The Speculum Finally Gets a Modern Redesign

It was afternoon in the San Francisco headquarters of Frog, the design firm best known for its hand in creating the iconic look of products like Apple's original Macintosh computers. Hailey Stewart, one of Frog's industrial designers, had scattered an array of prototypes on a table. On one end, you could see cylinders of foam that looked almost like skinny vibrators, with handles that stuck out at different angles and sketches of levers and screw mechanisms. And on the other, the common speculum—the device used in routine gynecological exams to inspect the cervix. Stewart picked one up and cranked it open. "You're literally in the stirrups with that sound"—the device made a loud, painful sounding click—"and it's like, excuse my language, but what the fuck?"

Most of the designers in the room had never seen a speculum before. Some (the men) had never considered the contents of a pelvic examination—stripping off your clothes, laying on an examination table, and strapping your feet into stirrups, while a doctor pries you open with a cold, metal gadget. But Stewart hadn't gathered her colleagues just to explain what happens to women at their annual exams. She had a greater goal in mind.

For the past several months, mostly during down time and on weekends, Stewart and interaction designer Sahana Kumar had been studying this device. They'd wrenched it open and closed, studied the curve of the bills, read endlessly about its history. And now, she told the rest of the designers at Frog, they had taken on what was turning into a particularly ambitious project: redesigning the speculum for the 21st century.

The current design of the speculum, fashioned by American physician James Marion Sims, dates back to the 1840s. The device had two pewter blades to separate the vaginal walls, and hinged open and closed with a screw mechanism. Sims, sometimes called the "father of modern gynecology," used the speculum to pioneer treatments for fistula and other complications from childbirth. But his experiments were often conducted on slave women, without the use of anesthesia. So to say that the speculum was not designed with patient comfort in mind would be an egregious understatement.

And yet, the speculum today looks almost identical to the one Sims used more than 150 years ago. The most noticeable difference between the original Sims device and the one you can find in gynecological offices today is that instead of pewter, modern specula are made of stainless steel or plastic.

That the speculum is old is not, on its face, a problem. It's that the design is neither optimal for patients nor physicians. Doctors have to stretch the speculum's bills wide in order to see as far back as the cervix, and even then, it's not always possible to get a good look inside. (Some specula come with built-in lights, but the problem has more to do with tissue falling in than the darkness of the vaginal canal.) All of that pressure causes discomfort; one review of the medical literature found that some women even avoid the gynecologist because of the dreaded device.

Mercy Asiedu

In 2014, the American College of Physicians went so far as to recommend against pelvic exams, citing the "harms, fear, anxiety, embarrassment, pain, and discomfort" associated with speculum examinations. Those side effects impact gynecologists, too. "The more comfortable a patient is, the faster they can do their job, the more patients they can see," says Stewart. "There's actual monetary value to [patient] comfort."

It’s not that nobody’s tried to change things. In 2005, a San Francisco-based company patented the design for an inflatable speculum called FemSpec. The device was made out of polyurethane, the same material used to make condoms; a physician could insert it like a tampon and inflate it like a tiny balloon. It debuted to some fanfare, but ultimately flopped. As an article in The Chicago Times pointed out, most women never even got to experience the new speculum "because it is so new on the market that most doctors aren't using it."

"With a speculum, you just shove it in and expand it as wide as you want to get the visualization you want. With this, you have to put it in and gently move it around, kind of like a joystick." — Biomedical engineer Mercy Asiedu

Other do-overs have focused on more modest improvements. A prototype called the Lotus, created by a student at the Pratt Institute, kept the bill shape but curved it slightly for a more ergonomic insertion. The design also included a rotating handle to open the speculum bills vertically, and a hidden lever mechanism to prevent pinching. It seemed promising, but after appearing in a student showcase last year, it never turned into anything real.

In Oregon, a group called Ceek Women's Health has begun clinical trials for a series of new devices—including a sleeve, a speculum with narrower bills, and a speculum that patients can self-insert. Their goal is to create a variety of specula to serve a variety of patients, rather than recreating another one-size-fits-all tool. "For women who have a lot of tissue, women who have had more than two vaginal births or a high BMI, for women with a history of trauma or rape, for post-menopausal women who have vaginal atrophy—there isn't any product to address their needs," says Fahti Khosrow, Ceek's co-founder and CEO. Give physicians a whole new toolkit, she says, and they can better serve their patients.

Perhaps the most promising new design comes from Duke University, where researchers are testing a device that could circumvent the speculum altogether. Mercy Asiedu, a doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering at Duke, designed a tampon-sized device with a 2 megapixel camera attached to the end. "The speculum was originally designed for a physician to view the cervix from outside the body," Asiedu says, "but with current technology, you can easily view the cervix from inside the body."

Asiedu tested her prototype in a pilot study with 15 volunteers this year, the results of which were published in the journal PLOS One in May. Every single patient said the smaller device provided a better experience than the speculum.

The Duke study looked at patient satisfaction, and Asiedu acknowledges that physicians may offer more criticism of the device. The design emphasized comfort, modesty, and patient empowerment, not necessarily ease of use for physicians. "With a speculum, you just shove it in and expand it as wide as you want to get the visualization you want," Asiedu says. "With this, you have to put it in and gently move it around, kind of like a joystick."

When Stewart and her team set off to redesign the speculum, they knew what they were up against. Plus, Stewart says, "I hadn't even seen a speculum."

So before they started researching or sketching ideas out, Stewart and Kumar listed the things that had bothered them in gynecological exams. There was the noise (like a can opener), the temperature (freezing cold), the feeling inside (as if someone was stretching your insides like a rubber band). When they acquired a set of specula, one plastic and one metal, they realized they needed to change the aesthetics too. These things looked like medieval torture devices.

First, Stewart explored how to silence that ratcheting sound. She and Fran Wang, a mechanical engineer at Frog, investigated new types of opening mechanisms. No concept was too bizarre. What if, like a pufferfish, they used saline to inflate the device from the inside? Or what if they used air, blowing it up like an air mattress? They looked for inspiration in nature (cobra hoods), in machining (milling chucks), and in everyday objects (bicycle pumps); they studied how a tripod clamps open and shut, how ski bindings clip in and out, searching for ideas that might replace the old-fashioned screw mechanism.

