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Why Elon Musk’s pigs are a legal headache

Elon Musk (credit: Duncan.Hull via Wikimedia Commons) and Gertrude
Source: Legal Cheek
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook
William Holmes, Legal Cheeck
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

By William Holmes
on Dec 16 2020 9:18am
Source: Legal Cheek

Bristol University student and future trainee William Holmes explores the challenges ahead for brain-computer interface (BCI) systems

Elon Musk’s pig, Gertrude, looks like any other pig. But the coin-sized chip Musk’s company Neuralink have placed in Gertrude’s brain makes her a key part of a ground-breaking experiment to discover if technology can enable us to do things with thoughts.

The chip is a brain-computer interface (BCI) which picks up neural activity. Musk hopes to decode this neural activity so that it can be understood as instructions for a computer, allowing BCI users to control a computer with their minds. In other words, BCIs can transform a thought into an act.

For many who have lost certain bodily functions, BCI technology is a scientific miracle. The technology has the potential to treat neurological conditions like dementia or Parkinson’s, restore paralysed individual’s ability to control their bodies and even allow the blind to see again. But for prosecutors, judges and policy makers, BCIs are a troubling legal headache.

Proving criminal responsibility for most crimes requires the prosecution to prove both a defendant’s criminal act (actus reus) and intention (mens rea). So, how would this work for a defendant who used a BCI to commit a crime? An act is defined in most legal systems as “a bodily movement” (the quote here is from the US Model Penal Code). But a crime committed using a BCI involves no bodily movement. Nevertheless, if we take a neuroscientific approach, this is not an insurmountable obstacle for a prosecutor.

The chain of causation for a BCI user is as follows. First, the BCI user imagines an act that they want the computer to perform (I shall refer to this as a “mental act”). Second, neural activity is triggered by the mental act that is input for the BCI. Finally, the BCI interprets this neural activity and performs the act. Just as a finger pulls the trigger on a gun, neural activity triggers the BCI. Therefore, the neurons that fire and produce measurable neural activity could plausibly be considered the actus reus in cases involving the use of BCI technology. So, it appears that a legal loophole in prosecuting disembodied acts can be avoided. But at a price.

By finding actus reus in the activity of a defendant’s neurons, we have been forced to expand the law into the mental sphere. This is a sphere which, in keeping with the Roman law maxim that “nobody shall be punished for thoughts” (cogitationis poenam nemo patitur), is not regulated by the law. In the UK, this doctrine is a right enshrined in article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Given the repercussions for our freedom of thought, is it acceptable to regulate BCIs? If not, can legal systems that only regulate outward behaviour properly maintain the rule of law in BCI cases?

The middle ground between a BCI Wild West and criminalising thoughts is granting BCI users the ability to waive their right to freedom of thought. For those that this technology offers the most, for example tetraplegics, this may well be a right they are happy to waive. Should an individual be allowed to take such a decision? Legislators would have to step in to clarify who can use BCIs and judges would have to recognise implied consent from BCI users to waive this right to freedom of thought.

When deciding this, we must not ignore how significant this expansion of government regulation would be. For the first time, certain thoughts or mental acts would be outlawed. As a result, law-abiding BCI users will be forced to think before they think, regulating themselves in an unprecedented way. This is the immediate ‘legal headache’: BCIs force us to consider the merits of breaking a human right that is fundamental to democratic society and individual liberty in order to avoid criminal loopholes.

There is, however, a second long-term ‘legal headache’. Using the brain’s neurons to establish responsibility forces us to reconsider how we determine responsibility more broadly. How we attribute responsibility is (and has always been) a social decision. In some societies in the past, if an act was compelled or inspired by a divine force, then the law did not deem the individual responsible. In societies where an artist considered the muses responsible for their work, an acceptable waiver of responsibility was the excuse that “God made me do it”.

Today, we consider acting people to be responsible. But this could change in the future, especially if BCIs help to promote neuroscience to the forefront of the legal system. A recent example that highlights the influence of neuroscience on policy is Holland’s adolescent criminal law that came into force in 2014. This law allows those aged between 16 and 22 to be tried as an adult or as a juvenile at the court’s discretion. The underlying rationale is based on neuroscience: Holland’s new system hopes to take into consideration the mental development of defendants when sentencing them. This represents a social shift that sees the brain as the responsible agent.

This shift, which was famously critiqued as “brain overclaim syndrome” by Stephen J. Morse, could have some troubling consequences. The data recorded by BCIs (especially from the amygdala which regulates emotion) offers temptingly persuasive evidence for a defendant’s mens rea and mental state. The question for judges is whether this data is admissible evidence.

A neurocentric legal culture would encourage a judge to admit such evidence. If admissible, a high level of cross-examination is vital to ensure that there is clarity around neuroscience’s technical and interpretive limits. For example, there is evidence that factors like parenting and socio-economic status change the way the amygdala and prefrontal cortex function. The fact that neuroscientific technology is overwhelmingly tested on students from Western Educated Industrialised Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) population means that there is a possible bias in interpreting neuroscientific information. Unquestioned, these limitations allow lawyers to cast uncertain aspersions based on competing expert testimony which could lead juries to jump to false conclusions.

