The cabin on Bad Medicine Lake was a blessing through and through

In 1979 my grandma, by snail mail, worked out a purchase agreement for lakeshore property on Bad Medicine Lake in northwestern Minnesota. Over the next couple years my grandpa, Harv, my dad and several uncles worked to clear the land. Then they built a modest, sturdy cabin.

That cabin was an idyllic escape and gathering place in the Northwoods for more than 37 years until it was sold out of the family a few years ago.

I’m biased, but Bad Medicine is the greatest lake in existence. Clear, emerald water, deep and cold and rocky and weedless, ringed by red pine and maple and popple, beautiful in every season, quiet and secluded. It’s perfect for the person who needs to get away from the trappings of the world, their smartphone, the news cycle. Perfect for the poet, the dreamer, the one whose soul needs rest. We hid out there for decades, swimming the crystalline water, canoeing the shallows, delighting in osprey sightings, loon calls, cribbage tournaments, family singalongs around the piano, and each other. There was always laughter in the cabin.

Last call at Bad Medicine came for our family in the last days of December 2016. We sledded, walked on the frozen lake, and marveled at the snow-covered trees. We walked the road down to “God’s Country,” where stately Norway pines reach toward the sky like cathedral spires. We thanked God for the blessing this place had been to us for nearly 40 years. We cried. Then we took a final look around before locking up and trudging out into the snowy night.

Seth Johnson, Fosston, Minn.

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Bad breath in a face mask? This is why you’ve noticed it

bad breath, face mask, halitosis

Bogdan KuryloGetty Images

2020 is a year that will be remembered for many things, one of which is the introduction of face masks into our lives. We’re now almost-permanently accompanied by a face mask wherever we go, in order to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. And that’s all well and good (because we’re always game to embrace any measures that will help save lives) but it’s also been the trigger of an unfriendly awakening for some: the realisation that their breath ain’t always so fresh.

If you’ve ever put on a face mask and thought, ‘Cor, that stinks‘, then the sad truth of it, according to dental expert Dr José Navarro, is that your own breath is the likely culprit – not the face mask itself.

“Face masks themselves don’t make your breath smell, they just make us more aware of our bad breath,” explains Dr Navarro, Dental Director at Floe. “Unfortunately, if you’re experiencing bad breath now, it probably means you had bad breath before the pandemic – you just didn’t know it.” Ah, great.

But the good news is, if this is a discovery you’ve made thanks to the mandatory introduction of face masks in shops and on public transport, you are certainly not the only one. “The only bad thing about wearing a face mask when in public is that I get to taste, and sometimes literally chew, my own bad breath,” one honest person wrote humorously on Twitter.

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bad breath, face mask, halitosis

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The reason you’re only noticing a bit of a pong – also known as halitosis – now, says the dental expert, is because of the new found proximity to your own outward breath. “The mask acts in the same way as when we cup our hand over our mouths to check our breath, but it’s constantly there. If the mask covers your mouth and nose, it means the breath stays put allowing you to smell it,” explains Dr Navarro.

Let’s not be completely negative about all this, though. Optimistic point 1 of the day is as follows: How many people are ever quite as close to your mouth for an extended period of time as your face mask is? Very few, is the answer, so the chances are you probably don’t have a secret reputation as being the bad-breathed one in the friendship group. Optimistic point of the day 2 is this: There’s very much something you can do about any halitosis you may have.

“The main reason for bad breath is poor dental hygiene,” says the dentist, adding that other potential causes for bad breath can include smoking, eating specific foods, or having an infection in your teeth or gums. “Low saliva production can also be a cause,” he notes, which is something a dentist would be able to

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Lebanon patients ‘pay price of bad governance’ in medicine shortages

Mohamad Zarif scoured about 20 Beirut pharmacies looking for prescription medicine for his mother’s arthritis, so painful that it left her “screaming and crying”. Yet every pharmacy was out of stock. His frantic search finally reached war-torn Syria, where a contact bought Iranian-produced versions of the drugs and sent them to him.

The 29-year-old is not alone: the struggle faced by Lebanese patients in acquiring vital medicines starkly illustrates the severity of the economic crisis. Cancer patients battle to find medication, patients’ friends and family import drugs in suitcases and some pharmacists bemoan a lack of basic supplies such as Panadol.

In recent weeks, the health ministry has asked pharmacists to limit the quantity of drugs they sell to customers in an effort to stem panic buying, triggered by a central bank warning on an expected shortage of hard currency for vital imports, including medicine, by year’s end. Patients and wholesalers subsequently stockpiled medicines, contributing to widespread shortages.

