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I Like Mike

The Power of Optimism

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Thirteen years after he retired from acting, Michael J. Fox debuts a new sitcom. Deborah W. Brooks, co-founder with Fox at his Parkinson's foundation, on the secret to his comeback.

Tonight, Michael J. Fox will once again bring Parkinson’s disease into the national conversation.The first time was in 1998, when he announced he’d been living with early-onset Parkinson’s for seven years. Then, in 2000, he announced his retirement from acting because of his progressing disease. But now the conversation has changed once again, and he is returning to our living rooms once a week, starring in a new sitcom, The Michael J. Fox Show.

The Doctor’s In

This Is Your Body on a Filibuster

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Politics aside, Ted Cruz’s epic Senate speech raises some health concerns. Isn’t it a bad idea to stand and talk for 21 hours without sleep? Dr. Kent Sepkowitz gives his diagnosis.

What do Tea Party darling Sen. Ted Cruz, droves of old-school Communist politburo members, and the straight-arrow, and therefore completely fictional, Sen. Jefferson Smith all have in common? They like to give long speeches. Really long speeches. Speeches so long, in fact, that no one knows what to say or do about them except report that the speeches are mighty long. And perhaps compare them to other really long speeches—the U.S. Senate winner being courtesy of Strom Thurmond, who in 1957 spoke, as part of a filibuster, against the Civil Rights Act for more than 24 hours.

Slithering

This Amoeba Eats Your Brain

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While playing on a Slip ‘n Slide in New Orleans, a 4-year-old may have snorted water—and a deadly brain-eating organism. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz on the alienlike amoeba that gives him nightmares.

Health officials have disclosed that a 4-year-old boy who died in August was killed by an extremely rare infection of the brain called Naegleria fowleri. The disease is seen a few times each year in the U.S. and is one of the odd infections caused not by bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites. Rather, Naegleria is a free-living amoeba—that one-cell organism familiar to junior high school science class students, then quickly forgotten.In more than 25 years of practicing as an infectious disease specialist, I have never seen a case of Naegleria, a testament to its rarity.

Bad Gamble

Nevada’s ‘Greyhound Therapy’

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Overcrowding at a state psychiatric hospital? Just give patients a sack lunch and a one-way bus ticket out of town. John L. Smith on how Governor Sandoval—who could be a veep candidate—is handling the scandal.

Around the overrun state mental-health campus in Las Vegas, staff psychologists sometimes called the decision to relieve overcrowding via a one-way bus ticket “Greyhound therapy.”It wasn’t considered cruel or controversial but was understood to be a realistic way of opening precious bed space in a state with a booming need and a draconian history of public mental-health service. Patients from out of state were stabilized, then escorted to the downtown bus station, handed a one-way ticket, and occasionally a sack lunch, and sent packing back to their town of origin.

Germs

A Scarier Bird Flu

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It was not an event for germophobes, as the CDC’s director described the crises Americans may soon face: an uncontainable virus, killer measles, and even the plague.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.While the U.S. public-health system has made major strides in stopping smoking and preventing HIV/AIDS, there is still a slew of infectious diseases, new and old, that all Americans need to start thinking about.Centers for Disease Control director Thomas Frieden outlined the looming crises in a talk this week, focusing on awareness and prevention while still name dropping a lot of scary stuff: the plague, bird flu, and killer measles.

32 Years

Why Can't We End AIDS?

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Another week, another glimmer of hope that an AIDS vaccine is nearly within reach. But Dr. Kent Sepkowitz says don't celebrate yet—there's a reason we haven't found one.

The latest installment in the familiar "AIDS vaccine is just around the corner" saga was presented this week by scientists writing in Nature.  The vaccine specialists reported an unprecedented improvement in nine of 16 rhesus monkeys infected with a simian virus similar to HIV, called SIV, who received the novel vaccine.The finding is heady stuff – if duplicated, this would represent one of the most effective approaches yet demonstrated.

Squeezed

Obamacare for the Win

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Even as conservatives keep rallying to defund health-care reform, congressional Republicans have come up with a plan that effectively admits they’re powerless to kill it. Jamelle Bouie reports from a pointless Capitol Hill demonstration.

“I want to be brutally honest with you about the fight to defund Obamacare,” Texas Sen. Ted Cruz told a Tea Party crowd gathered outside of the Capitol. “If the traditional rules of Washington apply, we can’t win. If the forum in which we have to make the case is a smoke-filled room, we’ve lost.”“But,” he continued, “I’m convinced the model has changed. I’m convinced that there is a new paradigm—the grassroots…No elected politician can win this fight.

Buzz Kill

The Agony and the Ecstasy

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The last day of a music festival in New York has been cancelled after suspected Molly overdoses killed two. Kent Sepkowitz reports on the drug’s inevitable consequences.

The recreational drug Ecstasy muscled its way back into the news over the weekend when the final day of the Electronic Zoo music festival, being held on New York City’s Randall’s Island, was cancelled after the death of two people and the hospitalization of four others due to apparent overdoses of the drug.  In most years, NYC sees about 10 overdoses from Ecstasy but this cluster of death and illness fell far outside the normal, prompting the Electric Zoo sponsors to cancel in order to protect their “patrons.

article

IVF for Just $300

Peter Dazeley, via Getty Images

Researchers are working on low-cost infertility treatments for women in the developing world. Is that a good idea? Randi Epstein explores the arguments.

It sounds like an oxymoron: high-tech fertility treatments for poor women in impoverished countries. Others call it just plain moronic. The whole idea, bringing in vitro fertilization to places such as sub-Saharan Africa, is polarizing public-health experts, with one faction saying all women deserve access to every kind of reproductive health and the rest pointing to other pressing diseases that trump fertility when it comes to parsing out limited resources in the developed world.

Grim Effects

All About Chemical Weapons

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Bashar al-Assad is alleged to have used sarin gas against his own people. From the Germans’ use of chlorine gas in World War I to Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ Kent Sepkowitz breaks down the types of chemical weapons—and their effects.

The Syrian civil war has taken an even darker turn in recent weeks as increasingly credible reports have surfaced suggesting President Bashar al-Assad is using not just conventional but also chemical weapons against the Syrian insurgency. Suddenly the laconic, at-arm’s-length West has snapped to attention and declared that an unacceptable moral line has been crossed.The about-face is not a surprise. For more than a century, chemical weapons have been deemed outside the boundaries of acceptable warfare, while simple slaughter from bullets and bombs has not.

5 Secrets for Better Health Care

Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon Marty Makary shares the five insider tips to getting top-notch medical care. First stop? The internet.

  1. Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? Play

    Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

  2. The Number: $5.7 Billion Play

    The Number: $5.7 Billion

  3. The War on Waxing? Play

    The War on Waxing?

Books

Healthy Reads

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

The famous Grant Study tracked hundreds of Harvard men from youth to death to determine what predicts contentment.

Waste

Has the War on Cancer Failed?

Unlikely Cures

An Epidemic of Absence

A Selfish Read

What Richard Dawkins Reads

Nicomachean

How to Be Ethical