Frog

Next, they considered new materials. Instead of constructing the device out of plastic or metal, they decided to cover the whole thing in autoclavable silicone—a material that wouldn't feel cold, could be easily sterilized, and would make insertion more comfortable. "On the metal speculum, there are pokey bits," says Wang. "Those shouldn't go near your delicate body parts! Having all of that covered in silicon, it prevents tissue from getting damaged. And also when you look at it, it's nicer."

They experimented with using three prongs instead of two, opening the device into a triangle shape. They tried shrinking the device to the size of a tampon, or borrowing design language from the vibrator industry. They put the device's handle at different angles, ranging from 90 degrees to 120 degrees, to find most ergonomic position for physicians. And then they 3-D printed a few different prototypes and put them in the hands of OB/GYNs and medical providers.

"The one they were really excited about was the one that opened up using three bills, rather than just two," says Stewart. The triangle-shaped opening gave physicians the same field of view without having to open the bills as wide, making the process less "stretchy" for patients. OB/GYNs also liked the device's handle at 110 degrees, which enough extra space between the physician's hand and the patient's body to eliminate the "last scooch" down the examination table. The silicon covering was a big hit, too. A button unlocks or locks the speculum with one hand, freeing up the other hand; a push handle eliminates the need for screws. Even more comforting, the speculum was totally silent.

Conferring with OB/GYNs made one thing very clear, though: The project wouldn't succeed with redesigned hardware alone. Stewart wondered why she felt more comfortable getting a bikini wax than she did seeing the gynecologist once a year, and the answer boiled down to the environment. One felt cold, clinical, and scary; the other, relaxing and personal, even if it was more physically painful. If they wanted to redesign the speculum, they had to redesign the entire experience.

Half a year later, the project has turned into something of a coup d'état on the modern pelvic exam. There's the speculum itself, still in development with the insight from several OB/GYNs who have signed on to help. There's a list of guidelines for physicians, which include simple but meaningful tips like giving patients somewhere to hang their clothes and explaining the components of the exam. "It's never going to be perfect," says Kumar. "So how do we at least prepare people emotionally for how it's going to be, and make them feel like they got some value out of it at the end?"

There's also a mock-up of an app, which would let patients fill out forms, ask questions, or follow a guided meditation before the exam. Kumar invented a gear kit—a stress ball, socks to cover your feet in the stirrups—to improve patient comfort, alongside the new speculum. The team also added Rachel Hobart, a visual designer at Frog, to help brand the experience. The result is called Yona.

For now, the Yona project is still an early-stage design concept. Stewart and Wang are still hashing out new speculum prototypes, while Kumar and Hobart refine the app and experience. They're working with their board of physicians to fine-tune the idea, to negotiate what's feasible and what isn't. And collectively, they're searching for partners who may have similar goals, like the tech-savvy healthcare service One Medical, who can bring Yona from concept into reality.

The trickiest part, it seems, is developing something that physicians will actually adopt. It's not lost on the Frog designers that other prototypes have failed after physicians bristled at the idea of investing in something new, either financially (the cost of purchasing a new device) or mentally (the time it takes to learn how to use a new device). Gynecologists have been using the speculum for over a century, and so far, it's worked. Why change now? "You could create the most beautiful, most unique, most user-friendly device, but if a doctor doesn't want to learn how to use it, your patient's never going to see it," Stewart says.

But Wang says that's mostly a matter of getting the product out there, showing physicians how great it can be for them and for their patients. She knows the traditional speculum works fine for most gynecologists. "It passes, but it's not great," says Wang. "But we're working on making it better. When you give [physicians] the option to choose a better one or a worse one, then they're going to choose the better one. But they might not know that until they get that option."

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/the-speculum-finally-gets-a-modern-redesign/

Want to Learn How to Mine in Space? Theres a School for You

Hunter Williams used to be an English teacher. Then, three years into that job, he started reading the book The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. The 1966 novel by Robert Heinlein takes place in the 2070s, on the moon, which, in this future, hosts a subterranean penal colony. Like all good sci-fi, the plot hinges on a rebellion and a computer that gains self-awareness. But more important to Williams were two basic fictional facts: First, people lived on the moon. Second, they mined the moon. “I thought, ‘This is it. This is what we really could be doing,” he says.

Today, that vision is closer than ever. And Williams is taking steps to make it reality. This year, he enrolled in a class called Space Resources Fundamentals, the pilot course for the first-ever academic program specializing in space mining. It's a good time for such an education, given that companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are planning prospecting missions, NASA's OSIRIS-REx is on its way to get a sample of an asteroid and bring it back to Earth, and there's international and commercial talk of long-term living in space.

Williams had grown up with the space-farers on Star Trek, but he found Heinlein’s vision more credible: a colony that dug into and used the resources of their celestial body. That's the central tenet of the as-yet-unrealized space mining industry: You can't take everything with you, and, even if you can, it's a whole lot cheaper not to—to mine water to make fuel, for instance, rather than launching it on overburdened rockets. “I saw a future that wasn't a hundred or a thousand years away but could be happening now,” says Williams.

So in 2012, he adjusted trajectory and went to school for aerospace engineering. Then he worked at Cape Canaveral in Florida, doing ground support for Lockheed Martin. His building, on that cosmic coast, was right next to one of SpaceX's spots. “Every day when I came to work, I would see testaments to new technology,” he says. “It was inspiring.”

A few years later, he still hadn't let go of the idea that humans could work with what they found in space. Like in his book. So he started talking to Christopher Dreyer, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines’ Center for Space Resources, a research and technology development center that's existed within the school for more than a decade.

It was good timing. Because this summer, Mines announced its intention to found the world’s first graduate program in Space Resources—the science, technology, policy, and politics of prospecting, mining, and using those resources. The multidisciplinary program would offer Post-Baccalaureate certificates and Masters of Science degrees. Although it's still pending approval for a 2018 start date, the school is running its pilot course, taught by Dreyer, this semester.

