NASA warns: Global groundwater crisis could lead to food supply collapse

Shocking findings reported by NASA show that the problem of diminishing groundwater is poised to lead to the collapse of the food supply, where there could be devastating consequences.

The impact has already been felt, primarily in California. Data obtained form the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) reveal that there, Californians in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost approximately 15 cubic kilometers (4 cubic miles) of total water every year since 2011, which is more water than all 38 million Californians combined use on an annual basis for both municipal and domestic purposes. More than half of that use is linked to Central Valley groundwater pumping.(1)

Such excessive use is a classic case of overusing a resource that can’t keep up with demand. “The myth of limitless water and the free-for-all mentality that has pervaded groundwater use must now come to an end,” says Jet Propulsion Laboratory hydrologist James Famiglietti.(1) That, along with many other words of warning, is made clear by Famiglietti in article he authored which appeared in the October 2014 journal Nature Climate Change.

“Precipitation, snowmelt, and streamflow are no longer enough to supply the multiple, competing demands for society’s water needs,” he explains. Sadly, it would appear that, since non-renewable groundwater is often turned to in an effort to meet the supply and demand, especially during periods of drought, “groundwater supplies in some major aquifers will be depleted in a matter of decades.”(1)

It’s not limited to California either. While it’s there that the situation is deemed particularly devastating, the impact is far-reaching; it’s quickly becoming a global groundwater crisis. In fact, other parts of the world such as Australia’s Canning Basin, the High Plains aquifers of the United States, the North China Plain, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East and the Guarani Aquifer in South America are facing water depletion at breakneck speeds, primarily from water that’s required for farming.(1)

The global groundwater crisis: a diminishing food supply and civil uprisings

So, what does all of this mean? Quite simply, as the water supply runs out, so too will the food supply. However, with the word underground comes a severe flaw in human nature: out of sight, out of mind. Because groundwater obviously resides underneath the Earth’s surface, it’s difficult for many to grasp the severity of the situation and become proactive about that which they can not see.


Consider the fact that irrigation, the main contributor to groundwater depletion, is responsible for 70 percent of water usage globally. Then, factor in that 40 percent of the world’s food supply is derived from nearly 20 percent of irrigated farmland, and “food security” seems to be an oxymoron.(2)

Along with a thinning food supply also comes levels of strife, so it can be expected that already-mounting tensions throughout the world could spike. Famiglietti notes that the disappearing groundwater “may well trigger more civil uprising and international violent conflict in the already water-stressed regions of the world, and new conflict in others.”(3)

Working toward a solution to preserve water, maintain food security

According to Famiglietti, there should be an immediate focus on agriculture. More efficient agricultural practices, even on a small scale, is something THAT he says can lead to volumes of groundwater being saved.(1)

Engaging in more sustainable ways of living — not just concerning agriculture, but right in one’s own backyard — can play a role in making right what has the potential to go drastically wrong. Practicing limited irrigation, collecting rainwater and even simply making a shift in the “want” versus “need” mindset are just some ways that can help restore balance to this very serious issue.







Study questions B12 dementia advice

Conceptual computer artwork depicting neurology. From left to right: MRI brain scans, 3D dsi white matter brain scan, brain, Alzheimer's brain versus normal brain, MRI brain scan

Earlier studies linked low vitamin B12 and folic acid intake with poor memory, scientists said

Taking vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements does not seem to cut the risk of developing dementia in healthy people, say Dutch researchers.

In one of the largest studies to date, there was no difference in memory test scores between those who had taken the supplements for two years and those who were given a placebo.

The research was published in the journal Neurology.

Alzheimer’s Research UK said longer trials were needed to be sure.

B vitamins have been linked to Alzheimer’s for some years, and scientists know that higher levels of a body chemical called homocysteine can raise the risk of both strokes and dementia.

Vitamin B12 and folic acid are both known to lower levels of homocysteine.

No protective effect

That, along with studies linking low vitamin B12 and folic acid intake with poor memory, had prompted scientists to view the supplements as a way to ward off dementia.

