When the land down the road from Lorraine Lewandrowski’s home in New York State’s Herkimer county was sold, it was bought by developers who turned the land into a subdivision.
“The people who bought the lots from us were nice enough, and they all told me that they wanted to be out in the country,” says Lewandrowski a lawyer and a dairy farmer in Central New York. “But they couldn't grasp what they were doing. The meadows that were alive with little bird fledglings the developers were plowing under to make these 10 acre lawns.”
It’s hard to argue that that was an ecological improvement over the land’s previous incarnation as a farm.
For the past month, many Popular Science staff members have engaged in No Red October in which they eschewed eating beef. The reason was not masochism but environmentalism: livestock accounts for 12-percent of global climate change emissions. And beef—which requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water to produce chicken or pork while emitting five times more climate-changing emissions—seems like a natural place to cut back. Especially since Americans annually eat 54 pounds of beef, or a little more than a pound a week.
Let’s say we went a little more drastic, and we all gave up eating beef overnight. What would that actually do to the ecology of the land, and to the rural communities built around agriculture? Would the resulting change really be a good thing?
Nicolette Hahn Niman doesn’t have a problem with people giving up beef for a month—that probably isn’t going to make much of an impact on farm economies. And there’s something to be said about giving up anything for a while that makes us more conscious of what we’re consuming.
“What troubles me is the repetition sort of ad nauseam is that cattle are inherently problematic for the environment and that the best thing we can do is give up beef,” says Hahn Niman. For years, Hahn Niman was an environmental lawyer working with the environmental non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance. As part of that role she was tasked with looking at the environmental impact that livestock, including beef, had on water systems. She looked at the scientific research, traveled all over the country visiting farms, flew over farm operations, and essentially went down the cattle rabbit hole for two years. Her work eventually culminated in the book Defending Beef. Hahn Niman, a vegetarian, also became a rancher herself after marrying Bill Niman the well-known founder of Niman Ranch (which is now owned by Perdue).
“The more time I spent with it, the more time I spent on farms, the more I became convinced the real question is how livestock are produced not whether they're produced,” says Hahn Niman. She says telling people to simply stop eating beef is an oversimplification of the issue.
Take for example the statistic that it takes 11 times more water to raise cattle than to raise pork or chicken. That number doesn’t take into consideration what kind of water is being used. It makes a huge difference if that water is irrigated water, pulled up from groundwater supplies or if it’s just rain water that would naturally occur on a grassland anyway. New York State is relatively wet and has an abundant amount of naturally occurring grassland which is great for grazing and making hay. Because of that, in 2012 the United States Department of Agriculture, along with Cornell Cooperative Extension created a report titled Green Grass, Green Jobs which calls for increasing livestock production in the state.
Similarly, just like all water isn’t the same, land varies too. A large chunk of America’s agricultural lands are grasslands which aren’t suitable for growing much other than grass. Grass is great for ruminants like cows and sheep but less great for people, who can’t actually eat grass.
“Let’s say you drove every rancher in the US off the land. What would happen to the 600 million acres of grazing land?” asks Lewandrowski. “Would it be a Disneyland kind of thing where bison and antelope just take over?”
And, points out Lewandrowski, what would happen to those communities? As farms have consolidated many have been ploughed under to create subdivisions—or, as they’re referred to out west, ranchettes—that fragment ecosystems and are harder on the land. At the same time, when ranchers and farmers suffer economic distress, it dissolves the ties that hold their communities together and themselves. From the droughts in India to the milk crisis of 2010 it’s not uncommon, and incredibly unfortunate for farmers to deal with the dissolution of their livelihoods – and the mounting debts that it creates—by committing suicide. As we lose farms, rural communities lose the economic engine that holds their community together.
“If I said to you what if I got rid of every teacher or any other profession in the United States there'd be an uproar,” said Lewandrowski. “But if I said let’s get rid of every rancher in this country, there are people who are like, ‘oh it would be a good thing.’”
What Lewandrowski is getting at is a real divide between people making the decisions and those who are actually producing our food. And the two sides are generally not talking to each other. Lewandrowski notes that farmers are often excluded from conferences that discuss the future of food and its relationship to climate change.
None of this is to say that when it comes to agriculture, that the status quo is fine.
