being repeatedly told that the American election process is deeply corrupted.

In fact, Mr. Mastriano’s candidacy has from its inception been propelled by his role in disputing the 2020 presidential election lost by Mr. Trump.

county by county, but election experts say they do not reflect factors as benign as changes in addresses.

“They’re in search of solutions to a problem that doesn’t exist,” Kyle Miller, a Navy veteran and state representative for Protect Democracy, a national advocacy organization, said in an interview in Harrisburg. “They are basing this on faulty data and internet rumors.”

Some Republican lawmakers have leaned on false claims to call for changes to rules about mail-in ballots and other measures intended to make it easier for people to vote. Several counties have already reversed some of the decisions, including the number and location of drop boxes for ballots.

Mr. Miller, among others, warned that the flurry of false claims about balloting could be a trial run for challenging the results of the presidential election in 2024, in which Pennsylvania could again be a crucial swing state.

In Chester County, a largely white region that borders Delaware and Maryland that is roughly split between Republicans and Democrats, the effort to sow confusion came the old-fashioned way: in the mail.

Letters dated Sept. 12 began arriving in mailboxes across the county, warning people that their votes in the 2020 presidential election might not have counted. “Because you have a track record of consistently voting, we find it unusual that your record indicates that you did not vote,” the letter, which was unsigned, said.

The sender called itself “Data Insights,” based in the county seat of West Chester, though no known record of such a company exists, according to county officials. The letters did include copies of the recipients’ voting records. The letters urged recipients to write to the county commissioners or attend the commission’s meetings in the county seat of West Chester, in September and October. Dozens of recipients did.

The county administrator, Robert J. Kagel, tried to assure them that their votes were actually counted. He urged anyone concerned to contact the county’s voter services department.

Even so, at county meetings in September and October, speaker after speaker lined up to question the letter and the ballot process generally — and to air an array of grievances and conspiracy theories.

They included the discredited claims of the film “2000 Mules” that operatives have been stuffing boxes for mail-in ballots. One attendee warned that votes were being tabulated by the Communist Party of China or the World Economic Forum.

“I don’t know where my vote is,” another resident, Barbara Ellis of Berwyn, told the commissioners in October. “I don’t know if it was manipulated in the machines, in another country.”

As of Oct. 20, 59 people in Chester County had contacted officials with concerns raised in the letter, but in each case, it was determined that the voters’ ballots had been cast and counted, said Rebecca Brain, a county spokesman.

Who exactly sent the letters remains a mystery, which only fuels more conspiracy theories.

“It seems very official,” Charlotte Valyo, the chairwoman of the Democratic Party in the county, said of the letter. She described it as part of “an ongoing, constant campaign to undermine the confidence in our voting system.” The county’s Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment.

Disinformation may not be the only cause of the deepening partisan chasm in the state — or the nation — but it has undoubtedly worsened it. The danger, Ms. Valyo warned, was discouraging voting by sowing distrust in the ability of election officials to tally the votes.

“People might think, ‘Why bother, if they’re that messed up?’”

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Who Gets the Last Word on Steve Jobs? He Might.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis meticulously curated the memory of her husband after he was assassinated, reimagining President John F. Kennedy as a fallen King Arthur in a modern-day Camelot.

Now some historians wonder if Laurene Powell Jobs is also trying to frame the legacy of her late husband, Steve Jobs, a complicated and transformational figure who was shadowed by his flaws as a father and belligerence as a boss.

Last month, Ms. Powell Jobs introduced the Steve Jobs Archive. It aspires to reinvent the personal archive much as Mr. Jobs, in his years running Apple, remade music with the iPod and communication with the iPhone.

Rather than offering up a repository of personal correspondence, notes and items for public research and inquiry, as other influential figures have done, Ms. Powell Jobs, who did not respond to requests for comments, said at a conference last month that the Steve Jobs Archive would be devoted to “ideas.” Those ideas are primarily Mr. Jobs’s philosophies about life and work.

Harvard Business School’s 25 greatest business leaders of the 20th century left behind personal archives that are open to the public in libraries or museums, including Henry Ford, Thomas Edison and Asa Candler, who built Coca-Cola.

Other iconic business founders such as Walt Disney, Sam Walton and Ray Kroc entrusted their papers to the companies they built, allowing those collections to become the cornerstone of corporate archives.

Walt Disney Company, make personal correspondence, notes, speeches and other items available to authors for research.

“We don’t censor,” said Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney archives. “We just vet.”

The new Jobs archive debuted with a minimalist website containing eight pieces of video, audio and writing that express what the archive calls Mr. Jobs’s “driving motivations in his own words.” The items, three-quarters of which were already public, can be accessed by clicking through maxims made famous by Mr. Jobs, including “make something wonderful and put it out there” and “pursue different paths.”

The next steps for the archive are shrouded in the kind of mystery associated with the way Mr. Jobs ran Apple. About all that’s been publicly disclosed is that Ms. Powell Jobs hired a documentary filmmaker to gather hundreds of oral histories about Mr. Jobs from former colleagues. Where that material will be stored and who will have access to it has not been revealed.