Furthermore, if the brain is considered responsible for criminality, then a reform of the penal system is implicit. The chances of recidivism and the methods with which guilty prisoners are treated — be it regenerative or punitive — would no longer be based on human nature and character. Instead, neuroscience would nuance our understanding of criminality and how to treat it. And the result might not be dissimilar to the Ludovico Technique, a type of psychological treatment that Antony Burgess portrays in his dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange.

Gertrude the pig is just the start of a technology that could rewire the legal norms of responsibility and radically change the legal concept of action. In light of this, policy makers and judges must prepare the criminal justice system for advent of BCIs. There is currently no regulation that is specific to BCI technology in the UK, as the British government acknowledged in a report published in January 2020. That is because the technology is still being developed and there are no clear solutions yet. But one thing is for sure: Elon Musk’s pigs promise to be a complex legal headache for scholars, lawyers, judges and legislators for decades to come.

William Holmes is a penultimate year student at the University of Bristol studying French, Spanish and Italian. He has a training contract offer with a magic circle law firm.

BCI is cutting edge and so are the criminals who use it to commit crimes. The health care industry is not stranger to crime such as sexual assault, fraud and stalking all in the name of health and science. How do parents protect their children from criminals? How does society protect women? How do you protect intellectual rights? How do you prevent hacking? Will humanity always prevail or how can this technology be used to put technology over people in the hands of criminals?

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Securing medical devices: Can a hacker break your heart?

Why are connected medical devices vulnerable to attack and how likely are they to get hacked? Here are five digital chinks in the armor.

Cameron Camp

Cameron Camp

Source: We Live Security

There’s virtually no realm in healthcare today that isn’t adopting more technology. From real-time wireless access to your own health parameters through smart watches and wearables to implanted devices inside your body, technology is coming. But can we secure it all?

Several years ago at Black Hat, we saw an insulin pump being hacked. And whether the lion’s share of software on that device was off the shelf, regulators say that the integrator is responsible for security up and down the stack, including the underlying operating system (OS), even if it that OS has a good security track record. In other words: Device manufacturers bear the responsibility, no matter what technology they use.

While that casts the burden of security on the manufacturer, it also steeply increases the cost and complexity of bringing a device to market. As a result, while market pressures lean on companies to produce devices quickly, the road ahead looks rocky and expensive. Also, it can unknowingly put patients on the defense.

And what about patches, who’s responsible for those? According to the FDA, the manufacturer does that too. With some medical devices expected to be around for many years, that’s a long time to pay to support gear in the field.

What makes the devices vulnerable and how likely are they to get hacked? As this week’s theme of Cybersecurity Awareness Month focuses on the security of internet-connected devices in healthcare, here are five digital chinks in the armor:

  • Bluetooth

Many medical devices integrate monitoring and interaction via Bluetooth, which has a long history of vulnerabilities. And while there may be patches, it’s hard to determine the real adoption rate and timeline in the field. Meanwhile, if your blood sugar measurement gets spoofed, you could be in real physical danger if you try to adjust blood glucose levels based on false readings.

  • Windows

Many hospitals have management computers for their medical equipment which run on older, unsupported Windows versions due to lagging updates from the manufacturer that did the integration. A manufacturer can’t simply push the latest Windows patch before extensive testing on their units to see integration issues, so patch vetting can be tricky. Would-be attackers have the advantage here, since ell-known exploits can be deployed as soon as they come to light, and long before the manufacturer can react.

  • Cloud

Many implanted devices “phone home” to medical clinicians through cloud connectivity to facilitate health status updates and trigger events where patients may need to seek attention. As we saw this year at Black Hat and DEF CON, cloud security can be less than stellar. It’s unlikely the patient would have a way to know about potential vulnerabilities, but attackers are quick to seize on known exploits, pumping them through their attack frameworks quite rapidly. In some cases, patients have opted out of external communications with their pacemakers citing hacking fears, but cloud adoption for implanted devices has strong tailwinds pushing further adoption.

  • Ethernet

Many medical devices plug into medical TCP/IP networks via Ethernet, but it would be very difficult for many clinicians and patients to notice a network tap placed inline with existing connections. By exfiltrating data across wireless links embedded in such a tap, attackers could snoop traffic and craft exploits. This way, attackers only need one-time physical access, and don’t necessarily have to return to retrieve the device if it’s deemed dangerous, due to their low cost.

  • Wireless keyboards

Keyloggers have been standard fare for logging keystrokes from wireless keyboards for some time now, posing as fake USB chargers plugged into outlets, while simultaneously snooping for signals and exfiltrating them across industrial 4G wireless cards. This allows the capture of sensitive data like typed passwords, but can also allow attackers to attempt to download and install remote backdoor exploits by bypassing warning prompts from security products.

In closing

The medical field has been on its heels – security wise – for years. And while it may be making important strides, many medical devices have been performing fine all those years, lessening the perceived need to act. It will be a challenge to “modernize the fleet” for some years to come. Even so, medical folk have started to lean into the process and get the technical chops on staff to start moving the needle. Meanwhile, it might be wise to get to know any vulnerabilities that might affect your medical devices, especially if they are critically involved in your health care, as so many are.
Cameron Camp

The medical device industry is in full swing lacking much needed regulations and testing. Should regulation be proactive or reactive? What are the consequences of reactive regulations? Could this approach lead to unnecessary death?

