July 19, 2017

A major study of thousands of Alzheimer's patients has discovered that many people diagnosed with the disease might not actually have it, The Washington Post reports. Researchers at the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco found that of 4,000 patients tested for the disease's telltale amyloid plaques in the brain, just 54.3 percent of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) patients and 70.5 percent of dementia patients actually had the hallmark.

While the presence of amyloid plaques does not necessarily mean someone has Alzheimer's, being negative for the plaques does confirm a person does not have the disease.

It is famously difficult to diagnose Alzheimer's, with doctors often having to make the call based on a person's symptoms alone. A true diagnosis is impossible without autopsy, although advances with spinal taps and PET scans can help detect amyloid plaques for a more certain determination. That being said, "spinal taps are invasive, and PET scans cost $3,000 to $4,000 and are typically not covered by insurance," the Post writes.

"If someone had a putative diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease, they might be on an Alzheimer's drug like Aricept or Namenda," explained the Alzheimer Association's director of global science initiatives, James Hendrix, who helped work on the findings. "What if they had a PET scan and it showed that they didn't have amyloid in their brain? Their physician would take them off that drug and look for something else."

The researchers' study, which began in 2016, will last four years and eventually test more than 18,000 patients. Read more about the study here. Jeva Lange

July 17, 2017
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The highly-respected eye surgeon and former dean of the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine, Dr. Carmen A. Puliafito, lived a secret double life in which he cavorted with escorts and drug addicts, the Los Angeles Times reports. While Puliafito, 66, publicly raked in an estimated $1 billion or more in donations for the school and is credited for its ascent up the list of the country's top medical programs, on the side he reportedly used methamphetamine and other drugs with young adults such as Sarah Warren, whom he met on an escort website when she was 20:

The images viewed by the Times reflect an easy familiarity between Warren and Puliafito. In the video that shows him smoking from a large glass pipe while she heats a piece of foil and inhales, Warren calls Puliafito "Tony," short for Anthony, his middle name.

Looking into the camera, Warren says she and Puliafito are making a "good old-fashioned doing-drugs video" to send to a friend.

[...] In another video, Warren takes a drag from a meth pipe, and as she exhales, Puliafito inhales the smoke from her mouth, a technique known as "shotgunning."

In a separate series of photos, Warren sits on Puliafito's lap as she smokes meth. [Los Angeles Times]

Warren, who is no longer in touch with Puliafito, said the medical school dean paid for her apartments and gave her spending money, although "it was never enough for me to save up and leave." She overdosed while with Puliafito at a party in 2016, and was rushed to the hospital despite Puliafito's insistence to a dispatcher that she was unconscious from "the alcohol." Warren said she and Puliafito had been partying for two days at that point and six hours later, when she woke up, "we went back to the hotel and got another room and continued the party."

Puliafito resigned from his post as dean of the medical school three weeks later, claiming he wanted to explore "outside opportunities," the Times reports.

"He was always with me," Warren recalled in her interviews. "It was as if he had nothing else to do." Read the full, gripping report here. Jeva Lange

July 17, 2017
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A disturbing investigative report by BuzzFeed News suggests that singer R. Kelly is keeping young women against their will in a kind of "cult" in which he controls everything from how they dress to what they eat. Relying on interviews with the parents of the "brainwashed" women, as well as three former members of Kelly's group, BuzzFeed News describes Kelly luring young women in with the promise of affection or mentorship, only to abuse them and keep them from contacting their families.

"[Former members of Kelly's inner circle] said six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records," BuzzFeed News writes.

Women think "this is R. Kelly, I'm going to live a lavish lifestyle," explained Kelly's former personal assistant, Cheryl Mack. "No. You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. … [Kelly] is a master at mind-control. ... He is a puppet master."

Women who break Kelly's "rules" are allegedly punished. Another woman, [Kitti] Jones, claimed that "Kelly held her against a tree and slapped her outside of a Subway sandwich shop in spring 2013 because she had been too friendly with the male cashier there."

Police are unable to intervene due to the fact that the women living with Kelly are all over the age of consent and well-being checks in the past have resulted in the women saying they are "fine" and don't want to be bothered.

Kelly has faced legal trouble in the past due to accusations about his sexual conduct, including a 2008 acquittal on 14 charges of making child pornography with a 14-year-old girl. Kelly's lawyer, Linda Mensch, said in a statement that Kelly "works hard to become the best person and artist he can be" and "[l]ike all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that."

Read the full chilling report at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange

July 17, 2017

Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough slammed the Republican Party as "a dying party that I can no longer defend" in a blistering op-ed for The Washington Post on Sunday. Scarborough served as a Republican representative for Florida between 1995 and 2001, and he recently declared himself an independent. "I did not leave the Republican Party," Scarborough wrote. "The Republican Party left its senses."

The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments. President Trump's Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history, and the Constitution.