Yet in the study of almost 3,000 people – with an average age of 74 – who took 400 micrograms of folic acid and 500 micrograms of vitamin B12 or a placebo every day, researchers found no evidence of a protective effect.

All those taking part in the trial had high blood levels of homocysteine, which did drop more in those taking the supplements.

But on four different tests of memory and thinking skills taken at the start and end of the study, there was no beneficial effect of the supplements on performance.

The researchers did note that the supplements might slightly slow the rate of decline but concluded the small difference they detected could just have been down to chance.

Study leader Dr Rosalie Dhonukshe-Rutten, from Wageningen University in the Netherlands, said: “Since homocysteine levels can be lowered with folic acid and vitamin B12 supplements, the hope has been that taking these vitamins could also reduce the risk of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease.

“While the homocysteine levels decreased by more in the group taking the B vitamins than in the group taking the placebo, unfortunately there was no difference between the two groups in the scores on the thinking and memory tests.”

The researchers stressed the research cannot be extrapolated to people who already had cognitive problems and earlier research had suggested they may benefit.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This large trial adds to previous evidence suggesting that while vitamin B supplements can lower homocysteine levels, this does not translate into improved memory and thinking in the general older population.”

But he said the trial did not look at people who were already experiencing memory decline.

Longer follow-up periods would be needed to see if vitamin B12 or folic acid could slow the severe memory decline associated with dementia, he said.

Dr Karran added: “Although this study casts doubt on the use of vitamin B or folic acid supplements to aid memory, a balanced diet is a good way to keep healthy at all ages.

“Evidence suggests that we can maintain a healthy brain for longer by keeping a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, not smoking, staying active, drinking in moderation and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol in check.”

The Most Popular Drug in America Is an Antipsychotic and No One Really Knows How It Works.