She married Mr. Jobs in 1991, two years after meeting him as a graduate student at Stanford. Since his death, she has used her estimated $16 billion fortune to fund the Emerson Collective, a philanthropic and commercial operation that owns The Atlantic magazine and funds an organization trying to reduce gun violence in Chicago.

During his life, Mr. Jobs admired and encouraged historians to preserve the history of his Silicon Valley predecessors such as Robert Noyce, who co-founded the chip maker Intel. But he put little value on his own history, and Apple has seldom commemorated product anniversaries, saying it focuses on the future, not the past.

Stanford spent years cataloging items such as photos of a barefoot Mr. Jobs at work, advertising campaigns and an Apple II computer. That material can be reviewed by students and researchers interested in learning more about the company.

Silicon Valley leaders have a tradition of leaving their material with Stanford, which has collections of letters, slides and notes from William Hewlett, who founded Hewlett-Packard, and Andy Grove, the former chief executive of Intel.

Mr. Lowood said that he uses the Silicon Valley archives to teach students about the value of discovery. “Unlike a book, which is the gospel and all true, a mix of materials in a box introduces uncertainty,” he said.

After Mr. Jobs’ death in 2011, Mr. Isaacson, the author, published a biography of Mr. Jobs. Some at Apple complained that the book, a best seller, misrepresented Mr. Jobs and commercialized his death.

Mr. Isaacson declined to comment about those complaints.

Four years later, the book became the basis for a film. The 2015 movie, written by Aaron Sorkin and starring Michael Fassbender, focused on Mr. Jobs being ousted from Apple and denying paternity of his eldest daughter.

according to emails made public after a hack of Sony Pictures, which held rights to the film. She and others who were close to Mr. Jobs thought any movie based on the book would be inaccurate.

“I was outraged, and he was my friend,” said Mike Slade, a marketing executive who worked as an adviser to Mr. Jobs from 1998 to 2004. “I can’t imagine how outraged Laurene was.”

In November 2015, a month after the movie’s release, Ms. Powell Jobs had representatives register the Steve Jobs Archive as a limited liability company in Delaware and California. She later hired the documentary filmmaker, Davis Guggenheim, to gather oral histories about Mr. Jobs from former colleagues and friends. She also hired Ms. Berlin, who was Stanford’s project historian for its Apple archives, to be the Jobs Archive’s executive director.

Mr. Guggenheim gathered material about Mr. Jobs while also working on a Netflix documentary about Bill Gates, “Inside Bill’s Brain.” Mr. Slade, who worked for both Mr. Jobs and Mr. Gates, said he sat for an interview about one executive, stopped to change shirts and returned to discuss the other one.

Ms. Berlin assisted Ms. Powell Jobs in gathering material. They collected items such as audio of interviews done by reporters and early company records, including a 1976 document that Mr. Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Apple’s co-founder, called their declaration of independence. It outlined what the company would stand for, said Regis McKenna, who unearthed the document in his personal collection gathered during his decades as a pioneer of Silicon Valley marketing and adviser to Mr. Jobs.

Ms. Powell Jobs also assembled a group of advisers to inform what the archive would be, including Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive; Jony Ive, Apple’s former chief design officer; and Bob Iger, the former chief executive of Walt Disney and a former Apple board member.

Mr. Cook, Mr. Ive and Mr. Iger declined to comment.

Apple, which has its own corporate archive and archivist, is a contributor to the Jobs effort, said Ms. Berlin, who declined to say how she works with the company to gain access to material left by Mr. Jobs.

The archive’s resulting website opens with an email that Mr. Jobs sent himself at Apple. It reads like a journal entry, outlining all the things that he depends on others to provide, from the food he eats to the music he enjoys.

“I love and admire my species, living and dead, and am totally dependent on them for my life and well being,” he wrote.

The email is followed by a previously undisclosed audio clip from a 1984 interview that Mr. Jobs did with Michael Moritz, the journalist turned venture capitalist at Sequoia. During it, Mr. Jobs says that refinement comes from mistakes, a platitude that captures how Apple used trial and error to develop devices.

“It was just lying in the drawer gathering dust,” Mr. Moritz said of the recording.

It’s clear to those who have contributed material that the archive is about safeguarding Mr. Jobs’s legacy. It’s a goal that many of them support.

“There’s so much distortion about who Steve was,” Mr. McKenna said. “There needed to be something more factual.”

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4.4M Americans Roll Up Sleeves For Omicron-Targeted Boosters

Some Americans who got the new shots said they are excited about the idea of targeting the vaccine to the variants circulating now.

U.S. health officials say 4.4 million Americans have rolled up their sleeves for the updated COVID-19 booster shot. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the count Thursday as public health experts bemoaned President Joe Biden’s recent remark that “the pandemic is over.”

The White House said more than 5 million people received the new boosters by its own estimate that accounts for reporting lags in states.

Health experts said it is too early to predict whether demand would match up with the 171 million doses of the new boosters the U.S. ordered for the fall.