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Vaccine rollout hits snag as health workers balk at shots

By BERNARD CONDON, MATT SEDENSKY and CARLA K. JOHNSON
January 8, 2021
Source: Associate Press

Source: Associate Press, Jae C. Hong
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

In this Jan. 7, 2021, file photo, a nurse puts on protective gear in a COVID-19 unit in California. The nation’s biggest immunization rollout in history is facing pushback from an unlikely source: health care workers who witnessed COVID-19′s devastation firsthand but are refusing shots in surprising numbers. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The desperately awaited vaccination drive against the coronavirus in the U.S. is running into resistance from an unlikely quarter: Surprising numbers of health care workers who have seen firsthand the death and misery inflicted by COVID-19 are refusing shots.

It is happening in nursing homes and, to a lesser degree, in hospitals, with employees expressing what experts say are unfounded fears of side effects from vaccines that were developed at record speed. More than three weeks into the campaign, some places are seeing as much as 80% of the staff holding back.

“I don’t think anyone wants to be a guinea pig,” said Dr. Stephen Noble, a 42-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon in Portland, Oregon, who is postponing getting vaccinated. “At the end of the day, as a man of science, I just want to see what the data show. And give me the full data.

Alarmed by the phenomenon, some administrators have dangled everything from free breakfasts at Waffle House to a raffle for a car to get employees to roll up their sleeves. Some states have threatened to let other people cut ahead of health care workers in the line for shots.

“It’s far too low. It’s alarmingly low,” said Neil Pruitt, CEO of PruittHealth, which runs about 100 long-term care homes in the South, where fewer than 3 in 10 workers offered the vaccine so far have accepted it.

Many medical facilities from Florida to Washington state have boasted of near-universal acceptance of the shots, and workers have proudly plastered pictures of themselves on social media receiving the vaccine. Elsewhere, though, the drive has stumbled.

While the federal government has released no data on how many people offered the vaccines have taken them, glimpses of resistance have emerged around the country.

In Illinois, a big divide has opened at state-run veterans homes between residents and staff. The discrepancy was worst at the veterans home in Manteno, where 90% of residents were vaccinated but only 18% of the staff members.

In rural Ashland, Alabama, about 90 of some 200 workers at Clay County Hospital have yet to agree to get vaccinated, even with the place so overrun with COVID-19 patients that oxygen is running low and beds have been added to the intensive care unit, divided by plastic sheeting.

The pushback comes amid the most lethal phase in the outbreak yet, with the death toll at more than 350,000, and it could hinder the government’s effort to vaccinate somewhere between 70% and 85% of the U.S. population to achieve “herd immunity.

Administrators and public health officials have expressed hope that more health workers will opt to be vaccinated as they see their colleagues take the shots without problems.

Oregon doctor Noble said he will wait until April or May to get the shots. He said it is vital for public health authorities not to overstate what they know about the vaccines. That is particularly important, he said, for Black people like him who are distrustful of government medical guidance because of past failures and abuses, such as the infamous Tuskegee experiment.

Medical journals have published extensive data on the vaccines, and the Food and Drug Administration has made its analysis public. But misinformation about the shots has spread wildly online, including falsehoods that they cause fertility problems.

Stormy Tatom, 30, a hospital ICU nurse in Beaumont, Texas, said she decided against getting vaccinated for now “because of the unknown long-term side effects.”

“I would say at least half of my coworkers feel the same way,” Tatom said.

There have been no signs of widespread severe side effects from the vaccines, and scientists say the drugs have been rigorously tested on tens of thousands and vetted by independent experts.

States have begun turning up the pressure. South Carolina’s governor gave health care workers until Jan. 15 to get a shot or “move to the back of the line.” Georgia’s top health official has allowed some vaccines to be diverted to other front-line workers, including firefighters and police, out of frustration with the slow uptake.

“There’s vaccine available but it’s literally sitting in freezers,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Kathleen Toomey. “That’s unacceptable. We have lives to save.”

Nursing homes were among the institutions given priority for the shots because the virus has cut a terrible swath through them. Long-term care residents and staff account for about 38% of the nation’s COVID-19 fatalities.

In West Virginia, only about 55% of nursing home workers agreed to the shots when they were first offered last month, according to Martin Wright, who leads the West Virginia Health Care Association.

“It’s a race against social media,” Wright said of battling falsehoods about the vaccines.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said only 40% of the state’s nursing home workers have gotten shots. North Carolina’s top public health official estimated more than half were refusing the vaccine there.

SavaSeniorCare has offered cash to the 169 long-term care homes in its 20-state network to pay for gift cards, socially distanced parties or other incentives. But so far, data from about a third of its homes shows that 55% of workers have refused the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens, which have been contracted by a majority of U.S. nursing homes to administer COVID-19 vaccinations, have not released specifics on the acceptance rate. CVS said that residents have agreed to be immunized at an “encouragingly high” rate but that “initial uptake among staff is low,” partly because of efforts to stagger when employees receive their shots.

Some facilities have vaccinated workers in stages so that the staff is not sidelined all at once if they suffer minor side effects, which can include fever and aches.

The hesitation isn’t surprising, given the mixed message from political leaders and misinformation online, said Dr. Wilbur Chen, a professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in the science of vaccines.