Williams has committed fully: He left his Canaveral job this summer and moved to Colorado to do research for Dreyer, and hopefully start the grad program in 2018.

Williams wasn't the only one interested in the future of space mining. People from all over, non-traditional students, wanted to take Space Resources Fundamentals. And so Dreyer and Center for Space Resources director Angel Abbud-Madrid decided to run it remotely, ending up with about 15 enrollees who log in every Tuesday and Thursday night for the whole semester. Dreyer has a special setup in his office for his virtual lectures: a laptop stand, a wall of books behind him, a studio-type light that shines evenly.

In the minutes before Thanskgiving-week class started, students' heads popped up on Dreyer's screen as they logged in. Some are full-time students at Mines; some work in industry; some work for the government. There was the employee from the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, an office tasked, in part, with making sure the US is obeying international treaties as they explore beyond the planet. Then there’s Justin Cyrus, the CEO of a startup called Lunar Outpost. Cyrus isn’t mining any moons yet, but Lunar Outpost has partnered with Denver’s Department of Environmental Health to deploy real-time air-quality sensors, of the kind it hopes to develop for moony use.

Cyrus was a Mines graduate, with a master’s in electrical and electronics engineering; he sought out Dreyer and Abbud-Madrid when he needed advice for his nascent company. When the professors announced the space resources program, Cyrus decided to get in on this pilot class. He, and the other attendees, seem to see the class not just as an educational opportunity but also as a networking one: Their classmates, they say, are the future leaders of this industry.

Cyrus, the FAA employee, and Williams all smiled from their screens in front of benign backgrounds. About a dozen other students—all men—joined in by the time class started. The day's lesson, about resources on the moon, came courtesy of scientist Paul Spudis, who live-broadcasted from a few states away. Spudis, a guest lecturer, showed charts and maps and data about resources the moon might harbor, and where, and their worth. He's bullish on the prospects of prospecting. Toward the end of his talk, he said, "I think we'll have commercial landings on the moon in the next year or so." Indeed, the company Moon Express is planning to land there in 2018, in a bid to win the Google Lunar X Prize.

Back during Halloween week, the class covered the Outer Space Treaty, a creation of the United Nations that governs outer-space actions and (in some people's interpretations) makes the legality of space mining dubious. The lecture was full of policy detail, but the students drove the ensuing Q&A toward the sociological. Space mining would disproportionately help already-wealthy countries, some thought, despite talk in the broader community about how space mining lowers the barrier to space entry.

In this realism, and this thoughtfulness, Dreyer's class is refreshing. The PR talk of big would-be space mining companies like Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries can be slick, uncomplicated, and (sometimes) unrealistic. It often skips over the many steps between here and self-sustaining space societies—not to mention the companies' own long-term viability.

But in Space Resource Fundamentals, the students seem grounded. Student Nicholas Proctor, one of few with a non-engineering background, appreciates the pragmatism. Proctor studied accounting as an undergrad and enrolled at Mines in mineral economics. After he received a NASA grant to study space-based solar power and its applications to the mining industry, Abbud-Madrid sent him an email telling him about the class. The professor thought it would be a good fit—and Proctor obviously agreed.

After Thanksgiving-week class was over, students logged off, waving one-handed goodbyes. Williams had been watching from the lab downstairs, in a high-tech warehouse-garage combo. There, he and other students work among experiments about how dust moves in space, and what asteroids are actually like. Of course, they're also interested in how to get stuff—resources—out of them. An old metal chamber dominates the room, looking like an unpeopled iron lung. "The big Apollo-era chamber is currently for asteroid mining," Williams explained, "breaking apart rocks with sunlight and extracting the water and even precious metals."

While Williams closed up class shop downstairs, Dreyer and Abbud-Madrid hung out in Dreyer's office for a few minutes. Dreyer, leaning back in his well-lit chair, talked bemusedly about some of the communications they receive. “We get interest from people to find out what they can mine and bring back to Earth and become a trillionaire,” he said.

That’s not really what the Space Resources program is about, in part because it’s not clear that’s possible—it’s expensive to bring the precious (to bring anything) back to Earth. The class focus—and, not coincidentally, the near-term harvest—is the H2O, which will stay in space, for space-use. “No matter how complex our society becomes, it always comes back to water,” said Abbud-Madrid. He laughed. “We’re going to the moon,” he continued. “For water.”

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/want-to-learn-how-to-mine-in-space-theres-a-school-for-you/

5 Foods You Never Should Have Cut Out Of Your Diet

Some food myths were made up decades ago, and yet we still can’t seem to shake them. Like, sometimes we’ll take any tips we can get, but we don’t stop to realize this advice was literally created during the same time that women were advised not to exercise because it would make them less feminine. It’s 2017, and we’re *starting* to know better. I mean, if we can order bottles of tequila on an app and convince our boyfriends to go to a Rihanna-themed spin class on a Saturday, we can do anything. It’s time to stop giving up healthy foods just because someone once told us they’re unhealthy. Here are six we can start with:

1. Regular Potatoes

So many “healthy people” will devour sweet potatoes by the bowl, but would never touch a regular potato. These people are straight-up misinformed. Honestly, sweet potatoes have a little more fiber than regular potatoes and they’re a little lower in calories, but the difference isn’t that dramatic, so you can stop crying when your By Chloe waiter brings you regular fries when you ordered sweet potato. Regular potatoes have a terrible rep, and while they are a starchy carb, they’re really not that bad for you. They have more vitamin C than sweet potatoes do, and also have more protein and less sodium. Game changer.

2. Gluten

The gluten-free diet is such a lost cause, and honestly we need to backtrack a bit. Once upon a time, people had (and still have) legit Celiac disease, a medical intolerance to gluten. These people were told by their doctors to cut out gluten, and suddenly they looked and felt 10 times better. Ever since then, half of society thinks they need to follow the same advice when they don’t even have a gluten intolerance. Obviously eating enough bread and crackers everyday will make you fat, but you’re not gonna get fat just by having gluten in your diet. Let’s put it this way. If you can’t explain what gluten is, you shouldn’t be gluten-free.