Does anyone remember Thorazine? It was an antipsychotic given to mentally ill people, often in institutions, that was so sedating, it gave rise to the term “Thorazine shuffle.” Ads for Thorazine in medical journals, before drugs were advertised directly to patients, showed Aunt Hattie in a hospital gown, zoned out but causing no trouble to herself or anyone else. No wonder Thorazine and related drugs Haldol, Mellaril and Stelazine were called chemical straitjackets.
But Thorazine and similar drugs became close to obsolete in 1993 when a second generation of antipsychotics which included Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Geodon and Abilify came online. Called “atypical” antipsychotics, the drugs seemed to have fewer side effects than their predecessors like dry mouth, constipation and the stigmatizing and permanent facial tics known as TD or tardive dyskinesia. (In actuality, they were similar.) More importantly, the drugs were obscenely expensive: 100 tablets of Seroquel cost as much as $2,000, Zyprexa, $1,680 and Abilify $1,644.
One drug that is a close cousin of Thorazine, Abilify, is currently the  top-selling of all prescription drugs in the U.S. marketed as a supplement to antidepressant drugs, reports the Daily Beast. Not only is it amazing that an antipsychotic is outselling all other drugs, no one even knows how it works to relieve depression, writes Jay Michaelson. The standardized United States Product Insert says Abilify’s method of action is “unknown” but it likely “balances” brain’s neurotransmitters. But critics say antipsychotics don’t treat anything at all, but zone people out and produce oblivion. They also say there is a concerning rise in the prescription of antipsychotics for routine complaints like insomnia.
They are right. With new names and prices and despite their unknown methods of action, Pharma marketers have devised ways to market drugs like Abilify to the whole population, not just people with severe mental illness. Only  one percent of the population, after all, has schizophrenia and only 2.5 percent has bipolar disorder. Thanks to these marketing ploys, Risperdal was the seventh best-selling drug in the world until it went off patent and Abilify currently rules.
Here are some of the ways Big Pharma made antipsychotics everyday drugs.
Approval Creep
Everyone has heard of “mission creep.” In the pharmaceutical world, approval creep means getting the FDA to approve a drug for one thing and pushing a lot of other drug approvals through on the coattails of the first one. Though the atypical antipsychotics were originally drugs for schizophrenia, soon there was a dazzling array of new uses.
Seroquel was first approved in 1997 for schizophrenia but subsequently approved for bipolar disorder, psychiatric conditions in children and finally as an add-on drug for depression like Abilify. The depression “market” is so huge, Seroquel’s last approval allowed the former schizophrenia drug to make  $5.3 billion a year before it went off patent. But before the add-on approval, AstraZeneca, which makes Seroquel, ran a sleazy campaign to convince depressed people they were really “bipolar.” Ads showed an enraged woman screaming into the phone, her face contorted, her teeth clenched. Is this you, asked the ads? Your depression may really be bipolar disorder, warned the ad.
Sometimes the indication creep is under the radar. After heated FDA hearings in 2009 about extending Zyprexa, Seroquel and Geodon uses for kids–Pfizer and AstraZeneca slides showed that kids died in clinical trials–the uses were added by the FDA but never announced. They were slipped into the record right before Christmas, when no news breaks, and recorded as “label changes.” Sneaky.
And there is another “creep” which is also under the radar: “warning creep.” As atypical antipsychotics have gone into wide use in the population, more risks have surfaced. Labels now warn against death-associated risks in the elderly, children and people with depression but you have to really read the fine print. (Atypical antipsychotics are so dangerous in the elderly with dementia, at least 15,000 die in nursing homes from them each year, charged FDA drug reviewer David Graham in congressional testimony.) The Seroquel label now warns against cardiovascular risks, which the  FDA denied until the drug was almost off patent.
Dosing Children
Perhaps no drugs but ADHD medications have been so widely used and often abused in children as atypical antipsychotics. Atypical antipsychotics are known to “improve” behavior in problem children across a broad range of diagnoses but at a huge price: A National Institute of Mental Health study of 119 children ages 8 to 19 found Risperdal and Zyprexa caused such obesity a safety panel ordered the children off the drugs.
In only eight weeks, kids on Risperdal gained nine pounds and kids on Zyprexa gained 13 pounds. “Kids at school were making fun of me,” said one study participant who put on 35 pounds while taking Risperdal.
Just like the elderly in state care, poor children on Medicaid are tempting targets for Big Pharma and sleazy operators because they do not make their own medication decisions. In 2008, the state of Texas charged Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen with defrauding the state of millions with “a sophisticated and fraudulent marketing scheme,” to “secure a spot for the drug, Risperdal, on the state’s Medicaid preferred drug list and on controversial medical protocols that determine which drugs are given to adults and children in state custody.”
Many other states have brought legal action against Big Pharma including compelling drug makers to pay for the extreme side effects that develop with the drugs: massive weight gain, blood sugar changes leading to diabetes and cholesterol problems.
Add-On Conditions
It’s called polypharmacy and it is increasingly popular: Prescribing several drugs, often as a cocktail, that are supposed to do more than the drugs do alone. Big Pharma likes polypharmacy for two obvious reasons: drug sales are tripled or quadrupled—and it’s not possible to know if the drugs are working. The problems with polypharmacy parallel its “benefits.” The person can’t know which, if any, of the drugs are working so they take them all. By the time someone is on four or more psychiatric drugs, there is a good chance they are on a government program and we are paying. There is also a good chance the person is on the  drugs for life, because withdrawal reactions make them think there really is something wrong with them and it is hard to quit the drugs.
Into this lucrative merchandising model came the idea of “add-on” medications and ” treatment-resistant depression.” When someone’s antidepressant didn’t work, Pharma marketers began floating the idea that it wasn’t that the drugs didn’t work; it wasn’t that the person wasn’t depressed to begin with but had real life, job and family problems—it was “treatment-resistant depression.” The person needed to add a second or third drug to their antidepressant, such as Seroquel or Abilify. Ka-ching.
Lawsuits Don’t Stop Unethical Marketing
Just as Big Pharma has camped out in Medicare and Medicaid, living on our tax dollars while fleeing to England so it doesn’t have to pay taxes, Pharma has also camped out in the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs. Arguably, no drugs have been as good for Big Pharma as atypical antipsychotics within the military. In 2009, the Pentagon spent $8.6 million on Seroquel and VA spent $125.4 million—almost $30 million more than is spent on a  F/A-18 Hornet.
Risperdal was even bigger in the military. Over a period of nine years, VA spent $717 million on its generic, risperidone, to treat PTSD in troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet not only was risperidone not approved for PTSD, it didn’t even work. A 2011 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found the drug worked no better than placebo and the money was totally wasted.
In the last few years, the makers of Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa have all settled suits claiming illegal or fraudulent marketing. A year ago, Johnson & Johnson admitted mismarketing Risperdal in a  $2.2 billion settlement. But the penalty is nothing compared with the $24.2 billion it made from selling Risperdal between 2003 to 2010 and shareholders didn’t blink. The truth is, there is too much money in hawking atypical antipsychotics to the general population for Pharma to quit.