He noted that health care workers represent a broad range of jobs and backgrounds and said they are not necessarily more informed than the general public.

“They don’t know what to believe either,” Chen said. But he said he expects the hesitancy to subside as more people are vaccinated and public health officials get their message across.

Some places have already seen turnarounds, such as Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“The biggest thing that helped us to gain confidence in our staff was watching other staff members get vaccinated, be OK, walk out of the room, you know, not grow a third ear, and so that really is like an avalanche,” said Dr. Catherine O’Neal, chief medical officer. “The first few hundred that we had created another 300 that wanted the vaccine.”

___

Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Jake Bleiberg in Dallas; Heather Hollingsworth in Mission, Kansas; Janet McConnaughey in New Orleans; Candice Choi in New York; Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Maryland; Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina; John Seewer in Toledo, Ohio; Melinda Deslatte in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and Bryan Anderson in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Why are so many medical professionals one of the main communities hesitant to take a vaccine created within their own industry? Some say it was politicized? Others say it has not been adequately tested? What do you say?

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Haven, the Amazon-Berkshire-JPMorgan venture to disrupt health care, is disbanding after 3 years

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

PUBLISHED MON, JAN 4 2021, 12:21 PM EST
UPDATED TUE, JAN 5 2021, 11:56 AM EST
Hugh Son@HUGH_SON
Source: CNBC
Feature Photo Source: Unsplash, Hush Naidoo

  • Haven began informing employees Monday that it will shut down by the end of next month, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
  • Many of the Boston-based firm’s 57 workers are expected to be placed at Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway or JPMorgan Chase as the firms each individually push forward in their efforts, the people said.
  • One key issue facing Haven was that each of the three founding companies executed their own projects separately with their own employees, obviating the need for the joint venture to begin with, according to the people, who declined to be identified speaking about the matter.

Haven, the joint venture formed by three of America’s most powerful companies to lower costs and improve outcomes in health care, is disbanding after three years, CNBC has learned exclusively.

The company began informing employees Monday that it will shut down by the end of next month, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Many of the Boston-based firm’s 57 workers are expected to be placed at AmazonBerkshire Hathaway or JPMorgan Chase as the firms each individually push forward in their efforts, and the three companies are still expected to collaborate informally on health-care projects, the people said.

The announcement three years ago that the CEOs of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase had teamed up to tackle one of the biggest problems facing corporate America – high and rising costs for employee health care  – sent shock waves throughout the world of medicine. Shares of health-care companies tumbled on fears about how the combined might of leaders in technology and finance could wring costs out of the system.WATCH NOWVIDEO02:19How insurance premiums and deductibles work

The move to shutter Haven may be a sign of how difficult it is to radically improve American health care, a complicated and entrenched system of doctors, insurers, drugmakers and middlemen that costs the country $3.5 trillion every year. Last year, Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett seemed to indicate as much, saying that were was no guarantee that Haven would succeed in improving health care.

Shares of UnitedHealth GroupHumana and CVS Health each climbed more than 2% after the Haven news broke.

One key issue facing Haven was that while the firm came up with ideas, each of the three founding companies executed their own projects separately with their own employees, obviating the need for the joint venture to begin with, according to the people, who declined to be identified speaking about the matter.

Coming just three years after the initial rush of fanfare about the possibilities for what Haven could accomplish, its closure is a disappointment to some. But insiders claim that it will allow the founding companies to implement ideas from the project on their own, tailoring them to the specific needs of their employees, who are mostly concentrated in different cities.WATCH NOWVIDEO03:15Why health-care venture Haven is disbanding after three years

The move comes after Haven’s CEO, Dr. Atul Gawande, stepped down from day-to-day management of the nonprofit in May, a change that sparked a search for his successor.

Brooke Thurston, a spokeswoman for Haven, confirmed the company’s plans to close and gave this statement:

The Haven team made good progress exploring a wide range of healthcare solutions, as well as piloting new ways to make primary care easier to access, insurance benefits simpler to understand and easier to use, and prescription drugs more affordable,” Thurston said in an email.

“Moving forward, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. will leverage these insights and continue to collaborate informally to design programs tailored to address the specific needs of our individual employee populations and locations,” she said.

How do you think health care cost could be lowered? How do you think health outcomes can be improved? Why are health care outcomes at consistently such low levels?

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12 Proven Health Benefits of Avocado

Source: Health Line
The avocado is a rather unique fruit.

While most fruit consists primarily of carbohydrate, avocado is high in healthy fats.

Numerous studies show that it has powerful health benefits.

Here are 12 health benefits of avocado that are supported by scientific research.

1. Avocado Is Incredibly Nutritious

Source: Health Line
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Avocado is the fruit of the avocado tree, scientifically known as Persea americana (1Trusted Source).

This fruit is prized for its high nutrient value and is added to various dishes due to its good flavor and rich texture. It is the main ingredient in guacamole.

These days, the avocado has become an incredibly popular food among health-conscious individuals. It’s often referred to as a superfood, which is not surprising given its health properties (2Trusted Source).

There are many types of avocado that vary in shape and color — from pear-shaped to round and green to black. They can also weigh anywhere from 8 ounces (220 grams) to 3 pounds (1.4 kg).

The most popular variety is the Hass avocado.

