Estrogens and Memory Loss in Women – Brooke N. Dulka July 30, 2019

Research suggests that the family of hormones has a crucial role in the hippocampus

Estrogens and Memory Loss in Women
Credit: Getty Images

As you read this article, your brain has begun a series of complicated chemical steps in order to form a memory. How long you keep this memory may well depend on whether you are a man or a woman.

Some scientists think that the reason for this difference may be estrogens. Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and memory loss. In fact, almost two thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women. While researchers across the globe are still working to uncover the basic mechanisms of learning and memory, it is now known that estrogens help to regulate memory formation in both males and females. From a cultural and societal standpoint, when people think of estrogen they probably imagine pregnancy, periods and woman-fueled rage. Most people probably don’t consider memory; but maybe it’s time we all start thinking about estrogens’ role in memory a little more.

Karyn Frick, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, studies the connection between estrogens and memory. She and her students are among the scientists working to uncover the basic cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying memory formation. Part of Frick’s research focuses on how estrogens enhance memory, particularly through their action in the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is a small, curved region in the brain that plays an important role in the formation of memories. But it wasn’t always known for this role. In fact, so little was known about the brain and memory that, when a young man named Henry Molaison laid down on the surgical table in 1953 in a quest to cure his epilepsy, a skilled surgeon named William Beecher Scoville removed several structures from his brain, including a large portion of his hippocampus.

Molaison, although almost entirely cured of his seizures, immediately developed severe amnesia that persisted for the rest of his life; in short, he was unable to form new memories. However, the work surrounding Molaison and his memory impairments set the stage for decades of research into how the hippocampus is able to transform a short-term memory into a long-lasting and persistent one.

But what does this have to do with estrogens? Estrogens, particularly the most potent estrogen, called estradiol, latch onto structures called estrogen receptors, kind of like a key fitting into a lock. These receptors are abundant in the brain regions that support memory formation, particularly in the hippocampus. Now, brain cells have branch-like extensions (dendrites) that are necessary to communicate with other brain cells. On these dendrites are short protrusions called spines.

These spines are where the communication between brain cells reallyhappens.

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It’s a center-left party after all – JOHN F. HARRIS 07/31/2019 01:35 AM EDT

Sanders and Warren kept their voices but a parade of centrists finally found theirs.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren
Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren could be a foil for centrists who used the second Democratic debate as a chance to find their voice. | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The assignment of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren to the same debate stage in Detroit Tuesday night was random chance, but turned out to be a well-timed and clarifying event.

There was the possibility that the two heroes of the left would sharpen the differences between them in the competition over who is the fairest of them all. But very little of that came to pass.

Instead, the combined Warren-Sanders presence emboldened most other voices in the first round of a two-night debate to say they wouldn’t enter the derby over who is most ideologically pure. The real argument, they urged, should be over who is most credible general election adversary to Donald Trump and potential president in 2021.

It wasn’t exactly an invigorating evening. It was too long (closing in on 2 hours, 45 minutes) and too disorienting (candidates clamoring to be heard; moderators laboring with impatient “thank yous” to shut down answers that went over time) for that.

But in its discursive way it was illuminating: The debate showed a party arguing seriously about the inherent tension between boldness and realism, passion and prudence, on such topics as improving health care, immigration, taking on wealthy interests, and the best way broadly to energize average voters.

It was the relative absence such argument that made the first round of debates, last month in Miami, so striking. In those encounters, some challenges, like finite financial resources, or the political reality that large swaths of middle America that Democrats need to win Congress or the presidency have been hostile toward robust liberalism, seemed to be waved away by proclamation. Candidates who disagreed often muffled their views, and previous records, leaving the impression of an unconsidered swerve to the left on such issues as abandoning Obamacare and abolishing private health insurance, or decriminalizing illegal border crossings and giving government health care to undocumented immigrants.

In Detroit the dissenters found their voices, and even those who had previously staked out bold positions seemed to be injecting a bit of squish in their language.

At least a half-dozen of the first eight opening statements—Warren and Sanders were nine and ten—included explicit or implied rebukes of the leftward tilt of the party.

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Putin Opposition Leader Jailed Again After Suspected Poisoning – RICHARD GONZALES July 29, 20195:55 PM ET

A prominent Russian opposition leader was discharged from a Moscow hospital Monday and sent back to jail, despite claims by his doctor that he may have been poisoned by an unknown chemical agent while in custody.