“No one would go looking at our flu shot uptake at this point and be like, ‘Oh, what a disaster,'” said Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “If we start to see a large uptick in cases, I think we’re going to see a lot of people getting the (new COVID) vaccine.”

A temporary shortage of Moderna vaccine caused some pharmacies to cancel appointments while encouraging people to reschedule for a Pfizer vaccine. The issue was expected to resolve as government regulators wrapped up an inspection and cleared batches of vaccine doses for distribution.

“I do expect this to pick up in the weeks ahead,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. “We’ve been thinking and talking about this as an annual vaccine like the flu vaccine. Flu vaccine season picks up in late September and early October. We’re just getting our education campaign going. So we expect to see, despite the fact that this was a strong start, we actually expect this to ramp up stronger.”

Some Americans who plan to get the shot, designed to target the most common Omicron strains, said they are waiting because they either had COVID-19 recently or another booster. They are following public health advice to wait several months to get the full benefit of their existing virus-fighting antibodies.

Others are scheduling shots closer to holiday gatherings and winter months when respiratory viruses spread more easily.

Retired hospital chaplain Jeanie Murphy, 69, of Shawnee, Kansas, plans to get the new booster in a couple of weeks after she has some minor knee surgery. Interest is high among her neighbors from what she sees on the Nextdoor app.

“There’s quite a bit of discussion happening among people who are ready to make appointments,” Murphy said. “I found that encouraging. For every one naysayer there will be 10 or 12 people who jump in and say, ‘You’re crazy. You just need to go get the shot.'”

President Biden later acknowledged criticism of his remark about the pandemic being over and clarified the pandemic is “not where it was.” The initial comment didn’t bother Murphy. She believes the disease has entered a steady state when “we’ll get COVID shots in the fall the same as we do flu shots.”

Experts hope she’s right, but are waiting to see what levels of infection winter brings. The summer ebb in case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths may be followed by another surge, Dowdy said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, asked Thursday by a panel of biodefense experts what still keeps him up at night, noted that half of vaccinated Americans never got an initial booster dose.

“We have a vulnerability in our population that will continue to have us in a mode of potential disruption of our social order,” Fauci said. “I think that we have to do better as a nation.”

Some Americans who got the new shots said they are excited about the idea of targeting the vaccine to the variants circulating now.

“Give me all the science you can,” said Jeff Westling, 30, an attorney in Washington, D.C., who got the new booster and a flu shot on Tuesday, one in each arm. He participates in the combat sport jujitsu, so wants to protect himself from infections that may come with close contact. “I have no issue trusting folks whose job it is to look at the evidence.”

Meanwhile, President Biden’s pronouncement in a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday echoed through social media.

“We still have a problem with COVID. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. But the pandemic is over,” President Biden said while walking through the Detroit auto show. “If you notice, no one’s wearing masks. Everybody seems to be in pretty good shape. And so I think it’s changing.”

By Wednesday on Facebook, when a Kansas health department posted where residents could find the new booster shots, the first commenter remarked snidely:

“But Biden says the pandemic is over.”

The president’s statement, despite his attempts to clarify it, adds to public confusion, said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington.

“People aren’t sure when is the right time to get boosted. ‘Am I eligible?’ People are often confused about what the right choice is for them, even where to search for that information,” Michaud said.

“Any time you have mixed messages, it’s detrimental to the public health effort,” Michaud said. “Having the mixed messages from the president’s remarks, makes that job that much harder.”

University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi said he’s worried the president’s pronouncement has taken on a life of its own and may stall prevention efforts.

“That soundbite is there for a while now, and it’s going to spread like wildfire. And it’s going to give the impression that ‘Oh, there’s nothing more we need to do,'” Salemi said.

“If we’re happy with 400 or 500 people dying every single day from COVID, there’s a problem with that,” Salemi said. “We can absolutely do better because most of those deaths, if not all of them, are absolutely preventable with the tools that we have.”

New York City photographer Vivienne Gucwa, 44, got the new booster Monday. She’s had COVID twice, once before vaccines were available and again in May. She was vaccinated with two Moderna shots, but never got the original boosters.

“When I saw the new booster was able to tackle Omicron variant I thought, ‘I’m doing that,'” Gucwa said.

“I don’t want to deal with Omicron again. I was kind of thrilled to see the boosters were updated.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Breakthrough Device Could Ease Deep Depression

A very small group of just several hundred Americans is trying an at-home medical treatment involving electrical stimulation of part of the brain.

It looks a little “weird science.” 

But the headpiece that Susan Meiklejohn dons daily is giving her head peace— peace and relief from the deep, debilitating depression from which she has suffered most of her life. 

SUSAN MEIKLEJOHN: I had a very, very stressful — overwhelmingly stressful — childhood. I had a violent father. And at 11, was the first time I had suicidal ideation.   

NEWSY’S JASON BELLINI: How old are you now?   

