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Posts Tagged ‘psych’

Alvaro Fernandez: Why You’ll Need A Personal Brain Trainer

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

Recently I had the fortune to interview Dr. Michael Merzenich, a leading pioneer in brain plasticity research, in his office at UCSF. In the late 1980s, Dr. Merzenich was on the team that invented the cochlear implant, and later founded Scientific Learning Corporation and Posit Science. You may have learned about his work in one of PBS TV specials, multiple media appearances, or neuroplasticity-related books. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1999 and to the Institute of Medicine this year.

Neuroplasticity-based Tools: The New Health And Wellness Frontier

Dear Michael, thank you very much for agreeing2009-12-20-sharpbrains_summit_logo_web.jpg to participate in the inaugural SharpBrains Summit in January, and for your time today. What are, in your mind, the likely implications of your work and that of other neuroplasticity research and industry pioneers? specifically, given that there are many different technology-free approaches to harnessing neuroplasticity, what is the unique value of technology?

It’s all about efficiency, scalability, personalization, and assured effectiveness. Technology supports the implementation of near-optimally-efficient brain-training strategies. Through the Internet, it enables the low-cost distribution of these new tools, anywhere out in the world. Technology also enables the personalization of brain health training, by providing simple ways to measure and address individual needs in each person’s brain-health training experience. It enables assessments of your abilities that can affirm that your own brain health issues have been effectively addressed.

Of course substantial gains could also be achieved by organizing your everyday activities that grow your neurological abilities and sustain your brain health. Still, if the ordinary citizen is to have any real chance of maintaining their brain fitness, they’re going to have to spend considerable time at the brain gym!

Having said this, there are obvious obstacles. One main one, in my mind, is the lack of understanding of what these new tools can do. Cognitive training programs, for example, seem counterintuitive to consumers and many professionals – why would one try to improve speed-of-processing if all one cares about is “memory?” A second obvious problem is to get individuals to buy into the effort required to really change their brains for the better. That buy-in has been achieved for many individuals as it applies to their physical health, but we haven’t gotten that far yet in educating the average older person that brain fitness training is an equally effortful business!

Tools for Safer Driving: Teens and Adults

Safe driving seems to be one area where the benefits are more intuitive, which may explain why.

Yes, we see great potential and interest among insurers for improving driving safety, both for seniors and teens. Appropriate cognitive training can lower at-fault accident rates. You can measure clear benefits in relatively short time frames, so it won’t take long for insurers to see an economic rationale to not only offer programs at low cost or for free but to incentivize drivers to complete them. Allstate, AAA, State Farm and other insurers are beginning to realize this potential. It is important to note that typical accidents among teens and seniors are different, so that training methodologies will need to be different for different high-risk populations.

Yet, most driving safety initiatives today still focus on educating drivers, rather that training them neurologically. We measure vision, for example, but completely ignore attentional control abilities, or a driver’s useful field of view. I expect this to change significantly over the next few years.

Long-term care and health insurance companies will ultimately see similar benefits, and we believe that they will follow a similar course of action to reduce general medical and neurodegenerative disease- (Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s- and Parkinsons-) related costs. In fact, many senior living communities are among the pioneers in this field.

Boomers & Beyond: Maintaining Cognitive Vitality

Mainstream media is covering this emerging category with thousands of stories. But most coverage seems still focused on “does it work?” more than “how do we define It”, “what does work mean?” or “work for whom, and for what?” Can you summarize what recent research suggests?

We have seen clear patterns in the application of our training programs, some published (like IMPACT), some unpublished, some with healthy adults, and some with people with mild cognitive impairment or early Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). What we see in every case: 1) despite one’s age, brain functioning can be improved, often with pretty impressive improvement in a short-time frame and limited time invested (10 or 20 or 30 or 40 hours over a period of a few weeks up to two or three months). 2) Basic neurological abilities in 60-90 year olds that are directly subject to training (for example, processing accuracy or processing speed) can be improved to the performance level of the average 20 or 30 or 40 year old through three to ten hours of training at that specific ability. 3) Improvements generalize to broader cognitive measures, and to indices of quality of life. 4) Improvements are sustained over time (in different controlled studies, documented at all post-training benchmarks set between three to 72 months after training completion).

In normal older individuals, training effects endure — but that does not mean that they could not benefit from booster or refresher training — or from ongoing training designed to improve other skills and abilities that limit their older lives. Importantly, a limited controlled study in mildly cognitively impaired individuals showed that in contrast to normal individuals, their abilities declined in the post-training epoch. These folks had improved substantially with training. Even while there abilities slowly deteriorated after training, they sustained their advantages over patients who were not trained. We believe that in these higher-risk individual, continued training will probably be absolutely necessary to sustain their brain health, and, if it can be achieved (and that is completely unproven), to protect them from a progression to AD. Moreover, for both these higher-risk and normal individuals, interventions should not be thought of as one-time cure-alls. Ongoing brain fitness training shall be the way to go.