“We asked [pharmacists] to sell only one box per person,” the health ministry said. It added that the authorities were forcing some importers that had stockpiled medicines to send the goods to pharmacists.

The shortages come as Lebanon endures its worst economic crisis in 30 years, grappling with a plunging currency, hyperinflation and soaring unemployment and poverty. It is also blighted by political paralysis as rival parties fail to agree on forming a new government, more than two months after the prime minister resigned after an explosion at Beirut’s port killed at least 190 people.

Goldman Sachs estimated in September that gross hard currency reserves were down to $20bn by August, and falling by $2bn a month. The investment bank said the reserves could be exhausted within 12 months without remedial action.

As the central bank struggles to protect its diminishing reserves, it has prioritised allocating dollars at an official exchange rate to importers in sectors such as medicine, fuel and food. The measure is supposed to protect essential goods from soaring inflation.

After the warning by central bank governor Riad Salame that triggered the panic buying, Naaman Naddour, the director responsible for subsidies at the bank, told the Financial Times he could not predict how long it could keep up its support for imports.

He said the institution had already allocated $1bn for medicine imports so far in 2020, rejecting complaints from importers that obtaining dollars was slow and impeding their ability to bring in the medicines.

“The stock levels we have are limited and not made to cover this kind of high demand,” said Karim Gebara, head of the pharmaceutical importers syndicate, explaining why the panic buying stripped shelves. “Demand was three times higher than normal.”

Lebanon imports most of its medicine from countries such as Germany. But now Lebanese flying into Beirut bring suitcases crammed with treatments for friends and family, say patients and their informal medicine mules, as doctors advise patients to look for alternatives to their

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More Bad News for Valproate in Pregnancy

Use of valproic acid during pregnancy is associated with twice the risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) as well as a twofold increased risk for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in offspring, the largest study of its kind to date has found.

Compared to previous research, this new study included a larger sample and longer follow-up and adjusted for important confounders other studies didn’t consider, including parental diagnosis, especially in fathers, and severity of maternal epilepsy.

After adjusting for these factors, the investigators found that among children of mothers who took lamotrigine, another antiseizure medication (ASM), during pregnancy, there was no significant increased risk of developing either autism or ADHD.

Kelsey Wiggs

Although the findings regarding valproate, a first-line treatment for generalized epilepsy, “may be disheartening,” it’s important to remember that lamotrigine “is considered to be almost as effective,” lead author Kelsey K. Wiggs, BS, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, told Medscape Medical News.

“If women are planning to become pregnant, it may be useful to consider lamotrigine as an alternative,” she said.

The study was published online October 28 in Neurology.

Registry Study

The study included 14,614 children born to women with epilepsy between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2011, and who were followed to December 31, 2013.

About 23% of the women in the study used an ASM during the first trimester. Although use of such medications was determined on the basis of maternal reports, researchers cross-referenced this against filled prescriptions.

The most commonly used ASMs were carbamazepine (10%), lamotrigine (7%), and valproic acid (5%).

The researchers used linked Swedish national registries to investigate the association between use of ASM during early pregnancy and autism, diagnosed by a specialist, or ADHD, diagnosed by a specialist or through filled prescriptions for stimulant medication.

For both outcomes, the researchers only considered diagnoses made after 2 years of age.

Among other things, the researchers adjusted for maternal and paternal factors, such as psychiatric diagnoses, and maternal use of other medications during pregnancy, including antidepressants, anxiolytics, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, and pain medication.

“I think this was an important part of our study,” said Wiggs. “We wanted to be sure to isolate the association with each specific antiseizure medication, independent of potential confounding or interactions with other medications.”

After adjustments, results showed that children whose mothers reported taking any ASM were at elevated risk for ASD and, to a lesser extent, ADHD, compared to those whose mothers did not take any antiseizure medications during pregnancy.

Restricting the analysis to children born to women who reported monotherapy, the hazard ratio (HR) for ASD was 1.52 (95% CI, 1.12 – 2.07); for ADHD, the HR was 1.27 (95% CI, 1.02 – 1.58).

Birth Defects, Complications

In the fully adjusted comparison that was restricted to monotherapy, children whose mothers reported use of valproic acid had a 2.3-fold elevated risk for ASD (HR, 2.30; 95% CI, 1.53 – 3.47) and a 1.7-fold elevated risk for ADHD (HR,

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Iguanas may be growing more tolerant to the cold, and that’s bad news for Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — When temperatures drop, so do green iguanas — from the trees. But evolution, it seems, could be robbing South Floridians of a tradition as common as checking the heat index on New Year’s Day.

