Stories by Julie Scelfo

  • Your Dad Had More Testosterone Than You

    Over the last two decades, American men have made a number of major lifestyle changes—taking on a greater share of the housework, consuming an ever-widening array of skin-care products and even leaving jobs to stay home and raise the kids while their well-paid wives earn the dough. Now, a new study published online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that today's men are also changing on the inside: sporting significantly lower testosterone levels than their counterparts 10 or 20 years ago.Using blood samples collected from more than 1,500 healthy men age 45 to 79 in the Boston area over a period of 17 years (originally gathered as part of the Massachusetts Male Aging Study), scientists at the New England Research Institutes (NERI) measured both total testosterone and “bio-available” testosterone, the portion of the hormone readily available to cells. Then they compared men of the same age in different decades. “We see about a 1 percent decrease per...
  • Case Study: Helping Kids In Trouble

    The cheerful space in Rhode Island's Bradley Hospital could easily be mistaken for a classroom. Red sweatshirts and SpongeBob backpacks fill a row of cubbies marked with construction-paper name tags. A giant schedule of the day's activities, including "lunch" and "story time," hangs on a center wall, lined with yellow smiley-face cutouts to mark good behavior. But the 14 youngsters who arrive each morning for Bradley's "Pediatric Partial" program aren't ordinary students. They're patients between the ages of nine months and six years with serious emotional and behavior problems. Some hurt themselves; others are violent and many have anxiety, depression and feeding disorders.According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as 12 million children suffer from mental, behavioral or developmental disorders that interfere with their ability to function. They're increasingly being diagnosed at an early age but treatment options typically are limited to...
  • ‘Opportunity for Improvement'

    It's been a rough couple of months for the Food and Drug Administration. In September, a much-anticipated Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, commissioned by the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services in the wake of the Vioxx recall and safety concerns about other high-profile medications over the last few years, condemned the FDA’s drug safety system as “impaired.” IOM investigators cited, among other problems, a lack of resources, a dysfunctional organizational culture, and insufficient enforcement capabilities as particular areas of weakness. This week, in an article published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, five scientists who are current or former members of an FDA committee on drug safety supported many of the IOM report findings, claiming that the FDA needs to do more to keep America’s drug supply safe. NEWSWEEK's Julie Scelfo spoke with Dr. Steven Galson, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, about the reports and whether they will...
  • Common Occurrence

    When a small aircraft crashed into a 50-story Manhattan apartment tower Wednesday afternoon, city residents were initially fearful of a terrorist attack. But small-aircraft accidents are a weekly occurrence at various locations throughout the country. NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo spoke with Paul Czysz, professor emeritus of aerospace engineering at St. Louis University to learn more. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How frequently do small plane crashes happen?Paul Czysz: Flying magazine will list all of the crashes that month and you might see five or six crashes every month. Usually, they’re not crashes into buildings. Instead, it’s weather, or landing and takeoff, or crashing into unfamiliar terrain.In what kinds of small planes do they usually occur?They’re more common in general-aviation airplanes than they are with commercial airplanes because if it’s really a general-aviation airplane that is privately owned, the [pilot] doesn’t fly it as frequently as a commercial pilot. They lose piloting...
  • Blood, Guts and Money

    When the first "ultimate fighters" kicked, punched and head-butted each other on national television 13 years ago, civilized observers responded with shock and disgust. The pay-per-view tournament matched kickboxers, judo artists and Brazilian jujitsu fighters, and saw so many broken bones and bloody injuries that John McCain dubbed it "human cockfighting" and called for its abolishment.Now the brutal business known as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has become one of the most successful and lucrative new sporting ventures in decades, routinely eclipsing the NBA, NHL and MLB in cable ratings among the coveted 18-34 set. According to in-dustry sources, UFC's most successful pay-per-view event this year generated more than $30 million in revenue, a sum that beats WrestleMania's $23 million haul and HBO's typical $16 million from a night of boxing. A hit UFC reality show has transformed Spike TV into one of the top-five cable networks for young men. Sportswriters have begun...
  • Documentary: Priest and Predator