A major obstacle is that there is not enough research funding for appropriate trials to address all of these issues, especially as they apply for the mildly cognitively impaired (pre-AD) or the AD populations. We’d welcome not only more research dollars but also more FDA involvement, to help clarify the claims being made.

Next Generation Assessments

A key element for the maturity of the field will be the widespread use of objective assessments. What do you see in that area?

Unfortunately, most researchers and policy initiatives are still wedded to relatively rudimentary assessments. For example, I recently participated in meetings designed to help define a very-well-supported EU initiative on how cognitive science can contribute to drug development, in which most applied assessments and most assessments development were still paper-based. This is a major missed opportunity, given the rapidly growing development and availability of automated assessments.

I believe we will see more independent assessments but also embedded assessments. For instance, in Scientific Learning we routinely use ongoing embedded assessments and cross-referenced state test achievement scores to develop models and profiles designed to determine the regimes of neuroplasticity-based training programs that must be applied so that individual students, school sites and school districts may achieve their academic performance goals.

What’s Next?

This has been a fascinating conversation, and a great context to the themes we will cover in depth in the summit. What else do you think will happen over the next few years?

First, I believe we’ll need to focus on public education, for people to understand the value of tools with limited “face value”. One important aspect of this is the need to find balance between what is “fun” and what has value as a cognitive enhancer — which requires the activities to be very targeted, repetitive and slowly progressive. Not always the most fun — people need to think “fitness” as much or more than “games.”

Second, I believe the role of providing supervision, coaching, support, will emerge to be a critical one. Think about the need for having a piano teacher, if you want to learn how to play the piano and improve over time. Technology may help fill this role, or empower and richly support real “coaches” who do so.

Which existing professional group is more likely to become the “personal brain trainers” of the future? or will we see a new profession emerge?

Frankly, I don’t know. To give you some context, at Scientific Learning we experimented with offering free access to therapists for a two-month training. At Posit Science we first experimented with virtual ‘coaches’ that many people seemed to hate, and later encouraged people who had completed the program to volunteer and coach new participants. Results were mixed. We’re now exploring other possibilities.

Let me mention a few other aspects. I believe we will also see a growing number of applications in languages other than English, which will be key given growing interest in South Korea, Japan and China on aging workforce issues (until now they have been mostly focused on childhood development, using English-based programs). We will also see the programs widely available to people who may not have computers at home. For example, Posit Science recently donated software equivalent in value to one million dollars to the Massachusetts public library system, as a model of how wider access (in this case, to help older drivers) might be provided.

My dream in all of this is to have standardized and credible tools to train the five to six main neurocognitive domains for cognitive health and performance through life, coupled with the right assessments to identify one’s individual needs and measure progress. For example, I’d like to know what the 10 things are that I need to fix, and where to start. Assessments could either measure the physical status of the brain, such as the degree of myelination, or measure functions over time via automated neuropsych assessments, which is probably going to be more efficient and scalable and potentially be self-administered in a home health model.

Mike, thank you very much once more for your time and insights.

My pleasure. I am looking forward to the very innovative Summit that SharpBrains is putting together to convene our little growing community.

______

Please note that this is an excerpt of the full interview published on December 17th by SharpBrains. If you want to read full interview (with extended focus on medicine, mental health and clinical aspects) you can read Michael Merzenich on Brain Training, Assessments, and Personal Brain Trainers.

To learn more about the inaugural global and virtual summit 2009-12-20-sharpbrains_summit_logo_web.jpgon Technology for Cognitive Health and Performance, January 18-20th, 2010, click on SharpBrains Summit. The Summit will gather over 30 speakers from leading universities and companies.

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Abused Mother Seeks Education, Independence For Her Two Children

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

This story is part of HuffPost Impact’s 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.

When Lucia Duran was growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, she had to work. She had seven brothers and sisters, and her childhood was spent taking care of them and the home. If she made a mistake, if something wasn’t cleaned or cooked properly, her parents would become abusive. She didn’t go to school and her future looked like one of labor and poverty.

So, when she was 16 years old, Lucia decided that the best way out of this situation would be to get married and leave her house. Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t treat her much kinder. Her new husband abused her as well, and with no home to go back to, she left the country.

Lucia had brothers in the U.S. under political asylum, and in 1988 she received Temporary Protected Status and moved to Las Vegas. Her daughter, Fatima, was born in 1990. Things were looking up.

12 Cities

Leaving Las Vegas

Lucia worked as a housekeeper and rented a room from her brother in Las Vegas. Fatima went to school and, for a time, her father was still in the house. It wasn’t long, however, before the abuse began anew. I asked Fatima Duran how much she remembered, and what that time was like.

“I have both positive and negative memories,” she told me. “He was also Salvadorean but he met my mom in Vegas.”

