Daily Archives: March 3, 2016

A Mayor Wants Space Where Addicts Can Inject Heroin Safely

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The mayor of Ithaca wants his city in upstate New York to host the nation’s first supervised injection facility, enabling heroin users to shoot illegal drugs into their bodies under the care of a nurse without getting arrested by police.

The son of an addict who abandoned his family, Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick is only 28 years old, but knows intimately how destructive drugs can be. As he worked his way from a homeless shelter into the Ivy League at Cornell University and then became Ithaca’s youngest mayor four years ago, Myrick encountered countless people who never got the help they needed.

“I have watched for 20 years this system that just doesn’t work,” Myrick explained in an Associated Press interview. “We can’t wait anymore for the federal government. We have people shooting up in alleys. In bathroom stalls. And too many of them are dying.”

Describing his proposals to the AP ahead of a formal announcement planned for Wednesday, the mayor said creating a place where addicts can inject heroin safely is a key part of a holistic approach to drug abuse that Ithaca will be rolling out, one that treats addiction more like a public health issue than a problem for the criminal justice system to solve. Nurses or physicians could quickly administer an antidote if a user overdoses, while addicts also could get clean syringes and be directed to treatment and recovery programs, he said.

Myrick expects supervised injection sites to be a hard sell in Albany, let alone in Washington, D.C., but his political sensibilities reflect what polls show is a growing belief among younger Americans that the war on drugs announced in 1971 by President Richard Nixon has failed.

“I think for a lot of people this is going to sound like a weird concept — ‘Aren’t you just encouraging them to use drugs?’” he said. “But I think it’s more possible now than at any time in our history. The opioid epidemic is affecting more people and we know we can’t wait any longer for the federal government to do something.”

Canada, Europe and Australia are already working to reduce overdose deaths with these facilities. In the United States, even the idea of creating a supervised injection site faces significant legal and political challenges. But Myrick sees an opening now in response to huge increases in overdose deaths nationwide. In New York state, overdose deaths involving heroin and other opiates shot from 186 in 2003 to 914 in 2012.

Myrick said he will ask New York’s Health Department to declare the heroin epidemic a state health crisis, which he said would enable his city to proceed without involving the state legislature.

Ithaca officials began looking seriously at alternatives to simply jailing addicts after the city had three fatal overdoses and 13 non-fatal overdoses in a three-week span in 2014. The city of 30,000, which hosts Ithaca College as well as Cornell, is one of New York’s most liberal communities and is a prime candidate for new approaches, Myrick said.

Myrick crafted his plan in collaboration with police and prosecutors, overcoming initially strong opposition from the elected district attorney, Gwen Wilkinson.

“What brought me around was the realization that this wouldn’t make it more likely that people will use drugs,” Wilkinson said. “What it would do is make it less likely that people will die in restaurant bathrooms.”

Police Chief John Barber is not totally convinced. He “firmly” supports other parts of the plan, but said “I am wary of supervised injection sites.”

Spokesmen for the Department of Health and Gov. Andrew Cuomo didn’t respond Monday to the AP’s request for comment. Cuomo has supported needle exchange programs and boosted funding for addiction prevention and treatment, but has yet to take a position on supervised injection.

Some pieces of Ithaca’s plan don’t need state approval, such as the creation of a new city office of drug policy and a youth apprenticeship program to give young people alternatives to drugs. Myrick also wants police to send low-level drug offenders to treatment instead of jail, adopting a strategy used in Seattle.

Canada’s first injection facility, known as “Insite,” opened in Vancouver in 2003. Every day, 800 users visit, and between 10 and 20 of them overdose each week, but no one has ever died there, according to Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at Vancouver Coastal Health, which operates it.

“These overdoses are completely reversible,” Daly said. “People die because they inject alone.”

Insite receives most of its funding from government now, but faced significant initial opposition from officials in Ottawa. A 2011 Canadian Supreme Court decision ordered federal officials to stop fighting the facility, noting that it has saved lives “with no discernable negative impact.”

In fact, overdose deaths dropped 35 percent in the surrounding neighborhood after Insite opened its doors at ground zero for Vancouver’s heroin problem, according to research by Brown University epidemiologist Brandon D.L. Marshall.

In the U.S., state and federal laws would put both users and operators of such a facility at risk of arrest.

Even some former addicts say it should stay that way.

“We’re talking about a government-sponsored shooting gallery,” said Mike Gimbel, an addiction expert who served as drug czar in Baltimore County after beating heroin. “It’s misguided. The addict is going to say: this is cool, a place I don’t have to worry about the cops. Why should an addict stop if there are no consequences for their behavior?”

That said, more funding to provide wider access to effective treatment is the only solution, Gimbel said. “We all recognize we’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of this problem.”

Professor warns robots could keep us in coffins on heroin drips

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Greece and Puerto Rico are teetering on the verge of disaster and perhaps that’s symbolic of mankind as a whole.

