Archive for August, 2009
Cryptorchidism occurs when one or both testes fail to “descend” into the scrotum. In most cases, the condition resolves itself during the first few months after delivery (only 0.8% of infants over three months of age still have undescended testicles, and in almost all cases, testicles generally descend on their own within the first year). This condition represents the most common abnormality of the male genital tract (it effect 3-5% of full-term male newborns and 30-32% of preemies). While cryptochidism is easy to fix surgically, the condition can pose serious long-term consequences if left untreated. As such, doctors advise that an orchiopexy (or orchidopexy) surgery, which permanently relocates the undescended testicle into the scrotum, should be performed before the age of two if possible.
One of the most serious long-term consequences of untreated cryptochidism is infertility. Adult males with undescended testicles usually have a lower sperm count of a lower quality. Moreover, the risk of infertility rises as a boy gets older. Thus, doctors strongly discourage parents from “watching and waiting” too long to see if their son’s testicles descend unaided. Moreover, men with untreated cryptorchidism have a much higher risk of developing testicular cancer: it is estimated that the prevalence of malignant tumors in affected males in 48 times higher than that of normal males, and that men with cryptorchidism have a whopping ten percent chance of developing testicular cancer. Moreover, undescended testicles are significantly more vulnerable to sports related injuries, such as testicular torsion.
The outcomes of orchipexy are generally good, with success rates varying depending of where the testicle is located at the time the surgery is performed: for testicles located just above the scrotum, the surgery is successful 92 percent of the time; if the testicles are located in the inguinal canal the success rate is anywhere between 80 and 90 percent and when the testicles are located in the abdomen, the success rate drops to roughly 74 percent.
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Hollywood legend Cary Grant, named the 2nd Greatest Male Film Star of All Time by the American Film Institute, starred in many of the classic screwball comedies of the era, including Bringing Up Baby (1938) with Katharine Hepburn, His Girl Friday (1940) with Rosalind Russell, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) featuring Priscilla Lane, and Monkey Business (1952). However, the movie role that really solidified his career was The Philadelphia Story (1940), with Katharine Hepburn and James Stewart, which set the stage for his most famous screen persona: the irresistible albeit unreliable man, formerly married to an equally intelligent and strong-willed woman who divorces him and then comes to realize that he is ultimately the only man for her.
The Philadelphia Story, and the subgenre of comedy that it spawned, is now affectionately referred to as the “comedy of remarriage.” This genre was given its moniker by Stanley Cavell in his book, “Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage.” At the time, the repressive Hays Code, imposed upon all Hollywood production, banned any overt references to illicit sex or adultery. As such, the comedy of remarriage gave filmmakers carte blanche to introduce racier content into their movies, but portraying leading characters who divorced, flirted while single and then got back together with their former spouse by the end of the film. Thus, Hollywood studios were able to circumvent the censors while seemingly reinforcing the ideals of traditional marriage. In his book, Cavell argues that this genre represented a crowning achievement for Hollywood, and that it paved the way for the modern emphasis on mutual love-as opposed to class, religious and/or family interests-as the foundational basis for marriage in America.
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Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be obtained from sun exposure, a few food sources (such as fortified milk and canned tuna) and supplements. It plays a fundamental role in the regulation of a number of organ systems, but its primary role in the body is to bolster the flow of calcium in the bloodstream (making it crucial for bone growth and remodeling). Thus, a person suffering from a Vitamin D deficiency, or hypovitaminisis D, can develop brittle, soft or misshaped bones over time. This deficiency can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults (and possibly contributes to osteoporosis), to name a few. There are a number of risk factors for Vitamin D deficiency, including chronic illness, old age, obesity and darker skin (melanin acts as a natural “sun block” which inhibits the production and absorption of the vitamin).
Interestingly, a number of studies have demonstrated that Muslim women who wear burqas, or full body coverings during all of their outdoor activity, run an increased risk of developing Vitamin D deficiency because of their lack of exposure to sunlight. This has proven to be a notable problem amongst Muslim immigrants who have settled in countries with cloudy climates, such as Ireland or Great Britain, where sunny days are already scarce. This is less of an issue in hotter climates (like the Middle East), where the strong sunlight is better able to compensate for the full-body garb.
The Irish medical community has noted a sharp rise in the number of burqa-clad women (and their newborns) suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. In response, it has issued a number of warnings that Muslim women who wear the burqa are at an increased risk of pelvic fractures during childbirth and that babies born to Vitamin D deficient mothers are significantly more likely to suffer from postnatal seizures, growth retardation, muscle weakness and fractures. Moreover, members of this community tend to have a darker complexion then their indigenous counterparts (both the British and Irish are notorious for their light (some say pasty) complexions), and darker skin can produce as little as 1 percent of the Vitamin D that fair skin produces. Thus, it is even more crucial for darker skinned people to monitor their diets and sun exposure in order to avoid Vitamin D deficiency, especially in overcast northern climates. In order to distance itself from potential controversy, a prominent UK spokesman took great pains to stress the fact that their recommendations were not aimed at interfering with a woman’s right to wear a hijab, but that it is crucial that Muslim women make an effort to get some direct sunlight for their health.
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Tragically, the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease often develop slowly, beginning with everyday forgetfulness that eventually snowballs into a comprehensively debilitating cognitive disorder. As a result, many Alzheimer’s experts believe that most sufferers of the condition don’t seek medical intervention for their symptoms until the disease has wrought significant and irreversible damage to the brain. However, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic believe that they have identified a rather unorthodox means of identifying high risk individuals earlier, when the symptoms of the disease can be better managed (there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s).