Both Fatima and Lucia told me that the time carried a lot of tension, but they were hesitant to go into details about the specific abuse.

In 1998, Lucia finally took Fatima away from her abusive father and moved to San Francisco.

Breaking Free and Seeking Help

Fatima told me that her mother placed a heavy emphasis on education, as she had to grow up without one.

“Growing up, school was always first” she said. “She would always tell me, ‘The way for you to have a place and have self-worth is to be educated. I want you to have it, no matter how hard that may be.’ It was kind of like this pressure that she put on me, but I was able to take up on my own, not only for her but also for myself. It was something that I wanted to do. I realized that in order to show my gratitude for everything that she’s done — I should work hard.”

Fatima is now a student at the University of San Francisco, double majoring in Media and Latin American studies. Her mother, despite all of her work, however, is still in need of help.

Hosted by imgur.comLucia Duran, her daughter Fatima, and son Juan Pablo

A few years ago she met another man, and thought that things might be different this time around. He was supporting her, since she hurt her back and hasn’t been able to continue working as a housekeeper. Three years ago, she got pregnant. That’s when things began to unravel.

“The pregnancy was rough,” Lucia said. “He threatened to kill me, to cut my head off. I was alone for most of the pregnancy.” Her husband tried to stay when Lucia’s son, Juan Pablo, was born, but his drug addictions and violent tendencies made her too afraid to stay in the relationship.

Now that Fatima was growing up and she had another newborn son, Lucia decided to finally seek help. At Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, she found people who understood and were able to help her take control of her life. Lucia’s case manager there was vital to helping her make the decision to leave her husband. She’s also spent considerable time in domestic violence support groups, and she’s met others who share similar experiences.

Lucia and Juan Pablo DuranLucia Duran and Juan Pablo

“On November 14, 2008, I put in for a divorce,” she said. “I stayed at home and changed the locks. I found a great deal of strength from joining these support groups. It made me feel like I’m not the only one going through these issues. I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Juan Pablo is now two years old, and mother and son still visit Homeless Prenatal for further support and for training for the future. They’ve had such a positive effect on Lucia, that she now wants to be a case manager herself, something that Homeless Prenatal encourages.

“After all the help I’ve received, I’d like to use that to help other people. Something to give back.”

The Homeless Prenatal Program provides new mothers or pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care, counseling and psychological services.

While Homeless Prenatal Program has been a blessing to her and her family, her injury still prevents her from working consistently, and they need help. She lives off of $500 every month to pay rent and buy food. Luckily, she doesn’t have to worry about paying Homeless Prenatal for the therapy she receives and the counseling for Juan Pablo, who witnessed domestic violence early in life.

Contribute to Homeless Prenatal Program or directly to Lucia Duran via the widget below:


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Abused Mother Seeks Education, Independence For Her Two Children

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

This story is part of HuffPost Impact’s 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.

When Lucia Duran was growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, she had to work. She had seven brothers and sisters, and her childhood was spent taking care of them and the home. If she made a mistake, if something wasn’t cleaned or cooked properly, her parents would become abusive. She didn’t go to school and her future looked like one of labor and poverty.

So, when she was 16 years old, Lucia decided that the best way out of this situation would be to get married and leave her house. Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t treat her much kinder. Her new husband abused her as well, and with no home to go back to, she left the country.

Lucia had brothers in the U.S. under political asylum, and in 1988 she received Temporary Protected Status and moved to Las Vegas. Her daughter, Fatima, was born in 1990. Things were looking up.

12 Cities

Leaving Las Vegas

Lucia worked as a housekeeper and rented a room from her brother in Las Vegas. Fatima went to school and, for a time, her father was still in the house. It wasn’t long, however, before the abuse began anew. I asked Fatima Duran how much she remembered, and what that time was like.

“I have both positive and negative memories,” she told me. “He was also Salvadorean but he met my mom in Vegas.”

Both Fatima and Lucia told me that the time carried a lot of tension, but they were hesitant to go into details about the specific abuse.

In 1998, Lucia finally took Fatima away from her abusive father and moved to San Francisco.

Breaking Free and Seeking Help

Fatima told me that her mother placed a heavy emphasis on education, as she had to grow up without one.

“Growing up, school was always first” she said. “She would always tell me, ‘The way for you to have a place and have self-worth is to be educated. I want you to have it, no matter how hard that may be.’ It was kind of like this pressure that she put on me, but I was able to take up on my own, not only for her but also for myself. It was something that I wanted to do. I realized that in order to show my gratitude for everything that she’s done — I should work hard.”

Fatima is now a student at the University of San Francisco, double majoring in Media and Latin American studies. Her mother, despite all of her work, however, is still in need of help.

Hosted by imgur.comLucia Duran, her daughter Fatima, and son Juan Pablo

A few years ago she met another man, and thought that things might be different this time around. He was supporting her, since she hurt her back and hasn’t been able to continue working as a housekeeper. Three years ago, she got pregnant. That’s when things began to unravel.

