Monday, April 15

Health

PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Pervasive in Water Worldwide, Study Finds
Health

PFAS ‘Forever Chemicals’ Are Pervasive in Water Worldwide, Study Finds

They’re in makeup, dental floss and menstrual products. They’re in nonstick pans and takeout food wrappers. Same with rain jackets and firefighting equipment, as well as pesticides and artificial turf on sports fields.They’re PFAS: a class of man-made chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. They are also called “forever chemicals” because the bonds in their chemical compounds are so strong they don’t break down for hundreds to thousands of years, if at all.They’re also in our water.A new study of more than 45,000 water samples around the world found that about 31 percent of groundwater samples tested that weren’t near any obvious source of contamination had PFAS levels considered harmful to human health by the Environmental Protection Agency. About 16 percent of surface water...
Bennett Braun, Psychiatrist Who Fueled ‘Satanic Panic,’ Dies at 83
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Bennett Braun, Psychiatrist Who Fueled ‘Satanic Panic,’ Dies at 83

Bennett Braun, a Chicago psychiatrist whose diagnoses of repressed memories involving horrific abuse by devil worshipers helped to fuel what became known as the “satanic panic” of the 1980s and ’90s, died on March 20 in Lauderhill, Fla., north of Miami. He was 83.Jane Braun, one of his ex-wives, said the death, in a hospital, was from complications of a fall. Dr. Braun lived in Butte, Mont., but had been in Lauderhill on vacation.Dr. Braun gained renown in the early 1980s as an expert in two of the most popular and controversial areas of psychiatric treatment: repressed memories and multiple personality disorder, now known as dissociative identity disorder.He claimed that he could help patients uncover memories of childhood trauma — the existence of which, he and others said, were responsi...
How to Be Less Self-Critical When Perfectionism Is a Trap
Health

How to Be Less Self-Critical When Perfectionism Is a Trap

Yuxin Sun, a psychologist in Seattle, sees a lot of clients at her group practice who insist they aren’t perfectionists. “‘Oh, I’m not perfect. I’m far from perfect,’” they tell her.But perfectionism isn’t about being the best at any given pursuit, Dr. Sun said, “it’s the feeling of never arriving to that place, never feeling good enough, never feeling adequate.” And that can make for a harsh internal voice that belittles and chastises us.Perfectionism is so pervasive that there’s a test to measure it: the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale. When researchers looked at how college students have responded to the scale’s questions over time, they found that rates of perfectionism surged in recent decades, skyrocketing between 2006 and 2022.Thomas Curran, an associate professor of psychology...
Insurance Companies Reap Hidden Fees as Patients Get Unexpected Bills
Health

Insurance Companies Reap Hidden Fees as Patients Get Unexpected Bills

Patti Sietz-Honig, a video editor at Fox 5 in New York, filed a complaint in 2022. The cost of seeing a specialist for chronic back pain had spiked, and she faced roughly $60,000 in bills.Ms. Sietz-Honig pressed for updates about her complaint and sent articles critical of MultiPlan from Capitol Forum, a site focused on antitrust and regulatory news. Last March, the agency emailed her that her employer and her insurer, Aetna, had agreed to a “temporary exception” and made additional payments.“Unfortunately,” the agency wrote, the law “does not prohibit the use of third-party vendors” to calculate payments.Meanwhile, her longtime pain specialist started requiring payment upfront. To save money, Ms. Sietz-Honig spaced out her appointments.“I’ve been in a lot of pain lately,” she said, “so I’...
In Battle Over Health Care Costs, Private Equity Plays Both Sides
Health

In Battle Over Health Care Costs, Private Equity Plays Both Sides

Insurance companies have long blamed private-equity-owned hospitals and physician groups for exorbitant billing that drives up health care costs. But a tool backed by private equity is helping insurers make billions of dollars and shift costs to patients.The tool, Data iSight, is the premier offering of a cost-containment firm called MultiPlan that has attracted round after round of private equity investment since positioning itself as a central player in the lucrative medical payments field. Today Hellman & Friedman, the California-based private equity giant, and the Saudi Arabian government’s sovereign wealth fund are among the firm’s largest investors.The evolution of Data iSight, which recommends how much of each medical bill should be paid, is an untold chapter in the story of pri...
Is Bird Flu Coming to People Next? Are We Ready?
Health

Is Bird Flu Coming to People Next? Are We Ready?