In a nutshell, researchers conducted studies on three sets of individuals: healthy individuals who had no indications of the disease; people at risk based on family history, and those who are most at-risk for the disease, i.e. with a family history and a version of a gene for a protein called apolipoprotein E4 (ApoE4) that has been linked to the condition.
The researchers, using MRI imaging studies, simply asked the test subjects whether they were able to recognize widely recognizable celebrities, such as Britney Spears and Bob Hope. The researchers found that the test subjects most at risk for developing Alzheimer’s consistently demonstrated a higher level of activity in the hippocampus, posterior cingulated and regions of the frontal cortex- all regions of the brain involved in memory retention. Fascinatingly, the control group demonstrated opposite results. Their brains became activated when they encountered unfamiliar names. After assessing these results, the researchers theorized that it was possible that the brains of people who were more at-risk for the disease were working harder to identify the well-known celebrities. Thus, Britney Spears could unwittingly end up being one of the first line of defense in war against Alzheimer’s disease.
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Note to Self: Stick to his Silkscreens
Any movie buff worth his salt has seen Stanley Kubrick’s classic, A Clockwork Orange (1971), the trippy adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s dystopic novel of the same name. However, few of even the most diehard cinephiles know that Andy Warhol also adapted ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ in the black-and-white 1965 experimental film, Vinyl, staring Factory mainstays Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga. Vinyl is often credited as featuring Sedgwick’s debut (she has no speaking role in the film), but she actually had previously appeared in a handful of earlier, even lesser known works of Warhol. However, Sedgwick was allegedly so magnetic and beautiful to look at during filming, that Warhol subsequently decided to make her a star.
There is some debate regarding whether Warhol was able to purchase the rights to ‘A Clockwork Orange’ before filming. Some claim that Warhol purchased the rights to the novel from Burgess (for a paltry $3,000.00), while others allege that he was unable to score the rights, and thus elected to make his own unofficial loose “interpretation” of the novel. Either way, Vinyl hardly even bears a passing resemblance to its source material; only a few selected scenes of violence and the “brain-washing cure” are culled directly from the novel. Filmed in one day on a shoestring budget, the actors did not even rehearse their scenes before shooting. Suffice it to say, the film was never released commercially, and has garnered universally lackluster reviews from those who have seen it. In sum, Vinyl is worth a watch if you are a diehard Warhol or Sedgwick fan. If you do not fall into this camp, stick with Kubrick’s version, or if you are feeling really brave, take a crack at the novel.
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In April 1865, General Robert E. Lee realized that his beleaguered army had no choice but to surrender his Army to the North. The South had reached the end of its rope: his men were weak, exhausted and surrounded by the Union Army to boot. After a series of letters exchanged between himself and General Ulysses S. Grant, the Commander of the Union Army, the two men agreed to meet on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Courthouse. After two-and-a half hours of hammering out the terms of the Confederate surrender, Lee signed off on Grant’s terms and the Civil War officially ended. According to eyewitness accounts, the two men remained remarkably cordial throughout the meeting, with Grant even commenting later that, “Our conversation grew so pleasant that I almost forgot the object of our meeting.”
The following day, Robert E. Lee issued his official Farewell Address to his Army at the Appomattox Court House as follows:
“After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources. I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them. But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.
By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection. With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.”
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The widely disseminated urban legend that beloved Sesame Street Muppits Bert and Ernie are a gay couple, finds its roots in The Real Thing, a 1980 collection of humor essays by Kurt Andersen. In a parody of the inseparable duo, Anderson makes light of their relationship, stating that “Bert and Ernie conduct themselves in the same loving, discreet way that millions of gay men, women and hand puppets do. They do their jobs well and live a splendidly settled life together in an impeccably decorated cabinet.” By 1993, the urban legend had spread to the point that it was rumored that Bert and Ernie would actually get married during the Autumn tour of Sesame Street Live. Prompted by the avalanche of phone calls and mail that flooded the Children’s Television Workshop, Sesame Street drafted a prepared statement that denied that Bert and Ernie are gay.
Despite Sesame Street’s attempts at quelling the rumor, Pentecostal minister Joseph Chambers declared his intention to get Sesame Street banned on his radio show in 1994, stating,
“Bert and Ernie are two grown men sharing a house and a bedroom. They share clothes, eat and cook together and have blatantly effeminate characteristics. In one show Bert teaches Ernie how to sew. In another they tend plants together. If this isn’t meant to represent a homosexual union, I can’t imagine what it’s supposed to represent.”
Notably, Chambers is also the author of the ominously titled, Barney: The Purple Messiah, in which he denounces the saccharine dinosaur as a minion of Satan and his followers. Interestingly, he fails to mention Barney’s cardinal sin; his mysterious ability to captivate children while irritating adults to distraction. Instead, Chambers opted to focus his attentions on Barney’s darker side, stating, “Barney is much more than just a fun creature of kids’ imaginations. He is a politically correct teacher of everything on the liberal left’s agenda, from New Age evolution to radical ecology.” Chambers more recent targets include The Lion King, which he believes is aimed at “pawning witchcraft to the children of America.” Suffice it to say, Sesame Street is still on the air, and to the disappointment of many, Bert and Ernie still remain firmly hidden in the closet.
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