    Deliver us from Evil," a gripping new documentary opening in theaters next week, profiles Father Oliver O'Grady, a convicted pedophile who spent 22 years molesting children in parishes throughout California, where he served as their priest. In the film, O'Grady describes his sexual attraction to boys and girls, and details how church authorities, including Roger Mahony, now head of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, moved him from parish to parish. Other chilling moments include interviews with O'Grady's victims, their families, and never-before-seen deposition testimony from Mahony, who denies knowing about O'Grady's predilection. Tod Tamberg, spokesman for the L.A. Archdiocese, said in a statement that the film is nothing more than a "hit piece designed to cast the Archdiocese and Cardinal Mahony in the worst possible light." Julie Scelfo spoke with Amy Berg, the film's writer and director, who covered the sex-abuse scandal for years as a freelance investigative producer.I got his...
  • ‘Better to Be Safe and Wrong’

    Earlier this week, a milkman named Charles Carl Roberts IV walked into a schoolhouse in Amish Pennsylvania and shot 10 young girls, killing five of them. Roberts’s wife was shocked by his behavior and told police she had no idea her husband was troubled until she discovered a suicide note that morning. Co-workers were equally stunned, although some told police they noticed Roberts had recently stopped chatting and joking, becoming quiet and sullen. Would anyone have been able been able to foresee Roberts’s explosive behavior? NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, chairman of the department of psychiatry at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, to find out. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Is there any way to tell beforehand that someone is going to commit a violent act?Jeffrey Lieberman: Usually with violent crime, there’s a certain motive or rationale—crimes of passion, crimes of envy or revenge—related to some set of circumstances that are understandable....
  • Science and the Gender Gap

    To get a sense of how women have progressed in science, take a quick tour of the physics department at the University of California, Berkeley. This is a storied place, the site of some of the most important discoveries in modern science--starting with Ernest Lawrence's invention of the cyclotron in 1931. A generation ago, female faces were rare and, even today, visitors walking through the first floor of LeConte Hall will see a full corridor of exhibits honoring the many distinguished physicists who made history here, virtually all of them white males.But climb up to the third floor and you'll see a different display. There, among the photos of current faculty members and students, are portraits of the current chair of the department, Marjorie Shapiro, and four other women whose research covers everything from the mechanics of the universe to the smallest particles of matter. A sixth woman was hired just two weeks ago. Although they're still only about 10 percent of the physics...
  • Finding and Seeking

    How different would the world be today if George Harrison, the introspective Beatle, hadn't chanced to pick up a sitar during the filming of "Help!" and start plinking away at it? Well, maybe not all that different. But it might have made a difference in the life of Janet Hoffman, who was a college sophomore in 1968 and, while visiting a friend at Berkeley, got dragged to a course in Transcendental Meditation. Harrison's chance encounter with a musical instrument led him to India, at the head of a parade of musicians, journalists, jaded housewives and adventurous college kids seeking to immerse themselves in the timeless, but incredibly fashionable, wisdom of the East. That included Transcendental Meditation, taught by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who as the Beatles' chosen guru automatically became the most celebrated Indian religious figure since Gandhi. As for Hoffman, seeking nothing more than a new experience, she found herself transported to a state of well-being that...
  • Interview: What Would Big Bird Do?

    "Sesame Street" began in 1969 with a revolutionary idea: learning could be fun. The cast of furry Muppets and their inimitable songs became so popular among kids of all backgrounds--and not just the disadvantaged kids the show originally intended to help--that "Sesame Street" spawned an entire industry of DVDs, toys and computer games aimed at teaching ever-younger children. The show, meant for 2- to 4-year-olds, is watched today by kids as young as 9 months. NEWSWEEK's Julie Scelfo asked Rosemarie Truglio, "Sesame Street"'s VP of education and research, whether she thinks this is a good idea. Excerpts: ...
  • New Plan For Plan B