LIENO RENAL VARICES | Looking Through a Transducer

From the desk of Zedie.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Eating Sugar

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year.

Did you know that refined sugar is far more addictive than cocaine — one of the most addictive and harmful substances currently known.  An unbelievable 94 % of rats who were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between cocaine and sugar water, chose sugar. Those rats who were addicted to cocaine switched their preference to sugar.

Refined sugar consumption damages health in more ways than most realize. It suppresses immunity and causes weight gain.



Research has linked sugar consumption to numerous other conditions, including

• Premature aging
• Various cancers — breast, ovary, prostate, rectum, etc.
• Diabetes
• Digestive problems, including chronic indigestion
• Fatigue and low energy
• Heart disease
• Hyperactivity and concentration problems
• Loss of muscle mass
• Nutritional deficiencies, including decreased ability to absorb calcium and magnesium
• Osteoporosis
• Tooth decay and gum disease
• Yeast infections

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Eating Sugar


Here are some of the symptoms of sugar hangover

  • Fuzzy thinking or foggy mind
  • Fatigue or sleepiness after meals
  • Gas, bloating or extended stomach after meals
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin problems
  • Allergy symptoms
  • Mood swings

Understanding the symptoms, and preparing to deal with sugar withdrawal, can help you permanently reduce your sugar intake. But tt is important to realize that a craving is NOT the same as hunger.

Craving is not your body’s calling for energy, it is the brain calling for something that releases a lot of dopamine.

You need to be determined and disciplined and here are a few things you can do to help you overcome these cravings:

  1. Eat sour foods.  Sour foods, like apple cider vinegar, will naturally curb your cravings for sugar.
  2. Eat fermented foods and probiotic beverages.They are  full of beneficial bacteria, which drive out disease-causing bugs that increase our desire for sugar.


The science behind why we cry when we are happy.

Life’s milestones, from walking down the aisle at graduation to walking down the aisle at our wedding, are among the happiest times of our life that may be inexplicably filled with tears — specifically tears of joy. Crying, in essence, is a good way for us to release sadness, stress, and toxins, but what about when we’re filled with joy? The phrase “I’m so happy I could cry” actually makes sense, according to a recent study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, which found we restore our emotional balance by responding to positive experiences with negative emotions.

“People may be restoring emotional equilibrium with these expressions,” said Oriana Aragon, lead author of the study and psychologist from Yale University, in a press release. “They seem to take place when people are overwhelmed with strong positive emotions, and people who do this seem to recover better from those strong emotions.” Aragon became inspired to examine these “dimorphous expressions” of positive emotions, as she calls it, after hearing Leslie Bibb describe this impulse to Conan O’Brien, The Washington Post reported. These two odd responses stem from the very same emotion. Life’s milestones, from walking down the aisle at graduation to walking down the aisle at our wedding, are among the happiest times of our life that may be inexplicably filled with tears — specifically tears of joy. Crying, in essence, is a good way for us to release sadness, stress, and toxins, but what about when we’re filled with joy? The phrase “I’m so happy I could cry” actually makes sense, according to a recent study to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science, which found we restore our emotional balance by responding to positive experiences with negative emotions. “People may be restoring emotional equilibrium with these expressions,” said Oriana Aragon, lead author of the study and psychologist from Yale University, in a press release.