We’re quaint schizophrenes, on the one hand believing we’re very clever, but on the other not being able to charge a phone for more than a day.

And now we’re delighting in making machines that will soon be far smarter than we are.

Some can’t wait for the day. Others, like Stephen Hawking, fear that we’ll be destroyed in the process.

Now another British professor has professed his deep fears. Dr. Stuart Armstrong spends all his days worried about the future. He is, indeed, part of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute.

And the thing he’s worried about most is that he’ll soon be shoved into a coffin and place on a heroin drip.

No, I’m not revealing anything about his personal proclivities. It’s just that, as the Telegraph reports, he was speaking at a debate in London organized by research company Gartner and he painted a picture of the future in shades of black.

He said that humans has always had the upper hand because they’d always been smarter. However: “When machines become smarter than humans, we’ll be handing them the steering wheel.”

The question is how will they decide to drive. What principles of thought will dominate their decision-making?

Armstrong fears, for example, that being told to keep humans “safe and happy,” the robots might “entomb everyone in concrete coffins on heroin drips.”

Yes, we’d be permanently trapped in the 1960s. (At least the music would be good.)

His fear revolves around the concept of Artificial General Intelligence. This is when robots aren’t merely task-specific in their actions, but are given a more general power over life.

They might think like super-nerds, rather than humans with, say, a heart. For example, being asked to “prevent human suffering” they might see the optimal decision as putting everyone out of their misery.

Yes, literally. By killing everyone.

The way Armstrong defines the problem is quite similar to the way some humans are already confused by the decision-making of the techie crowd.

He said: “You can give AI controls, and it will be under the controls it was given. But these may not be the controls that were meant.”

We often know the meaning of things without articulating them. But in communicating with machines, we will have to find the best ways of articulating optimal behavior that we have. These may not be optimal articulations.

Armstrong fears that these changes are coming rather more quickly than people realize. This, for me at least, makes the idea of disappearing to a remote island increasingly attractive.

Perhaps one shouldn’t worry. Perhaps we’ll run out of natural resources to power the robots before the robots have the resources to have complete power over us.

Five Common “No No’s” for People with Fibromyalgia

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Here are five common “no no’s” people mistakenly do when trying to manage fibromyalgia. Do any sound like you?

1. Exercising too Much or too Little

Fibromyalgia reflects an energy crisis in your body, so you can only exercise to a certain point. Beyond that, you get what is called “postexertional fatigue,” where you feel completely wiped out the next day. Be careful to avoid this as it can discourage you from the moderate exercise that is vital to healing fibromyalgia.

On the other hand, insufficient exercise results in deconditioning and clearly can worsen your ability to function.

So what level of exercise is right? If you feel tired but good afterwards, and better still the next day, then you exercised the right amount. But if you feel like you were “hit by a truck,” then you did too much. Start with a light walking program. Wear a pedometer to see your progress and try to build up over time to 10,000 steps a day by adding a minute each day.

2. Not Knowing When to Say “No”

Being too agreeable to things you don’t really want to do is a major stress that aggravates people with fibromyalgia. Try more often to allow yourself to say “no” when what is being asked of you doesn’t feel good.

3. Not Listening When Your Body Tells You it’s in Pain

Widespread muscle pain is one of the most dominant symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. When you fee pain, remember that that’s your body’s protective system signaling you that something needs attention. Don’t dismiss the pain or try to “play through it.” Instead learn how to manage fibromyalgia-related pain using a comprehensive approach. The S.H.I.N.E. Protocol (link is external) is my recommended approach to this as it can guide you systematically through the 5 key areas that you need to address.

4. Eating Excessive Sugar

Eating excessive sugar (especially in sodas or fruit juices) can severely flare fibromyalgia by worsening adrenal exhaustion and Candida/yeast overgrowth. Eat a high-protein diet and substitute Stevia or Saccharin for sugar. Sugar-free ice cream with Splenda and sugar-free chocolates with maltitol are also okay (in small amounts). Dark chocolate can actually improve fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms!

5. Not Getting Enough Sleep

It may seem counter-intuitive, but people with fatigue-related illnesses, such as fibromyalgia, often get too little sleep. Getting 8-9 hours of good quality deep sleep each night is critical to eliminating fatigue and pain. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, see Sleep and Insomnia (link is external) to learn about nutritional support, sleep habit changes and medications that can help you.

Decreased risk of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer in patients with vitiligo: a survey among 1307 patients and their partners.

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Vitiligo is a common skin disease characterized by autoimmune melanocyte destruction. Recent genetic studies suggest a lower susceptibility to melanoma in patients with vitiligo; however, lifetime melanoma prevalence in patients with vitiligo has not previously been studied. Nonmelanoma skin cancer (NMSC) prevalence has been studied, but only in small studies and with contradictory results.


This retrospective, comparative cohort survey was designed to assess lifetime prevalences of melanoma and NMSC in patients with vitiligo compared with nonvitiligo controls.