“There's an enormous problem with the food system and the way it's impacting the environment,” says Hahn Niman. “We know in the United States that the number one source of water contamination is from agriculture. There's a lot of data that the food sector is contributing to climate change in various ways.”
The problem comes from distilling the solution down to a single consumer action, instead of recognizing and fixing the broader system. That means repairing the relationship between purchasers and producers, adjusting feeding operations to be more humane, and literally getting down into the dirt.
“I am increasingly convinced the cornerstone of building or rebuilding a sustainable food system is really about soil health and specifically the biology of the soil and that everything goes up from there,” says Hahn Niman.
The reason is simple – healthy soil is both a sign of sustainable practices and a contributor to a healthy food system. Healthy soils require fewer synthetic fertilizers, for example. And it’s these synthetic fertilizers that contribute so greatly to the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Healthy soils require different grazing practices that move cattle along from region to region. And studies show that when practices like these are employed, that the land itself is healthier. Even the report Livestock’s Long Shadow from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which kicked off much of this debate acknowledged that where you have grazing animals you have more biodiversity, and more water in the system.”
This does nothing, of course, to answer the question of whether or not you should eat less beef. But maybe, just maybe, that’s the wrong question. Perhaps, the better question to ask is: do you know the source of your food? And let everything else fall from there.
Web-based games can help people living with severe mental illness return to work, a study has found.
Combining brain-training exercises on the internet with supported employment programs can drastically improve the chances of these patients finding and maintaining jobs, according to the report by Australia’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research.
“There’s a whole group of games that are often oversold to people who have normal cognition and are just anxious about whether their short-term memory is functioning like it used to be,” said lead researcher and clinical psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Harris. “But this study shows they can be useful for people with cognitive problems as a result of severe mental illness to regain some of their thinking skills.”
That, in turn, can boost patients’ employability, the study found. On average, participants using the web-based therapies worked 3 times the number of hours and earned almost $2,000 more than the control group over a 6-month trial.
The study used cognitive remediation therapy, or CRT, which includes games similar to the popular brain-training app Lumosity. They are engineered to improve attention and concentration, response speed, and short-term memory. CRT targets cognitive deficits that individuals may have as a result of their illness. “The gamification makes it a lot easier for people to stick with exercises that can otherwise be quite dry,” Harris said.
In the US, about 80% of people living with a severe mental illness are unemployed, according to a 2014 reportby the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. The same report also found that roughly 60% of the 7.1 million people receiving public mental health services nationwide want to work, but less than 2% receive supported employment opportunities provided by states.
Unemployment for patients living with a severe mental illness is bad for the individual, bad for the community because of a dependence on social services, and bad for the workforce because of wasted manpower, Harris added. “It’s a triple whammy.”
Being in full-time work is one of the best means to recovery, but a negative feedback loop exists between long-term unemployment and severe mental illness: The poverty and marginalization associated with joblessness can cause further alienation and exacerbate the symptoms of severe mental illness. “You can be presented with regular failure, it can stop you from engaging in social networks, resulting in loss of contact with the working world, loss of status, loss of friends,” Harris said.
Harris said games can be particularly attractive to young patients, who tend to dislike therapy. The symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30, according to the National Institute for Mental Health.
“Young people especially don’t want to be seen to be unwell, to have a mental illness and don’t want to be caught going to therapy groups, which aren’t seen as particularly cool.” The web-based therapies are “a way of using the work of software developers, who are oftentimes all too good at getting people hooked into their games, in a positive way.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 4 individuals with a psychological condition believe that others are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. That stigma can not only prevent patients from getting hired, but it can also stop people from seeking the help they need.
“People are concerned to say that they are depressed or feeling suicidal, and the tabloid press reporting on issues like schizophrenia are usually horrendous,” Harris said. But cognitive remediation therapy on the internet could create a way for patients to seek assistance in the comfort of their own home or discreetly while at work. The growing popularity of telehealth reflects a need to provide specialized health services at a distance, according to Harris. That’s already been happening in psychiatry for some time, he said.
Because the cost of web-based treatment is small compared to, say, in-person therapy groups it would be straightforward and inexpensive to roll out. Then it could reach sparsely populated rural areas where access to treatment tends to be more limited, the report said.