3. Egg Yolks

Egg yolks are one of those things that people shunned in the 70’s and the myth never really recovered, even though our science has majorly advanced. While the egg white is the part of the egg with no fat and a few grams of protein, the yolk carries a ton of important vitamins, like vitamin B12, D, A, B-6, zinc, and iron. It has a few grams of fat, but it’s healthy fat that will just help keep you more full after your meal. Also, for anyone who told you yolks are high in cholesterol, it’s actually not the same cholesterol that’s bad for your body. Basically, we gotta let go of the yolk myth. I mean, the people who decided the yolks are bad for you are the same people who smoked cigs while pregnant. Let that sink in for a sec.

4. Feta Cheese

A lot of people think getting cheese added to your salad is unhealthy, but those are also the people who enjoy the taste of kale and think Balsamic vinegar is a suitable dressing. Feta cheese isn’t bad for you. First of all, it’s lower in calories than most other cheeses, but it’s also packed with vitamins that are so good for you, like Vitamin D, B12, calcium, and iron. Cheeses like mozzarella and cheddar don’t have half as many health benefits as feta. It’s pretty high in sodium so I wouldn’t go ham, but adding some here and there is actually fine for you.

5. Packaged Bars

Protein bars and energy bars get a bad rap for being glorified candy bars, but honestly it depends what brand you’re buying. So many of these bars are filled with shit that you wouldn’t feed to your friend’s dog, but some of them are actually pretty good when it comes to their ingredients. Products like RX Bars, Square Bars, Lara Bars, and Go Macro bars all have super clean ingredients and minimal added sugars. Any nutritionist will tell you that whole foods and fresh produce are better than processed bars, but if you’re starving at 4pm and just need a bar so you don’t keel over, they’re really not bad for you. It just depends if you’re picking up the bar with four ingredients or the one that sounds like a warning label on a pharmaceutical prescription. 

6. Frappuccinos

I’m obviously kidding. These are fucking terrible for you. Order a cold brew like everyone else. 

Read more: http://www.betches.com/5-foods-you-never-should-have-cut-out-of-your-diet

Researchers Publish Bombshell Report That Suggests Sugar Industry Conspiracy

In 1964, a group of researchers published Dietary Fats and Intestinal Thiamine Synthesis in Rats in the journal Nutrition Reviews. It tackled the classic sugar versus fat conundrum that has puzzled dieters for decades: Whats worse for health, sugar or fat?

The researchers divided rats into two groups. One group had diets that were 75 percent fat but no sugar, a sort of rodent Whole Foods regimen. It contrasted with the other group of rats, who had a lower fat countjust 15 percentbut 60 percent sucrose as well. The conclusion the team came to? Rats fed sucrose metabolized it as a carbohydrate and developed thiamine deficiency, often leading to heart failure; more complex carbohydrates helped create a gut bacteria that synthesized thiamine.

That paper got the Sugar Research Foundation interested in understanding the role of the white stuff in our microbiome. The foundationa precursor to todays Sugar Associationasked a group, referred to as Project 259 and led by Dr. W. F. R. Pover at the University of Birmingham, to study the effect of sugar in the gut between 1967 and 1971. It found that rats and guinea pigs given diets higher in sugar led to higher levels of triglycerides than those fed a standard pellet diet of cereal, soybean, and whitefish meals. That led to higher levels of beta-glucoronidase in urine, a now-proven result of bladder cancer. An internal document later described the Project 259 research as one of the first demonstrations of a biological difference between sucrose and starch fed rats. In short: A sugar-heavy diet was connected to heart disease.

But those results never saw the light of day by the now-defunct Sugar Research Foundation, according to a damning new paper published in PLOS Biology from Cristin E. Kearns, Dorie Apollonio, and Stanton A. Glantz. Its the latest in a series of papers Kearns and Glantz have teamed up on investigating the sugar industrys clamping down on research in postwar America, suggesting sugar was guilt-free and a healthier substitute to fat.

Judging by the media and public interest, it basically shows that the sugar industry pretty much behaved the same way the tobacco companies did, Glantz, a professor of medicine and tobacco control expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Daily Beast. Glantzs previous work explored the tobacco lobbying industry, with a 2013 paper in Tobacco Control tracing the rise of the Tea Party to tobaccos efforts to align themselves with libertarians through third party groups staunchly opposing taxation and regulation.

While a similar connection between sugar and the government hasnt been found yet, Glantz and Kearns have uncovered evidence over the past few years that shows the sugar industry was heavily involved in muffling research that indicated its product was dangerous to health. Scientific journals followed suit, with even the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine publishing a report that suggested that any linkage between sucrose and coronary heart disease was false, and that sucrose was in fact better than starch. (Pover died a few years ago, according to Kearns.)

Pover and Project 259s original research disappeared for decades, until Glantz and Kearns unearthed it. They suspect that the study was not quite ready for publication and that Pover asked for more funds to ensure accuracy. Theyd been funding it for two years and about $200,000 in todays money, Kearns said. He needed 18 more weeks, but they probably said no.

Even the incomplete results are interesting, Glantz pointed out. The sugar industry proved there were no differences to how sugar calories were metabolized compared to starch calories.

Which is, of course, totally untrueand the latest in a slow but steady unraveling of the industry that pushes soda, high fructose corn syrup, and more in the American diet.

And this isnt even the first time the sugar industry has misrepresented scientific results that would indicate sugar is not as sweet as it might appear. Glantz and Kearns published another industry-rocking report last year in JAMA Internal Medicine that showed the Sugar Research Foundation systematically discounted studies that tied sugar to ill health effects such as cancer, obesity, and heart disease by secretly funding groups in the 1960s and 1970s casting fat as the culprit behind these chronic diseases. The soda industrys denial of sodas connection with obesity and other nutritional studies backed by food giants that suggest candy does not affect a childs weight all fall in the same category.

These guys are not nice, Glantz said. They were distorting the whole process. People would look at you and say you need psychological treatment for daring to suggest that sugar was not as healthy as it was made out to be.

