“I think you have to deal with grief in the sense that you have to recognize that you have it, and say that it’s OK to have all the sadness.”  Ann Richards

“Behind every crime is a story of sadness.”  Enrique Pena Nieto

What No One Tells You About Chronic Pain as a 20-something

After seeing rheumatologists, GPs, physiatrists, PTs, sports medicine doctors, geneticists, neurologists, pain specialists, endocrinologists, and orthopedic surgeons, I was still not getting anything useful from anyone. I had a posse of residents following me around the hospital and calling me 24/7 to ask me questions. Nurses would make little cracks about “Erica and her entourage.”

I was in so much pain that I was willing to try anything, including hypnotists and private meditation counselors. But it was finally decided that I had tried enough, and the only step left was to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital. I managed to get an appointment with the top pain specialist in the country, and in July of 2013, he diagnosed me with Chronic Myofascial Pain Syndrome, Hypermobility-Type Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and hypothyroidism. With these diagnoses he told me, as gently as he could, that there was a good chance it would never get better, and that there was a serious possibility I might never work again…

Not many people can relate to all of this. The fear, the immaculate planning, the general anxiety, the stuff you have to put up with from doctors and the judgment from people in general. I lost many good friends in this process—even people I thought I was really close to. The last two years have been gruesome, not just physically but psychologically. Watching all of your friends grow in their professions and their relationships—their lives overall, really—is hard to watch from your bed…

What to Pack When You Need to Go to the ER…

When I went to see my geneticist at GBMC, we could tell some of these were allergic reactions and some were something else, so she ordered me a Genelex Youscript Test. It’s a pricey one, but luckily my insurance covered it. It’s a swab cheek test that analyzes how well you metabolize certain drugs. It’s very confusing to read, even for most doctors but a lot of the reps there are very good at explaining to the least science-y person ever. But, no surprise, I was an “intermediate metabolizer”/slow metabolizer for the phenotype that includes many painkillers and antidepressants…

Prison Born

Alyssa Mayer was four months pregnant the day a police officer showed up at her motel room in Kingston, New York. It was late afternoon in August 2013, the sun dragging toward the Catskills on the west side of town. Earlier that week, her boyfriend, who’d been sleeping at her place since he found out about the baby, had missed a curfew check. Both of them had recently gotten out of prison on parole, and weren’t supposed to be around anyone else with a criminal record. With the authorities looking for him, they could both get in trouble. So they’d packed some clothes and driven to a Super 8 and hoped for some idea of what to do next. Mayer was going out to pick up a pizza when she ran into the officer in the hallway.

She and her boyfriend had grown up together around Kingston. The area had been a manufacturing center for IBM until the company started laying off workers in the early 1990s, around the time Mayer was born, leaving not much more than strip malls and fast-food joints, along with rising crime rates, in stretches of the Hudson Valley. After Mayer’s parents split up, when she was a toddler, her mother worked two jobs and would return home seeming distant. Mayer spent a lot of time at her grandmother’s house and, later, on the streets in the rough part of town. In high school, she moved in with a cocaine dealer she met one day at a gas station. He bought her new clothes, manicures, anything she wanted. By the time the relationship ended, she was making sales of her own.

In 2009, when Mayer was 18, she fronted six grams to a friend who had just gotten out of prison. He told her he was broke and needed to make a quick deal. As it turned out, he had already made one with the local narcotics team. Some time later, the cops kicked in the front door of her apartment, and she ended up with a three-year felony sentence.

When Mayer learned she was pregnant, in the summer of 2013, she had already returned to prison twice for parole violations. She called a clinic to make an appointment for an abortion. She knew she wasn’t in the best position to be a parent—she had started a new job and believed she could turn her life around, but she wasn’t sure that her boyfriend wanted to do the same. She didn’t want her child to be raised without a father, like she had been. Once her boyfriend found out, though, he swore to her that they would work things out. So she didn’t show up for the appointment, and instead got a tattoo across her collarbone that read Blessed. Not long after that, they went on the run.

The officer who handcuffed Mayer in the motel didn’t seem to care when she told him she was pregnant. Neither did the parole judge, who charged her with fraternizing with another parolee and skipping curfew and ordered her back to prison. As she stripped down at the intake facility and stepped forward to be searched, she faced the question that thousands of American women do each year: What happens to a baby born in detention? …

“So many women have a long history of extreme trauma.” …

Hemp Oil Versus CBD Oil: What’s The Difference?

Consumers often confuse hemp oil with CBD oil because both are low in THC and contain CBD…

Though hemp oil does contain low levels of CBD, typically less than 25 parts per million (ppm), CBD extracts “are produced either directly from cannabis flowers that are up to 15 percent CBD (150,000 ppm), or indirectly as a co-product of the flowers and leaves that are mixed in with the stalks during hemp stalk processing for fiber.”