A day earlier, Alexei Navalny, 43, was hospitalized with what was initially described as an “allergic reaction.” His spokesman said he had exhibited “severe swelling of the face and skin redness,” a reaction he had never had in the past.

Navalny was arrested several days before an opposition demonstration held on Saturday and is currently serving a 30-day sentence. More than 1,300 people were detained after protesting the exclusion of opposition candidates from Moscow’s city council elections.

Navalny raised the possibility that he had been poisoned by a chemical agent while in jail, according a blog post cited by the Associated Press. His physician, Dr. Anastasiya Vasilyeva, said she suspected that Navalny could have been chemically poisoned, although that suspicion could not be confirmed. Vasilyeva said Navalny had been returned to jail before being properly tested, but she had taken his hair samples in hopes of getting an independent assessment.

Navalny’s attorney, Olga Mikhailova, also blamed his condition on an unknown chemical substance.

The opposition leader has been targeted before. In 2017, he suffered a partial loss of vision after being assaulted and doused with a green antiseptic. His sight was restored after he sought treatment abroad.

Families seek answers for US rise in childhood cancers – Richard Luscombe Last modified on Tue 30 Jul 2019 03.54 EDT

Simon Strong and Vilma Tarazona Strong lost their 12-year-old son, Oliver, to pediatric cancer four years ago.
Simon Strong and Vilma Tarazona Strong lost their 12-year-old son, Oliver, to pediatric cancer four years ago. Photograph: Maria Alejandra Cardona/The Guardian

Soccer was a huge passion in Oliver Strong’s young life. Right up to his death from acute myeloid leukemia in June 2015 at the age of 12, he was a standout athlete and goalkeeper, a healthy, vibrant and popular boy with a zest for living that inspired his teammates, friends and family.

So when Oliver died suddenly at a Miami children’s hospital, just 36 hours after doctors first diagnosed the disease, his parents Simon and Vilma started looking for answers. What they found was disturbing.

Cases of pediatric cancer in the United States surged by almost 50% from 1975 to 2015, according to alarming but under-reported statistics by the National Cancer Institute, and in 2018 up to 16,000 children from birth to age 19 will have received a new diagnosis.

Yet what really elevated the disquiet of Oliver’s parents was increasing concern over the role that carcinogenic environmental toxicants, including industrial waste and pollutants, were believed to be playing in the rise of childhood cancer.

“There’s almost an unspoken scientific consensus that it’s always environmental,” said Simon Strong, who with his wife set up Oliver Forever Strong – a foundation in their son’s memory.

Oliver’s Forever Strong has now teamed up for an ambitious research study with scientists at the Texas Children’s Hospital, home to the nation’s largest pediatric cancer center, and the Baylor College of Medicine.

Simon Strong and Vilma Tarazona Strong lost their 12 year-old son, Oliver to pediatric cancer four years ago. Oliver’s parents have kept his room intact in their home in Miami Beach, Flo., June 27, 2019.
Simon Strong and Vilma Tarazona Strong lost their 12-year-old son, Oliver to pediatric cancer four years ago. Oliver’s parents have kept his room intact in their home in Miami Beach, Florida. Photograph: Maria Alejandra Cardona/The Guardian

Through the website, the study will harness social media to help collate information from a wide geographical spread. Families with their own experiences of childhood cancers will sign up and receive a questionnaire in the coming months seeking information including the manifestation and progression of their cancers as well as demographics.

Dr Michael Scheurer, director of the childhood cancer epidemiology and prevention program at Texas Children’s Hospital, said: “[This research] … will allow families who might not live near one of the existing study centers to participate as they are comfortable.

“We realize individuals won’t know if they’ve been exposed to a certain chemical or specific agent so we try to gather an overview of their environment, where have they lived over the course of time, when the child was conceived, during mom’s pregnancy, during early childhood, up to the point they developed their cancer. Are those residences located near Superfund sites, or in areas with high levels of air pollution or water contaminants?

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How the West Got China’s Social Credit System Wrong – LOUISE MATSAKIS SECURITY 07.29.19 03:25 PM

It occupies a spot next to Black Mirror and Big Brother in popular imagination, but China’s social credit project is far more complicated than a single, all-powerful numerical score.STR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In October 2018, Vice President Mike Pence paid a visit to the Hudson Institute—a conservative Washington, DC, think tank—to give a wide-ranging speechabout the United States’ relationship with China. Standing stiffly in a shiny blue tie, he began by accusing the Chinese Communist Party of interfering in US politics and directing Chinese businesses to steal American intellectual property by “any means necessary.” Pence then turned his attention to the country’s human rights abuses, starting not with the persecution of religious minorities, but with a peculiar governmental initiative: the social credit project. “By 2020, China’s rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life—the so-called ‘social credit score,’” Pence said. “In the words of that program’s official blueprint, it will ‘allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.’”