MEIKLEJOHN: 68. So, I’ve never gotten past the ideation phase. I’ve never attempted suicide. But I certainly have been enmeshed in that ideation.  

Meiklejohn, a retired college professor and amateur artist, is one of nearly three million adults in America with depression that does not respond to medication. Now she’s one of a very small group — just several hundred — trying an at-home medical treatment involving electrical stimulation of part of the brain.  

BELLINI: How many medications have you tried?   

MEIKLEJOHN: I’d say 10. … I have always been very, very eager to do what it takes to get out of this.

So she tried ketamine—most commonly used in anesthesia—forking over $16,000 out of pocket to see whether the new psychedelic treatment, now being offered in hundreds of U.S. clinics, could provide her with some relief. It did, but not for long. 

“It makes you feel great,” Meiklejohn said. “So, that lasted for about three days. And then it’s right back again.”

Back again to suicidal ideation. Then, a few months ago, Meiklejohn heard about a new treatment protocol — one she could try at home.

It’s provided by a team led by Leigh Charvet, who is a neuropsychologist at NYU Langone Health. She’s pioneering research in transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) as a treatment for a wide range of neurological disorders, depression among them. 

“I have to say, of all of our experience with tDCS, the response in the depression trial has been absolutely remarkable,” Charvet said.

And the treatment is considered low-risk enough to let Newsy’s Jason Bellinni try it, powered up. 

At his lab, at the City College of New York, Marom Bikson develops cutting edge methods of “neuromodulation.”

“Neuromodulation as a field is the use of devices to deliver energy in a controlled way to the nervous system to change the body,” he said. “When you think something, when you feel something, it’s all electricity. We’re adding electricity into that mix. So, it’s sort of, maybe not a surprise that an electrical organ is sensitive to electricity coming in.”

BELLINI: What do you think is most exciting right now when it comes to this field generally? 

MAROM BIKSON: One is more and more sophisticated technologies that can deliver energy to the nervous system in a more intentional and targeted way. So, more and more specificity.  

To demonstrate, Bikson suited Bellini up for an experiment to see if targeted electrical stimulation can improve one’s concentration while doing a boring, repetitive task. 

BELLINI: Is there a sweet spot you’re trying to hit? 

“This electrode here is roughly over a part of your brain called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex,” Bikson said.

That’s an area of the brain associated with problem solving, attention switching, memory management and inhibition.  

BIKSON: Now, you’re at the full current, can you feel it? 

BELLINI: I feel the itchiness, that’s for sure. 

Itchiness, where the electrode touched Bellini’s scalp, which he says went away within a few minutes. He had no other sensation beyond that.  

As far as the game, as shown to Bellini in an analysis afterward, stimulation appeared to improve his performance a bit. Depression treatments target the same brain area as that experiment.  

“We have developed a hypothesis that this energy may not directly affect the neurons of the brain, but actually affect the blood vessels in the brain,” Bikson said.

They headed over to an MRI machine, where they set Bellini up to capture what the stimulation does inside his head.  

The areas in red showed an increase in blood flow. But how that may impact people with depression and other neurological diseases remains a medical mystery. 

BIKSON: It works, but it also works on the most difficult people, people who have been failed by conventional medicines.  

BELLINI: But not everyone?

BIKSON: But not everyone. And then, there’s the opportunity, right? Just like with medications, with neuromodulation, you’re thinking, “How can I make this work better? How can I capture the people who did not respond? And even for the people who did respond, can I do better for them still?”

Today, another approach to stimulation, called “repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation,” or repetitive TMS, is both FDA approved and widely available. But it requires a series of sessions over days or weeks. And larger studies are needed to determine how long improvements last. 

“I’m very interested in creating something that is as effective as that. But you can use it at home still under prescription,” Bikson said.

NYU is using a device developed in partnership with Bikson that can be positioned properly remotely.

BELLINI: You haven’t done this long enough to know how long it will last?   

LEIGH CHARVET: No. … We know that more is better. We don’t know if you reach a plateau or If you have remission in depression. Do you need to continue or do you need to taper it?   

Meiklejohn has been using it daily, while meditating, for more than three months. 

BELLINI: When did you start to notice changes?  

MEIKLEJOHN: I’d say after about three weeks. 

BELLINI: Has the suicide ideation gone away? 

MEIKLEJOHN: Not completely, no. You know, when I dip, I dip. … The difference is, I bounce back in a day or two. 

Meiklejohn hopes she’ll continue to be a portrait of hope.

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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Pop Quiz: Can You Fall In Love With A Fictional Character?

In this segment of “Pop Quiz,” Newsy’s “In The Loop” dives into whether or not you can fall in love with a fictional character.

In 1955, a woman by the pseudonym of “Miss A” wrote in asking for advice about a crush. 

The response was: “I don’t know what you learned in college, but you are flunking the course of common sense. You have fallen for a piece of celluloid as unreal as a picture on the wall.” 

One year later, that advice column was published again in an academic paper that coined the phrase “parasocial relationship,” which was defined as a “seeming face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer.”  