For the best results, the games should be matched with supported employment opportunities. Harris said that is essential. “The cognitive remediation therapies alone only have a small effect,” he noted, “but it’s much better if it’s combined with other psychosocial interventions, like disability support programs.”
The trial was conducted with a sample size of 86 people with a range of severe mental illness—including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression—from across New South Wales, Australia.
The other week, Mark Zuckerberg visited Puerto Rico without leaving California. He stood on the roof of Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park with a virtual reality (VR) headset strapped to his face, and immersed himself in a flooded street 3,000 miles away.
Zuckerberg was livestreaming the event to promote Facebook Spaces, a “social” VR app. But it backfired, badly. Using a humanitarian crisis for a marketing stunt made many people angry. So did the tasteless incongruity of Zuckerberg’s grinning cartoon avatar set against a landscape of profound human suffering.
When Zuckerberg apologized the next day, he clarified his intentions. “One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” he wrote. By cultivating empathy, VR “can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world”.
It would be easy to see this statement as a canned bit of damage control, as another in a long line of half-hearted mea culpas mass-produced by Silicon Valley publicists for their frequently offending bosses. But it’s worth taking Zuckerberg seriously. When he talks about empathy, he means it.
Empathy is a word that suffuses the tech industry. The ability of an engineer or a designer to put themselves in someone else’s shoes is widely considered critical for creating a successful user experience. But with VR, empathy isn’t just a design value – it’s a sales strategy.
Empathy is the cornerstone of the tech industry’s masterplan for mainstreaming VR. It’s the “killer app” that Silicon Valley hopes will transform VR from a fringe curiosity into a technology that’s as deeply embedded in our daily lives as smartphones and social media.
VR enthusiasts often describe it as an “empathy machine”. By creating an immersive and interactive virtual environment, a VR headset can quite literally put you in someone else’s shoes. Text, image, or video offers only partial views of a person’s life – with VR, you can get inside their head. And this high-fidelity simulation, the argument goes, will make us better people by heightening our sensitivity to the suffering of others. It will make us “more compassionate”, “more connected”, and ultimately “more human”, in the words of the VR artist Chris Milk.
Now, this isn’t necessarily true. There’s no reason to assume that a virtual rendering of real suffering will generate empathy. But, as Ainsley Sutherland explains in a recent piece for BuzzFeed, it’s a very useful idea for the tech industry. Tech needs the myth of the empathy machine for two related reasons: to enhance VR’s reputation, and to expand its audience.
Violence and sex have long supplied VR with its most obvious use cases. It’s an excellent platform for gaming and porn. But these specific strengths actually damage VR’s chances of becoming a mass medium, since the technology risks becoming linked with somewhat embarrassing subcultures. Silicon Valley isn’t pouring billions of dollars into VR to give nerds a better way to play games and masturbate – and if those are the only activities that people associate with the technology, it’s dead on arrival.
Empathy offers a more promising approach. Rather than marketing VR as a gaming rig or a sex toy, Silicon Valley can pitch it as a catalyst of deep interpersonal connection. It also suits Silicon Valley’s oft-expressed desire to make the world a better place. By lending you the eyes and ears of someone suffering in San Juan, tech helps you to develop a greater sense of responsibility for them. You feel compelled to act. This is connectivity not merely as a technical concept, but a moral one.
Lately, however, this faith in connectivity has been harder to sustain. In recent months, the media and the general public has gradually awakened to the fact that using technology to connect people doesn’t automatically make the world a better place. In fact, it sometimes seems to make the world considerably worse. Trolls, racists, and fascists are using the connective capacities of Google and Facebook to inject their poisons into the body politic with alarming success. As a result, for the first time in its history, Silicon Valley is facing something of a backlash.
VR offers a way to reset the narrative. At a moment when Silicon Valley sorely needs good press, both to burnish its public image and to forestall a possible regulatory response, the myth of the empathy machine has an important role to play. It helps rehabilitate the idea that connectivity produces socially beneficial outcomes, and that Silicon Valley is an essentially humanitarian enterprise.
