Five at 8 – 1/7/10: Can cellphones reverse Alzheimer’s?

This morning, sunrise is (was) at 7:50 in St. Paul. That’s 1 minute earlier than yesterday, which was the latest sunrise of the year. We’ve turned the corner.

1) Wouldn’t you like to be an ad writer for the cellphone industry right around now? A study, involving mice, provides evidence that long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves associated with cell phone use may protect against, and even reverse, Alzheimer’s disease, WebMD reports.

2) The natural progression of driver distraction. The Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas has revealed the future of distracted driving: Web browsers on the dashboard.

3) A UCLA study out today says legalizing the status of undocumented workers in the U.S. would boost the economy.

Hinojosa-Ojeda also projected that the economy would benefit from a temporary worker program, by raising the GDP by $792 billion. And the economy would suffer if the U.S. deported all illegal immigrants, which he acknowledged was an unlikely option. Mass deportation, he concluded, would reduce the GDP by $2.6 trillion over 10 years.

4) NPR gets to the bottom of the study — I mentioned it here yesterday — that anti-depressant drugs don’t help people with “mild” forms of depression. The problem, Alix Spiegel says, isn’t so much with the meds, it’s with the method that defines the extent of the depression:

The problem is a kind of grade inflation. The Hamilton scale makes people appear more depressed than a clinician’s usual methods of diagnosis would. “The whole thing, some people think, has been bumped up a notch or two,” Olfson

So, the conclusion of the JAMA study that antidepressants work only in severly depressed people may be missing the mark. The drugs may not be so weak. Part of the problem could be an academic scale for measuring depression that pushes people with forms of the disorder that most doctors would consider to be moderate into the severe camp.

5) The question of the ages: What if these are the best of times?

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NPR this morning is profiling comedian John Oliver, who is making trouble among the colonists.


The Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show starts today and runs through the weekend. Items on display are expected to include 3D televisions and tablet computers. What’s the next high tech gadget you’d like to buy?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Tech gear for the new year.

Second hour: The University of Minnesota has made a commitment to becoming a player in the biotech field by opening a new medical biosciences building. We’ll hear about the latest efforts to merge genetic technology with research on the brain and even the immune system.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former CIA assistant general counsel John Radsan discusses intelligence-gathering agencies and practices. Radsan is professor of law at William Mitchell College of Law and director of the National Security Forum.

Second hour: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, speaking Wednesday to college students in Washington about the state of the U.S. military.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Unraveling the story of the CIA in Afghanistan. Relying on human intelligence in a place like Afghanistan only gets more

difficult, and increasingly more dangerous.

Second hour: T How are we dealing with the cold?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Crisis in the Middle East could entail more than war and terrorism. This next decade’s plight could be over a lack of water. Drought, abandoned villagers, and lost livelihoods: How the Mideast is becoming home to water refugees.

We’ll also have the latest on last night’s apparent robbery at the Seward Market, where three people were shot to death.

As the mid-January deadline for finalizing teacher contracts approaches, MPR’s Tom Weber looks at how teachers are faring in already completed negotiations and how that compares to others in the public sector.

Married couples know if one spouse is sick or in an accident, the other can step in to make decisions. Gay couples need legal documents to ensure the same arrangement. Bills before the state Legislature would also give surviving partners the right to sue in cases of wrongful death and the right decide what happens to their loved one’s remains. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy will have the story.

And MPR’s Mark Steil will report on the economic impact of the closing of a private prison in Appleton.

  • John O.

    Electronic gadget that intrigues me: a Kindle

    Regarding the browser in the car, there are some cases (such as weather radar) that actually make sense. The next logical step (of course) would be to interconnect the browser to the subsystems in the car so when one of those pesky lights go on, the information can be at least evaluated to give the driver an idea of what the heck is going on.

    The next logical step, of course, is to send the data so your auto mechanic can evaluate the data in near real-time and at least have (presumably) a better idea of what is going on.

  • Bob Collins

    But if drivers were given the information about what’s wrong, the service shop at the car dealership couldn’t charge you the $130 diagnostic fee (ask me how I know) and the $80 labor charge to replace the $2.79 fuse that blew. Oh, plus the fee for turning the light off.

    OTOH, tying the display into the traffic information ahead would be pretty cool, though.

  • MR

    I think that the eBook readers could be something really interesting for boomers as they age. We tried one with my grandmother, and it has the advantage that you can make the print larger than a standard large-type book. If someone has used a computer before, the leap to the Kindle is pretty small.

  • JackU

    I already have my next gadget. I traded my old Blackberry in for a Droid(r) last month. I can read News Cut with all the pretty pictures now. 8^)

  • John O.

    I have read specs for the Kindle that would indicate that it can also “read” the text to the user. Fantastic for the visually impaired customer…assuming the technology consistently works.

  • bsimon

    John O & Bob C want what already exists: an ODB II connection. There’s a standardized plug that techs use to find out what’s causing the pesky light. With my old pickup I took a test drive with a tech once; he had the scanner plugged in & it provided far more data – in realtime – than the gauges on the dashboard. There are tons of sensors in modern cars that aren’t feeding info to the instrument cluster. You can buy these scanners for a couple hundred bucks.

  • Jennifer

    From the NYT article:

    “’We are trying to make that driving experience one that is very engaging,’ said Jim Buczkowski, the director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering at Ford.”

    Do you know what I’d like to see people engaging in?? Attentively driving their car rather than fumbling around with some tech gadget whether it be in their hand or on their dashboard.

    I have permanent injuries from a fatal chain collision caused by a distracted driver. When I see stories like this, I just cringe.

    Also I wonder how shifting your eyes from a brightly lit screen to a dark highway will affect vision at night and if the increase in use of such gadgets will also bring an increase in car break ins.

  • Brian F

    I’m all in favor of removing humans from the driving process (I have wildly optimistic expectations for the changes in traffic), but they’re doing this in the wrong order. Teh Dashboard Intertubes should wait till after they’ve figured out how to have cars drive themselves.

    And I don’t know about other people, but I don’t need an on-board weather radar to tell me if it’s raining. Aside from its diagnostic potential, I don’t see how this device would provide information about my surroundings that I’m not already getting.

  • Brian F

    I’m with you, Jennifer. Pardon my language, but that guy is a ***king moron.