Patients with nonsegmental vitiligo, who visited our clinic between January 1995 and September 2010, and were aged 50 years or older at the time of the study, were invited to participate in a postal survey. The questions regarded demographics, vitiligo characteristics, phototherapy history, skin cancer risk factors and the number of skin cancers experienced during the patient’s lifetime. Patients were asked to have their partner fill in a control questionnaire. All skin cancers were validated by a pathology report. In total 2635 invitations were sent and 1307 eligible questionnaires were returned (50%). Multivariate logistic regression models were used to quantify adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for associations between vitiligo and lifetime prevalences of melanoma and NMSC.


 Adjusted for confounders, patients with vitiligo had a threefold lower probability of developing melanoma (adjusted OR 0·32; 95% CI 0·12-0·88) and NMSC (adjusted OR 0·28; 95% CI 0·16-0·50). Subgroup analyses of patients treated with narrowband ultraviolet (UV) B, and psoralen and UVA did not show dose-related trends of increased age-adjusted lifetime prevalence of melanoma or NMSC.

7 Things You Can Do Right Now To Fight AIDS: World AIDS Day

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Today is World AIDS Day, when we remember those we’ve lost to the pandemic, celebrate the victories we’ve won, and look ahead to an AIDS-free future.

But what can you do today to make a change against a pandemic that’s killed millions and baffled scientists for decades? A lot more than you think.

Below, we count down seven very real things you can do to help the fight against HIV/AIDS

7. Download music

Queer indie pop star Bright Light Bright Light is dedicating the proceeds from his new single, “Everything I Ever Wanted,” to Sir Elton John AIDS Foundation. “I really wanted to do something to help raise money for World AIDS Day,” he told Attitude. “I know many people who have been affected by the disease and making pop music, I don’t get to do an awful lot that feels like it helps a wider community.”

Download “Everything I Ever Wanted” on on iTunes, and a dollar from the sale will go to the foundation’s direct care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Plus, it’s a really great song.

6. Take a selfie

weareallclean jack mackenroth

Last week, Jack Mackenroth launched the#WeAreAllClean campaign on social media to help eradicate the stigma attached to people with HIV.

After years of seeing many HIV-negative men refering to themselves as “clean”—suggesting those who are positive are somehow “dirty”—Mackenroth decided enough was enough. “As someone who has been living with HIV for 25 years, this is very personal to me,” he said in a statement.

Participants are asked to take a (non-explicit) photo or Vine of themselves in the shower and share it using #WeAreAllClean. You can then make a donation to Housing Works, challenge three friends to participate and, on World AIDS Day, change your social profile pictures to your shower selfies.

5. Try to donate blood

gay blood ban

The FDA still hasn’t changed its policy banning gay men from donating blood for life. Even new recommendations from the Department Health and Human Services suggest a year of celibacy before gay men can be allowed to give blood.

These regulations are outdated, counterproductive and unverifiable—which is why so many are working to get them struck down. (The American Medical Association has called the ban lifetime ban “discriminatory and not based on sound science.”)

The National Gay Blood Drive is a nationwide fundraiser/protest held around the country every July, when gay men go to blood drives, attempt to donate and then offer a straight friend or family member who can up a pint or two their place.

Though we’re more than six months away from the next NGBD, you can still try to donate any time. Your attempt will be recorded by the FDA, and help illustrate how many gay men would donate blood if they could.

4. Play Angry Birds

Apple has ramped up its efforts for World AIDS Day in 2014, with 100% of proceeds from the iTunes store’s Apps for (RED) section going to the (RED) Foundation’s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, from now through December 7. The tech giant will also donate a portion of brick-and-mortar store receipts from Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the cause.

“Apple isn’t just in the fight to end AIDS. They are setting a new bar for business, giving $75 million and counting to the Global Fund as part of their partnership with (RED),” said Bono, who helped co-found the effort. “I couldn’t be prouder to work with them.” Some apps participating in Apple’s Apps for (RED) campaign include:

angry birdsAngry Birds players can perfect their bird-flinging with (RED)’s Mighty Feathers and challenge themselves to a bonus golden egg level.
Clash of Clans warriors can prepare for battle with special edition (PRODUCT)RED gems and display a (RED) badge of honor on the village’s town hall.
FarmVille 2: Country Escape players can “Roll out the RED Carpet” and purchase limited-time items such as the Cozy Cow, St. Bernard and more.
FIFA 15 Ultimate Team players can compete in a (RED) Tournament and Team of the Week event. All winners will be awarded football superstar and (RED) Ambassador Rafa Marquez.
Frozen Free Fall unveils a magical new (RED) Challenge in the Kingdom of Arendelle, and offers an exclusive combined offer of 1 power-up, 1 snowball and 3 lives.
GarageBand users can now purchase an exclusive collection of 300 guitar, bass, synth and drum loops to create even more amazing music.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’s aspiring celebrity players can treat themselves to (PRODUCT)RED items including (BEATS)RED Solo2 headphones. Kris Jenner, the first family member to join Kim’s in-app world, will make her in-game debut on December 1.
The Human Body debuts the Immune System feature, educating users on how the body fights pathogens. The accompanying handbook features a new section on HIV/AIDS.
Sims FreePlay features a special community challenge that unlocks various rewards, and players can purchase limited-edition (PRODUCT)RED items such as a swimming pool, party plane and piñata.