With VR, this humanitarianism can be quite explicit. Charities are already using the technology to coax dollars from prospective donors. At black-tie fundraisers in New York, attendees have used VR headsets to travel to destinations as distant as a Lebanese refugee camp and an Ethiopian village. And the United Nations has built its own VR app that teleports users to Syria, Liberia, Gaza and elsewhere, while encouraging them to donate money or time.
VR philanthropy supplies the tech industry with valuable rhetorical ammunition. Companies can point to these initiatives, and partner with the organizations behind them, to boost the technology’s reputation – and their own.
But the empathy machine isn’t just about driving better PR. It’s also about selling headsets – and Silicon Valley needs to sell lots of headsets. Zuckerberg recently said he wants to get one billion people into VR. This may sound impossibly ambitious, but it expresses something of the scale required to recoup Facebook’s enormous investment in the technology.
Of course, VR philanthropy probably won’t become a popular pastime. It may appeal to certain users, but it’s unlikely to spark widescale adoption.
Suffering might, however. Extreme situations are good ways to demonstrate the affective capacity of a medium. A Holocaust movie shows us the emotional power of cinema; a Facebook Live broadcast of the police murder of a black man shows us the emotional power of social video. These representations of pain, by eliciting an intense response from their viewers, teach people what a technology can do. If a medium can make you cry – as VR can, famously – it works.
This isn’t to suggest that crying is all people will do in VR. The purpose of a killer app isn’t to exhaust a platform’s potential, but to offer an entrypoint into it. Once you get a critical mass of people using a technology, they figure out other things to do with it. But VR needs a gateway drug – and virtualized misery can perform that function.
Imagine a VR live stream of a police killing. This, tragically, will soon cease to be science fiction: within years, you will be able to experience an extremely convincing simulation of what it’s like to be murdered by a cop. Will this lead to the cop’s conviction, or to meaningful criminal justice reform? Recent history suggests the answer is no. But the content will probably go viral, as its affective intensity generates high levels of user engagement. And this virality will generate revenue for the company that owns the platform.
This is a far likelier future for VR than the mass moral awakening envisioned by evangelists of the empathy machine. It’s a world where VR enables us to consume ever more realistic depictions of human anguish, whose viral circulation enriches a few big companies. It’s a world where capitalism has found yet another way to monetize its waste – where the suffering that results from a society organized for profit becomes itself a source of profit, and pain is repurposed as a site of economic production.
CRY ME A GLITTER Glitter TEARS is the latest make-up trend to sweep Instagram… so would YOU try it?No body parts are being left out in the glitter trend this year
HALLOWEEN is fast approaching and we predict that this daring makeup will be a popular look this year.
As the glitter boobs craze fizzles out along with summer, beauty addicts are now placing the sparkles beneath their eyes.
The dramatic look has been springing up on social media over the past few weeks.
After trying out the trend for themselves, many Instagrammers have joked that they "cry glitter" instead of tears.
Replicating the look couldn't be easier, as all you need are some sparkles.
Using an adhesive that is safe for the face, including eyelash glue or vaseline, attach the shimmering products beneath your lower lashline.
You can do this in a triangle design or in a weeping pattern that resembles falling tears.
Like with any makeup involving glitter around the sensitive areas of your body, it's important to ensure that the beauty items you use are eye-safe.
New York - CBS/AP Facebook doesn't want users to forget to eat while their whiling away the hours on the social network.
The social-media giant said Friday it is moving to make it easier for people to order food for pick-up or delivery, noting that the process is too complicated. It promises to help save time by bringing existing food-ordering services, including ChowNow, Delivery.com, EatStreet, Olo, Slice and Zuppler, into its app and partnering with some restaurants directly.
Shake Shack founder on changing the way restaurants do business
U.S. Facebook users can order from local restaurants and big chains, such as Chipotle, Denny's, El Pollo Loco, Five Guys, Jack in the Box and Panera.
"You can browse restaurants nearby by visiting the Order Food section in the Explore menu," said Facebook, which has been testing the service since last year. "On this page, you can browse food options and select Start Order when you've found what you're looking for."
Most people who order food already have accounts set up with individual restaurants and delivery apps, however. Facebook will have to persuade them to start the process inside its app instead of using GrubHub, UberEats, Amazon or niche delivery services like Caviar.