Parasocial relationships have also been characterized as one-sided and basically imaginary, but they feel real, because as an audience member or a reader, we’re spending a lot of time with them. 

They have since been the focus of around 250 empirical studies over the past seven decades, and most of them analyze audience relationships with real life media figures: like TV personalities, actors, musicians, or, in more recent years, social media influencers. And some studies have looked specifically at fans of celebrities like Justin Bieber or Elvis Presley. Fun fact: there are still more than 600 active fan clubs dedicated to Elvis Presley.  

On a neurological level, we do know that the human brain is pretty good at experiencing imagined stimuli as if they were real. One study found that the auditory cortex in the brain can light up both when hearing a sound and when imagining that sound. 

So, it’s not a huge leap to suggest these fictional or “imagined” parasocial crushes might feel like the real thing. 

Fewer studies have been conducted on parasocial relationships with fictional characters; but the ones that exist have looked at anime characters, sitcoms like “Modern Family,”  readers of the “Twilight” series and, specifically, everyone who had a crush on the fictional vampire Edward Cullen.  

In a survey of around 240 women, 44% said the series had no real influence on them, and that it was all just fantasy. But 31% said the series showed them “the type of true love and strong commitment they would like to have in their own romantic relationship.”

Researchers have described parasocial relationships as identity-forming, allowing “adolescents to crystallize their beliefs, preferences and expectations.” 

Many researchers do note that parasocial relationships can lead to unrealistic expectations for real-life relationships, but others also saw them as “placeholders” for actual relationships that allowed people to romantically experiment.  

Another real-world example of a parasocial relationship is when a man named Akihiko Kondo held an unofficial wedding ceremony to marry the holographic pop star Hatsune Miku. The marriage is not actually legally recognized, but it’s one of many around the world.  

Skeptics can look at this as an example of something keeping him from making real-life relationships. In an interview with the New York Times, Kondo says he’s aware of how strange people think his attraction is. And while he knows that Hatsune Miku isn’t real, his feelings are — and he says he was able to pull himself out of depression and find a sense of love and solace because of it.  

All of that goes to show that parasocial relationships with fictional characters can, and do have real-world impacts. 

Companies have long capitalized on the appeal of parasocial relationships. And video games take this one step further, especially when you look at the entire genre of dating Sims, where players can virtually date fictional characters. 

Dating Sims have made an estimated $570 million across several platforms. “Stardew Valley” is one of the most popular ones, letting players date and marry from a pool of 12 fictional characters. And as of this spring, the game has sold over 20 million copies. 

The fandoms surrounding these games really confirm a lot of the past studies done on parasocial relationships. Players have described them as venues for escapism that provide a sense of autonomy and emotional safety, and that is especially true for queer gamers.  

One person told Huffpost: “I get to live through the experience of not being seen as weird or an outcast for being ‘different’ in my gender identity and sexuality.” 

It seems that our emotional attachments to fiction and pop culture are very real and can even have a purpose from giving us ways to form our emotional identities, providing venues for emotional escapism, as well as a way to explore and feel a real sense of love. 

Source: newsy.com

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Doctors Are Still Hunting For The Cause Of Long COVID Brain Fog

Studies show 30% of COVID patients report brain fog a few months after they’re sick. It’s 65 to 85% for long-haulers sick beyond that.

COVID-related brain fog is a condition that can feel very defeating and overwhelming. 

Newsy’s Lindsey Theis has COVID-related brain fog herself. And it’s a topic she’s covered since 2020. She says each person she’s spoken with tells her it’s a dramatic change that impacts how they think and move throughout their lives. For this story, Theis met a family dealing with what she says is one of the worst cases she’s ever seen. 

On a bright, sunny day in rural Rensselaer, Indiana, 45-year-old Kari Lentino’s mind is a slow-moving storm. 

“I feel like a brain blizzard half the time,” she said. 

Lentino is immunocompromised. She’s had COVID twice. Since June 2021, it’s left her with several neurological setbacks. She says her brain fog is among the worst of it. 

“I couldn’t remember passwords to get into certain systems. I worked at the library and I would forget what I was doing while I was doing it,” Lentino said. 

Her conversations now go at a snail’s pace as she searches for words. 

The mother of four and grandmother of two had to quit work and file for disability. 

She can’t watch her grandkids. She won’t run errands or drive. Now, her time is spent mothering her brain. 

Dr. Igor Koralnik is chief of neuro-infectious diseases and co-director of the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive COVID-19 Center, where he also runs a lab. 

He says 70% of his COVID brain fog patients are like Lentino — women in their early 40s. 

“We see that attention is their main cognitive problem,” he said. “Problem with attention, problem with memory, problem with multitasking and briefly, problems getting through their daily life and working in their current job capacity. …  We have people who have been infected back in March 2020 and still have decreased quality of life because of those symptoms and decreased cognitive function.”

Scientists think COVID cognitive dysfunction is from brain inflammation — but what causes it is still itself foggy.

One leading theory is that long COVID is an autoimmune disorder, where the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, including the brain. 