“They seem to take place when people are overwhelmed with strong positive emotions, and people who do this seem to recover better from those strong emotions.” Aragon became inspired to examine these “dimorphous expressions” of positive emotions, as she calls it, after hearing Leslie Bibb describe this impulse to Conan O’Brien, The Washington Post reported. These two odd responses stem from the very same emotion. Aragon and her colleagues at Yale University sought to examine people’s emotional responses to different scenarios by conducting a series of two studies. In the first study, 143 participants were recruited and asked to answer whether they cry when seeing loved ones reunited or while watching the happiest moments of movies, and whether when holding a cute baby if they have “the urge to squeeze his or her little fat legs.”

The researchers observed the negative and aggressive responses to positive emotions. The findings revealed people who had negative or aggressive responses in one scenario were likely to have them in another. For example, the participants who cried at their kid’s graduation were more likely to have the urge to pinch a baby’s cheeks. Aragon suspects these reactions take place “when people are overwhelmed with emotions.” In a different study, Aragon and her research team recruited about 300 participants to show pictures of babies, which were altered to make them look more or less cute. Immediately after viewing those photos, the researchers measured people’s feelings and repeated this again five minutes later. Cuter babies were viewed more positively and yielded responses such as, “I want to pinch those cheeks!” or telling the baby, through gritted teeth, “I want to eat you up!” Overall, people who had aggressive or negative reactions to positive emotions were found to recover better from their emotional highs and were closer to attaining emotional equilibrium than people who had no interest in, for example, pinching baby’s cheeks. [​IMG]

This suggests negative reactions, such as tears of joy, may help people calm down when they’re overwhelmed with joy. “It took me a long time, a lot of experiments, and a lot of work, to say: yes, people are actually feeling positive [emotions] but expressing negative [responses], and do so across a variety of situations,” Aragon said, The Washington Post reported. She went on to say, “We really want emotional homeostasis. We want a happy, middle spot. Extreme is not good. It’s hard on our bodies.” The reverse can also be true: Strong negative emotions can also elicit positive expressions. For example, we tend to go into nervous laughter when confronted with uncomfortable situations. In the most famous Stanley Milgram’s “Milgram experiment,” the researcher set out to discover why some people will blindly follow authority. Test subjects were asked to deliver a series of increasing powerful electric shocks to the unseen person, “the learner” (who were Milgram’s team members playing a role) to observe how much voltage they would deliver before they refused to continue. While an astounding 65 percent delivered the experiment’s final jolt of 450 volts, more shockingly, Milgram noted the subject began to laugh nervously once they heard screams of pain coming from the unseen “learners.” This suggests humor could be a defense mechanism we use to guard ourselves against overwhelming negative emotions. It’s a way to cope with heightened emotions and restore our emotional balance. The scientists based their findings on the belief that people have emotional limits. If our sadness or joy is reaching an unmanageable limit, our bodies therefore become physiologically overwhelmed. This triggers the unexpected emotion — like tears of joy — to reach emotional equilibrium. Ironically, these unusual “embarrassing” displays help with our self-regulation.

Cellular ‘computers’ gain a hard drive .

A new DNA-based recorder allows bioengineers to create cell cultures that detect information in their environment and store it for later use. Such ‘designer’ cells might in the future be used to monitor water quality in a village, or measure the amount of sugar a person eats. The technique is described this week in Science.

In synthetic biology, genes are engineered to regulate each other’s expression in such a way that they can perform logic operations similar to those in computer circuits. Memory storage has long been considered one of the key components needed to fulfil the promise of this technology.

“Building gene circuits requires not only computation and logic, but a way to store that information,” says bioengineer Timothy Lu of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “DNA provides a very stable form of memory and will allow us to do more complex computing tasks.”

