foreboding, confusion and grief compounds the situation, further leading to a desire for a quick death.

Patients who wish death upon themselves for whatever reason almost invariably have some degree of spiritual pain. For such patients, addressing the root causes, such as uncontrolled physical suffering, clinical depression and complex grief, may not suffice for the crux of the problem could be an underlying spiritual pain.

Individuals seeking to end their lives, another feature of human spirituality, via euthanasia or suicide may look towards a wonder drug that can “save them from the misery”.

Doctors are increasingly called upon to provide the miracle “cure” for existential and spiritual pain. “Aid-in-dying” and “physician-assisted suicide”, euphemisms for euthanasia, are means to providing death in a controlled, sanitised and quick manner by way of prescribing a drug or cocktail of drugs.

This approach, however, does not consider the spiritual dimension of the human and seemingly affords a quick-fix physical solution to what is essentially a spiritual problem.

The balm for spiritual pain does not come in the form of a medication or drug. Dr Harold Koenig, director of the Centre for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University Medical Centre, remarked that building a personal narrative, aided by a healthy perspective of spirituality or religion, is important in people undergoing severe trauma.

Dr Viktor Frankl, another renowned psychiatrist who was incarcerated in a German concentration camp during World War II, observed in his seminal book, Man’s Search For Meaning, that finding meaning in the most difficult of times, amid pain and suffering, determines whether a prisoner would survive or succumb quickly. Those who held a purpose or hope in life were more resilient and survived longer.

Spiritual care remains an underdeveloped facet of holistic care in this part of the world. Health issues and illnesses serve as catalysts for spiritual questions to emerge. Spirituality is often confused with religiosity.

For many, the latter provides a framework of beliefs and practices to answer questions of the former. Many of the principles of spiritual care are secular in nature and can be applied universally.

Spiritual care is journeying with patients and seeing them off in a compassionate and loving way, neither hastening nor slowing that journey. It is to restore meaning, purpose and hope to patients right to the last moment of their life and impressing upon them that their continued existence, no matter how difficult it may be for others, is important.

There is increasing evidence in scientific literature showing the association between spiritual wellness and resilience in the face of trauma, pain and suffering.

We are discovering, just like Dr Frankl did 60 years ago, that resilience, suffering and survivability are all interrelated and are founded on a strong sense of meaning, worth and personhood of the human spirit.

Unfortunately, a recent study by researchers from the University of Bristol, across nine countries, found that spiritual distress, though highly prevalent, is hardly recognised and, therefore, not managed well at the end of life. The participants reported a need for staff to be trained in spiritual care.

Spirituality and humankind’s quest for longevity gave birth to medicine. The early practice of medicine was steeped in spiritual and religious traditions. This preceded the development of the science of medicine. It will do our society well to pay greater heed to spiritual care for the sick and dying.

Spiritual or pastoral care, as it is known in some countries, is fast developing into a much-needed aspect of healthcare. Should the last piece of the healthcare jigsaw be put in place, it would seem that medicine has come a full circle from where it originated.

• The writer is a council member at the Singapore Hospice Council and a senior consultant at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

http://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/tend-to-the-spirit-of-the-dying?&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social-media&utm_campaign=addtoany

***************************************************

“No life is complete without pain, suffering and death.” — Viktor Frankl
.
Image may contain: text
.
First Thought From Peace and Freedom
.
St. Ignatius of Loyola believed very strongly that every person could and should achieve a transformational change in life — a change toward a more God-centered and less self-centered existence.
.
Ignatius started his transformation or conversion while in recovery from wounds of war. For centuries, pain, suffering and hardships in life have become the catalyst for a complete change of self for many people. The Spiritual Exercise were written by  St Ignatius of Loyola to assist everyman in achieving this life-saving transformational change.
.
Centuries later, the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and its “Twelve Steps” provided a new but very similar roadmap to those seeking a transformational change.
.
When the Big Book was first published, Fr. Eddie Dowling bought a copy in St. Louis to read. He was so taken by the book, he took the train to New York City to meet Bill Wilson, whom people said had written the book. When Fr. Dowling met Bill W. he asked him, “Where did you get all this Ignatian teaching?”
.

Do you pray? Saint John Paul II said, “No prayer, no spiritual life.” If you aren’t talking to God who are you talking to when you pray? Yourself?

John Paul II also said,  “No faith, no miracles….”

When we are on the doorstep of death, it’s too late to develop a spiritual framework that will sustain us. That’s why so many people invest large parts of their life in spiritual development using religion or whatever else is most helpful to them…

Below is a list of resources that can be of use to everyone and anyone who “fears” death…. Or for your loved ones who seem disconnected from the spiritual reality of death…

 (This is our most complete look at resources for people reaching out on a spiritual level….)