“We find that the virus has confused the immune system, and we think that it’s driving the immune system towards autoimmunity,” Koralnik explained.

Studies show 30% of COVID patients report brain fog a few months after they’re sick. It’s 65 to 85% for long-haulers sick beyond that.  

Researchers haven’t found brain fog treatments yet, so they tackle someone’s symptoms. 

But even diagnosing brain fog is tricky. It’s invisible. There’s no set case definition but it can include trouble focusing, struggling to remember names, places, or words, reacting slowly, confused judgment, losing a train of thought often and fatigue or exhaustion from concentrating.  

Back in Rensselaer, Lentino’s husband helps her prepare her pills. She takes eight medications and two vitamins daily, plus a handful more as needed. That’s in addition to her therapies and memory aids like calendars and post it notes. Those cues share spots in the Lentino home near the signs of her former creative and vibrant self. Prescription bottles near her paintings. Reminders near her Star Wars string art. 

“It’s frustrating and depressing. It takes so long to do anything,” she said. 

In the spot where she used to stand to paint, brushes and acrylics wait patiently. 

Lentino is waiting too, like so many brain fog sufferers. It’s a long, draining wait and the ultimate test of patience.  

On a hopeful note, research shows many brain fog patients recover memory and attention near the 6-to-9-month mark. For treatment, some doctors prescribe medicine, like steroids or antihistamines, plus therapies like speech or cognitive rehabilitation therapy. If you have brain fog yourself, experts say you can try memory games and puzzles, and focus on quality sleep and healthy eating. 

Source: newsy.com

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A Welsh Village Embraces Its Bond With the Queen

ABERFAN, Wales — As the days count down to Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday, Gaynor Madgwick has been of two minds: Should she watch the ceremony from her home in South Wales or join the crowds in London to pay her respects in person?

Her brain says stay. Ms. Madgwick, 64, has feared crowds and confined spaces since an avalanche of slurry — a mixture of debris from a coal mine and water — cascaded down the hillside above her village of Aberfan in 1966. One of the worst civilian disasters in contemporary British history, the avalanche crushed the village school, killed 144 villagers, 116 of them children, and left Ms. Madgwick trapped, but alive, beneath the rubble.

Her heart says go. The queen built an unusually strong relationship with Aberfan, beginning in the days after that very disaster and extending through four visits the queen made to the village.

the death of Queen Elizabeth II — the ever-present backdrop to a century of dramatic social change — has felt like a rug snatched from beneath them, even if they never met or saw her.

reassessment of national identity that, in Wales, includes calls for an independent Welsh state.

Elizabeth arrived in Bonn on the first state visit by a British monarch to Germany in more than 50 years. The trip formally sealed the reconciliation between the two nations following the world wars.

Ms. Madgwick survived, her leg broken by a dislodged radiator. Her sister and brother, Marilyn and Carl, both died.

The scale of the disaster quickly made it a moment of national introspection and trauma, and the queen soon decided to visit.

One of the biggest regrets of her reign was that she did not go sooner, a leading aide later said, and some villagers say the eight-day delay rankled the community at the time. But today, the residents largely remember her arrival as a moving gesture of solidarity from someone they never expected to lay eyes on.

research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Other wings of the British state angered the village by refusing to prosecute any coal industry officials for negligence. Successive governments also declined to cover the whole cost of removing other dangerous slurry tips near the village, forcing villagers to dip into donations intended for survivors, until they were finally fully reimbursed in 2007.

But the queen’s concern for Aberfan meant that she was seen as separate from the state’s indifference, despite being its titular head.

Elsewhere in Britain, people have debated whether the queen could really ever rise beyond politics, given the monarch’s interest in maintaining her own role in Britain’s political system. But in Aberfan, there was less doubt.

“There’s no political agenda there,” said Jeff Edwards, 64, the last child to be rescued from the rubble. “The queen is above all that.”

In Aberfan, most people expressed sympathy for her family and respect for her sense of duty. But there are those, particularly among young generations, who have had a more ambivalent response to the queen’s death.

For some, the accession of King Charles III — as well as the abrupt appointment of his son William to his former role of Prince of Wales — is more problematic.

“I should be Prince of Wales, I’m more Welsh than Charles or William,” said Darren Martin, 47, a gardener in the village, with a laugh. Of the queen, he said: “Don’t get me wrong, I admire the woman. But I do think the time has come for us in Wales to be ruled by our own people.”

The abruptness of the queen’s death was a psychological jolt that has prompted, in some, a rethinking of long-held norms and doctrines.

“If things can change drastically like that, why can’t things change here?” asked Jordan McCarthy, 21, another gardener in Aberfan. “I would like Welsh independence.”

Of a monarchy, he added: “Only if they’re born and raised in Wales — that’s the only king or queen I’ll accept.”

Generally, though, the mood in Aberfan has been one of quiet mourning and deference. The local library opened a book of condolence. Villagers gathered in the pub to watch the new king’s speeches and processions. Some left bouquets beside the tree planted by the queen.