It’s often called alligator pear, which is very descriptive, as it tends to be pear-shaped and has green, bumpy skin like an alligator.

The yellow-green flesh inside the fruit is eaten, but the skin and seed are discarded.

Avocados are very nutritious and contain a wide variety of nutrients, including 20 different vitamins and minerals.

Here are some of the most abundant nutrients, in a single 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving (3):

  • Vitamin K: 26% of the daily value (DV)
  • Folate: 20% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the DV
  • Potassium: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B5: 14% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 13% of the DV
  • Vitamin E: 10% of the DV
  • It also contains small amounts of magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous and vitamins A, B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin).

This is coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber, so there are only 2 net carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food.

Avocados do not contain any cholesterol or sodium and are low in saturated fat. This is why they are favored by some experts who believe these substances are harmful, which is a debated topic, however.

SUMMARY

Avocado is a green, pear-shaped fruit often called an “alligator pear.” It is loaded with healthy fats, fiber and various important nutrients.

2. They Contain More Potassium Than Bananas

Potassium is a nutrient that most people don’t get enough of (4).

This nutrient helps maintain electrical gradients in your body’s cells and serves various important functions.

Avocados are very high in potassium. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving packs 14% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA), compared to 10% in bananas, which are a typical high-potassium food (5).

Several studies show that having a high potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure (6Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Potassium is an important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Avocados are very high in potassium, which should support healthy blood pressure levels.

3. Avocado Is Loaded With Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fatty Acids

Avocado is a high-fat food.

In fact, 77% of the calories in it are from fat, making it one of the fattiest plant foods in existence.

But they don’t just contain any fat. The majority of the fat in avocado is oleic acid — a monounsaturated fatty acid that is also the major component of olive oil and believed to be responsible for some of its health benefits.

Oleic acid has been associated with reduced inflammation and shown to have beneficial effects on genes linked to cancer (7Trusted Source8Trusted Source9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

The fats in avocado are also rather resistant to heat-induced oxidation, making avocado oil a healthy and safe choice for cooking.

SUMMARY

Avocados and avocado oil are high in monounsaturated oleic acid, a heart-healthy fatty acid that is believed to be one of the main reasons for the health benefits of olive oil.

4. Avocados Are Loaded With Fiber

Fiber is another nutrient that avocados are relatively rich in.

It’s indigestible plant matter that can contribute to weight loss, reduce blood sugar spikes and is strongly linked to a lower risk of many diseases (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

distinction is often made between soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber is known for feeding the friendly gut bacteria in your intestine, which are very important for optimal body function (14Trusted Source).

A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of avocado packs 7 grams of fiber, which is 27% of the RDA.

About 25% of the fiber in avocado is soluble, while 75% is insoluble (15Trusted Source).

SUMMARY

Avocados tend to be rich in fiber — about 7% by weight, which is very high compared to most other foods. Fiber may have important benefits for weight loss and metabolic health.

5. Eating Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels

Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world (16Trusted Source).

It’s known that several blood markers are linked to an increased risk.

This includes cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood pressure and various others.

Eight controlled studies in people have examined the effects of avocado on some of these risk factors.

These studies showed that avocados can (17Trusted Source18Trusted Source19Trusted Source20Trusted Source21Trusted Source22Trusted Source23Trusted Source):

  • Reduce total cholesterol levels significantly.
  • Reduce blood triglycerides by up to 20%.
  • Lower LDL cholesterol by up to 22%.
  • Increase HDL (the good) cholesterol by up to 11%.

One of the studies found that including avocado in a low-fat, vegetarian diet significantly improved the cholesterol profile (24Trusted Source).

Though their results are impressive, it’s important to note that all of the human studies were small and short-term, including only 13–37 people with a duration of 1–4 weeks.

SUMMARY

Numerous studies have shown that eating avocado can improve heart disease risk factors like total, “bad” LDL and “good” HDL cholesterol, as well as blood triglycerides.

6. People Who Eat Avocados Tend to Be Healthier

One study looked at the dietary habits and health of people who eat avocados.

They analyzed data from 17,567 participants in the NHANES survey in the US.

Avocado consumers were found to be much healthier than people who didn’t eat this fruit.

They had a much higher nutrient intake and were half as likely to have metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms that are a major risk factor for heart disease and diabetes (25Trusted Source).

People who ate avocados regularly also weighed less, had a lower BMI and significantly less belly fat. They also had higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

However, correlation does not imply causation, and there is no guarantee that the avocados caused these people to be in better health.

Therefore, this particular study doesn’t carry much weight.

SUMMARY

One dietary survey found that people who ate avocados had a much higher nutrient intake and a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.

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7. Their Fat Content May Help You Absorb Nutrients From Plant Foods

When it comes to nutrients, your intake is not the only thing that matters.

You also need to be able to absorb these nutrients — move them from your digestive tract and to your body, where they can be used.

Some nutrients are fat-soluble, meaning that they need to be combined with fat in order to be utilized.

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, along with antioxidants like carotenoids.

One study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to either salad or salsa can increase antioxidant absorption 2.6- to 15-fold (26Trusted Source).

So, not only is avocado highly nutritious, it can dramatically increase the nutrient value of other plant foods that you are eating.