Research shows that in recent years, several species of lizards have grown more tolerant of cold temperatures. It’s a discovery with big implications for Florida, where bouts of cool weather keep invasive iguanas contained to the southern regions of the state and helps keep populations under control.

It also could mean fewer images on social media and TV news of iguanas lying on their backs under trees, legs in the air, stunned until the warm sunshine gets their bodies moving again.

As recently as four years ago, most of South Florida’s most common species of lizards could tolerate temperatures between 46 and 52 degrees. Now, they hold up in temperatures as low as 44 degrees, according to a study done by a researcher at Washington University in St. Louis.

That means it’s possible that iguanas could expand their territory beyond their normal stomping grounds of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.

“The potential is they could spread farther and disperse farther, so that’s why it’s interesting to Florida, specifically” said James Stroud, the research associate who conducted the study and did his doctoral work at Florida International University.

That’s bad news considering iguanas are invasive, propagate profusely and wreak havoc on homes, gardens, sidewalks, pool decks, seawalls, boats and anywhere else they eat and, well, poop. They’re so destructive, the state of Florida issued a call for homeowners to kill them. (It later clarified the statement, saying it’s best to call a professional to do the deed.)

Iguanas fall out of trees during cool weather because they’re cold-blooded and tropical. Low temperatures cause them to become sluggish and, in some cases, immobile. If it happens while they’re sleeping in trees, they often fall to the ground. They’re cold-stunned, not usually dead — they spring back into action once temperatures warm again if the fall from the tree doesn’t kill them.

It happened this past January, raining iguanas when temperatures in parts of South Florida fell to 39 degrees, the coldest air in about a decade. It also happened in January of 2018.

Stroud and his colleagues studied six lizard species common in South Florida — one that’s native (the American green anole), three Caribbean lizards that are not native (one each from Puerto Rico, Cuba and Hispaniola), the northeast tropical gecko, and the brown basilisk lizard.

Iguanas weren’t included because they were too big to fit into the refrigerator-like device used to study the chilled lizards. But Stroud said he believes the results apply to iguanas, too.

Blake Wilkins, co-owner of Hollywood-based Redline Iguana Removal, said the discovery doesn’t surprise him. While collecting iguanas during last January’s cold spell, he saw signs that iguanas might be warming up to the cold.

“I noticed a lot of them were actually in

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‘A tough winter:’ Connecticut’s second COVID-19 surge be nearly as nearly bad as its first, experts warn; thousands more deaths possible

Connecticut’s growing surge of COVID-19 could be nearly as devastating as its initial wave last spring, experts warn, citing statistical models that forecast the likely spread of the disease.

These projections, along with Connecticut’s rapidly rising metrics, could soon force the state to restore restrictions to schools, restaurants, and other businesses as the state approaches winter and a predicted coronavirus peak.

A model from UConn Health, for instance, predicts the hospital will see a continued increase and could reach its April numbers within the next month.

“As we move forward the uncertainty is larger, but it could be as high as the peak was in April toward the end of November or maybe into December,” said Pedro Mendes, a computational biologist who created the UConn Health model. “It could also not be as high.”

Though models vary widely and carry little certainty, most bring bad news about what Connecticut will experience next. An aggregation of COVID-19 forecasts developed at UMass-Amherst projects Connecticut for 3,700 recorded cases a week by Dec. 1, as many as in mid-May, while an oft-cited forecast from the University of Washington predicts the state will need even more hospital beds in January than it did last April.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week projected Connecticut will see about 40 COVID-19 deaths a week over the next month, far fewer than last spring but a devastating number nonetheless. The University of Washington model is more dire, forecasting about 400 deaths over the next month and more than 3,000 by Feb. 1.

While Gov. Ned Lamont has so far resisted the idea of rolling back Connecticut’s reopening — instead urging towns with high levels of infection to act on their own — these models suggest increased restrictions could soon become necessary. The governor said Friday that he is currently evaluating whether to order new statewide mandates to reduce the spread of the virus.

“I’m not a public health [expert], but where I’m sitting looking at [numbers] I think we should be prudent and we should take measures more seriously,” Mendes said. “It’s almost like you don’t see the exponential growth until you actually are on it.”