“The pregnancy was rough,” Lucia said. “He threatened to kill me, to cut my head off. I was alone for most of the pregnancy.” Her husband tried to stay when Lucia’s son, Juan Pablo, was born, but his drug addictions and violent tendencies made her too afraid to stay in the relationship.

Now that Fatima was growing up and she had another newborn son, Lucia decided to finally seek help. At Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, she found people who understood and were able to help her take control of her life. Lucia’s case manager there was vital to helping her make the decision to leave her husband. She’s also spent considerable time in domestic violence support groups, and she’s met others who share similar experiences.

Lucia and Juan Pablo DuranLucia Duran and Juan Pablo

“On November 14, 2008, I put in for a divorce,” she said. “I stayed at home and changed the locks. I found a great deal of strength from joining these support groups. It made me feel like I’m not the only one going through these issues. I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Juan Pablo is now two years old, and mother and son still visit Homeless Prenatal for further support and for training for the future. They’ve had such a positive effect on Lucia, that she now wants to be a case manager herself, something that Homeless Prenatal encourages.

“After all the help I’ve received, I’d like to use that to help other people. Something to give back.”

The Homeless Prenatal Program provides new mothers or pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care, counseling and psychological services.

While Homeless Prenatal Program has been a blessing to her and her family, her injury still prevents her from working consistently, and they need help. She lives off of $500 every month to pay rent and buy food. Luckily, she doesn’t have to worry about paying Homeless Prenatal for the therapy she receives and the counseling for Juan Pablo, who witnessed domestic violence early in life.

Contribute to Homeless Prenatal Program or directly to Lucia Duran via the widget below:


Get HuffPost Impact On Facebook and Twitter!


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , ,

Abused Mother Seeks Education, Independence For Her Two Children

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

This story is part of HuffPost Impact’s 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.

When Lucia Duran was growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, she had to work. She had seven brothers and sisters, and her childhood was spent taking care of them and the home. If she made a mistake, if something wasn’t cleaned or cooked properly, her parents would become abusive. She didn’t go to school and her future looked like one of labor and poverty.

So, when she was 16 years old, Lucia decided that the best way out of this situation would be to get married and leave her house. Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t treat her much kinder. Her new husband abused her as well, and with no home to go back to, she left the country.

Lucia had brothers in the U.S. under political asylum, and in 1988 she received Temporary Protected Status and moved to Las Vegas. Her daughter, Fatima, was born in 1990. Things were looking up.

12 Cities

Leaving Las Vegas

Lucia worked as a housekeeper and rented a room from her brother in Las Vegas. Fatima went to school and, for a time, her father was still in the house. It wasn’t long, however, before the abuse began anew. I asked Fatima Duran how much she remembered, and what that time was like.

“I have both positive and negative memories,” she told me. “He was also Salvadorean but he met my mom in Vegas.”

Both Fatima and Lucia told me that the time carried a lot of tension, but they were hesitant to go into details about the specific abuse.

In 1998, Lucia finally took Fatima away from her abusive father and moved to San Francisco.

Breaking Free and Seeking Help

Fatima told me that her mother placed a heavy emphasis on education, as she had to grow up without one.

“Growing up, school was always first” she said. “She would always tell me, ‘The way for you to have a place and have self-worth is to be educated. I want you to have it, no matter how hard that may be.’ It was kind of like this pressure that she put on me, but I was able to take up on my own, not only for her but also for myself. It was something that I wanted to do. I realized that in order to show my gratitude for everything that she’s done — I should work hard.”

Fatima is now a student at the University of San Francisco, double majoring in Media and Latin American studies. Her mother, despite all of her work, however, is still in need of help.

Hosted by imgur.comLucia Duran, her daughter Fatima, and son Juan Pablo

A few years ago she met another man, and thought that things might be different this time around. He was supporting her, since she hurt her back and hasn’t been able to continue working as a housekeeper. Three years ago, she got pregnant. That’s when things began to unravel.

“The pregnancy was rough,” Lucia said. “He threatened to kill me, to cut my head off. I was alone for most of the pregnancy.” Her husband tried to stay when Lucia’s son, Juan Pablo, was born, but his drug addictions and violent tendencies made her too afraid to stay in the relationship.

Now that Fatima was growing up and she had another newborn son, Lucia decided to finally seek help. At Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, she found people who understood and were able to help her take control of her life. Lucia’s case manager there was vital to helping her make the decision to leave her husband. She’s also spent considerable time in domestic violence support groups, and she’s met others who share similar experiences.

Lucia and Juan Pablo DuranLucia Duran and Juan Pablo

“On November 14, 2008, I put in for a divorce,” she said. “I stayed at home and changed the locks. I found a great deal of strength from joining these support groups. It made me feel like I’m not the only one going through these issues. I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Juan Pablo is now two years old, and mother and son still visit Homeless Prenatal for further support and for training for the future. They’ve had such a positive effect on Lucia, that she now wants to be a case manager herself, something that Homeless Prenatal encourages.