Of course, using Facebook to order food might prompt users to spend more time perusing their news feeds -- and seeing ads.
Valley News Live
Apple is working with Stanford and American Well to test whether its watch can detect heart problems
Apple shows off new heart-rate and workout features for Apple
Apple is working with partners to test whether its smartwatch can be used to detect common heart conditions, an effort that would make its device a "must have" for millions of people worldwide.
The company is partnering up with a group of clinicians at Stanford, as well as telemedicine vendor American Well, to test whether Apple Watch's heart rate sensor can detect abnormal heart rhythms in a cohort of patients, according to two people familiar. The people requested anonymity as these plans have not yet been made public.
Apple confirmed the test and Stanford's participation at its event on Tuesday, where it unveiled a new version of the Apple Watch with wireless connectivity.
Arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, aren't always problematic. But in some people, a condition known as atrial fibrillation can show no external symptoms while carrying a risk of blood clots, strokes and other complications.
For that reason, an Apple Watch could be a useful screening tool for high-risk patients -- if its heart rate monitor proves to be sufficiently sensitive and accurate.
"Atrial fibrillation is a common rhythm disorder and knowing someone has it is medically useful because those people might need specific treatments," said Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco.
American Well declined to comment on its involvement with Apple. But the company's CEO Roy Schoenberg did say that telemedicine companies are working closely with wearable makers. If a problem is detected, he said, "the best route forward is to put a health care professional out in front."
Companies like American Well already provide apps for the iPhone so that anyone with an Internet connection can reach a doctor in a matter of minutes.
Apple Watch has also been used in studies to screen for heart rhythm abnormalities. A start-up called Cardiogram released the results of its research in May, in partnership with clinicians at UCSF.
Greg Marcus, a cardiac electrophysiologist at UCSF who was involved with the Cardiogram study, said Apple benefits from the real-time access to raw data from its heart rate sensor. "That's potentially more powerful," he said, than the signals that third-party developers can access through Apple Watch.
The clinical study is slated to kick off later this year, one of the people said.
Apple's Tim Cook hinted at the company's interest in heart health applications in an interview with Fortune published on Monday.
"We started working on the Apple Watch several years ago," he said, and one goal was "performing some measurements of your health that people were not measuring, at least continually. Like your heart. Very few people wore heart monitors. We're extremely interested in this area. And yes it is a business opportunity."
Cook went on to describe the medical health activity market as the "largest or second largest component" of the economy.
In June, CNBC reported that Apple hired Sumbul Desai, a rising star on Stanford's digital health team who was working on projects related to Apple Watch. CNBC also reported that month that Apple has been in talks with developers, hospitals and other industry groups about bringing clinical data, such as detailed lab results and allergy lists, to its devices.
A Wisconsin company will let employees use microchip implants to buy snacks and open doors
A Wisconsin company called Three Square Market is going to offer employees implantable chips to open doors, buy snacks, log in to computers, and use office equipment like copy machines. Participating employees will have the chips, which use near field communication (NFC) technology, implanted between their thumb and forefinger. It’s an extension of the long-running implantable RFID chip business, based on a partnership with Swedish company Biohax International. The vending kiosk company, also known as 32M, will “chip” employees at a party on August 1st. (According to an email to The Verge, chips and salsa will be served as snacks.) Around 50 people are supposedly getting the optional implants.
NFC chips are already used in a couple of workplaces in Europe; The Los Angeles Timesreported on startup workspace Epicenter’s chip program earlier this year. In the US, installing them is also a form of simple biohacking. They’re essentially an extension of the chips you’d find in contactless smart cards or microchipped pets: passive devices that store very small amounts of information. A Swedish rail company also lets people use implants as a substitute for fare cards. 32M CEO Todd Westby is clearly trying to head off misunderstandings and paranoia by saying that they contain “no GPS tracking at all” — because again, it’s comparable to an office keycard here.
Chip implants are far from common, and although Westby speculates on a future where RFID chip technology is used for “your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities,” a lot of people might prefer those chips in the form of jewelry or a smartphone component. In an office environment, employers can already monitor most of the data that they could collect through these chips, but in a larger environment, a device you couldn’t easily remove could raise privacy concerns. Still, this is a good sign for biohacking enthusiasts who are already interested in the tech; I have an NFC chip, for example, that I’ve been trying fruitlessly to use as an office keycard for years. The US has also been lagging behind Europe on adopting this kind of tech, so it’s cool to see it make its way to an American company — even if it’s mostly an interesting experiment on both continents.