This is an excellent reason to always include a healthy fat source when you eat veggies. Without it, a lot of the beneficial plant nutrients will go to waste.

SUMMARY

Studies have shown that eating avocado or avocado oil with vegetables can dramatically increase the number of antioxidants you take in.

8. Avocados Are Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants That Can Protect Your Eyes

Not only do avocados increase antioxidant absorption from other foods, they are also high in antioxidants themselves.

This includes the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are incredibly important for eye health (27Trusted Source28).

Studies show that they’re linked to a drastically reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, which are common in older adults (29Trusted Source30Trusted Source).

Therefore, eating avocados should benefit your eye health over the long term.

SUMMARY

Avocados are high in antioxidants, including lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are very important for eye health and lower your risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

9. Avocado May Help Prevent Cancer

There is limited evidence that avocado may be beneficial in cancer treatment and prevention.

Test-tube studies suggest that it may help reduce side effects of chemotherapy in human lymphocytes (31Trusted Source).

Avocado extract has also been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells in a laboratory (32Trusted Source).

However, keep in mind that these studies were done in isolated cells and don’t necessarily prove what may happen inside people. Human-based research is unavailable.

SUMMARY

Some test-tube studies have shown that nutrients in avocados may have benefits in preventing prostate cancer and lowering side effects of chemotherapy. However, human-based research is lacking.

10. Avocado Extract May Help Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries. There are many types of this condition, which are often chronic problems that people have for the rest of their lives.

Multiple studies suggest that avocado and soybean oil extracts — called avocado and soybean unsaponifiables — can reduce osteoarthritis (33Trusted Source34Trusted Source).

Whether avocados themselves have this effect remains to be seen.

SUMMARY

Studies have shown that avocado and soybean oil extracts can significantly reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.

11. Eating Avocado May Help You Lose Weight

There is some evidence that avocados are a weight loss friendly food.

In one study, people eating avocado with a meal felt 23% more satisfied and had a 28% lower desire to eat over the next 5 hours, compared to people who did not consume this fruit (35Trusted Source).

Should this hold true in the long term, then including avocados in your diet may help you naturally eat fewer calories and make it easier for you to stick to healthy eating habits.

Avocados are also high in fiber and very low in carbs, two attributes that should help promote weight loss as well, at least in the context of a healthy, real-food-based diet.

SUMMARY

Avocados may aid weight loss by keeping you full longer and making you eat fewer calories. They’re also high in fiber and low in carbs, which may promote weight loss.

12. Avocado Is Delicious and Easy to Incorporate in Your Diet

Avocados are not only healthy, they’re also incredibly delicious and go with many types of food.

You can add them to salads and various recipes or simply scoop them out with a spoon and eat them plain.

They have a creamy, rich, fatty texture and blend well with other ingredients.

A notable mention is guacamole, which is arguably the most famous use of avocados. It includes avocado along with ingredients like salt, garlic, lime and a few others depending on the recipe.

An avocado often takes some time to ripen and should feel slightly soft when ripe. The nutrients in avocado can oxidize and turn brown soon after fleshing it, but adding lemon juice should slow down this process.

SUMMARY

Avocados have a creamy, rich, fatty texture and blend well with other ingredients. Therefore, it’s easy to add this fruit to your diet. Using lemon juice may prevent cut avocados from browning quickly.

The Bottom Line

Avocados are an excellent food, loaded with nutrients, many of which are lacking in the modern diet.

They’re weight loss friendly, heart healthy and, last but not least, taste incredible.

What did you learn about avocados? How could they contribute to your health? How can you introduce them into your diet?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Scientists turn CO2 into jet fuel

It could lead to net zero emissions for air travel.

Jon Fingas@jonfingas
December 27, 2020
Source: Engadget

A Rolls-Royce engine is seen on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner owned by ANA Holdings Inc. in Everett, Washington, U.S. August 17, 2016. REUTERS/Alwyn Scott/File Photo
REUTERS/Alwyn Scott/File Photo
Source: Engadget
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Researchers may have found a way to reduce the environmental impact of air travel in situations when electric aircraft and alternative fuels aren’t practical. Wired reports that Oxford University scientists have successfully turned CO2 into jet fuel, raising the possibility of conventionally-powered aircraft with net zero emissions.

The technique effectively reverses the process of burning fuel by relying on the organic combustion method. The team heated a mix of citric acid, hydrogen and an iron-manganese-potassium catalyst to turn CO2 into a liquid fuel capable of powering jet aircraft.

The approach is inexpensive, uncomplicated and uses commonplace materials. It’s cheaper than processes used to turn hydrogen and water into fuel.

There are numerous challenges to bringing this to aircraft. The lab method only produced a few grams of fuel — you’d clearly need much more to support even a single flight, let alone an entire fleet. You’d need much more widespread use of carbon capture. And if you want effectively zero emissions, the capture and conversion systems would have to run on clean energy.

The researches are talking with industrial partners, though, and don’t see any major scientific hurdles. It might also be one of the most viable options for fleets. Many of them would have to replace their aircraft to go electric or switch fuel types. This conversion process would let airlines keep their existing aircraft and go carbon neutral until they’re truly ready for eco-friendly propulsion.