On Monday night, a men’s choir, founded by grieving relatives half a century ago, gathered for their biweekly practice. Proud Welshmen, they were preparing for their next performance — singing songs and hymns, some of them in Welsh, on the sidelines of the Welsh rugby team’s upcoming game.

But halfway through, the choir’s president, Steve Beasley, stood up.

“We all know about the queen,” Mr. Beasley said. “Please stand up for a minute’s silence.”

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How One Woman Describes Living With Schizophrenia

Michelle Hammer is a New York resident with schizophrenia, a serious mental disorder. She shares her journey.

Michelle Hammer wants you to know schizophrenia. To know the illness is to know her. 

“I go, ‘listen, no couches were harmed in the making of this video.’… People with schizophrenia can have a job or actually speak to people or can do things themselves,” said Hammer. 

Schizophrenia is a brain disease and patients’ symptoms run a spectrum. They can include negative symptoms like social withdrawal or psychosis, when someone is detached from reality. Usually it looks like hallucinations: Seeing or hearing something that isn’t there; or delusions: Fixed false beliefs that a person can’t change. 

For Michelle it began in her teens with paranoid thoughts about her mother. And again at age 18 with her college roommate. 

It would be three more years before she was diagnosed as schizophrenic. 

“Things were up, things were down. And I ended up in the psych ward twice my freshman year and once my sophomore year,” Hammer said.

“Schizophrenia is a very serious psychiatric illness, but we can do a lot to help these people function and have a normal life,” said Dr. René Kahn, the head of psychiatry at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York.

He says Michelle’s experience is more common for female patients. 

RENE KAHN: Women in general have a better prognosis than men.  

NEWSY’S LINDSEY THEIS: Why?  

KAHN: One of the reasons may be that in women, it starts about five years later than men, meaning that their brain may have developed more and they may have matured more than in men.  

THEIS: What are some of the biggest questions, right now, that are still out there? What are the unknowns that you’re trying to answer, you know, in the immediate future, the next couple of years? 

KAHN: The biggest question still is ‘what is the cause or what are the causes of schizophrenia?’ Because we don’t know, and we really need to find out if we really want to cure the disease or prevent the disease. 

With neither a cure nor prevention, doctors say medication is key for patients. That process is complicated.   

Antipsychotic drugs are available to counter psychosis. But that is only one part of the illness. 

“Finding the right meds probably took me about ten years, and I’ve probably tried about 20 different medications,” said Hammer.  

Today Michelle’s life includes daily meds and frequent psychiatrist televisits to make sure they work and she’s still taking them. It also includes her partner, Carolyn. They married last year. And most recently, a new puppy.  

“People kind of like treat people with schizophrenia — they’re always wondering, ‘who’s your support team?'” said Hammer.  “They don’t think you’re independent at all.”  

THEIS: So no caregiver?  

HAMMER: Yeah.  

THEIS: Just you.  

HAMMER: I can take care of myself. I can do that. I’m a big girl, you know? I’m a big girl. I can do things, you know. I can do things.

THEIS: Does the schizophrenia diagnosis impact how you guys are as a couple in marriage?  

CAROLYN HAMMER: If we’re talking and then like I say something and then I’m like waiting for her to respond, but she’s talking to like somebody else instead, it’s like, not bad it’s just like annoying.  And I’m like, okay, I guess I’m going to say what I have to say again.  

Schizophrenia is rare. About 1% of U.S. adults have the mental illness. Compare that to one in five people who have an anxiety disorder. 

But it reportedly shows up more often in the media. It;’s portrayed negatively and falsely, according to research. 

THEIS: Was that ‘Violence and a dangerous person’ — is that common or is that more of the exception?  

KAHN: It’s absolutely the exception. 

Since 2019 Michelle’s recorded and shared video of her schizophrenic episodes. She wants to debunk the stigma that people with her illness are violent. 

In them, she appears to speak to someone off camera — except no one is there. She describes this as being in another world.

“I am currently under seven medications and I’m still doing that. So if I wasn’t on any medication, I’d be doing that constantly, all the time,” she says. 

She’s also started a business called Schizophrenic NYC. She sells original activist-minded clothing and art. They include colorful rorschach prints and t-shirts with hopeful slogans. 

“I saw a guy on the F train and he was talking to himself in the same mannerisms in which I talked to myself and I was like, you know, what’s the difference between me and him? And the difference is that I have my support team of a family, friends and doctor, and if I didn’t have that, I would totally be in his position,” said Hammer. 

Michelle says it’s a way to give a voice to her community, especially those who otherwise could not. 

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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STIs In Newborns Have Significantly Risen Over The Pandemic

There has been a sharp rise in STIs in newborns. What can be done to combat the uptick?

The pandemic has touched just about every portion of American life, exposed some of our greatest disparities and opened the door to new challenges. For many healthcare workers that means an uptick in things they thought the country had a grip on.  

“This is not just like an issue. It’s a crisis,” said Dr. Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, the director of health in St. Louis, Missouri. 