“After all the help I’ve received, I’d like to use that to help other people. Something to give back.”

The Homeless Prenatal Program provides new mothers or pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care, counseling and psychological services.

While Homeless Prenatal Program has been a blessing to her and her family, her injury still prevents her from working consistently, and they need help. She lives off of $500 every month to pay rent and buy food. Luckily, she doesn’t have to worry about paying Homeless Prenatal for the therapy she receives and the counseling for Juan Pablo, who witnessed domestic violence early in life.

Contribute to Homeless Prenatal Program or directly to Lucia Duran via the widget below:


Get HuffPost Impact On Facebook and Twitter!


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , ,

Abused Mother Seeks Education, Independence For Her Two Children

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

This story is part of HuffPost Impact’s 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.

When Lucia Duran was growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, she had to work. She had seven brothers and sisters, and her childhood was spent taking care of them and the home. If she made a mistake, if something wasn’t cleaned or cooked properly, her parents would become abusive. She didn’t go to school and her future looked like one of labor and poverty.

So, when she was 16 years old, Lucia decided that the best way out of this situation would be to get married and leave her house. Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t treat her much kinder. Her new husband abused her as well, and with no home to go back to, she left the country.

Lucia had brothers in the U.S. under political asylum, and in 1988 she received Temporary Protected Status and moved to Las Vegas. Her daughter, Fatima, was born in 1990. Things were looking up.

12 Cities

Leaving Las Vegas

Lucia worked as a housekeeper and rented a room from her brother in Las Vegas. Fatima went to school and, for a time, her father was still in the house. It wasn’t long, however, before the abuse began anew. I asked Fatima Duran how much she remembered, and what that time was like.

“I have both positive and negative memories,” she told me. “He was also Salvadorean but he met my mom in Vegas.”

Both Fatima and Lucia told me that the time carried a lot of tension, but they were hesitant to go into details about the specific abuse.

In 1998, Lucia finally took Fatima away from her abusive father and moved to San Francisco.

Breaking Free and Seeking Help

Fatima told me that her mother placed a heavy emphasis on education, as she had to grow up without one.

“Growing up, school was always first” she said. “She would always tell me, ‘The way for you to have a place and have self-worth is to be educated. I want you to have it, no matter how hard that may be.’ It was kind of like this pressure that she put on me, but I was able to take up on my own, not only for her but also for myself. It was something that I wanted to do. I realized that in order to show my gratitude for everything that she’s done — I should work hard.”

Fatima is now a student at the University of San Francisco, double majoring in Media and Latin American studies. Her mother, despite all of her work, however, is still in need of help.

Hosted by imgur.comLucia Duran, her daughter Fatima, and son Juan Pablo

A few years ago she met another man, and thought that things might be different this time around. He was supporting her, since she hurt her back and hasn’t been able to continue working as a housekeeper. Three years ago, she got pregnant. That’s when things began to unravel.

“The pregnancy was rough,” Lucia said. “He threatened to kill me, to cut my head off. I was alone for most of the pregnancy.” Her husband tried to stay when Lucia’s son, Juan Pablo, was born, but his drug addictions and violent tendencies made her too afraid to stay in the relationship.

Now that Fatima was growing up and she had another newborn son, Lucia decided to finally seek help. At Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, she found people who understood and were able to help her take control of her life. Lucia’s case manager there was vital to helping her make the decision to leave her husband. She’s also spent considerable time in domestic violence support groups, and she’s met others who share similar experiences.

Lucia and Juan Pablo DuranLucia Duran and Juan Pablo

“On November 14, 2008, I put in for a divorce,” she said. “I stayed at home and changed the locks. I found a great deal of strength from joining these support groups. It made me feel like I’m not the only one going through these issues. I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Juan Pablo is now two years old, and mother and son still visit Homeless Prenatal for further support and for training for the future. They’ve had such a positive effect on Lucia, that she now wants to be a case manager herself, something that Homeless Prenatal encourages.

“After all the help I’ve received, I’d like to use that to help other people. Something to give back.”

The Homeless Prenatal Program provides new mothers or pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care, counseling and psychological services.

While Homeless Prenatal Program has been a blessing to her and her family, her injury still prevents her from working consistently, and they need help. She lives off of $500 every month to pay rent and buy food. Luckily, she doesn’t have to worry about paying Homeless Prenatal for the therapy she receives and the counseling for Juan Pablo, who witnessed domestic violence early in life.

Contribute to Homeless Prenatal Program or directly to Lucia Duran via the widget below:


Get HuffPost Impact On Facebook and Twitter!


Categories: World Tags: , , , , , ,

Abused Mother Seeks Education, Independence For Her Two Children

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

This story is part of HuffPost Impact’s 12 Days, 12 Cities, 12 Families series, highlighting Americans who have persevered to overcome incredible challenges and the nonprofits that helped change their lives. Check back tomorrow for the continuation of this series.