Because of this distinction, the association says, “It is important for American farmers and processors of hemp to understand that most CBD in products mislabeled as ‘hemp oil’ is a product of large-scale hemp stalk and fiber processing facilities in Europe where the fiber is the primary material produced at a large scale.

“CBD is not a product or component of hemp seeds, and labeling to that effect is misleading and motivated by the desire to take advantage of the legal gray area of CBD under federal law.” …

However, the cannabinoid is still illegal in most of the United States, which has provided an opportunity for some hemp businesses to market a variation of knockoff CBD treatments that they claim have the same healing power as popular strains such as Charlotte’s Web.

However, after patients began submitting complaints about some of these products, including “Real Scientific Hemp Oil,” claiming they were making them sick, a research firm dedicated to cannabidiol education – called Project CBD – launched a full-blown investigation into the matter. After six months, the organization emerged with a 30-page report entitled “Hemp Oil Hustlers: A Project CBD Special Report on Medical Marijuana Inc., HempMeds and Kannaway,” which began as a curious look into an umbrella penny stock company, but transformed into a dissection of the hemp oil industry and its sometimes shady business practices…

Internet Test Reveals Americans Are Not Getting the Speeds They Paid For

For too long Internet users had to take it on faith that our Internet access providers were making good on their promises to give us what we pay for.

But even those who pay a premium for top speeds have found that certain sites and services sputter out at the pace of dial-up. And calling your ISP’s customer-service department to find out what’s going on can be a torturous exercise — requiring you to endure an endless loop of hold music as you pray for a sentient being to pick up the line.

Now you can do something about it. Last month launched the Internet Health Test to collect data on the speeds offered by the likes of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon.

The test is an interactive tool that lets users run speed measurements across multiple “interconnection points” and gather information on whether and where ISPs are degrading speeds.

The good news: Since its launch, more than 300,000 Internet users have run the Internet Health Test, resulting in over 2.5 million data points.

Now here’s the bad: The evidence collected points to slowdowns for users on the networks of five of the largest Internet access providers — AT&T, CenturyLink, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon — which represent 75 percent of all U.S. wireline households.

And the ugly: Since the test results were made public a number of paid cable industry operatives have tried to tear down these findings, suggesting without actually looking at the data that they are faulty and somehow corrupted.

In truth, big phone and cable companies are terrified that so many people are performing the speed tests and compiling data on what ails the Internet. The service slowdown isn’t a problem just for Internet users hoping to get their money’s worth. It’s also a potential violation of the hard-won Net Neutrality rules that went into effect on June 12. The Federal Communications Commission now has a number of enforcement tools on hand to go after phone and cable companies that don’t live up to promises when it comes to Internet speed, quality and reliability.

Often the degradation occurs at interconnection points — the Internet nodes where traffic an ISP customer requests crosses between the ISP’s network and a network on which content and application providers host their services.

The Internet Health Test uses Measurement Lab (M-Lab) infrastructure and code to run speed measurements from your ISP across multiple points to detect and compare performance.

Sifting through the mountain of data, Collin Anderson of M-Lab reports that “Patterns of degraded performance occurred across the United States, impacting customers of various access ISPs when connecting to measurement points hosted within a number of transit ISPs in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Washington, D.C.”

According to the data, AT&T users, and especially users in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, experienced consistent patterns of degradation across interconnection services, most notably on GTT Communications. GTT is the world’s fifth largest interconnection service, according to Dyn Research. The sixth largest service, Tata, also experienced significant slowdowns.

“In Chicago and Atlanta,” Anderson writes, “this degradation was at its most extreme, with peak-hour performance frequently less than 0.1 Mbps. Other access ISPs such as Comcast did not display as substantial degradation to those same sites during the same period.”

The FCC is on the cusp of approving AT&T’s multibillion-dollar merger with DirecTV. A central issue deal opponents raise is that the merger would give AT&T a greater incentive to control how data-rich services like Netflix reach their users. AT&T has resisted any conditions that would prevent it from slowing similar services at key interconnection points.

According to Internet Health Test data, AT&T often sticks customers with speeds that are slower than the FCC’s bare-minimum definition for Internet access, and many times more sluggish than what it advertises. Last week the FCC levied a $100 million fine against AT&T for misleading customers about its unlimited mobile-data plans. The fine is the largest the agency has ever imposed.

The problem with AT&T service is just one slice taken from the trove of evidence the Internet Health Test has yielded. To learn more, more people need to take the test.