    When the food and Drug Administration announced last week that Plan B emergency contraception would be available "over the counter," but would be kept behind the counter because of the drug's 18-and-over age restriction, the decision echoed an idea, long advocated by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), that two classes of drugs aren't enough.As it stands, the FDA can approve drugs in two categories: by prescription, which typically requires a doctor's visit, and over the counter, which means the medication is safe enough to sit on shelves next to diapers and batteries. What APhA is arguing for is a third official category, like Britain's "behind the counter" designation, for dozens of drugs that may require some oversight but are safe enough to take without a doctor's written consent. Certain flu medications fall into this category, pharmacists say, as do cholesterol-fighting drugs, some vaccinations and smoking-cessation inhalers. A third category would allow consumers...
  • 'Really Unimaginable'

    When the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina washed through New Orleans, they not only wiped out entire residential neighborhoods, they tore through the city's courthouse and the Orleans Parish Prison, home to more than 6,500 inmates. The displaced prisoners—60 percent of whom were being held on minor infractions like failure to pay traffic fines or public drunkenness—were sent to jails or prisons as far away as Florida.Without a system in place to track their cases, and without the resources to hire lawyers, many inmates were left to languish in jail for months. Public defenders, already overworked and underpaid, were also displaced by the storm, and many of them were forced to relocate. All but four of the city's public defenders were laid off because the program’s source of revenue—traffic tickets—no longer existed.The system was in such a state of disarray that judges said the court's backlog couldn’t move forward until the Orleans Indigent Defender Program was overhauled, and in...
  • ‘Their Little League’

    The mystery of JonBenet Ramsey’s murder lies not only in the unusual circumstances of her death—she was found in her own basement, garroted with rope and covered with a white blanket—but also in the unusual experiences of her life. Just 6 years old, she was already a beauty pageant star. Images of her strutting across a stage in full Vegas showgirl regalia and shaking her hips in a fringed cowgirl outfit, played endlessly across 24-hour news programs and shed light on the otherwise obscure world of child beauty pageants. NEWSWEEK’s Julie Scelfo spoke with Carl Dunn, CEO of Pageantry Magazine, the industry's leading news source with a quarterly magazine and widely read Web site , about how the JonBenet case impacted the world of pageants. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: How has the JonBenet case impacted the pageantry industry?Carl Dunn: Ten years ago we were inundated with calls, e-mails. The crime really didn’t have much to do with pageantry per se, but that was the image. More than anything...
  • The FDA: Not All Going According to Plan

    The idea to make Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, available without a prescription to women 18 and older was supposed to smooth Food and Drug Administration Acting Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach's way to becoming the permanent chief. But the proposed compromise (the original plan was to make the drug available to all ages) may have had the opposite effect. "It made me go whoa ," says Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, a member of the committee reviewing von Eschenbach's nomination. "The FDA needs a leader who will make decisions based on scientific evidence. That is still not happening."Von Eschenbach, a urologist and family friend of President George W. Bush's, has a history of generating controversy. While director of the National Cancer Institute, he reportedly introduced prayer to committee meetings and announced a goal of eliminating death from cancer by 2015--an idea so far beyond the realities of cancer research that many scientists simply dismissed him. "People at the...
  • Why Girls Will Be Girls

    Last week a routine casemeeting turned into a teachable moment for California neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine and her eight medical residents. Briz-endine, who works at the Langley Porter Psychiatric Institute in San Francisco, was listening to a resident run through a new patient's medical history. A successful, high-functioning working mother had come in complaining of short-term memory loss and persistent anxiety. The resident ticked off the usual details: lab tests were normal, her overall mental health was strong, no fam-ily history of early-onset Alzheimer's. The young doctors around the table looked baffled. Brizendine, who has made a reputation for pinpointing the science behind a wom-an's most complicated and bewildering feelings, immediately focused on hormones. "Is she still breast-feeding?" she asked. The resident checked her notes and nodded. "And how's her sleep? Is her husband supportive?" A typical breast-feeding woman, Brizendine explained, is awash with the...
  • 'It's Better and Cheaper Than Therapy'