That made Glantzs and Kearns work especially difficult as they waded through old documents that often showcased conflicting results and confusion about the exact effects of sugar on a diet. Kearns is a professor of dentistry at the University of California, San Francisco, and started researching the sugar industry after attending a dental conference about a decade ago. In a session about diabetes and periodontal diseasetwo conditions that are affected by sugar intakeshe noticed that no one was talking about reducing sugar to control them.

The diet advice was to reduce fat and reduce calories, and all the brochures said that, too, Kearns told The Daily Beast. But its not what the research and guidelines say. Im a dentist, and I know: The role of sugar in tooth decay is significant, and its the number one chronic disease in children.

So Kearns teamed up with Glantz, who had made a name for himself uncovering the tobacco industrys stealthy PR campaign during the 1960s and 1970s to distance itself from lung cancer, funding research that downplayed its health effects, and allowed for advertising that glamorized smoking. The two found internal documents that suggested natural alternatives to sugar, such as the sugar beet industry in Colorado in the 1970s, went out of business. Kearns found that odd, along with the demonization of high fructose corn syrup (a corn product) by the sugar industry, and started delving more into the industry.

Glantz, for his part, said there are immediate parallels between the sugar and tobacco industry. The two even shared lobbyists, with several going from tobacco to sugar, explaining the similar PR campaign and philosophy of both. They wanted to stay on top of the science and be ahead of the science, Glantz said. They worked to manipulate the process and prevent a scientific consensus from emerging.

The fact that the sugar industry funded an alternate study to quash scientific results it had itself found to continue an image of being a sensible item to have in a diet is something that heavily contributed to the very modern American obesity, heart disease, and cancer epidemics, but have also repeatedly been shown to be used in marketing campaigns for impoverishedand often, heavily Hispanic and African-Americancommunities. It was what convinced Coca-Cola to use sucrose [instead of high fructose corn syrup], Kearns pointed out. Glantz added that sugar is seen as pure and unadulterated, something that is innocent and not considered a serious vice or health detraction on the levels of smoking: You add sucrose to your coffee. You bake with it. You have snack and beverages in it. Its even in your hamburgers and pizza.

The sugar industry, for their part, released a statement, saying: The article we are discussing is not actually a study, but a perspective: a collection of speculations and assumptions about events that happened nearly five decades ago, conducted by a group of researchers and funded by individuals and organizations that are known critics of the sugar industry. (The report was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Samuel Lawrence Foundation, the National Cancer Institute, the UCSF Philip R. Lee Institute of Health Policy Studies, the UCSF School of Dentistry, and the Nutrition Science Initiative.)

The ubiquity of sugar in our diet, whether we realize it or not, has huge implications not only for our health but also for medical expenses in this country. Glantz and Kearns hope that this most recent paper will pressure the Food and Drug Administration to recommend diets contain less than 10 percent of sugars daily (as of 2011, average sugar consumption hovered in the 15 percent range) and for stricter oversight on nutrition research.

A lot of people, they ask, Why are you looking at this ancient history? Who cares? Glantz said of his work investigating the tobacco and sugar industries and how they funded research. I always say, Trust me, people will care.

Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/researchers-publish-bombshell-report-that-suggests-sugar-industry-conspiracy

10 Gifts To Buy Yourself This Christmas, Because You Know You’ve Had Your Eye On A Few Things

10 Gifts To Buy Yourself For Christmas, Because You Know You’ve Had Your Eye On A Few Things

Just because people say it’s better to give than to receive, doesn’t mean you have to play martyr and deny the fact that when you wake up on Christmas morning to presents under the tree, you’re pretty damn excited to rip off the wrapping and see how your loved ones chose to spoil you this year. You work hard, and probably don’t play as hard as you deserve, so it’s not a crime to scope out gifts to buy yourself for Christmas. Trust me, friends, you’ve earned it.

And don’t you dare think, even for the tiniest of milliseconds, that splurging on yourself is in any way . Think of it this way, OK? Gift exchanges are wonderful, and I’m sure you’re very appreciative of any present a friend or loved one goes out of the way to give you. But, unless you make a detailed wishlist or Pinterest board and send them out for reference every year, I’m willing to bet you don’t receive everything you want.

If you a) have the funds and b) are constantly adding and deleting a specific item from your digital shopping cart, allow yourself the luxury this holiday season and treat yourself. Here are a few special gifts to buy yourself for Christmas this year, because you deserve a little TLC and spoiling, too.

1Eye Masks

Honest Hazel

Eye Gels – “TRY ME” – 3 pack, $12, Honest Hazel

I will not hesitate to admit that I am a sucker for cosmetic trends on Instagram. Lime Crime, Dose of Colors — you name it, I’ve tried it.

Lately, however, viral makeup products have been pushed aside, allowing real skincare goodies shine though. I’m all about self-care these days, so once I spotted Honest Hazel’s eye gels all over the health and wellness social accounts I follow, I knew they’d be at the top of my wishlist.

2Artisan Teas

David’s Tea

24 Days of Tea, $45, David’s Tea

To say that I’m a tea addict would be the understatement of the year. I come from an Irish household where tea time was served the time, and on average, I’d probably sip down about three cups a day.

Over the years, I’ve expanded my palette well beyond traditional black brews, and I personally find joy in sampling new flavors, which is why this advent calendar of loose leaves from David’s Tea has me working my way up on my husband’s “Nice List.” In each miniature compartment, you’ll find a tiny tin of single-serving delicacies like cream of earl grey, silk dragon jasmine, and white cranberry bark. Now sounds like a delicious way to kick off the new year, no?

3A Cropped Hoodie

Gymshark

Women’s Cropped Hoodie in Pale Turquoise, $38, Gymshark

I’ve been a fan of Gymshark’s since the very beginning of my fitness journey. If you’re a fan of Lululemon, I’d definitely go out on a limb to say this brand is the slightly more affordable version.

Gymshark leggings are bae, and their sports bras fit nice and snug, but I’ve been eyeing this turquoise hoodie from the second I got wind of its release. Obviously, cropped anything is associated with warmer weather, but when you’re killing it at the gym, this is definitely a staple piece for any high-intensity wardrobe.