America's first Republican president reportedly said, "Nearly all men can stand adversity. But if you want to test a man's character, give him power." The current Republican president and the party he controls were granted monopoly power over Washington in November and already find themselves spectacularly failing Abraham Lincoln's character exam. [The Washington Post]

"Political historians will one day view Donald Trump as a historical anomaly," Scarborough concluded. "But the wreckage visited of this man will break the Republican Party into pieces — and lead to the election of independent thinkers no longer tethered to the tired dogmas of the polarized past." Read his entire op-ed at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

July 14, 2017

A concerning new exposé reveals Ivanka Trump to be a working woman's advocate who relies on underpaid laborers in unsafe factories abroad to cheaply produce her clothing line. The Washington Post report builds on previous stories that have cited the Trump brand's use of cheap labor, noting that her company runs against industry trends as many other fashion labels are increasingly involved in improving workers' living and working conditions.

"The mission of this brand has always been to inspire and empower women to create the lives they want to live and give them tools to do that. We're looking to ensure that we can sort of live this mission from top to bottom with our licensees, with our supply chain," Ivanka Trump brand president Abigail Klem said. However, Klem added that manufacturing goods in the U.S. "at a large scale is currently not possible."

Overseas, Ivanka Trump's suppliers make barely enough to live. "We are the ultra-poor,” Bangladeshi labor organizer and former child worker Kalpona Akter told the Post. "We are making you beautiful, but we are starving."

In China, where three activists investigating factories making [Ivanka Trump's] line were recently arrested, assembly-line workers produce Ivanka Trump woven blouses, shoes, and handbags. Laborers in Indonesia stitch together her dresses and knit tops. Suit jackets are assembled in Vietnam, cotton tops in India, and denim pants in Bangladesh — a country with a huge apparel industry where garment workers typically earn a minimum wage of about $70 a month and where some have recently faced a harsh crackdown from factory owners after seeking higher pay.

And in Ethi­o­pia, where manufacturers have boasted of paying workers a fifth of what they earn in Chinese factories, workers made thousands of pounds of Ivanka Trump-brand shoes in 2013, shipping data show. [The Washington Post]

Ivanka Trump is "concerned" about the reports, her attorney said in a statement, and Trump "expects that the company will respond appropriately." Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

June 30, 2017

In a personal essay for Politico Magazine, former State Department employee Max Bergmann reflected on the dramatic changes at Foggy Bottom under Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. "He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country," Bergmann wrote after visiting the department for the departure of a former colleague.

Bergmann served in the State Department between 2011 and 2017 and said he had been hopeful after Tillerson's appointment — "after eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management" — but Tillerson "is not reorganizing, he's downsizing."

As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague — a career senior foreign service officer — but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.

This is how diplomacy dies. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. With empty offices on a midweek afternoon. [Politico Magazine]

Tillerson has been heavily criticized for being inaccessible as well as leaving gaping holes in his department staff. "America is not in decline — it is choosing to decline," Bergmann said. "And Tillerson is making that choice." Read Bergmann's entire evaluation at Politico Magazine. Jeva Lange

June 22, 2017

Ever since Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, reporters have struggled to figure out how to address his exaggerations, insinuations, spins, misinformation, and outright lies. All of the above came to a head during his speech on Wednesday night in Iowa, and in her coverage of the event, The New York Times' Maggie Haberman refreshingly did not tip-toe around calling Trump out when he was wrong.

And he was wrong a fair bit:

Haberman added that Trump, in a moment of apparent self-awareness, "tried to catch himself at one point, saying, 'I have to be a little careful, because they'll say, 'He lied!'" Read Haberman's full coverage of the event here. Jeva Lange

May 26, 2017
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President Trump reportedly sought information about former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s with the ambition of single-handedly ending the Cold War, Nobel Peace Prize-winner Bernard Lown told The Hollywood Reporter. Lown, 95, shared the 1985 Peace Prize with a Soviet physician for the pair's denuclearization efforts. He told The Hollywood Reporter that Trump sought a meeting with him shortly after Lown returned from the USSR in 1986, and that Trump expressed his goal of being posted to Moscow by Ronald Reagan.

"He said to me, 'I hear you met with Gorbachev, and you had a long interview with him, and you're a doctor, so you have a good assessment of who he is,'" Lown said. "So I asked, 'Why would you want to know?' And he responded, 'I intend to call my good friend Ronnie,' meaning Reagan, 'to make me a plenipotentiary ambassador for the United States with Gorbachev.' Those are the words he used. And he said he would go to Moscow and he'd sit down with Gorbachev, and then he took his thumb and he hit the desk and he said, 'And within one hour the Cold War would be over!' I sat there dumbfounded. 'Who is this self-inflated individual? Is he sane or what?'"

Trump's desire to end the Cold War with his real estate deal-making abilities was well known and often widely mocked. "The idea that he would ever be allowed to go into a room alone and negotiate for the United States, let alone be successful in disarming the world, seems the naive musing of an optimistic, deluded young man who has never lost at anything he has tried," The New York Times wrote in 1984.

But as much as he was mocked at home, Trump did eventually get his audience with Gorbachev:

It wasn't long after the Trump-Lown meeting in 1986 that Trump made his first trip to the Soviet Union: In July 1987, he traveled to Moscow and met with Gorbachev. "The ostensible subject of their meeting was the possible development of luxury hotels in the Soviet Union by Mr. Trump," The New York Times wrote at the time. "But Mr. Trump's calls for nuclear disarmament were also well known to the Russians." (Trump told Playboy three years later, "Generally, these guys are much tougher and smarter than our representatives.") [The Hollywood Reporter]

Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter. Jeva Lange

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