The vice president’s remarks echoed a steady stream of Western media reports, published in dozens of outlets over the past few years, that paint China’s Social Credit System as a dystopian nightmare straight out of Black Mirror. The articles and broadcast segments often said China’s central government is using a futuristic algorithm to compile people’s social media connections, buying histories, location data, and more into a single score dictating their rights and freedoms. The government can supposedly analyze footage from hundreds of millions of facial-recognition-equipped surveillance cameras in real time, and then dock you points for misbehavior like jaywalking or playing too many video games.

PRI’s The World

This story was produced in collaboration with PRI’s The World, the award-winning public radio show and podcast on global issues, news, and insights from BBC, WGBH, PRI, and PRX. It was coreported by The World’s Lydia Emmanou­ilidou. You can listen to The World’s audio program about China’s social credit score here.

But there is no single, all-powerful score assigned to every individual in China, at least not yet. The “official blueprint” Pence referenced is a planning document released by China’s chief administrative body five years ago. It calls for the establish­ment of a nationwide scheme for tracking the behavior of everyday citizens, corporations, and government officials. The Chinese government and state media say the project is designed to boost public confidence and fight problems like corruption and business fraud. Western critics often see social credit instead as an intrusive surveillance apparatus for punishing dissidents and infringing on people’s privacy.

With just over a year to go until the government’s self-imposed deadline for establishing social credit, Chinese legal researchers say the system is far from the cutting-edge, Big Brother apparatus portrayed in the West’s popular imagination. “I really think you would find a much larger percentage of Americans are aware of Chinese social credit than you would find Chinese people are aware of Chinese social credit,” says Jeremy Daum, a senior research fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center in Beijing. The system as it exists today is more a patchwork of regional pilots and experimental projects, with few indications about what could be implemented at a national scale.

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The Pentagon’s Top Ranks Have Been Empty for a Long Time. Now 1,581 Problems Are Waiting to Be Solved. – Dan Spinelli July 29, 2019

The department’s internal watchdog just laid bare the cost of the department’s leadership vacuum.

Mark Wilson/Getty

One day after taking over as the Pentagon’s first Senate-confirmed leader in seven months, new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was asked by a reporterto assess what the impact has been of the months-long lack of stable leadership at the largest federal agency. His careful answer attempted to endorse the department’s vast civilian workforce, whose ranks have been depleted since the exit of President Trump’s first defense secretary, James Mattis, while also providing reassurance.

“We have a great cadre of DOD civilians,” Esper responded. “I’m confident we didn’t miss any beats, any steps if you will.”

That same day, the Pentagon’s internal watchdog released a 418-page rebuttalto the notion that the Defense Department “didn’t miss any beats” during the last seven months, when temporary officials have increasingly taken more active roles among the Pentagon’s leadership. On Wednesday, the Office of the Inspector General, which itself is run by an acting leader, published its second-ever list of all recommendations the office has made to Defense officials, but which remain unfulfilled—not because DOD officials disagree with them, though sometimes they do, but because the department simply never followed through.

Resolving these issues is a crucial step toward combating the waste, fraud, and abuse that have bedeviled DOD management for decades, and the Pentagon has agreed to address hundreds of them. But with so many of these action items unresolved, there is still no indication that any timeline exists for dealing with them. And the problem has been getting worse. Eighty suggestions included in the report are at least five years old—a 42 percent increase from the prior year—and 30 of them, on topics like military suicides and contractor price gouging, are what the IG’s office considers “high-priority.”

Across the department, Pentagon officials could save up to $4.8 billion by adopting just half of the IG’s unresolved recommendations, the report claims. Some of these recommendations are so plainly simple, it is surprising that they have remained unaddressed after so many years. A May 2013 report from the inspector general’s office, for instance, questioned if the Army’s combat helmet was being properly evaluated and advised officials to adjust those metrics if the qualities of the helmet did not meet soldiers’ needs. Even though the military has “performed analysis and testing to the design of the helmet,” officials still have not figured out if the way the standard by which the helmet is being tested needs to change, which was one of the IG’s office original requests. “Failure to modify the test protocols as needed can result in helmets that do not protect the warfighter as intended, risking life and safety,” readsthis week’s report, written six years later.

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