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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  • Today in History

    Today is Thursday, Oct. 23, the 296th day of 2014. There are 69 days left in the year.

  • Takata shares drop on report of US air bag probe
    Takata shares drop on report of US air bag probe

    Shares in Japanese auto parts maker Takata sank in Tokyo on Thursday as nervous investors reacted to a report that US justice officials are investigating the firm over an air bag defect that may have killed several drivers. The embattled firm's shares fell 6.16 percent to 1,582 yen ($15) in Tokyo, after plunging 22 percent on Tuesday following an earlier air bag safety warning. The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that federal prosecutors in New York are probing whether Takata made misleading statements about the safety of its bags to US regulators. According to the New York Times, at least 139 injuries have been linked to Takata air bags, including 37 reported as exploding.

  • Judge nixes Teresa Giudice's halfway house bid
    Judge nixes Teresa Giudice's halfway house bid

    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — A federal judge won't recommend that prison officials allow "Real Housewives of New Jersey" star Teresa Giudice to serve most of her prison sentence in a halfway house.

  • Tesco chairman resigns as profits error deepens
    Tesco chairman resigns as profits error deepens

    The chairman of Britain's biggest retailer Tesco resigned on Thursday as the troubled supermarket group said a huge accounting error began earlier than thought and contributed to plunging profits. Chairman Richard Broadbent said he would be stepping down after an independent investigation found that Tesco had overstated profits by £263 million ($422 million, 334 million euros) as a result of accounting errors stretching back to before 2013. "The board's immediate focus must be on ensuring that we complete the transition to a new management team and that new and far-reaching business plans are put in place quickly," Broadbent said in a statement that revealed Tesco's net profit had crashed to £6.0 million in its first half from £820 million one year earlier. Tesco, the world's third biggest supermarket group, stunned investors one month ago when it revealed that its profit for the six months to August 23 was overstated by an estimated £250 million.

  • Snowplow driver says he didn't see Total CEO's jet
    Snowplow driver says he didn't see Total CEO's jet

    MOSCOW (AP) — The driver of the snowplow that apparently caused the plane carrying the Total CEO to crash at a Moscow airport says he neither saw nor heard the private jet as it sped toward him down the runway in the dark.

  • WWII ships found deep in 'Graveyard of the Atlantic'
    WWII ships found deep in 'Graveyard of the Atlantic'

    Washington (AFP) - Two sunken ships from World War II -- a German U-boat and an American merchant vessel -- have been found deep in the ocean off the coast of North Carolina, officials said Tuesday.

  • Canada PM vows crackdown after capital shocked by fatal attacks
    Canada PM vows crackdown after capital shocked by fatal attacks

    By David Ljunggren and Leah Schnurr OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed to redouble the country's fight against "terrorist organizations" abroad after a reported convert to Islam rampaged through parliament, shocking the usually tranquil capital city. Shortly after a gunman shot dead a soldier at the National War Memorial in central Ottawa on Wednesday morning, a man armed with a shotgun burst into the Center Block of Parliament, pursued by police. He died after dozens of shots rang out a few yards away from where Harper was talking to his legislators. ...

  • Ottawa shootings: Videos, photos capture chaotic scene, aftermath
    Ottawa shootings: Videos, photos capture chaotic scene, aftermath

    A chaotic scene unfolded Wednesday in downtown Ottawa, where a series of shootings left at least two people dead, including a soldier and suspected gunman.

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