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Friday, November 20, 2015

The Atlantic's Silicon Valley Suicides Cover Story and the Risk of Copycat Suicides

Posted By on Fri, Nov 20, 2015 at 12:23 PM


The Atlantic’s
December issue leads with “The Silicon Valley Suicides” by Hanna Rosin, a somber look at the suicide pandemic seizing Palo Alto’s high schools. In the 2014-2015 school year, three current and one graduated student took their own lives, echoing a similar rash of suicides in 2008-2009. The most common method was stepping in front of an oncoming Caltrain.

Rosin, who graduated from Stanford but no longer lives in California, had scarcely arrived back in town to report on the troubling phenomena before she encountered anxious opposition.

Not because she was coming to write about a painful issue that the community is keen to put behind it — although she acknowledges that was a factor. (Diana Kapp investigated the story for San Francisco magazine earlier this year.) 

“I know that the very fact that I’m writing about this and making them confront it again isn’t great for these people, no matter how sensitive I was,” Rosin told me yesterday by phone.

The concern was mostly because experts contend — frantically, frequently, and to whoever will listen — that the mere act of writing about a suicide cluster could incite more suicides. It’s a situation called suicide pathogen, or sometimes just copycat suicide.

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Tainted Batch of Street Xanax Leads to Hospitalizations and Possible Death

Posted By on Fri, Oct 23, 2015 at 3:06 PM

  • M - Zed/Flickr

A toxic batch of counterfeit Xanax has hit San Francisco streets.

As the Examiner reports, between Oct. 15 and 17, three people ranging in age from 20 to 40 were hospitalized after ingesting pills marked as Xanax. A fourth person in possession of the pills was found dead, although authorities haven't yet determined a cause of death. The three patients hospitalized suffered weakness, muscle breakdown, and fluid in the lungs.

Per the Examiner, two patients are listed as critically ill.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

California Moves One Step Closer to Legalizing Assisted Suicide

Posted By on Wed, Sep 9, 2015 at 1:35 PM

SF Weekly recently reported on SB 128, a controversial bill that would allow doctors in California to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients. Today, after a nearly two hour debate, the state Assembly passed the bill with a 42-33 vote. It now heads to the state Senate, where it’s also expected to pass. 

Governor Brown has remained tight-lipped about the bill, although his Catholicism aligns him with assisted suicide's most ardent opponents.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

San Quentin in "Crisis Mode" After Inmate Tests Positive for Legionnaires' Disease

Posted By on Fri, Aug 28, 2015 at 12:44 PM

  • Photo by Jeremy Lybarger

San Quentin is on edge after an inmate tested positive for Legionnaires’ disease, a potentially fatal form of pneumonia.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

Fake Doctor Treated Cancer Patient With Homemade Elixirs and Dirt

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 3:47 PM

  • Courtesy of Natural Oncology Institute
An El Cerrito man posing as a doctor is under investigation after reportedly treating a cancer patient with a mix of expired medicine and a baggie of dirt.

According to the Chronicle, 69-year-old Vincent Gammill, whose office is in Richmond, was treating a late-stage cancer patient, from whom he’d milked $2,000 in medical fees.

The only problem was that Gammill’s treatment was outright quackery. Per the Chronicle, Gammill told his patient that some of his homemade potions were so powerful they could burn a hole in a table. When the patient complained of “a burning sensation” after ingesting one of Gammill’s elixirs, he told her that was a sign the medicine was working.

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Thursday, May 28, 2015 'Absolutely Opposed' to Strict Safety Regulations Proposed for CA Porn Performers (Updated)

Posted By on Thu, May 28, 2015 at 1:06 PM

California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health has proposed strict new health and safety standards for porn production after five years of study and debate, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. The draft regulations, embedded below, are intended to protect porn performers from sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B.

Included in the rules are guidelines for handling clothing and props that come into contact with blood or other bodily fluids and a requirement that producers pay for workers' doctor's appointments and hepatitis B vaccines. 

According to the LA Daily News, some in the industry are unhappy with the strict regulations: 
“These are regulations designed for medical settings, and are unworkable on an adult film set — or even a Hollywood film set,” Diane Duke, CEO of the Canoga Park-based Free Speech Coalition, said in a statement.
BoingBoing pointed out that one of the rules might require performers to wear protective goggles, which could work for a sexy scientist scene but might be out of place in other films:
Personal Protective Equipment.
1. Where occupational exposure remains after institution of engineering and work practice controls, the employer shall provide, at no cost to the employee, appropriate personal protective equipment such as, but not limited to, condoms, gloves for cleaning, and, if contact of the eyes with OPIM-STI is reasonably anticipated, eye protection. Personal protective equipment will be considered "appropriate" only if it prevents blood or OPIM—STI* from passing through to or reaching the employee's eyes, mouth, or other mucous membranes, or non-intact skin under normal conditions of use and for the duration of time which the protective equipment will be used.
Other rules seem like a big win for workers in the porn industry, requiring their employers to pay for medical services during working hours:
The employer shall establish, implement and maintain a system of medical services and post-exposure evaluation and follow-up for all employees who have occupational exposure. All medical services required by this section shall be provided at no cost to the employee, made available at a reasonable time and place and during the employee’s working hours, performed by or under the supervision of a PLHCP, and provided according to the requirements of this section, and the recommendations of the CDC and CDPH current at the time these evaluations and procedures take place.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Union Accuses Kaiser of Firing Whistleblowing Psychologist

