The Public Eye: Obama’s Tipping Point

By Bob Burnett
Monday June 20, 2011 - 10:22:00 AM

This summer there’s a lot at stake in Washington. The Congress and the White House are struggling over an agreement to extend the US debt limit before the August 2nd deadline. Meanwhile the economy has slowed and we may be sliding back into a recession, so a second stimulus is being debated. We’re heading for a Tipping Point that will determine Obama’s political future. -more-

Ticks, Squirrels, Lizards, and Spirochetes

By Joe Eaton
Tuesday June 21, 2011 - 03:45:00 PM
Western gray squirrel: reservoir species for the Lyme pathogen.

Science writers are always in pursuit of a moving target. Unless you stick to a specialized beat, you often find yourself revisiting a subject you reported on earlier and finding that quite a bit has happened in the interim.

That’s certainly true of the research on the natural setting of Lyme disease, much of which has come out of the lab of UC-Berkeley medical entomologist Robert S. Lane. The last time I wrote about the disease was eleven years ago, shortly after May Kuo, then one of Lane’s graduate students, had identified the substance in the blood of western fence lizards and southern alligator lizards that kills the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi. An infected western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) can no longer transmit the disease after a blood meal from one of either of these lizard species. The substance, for the record, is a set of proteins called the alternative complement pathway. It’s a good thing both lizards are abundant within the tick’s California range. Other lizards have no apparent effect on the pathogen. -more-

Dispatches From The Edge: The Wars Come Home: The Traumatic Brain Injury Epidemic

By Conn Hallinan
Monday June 20, 2011 - 10:01:00 AM

“We are facing a massive mental health problem as a result of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As a country we have not responded adequately to the problem. Unless we act urgently and wisely, we will be dealing with an epidemic of service related psychological wounds for years to come.”

-----Bobby Muller, President Veterans for America

“The multiple nature of it [multiple tours and longer deployments] is unprecedented. People just get blasted and blasted and blasted.”

-----Maj. Connie Johnmeyer, 332nd Medical Group

According to official Defense Department (DOD) figures, 332,000 soldiers have suffered brain injuries since 2000, although most independent experts estimate that the number is over 400,000. Many of these are mild traumatic brain injuries (mTBI), a term that is profoundly misleading. -more-

Eclectic Rant: The Toxic Chinese Drywall Controversy

By Ralph E. Stone
Monday June 20, 2011 - 10:00:00 AM

I first became aware of the problem of toxic drywall manufactured in China during my 2010 visit to New Orleans. Many homeowners rebuilt their homes after Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, and Hurricane Rita in September 2005 using Chinese drywall. This drywall made occupants sick, corroded metal fixtures, and rendered homes unfit to live in. Homeowners had to tear out the drywall, corroded wiring, fixtures, etc. About 700 to 1,000 New Orleans families were affected. These hurricane victims suffered the initial trauma of damage to their homes, fixed up their damaged homes, and then faced the cost of removing Chinese drywall and corroded wiring. To add insult to injury, many of these homeowners had their claims denied by insurance companies because of insurance policy exclusions. -more-

On Mental Illness: The "R" Word

By Jack Bragen
Monday June 20, 2011 - 10:18:00 AM

About twenty years ago, when I spoke to the late Herb Putnam, (founder of the Putnam Clubhouse in Concord, who also served as president of NAMI, Contra Costa), about writing for the NAMI newsletter, he suggested that I might have something to say about relationships for persons with mental illness. At the time, (just as at many times), I was doing poorly in the area of employment but didn’t have much difficulty getting a date. -more-

Senior Power: Let Me Down Easy

By Helen Rippier Wheeler
Monday June 20, 2011 - 10:08:00 AM

In 1981, Anna Deavere Smith began to write and perform On the Road: A Search for American Character series of one-person plays. Using transcripts from interviews with a variety of people, she wove their stories together without changing their words. She spoke not only what her interviewees said but was careful to understand how they said it, noting every pause and body language. Critics called it ground-breaking, but Smith traced her work directly to the African storytelling tradition of the griot, a storyteller in western Africa who perpetuates the oral tradition and history of a village or family.

Sixty-one year old Anna Deavere Smith is an acclaimed actor-writer-producer of unique solo documentaries. She is performing at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre through July 10th in her creation, Let Me Down Easy. -more-