From cars to jets, are we ready for eco-friendly travel? Why? Why not?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Michelle Obama, Let Girls Learn

Source: White House
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Working together to open the doors of education for girls around the world.

Source: White House
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

To educate a girl is to build a healthier family, a stronger community, and a brighter future. Unfortunately today, more than 62 million girls around the world are not in school—half of whom are adolescents. We know that countries with more girls in secondary school tend to have lower maternal mortality rates, lower infant mortality rates, lower rates of HIV/AIDS, and better child nutrition.But too often, a girl who could change her world for the better is locked out of that future by the circumstances of her birth or the customs of her community and country.

We know that a girl with an education can shape her own destiny, lift up her family, and transform her community. That is why President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama launched Let Girls Learn, a U.S. government initiative aimed at helping adolescent girls attain a quality education that empowers them to reach their full potential.

As huge supporters of women and women owned business we could not agree more that letting girls learn is important in so many ways particularly their health. What are your thoughts on promoting education among girls? Why? Why not?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

12/27/2020 06:50 AM EST
By MONA ZHANG
Source: Politico

By making local officials the gatekeepers for million-dollar businesses, states created a breeding ground for bribery and favoritism.

Marijuana
Ed Andrieski/AP Photo
Source: Politico
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

In states’ rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: A market for local corruption.

Jasiel Correia’s star was rising.

The son of Cape Verdean immigrants in the working-class Massachusetts port city of Fall River — famed as the home of Lizzie Borden — Correia was a home-grown prodigy. At 23, he was elected mayor, fielding congratulatory calls from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Joe Kennedy.

That was in 2015. Four years later, just a week before his reelection race, federal agents ignominiously led him away from his home in handcuffs and charged him with attempting to extort cannabis companies of $600,000 in exchange for granting them lucrative licenses to sell weed in his impoverished city.

“Mayor Correia has engaged in an outrageous brazen campaign of corruption, which turned his job into a personal ATM,” declared U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling during a press conference announcing the charges.

The downfall of Fall River’s young mayor wasn’t just a tragedy for the thousands of people who invested their hopes in him: It was emblematic of a rash of cannabis-related corruption across the nation, from Massachusetts to California to Arkansas and beyond.

In the past decade, 15 states have legalized a regulated marijuana market for adults over 21, and another 17 have legalized medical marijuana. But in their rush to limit the numbers of licensed vendors and give local municipalities control of where to locate dispensaries, they created something else: A market for local corruption.

Almost all the states that legalized pot either require the approval of local officials — as in Massachusetts — or impose a statewide limit on the number of licenses, chosen by a politically appointed oversight board, or both. These practices effectively put million-dollar decisions in the hands of relatively small-time political figures — the mayors and councilors of small towns and cities, along with the friends and supporters of politicians who appoint them to boards. And these strictures have given rise to the exact type of corruption that got Correia in trouble with federal prosecutors. They have also created a culture in which would-be cannabis entrepreneurs feel obliged to make large campaign contributions or hire politically connected lobbyists.

For some entrepreneurs, the payments can seem worth the ticket to cannabis riches.

For some politicians, the lure of a bribe or favor can be irresistible.

Correia’s indictment alleges that he extorted hundreds of thousands of dollars from marijuana companies in exchange for granting them the local approval letters that are necessary prerequisites for obtaining Massachusetts licenses. Correia and his co-conspirators — staffers and friends — accepted a variety of bribes including cash, more than a dozen pounds of marijuana and a “Batman” Rolex watch worth up to $12,000, the indictment charges.

CANNABIS

“The state Is given full control in an industry where there is so much competition — where everyone realizes how valuable these licenses are,” said Lorenzo Nourafchan, CEO of Northstar Financial Consulting, which works with cannabis businesses.

Nourafchan cited some friends who submitted “incredible applications” for Missouri medical marijuana licenses only to see the licenses go to large, multistate operators: “It just seemed to me and many others that it was not fair … people were not given objective and unbiased treatment.”

What are your thoughts on this article? Why? Why not?

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Researchers find correlation between consistent mask-wearing and improved well-being

Source: News Medical Life Sciences
Dec 24 2020

Since the emergence of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), universal masking has been implemented in many countries.

Wearing face masks or coverings can help reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission by preventing infectious respiratory droplets from COVID-19 positive individuals from spreading to others when they sneeze, cough, talk, or breathe.

A team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh, UK, found that consistent mask-wearing was associated with positive well-being among their participants.

Study: Face covering adherence is positively associated with better mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal analysis of the CovidLife surveys. Image Credit: r.classen / ShutterstockStudy: Face covering adherence is positively associated with better mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal analysis of the CovidLife surveys. Image Credit: r.classen / Shutterstock
Source: News Medical Life Sciences

The study, published on the pre-print medRxivserversurveyed more than 11,000 participants across the UK.

Face covering

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends wearing a face mask as part of a comprehensive strategy of mitigating the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. The use of a mask alone is not sufficient to provide adequate protection, but it is effective along with other infection control measures.

The health agency also recommends that people wear a mask if they are around other people. When wearing the mask properly, it should cover the nose, mouth, and chin.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge the public to wear face coverings made with cloth. Surgical and medical masks are intended for healthcare workers. This is to avoid depleting the supply of this medical equipment, which is crucial in protecting frontline workers.