3. Contribute a panel to the AIDS Memorial Quilt

LGBT activist Cleve Jones helped launch the AIDS Memorial Quilt, honoring those we lost to the virus, nearly 30 years ago—at a time when many hospitals refused to treat AIDS patients, and funeral homes would routinely refuse to accept the bodies of those who died from the virus.

With new pieces added all the time, the Quilt now is comprised of 48,000 individual panels that commemorate more than 93,000 names, and  would stretch across 1.3 million square feet if laid out end to end.

You don’t have to know someone personally affected by HIV/AIDS to contribute a square—or even know how to sew. (Directions on submitting are available here.)

While its too big to be displayed in whole, segments of the quilt will be on view around the country today (You can find locations here.) Digital gallerieshave also been created to exhibit portions of the quilt in cyberspace.

2. Learn about PrEP

Daily Antiretroviral Pill Found To Protect Healthy From AIDS Transmission

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP,  treatments like Truvada are proving to be a potent tool in the fight against the spread of HIV. They offer HIV-negative people an added level of protection against infection—one that doesn’t rely on the behavior of a sex partner.

But only you can decide if PrEP is right for you. Get the facts and latest research recommendations from the CDC before speaking to your healthcare provider.

1. Get tested

Knowledge is power: The largest growing segment of HIV is coming from people who don’t know they’re positive.

AIDS.gov offers a nationwide database of  testing centers, as well as locations that can help with housing discrimination, substance abuse, counseling and more. Find a site near you on their HIV Testing and Care Services Locator by simply typing in your ZIP code.

* You can also text your zip code to KNOWIT (566948), and receive a text back with a confidential testing site near you.

* Or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) and ask for free testing sites in your area.

* Worried about privacy and convenience? There are now safe and accurate HIV home-testing kits from companies like OraQuick and Home Access available at most major pharmacies.

The 8 Things Vegans & Vegetarians Hear On Thanksgiving

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This is my first Thanksgiving as a vegan or a vegetarian. All the other years of my life, I chowed down on turkey, which I actually liked dry, so that it felt less like I was eating flesh.

In the last year, I’ve finally made the long-time-coming leap to becoming an official vegetarian, and in the last few months, to becoming a vegan. Since I’m hosting my first ever vegan thanksgiving dinner with my partner this week, I’m rapidly becoming acquainted with the questions people ask vegans and vegetarians on the holiday. “But what will we eat? Wait, does vegan mean no eggs or milk too?”

When I received these questions, I initially felt guilty imposing my beliefs on my friends, and so I made our potluck invite a vegan/vegetarian dinner as a compromise, even though I won’t be able to eat the dishes with dairy, and frankly don’t feel great about celebrating them, considering what I know now about the suffering that goes into making cheese, milk, and eggs.

But this is a work in progress, and that includes figuring out how I want to respond to some of the most common questions and comments I’ve been getting about being a vegan on Thanksgiving. Because when people are asking questions, even if they are sometimes judgmental or ignorant, that’s a good thing. I actually can’t think of a better holiday for opening up a dialogue about eating animals.

1. “But What Will You Eat?!”

You may get this one if you’re the guest of a non-vegan or veggie host — hopefully in advance of the meal planning, but possibly after you’ve already sat down and they realized they failed to note that being vegan meant no milk or cream. (This happens a surprising amount. I’ve had waiters at trendy restaurants in New York City suggest cheese and fish dishes as vegan, so it’s not surprising Aunt Selma might not get it.) It’s more effective in the long run to respond with kindness here.

How To Respond: “Actually, there are a ton of delicious things I can eat that everyone will like. Let me send you some recipe and food blog ideas, or even a few specific recipes.”

2. “But What Will We Eat?!”

If you host a vegan Thanksgiving, you will get some variation of this question if you ask people to bring vegan food. People are relatively accepting of vegetarians, but as a vegan I’ve noticed people start getting annoyed. I get it. I had all kinds of snobby ideas about how snobby vegans were before I became one. Yes, it takes slightly more foresight to cook a vegan Thanksgiving meal, perhaps. But in an age of Pintrest, Google, and gourmet vegan cuisine, it’s hardly difficult.

How To Respond: “There are a ton of things we can eat. Don’t worry, it’ll taste good — plus, you’re probably going to feel better after my meal, even if you eat just as much. If you feel like bringing something, I could even pick a recipe and send it to you. Maybe you can think of it as a fun cooking challenge. If not, wine’s cool.”

