Blue Marble

Child Bipolar Diagnoses Have Quintupled in a Decade

| Mon May 21, 2007 3:30 PM EDT

A four-year-old died of prescription overdose in December. Rebecca Riley in Massachusetts had been diagnosed with hyperactivity and bipolar disorder at age 2 and 3, and was on three prescription meds at the time of her death: clonidine, Depakote, and Seroquel. Her parents were charged with murder.

Who is nuts in this case? In my opinion, any doctor who diagnoses a toddler with ADD and bipolar disorder. Since they can hardly talk, crying is the only way for them to communicate that they're hungry, they need a diaper change, or they just want attention. And sometimes no one is listening anyway.

It's one thing for adults to seek out a drug prescription when their emotions overwhelm them. Ethically, it's a completely different thing for a psychiatrist to drug children who overwhelm mom and dad. This Masachussetts psychiatrist effectively recommended that Rebecca's parents to medicate her and her two older siblings for what--throwing too many tantrums? What a mixed message to send to an undereducated, overwhelmed mother.

But it happens all the time. Andy Coghlan of the UK's New Scientist points out that bipolar diagnoses in American children have grown fivefold in ten years.

In 1996, 13 out of every 100,000 children in the US were diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. In 2004, the figure was 73 in 100,000, a more than fivefold rise, they report in a paper to be published in Biological Psychiatry. Among children diagnosed with a psychiatric condition in 1996, 1 in 10 were deemed to have bipolar disorder. By 2004, 4 out of 10 children with a psychiatric condition were told they were bipolar.

That's more bipolar kids per capita than any other country. Drugging troublesome toddlers seems like the real national illness. Or at least a symptom of that peculiarly American combination of materialism and wishful thinking.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

House Probes ExxonMobil's Ongoing Funding of Global Warming Denial

| Fri May 18, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

As Antarctica thaws, ExxonMobil continues to fund global warming denial. Earlier this year ExxonMobil claimed to have stopped funneling grants to media groups that spread the myth (as Tom Tancredo did in Tuesday night's presidential debate) that scientists are evenly divided on whether humans are causing global warming or not. That lie was exposed in the company's "World Giving Report." Greenpeace found that ExxonMobil recently gave $2.1 million for global warming denial. That's more than half of what it gave in 2005.

There's a term for this genre of lies: pseudoskepticism. It's the same strategy that the tobacco industry used for decades to cast doubt over the dangers of smoking. And now the government is intervening, just as it finally did with tobacco in the mid-1990s.

Yesterday Brad Miller, the chairman of the House Science oversight committee, asked ExxonMobil to hand over a list of "global warming skeptics" it has funded. Predictably, the corporation's public response employs the same tactic these "thinktanks" use to undermine science: stirring up doubt over whether grant recipients like Steve Milloy and the Competitive Enterprise Institute deny global warming or not. ExxonMobil spokesman Dave Gardner said, "The groups Greenpeace cites are a widely varied group and to classify them as 'climate deniers' is wrong."

By the way, Mother Jones was the first to expose this scandal two years ago. Here's a chart of the grant recipients.

Weird Weather Watch: This Year Is the Hottest on Record

| Fri May 18, 2007 7:09 PM EDT

Spotted on ThinkProgress: Thus far, 2007 is the hottest year ever. That includes both land and sea temperatures. Check it out:

map_blended_mntp_04_2007_t1.gif


What's especially scary is all the dark red where permafrost used to be.

So have you dusted off your bike and unplugged your chargers yet?

Climate Change Could Displace One Billion People

| Wed May 16, 2007 9:35 PM EDT

The world currently has about 153 million displaced people. But there will be one billion by 2050, due to global warming. That's the prediction of Christian Aid, an organization formed 60 years ago to help the tens of millions of people displaced by World War II.

Internally displaced people are much worse off than international refugees, who have legal status and protection. So in Uganda, for example, the DP camps are more like rural prisons. The worst displacement crisis triggered by climate change already is Darfur. The one-billion figure is based on the IPCC's figures, for example, that droughts will halve the agricultural yields of many countries.

Another shocking part of the report, Human Tide, is the damage done by cultivation of palm oil for biodiesel. Biofuels are a modern-day goldrush. The EU will require one tenth of fuel to be biofuels by 2020. But in Indonesia alone, 350 conflicts have come out of developers wresting land away from people to cultivate palm oil. Dozens of people have been murdered and about 500 tortured. When pushed off their land, these people have no choice but to work on the plantations.

Contingency Plans for Skiers, as the World Warms

| Wed May 16, 2007 3:49 PM EDT

Skiers were very disappointed by a lack of snow last season. But within a few years, they may be able to ski just outside of Fort Worth in the summer, according to Jennifer S. Forsyth in today's Wall Street Journal (behind subscription wall). Some ambitious businessmen plan to develop a $695 million "Alpine Village" called Bearfire Resort, with chairlifts, ice rinks, a retail center and hotel, all on a flat prairie in Texas where temperatures reach 100 degrees. They'll use a polymer surface called Snowflex, like wet, white Astroturf with bristles. It's not my idea of a vacation. But at least it's not refrigerated, like a domed ski resort in Dubai, a city soon to import polar bears as amusement. Speaking of defying nature and ignoring global warming, did you know that the Cardinals play in an open-air stadium in Arizona, air-conditioned in 100-degree plus heat?