4The Perfect Makeup Kit

tarte

Limited-Edition Magic Star Collector’s Set, $49, Tarte Cosmetics

Purchasing high-quality makeup adds up fast. For an all-encompassing set, you’re generally spending over $50, but thankfully, Tarte’s giving the gift of affordable cosmetics to its loyal customers this holiday season.

This limited-edition set is comprised of all the essentials you’ll need to perfect a full face. With 25 exclusive matte and metallic eyeshadows, the brand’s signature clay blushes, highlighter, bronzer, and every tool necessary to master a wicked cat eye and bold lip, this is the dream set every beauty buff deserves to treat herself to this year.

5Succulents

4″ Live Assorted Succulents Set of 4, $49, Urban Outfitters

Not all of us were born with a green thumb, OK? I know myself, and even though I love the look of plants, I definitely am not one for maintaining them.

This succulent set from UO is perfect for anyone who adores the homey aesthetic plants add to their space, but is admittedly sort of forgetful when it comes to trimming thorns and daily watering. TLC requirements are minimal with these lovely blooms; just make sure they’re strategically located where they can soak in the sunshine, and water once in awhile for nourishment.

6Earthy Apothecary

Hello Crisp

The Earthy One Gift Box, $48, Hello Crisp

I recently came across Hello Crisp and instantly fell in love with the brand’s cozy, minimalist aesthetic. They offer a range of themed gift boxes catering to unique personalities, and this earthy blend stood out to me as the perfect wintertime treat.

Each product is hand-selected and made by artisans that are environmentally friendly and produce high-quality goods. The Earthy One is comprised of a black pepper birch wood cedar candle, a body lotion that harmonizes notes of vanilla and greenery, as well as a warm apple-scented soap bar enhanced with amber and wild lavender.

7A Graphic Sweatshirt

Wholesome Culture

I Know Guac Is Extra, But So Am I – Unisex Crewneck Sweatshirt, $35, Wholesome Culture

Guac may be extra, but it’s worth it — and so are you.

I love graphic tees and sweatshirts emblazoned with phrases that are not only catchy, but speak to my soul. Avocado speaks to my soul my stomach, so Wholesome Culture’s crewneck truly says it all. Plus, their sizes seem to run a little roomy, which is optimal for post-holiday dinner lounging.

8The Gift Of A New Hobby

We Are Knitters

Avanto Beanie – Knitting Kit, $49, We Are Knitters

I realize that knitting is often associated with a vision of a grandmother in a rocking chair with balls of unraveling yarn at her feet, but We Are Knitters is making this craft cool again, and I personally want in on the fun.

The site is divided into levels of expertise, so if you’re a beginner, there are tons of kits to get you started. The Avanto Beanie kit is technically a two-for-one special if you think about it. Not only will you be honing a new skill, you’ll also have a chic piece of headgear to sport all winter long.

9Book Club Membership

3-Month Membership, $44.99, Book of the Month Club

If you prefer books over people, there’s a club for that. Share your joy of enticing plots and genius character development by gifting yourself a three-month membership to Book of the Month Club.

The process is simple: Choose one or multiple of five titles showcased each month, and have them shipped to your door (sometimes the brand sneaks a surprise inside your bundle), and enjoy!

If you’re looking for a book club that’s a little more engaging, Emma Roberts and Karah Preiss launched their own exclusive association where readers can purchase Belletrist’s monthly pick and discuss via social media.

10A Fancy Planner

Erin Condren

Erin Condren 2018 Hardbound LifePlanner, $30, Amazon

I wouldn’t exactly call myself cheap, but I’m definitely not the type of girl to pay a visit to the mall on a weekly basis and waste money on material things I don’t need (except books — you can never have too many books).

When it comes to planners, though, I’ve been known to splurge. Some people look at $30 for a planner and think it’s outrageous. I, on the other hand, am drawn to pricey notebooks and will gladly drop a few bills on a hardbound planner clad with pages dedicated to setting goals and organizing schedules.

Erin Condren’s life planner comes in three designs: watercolor splash quote, painted petals, and floating florals. It’s also huge, with 164 pages to doodle, take notes, and plan your entire 2018. Is it worth the big bucks? For you, I definitely think so.

Read more: https://elitedaily.com/p/10-gifts-to-buy-yourself-for-christmas-because-you-know-youve-had-your-eye-on-a-few-things-5488998

Should the Upper Middle Class Take the Biggest Tax Hit?

Humans learn the concept of fairness at a very young age. After all, it doesn’t take long for a child to start whining about a sibling who gets an extra serving of ice cream. As the Republican-controlled Congress tries to push through tax reform this year, one group of Americans may similarly question why it’s coming up a scoop short.

The upper middle class gets relatively few benefits and a disproportionate number of tax hikes under the $1.4-trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Families earning between $150,000 and $308,000—the 80th to 95th percentile—would still get a tax cut on average. But by 2027, more than a third of those affluent Americans can expect a tax increase, according to the Tax Policy Center.

If the House bill becomes law, overall benefits for the upper middle class will start out small, and later vanish almost entirely.

Is this fair? Some argue it’s only right for the upper middle class to carry a heavier burden. This is because the top fifth of the U.S. by income has done pretty well over the past three decades while the wages and wealth of typical workers have stagnated. People in the 81st to 99th percentiles by income have boosted their inflation-adjusted pre-tax cash flow by 65 percent between 1979 and 2013, according to the Congressional Budget Office. That’s more than twice as much as the income rise seen by the middle 60 percent. (The top 1 percent, meanwhile, saw their income rise by 186 percent over the same period, but that’s another story.)

“Many upper-middle-class families will tell you they do not feel wealthy,” said Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “Their standard of living [is] closer to the middle class than to the top 1 percent.” The income numbers don’t tell the whole story, he explained. The upper middle class is weighed down by high costs: Affluent workers live in expensive areas, pay a lot for real estate and daycare, and are taxed far more than Americans further down the ladder.

Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the left-leaning Brookings Institution, isn’t buying that argument. He’s the author of “Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It.”