Bird flu outbreaks among dairy cows in multiple states, and at least one infection in farmworker in Texas, have incited fears that the virus may be the next infectious threat to people.The influenza virus, called H5N1, is highly pathogenic, meaning it has the ability to cause severe disease and death. But while its spread among cows was unexpected, people can catch the virus only from close contact with infected animals, not from one another, federal officials said.“It’s really about folks who are in environments where they may be interacting with cattle that are infected with this virus,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.“The risk for most everyone else is very low,”...
Judge Orders Timely Housing for Migrant Children Waiting at Border
Health

Judge Orders Timely Housing for Migrant Children Waiting at Border

The federal government is required to “expeditiously” house migrant children who cross into the United States unlawfully, rather than allow them to remain in unsafe open-air sites along the border, a Federal District Court judge ruled Wednesday night.The decision, handed down by Judge Dolly M. Gee of the United States District Court of Central California, sided mostly with the lawyers representing the children in a class-action lawsuit. It established that minors at the sites were in legal custody of the Department of Homeland Security and thus were entitled to certain rights and protections, such as a safe and sanitary environment, even if they had not yet been formally processed.The court order, which takes effect immediately, is expected to impact thousands of children and potentially m...
How 2 Families Faced a Catastrophic Birth Defect
Health

How 2 Families Faced a Catastrophic Birth Defect

Ashlee Wiseman, a waitress at a Sizzler in Idaho Falls, Idaho, was 10 weeks pregnant when a nurse phoned with crushing news: a test of fetal DNA in her blood had found that her baby girl had trisomy 18, a catastrophic genetic abnormality, and was unlikely to survive.Devastated, she called her partner, Clint Risenmay, who was at work. He broke down in tears.Ashlee’s response was different.“A still small voice took over me,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I’m not going to listen to them. There has to be something that can help her. And there has to be someone who can help.’”A social media search led her to Dr. John Carey, a professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Utah, who has devoted his life to helping families dealing with trisomy 18. He supports pregnant women who chose abortion, bu...
Bacteria That Cause Meningitis Are Spreading Again, C.D.C. Warns
Health

Bacteria That Cause Meningitis Are Spreading Again, C.D.C. Warns

By the Numbers: A rising fatality rate.The illness is caused by infection with a bacterium called Neisseria meningitidis. Last year, 422 cases of invasive meningococcal disease were reported in the United States, the highest number since 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.But as of Monday, 143 cases have been reported to the C.D.C. so far this year, 62 more than the number of cases reported last year during the same period.The illness is extremely dangerous. Even with appropriate treatment, 10 to 15 percent of patients who develop meningococcal disease will die. Many recent cases were caused by an unusual strain of N. meningitidis called ST-1466. This strain caused 17 deaths among 94 patients whose outcomes are known, a fatality rate of 18 percent.Survivors o...
Why Are Older Americans Drinking So Much?
Health

Why Are Older Americans Drinking So Much?

The phone awakened Doug Nordman at 3 a.m. A surgeon was calling from a hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., where Mr. Nordman’s father had arrived at the emergency room, incoherent and in pain, and then lost consciousness.At first, the staff had thought he was suffering a heart attack, but a CT scan found that part of his small intestine had been perforated. A surgical team repaired the hole, saving his life, but the surgeon had some questions.“Was your father an alcoholic?” he asked. The doctors had found Dean Nordman malnourished, his peritoneal cavity “awash with alcohol.”The younger Mr. Nordman, a military personal finance author living in Oahu, Hawaii, explained that his 77-year-old dad had long been a classic social drinker: a Scotch and water with his wife before dinner, which got top...