People Are Experiencing More Negative Side-Effects From Beauty Products Than Ever Before
When you buy a beauty product, you automatically assume that it’s safe, as you should. After all, many products have gone through extensive testing before they hit shelves. However, people can and do have bad reactions to the beauty products they use—and a new study found that those side effects are higher than they’ve ever been.
For the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s Adverse Event Reporting System, which stores data on adverse events related to foods, dietary supplements, and beauty products. Here’s what they found: From 2004 to 2016, 5,144 side effects were reported, and there was a notable increase between 2015 and 2016 of bad reactions—particularly those caused by hair-care products. The products with the most issues overall? Hair-care products, skin-care products, and tattoos. Notably, personal cleanliness, hair care, and hair-coloring products were the most likely to have “serious health outcomes.” The study authors did not go into specifics about what kinds of reactions were reported.
According to the study, these numbers may not reflect the full amount of complaints that companies get about bad reactions to products, because cosmetics consumers have no legal obligation to share these complaints with the FDA. The study’s researchers conclude that better surveillance is needed when it comes to beauty products. According to the FDA, cosmetic products and ingredients do not require FDA approval before they go on the market. Instead, the companies and people who market beauty products are legally responsible for ensuring the safety of their products.
The study findings are scary, but Gary Goldenberg, M.D., an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, says you shouldn’t panic over them. “Most products are safer than ever because of regulations and standards applied,” he says (for example, the FDA has specific standards on how products can be marketed to consumers, and can pursue enforcement over products that are not compliant with the law). However, he points out, there are more and more products on the market and companies are also using many more ingredients than before. “Some of these newer ingredients may have never been used in cosmetic formulations,” he says. “While these products may be safe for most, there surely will be some that are allergic or are irritated with these products.”
Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a New York City-based board-certified dermatologist, says that it could simply be a case of people using more products. “As skincare treatments are becoming increasingly popular, consumers are using more products than ever which is why we are seeing a bump in skin reactions,” he says. More people are also combining products, Goldenberg says, which comes with an increased risk that you’ll have a bad reaction.
To lower the odds you’ll have an issue, Goldenberg recommends using brands recommended by your dermatologist, and looking for products with minimal ingredients, i.e. ones that don’t add unnecessary chemicals such as petroleum and phthalates. (That's why we love this soothing cleanser from the Women's Health Boutique!)
Zeichner also recommends sticking to fragrance-free products (since fragrances are a common cause of skin allergies) and looking for ones that are hypoallergenic. “Just because a product says that it is natural it [does] not mean that it is safer to use on the skin than traditional products,” he says. “Poison ivy is natural as well.” And, if you have sensitive skin, he says it’s best to avoid harsh ingredients like alpha or beta hydroxy acids or retinol, since they’re common causes of skin irritation.
If you’re not sure, talk to your dermatologist. He or she should be able to steer you in the right direction.
Source -Women's Health
The foster care system is struggling to care for thousands of children left behind as victims.
Heroin is unraveling families across the nation, and it is our children who are left as innocent victims of this drug and opioid epidemic.
Make no mistake; the heroin crisis in America is destroying our families. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. Shockingly, 91 people in America die from an opioid overdose each day. The governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, declared a state of emergency in March of 2017, with plans of 50 million in new funding over the next five years, to combat the increasing problem. “We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency,” Hogan said. “With this continuing threat increasing at such an alarming rate, we must allow for rapid coordination with our state and local emergency management teams.”
As more and more parents become addicted to heroin, and other opioids, thousands of more children are being placed into a foster care system throughout the nation; a system that is struggling to properly assist these children due to lack of resources, foster parents, and funding. “The heroin epidemic is forcing more kids into foster care, but in most states, funding can’t keep up with the need,” according to Lana Freeman and the National Foster Parent Association. “The states need more foster families, the workers need more resources, and parents need more services.”