In previous synthetic-biology attempts, data storage has been laborious to create. It also recorded only the presence or absence of one particular sensory input, and could be used only for limited applications. In the latest paper, Lu and his colleague Fahim Farzadfard describe how they can record many types of data simultaneously, and can register the accumulation of the input over time, like a car’s odometer counts kilometers. The stored information can then be read out by sequencing the DNA. They dub their method SCRIBE, for Synthetic Cellular Recorders Integrating Biological Events.

“It’s a nice addition to the toolbox”, which could complement other memory-storage techniques, says Jérôme Bonnet, a bioengineer at the Centre for Structural Biochemistry in Montpellier, France, who was not involved in the research. “There’s room for different types of memory in synthetic biology — as in computing you have the hard drive and the RAM.”

Living memory
The team’s work on SCRIBE began three years ago as an attempt to improve gene editing, in which cells are coaxed to incorporate new information into their genomes. One seemingly straightforward approach involves using single-stranded DNA molecules.

Bacterial genomes, like human genomes, are made up of double-stranded DNA molecules. But when single-stranded DNA is floating around in the cell, it is possible to stimulate the bacterium to insert it into its genome, using an enzyme from a virus. However, most bacteria do not readily manufacture a significant number of single-stranded DNAs.

Farzadfard and Lu found a 1984 paper on a soil bacterium that contained hundreds of copies of single-stranded DNA. This DNA was manufactured by a freely floating strucure made of double-stranded DNA, called a retron.

The natural biological function of these retrons remains mysterious, but Farzadfard and Lu realized that they could reprogram them to produce the single-stranded DNA encoding the information they wanted, and use the viral enzyme to store it in a bacterial genome.

In a proof-of-concept experiment described in their latest paper, the team created a colony of Escherichia coli bacteria in which retrons responded to the presence of a chemical, flipping a switch in the E. coli genome that made it resistant to an antibiotic. This transformation did not happen to the same extent inside every E. coli cell in the colony, howeverThe higher the concentration of the triggering chemical, the greater was the proportion of cells that ended up antibiotic resistant.

Unlike previous methods that serve as a digital form of memory — turning on or off like a light switch — SCRIBE could work as an ‘analog’ form of memory that functions more like a dimmer switch. The memory is not contained in a single E. coli cell, but in the entire culture. “Distributing memory across this population becomes a powerful way of doing things.”

Farzadfard and Lu also showed that this collective cellular memory can be reversed and rewritten, and that — by inserting photosensitive proteins into the genetic circuit  — it can even be triggered by light. Furthermore, the bioengineers were able to use cells to record two variables at once, and think that their technique could be readily scaled up to perform more-complex tasks.

The retron-based gene-editing technique could have impacts beyond the realm of synthetic biology. Danwei Huangfu, a stem-cell biologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Institute in New York City, envisages harnessing it to regulate gene expression in transplanted cells that are used for treating diabetes or to make precise genetic changes in, say, pancreatic tissue while leaving liver cells untouched. “That seems very exciting to me,” she says.

Preventing Suicide, Preventing Premature Death

Suicides confront us with our limits when trying to save lives. They pose many what ifs…?: What if I could have said something to him? What if I heard what she was trying to tell me? What if we only had known how desperate she felt? What if he were not so alone?

The nation has made many attempts to prevent suicide — from promoting two national strategies to funding community programs for youth prevention — yet the overall rate has climbed 17.5 percent since 1999. In 2011, there were 39,518 suicides, our tenth leading case of death. Suicide was the second leading cause among youth and young adults, 15 to 34 years old, and an increase of 29.1 percent since 1999 among men and women, 35 to 64 years old, has driven the overall national rise.

Preventing suicide when someone stands at the edge of the cliff is a daunting task, ultimately challenging us to think differently. Many have promoted looking for “warning signs,” but the vast majority of persons with such signs — depression and distress, family tensions, alcohol or substance use, increasing isolation, and even suicidal thoughts — never die by suicide. (Thankfully!) Among 100,000 persons with clinically significant depression (aka, major depression), perhaps 500 to 600 will kill themselves in the coming year — a terribly high number and nearly 50 times the national average. But more than 99,000 will live. We don’t know how to distinguish one from another.