The study

The team conducted longitudinal analyses that collected data via the Qualtrics platform between April and June 2020. To arrive at the study findings, the researchers recruited 11,000 participants across the UK who completed the CovidLife surveys, which is an initiative set up by the University of Edinburgh to try and measure and understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s health and well-being. Using this data, the mental health outcomes of the participants were then evaluated.

The researchers found that adherence to face-covering guidelines had no association with poorer mental health. The team also found that people who wore masks consistently had better mental health than those who did not.

Hence, the study offers evidence to suggest that wearing face coverings or masks more often will not negatively impact mental health.

The study found that the odds of feeling anxious were 58% lower among those who always wore their masks. The likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms was 25% lower among people who wore their masks most of the time. Lastly, the odds of feeling lonely were 67% lower among those who always wore their masks.

Indeed, the opposite appears to be the case: stronger adherence to guidelines is associated with less anxiety and loneliness, and higher life satisfaction and wellbeing,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

They also emphasized that wearing face masks alone is insufficient in preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2. Adhering to infection control measures such as washing the hands regularly, maintaining social distance, and avoiding crowded places are crucial factors that should be applied alongside face coverings.

Conclusion

Our data provide strong evidence that following government guidance on face coverings is associated with better rather than poorer mental health and wellbeing,” the team concluded.

Correlation is not to be conflated with causation here. However, the study offers an interesting finding which, the researchers believe, provides evidence that challenges assumptions that consistent mask-wearing can negatively impact mental health and well-being. They thus suggest that their findings “could be an important motivator for continued advocacy by policymakers and adherence by members of the public.”

More research would be needed to fully understand this correlation and it should be weighed up against the ways in which consistent mask-wearing can have negative effects on one’s physical and mental well-being. In short, further study would clarify the implications of this finding.

*Important Notice

medRxiv publishes preliminary scientific reports that are not peer-reviewed and, therefore, should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or treated as established information.Journal reference:

  • Altschul, D., Ritchie, C., Kwong, A., Hartley, L., Nangle, C., Edwards, R. et al. (2020). Face covering adherence is positively associated with better mental health and wellbeing: a longitudinal analysis of the CovidLife surveys. medRxiv. doi.

The study findings agree with past studies that found that not adhering to the rule of wearing face masks can be viewed negatively by others. It reveals the other side to adherence behavior, even though stigmatization or discomfort of wearing masks do or do not harm mental health and well-being.

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSNBy Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo, BSN
Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master’s Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

Do you wear masks to prevent COVID? What do you do to prevent the spread of COVID? Why? Why not?

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Wisconsin hospital employee fired, arrested after ‘intentionally’ destroying 500 doses of Covid vaccine

Source: NBC News

“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed,” the hospital said.Dec. 31, 2020, 12:44 PM EST / Updated Dec. 31, 2020, 5:16 PM ESTBy Elizabeth Chuck and Ben Kesslen

A Wisconsin hospital employee has been fired and arrested after removing dozens of vials of the coronavirus vaccine from a pharmacy refrigerator, intentionally destroying more than 500 doses, a hospital investigation found.

The incident happened over the weekend at the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, north of Milwaukee. Grafton police announced the arrest of the pharmacist Thursday, but did not name the man or identify a motive.

Police said in a statement they arrested the former employee on suspicion of recklessly endangering safety, adulterating a prescription drug and criminal damage to property. The damage he caused “was estimated to be between $8,000 and $11,000,” police said.

Initially, it appeared that the 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine — which must be kept between 36 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit — had been left out overnight accidentally, hospital officials said. Each vial holds approximately 10 doses of the vaccine.

But Wednesday, the Aurora Medical Center announced the hospital worker involved “acknowledged that they intentionally removed the vaccine from refrigeration.”

Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis.
Aurora Medical Center in Grafton, Wis.Google Maps
Source: NBC News
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

“We continue to believe that vaccination is our way out of the pandemic. We are more than disappointed,” the hospital said in a statement, adding that the employee has been terminated. “This was a violation of our core values.”

The Moderna vaccine has a 12-hour window once it has been thawed. Most doses of the vaccine that had been left out of the pharmacy refrigerator had to be discarded, although hospital officials later believed they could salvage some. After the hospital administered more than 50 doses of the vaccines that had been thawed, it learned the shots had actually been thawed twice, rendering them ineffective, a hospital official said Thursday at a press conference. The hospital said all those who received an ineffective vaccination have been notified and that those individuals are not at risk.

News of the spoiled vaccine doses in Wisconsin comes as the United States struggles to meet its goals for vaccination. So far, only about 2.8 million people have been vaccinated, far short of the 20 million the Trump administration had hoped for by year-end.

The vaccine is not yet widely available, and health care workers and nursing home residents have priority for the first doses.

On Wednesday, Advocate Aurora Health, the health system that Aurora Medical Center is part of, said it has vaccinated more than 21,000 health care workers so far.

The pharmacist is currently being held at Ozaukee County Jail.

Image: Elizabeth ChuckElizabeth Chuck

Elizabeth Chuck is a reporter for NBC News.Image: Ben KesslenBen Kesslen

Ben Kesslen is a reporter for NBC News. Matteo Moschella contributed.

Why do you think this medical professional destroyed the vaccine? Why? Why not?

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