3. “It’s Just Not Thanksgiving Without A Turkey”

If you host a vegan Thanksgiving, you will get some variation of this question if you ask people to bring vegan food. People are relatively accepting of vegetarians, but as a vegan I’ve noticed people start getting annoyed. I get it. I had all kinds of snobby ideas about how snobby vegans were before I became one. Yes, it takes slightly more foresight to cook a vegan Thanksgiving meal, perhaps. But in an age of Pintrest, Google, and gourmet vegan cuisine, it’s hardly difficult.

How To Respond: “There are a ton of things we can eat. Don’t worry, it’ll taste good — plus, you’re probably going to feel better after my meal, even if you eat just as much. If you feel like bringing something, I could even pick a recipe and send it to you. Maybe you can think of it as a fun cooking challenge. If not, wine’s cool.”

4. “So, You Like Tofurky Then?”

It’s this, or some variation on a Tofurky joke, usually said really snidely. Personally, I have no desire to eat it myself, but if you like it, more power to you.

How To Respond: If you do like it, just say, “Yup, I like a lot of foods.” If you don’t like it or haven’t tried it, just say, “Actually, I’ve never tried it. Do you like it?”

5. “This Must Be So Hard For You”

If this is said in a condescending way, at first I want to say, “Yes, it’s reallyhard to eat all this delicious food in excess without the guilt of knowing it was produced by animal suffering. It’s also really hard that even though I’m also stuffed, I probably feel less sick than you right now because vegan food is so much easier to digest.” But rhetorically, that’s not the best way to get to people — or have compassion — which is what this is all about.

How To Respond: “The only thing that’s hard is if the people I’m having dinner with aren’t willing to cook or bring dishes I can eat. Otherwise, it’s just delicious, and I feel less sick after dinner, even if I eat as much.”

6. “You Must Think I’m A Terrible Person For Eating This”

People might also say, “I bet you think you’re better than me,” or, “You’re a better person than me.” Either way, it’s important to be take a cue from the Buddha in these moments and not take the bait. Maybe even let the comment hang awkwardly in the air for a second before you respond with kindness.

As theorist Carol J. Adams writes in Living Among Meat Eaters, it’s useful to “recognize meat eaters as blocked vegetarians, but relate to them as potentialvegetarians. As a result we reorient our own goals in any interaction: it is not to defend our diet but to help them remove the defensiveness encircling theirs.” In other words, don’t be an exclusive asshole about it or simply write off this comment by minimizing or apologizing for your ethics; instead, engage them in a dialogue by being open about your beliefs in a non-judgmental way, and asking plenty of questions.

What You Should Say: “Why would I think that?”

You can have a conversation from there, but be sure to listen more than you speak — you can offer to send them some articles if they’re interested at the end.

7. “I Know You Don’t Eat Meat, But What About Chicken Or Turkey?”

It’s best just to explain this without too much attitude if you can, since the person asking this one is probably either older or from a culture where the ideas of vegetarianism and veganism aren’t as widespread. Same thing with people thinking vegan means you can eat milk or eggs — it’s best just to educate rather than alienate here, since they asked the question.

How To Respond: “No, not eating meat means I don’t eat any animals.”

8. “But It’s Tradition!”

Progressive people are into sharing memes lately about how messed up it is that we spend a day celebrating a relationship that would result in Native American’s mass genocide. I agree, and though I do celebrate Thanksgiving, I certainly recognize how only saying, “But I celebrate it as a fall harvest, not an American thing,” is inherently a flawed argument.

That said, I am trying to take the holiday and make it into an opportunity to talk about injustice in the world, recognize my immense privilege, and create a new tradition where I can feel grateful for the fact that I can reduce the suffering of others, at least when it comes to what I eat.

If you consider yourself progressive and have shared a meme like the one above (I know I did as a meat-eater) then you might want to also consider what you put on your plate. If you feel guilty about our country’s history of mass murder and enslavement, then why is it necessary to celebrate Thanksgiving and your family by putting a corpse on the middle of the table, or by cooking with milk and cheese that’s the result of a baby cow being torn from its mother?

You might feel that animal suffering is unfortunate, but that it’s “different” than our suffering as humans. Specieism, sexism, and racism are all predicated on the same logic: that for “them,” it’s just different. That’s just the way things are. But it doesn’t have to be the way things are, especially in this case, where the solution is so simple. If we all just opted out, simply didn’t eat the result of animal suffering for our own pleasure when we have no nutritional need to, well, that would really be something to celebrate. What’s more abundant than realizing how many other options you have?

How To Respond: “Thanksgiving is about feeling grateful and abundant, and appreciative of my life and the lives of others. For me, there’s no better way to do that than to remind myself that I’m so privileged I don’t even need to eat animal products to have a delicious, filling meal. I feel thankful every time I think about it.”