Moreover, many persons who kill themselves provide few signals that they intend to die. Those who knew them, including family members and medical professionals, often say, “I never saw it coming.” And it isn’t for lack of trying. Sometimes those who kill themselves have long expressed distress and suffering, and their demeanor during the days before death apparently did not differ greatly from other days. At other times, people did not share their innermost thoughts, no matter what others may have asked.

A third barrier is geographic. We place our mental health services in hospitals, clinics, and practitioner offices. But many people never go to such places. Rather, they can be found (if someone were looking) in family court seeking orders of protection, or awaiting trial in criminal court for violent offenses, or in jail, or in front of a judge pleading their DUI arrest. There are many other places across our communities, and now through social media, where we can encounter persons who have life trajectories that will bring them to adverse outcomes, including suicide, death from drug overdose, fatal motor vehicle injury, or as a victim of homicide.

Until recently, suicide was viewed principally as a mental health problem, where it was felt that effective treatment of persons’ psychiatric conditions or psychological issues would alleviate their suicidal thoughts and plans. However, many of us have viewed it as a fundamental public health problem as well as a mental health challenge.

Let’s use heart disease as an analogy. Fifty years ago, hospitals around the nation built intensive care units to reduce cardiac deaths, only to find that three out of four persons died before they ever arrived at a hospital. For most who die by suicide, their first attempt is their last. Eventually, heart disease researchers, clinicians, and policy makers pursued public health approaches to foster prevention, encouraging persons to change their lifestyles in order to stop smoking, to exercise, and to work with their physicians to treat common problems, such as high blood pressure, long before someone might become “a case.” It is time that we learn from them!

Colleagues and I think of suicide, at once, as a quintessentially individual event, much like a heart attack, and as a population level outcome that reflects the impact of life adversities and environmental factors (much like cardiac risks) that potentially are amendable to change long before someone comes to the edge of the cliff. For example, both men and women involved in intimate partner violence have heightened rates of suicide or attempted suicide, and their antecedent risks. Colleagues have been working with the National Domestic Violence Hotline to develop new approaches for training responders to explore with callers, typically victims in acute distress, whether they have suicidal thoughts or plans. Many do.

Men in the middle years who attempt and die by suicide often have a background of having been involved in domestic assaults. While it may be difficult to generate sympathy for perpetrators of such violence, many of these men were themselves victims of abuse during childhood. Following a wife or partner being granted an order of protection, they may become intoxicated and bereft of social support. Finding ways to intervene early with distressed couples potentially offers a window of opportunity benefitting women, men, and the next generation. The courts and the criminal justice system, more generally, potentially can serve as public health settings suited to engaging vulnerable persons when they may be more amenable to change.

Much of the advance in heart disease prevention came from changing cultural norms involving health and lifestyle. In a similar vein, we need to create a culture of safetyto save lives in the U.S. This particularly relates, with respect to suicide, to deaths involving firearms and drugs. While the Second Amendment clearly allows individual ownership of guns, it is incumbent on us to find a way of building alliances among responsible persons to create safe environments in homes and in communities. If we can as a nation address deeply ingrained problems associated with tobacco use and nicotine addiction, key contributors to heart disease, we certainly should have the ability to develop broadly collaborative “safe home” coalitions that promote safe storage of firearms and potentially lethal prescriptions drugs, and public policies that limit gun ownership by persons having high-risk backgrounds, such as documented family violence or unstable mental health — in addition to felony convictions.

The surging rise in deaths from prescription medications and street drugs during the past decade has been linked to increases in suicide. Frequent rulings of so-called “accidental” or “unintentional” death reflect a lack of knowledge about a person’s last minute intentions, even in the context of clear patterns of life-threatening, deliberate self-intoxication. Whether masked suicides or self-harm without an intent to die, we must develop collective efforts that seek to change life trajectories by influencing culture, communities and families, as well as treating individuals in our current health and mental health systems. The “war on drugs” has failed, repeatedly. It is timely to consider public health approaches that use moral authority, policy changes, and treatment to stem this rising tide.

