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  • Does It Work? Kevin Costner's Oil-Cleaning Machine

    Kevin Costner has a machine that he says could help clean up the massive oil slick from the ongoing spill in the gulf. Developed with the help of his scientist brother, Dan Costner, the device uses centrifugal force to separate oil from water. It draws in an oil-water mixture at up to 200 gallons per minute, and spits out separate streams of oil and water from the other end. Kevin Costner has reportedly spent millions on the device over the years and believes that he has finally found a use for it. BP officials say the company plans to test some of Costner's machines in the coming days. ...
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    Sayonara, iPhone: Why I'm Switching to Android

    I was already fed up with my lousy AT&T service, and was seriously considering switching to the HTC Incredible, an Android-powered phone that runs on the Verizon network. But then, after seeing Google's new mobile-phone software, I've made up my mind. Goodbye, Apple. I'm ditching my iPhone. Seriously, I'm gone.
  • Autism Doesn't Necessarily Lead to Divorce, But What Does?

    Marriage, as everyone knows, is hard work. And couples who face undue stress—a lost job, a foreclosed home, the death of a child—have an even harder time staying together. That's what make the results a new study of parents with autistic children so interesting. There's long been a statistic that's floated around the autistic community: parents whose children are diagnosed are 80 percent more likely to get divorced. "You can imagine the impact of getting a diagnosis of autism, and immediately following that getting a diagnosis of divorce," says Brian Freedman, Ph.D.,  who wanted to find out if such a dire prognosis was true....
  • DNA: Congress on the Case

    The claims of DNA testing companies such as those I describe here are about to get some much-needed scrutiny. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, has just sent letters to the big three (23andMe, Navigenics, and Pathway Genomics) asking for more information than the companies have in the past been willing to divulge. It will be interesting to see what kind of response the congressmen get, but one committee source is already expecting pushback from the companies' lawyers. ...
  • The Thinking Person's Guide to Easing Tourette's

    Add Tourette syndrome to the list of psychiatric and neurological disorders that you may be able to think your way out of.That is only a slight exaggeration, but then emphasis is on “slight.” The recognition that mental illnesses are biological diseases of the brain is a welcome change from the medieval notion that they are evidence of witchcraft, demonic possession, “refrigerator mothers,” and the like, but the conclusion that scientists leapt to—that the only effective treatments for biological diseases are drugs—is both illogical and unfortunate. Hard on the heels of research showing that changing the way a patient thinks and behaves can be as effective in treating depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (to name just two) comes evidence that changing behavior can also alleviate Tourette syndrome.Tourette’s, which strikes an estimated 6 in 1,000 school-age children, is characterized by verbal and behavioral tics such as repetitive and uncontrolled blinking, head jerking,...
  • Pesticides, ADHD, and Personal Health: Why We Can't Always Control What Happens to Our Brains and Bodies

    If a study found that Acme Brand Cleaning products led to cancer in kids, you'd better believe that parents would step up: they'd boycott Acme Brand, they'd write angry letters to both the CEO and the government, and they'd create such an uproar that the cleaning products would be pulled from the shelves. The PR would be so bad that Acme Brand might even have to change its name.Consumers have a lot of power when they vote with their wallets. But when it comes to things like pesticides and chemicals, the ability of individuals to enact change becomes a lot less likely. And still, after the study linking ADHD in children to pesticide exposure was released yesterday, several articles followed up by telling parents "what you can do" to keep kids safe. Although the study is one of the more comprehensive takes we have on how exposure to chemicals can alter children's brains, it has a few flaws: first, it doesn't prove anything—because we can't...
  • Why DNA Doesn't Always Predict Disease

    The latest research to throw cold water on the crystal-ball powers of DNA is a paper in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. It starts out as a standard genomewide association study (GWAS) in which scientists sequence genomes of people with and without particular diseases and identify genetic variants associated with those illnesses.
  • North Carolina Battles Amazon in Tax Dispute

    Like most states, North Carolina has faced a budget shortfall in recent years. But its response—to tax online purchases—has been more novel, and potentially lucrative, than most. The effort, which began last summer with a law requiring Amazon and other e-retailers to collect state taxes, was modeled after a similar bill in New York. Amazon sued the Empire State, however, arguing that Web sales are exempt under the protections offered to mail-order catalogs and home-shopping channels. So North Carolina shifted its approach. Earlier this year, it moved to audit Amazon in an effort to collect hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes back to 2003.
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    Why Don't More Medical Discoveries Become Cures?

    From 1996 to 1999, the U.S. food and Drug Administration approved 157 new drugs. In the comparable period a decade later—that is, from 2006 to 2009—the agency approved 74. Not among them were any cures, or even meaningfully effective treatments, for Alzheimer’s disease, lung or pancreatic cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, or a host of other afflictions that destroy lives.
  • Oil Spill Answers: How Much Oil Is Really Leaking From the Deepwater Horizon Well?