DEA Seizes $50 Million Worth Of Heroin In New York’s Largest Bust Of All Time

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The Drug Enforcement Administration announced Tuesday that it has seized 154 pounds of heroin, worth $50 million, from a secret compartment in a vehicle in New York City, in addition to collaring two men believed to be running a massive drug ring along with a Mexican cartel.


It’s the largest heroin seizure the state of New York has ever seen, and the fourth-largest ever in the United States, according to a DEA press release. Jose A. Mercedes (aka “Hippie”) and Yenci Cruz Francisco were arrested Sunday in the Bronx after a yearlong investigation by DEA agents, New York City Police Department investigators and state police detectives.

“The $50 million street value of the heroin in this case is a conservative estimate. To put it in perspective, this load was so large it carried the potential of supplying a dose of heroin to every man, woman and child in New York City,” DEA Special Narcotics Prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan said in the release. “While this important seizure stopped a huge amount of heroin from flooding our city, it also highlights the critical need to intercept heroin before it ever reaches our region.”

A court authorized wiretap investigation revealed that MERCEDES and his drug trafficking group received sizable shipments of heroin at least once a month from suppliers in Culiacán, Mexico, an area controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel. The organization is believed to have served as a main source of heroin for customers throughout the five boroughs, as well as Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Over the weekend, agents followed Mercedes and Cruz Francisco as they drove a Chevy Suburban to an industrial parking lot in Montville, New Jersey. There, the pair allegedly picked up a large drop of heroin. When they got back to New York, agents maintained surveillance until Sunday morning, when the pair left a Bronx apartment in separate vehicles.


They pulled Mercedes over in a Kia Sorrento, and the DEA alleges that “Several large bags containing a tan powdery substance were recovered from the front seat of the car and from a hidden compartment in the center console.”

Cruz Francisco was stopped in the Suburban, where officers found a hidden compartment under the floor that contained 70 “rectangular shaped kilogram packages of heroin” labeled “Rolex,” as well as $24,000 in cash.

Subsequent searches of New York City apartments connected to the pair revealed $2 million in cash underneath floorboards and a .38-caliber firearm.

$2 million in cash was seized under the floorboards of a Bronx apartment, seen here.

Mercedes and Cruz Francisco were arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court on charges of operating as a major trafficker and first-degree possession of a controlled substance, and held without bail. They’re scheduled to appear in court again on Friday.

Last month, the New York Daily News reported that heroin ismaking a big comeback on the East Coast. In New York City, fatal heroin overdoses have exceeded homicides over the past two years, and cops seized $300 million worth of heroin in 2014, according to the paper.

What Is The Difference Between Fibromyalgia And Arthritis?

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What Is The Difference Between Arthritis And Fibromyalgia?

Although both conditions can cause widespread pain and tiredness, they are two different illnesses. While fibromyalgia is considered an arthritis-related condition, it is not a true form of arthritis because it does not cause tissue inflammation nor does it damage joints or muscles. However some consider it a rheumatic condition because it can make the joints and surrounding tissues painful and sore to use. In general people with fibromyalgia have normal looking X-ray and blood tests results, and family and friends drive them mad by telling them they look fine. A person with arthritis will have abnormal test results and they may also be in visible pain, with swollen or deformed joints.

How They Get Confused: Misdiagnosis
An incorrect diagnosis of arthritis is not uncommon. Occasionally a doctor will mistake fibromyalgia for arthritis. This is because the early stages of arthritis produce symptoms which are similar to symptoms of fibromyalgia. This includes muscle stiffness, aches and tiredness; as well as depression and a general feeling of unwellness. Although fibromyalgia patients have normal X-ray and blood tests results, so can someone with early stages of arthritis if the bones or joints have not yet deteriorated. As arthritis is much more common, the doctor may make this diagnosis without thinking of fibromyalgia. He might say the patient has a ‘touch’ of arthritis, whereas she really has fibromyalgia. The rules for fibromyalgia are a little tougher. If the doctor starts off by thinking the patient might be experiencing fibromyalgia pain, a fibromyalgia diagnosis is never given until all other potential causes of pain, including arthritis, have been ruled out. Personal traumas, going back as far as childhood should also be taken into account, as it may be a trigger for fibro pain. See, can an accident or trauma trigger fibromyalgia?

When You Have Both Illnesses
Very often though, people can have both conditions at the same time. There are different types of arthritis, the most common being osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Someone could have fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. It is also possible to have fibromyalgia with rarertypes of arthritis like lupus or polymyalgia rheumatica. The treatment for arthritis, like the treatment for fibromyalgia, involves taking medications, exercising and making lifestyle improvements (by eating a healthy diet or losing weight if necessary). Neither condition can be cured but rather the aim of treatment is to manage symptoms (see our discussion, can fibromyalgia be cured?).