The U.S. had made strides against sexually transmitted infections like congenital syphilis in the early 2000s.

Dr. Davis says those gains have disappeared.   

“We had a hyper focus on COVID that took away our ability to really prioritize and understand that other aspects of health don’t go away,” said Davis. 

According to the CDC, by the end of 2020 syphilis among newborns, which is generally passed during pregnancy, was up nearly 15% from 2019 and 254% from 2016. 

40% of babies born to women with untreated syphilis can be stillborn or die from the infection. Those that do survive face challenges.  

Dr. Anna Maya Powell is co-director at Johns Hopkins HIV Women’s Program. 

“An untreated case of congenital syphilis can result in things like brain or bone malformations, that can cause blindness over time or organ damage,” said Powell. 

Experts point to a myriad of reasons for the uptick: for one, people stopped getting checkups in 2020, or relied on telemedicine, which could miss a diagnosis.  

Another hurdle was that public resources for combating STIs were often diverted to COVID response.  

According to Dr. Powell, the congruent opioid epidemic didn’t help.  

“Pregnant patients who are using substances during pregnancy — They’re less likely to come in for prenatal care,” said Powell. 

There are also inconsistencies in healthcare requirements. According to the CDC only 13 states and DC require all patients to undergo syphilis testing in both the first and third trimesters. Eight states don’t require testing at all.  

Davis says none of that matters if a patient doesn’t have access to care in the first place. It’s an issue disproportionately facing ethnic minorities.   

“We’re seeing the same pattern, not just in STIs, but across all disease states. So that says it’s not just about the genes. It’s not about the specific disease. It’s not about the specific issue. It’s about those fundamental structural issues that need to be addressed,” said Davis. 

Doctors tell Newsy one of the first ways to address the issue is to get rid of stigma, making the STI conversation routine in doctor visits. Another solution is making sure partners are also treated for STIs. These are simple steps — but also things they say require funding.   

Source: newsy.com

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How The Power Of Music Is Helping Patients With Alzheimer’s

An adult care center for people with dementia uses music as therapy for families, patients, and caregivers.

It’s been said that music is healing, and for Peter Midgely and his daughter Debbie Caramella, music is family.  

“He made us all play instruments — all six kids,” said Caramella.  

The father and daughter make their way to practice with the Sentimental Journey Singers weekly, a chorus of people with memory loss and their loved ones.  

A second sister joined us via zoom.  

DEBBIE CARAMELLA: Dad wasn’t your first job delivering papers? And what did you do with your money?” Didn’t you pay for your own.. 

PETER MIDGELY: Pay for piano lessons.  

CARAMELLA: That’s right.  

For the trio, rehearsals are about more than family time. 

Mary Ann East, is the director of Arts for Life, Encore Creativity for Older Adults.

“There’s even parts of the brain that are strictly for music and they tend to be untouched by cognitive change, or at least not touched right away,” said East. 

It’s something that’s been observed with musician Tony Bennett, who has Alzheimer’s disease.  

The group of singers rehearse at Insight Memory Care, an adult center in Virginia dedicated to memory loss patients.   

“When you get a diagnosis, families go, what the heck do I do now? We’re trying to meet them at that space,” said Anita Irvin, the executive director at Insight Memory Care Center.

For people with dementia, it isn’t just about music, but finding that thing that makes each person spark.  

“This is actually participant artwork here. So this is stuff that is done by our participants that we like to kind of highlight what they’ve been successful at doing through art,” said Irvin. 

It’s also about exercise and just plain camaraderie.  

“I find that physical movement, you would say they’re minor, but for seniors, they’re major,” said James Brophy, a client at Insight Memory Care Center. 

As with any diagnosis, the impact goes beyond the patient, to family members and caregivers.  

Melissa Long, is the director of education and support at Insight Memory Care Center. 

“The guilt that they’re not doing enough. The frustration that they get that this isn’t the person they’ve been with their whole life,” said Long. 

“One of the most devastating times that can happen to a caregiver is the day that that person doesn’t know who they are,” said Beth Kallmyer, the VP of care and support at the Alzheimer’s Association. 

According to the Alzheimer’s Association caregivers of patients with dementia are more likely to suffer from higher levels of stress and anxiety than non-caregivers.  

“It’s helpful to remember that it’s a disease. The person has no control over it, but still it’s very devastating to family members,” said Kallmyer. 

While there’s no cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s, experts encourage caregivers to focus on the little victories. And while there’s no clear-cut evidence that isolation speeds disease progression. 

“There is there’s some evidence showing that social engagement, using your brain to do different things, having a purpose is remains really important,” said Kallmyer. 

CARAMELLA: It’s beneficial to have physical activity, mental activity and social activity every day. What do you think dad? Does this cover those things?  

MIDGELY: It does.  

CARAMELLA: It does. All of it.  

Newsy’s mental health initiative “America’s Breakdown: Confronting Our Mental Health Crisis” brings you deeply personal and thoughtfully told stories on the state of mental health care in the U.S. Click here to learn more.

Source: newsy.com

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