“There’s a culture of entitlement at the top of U.S. society,” Reeves said. While others focus on rising wealth of the top 1 percent, Reeves argues that the gap is widening between the top 20 percent and everyone else. The upper middle class is guilty of “hoarding” its privileges, using its power to skew the job market, educational institutions, real estate markets, and tax policy for its own benefit, he contends.

“The American upper middle class know how to take care of themselves,” Reeves said during a presentation at the City University of New York last week. “They know how to organize. They’re numerous enough to be a serious voting bloc, and they run everything.”

So by his measure, the tax legislation’s disproportionate hit to the upper middle class is indeed fair.

A family earning $240,000 a year is bringing in four times the U.S. median household income of $59,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. All that money, along with the upper middle class’s political power, buys some huge advantages, Reeves said. For example, affluent parents compete for access to the best schools, bidding up home values in the best school districts. Then, they use zoning rules to prevent new construction, keep property values high, and prevent lower-income Americans from moving in. In the process, children of this demographic end up at the most prestigious universities, nab the best internships and jobs, and ultimately join their parents at the top of U.S. society. 

The very existence of the House tax bill rebuts Reeves’s argument that the upper middle class is in a position to manipulate Washington. (The Senate is considering its own tax legislation, which differs from the House bill in several ways.) Compared with middle class Americans, the upper middle class is less likely to see marginal tax rates fall under the House legislation. The bill also limits or scraps entirely some of the group’s favorite tax breaks, especially deductions for state-and-local taxes, and medical expenses, and tax breaks for education.

If you’re part of the upper middle class and concede you should be paying more, don’t count on wealthier groups making the same sacrifice—at least under the House bill. 

While a repeal of the alternative-minimum tax helps some people with incomes below $300,000, it’s more likely to benefit those on the higher wealth rungs. The very rich, including President Donald Trump, who has been pressing for a legislative victory before the end of his first year in office, would benefit from a repeal of the estate tax, lower corporate tax rates and a lower “pass-through” rate on business income. The House bill explicitly tries to limit the pass-through benefit for doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other high-earning professionals—traditional denizens of the upper middle class. 

This all may seem terribly unfair to members of the upper middle class, but there are some provisions they can take solace in. The bill leaves untouched some sweet tax breaks that predominately benefit people with lower six-figure salaries, such as 529 college savings plans and 401(k)s and other retirement perks. The CBO calculates that two-thirds of the government’s costs for retirement tax breaks go to the top 20 percent.

But beyond these few exceptions, much of the upper middle class will still take it on the chin.

And maybe they should. Higher taxes on the upper middle class make sense to some liberal tax experts—but only if the proceeds are used the right way, they said, for things like better health care, more affordable college, and rebuilding infrastructure. Under the House bill, though, any new tax revenue is used to offset tax cuts—much of which will benefit the super wealthy and corporations, especially over time.

“There would be a lot of people in the country who would be willing to chip in for those goals,” said Carl Davis, research director of the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. In the House plan, however, the upper middle class is “going to pay more for a bill that’s going to grow the national debt, and provide the lion’s share of the benefits to corporations and their shareholders.”

Riedl, who has advised Republican candidates, argues the upper middle class should get a more generous tax cut under GOP tax reform. “It’s hard to argue the upper middle class is not currently paying its fair share,” he said. Reeves said the U.S. should ultimately tax the upper middle class more—but “the top 5 percent more still.”

Looking at Republican tax plans, Reeves said, “it’s like they only read half my book.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-20/should-the-upper-middle-class-take-the-biggest-tax-hit

    GOP Senator Implies Those Who Aren’t Millionaires Waste Money On ‘Booze, Women’

    In an astonishing defense of dropping “death taxes” for individual estates worth more than $5.5 million, GOP Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley implied that people not currently affected by that tax are “spending every darn penny … on booze or women.”

    “I think not having the estate tax recognizes the people that are investing — as opposed to those that are just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies,” Grassley told the Des Moines Register in an interview published Saturday. Grassley, who serves on the Finance Committee, made the remark when asked about the Senate tax reform measure which would double the exemption for estates to $11 million for an individual and $22 million for a couple. Heirs would inherit the estates tax-free.

    Grassley’s comment triggered a wave of criticism on social media. Many complained that the working class is, in fact, spending “every darn penny” on raising their kids, caring for elderly parents, health care and putting food on the table. One Twitter user complained that the GOP was turning America into a version of “The Hunger Games.”

    The Grassley interview was part of the Des Moines Register’s examination of how the tax reform measure radically reducing estate taxes will affect Iowans. Grassley has long argued that estate taxes, which currently must be paid on individual estates worth more than $5.5 million ($11 million for a married couple), hurt farms and small businesses in the state. Now, the Iowa senator apparently sees the tax change as a way to reward those who have accumulated millions of dollars by “investing.”

    The newspaper found that the estate tax break will affect only “dozens” among 1.4 million Iowa taxpayers, according to IRS data, because almost all estates fall under the current exemption cap. The newspaper noted that the number of Iowans owing estate taxes was just 32 of 1.4 million taxpayers in 2012 — or .002 percent of the total. Sixty-one people — .004 percent of all Iowa taxpayers — filed estate taxes in 2015. Only a fraction of those were farmers or small business owners, the newspaper reported.

    Currently, only .2 percent of Americans pay estate tax and will benefit from the changes. The House measure would eliminate the tax on all estates of any size by 2024. The Senate and House measures will have to be reconciled.

    Rep. David Young (R-Iowa) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) both applauded the changes in the estate tax and emphasized how the changes would help farms and small businesses. Young insisted in a newsletter Friday that it is a “myth” that “repealing the estate tax is a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans.”

    Grassley said earlier this year that the federal estate tax “may force family members to liquidate to pay the death tax.”

    Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/grassley-estate-taxes-booze-women_us_5a247d89e4b03c44072e5a04

    David Cassidy, ‘Partridge Family’ superstar, in critical condition

    (CNN)David Cassidy, the wildly popular ’70s heartthrob who shot to fame when he starred and sang in TV’s “The Partridge Family,” is in critical condition with organ failure.