Symptoms Checker

Typical Signs of Fibromyalgia
• Pain in specific points of the body called the fibromyalgia tender points.
• Flu like pain, primarily in the neck and shoulders.
• Depression/anger.
• Feeling anxious.
• Constant extreme fatigue.
• Chronic back pain.
• Bouts of constipation or diarrhea.
• Jaw or facial tenderness (90 percent experience this symptom).
• Headaches and migraines (up to 50 percent of cases).
For more, see what are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

Typical Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis/Osteoarthritis
• Pain in affected joints, particularly after repetitive use.
• Stiffness, you may feel creaky first thing in the morning.
• Creaking joint noises, cracking and crunching sounds.
Rheumatoid Arthritis
• Reduced appetite.
• Feeling generally unwell.
• Fatigue.
• Swollen glands.
• General feeling of weakness.

The Main Differences Between Fibromyalgia and Arthritis

Symptom/Sign Fibromyalgia Arthritis
Joint destruction No Yes
Inflammation of joints No Yes
Requires surgery as a treatment Never Sometimes
Blood test can identify the condition No Yes
X-Ray will help identify the condition No Yes
Extreme fatigue Yes Sometimes
Type of pain Muscle pain Joint pain
Depression More common Less common
Headaches More common Less common

Early Warning Signs of Mental Illness

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Major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder rarely appear “out of the blue.” Most often family, friends, teachers or individuals themselves begin to recognize small changes or a feeling that “something is not quite right” about their thinking, feelings or behavior before one of these illnesses appears in its full-blown form.

Learning about developing symptoms, or early warning signs, and taking action can help. Early intervention can help reduce the severity of an illness. It may even be possible to delay or prevent a major mental illness altogether.

Signs and Symptoms

If several of the following are occurring, it may useful to follow up with a mental health professional.

  • Withdrawal — Recent social withdrawal and loss of interest in others
  • Drop in functioning — An unusual drop in functioning, at school, work or social activities, such as quitting sports, failing in school or difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems thinking — Problems with concentration, memory or logical thought and speech that are hard to explain
  • Increased sensitivity — Heightened sensitivity to sights, sounds, smells or touch; avoidance of over-stimulating situations
  • Apathy — Loss of initiative or desire to participate in any activity
  • Feeling disconnected — A vague feeling of being disconnected from oneself or one’s surroundings; a sense of unreality
  • Illogical thinking — Unusual or exaggerated beliefs about personal powers to understand meanings or influence events; illogical or “magical” thinking typical of childhood in an adult
  • Nervousness — Fear or suspiciousness of others or a strong nervous feeling
  • Unusual behavior – Odd, uncharacteristic, peculiar behavior
  • Sleep or appetite changes — Dramatic sleep and appetite changes or decline in personal care
  • Mood changes — Rapid or dramatic shifts in feelings

One or two of these symptoms alone can’t predict a mental illness. But if a person is experiencing several at one time and the symptoms are causing serious problems in the ability to study, work or relate to others, he/she should be seen by a mental health professional. People with suicidal thoughts or intent, or thoughts of harming others, need immediate attention.

Types and Levels of Brain Injury

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Types of Brain Injury

All brain injuries are unique.  The brain can receive several different types of injuries depending on the type of force and amount of force that impacts the head. The type of injury the brain receives may affect just one functional area of the brain, various areas, or all areas of the brain.

Traumatic Brain Injury  •  Acquired Brain Injury • Levels of Brain Injury

Traumatic Brain Injury


Even a concussion can cause substantial difficulties or impairments that can last a lifetime. Whiplash can result in the same difficulties as head injury. Such impairments can be helped by rehabilitation, however many individuals are released from treatment without referrals to brain injury rehabilitation, or guidance of any sort.

  • A concussion can be caused by direct blows to the head, gunshot wounds, violent shaking of the head, or force from a whiplash type injury.
  • Both closed and open head injuries can produce a concussion. A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury.
  • A concussion is caused when the brain receives trauma from an impact or a sudden momentum or movement change. The blood vessels in the brain may stretch and cranial nerves may be damaged.
  • A person may or may not experience a brief loss of consciousness.
  • A person may remain conscious, but feel dazed.
  • A concussion may or may not show up on a diagnostic imaging test, such as a CAT Scan.
  • Skull fracture, brain bleeding, or swelling may or may not be present. Therefore, concussion is sometimes defined by exclusion and is considered a complex neurobehavioral syndrome.
  • A concussion can cause diffuse axonal type injury resulting in temporary or permanent damage.
  • A blood clot in the brain can occur occasionally and be fatal.
  • It may take a few months to a few years for a concussion to heal.


  • A contusion can be the result of a direct impact to the head.
  • A contusion is a bruise (bleeding) on the brain.
  • Large contusions may need to be surgically removed.


  • Coup-Contrecoup Injury describes contusions that are both at the site of the impact and on the complete opposite side of the brain.
  • This occurs when the force impacting the head is not only great enough to cause a contusion at the site of impact, but also is able to move the brain and cause it to slam into the opposite side of the skull, which causes the additional contusion.