When Lucia Duran was growing up in El Salvador in the 1970s and 80s, she had to work. She had seven brothers and sisters, and her childhood was spent taking care of them and the home. If she made a mistake, if something wasn’t cleaned or cooked properly, her parents would become abusive. She didn’t go to school and her future looked like one of labor and poverty.

So, when she was 16 years old, Lucia decided that the best way out of this situation would be to get married and leave her house. Unfortunately, this relationship didn’t treat her much kinder. Her new husband abused her as well, and with no home to go back to, she left the country.

Lucia had brothers in the U.S. under political asylum, and in 1988 she received Temporary Protected Status and moved to Las Vegas. Her daughter, Fatima, was born in 1990. Things were looking up.

12 Cities

Leaving Las Vegas

Lucia worked as a housekeeper and rented a room from her brother in Las Vegas. Fatima went to school and, for a time, her father was still in the house. It wasn’t long, however, before the abuse began anew. I asked Fatima Duran how much she remembered, and what that time was like.

“I have both positive and negative memories,” she told me. “He was also Salvadorean but he met my mom in Vegas.”

Both Fatima and Lucia told me that the time carried a lot of tension, but they were hesitant to go into details about the specific abuse.

In 1998, Lucia finally took Fatima away from her abusive father and moved to San Francisco.

Breaking Free and Seeking Help

Fatima told me that her mother placed a heavy emphasis on education, as she had to grow up without one.

“Growing up, school was always first” she said. “She would always tell me, ‘The way for you to have a place and have self-worth is to be educated. I want you to have it, no matter how hard that may be.’ It was kind of like this pressure that she put on me, but I was able to take up on my own, not only for her but also for myself. It was something that I wanted to do. I realized that in order to show my gratitude for everything that she’s done — I should work hard.”

Fatima is now a student at the University of San Francisco, double majoring in Media and Latin American studies. Her mother, despite all of her work, however, is still in need of help.

Hosted by imgur.comLucia Duran, her daughter Fatima, and son Juan Pablo

A few years ago she met another man, and thought that things might be different this time around. He was supporting her, since she hurt her back and hasn’t been able to continue working as a housekeeper. Three years ago, she got pregnant. That’s when things began to unravel.

“The pregnancy was rough,” Lucia said. “He threatened to kill me, to cut my head off. I was alone for most of the pregnancy.” Her husband tried to stay when Lucia’s son, Juan Pablo, was born, but his drug addictions and violent tendencies made her too afraid to stay in the relationship.

Now that Fatima was growing up and she had another newborn son, Lucia decided to finally seek help. At Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco, she found people who understood and were able to help her take control of her life. Lucia’s case manager there was vital to helping her make the decision to leave her husband. She’s also spent considerable time in domestic violence support groups, and she’s met others who share similar experiences.

Lucia and Juan Pablo DuranLucia Duran and Juan Pablo

“On November 14, 2008, I put in for a divorce,” she said. “I stayed at home and changed the locks. I found a great deal of strength from joining these support groups. It made me feel like I’m not the only one going through these issues. I’ve made a lot of good friends.”

Juan Pablo is now two years old, and mother and son still visit Homeless Prenatal for further support and for training for the future. They’ve had such a positive effect on Lucia, that she now wants to be a case manager herself, something that Homeless Prenatal encourages.

“After all the help I’ve received, I’d like to use that to help other people. Something to give back.”

The Homeless Prenatal Program provides new mothers or pregnant women with prenatal and postpartum care, counseling and psychological services.

While Homeless Prenatal Program has been a blessing to her and her family, her injury still prevents her from working consistently, and they need help. She lives off of $500 every month to pay rent and buy food. Luckily, she doesn’t have to worry about paying Homeless Prenatal for the therapy she receives and the counseling for Juan Pablo, who witnessed domestic violence early in life.

Contribute to Homeless Prenatal Program or directly to Lucia Duran via the widget below:


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OLPC shows off absurdly thin XO-3 concept tablet for 2012 (update: XO-1.5 and XO-1.75 coming first)

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments
Still have a bit of faith left for the OLPC project? Good, you’re gonna need it: designer Yves Behar has unveiled his latest concept design for the now-aiming-for-$75 vision, and it’s all screen. Keeping with the newfound trend toward tablets, the XO-3 is an 8.5 x 11 touchscreen, coupled with a little folding ring in the corner for grip and a camera in the back. To keep things minimal the plan is to use Palm Pre-style induction charging, and less than a watt of power to keep an “8 gigaherz [sic]” (800MHz?) processor and a Pixel Qi screen powered. At half the thickness of an iPhone, this vision is obviously banking heavily on presumed technology advances by 2012 (the projected release date), but it’s not too hard to see somebody making this form factor happen by then-ish. Nick Neg isn’t all hubris, however: “Sure, if I were a commercial entity coming to you for investment, and I’d made the projections I had in the past, you wouldn’t invest again, but we’re not a commercial operation. If we only achieve half of what we’re setting out to do, it could have very big consequences.”