Lamont said Connecticut is “10 times more prepared” for this wave of COVID-19 than for the first and therefore better positioned to contain the outbreak. Still, he acknowledged Thursday that “if this infection rate continues on an upward trend, we’re going to have to make some changes to make sure you’re safe.”

Dr. Ajay Kumar, chief clinical officer at Hartford HealthCare, said last week he expected Connecticut’s numbers to rise for at least the next two-to-four weeks. He said he doesn’t anticipate a surge comparable to the one from last spring but acknowledged some models see that as possible.

“I would say we are on the pathway to being bad at the moment,” Kumar said. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’re on the pathway to being bad.”

Connecticut was hit harder last spring than nearly

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Diets high in sugar bad for gut health, study suggests

A high-sugar diet is bad for gut health and possibly increases the risk of colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), concluded the authors of a new study published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday. 

Researchers with UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, studied the effects of dietary sugars, namely glucose, fructose and sucrose, in mice for seven days. 

As of 2015, an estimated 1.3% of US adults — about 3 million people — were diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, an increase from 0.9% or 2 million adults in 1999, per federal health data.

As of 2015, an estimated 1.3% of US adults — about 3 million people — were diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, an increase from 0.9% or 2 million adults in 1999, per federal health data.

Prior to feeding the animals a solution of water with a 10% concentration of dietary sugars, the researchers used “gene-sequencing techniques to identify the types and prevalence of bacteria found in the large intestines.” They repeated this step seven days later after feeding the mice the sugary solution. 

By the end, the researchers found that mice that were either genetically predisposed to develop the colitis, or those that were given a chemical to induce the condition, “developed more severe symptoms if they were first given sugar,” per a news release regarding the findings. 


More specifically, after seven days, the mice fed sucrose, fructose and “especially glucose,” the researchers said, “showed significant changes in the microbial population inside the gut.” The researchers also noted that the mucus layer that protects the lining of the large intestine was thinning after the mice were fed a high-sugar diet. 

“Bacteria known to produce mucus-degrading enzymes, such as Akkermansia, were found in greater numbers, while some other types of bugs considered good bacteria and commonly found in the gut, such as Lactobacillus, became less abundant,” per the news release. 


Though the research only looked at the effects of sugar on gut health in mice, the study “clearly shows that you really have to mind your food,” Dr. Hasan Zaki, who led the effort, said in a statement, noting that this is especially true in Western countries, where diets are often higher in fat, sugar and animal protein. There is also a greater prevalence of colitis – which can cause “persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain and rectal bleeding” –  in Western countries, the researchers noted. 

Indeed: As of 2015, an estimated 1.3% of U.S. adults – about 3 million people – were diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, an increase from 0.9% or 2 million adults in 1999, per federal health data. 


“Colitis is a major public health problem in the U.S. and in other Western countries,”  added Zaki. “This is very important from a public health point of view.”

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Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee top Billboard Latin Music Awards with 7 wins each: ‘Music remains medicine’

Bad Bunny energizes New York with surprise mobile concert



Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee each claimed seven wins Wednesday night at the pandemic-delayed Billboard Latin Music Awards. 

Bad Bunny won artist of the year, the night’s top honor, as well as top Latin album for “X 100PRE” and songwriter of the year. He did not attend the ceremony.

Daddy Yankee won six of his awards for his hit “Con Calma,” which featured the 1990s artist Snow. His honors included the hot Latin song aware, and song of the year honors for streaming and airplay and digital platforms.

Daddy Yankee wearing sunglasses posing for a photo: Bad Bunny, left, accepts the award for social artist of the year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards on April 25, 2019, in Las Vegas and Daddy Yankee accepts the award for favorite male artist at the Latin American Music Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Oct. 25, 2018, in Los Angeles. Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee triumphed at the Billboard Latin Music Awards Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, claiming seven trophies apiece at the pandemic-delayed show.

© AP
Bad Bunny, left, accepts the award for social artist of the year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards on April 25, 2019, in Las Vegas and Daddy Yankee accepts the award for favorite male artist at the Latin American Music Awards at the Dolby Theatre on Oct. 25, 2018, in Los Angeles. Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee triumphed at the Billboard Latin Music Awards Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, claiming seven trophies apiece at the pandemic-delayed show.

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The reggaeton star dedicated the first of his awards to those who had lost loved ones due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. “Music remains medicine,” he said.

Actress Gaby Espino hosted the ceremony, which aired live on Telemundo from the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. The event had a red carpet, but no audience.

Mexican romance singer-songwriter Armando Manzanero received a Lifetime Achievement Award during the ceremony. Enrique Iglesias was honored as Billboard’s Top Latin Artist of All Time. 