Diffuse Axonal

  • A Diffuse Axonal Injury can be caused by shaking or strong rotation of the head, as with Shaken Baby Syndrome, or by rotational forces, such as with a car accident.
  • Injury occurs because the unmoving brain lags behind the movement of the skull, causing brain structures to tear.
  • There is extensive tearing of nerve tissue throughout the brain. This can cause brain chemicals to be released, causing additional injury.
  • The tearing of the nerve tissue disrupts the brain’s regular communication and chemical processes.
  • This disturbance in the brain can produce temporary or permanent widespread brain damage, coma, or death.
  • A person with a diffuse axonal injury could present a variety of functional impairments depending on where the shearing (tears) occurred in the brain.


Penetrating injury to the brain occurs from the impact of a bullet, knife or other sharp object that forces hair, skin, bones and fragments from the object into the brain.

  • Objects traveling at a low rate of speed through the skull and brain can ricochet within the skull, which widens the area of damage.
  • A “through-and-through” injury occurs if an object enters the skull, goes through the brain, and exits the skull. Through-and-through traumatic brain injuries include the effects of penetration injuries, plus additional shearing, stretching and rupture of brain tissue. (Brumback R. (1996). Oklahoma Notes: Neurology and Clinical Neuroscience. (2nd Ed.). New York: Springer.)
  • The devastating traumatic brain injuries caused by bullet wounds result in a 91% firearm-related death rate overall. (Center for Disease Control.

Acquired Brain Injury

Acquired Brain Injury, (ABI), results from damage to the brain caused by strokes, tumors, anoxia, hypoxia, toxins, degenerative diseases, near drowning and/or other conditions not necessarily caused by an external force.


Anoxic Brain Injury occurs when the brain does not receive any oxygen. Cells in the brain need oxygen to survive and function.

Types of Anoxic Brain Injury

  • Anoxic Anoxia- Brain injury from no oxygen supplied to the brain
  • Anemic Anoxia- Brain injury from blood that does not carry enough oxygen
  • Toxic Anoxia- Brain injury from toxins or metabolites that block oxygen in the blood from being used Zasler, N. Brain Injury Source, Volume 3, Issue 3, Ask the Doctor


A Hypoxic Brain Injury results when the brain receives some, but not enough oxygen.

Types of Hypoxic Brain Injury

  • Hypoxic Ischemic Brain Injury, also called Stagnant Hypoxia or Ischemic Insult- Brain injury occurs because of a lack of blood flow to the brain because of a critical reduction in blood flow or blood pressure.


Brain Injury Association of America, Causes of Brain Injury. www.biausa.org

Zasler, N. Brain Injury Source, Volume 3, Issue 3, Ask the Doctor

Levels of Brain Injury Brain Injury

Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (Glasgow Coma Scale score 13-15)

Mild traumatic brain injury occurs when:

  • Loss of consciousness is very brief, usually a few seconds or minutes
  • Loss of consciousness does not have to occur—the person may be dazed or confused
  • Testing or scans of the brain may appear normal
  • A mild traumatic brain injury is diagnosed only when there is a change in the mental status at the time of injury—the person is dazed, confused, or loses consciousness. The change in mental status indicates that the person’s brain functioning has been altered, this is called a concussion

Moderate Traumatic Brain Injury (Glasgow Coma Scale core 9-12)

Most brain injuries result from moderate and minor head injuries. Such injuries usually result from a non-penetrating blow to the head, and/or a violent shaking of the head. As luck would have it many individuals sustain such head injuries without any apparent consequences. However, for many others, such injuries result in lifelong disabling impairments.

A moderate traumatic brain injury occurs when:

  • A loss of consciousness lasts from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Confusion lasts from days to weeks
  • Physical, cognitive, and/or behavioral impairments last for months or are permanent.

Persons with moderate traumatic brain injury generally can make a good recovery with treatment or successfully learn to compensate for their deficits.

Severe Brain Injury

Severe head injuries usually result from crushing blows or penetrating wounds to the head. Such injuries crush, rip and shear delicate brain tissue. This is the most life threatening, and the most intractable type of brain injury.

Typically, heroic measures are required in treatment of such injuries. Frequently, severe head trauma results in an open head injury, one in which the skull has been crushed or seriously fractured. Treatment of open head injuries usually requires prolonged hospitalization and extensive rehabilitation. Typically, rehabilitation is incomplete and for most part there is no return to pre-injury status. Closed head injuries can also result in severe brain injury.

TBI can cause a wide range of functional short- or long-term changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, or emotions.

TBI can also cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.1

Repeated mild TBIs occurring over an extended period of time (i.e., months, years) can result in cumulative neurological and cognitive deficits. Repeated mild TBIs occurring within a short period of time (i.e., hours, days, or weeks) can be catastrophic or fatal.