    When Dave Nadelberg, a writer in Los Angeles, discovered unsent love letters he wrote to a girl he stalked in the 10th grade, he knew they were beseeching, pathetic and solid gold. Inspired, he created "Mortified," a hilarious stage show that is part stand-up comedy and part group therapy, where courageous adults selected from public auditions read aloud from their real teenage diaries, journals and poems about getting French-kissed, fighting with Mom and why they deserve to marry Bon Jovi. Now word of mouth has turned the original L.A. show into a cultural phenomenon: soccer moms and ad execs are sharing the shame in New York, San Francisco and Boston. "Mortified Chicago" will debut this fall, and suburban fans are throwing "Mortified" parties in their living rooms. Presales of "Mortified: Real Words. Real People. Real Pathetic," due in bookstores in November, are already mounting at Amazon. Mortifiers are celebrating "Cringe Night" at Freddy's Bar in Brooklyn and baring their...
  • Money: Did Ken Lay Take It With Him?

    The former enron chief's death raised questions about what assets he still had--and whether anyone can get their hands on them. Prosecutors are likely to drop criminal proceedings--standard procedure when a defendant dies before sentencing--but civil lawsuits will proceed, and may illuminate where Lay's fortune went. Good news for plaintiffs: his estate (including insurance) may not be off limits. (graphic omitted)
  • Fire Up the Grill!

    Bobby Flay, chef-owner of four celebrated restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas and host of the Food Network's "Boy Meets Grill," is known for many things: a love of barbecue, an obsession with bold flavors and superior grill proficiency. Healthful eating, however, has never been a top priority. So the title of his new cookbook, "Grilling for Life: 75 Healthier Ideas for Big Flavor from the Fire," may catch some fans by surprise. For his sixth cookbook, Flay teamed up with nutritionist Joy Bauer to create recipes low in simple sugars and refined carbs. The result: a collection of dishes as vibrant as Flay's traditional repertoire but with far less unhealthy fat. NEWSWEEK's Julie Scelfo visited Flay at his newest restaurant, Bar Americain, to find out what he learned from Bauer's nutritional analyses: Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: Were there any personal reasons you decided to write this book?Bobby Flay: I have the most beautiful wife. She's 30. I still think I'm 25, but I'm not ... I'm 40...
  • BAD GIRLS GO WILD

    When police arrived on the scene of a fatal stabbing last week in Brooklyn, N.Y., they were stunned by what they saw. The victim, an 11-year-old girl, lay crumpled on the floor, the front of her "Dora the Explorer" T shirt bloodied. The weapon, a steak knife, was in the kitchen sink. And the perpetrator, visibly upset and clinging to her mother, police say, was a little girl in a ponytail, only 9 years old. A few days later, she stood in white socks and shiny black dress shoes before a judge, listening as her lawyer entered a plea of not guilty.The tragic event, which took place after the girls came to blows over a pink rubber ball, was a sad reminder that children can possess the same brutal instincts as adults. But for experts on youth crime, the killing was another instance of what they view as a burgeoning national crisis: the significant rise in violent behavior among girls. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, the number of girls 10 to 17 arrested for aggravated...
  • 'Diabetes Doesn't Have to Stop You'

    Will Cross, a 38-year-old father of six and former high school principal from Pittsburgh, plans this week to become the first person in the world with diabetes to climb Mount Everest, the earth's highest peak at 29,035 feet. He says he wants to prove that the disease, which affects more than 18 million Americans, doesn't have to be a limitation.After retiring four years ago, Cross joined The NovoLog Peaks and Poles Challenge, a competition sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk that involves ascending the highest peak on each of the seven continents and walking to the North and South Poles. So far, Cross, who suffers from type 1 diabetes, has trekked to both poles and scaled five mountains. Last year he made his first attempt at Everest but turned back after his climbing partner experienced altitude-related retinal hemorrhaging in his left eye and Cross encountered problems with an oxygen tank. This year, Cross's expedition has already encountered hardships: on May 4,...
  • FAMILY: IT'S GOT TO ROLL, BABY, ROLL