Many of us struggle with ego, false pride and self-esteem issues. Many of us constantly worry about money, our jobs, our future security, our health or health care.
.
Yet Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life.” Again and again the theme in the Bible is “Do not be afraid.”
.
A basic teaching of Christianity is: With Jesus we are OK. Do not be afraid.
.
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”
.
In other words: stay in the present moment.
.
How come we refuse to believe?
.
It is interesting to me that Alcoholics Anonymous teaches newcomers to believe in what they were often taught as very young children — but they somehow refused or neglected to believe.
.
The Twelve Steps of AA start with “We admitted that we were powerless…” The very start of AA suggests humility and self-abandonment. By the Third Step, alcoholics are taught to put all their trust in a Higher Power.
.
Self-abandonment can also be thought of as surrender. Each of us knows in our heart when its time for that…
.
Humility, self -abandonment, trust in God and the “Christian way of life”  are the tonic used by patient, kind, forgiving, useful people to keep their lives in order.
.
The readings also remind us today of an old friend, now gone to his heavenly reward, who often said, “God won’t give us more than is equal to the strengths of the gifts he has given us.” In other words, “Fear not, God is on our side.”
.
I have come to ask myself at the start of each day: What are we seeking — and What are we using to get there?

Drug and Alcohol Deaths at U.S. Workplaces Soar

December 20, 2017

Deaths jumped more than 30% in 2016, as the struggle with a deadly opioid epidemic migrates to the workplace

The number of U.S. deaths at work from unintentional drug and alcohol overdoses jumped more than 30% in 2016, according to new government data, showing that the nation’s struggle with a deadly opioid epidemic is migrating to the workplace.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries said Tuesday that 217 workers died on the job last year as a result of an unintentional overdose from the nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol, up from 165 in 2015. The number of accidental overdose deaths at work has nearly tripled since the BLS began compiling the data in 2011.

The statistic is part of a bigger problem. Drug overdose deaths surpassed 64,000 last year, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. President Donald Trump in October declared opioid addiction, in particular, a national public health emergency.

Addiction experts are in wide agreement on the most effective way to help opioid addicts: Medication-assisted treatment. But most inpatient rehab facilities in the U.S. don’t offer this option. WSJ’s Jason Bellini reports on why the medication option is controversial, and in many places, hard to come by. Image: Ryno Eksteen and Thomas Williams

“The surge in deaths, the abuse and the way in which this has turned into a crisis which encompasses so many elements, it’s not at all surprising this crisis has migrated” into the workplace, said John Deskins, an economist at West Virginia University.

The Department of Labor will respond by working “with public and private stakeholders to help eradicate the opioid crisis as a deadly and growing workplace issue,” said Loren Sweatt, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s deputy assistant secretary.

Earlier this year, OSHA limited its reporting of fatalities in the U.S., as part of a series of moves by the agency cutting back the amount of information about workplace accidents made available to the public.

Other causes of workplace death still dominated in 2016, a year during which the economy added 2.24 million new jobs.

Total fatal work injuries rose 7% to 5,190 in 2016, according to the report. Deaths due to workplace violence increased 23% last year from the year before, making that the second most common cause of death on the job in 2016 after transportation incidents. The number of workplace suicides rose 27% in 2016 from the year before, to 291, the highest number since the census began recording the number of suicides at work in 1992.

Drug abuse is taking a toll on the U.S. economy. The burden of prescription opioid abuse from crime, lost work productivity through absenteeism or poor job performance and health care costs is an estimated $78.5 billion a year, according to a 2013 study by the CDC.

The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book—a survey based on anecdotes collected from the central bank’s 12 regional banks—reported in July that manufacturers in the St. Louis region cited candidates’ inability to pass drug tests or to consistently report to work as a difficulty in hiring workers.

In a 2015 paper, Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton termed the rise in mortality from suicide, drugs and alcohol since the late 1990s among middle-aged white Americans “deaths of despair.”

Write to Harriet Torry at harriet.torry@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/drug-and-alcohol-deaths-at-u-s-workplaces-soar-1513712478

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Couple jump to their deaths because they ‘can’t afford’ health care

July 28, 2017
 Image may contain: car and outdoor

Manhattan parents struggling to pay their doctor’s bills jumped to their deaths early Friday – leaving double suicide notes pleading that their two kids be cared for, a law enforcement source told The Post.

The suicide note recovered by police.

The bodies of the man, 53, and woman, 50, — who claimed they had a “wonderful life” — were found in the middle of the street on 33rd Street between Park and Madison avenues in Murray Hill after the pair jumped from the 9th floor window of a 17-story corner office building on Madison Avenue at about 5:45 a.m., police said.

The woman had a suicide note in her pocket that read, “in sum and substance, ‘Our kids are upstairs, please take care of them,’” the source said.

The man had a typed note in his pocket that began with “WE HAD A WONDERFUL LIFE.”

“Patricia and I had everything in life,” the note read as it touched on the couple’s “financial spiral” and how “we can not live with” the “financial reality.”

The source added that a line of the note contained words to the effect: “’We both have medical issues, we just can’t afford the health care.’”

The victims’ identities were not immediately released.

Area workers who witnessed the aftermath of the tragic incident were stunned.

“When I got here at 6:05 a.m. I walked by dead bodies on the ground,” said a woman who would only identify herself as Kazi who works at the nearby 7-Eleven store.

“I was scared. I’ve never seen dead bodies before,” she said.

Seth Gottfried

Another man who works at the building next door said when he heard police sirens he looked out the window and saw the two bodies.

“Insane,” the man, who identified himself as Harry, said.

The couple’s tragic deaths come at a time of national debate on healthcare reform.

Additional reporting by Larry Celona and Yaron Steinbuch