Update: According to our man Nicholas Negroponte, who took time out of his busy schedule to email us with the info, there are two other variations of the XO headed our way before we see the XO-3. Nick says we’ll see the XO-1.5 appear in January for around $200 — an update to the current version. As we’d heard before, the 1.5 iteration will swap a VIA CPU for the current AMD one, and will double the speed as well as quadruple both the DRAM and Flash memory of the current version. Furthermore, he says that in early 2011 the XO-1.75 (replacing that psychotically awesome 2.0 dual screen model) will make its appearance, and will sport rubber bumpers on the outer casing, an 8.9-inch touchscreen display inside, and will run atop a Marvell ARM processor which will enable two times the speed at a quarter of the power usage. That version will sell for somewhere in the $175 range. Then, no 2.0… straight on to the XO-3.0!

Gallery: OLPC XO3 Gallery

[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]

OLPC shows off absurdly thin XO-3 concept tablet for 2012 (update: XO-1.5 and XO-1.75 coming first) originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 22 Dec 2009 23:49:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Well, OK Then

December 23rd, 2009 admin No comments

President Barack Obama said Monday that Congress should approve a final healthcare bill even if it doesn’t include a public option.

Obama said the House and Senate bills are 95 percent “identical” and downplayed the fact that final legislation is unlikely to include a public health insurance option during an Oval Office interview with American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan.

“There’s 5 percent differences, and one of those differences is the public option,” Obama said.

“But this is an area that has just become symbolic of a lot of ideological fights. As a practical matter, this is not the most important aspect to this bill — the House bill or the Senate bill.”
…..

“But either way, whether there’s a public option in there or not, if you don’t have health insurance, you are going to have now the option of getting it at a reasonable cost,” Obama said. “And that’s the most important thing.”

That would have saved us all a lot of headaches if we’d heard it from the beginning, instead of this from June, or in September, or back during the presidential campaign. I guess that settles once and for all whether he’ll push for a public option in the House-Senate conference. Ah, well. And another not so minor quibble–it’s less an “option” the American people are getting to buy private health insurance as a mandate, albeit with assistance for many, to do so.

Beyond that, however, the public option isn’t an “ideological” triviality. It’s been recognized by health economists all the way from Paul Krugman to the wonks at the CBO as a significant means of cost control. You have to look no further than Medicare to know the power it has to save money. And the power it has to scare the crap out of the insurance industry. But calling it an ideological fight diminishes the substantive critiques from the left without actually having to address them on the merits.

The ever diminishing role of the public option in Obama’s vision for reform is illustrative of what Drew Westen (Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University, founder of Westen Strategies), wrote about yesterday in critiquing Obama as leader.

What’s costing the president are three things: a laissez faire style of leadership that appears weak and removed to everyday Americans, a failure to articulate and defend any coherent ideological position on virtually anything, and a widespread perception that he cares more about special interests like bank, credit card, oil and coal, and health and pharmaceutical companies than he does about the people they are shafting….

Consider the president’s leadership style, which has now become clear: deliver a moving speech, move on, and when push comes to shove, leave it to others to decide what to do if there’s a conflict, because if there’s a conflict, he doesn’t want to be anywhere near it.

Health care is a paradigm case. When the president went to speak to the Democrats last week on Capitol Hill, he exhorted them to pass the bill. According to reports, though, he didn’t mention the two issues in the way of doing that, the efforts of Senators like Ben Nelson to use this as an opportunity to turn back the clock on abortion by 25 years, and the efforts of conservative and industry-owned Democrats to eliminate any competition for the insurance companies that pay their campaign bills. He simply ignored both controversies and exhorted.

Leadership means heading into the eye of the storm and bringing the vessel of state home safely, not going as far inland as you can because it’s uncomfortable on the high seas. This president has a particular aversion to battling back gusting winds from his starboard side (the right, for the nautically challenged) and tends to give in to them. He just can’t tolerate conflict, and the result is that he refuses to lead….

The time for exhortation is over. FDR didn’t exhort robber barons to stem the redistribution of wealth from working Americans to the upper 1 percent, and neither did his fifth cousin Teddy. Both men told the most powerful men in the United States that they weren’t going to rip off the American people any more, and they backed up their words with actions. Teddy Roosevelt was clear that capital gains taxes should be high relative to income taxes because we should reward work, not “gambling in stocks.” This President just doesn’t have the stomach to make anyone do anything they don’t want to do (except women to have unwanted babies because they can’t afford an abortion or live in a red state and don’t have an employer who offers insurance), and his advisors are enabling his most troubling character flaw, his conflict-avoidance.