I think of efforts to bridge mental health and public health perspectives as forging a field of “public health and preventive psychiatry.” Whatever name used to label such efforts, we urgently need to explore novel ways of developing and implementing effective strategies to prevent suicide and other premature deaths.

Comet probe sends back science treasure in final hours

Europe’s science probe Philae sent home a treasure trove of data from a comet heading towards the Sun before falling silent as its power ran out, mission control said Saturday.

Crowning a historic feat, the robot lab streamed data from its experiments back to its mother ship Rosetta in the final hours before its battery ran down.

This included the outcome of an eagerly-waited chemistry test of a sample drilled from the comet’s icy and dusty surface, scientists said.

“Rosetta’s lander has completed its primary science mission,” the European Space Agency (ESA) said.

Lacking power, its instruments and most systems went into standby mode after three days of non-stop work, sending back data that will keep scientists busy for years.

“The data collected by Philae and Rosetta is set to make this mission a game-changer in cometary science,” said Matt Taylor, Rosetta project scientist.

Philae had landed in a dark shadow after a bouncy triple touchdown Wednesday.

It did not get enough sunlight to recharge its batteries sufficiently to extend its mission beyond its initial 60-hour work programme.

Mission engineers do not rule out making contact with the lander in the coming months as Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko moves closer to the Sun.

Conceived more than 20 years ago, the Rosetta mission aims at shedding light on the origins of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago, and maybe even life on Earth.

A graphic shows the difficult landing of Philae on 67P

A theory gaining ground in astrophysics is that the fledgling Earth was pounded by these bodies of cosmic ice and carbon-rich dust, seeding our planet with the basics to start life.

Rosetta and its payload travelled more than six billion kilometres (3.75 billion miles), racing around the inner Solar System before they caught up with the comet in August this year.

On Wednesday, Philae bade farewell to its mother ship and descended to a comet travelling at 18 kilometres (11 miles) per second, 510 million kilometres (320 million miles) from Earth.

The touchdown did not go entirely as planned—hardly a surprise in an operation some gloomily predicted had only a one-in-two chance of success.

Philae landed smack in the middle of its targeted site, but a pair of anchoring harpoons failed to deploy.

It rebounded, touched down again, bounced up once more and then landed for the third time at a place believed to be about a kilometre (half a mile) from the landing site.

Philae found itself in the shadow of a cliff, tilted at an angle that left one of its three legs pointed to the sky.

Weighing 100 kilos (220 pounds) on Earth, Philae’s weight is just one gramme (0.03 of an ounce)—less than a feather—on the low-gravity, four-kilometre comet.

That meant just a jolt could have caused it to drift off into space.

And lack of sunlight for its solar panels meant it had to survive on a battery with a charge of around 60 hours, enough to carry out its scheduled scientific work.

Race against time

Stacked against the odds, the scientists resorted to every trick possible to use power miserly and keep Rosetta working without causing it to drift away.

Using the lander’s toolkit of 10 instruments, they started with passive observation—taking pictures, measuring the comet’s density, temperature, and internal structure, “sniffing” molecules of gas from its surface—that would not move the craft.

Finally, in the most important but riskiest experiment of all, they drilled a core of material out of the comet surface to analyse its chemical signature.

All the data had to be stored and dispatched back to Rosetta as the power indicators shrank towards the red zone.

“We received everything,” mission scientist Jean-Pierre Bibring told AFP. “The word is ‘fabulous,’ just ‘fabulous.’

The team’s eagerly-awaited first report will be made at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco next month.

The “67P” comet is due to loop around the Sun next year, flaring gas from its head and leaving a spectacular icy trail of ice from water stripped from its surface.

Rosetta will escort it until the heads back out towards the depths of the Solar System in December 2015.