    If you think picking the perfect name for your baby is hard, try picking the right stroller. Lightweight or cushy? Easy to fold or dentproof? "When first-time parents come in they're like wow," says Anthony Green, a stroller salesman at Buy Buy Baby in Manhattan, which offers more than 50 different models, some with shock absorbers and built-in CD players. "I tell them to come in once, be overwhelmed, and then come back." TIP SHEET's Julie Scelfo sorted through the hype:VALCO RUNABOUTThis cushy Australian import provides a range of baby comforts like a built-in headrest and soft, padded seat. Mom and dad like the peekaboo windows and the option of an add-on toddler seat ($374.99; valcobaby.com).MOUNTAIN BUGGY 'URBAN'Three wheels and air-filled tires give this model a sporty feel that's ideal for off-road conditions or busy city streets. Super easy to collapse in a single motion ($409; mountainbuggy.com).ZOOPER WALTZStylish, lightweight stroller is durable and easily maneuverable. It...
  • CHASING JENNIFER

    It was a fitting place to plead for forgiveness. At Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga., last Thursday, Pastor Tom Smiley delivered a statement from Jennifer Wilbanks, the runaway bride whose disappearance triggered a massive search effort and media frenzy before she surfaced in New Mexico with a concocted tale of abduction. "I am truly sorry for the troubles I caused," the statement read. "I was simply running from myself and from certain fears controlling my life." Meanwhile, at a former Baptist church an hour's drive away in Duluth--the town where Wilbanks lived with her fiance--a more temporal bid for redress was underway. There, behind the granite walls that now house police headquarters, authorities were calculating the cost of Wilbanks's misdeed. Salaries for some 60 officers deployed for the search: $42,000. Logistical support, including food and fuel: roughly $18,000. After learning that "the entire episode was a charade," says Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter, "I...
  • FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE

    All his life, Jason Judkins was seeking something, but he was looking in all the wrong places, like vending machines. "Usually between 2 and 3 o'clock I'd eat a Snickers, a Three Musketeers or a Twix," he recalls. "Then after dinner I'd have chocolate cake, or Hershey's Nuggets, or ice cream with Hershey's syrup." But that was before his first taste of a dark-chocolate truffle from the Cocoa Tree, an artisanal candy store in his town of Franklin, Tennessee. Made fresh on the premises from dark chocolate and organic cream and butter, it made his mouth "explode" with tastes he'd never gotten from an M&M. Of course, he could have bought a lot of M&Ms for the price of a single truffle, $1.80 plus tax. But these days he is satisfied with chocolate only a couple of times a week instead of twice a day, and since each piece is 10 times as good, he's way ahead.Long after iceberg gave way to arugula, American candy remained defiantly retro: cheap, garishly wrapped and tasting just the...
  • Flying High on Four Stars

    When The New York Times bestowed its fourth consecutive four-star rating on Le Bernardin earlier this month, the restaurant became one of only five in New York to win such an honor--and the only one to retain it for nearly 20 years. For chef Eric Ripert, who has been toiling in Le Bernardin's kitchen for more than a decade, the award was a great thrill, as well as a huge relief. (The loss of a star can have a serious impact on the restaurant's bottom line.)Over a recent lunch that began with barely cooked bay scallops in champagne-shallot butter sauce, followed by poached lobster in a rich champagne and chives nage and thinly pounded yellowfin tuna with extra-virgin olive oil, Ripert discussed the achievement. As the starter plates were cleared for the arrival of the main courses (wild salmon and spicy-sour baked snapper), Ripert, 40, admitted behaving like a World Series champ when the rating was announced. "As soon as we knew, I came up in the kitchen and I sprayed the entire team...
  • FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE

    All his life, Jason Judkins was seeking something, but he was looking in all the wrong places, like vending machines. "Usually between 2 and 3 o'clock I'd eat a Snickers, a Three Musketeers or a Twix," he recalls. "Then after dinner I'd have chocolate cake, or Hershey's Nuggets, or ice cream with Hershey's syrup." But that was before his first taste of a dark-chocolate truffle from The Cocoa Tree, an artisanal candy store in his town of Franklin, Tenn. Made fresh on the premises from dark chocolate and organic cream and butter, it made his mouth "explode" with tastes he'd never gotten from an M&M. Of course, he could have bought a lot of M&Ms for the price of a single truffle, $1.80 plus tax. But these days he is satisfied with chocolate only a couple of times a week instead of twice a day, and since each piece is 10 times as good, he's way ahead.Long after iceberg gave way to arugula, candy remained defiantly retro: cheap, garishly wrapped and tasting just like it did when...
  • 9/11 Cleanup Continues