Weird Weather Watch: Wildfire in New Jersey, Started by the Military

| Wed May 16, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

New Jersey officials called a wildfire begun yesterday afternoon by an F-16's flare "one of the larger fires we've had for quite a few years." That's saying something. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's website, which lists historically significant wildfires, shows an increasing frequency of major fires since the 1990s. As it turns out, flares dropped in military exercises have caused more than one. Careless smokers have been arrested for starting fires—will military pilots face the same punishment?

An additional note on the fires currently burning in Florida and Georgia: Not only is fire ravaging a historically huge swath of Georgia's landscape, but people with respiratory illnesses were told to stay inside today. Add their lost productivity and potential illnesses to the tally of the cost of global warming. On the Florida side of the border, flames have already destroyed more than half that state's yearly average of acres destroyed. (The current fire covers 120,000 acres; a representative from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services told me the state loses about 200,000 acres a year.)

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Stress-Busting

| Tue May 15, 2007 10:26 PM EDT

When did "stress" become the public enemy of health and creativity? It's an interesting question, now that doctors attribute medical ailments to "stress," corporations hold stress-management seminars, and friends talking about problems are told to just not "stress out," because "stress" itself is their problem. In fact, stress-management is the product sold by several billion-dollar industries.

Author Angela Patmore tells Ode Magazine, "A lot of stress management is tranquilizing people, giving relaxation therapies and massages. I believe that's harmful, because instead of empowering people, it slows them down.... We're creating a society of people who are afraid of working. Besides, all this talk about stress doesn't solve underlying workplace problems. It distracts attention from an organization that is run poorly, for instance."

She writes in the Guardian, "Arousal and emotions have been turned into syndromes, and an industry with more members than our armed forces drip-feeds us alarmist medicalising twaddle known as 'stress awareness' about our brains and bodies, the effect of which is to warn us, 'Let us calm you down or you will die.'"

We should seek resolution, not relaxation, she says, in a philosophical, psychological, and historical critique of that one word that has come to stand for so much.

Common Chemicals Are Linked to Breast Cancer

| Tue May 15, 2007 7:22 PM EDT

New studies link 200 chemicals to breast cancer, the leading cause of death to American women in their late 30s to early 50s. Marla Cone writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Of the 200 breast carcinogens, "73 are present in consumer products or are food contaminants — 1,4-dioxane in shampoos, for example, or acrylamide in French fries. Thirty-five are common air pollutants, 25 are in workplaces where at least 5,000 women are employed, and 10 are food additives, according to the reports.
Only about 1,000 of the 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the United States have been tested on animals to see whether they induce cancerous tumors or mutate DNA. Such tests cost $2 million each."

For more on environmental toxins, read Cone's Dozens of Words for Snow, None for Pollution in our January 2005 issue. "Perched atop the Arctic food chain, the people of the Far North face an impossible choice: abandon their traditional foods, or ingest the rest of the world's poisons with every bite."

Weird Weather Watch: SoCal, Florida and Minnesota Are Burning

| Wed May 9, 2007 5:10 PM EDT

Griffith Park, a park beloved by Angelenos, is experiencing a major brushfire. Animals from the nearby zoo have been moved indoors and 400 homes were evacuated. So far, only one man has been injured and firefighters expect to have the blaze contained shortly.

There are also major fires covering 130,000 acres along the Florida-Georgia border and 17,000 acres in Minnesota. Florida Department of Forestry documents [PDF] show that wildfires are not uncommon in May, but the present fires are among the biggest in Georgia history. I've got a call in to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, but a quick look at their website suggests they are not at all accustomed to major fires, and the current fire is only 5 percent contained.

Weird Weather Watch: Bone Dry Spring Means No Flowers or Berries

| Tue May 8, 2007 6:02 PM EDT

I've blogged in the past about the severe drought in Southern California, which has kicked fire season off early. It's also putting a serious damper on spring flora and fauna activity. The L.A. Times reports:

Seasonal ponds are cracked dry, leaving no haven for some frog eggs or fairy shrimp to hatch. Some flower-dependent butterflies are staying dormant for another season. Plants aren't bearing berries; some oak trees aren't sprouting acorns. Bees are behaving strangely.

Ranchers are sending a stronger signal to the economically-minded: The grass is too dry for cattle to graze, and ranchers are selling cows cheap or moving them out of state.

Not only are bees "behaving strangely"—their numbers are way down around the globe—but they have no flowers to pollinate, and no pollination means no honey. So it's official: California is not the land of milk or honey.