Drew Westen isn’t just any guy with a computer. He’s an expert on political communication, the guy who wrote The Political Brain, and as digby says, the “it boy” of the Democratic party. Corporations winning again (remember, they declared victory when Lieberman killed the public option) in this bill reinforces his critique. But right now, in this economy and at a time when so many people are strugging so mightily, this could have been a powerful win for the people.


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Pugs Who Ate Owner Get New Home: Police Say Dogs’ Owner Committed Suicide

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

OMAHA, Neb. — Two small dogs that police say fed on the body of their owner after he killed himself are headed to Indiana.

The Nebraska Humane Society says the two pugs, named Harry and Sally, will meet their new owners Tuesday.

An unidentified Indiana couple was selected from more than 250 individuals or families interested in adopting the dogs. The couple has owned pugs for several years and has been looking to rescue more.

The pugs were found with their former owner earlier this month. Police said an autopsy showed the man had been dead for about two weeks of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Humane Society officials said despite the circumstances, the dogs were unlikely to suffer from any long-term psychological effects.

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James S. Gordon: Open Minds, and Warm but Troubled Hearts in Closed Gaza (Pt. 1)

December 22nd, 2009 admin No comments

Gaza City, December 16, 2009

Day 5 of the December 2009 Mind-Body Skills Training in Gaza

Read more entries and view video here

As the days pass, our participants discover and discuss new possibilities of psychophysiological self-regulation – breathing deeply to relax in spite of the anxious anticipation of leading a group for the first time, or to find a calm place from which to encounter memories of family members “martyred” by violence. They find in the creative imagination of guided imagery unexpected ease: “When I go to my imaginary ’safe place’ I discover it is my home – I would not have believed it because we are close to the border and have often been shelled – and I thank God for my family and for seeing the green of the trees every day.”

Sitting in the circles of our small groups we move more deeply into each others’ minds and hearts. Experiences and feelings that are rarely if ever publicly revealed in tradition-saturated Gaza are shared; long suppressed emotions and conflicts emerge.

We hear about the ways that the frustrations of men, deprived in the Nakba – the “catastrophic” loss of homes and villages of 1948 – of their patrimony, unable to maintain their self-respect without jobs or freedom, have manifested in the self-righteous abuse of women and children. Her late arrival after difficulty navigating the streets during a Hamas demonstration reminds one young psychologist – gentle, always smiling, pale in her long black coat – of her father’s fury at an elder brother when one evening years ago he came home late: The old man burned the boy’s arm with a stick glowing with red heat, and turned the instrument on his wife when she pleaded for mercy. The girl watched. A university professor cries with shock and pain for her young colleague, and recalls her own father’s contrasting kindness. Then it is the turn of a large young man, a gentle giant I think, who is also a psychologist. “I have not spoken of this before,” he begins. When he and his brother were six and five, their father forced them, out of, the psychologist now believes, some warped idea of discipline and manliness, to walk 10 kilometers to school each morning before dawn; the young man remembers, his face softening in hurt, his hands opening in incomprehension, how furious his father became when one day, attacked by dogs, the boys ran home. The participant who is leading the group today suggests we stand and hold hands. He asks us, so wisely I think, to “Feel the support of the group,” The pale young woman, quietly tearful, nods with relief and release; the young man thanks us – “Shukran” – and tells us he has vowed always to understand and be kind to his own children.

The ways of Gaza are ancient, sometimes painfully problematic, but also rich and in many ways still sustaining. The closeness to families that can under pressure constrict can also hold up people who should by all ordinary reckoning have collapsed. Mothers, fathers and especially grandparents appear in another imagery exercise – the summoning of a “wise” or “inner guide” with a frequency I have seen nowhere in the Western world. “My grandmother was strong and kind” one young woman announces, emphasizing the conjunction. “she was always there for me.” Another says his long dead, imagined grandfather counseled him not to throw stones at Israeli tanks; “It is a waste, he says to me. True courage will be in caring for your children and your wife.” When a young psychologist – unusually lithe and natty, a “dead ringer” I am told for a Turkish movie star – tells me I remind him of his grandfather. I’m at first taken aback, ready to protest – “I’m much too young,” I think. When I look again and see the sweetness of his face, the tears in his eyes, I am aware of the foolishness of my reaction, and accept the honor he is giving me.

Each day the nature that remains free from overcrowding, the destruction of artillery shells and fear of Israeli patrols appears, vital and hopeful, in mental imagery, check-ins and reminiscences. In the drawings participants make of “how I want to be” and “how I will achieve it,” there are palm trees with ladders- steps to a more hopeful future- leading upward; small patches of green issue gracious invitations; many colored flowers represent “all the brightness of experience;” birds of free thought and feeling fly at the top of pages; the sun warms tired heads and softens hunched, burdened shoulders. Often the sea that borders Gaza appears, deep and ever present, calming troubled minds.

This post is continued in Pt. 2.

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