    For New Yorkers living in lower Manhattan, the abandoned, black-shrouded 40-story building across from Ground Zero has for years been a reminder of how the collapsing twin towers emitted a vast blanket of environmental contamination that may still affect nearby residents and workers. On the morning of September 11, 2001, a falling section of 2 World Trade Center ripped open a 15-story hole in the Deutsche Bank Building, which allowed toxic dust and ashes to pour in. According to a damage report prepared for Deutsche Bank in 2003, asbestos, lead, mercury, dioxins and carcinogenic PCBs penetrated the building, snaking their way into interior stairwells, elevator shafts, wall cavities and ventilation systems. In the months that followed, mold also proliferated, contributing to what the report described as "a combination of contaminants ... unparalleled in any other building designed for office use."After a lengthy battle involving insurers and downtown-rebuilding officials, Deutsche...
  • HAPPY DIVORCE

    When Chanukah begins next week, Randy Fuerst and Susan Arnold will mark the Jewish Festival of Lights with the same beloved traditions they've enjoyed since they married in 1983. They'll gather with their kids around the menorah, and Leah, 17, Rachel, 15, or Jonathan, 13, will light the first candle. The family will pray and sing a few songs. Dad will twirl dreidels and the kids will inspect their gifts. When the celebration is over, Mom will give everyone a hug. Then she'll walk out the door and drive back to her own home.Randy and Susan, of Lake Charles, La., divorced in 1998, but they are far from sworn enemies. They're among a fast-growing number of divorced moms and dads who spend holidays together so the kids don't have to choose between parents or shuttle back and forth. In a dramatic change from the traditional bitterness of divorce, many parted parents are doing their best to be cordial, even warm, especially on the most important days of the year. "Divorce is part of the...
  • WHEN THE PARTY'S FINALLY OVER

    The presents have been opened. The eggnog is all gone. Now it's time to strip your house of holiday ornaments before they become permanent decor.1. Light & Garland Box (containerstore.com; $11.99) Behold, a design that will finally put an end to tangles.2. Hanging Gift Wrap Organizer (spacesavers.com; $19.99) Ribbons, paper, tape and tissue each gets its own clear pocket.3. Book-Cloth Ornament Box (holdeverything.com, 800-421-2264; $110) Four drawers of individual compartments protect delicate family treasures for generations.4. Cardboard Wreath Box (lillianvernon.com; $7.98) The octagonal shape makes packing a cinch.5. Utility Trunk (holdeverything.com; $130) Stockings, tree stand and tchotchkes galore get stashed in this roomy storage trunk on wheels.6. Tree recycling (800-CLEANUP or earth911.org; free) Take your tree to a local drop-off site.7. Peanut recycling (800-828-2214 for drop-off locations; free) Don't be selfish: prevent your Styrofoam peanuts and other packing...
  • RELIGION: A CHURCH'S CRISIS DEEPENS

    When the Vatican refused to allow Henry VIII to divorce his wife, Catherine of Aragon, the king abandoned Roman Catholicism and created the Church of England, a self-governing community of Christian worshipers that has since grown into a worldwide Anglican Communion of 77 million members and 38 independent provinces, like the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA). But the absence of a unified hierarchy is making possible a schism that threatens to break apart the church: a commission, convened in 2003 in the wake of ECUSA's decision to consecrate a gay bishop, last week released the Windsor Report, a document that strongly encourages bishops on both sides of the issue to express regret, and places a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops in same-sex relationships and giving ritual blessings to same-sex couples. While some ECUSA leaders expressed optimism that the commission called for a moratorium (and not an outright ban), conservative leaders like Nigeria's...