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee were also recognized for “Despacito,” which was named song of the decade.

The ceremony, rescheduled from April to October, took place in-person at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. It featured a limited audience, but had most of the trappings of a pre-pandemic awards show including a red carpet and live performances. 

Billboard and NBCUniversal, Telemundo’s parent company, said they put a number of safety measures in place to mitigate risk of performers and crew members contracting COVID-19.

Five stages were constructed: a central stage for Espino and four outlying stages for performers, which allowed sets to be sanitized between acts and helped facilitate social distancing. 

“It’s certainly unprecedented for us,” Jeff Mayzurk, Telemundo’s executive vice president of operations and technology, told USA TODAY. “It’s almost like producing four separate shows.”

Contributing: Gary Dinges and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY; the Associated Press

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Presidential Elections May Be Bad for Your Health

The stress of presidential elections may increase the incidence of heart attacks and strokes, researchers report.

Scientists tracked hospitalizations for acute cardiovascular disease in the weeks before and after the 2016 presidential election among about three million adults who were enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California health care system.

The study, in PNAS, found that hospitalizations for cardiovascular disease in the two days following the election were 61 percent higher than in the same two days of the preceding week. The rate of heart attack increased by 67 percent and of stroke by 59 percent in the two days following the election. The results were similar regardless of the age, race or sex of the patients.

The exact physiological mechanism is unknown, but previous studies have found similar increases in cardiovascular disease risk after traumatic public events, including earthquakes, industrial accidents and terrorist incidents like the World Trade Center attack of 2001 and the Charlie Hebdo shootings in 2015.

Psychological stressors such as anger, anxiety and depression have also been associated with sudden increases in the risk for cardiovascular events in the days, or even hours, following such events. The authors suggest that the stress of elections may provoke similar emotions.

“These are important findings,” said the lead author, Matthew T. Mefford, a postdoctoral research fellow at Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “This should really encourage health care providers to pay more attention to the ways that stress is linked to political campaigns and how election outcomes may directly impact health.”

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Fauci: COVID-19 outbreaks would have to ‘get really, really bad’ before advocating for national lockdown

New COVID-19 cases are accelerating across the U.S., rising swiftly above previous record case counts set during the tumultuous spring and summer months. 

There has been a documented 30 percent increase in testing positivity rates over the past two weeks and more than 8 million COVID-19 cases reported in the country. But, even as the U.S. enters a potentially troubling winter season, Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious diseases expert, says that a nationwide lockdown may not be the best solution at this time. 

Speaking to “60 Minutes,” Fauci says outbreaks would have to “get really, really bad” before he would advocate for a national lockdown. 





First of all, the country is fatigued with restrictions. So we wanna use public health measures not to get in the way of opening the economy, but to being a safe gateway to opening the economy,” Fauci said. “So instead of having an opposition, open up the economy, get jobs back, or shut down. No. Put ‘shut down’ away and say, ‘We’re gonna use public health measures to help us safely get to where we want to go.’” 

Instead, Fauci says, the emphasis remains on practicing now-familiar public health measures like wearing masks, physically distancing and washing hands frequently — key steps in controlling virus transmission. 

He elaborated that these practices are not intended to halt the reopening of public spaces, but to facilitate a gradual reopening while still mitigating transmission levels or how quickly the virus spreads.

Responding to President Trump’s criticism that he suddenly reversed course on his stance regarding the public wearing facial coverings, Fauci explained that his initial decision to discourage public mask-wearing came during the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

When masks, especially homemade ones, became widely available and were shown to prevent virus transmission, Fauci advocated for their universal use.

“It became clear that cloth coverings…not necessarily a surgical mask or an N95, cloth coverings, work,” Fauci said. “Now there’s no longer a shortage of masks. Number two, meta-analysis studies show that, contrary to what we thought, masks really do work in preventing infection.”

Still, he admits he was wrong in his initial decision to discourage widespread mask-wearing.

“When you find out you’re wrong, it’s a manifestation of your honesty to say, ‘Hey, I was wrong. I did subsequent experiments and now it’s this way,’” he said. 

Many are looking toward an upcoming COVID-19 vaccine as a final piece to the puzzle of ending the COVID-19 pandemic. A treatment approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is on the distant horizon, with multiple pharmaceutical companies in late stage clinical trials with their vaccine candidates.

Public confidence in a forthcoming vaccine, however, is relatively low, with only just more than half of the population

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