    We still don't know exactly how much oil has been spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, because there is no way to directly measure the flow. The oil is leaking out of at least two different points along the crumpled drill pipe that used to run between the wellhead and the rig, and estimating flow based on the size of the slick on the sea surface is an inexact science. But some independent experts believe that the official estimate of 210,000 gallons a day could be on the low end. BP itself admitted in a recent congressional briefing that the well could potentially spill as much as 2.5 million gallons of oil each day, more than 10 times the current estimate. If the official estimate is accurate, then the spill's magnitude will surpass that of Exxon Valdez by mid-June, but that milestone may already be past if the flow is actually higher. We may never know for sure, but in the meanwhile, here is...
  • How to Survive a Plane Crash: Life-Saving Strategies You'll Probably Never Need

    By Chelsea JackEarlier today, an Afriqiyah Airways jet from Johannesburg crashed on its airport approach into Tripoli International Airport in Libya. The good news, if there is any, from this story rests in possibly the sole survival of a 10-year-old Dutch boy. There have been about 100 fatalities reported of the 104 people aboard, and yet this boy survived. This case of survival in the midst of such devastation is both encouraging and tragic. And for all nervous fliers, it raises the question: what does it take to survive a plane crash?First, of course, is luck. But one needn't be all that lucky: according to the gentleman of Freakanomics, the survival rate of plane crashes is surprisingly good, if—and this is a big if—you discount the few big crashes per year that skew the average. Take, for instance, crashes that...
  • Turns Out, Yeardley Love Couldn't Have Gotten a Restraining Order If She Wanted To

    Though Yeardley Love never filed a restraining order against him, it's clear that George Huguely, charged with first-degree murder in his former girlfriend's death, had a violent past. He had been Tasered by a female police officer in 2008, after threatening her in a drunken rage. He had to be separated from Love at a party, and allegedly attacked a sleeping teammate, leaving his face bruised, after hearing that the player had kissed Love. He'd been charged with underage alcohol possession, reckless driving, and in 2008, police were summoned by the 22-year-old's father after the two got into a heated argument aboard a fishing boat and Huguely tried to swim the quarter mile to shore....
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    Confessions of a Tech Apostate

    President Obama has been taking some heat in techie circles over comments he made at a commencement address over the weekend about iPods and iPads and other digital distractions. Because of these things, he said, “information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation.” To his critics, it made him sound, well, like a Luddite, not the cool, tech-friendly, BlackBerry-carrying president they thought he was.
  • Is Beau Biden Too Young to Have a Stroke? Sadly, No.

    As reported on The Gaggle earlier today, Vice President Joe Biden's eldest son, Beau, was admitted to a hospital today after suffering what doctors believe to be a mild stroke. A White House statement released shortly after the news broke said Beau was "fully alert, in stable condition and has full motor and speech skills." No additional information has been made available, but Dr. Irene Katzan, director of the Primary Stroke Care Center at the Cleveland Clinic, told NEWSWEEK that given Biden's quick recovery, he likely suffered an ischemic stroke, in which an artery to the brain somehow becomes blocked, cutting off blood flow and oxygen supply. (A more serious form of stroke occurs when a blood vessel breaks completely, and blood seeps into the brain.)...
  • Beau Biden Suffers Mild Stroke

    Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden was taken to a hospital Tuesday after he had what doctors believe was a mild stroke. The vice president's eldest son is recovering and in stable condition, a White House press release said.
  • Your Genetic Profile, Now Available in Aisle 10: What's the Big Deal About Pathway, the New Take-Home DNA Test?

    Attention, Walgreens shoppers, The Washington Post wants you to know about a new product going on sale:Beginning Friday, shoppers in search of toothpaste, deodorant and laxatives at more than 6,000 drugstores across the nation will be able to pick up something new: a test to scan their genes for a propensity for Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, diabetes and other ailments … For those thinking of starting a family, it could alert them to their risk of having a baby with cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs and other genetic disorders. The test also promises users insights into how caffeine, cholesterol-lowering drugs and blood thinners might affect them.If this test sounds familiar, it should: It’s little different than a number of others that have been available for years. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests for genes linked to common diseases hit the market with fanfare in 2007. Carrier testing, “for those thinking of starting a family,” has an even longer history; doctors have been assessing...
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    BP's Plans to Stop the Oil Spill: So Crazy They Just Might Work?

    The failure of BP’s first containment dome has Gulf Coast residents despondent and BP engineers scrambling. Fortunately, officials from the beleaguered oil company have several other plans in the works to contain and ultimately stop the oil flow. Unfortunately, without hearing the details these plans all sound like ideas someone came up with in the midst of a fever dream, or at least at the tail end of a week of all-nighters. But a BP press conference today indicated that, ridiculous names aside, these plans are all well-reasoned solutions that could conceivably end the spill (of course, so was the containment dome). Read on for a list of BP's latest strategies: The 'Top Hat'This is also a containment dome, but it's substantially smaller than the one that failed this Saturday after it became clogged with methane hydrate crystals. The "top hat" will be placed over one of the remaining leaks and will channel the leaking oil through a pipe to the surface for collection. If all goes to...
  • Why Your Brain Loves Near-Misses in Gambling

    When there is a commercial motivation to understand and exploit the human mind, business gets there before science. Case in point: the power of near-misses to keep gamblers glued to a slot machine.
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    For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage

    Tara Parker-Pope, author of The New York Times’s Well blog, has gone beyond the weepy and weary self-help marriage tomes and written a trustworthy guide to fixing (or tweaking) your marriage. And there are lots of sex stats, too
  • Tony Judt: Why Liberals Should Speak Out

    Tony Judt is an historian, essayist, liberal polemic, and the author of several acclaimed books, including Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. But in the past year, Judt has also become known for his battle with ALS, commonly called Lou Gherig’s disease. NEWSWEEK’s Louisa Thomas spoke to Judt—who is paralyzed from the neck down and answered questions via e-mail—about some of the larger issues on his mind.