With the increase in children being placed into foster care, the foster care system is struggling to keep up. With roughly 450,000 children in foster care across the nation, there are not enough foster homes, as foster care agencies face the challenge of recruitment and retention of foster parents. The end result is simply that there are not enough homes for children in need to be placed in, or a child is moved from one home to another.
“Recruiting new foster parents is always challenging, as most people foster for a season of their lives, rather than a lifetime,” said Kim Phagan-Hansel, editor of Fostering Families Today. “As an increasing number of children have entered the foster care system in recent years due to escalating drug use across the country, some states have struggled to recruit foster parents to keep pace with that demand. I think what you’ll see is that in some areas of the country they’re really struggling to address this latest drug epidemic and its impact on children and families.”
One of the reasons children are placed into foster care is due to parental drug abuse. According to the book Helping Foster Children in School: A Guide for Foster Parents, Social Workers, and Teachers, “those parents who abuse drugs and/or alcohol place their children in danger. This danger may result in neglect, physical abuse, or domestic violence.” Indeed, the larger number of children being placed into foster care, nationwide, is due much in part of an increase in parental drug usage and substance abuse, with Heroin use being the chief drug increasing among parents. Other substance abuse among parents include meth, cocaine and prescription medication abuse.
In Alaska, the heroin crisis is troubling. Chris Scott, the director of Royal Family Kids Camp in Anchorage , has seen the problem increase and become widespread in Alaska. “The number of kids in foster care has increased by 1000 kids in a year in the state of Alaska. It is believed that nearly all of them are in care because of substance abuse and the drug of choice being heroin. Heroin has no boundaries whether it is the big city of Anchorage or the little village of Eek. It is killing families.”
Yes, it is killing families.
And the foster care system is struggling to care for these thousands of children left behind as victims.
Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert on foster care. He has been a foster parent for 15 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to foster care agencies, child welfare organizations, and legal firms, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe, and Stable Home, and writes for several publications. He can be contacted at email@example.com, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.
Creators of a new extra heavy blanket have so far raised more than $1.6 million on Kickstarter to launch their product. And their blanket ― along with similar options already on the market ― may be the key to helping you sleep through the night.
The Gravity Blanket is a weighted bedspread with pockets of plastic pellets that cause it to weigh between 15 and 25 pounds. The blanket’s heaviness is meant to distribute pressure all over your body, touching pressure points that some research suggests can relieve anxiety and stress, lulling you into a restful sleep.
The idea behind Gravity Blanket is simple: Take it to bed, and let its heaviness simulate what the company’s founders call “the feeling of being held or hugged” ― not unlike the feeling from those weighted vests used during dental X-rays ― until you drift into bliss.
The product has clearly generated excitement, raising more than 77 times its Kickstarter goal in just eight days.
This isn’t a new invention, however. Occupational therapists have used weighted blankets for years as a tool to reduce anxiety and stress, especially in kids with sensory disorders like autism. The scientific evidence for this is preliminary but positive, Justin Scanlan, an occupational therapist at the University of Sydney, told HuffPost. He co-authored a 2012 pilot study in which patients with mild to moderate psychiatric disturbance reported feeling less distress and anxiety after spending time in a “comfort room” with a weighted blanket.
“Those individuals who used the weighted blanket reported significantly greater reductions in distress and clinician-rated anxiety than those who did not,” the study concluded.
People without mental conditions may benefit from the blanket’s deep pressure touch, too, said Rochelle Ackerley, a physiologist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. She co-authored a 2015 study that concluded weighted blankets may ease insomnia in some adults.
“We have specific receptors in our skin which are tuned to light touch,” Ackerley said. “Such receptors are activated during contact, like a hug. The weighted blanket is thought to provide a similar hugging/cocooning effect and provide a sense of security.”
It’s recommended by several manufacturers that adults choose aweighted blanket around 10 percent of their body weight. Gravity Blanket’s 15, 20 and 25-pound blankets will retail for $279, but you can currently pre-order one for $169 for delivery in October.
Other weighted blanket vendors include Mosaic, which charges $189.95 for a large 18-pound blanket, and SensaCalm, which sells a large 18-pound blanket for $224.95.
Scanlan recommends checking with your doctor before sleeping with a weighted blanket, to ensure it won’t pose breathing or circulation problems.
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