The Lookout
  • Report: Mental health of U.S. soldiers in a freefall

    New York Magazine reporter Jennifer Senior has a wrenching report on the growing mental-health crisis among American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    With military suicide rates rising to unprecedented heights—to the point where more soldiers are now dying by their own hand than in combat—Senior finds that many soldiers end up combating their own mental afflictions in isolation. Often, she notes, they end up falling out of social networks of support, dependent on a bevy of prescription anti-depressants and sleep aides to make it through each day.

    A spokesman at Fort Drum, home to the 10th Mountain Division here in New York State, tells me by e-mail that one-quarter of its 20,000 soldiers have "received some type of behavioral health evaluation and/or treatment during the past year." Defense Department spending on Ambien, a popular sleep aid, and Seroquel, an antipsychotic, has doubled since 2007, according to the Army Times, while spending on Topamax, an anti-convulsant medication often used for migraines, quadrupled; amphetamine prescriptions have doubled, too, according to the Army's own data. Meanwhile, a study by the Rand Corporation has found that 20 percent of the soldiers who've deployed in this war report symptoms of post-traumatic stress and major depression. The number climbs to almost 30 percent if the soldiers have deployed more than twice.

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  • AP04060406750A comprehensive analysis of 33 studies finds that teaching kids social and emotional skills leads to an average 11 percentile-point gain in their academic performance over six months compared to students who didn't receive the same instruction.

    That's a big jump, equivalent to a student at the middle of a class's performance curve moving into the top 40 percent of his or her peers, Sarah Sparks at EdWeek notes. The study's authors, led by Joseph Durlak, suggest the dramatic gain could be rooted in the physiology of the brain; social-skill instruction "may affect central executive cognitive functions," he notes—and improvement there helps kids to gain greater control over their impulses and actions.

    The classes emphasize self control, responsible decision-making, and how to form and keep positive relationships with friends and authority figures. One lesson plan from the "Caring School Community" program asks kids to think about "some things you can do if you're not included in a game"—or if you see someone else on the playground who is left out. Many of the programs have an anti-bullying focus.

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  • A natural gas well grows in a national forest

    gas drilling in forestWhat happens when an industry increasingly prone to safety mishaps and public controversy gets drilling rights in a national forest?

    The nonprofit investigative group Pro Publica gives a bracing answer, by digging into a U.S. Forest Service report on a natural gas drilling project in West Virginia's 4,700-acre Fernow Experimental Forest. In summarizing the Forest Service's findings, Pro Publica points up an impressive litany of environmental damage: The drilling killed off roughly 1,000 trees, while the natural-gas industry's controversial slate-fracturing gas-discovery process known as "fracking" released toxic chemicals into the ground and onto the surrounding land that could well render the immediate area virtually uninhabitable for native wildlife.

    Reports Pro Publica:

    According to the report, a well blowout . . . accidentally sprayed that fracking fluid onto surrounding land and trees, browning leaves and killing ground cover. After drilling was complete, Berry Energy, which owns the well, also sprayed some 80,000 gallons of wastewater into the forest. The briney liquid shocked about 150 trees into shedding their leaves. A year later, half of those trees still had no foliage. This disposal method, called land application, is legal in West Virginia with conventional wells, Schuler said, but is not allowed for wells drilled in the Marcellus Shale.

    Schuler said the scientists were surprised that the trees lost their leaves. Drillers normally spray the waste over a larger area but the scientists asked Berry to contain the application, which meant spreading the salts and chemicals on a smaller piece of land. The soil in that area was left with high levels of chloride, calcium and sodium. Animals were attracted to the area, likely because of the high salt content of the soil.

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Pagination

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  • Rodgers calls on Reds to rise to Champions League Real challenge
    Rodgers calls on Reds to rise to Champions League Real challenge

    Liverpool (AFP) - Brendan Rodgers has challenged his Liverpool players to rise to the occasion when they face holders Real Madrid in a crucial Champions League showdown at Anfield on Wednesday.

  • Oil CEO in sad toll of famed plane crash victims
    Oil CEO in sad toll of famed plane crash victims

    PARIS (AP) — Christophe de Margerie, the charismatic CEO of Total SA whose silver handlebar earned him the nickname "Big Mustache," died late Monday at a Moscow airport when his private jet collided with a snowplow whose driver was drunk, according to Russian investigators.

  • Federer flirts with perfection in late-season surge
    Federer flirts with perfection in late-season surge

    Basel (Switzerland) (AFP) - Life couldn't be better - or more surprising - for Roger Federer as the 33-year-old takes aim at multiple major goals starting with a sixth title at his home Swiss Indoors.

  • 5 real estate mistakes retirees make
    5 real estate mistakes retirees make

    Whether they’re downsizing, relocating to a different community or making renovations to an existing home, it’s easy for retirees to make a wrong move.

  • Rodgers ready to spring Real surprise

    Liverpool (AFP) - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has urged his "world-class" players to defy the odds when they face Real Madrid in the Champions League at Anfield on Wednesday.

  • Ebola victim's sister says hospital denied request
    Ebola victim's sister says hospital denied request

    FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The family of the first Ebola victim to die in the United States says the hospital that cared for him has refused for weeks to release lab results showing the effects of an experimental drug treatment, fanning their suspicions that the facility mishandled the case.

  • One American released from North Korea, two remain
    One American released from North Korea, two remain

    WASHINGTON (AP) — American detainee Jeffrey Fowle has been released from North Korea, nearly six months after he was taken into custody on charges of leaving a Bible in a nightclub, the State Department said Tuesday. Two other Americans who have been tried and convicted of crimes in North Korea are still being held.

  • AP-GfK Poll: Most expect GOP victory in November
    AP-GfK Poll: Most expect GOP victory in November

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Two weeks before Election Day, most of the nation's likely voters now expect the Republican Party to take control of the U.S. Senate, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll. And by a growing margin, they say that's the outcome they'd like to see.

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