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 12:00 PM

Dr. Alan Wang (in blue) says he was fired for blowing the whistle on Kaiser - COURTESY NUHW
  • Courtesy NUHW
  • Dr. Alan Wang (in blue) says he was fired for blowing the whistle on Kaiser

For years, Kaiser Permanente, the largest HMO in the Bay Area, has been criticized by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, which represents mental health care professionals in Kaiser facilities around California, for providing insufficient mental health services for its members. In 2013, the California Department of Managed Health Care vindicated those complaints when it fined the HMO $4 million for "failing to provide mental health treatment in a timely manner," according to the Sacramento Bee. The DMCH also ordered Kaiser to cease and desist from violating state law, which requires HMOs to provide mental as well as physical health care. 

Kaiser was supposed to fix the problems, but in February of this year, the DMCH issued a report slamming the company for continuing to fail to meet the legal standards for mental health care, according to the LA Times

Now NUHW says that Kaiser has fired a psychologist, Dr. Alex Wang, in retaliation for his blowing the whistle on substandard care. Wang was fired April 9, after what the union says was two years of retaliatory treatment against the doctor for seeking "timely appointments for his patients." In 2013, the union says, Wang was disciplined for "political speech" when he wrote a note in a patient's chart asking that the patient wait less than three weeks for an appointment. 

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Just in Time for the Weekend, Here's Some Promising Health News

Posted By on Fri, Apr 17, 2015 at 12:49 PM

And now, some good news on the health front:

State health department officials say the measles outbreak  has been contained — at least for now.

You may recall that late last year, a low-boiling panic swept  across the land after health officials revealed that Disneyland ("the Magic Kingdom," of all places!) was epicenter of several measles cases.  The announcement set off a statewide public awareness campaign — and a heated national debate — over vaccines.  Here in the Bay Area, a couple of cases emerged, both said to have been linked to tech workers who had subsequently reported riding public transportation. 

For the better part of fifty years, measles, which is highly-communicable,  has been a preventable sickness— as long as infants are immunized; California, though, has "'pockets of non-immunization," according to Dr. Gil Chavez, Deputy Director of the California of Public Health. The statewide outbreak included 130 people who were diagnosed, 17 reported cases in the Bay Area.

During a media briefing earlier today, Dr. Chavez also said that the last reported case of measles related to the Disneyland outbreak was diagnosed on March 2, 2015.

Chavez and other health department officials urged the public to get vaccinated.

In response to the 'pockets of non-immunization' in parts of California that are said to have helped fuel the outbreak — looking at you, Marin County — state representative Richard Pan of Sacramento introduced legislation to eliminate an exemption that had allowed parents to opt-out vaccinating infants against the disease based on "personal beliefs."

The outcome of that legislation has yet to be determined.  

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Friday, March 6, 2015

The Bay Area Is Full of Skinny People

Posted By on Fri, Mar 6, 2015 at 9:41 AM

Maybe it's all those hills we climb or just the popularity of the treadmill desk. More likely, it's that you can't afford rent and groceries anymore. Whatever the case may be,  a new study has found that the San Francisco Bay Area is full of skinny people. 

According to, the Bay Area has the fifth smallest weight problem in the United States. The study rates American cities based statistics concerning obesity, lifestyle habits, and occurrence of weight-related illnesses, including diabetes and high blood pressure. The news comes just in time to honor of National Nutrition Month, which also happens to fall during Girl Scout Cookie season.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BART Riders Possibly Exposed to Measles After Infected Passenger Rides Train

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Health officials are warning that BART riders may have been exposed to the measles after an infected commuter rode the train from Layfayette to San Francisco last week. 

Contra Costa public health officials confirmed this week the county’s first measles case since the statewide outbreak began in December and issued an advisory today after learning an infected commuter traveled on BART before being diagnosed. Most people are not at risk since they are vaccinated against measles, but anyone who is not vaccinated is at risk to be infected if exposed to the virus.

It's worth nothing that the risk of contracting measles by being exposed on BART is low, however, Bay Area residents should be aware of the situation, health officials say.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"