    Cassidy is being treated at a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area hospital, longtime publicist Jo-Ann Geffen told CNN on Saturday. He is in the intensive care unit and has a breathing tube, she said.
    “He is conscious and surrounded by family and friends, nothing is imminent and we are taking it day by day,” Geffen said.
      She did not say what caused the organ failure.
      Cassidy, 67, told People magazine earlier this year he was battling dementia.

      A ’70s superstar

      “The Partridge Family,” a sitcom about a mother and five children who formed a rock ‘n’ roll band, gave Cassidy a national audience for his music. Cassidy, who played Keith Partridge on the show, captured the spirit of 1970s youth.
      His wispy voice and wholesome persona broke out from the small screen. At the time, his fan club reportedly was bigger than those of Elvis Presley and The Beatles.
      The singer toured the world singing his hit songs, such as “I Think I Love You,” filling concert halls with screaming teenage girls.

      Health problems

      Cassidy has spoken publicly in recent years about his struggles with alcohol. He was arrested for driving under the influence on three separate occasions during a four-year span between 2010 and 2014.
      Cassidy, in an interview with CNN in 2014, said his trouble with alcohol was “very humbling and it’s also humiliating.”
      He told People magazine earlier this year that he is battling dementia. He said dementia runs in his family, affecting both his grandfather and his mother.
      “I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming,” he said to People, regarding the disease.

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/18/entertainment/david-cassidy-hospitalized/index.html

      Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino just tastes like sugar and regret

      Please drive this away from me.
      Image: STARBUCKS

      Nothing says Christmas like a cold cup of sugar. 

      At least that’s what I kept telling myself as I took a sip, and another one of the Christmas Tree Frappuccino. It’s Starbucks’ latest concoction that has people running out to corporate coffee shops, where they spend $5 and most likely take a bunch of smartphone photos to later post on social media. 

      Like this: 

      Like any good business reporter, I jumped on the trend Sunday. After my editor shared a piece by The Denver Post reviewing the drink and some tweets of people’s reactions, I asked if I could go get one and try it myself. Because that, my friends, is reporting. 

      Well, I’ve been wanting to get one ever since my sister shared the Starbucks ad in our family group Thursday morning. 

      Three hours later, my mom shared a picture of hers. Her review: “It is delicious.” Her favorite part was the candied cranberry topping. 

      Image: screenshot

      Image: screenshot

      I had participated in two of the previous limited-edition Starbucks drinks. 

      The Unicorn Frappuccino, a trend debut, was actually not too bad in my biased opinion. Though I think I was on an emotional high because I drank them with Chloe the Mini Frenchie (RIP). 

      important coffee meeting with @kerrymflynn who you would share a unicorn frappuccino with? 🦄☕️

      A post shared by Chloe The Mini Frenchie (@chloetheminifrenchie) on

      The Zombie Frappuccino was strange, but I was also in the middle of emceeing an event in Columbus, Ohio. 

      I definitely couldn’t let this one escape me. 

      And so that’s how I ended up drinking 420 calories on a Sunday morning. Fortunately, I live four blocks from a Starbucks, so it wasn’t too burdensome to put on a jacket and walk out in the cold weather for a frozen beverage. 

      The most embarrassing part was probably ordering when I asked for a “Christmas Tree Frappuccino” and the barista replied, “What?” So then I had to repeat myself over a cringeworthy order while the person in front of me just sipped her cup of hot coffee. 

      I waited to take a sip until I could take photos. Because, of course, that’s exactly what Starbucks wants us all to do. All of our tweets are free ads. Actually, they’re not just free. We’re not getting paid. We’re paying them. Starbucks is making money having us all make ads for them. It’s brilliant, and I’m happy to be part of it. 

      I got home and looked at the drink on my counter. The Matcha whipped cream had melted to half its height from before. I finally noticed that there was no candied cranberry topping. But I regretfully took a sip. And oh man, it was not good.

      Thin Mints are great (Disclosure: I’m a Girl Scout). Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream is awesome. 

      The Starbucks Christmas Tree Frappuccino is not either of those things. Every sip of this beverage is an overload of sugar. I’d rather crush up a bunch of Thin Mints and mix them with some ice and milk in a blender than continue sipping this. 

      I’m not going to tell you not to get a Christmas Tree Frappuccino because you can probably make your own decisions. But this is not good and you can spend $5 on something else. If you need the picture, go to Starbucks and just wait for someone else to order one. But be good to yourself, and don’t drink it. 

      Please. 

      Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/12/10/starbucks-christmas-tree-frappuccino-review-sugar-regrets-photos/

      The Shirk Report Volume 451

      Welcome to the Shirk Report where you will find 20 funny images, 10 interesting articles and 5 entertaining videos from the last 7 days of sifting. Most images found on Reddit; articles from Facebook, Twitter, and email; videos come from everywhere. Any suggestions? Send a note to submit@twistedsifter.com

      20 IMAGES

      Friday!
      Street math
      Parenting level: savage
      The Amazon reviews on this $1,500 Swiss Army Knife
      Poor Suna
      You shall not pass
      Every day I’m tumblin’
      Always keep your guard up
      He has become one with the chair
      We’re all stuck in 2017 while this kid out here in 4017
      OMFGITSTRUE!1!!1
      I wonder how many times he’s done this
      What is going on here
      Meanwhile in Canada
      love
      Say no to Max
      Cat for scale
      I wonder what this tastes like
      Moonbop
      Until next week

      10 ARTICLES

      TIME Person of the Year 2017
      Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it?
      Volunteering Is the Best Kept Secret for Mental Health
      AlphaZero Annihilates World’s Best Chess Bot After Just Four Hours of Practicing
      The Return of the Techno-Moral Panic
      The False Narrative of Damien Hirst’s Rise and Fall
      What You Should Know About Bitcoin’s Ridiculous Surge In Value
      Surgical Patients May Be Feeling Pain—and (Mostly) Forgetting It
      The World Might Be Better Off Without College for Everyone
      Where Millennials Come From

      5 VIDEOS + fight for your right

      The Reviews Are In: The Weekend is Upon Us

      Read more: http://twistedsifter.com/2017/12/the-shirk-report-volume-451/