TIME

Hackers Could Go After Medical Devices Next

Patient Receiveing Chemotherapy Treatment
Richard Lautens—Toronto Star via Getty Images A nurse programs an infusion pump.

They could break in via a hospital’s network, authorities warn

Nothing, it seems, is safe from hackers — not Yahoo’s ad network, the federal government, or even electronic skateboards. Another item to add to the list: medical devices.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Department of Homeland Security have both issued advisories warning hospitals not to use the Hospira infusion system Symbiq because of cyber vulnerabilities. No known attack has occurred, but by accessing a hospital’s network, hackers could theoretically fiddle with the intravenous infusion pump.

“This could allow an unauthorized user to control the device and change the dosage the pump delivers, which could lead to over- or under-infusion of critical patient therapies,” the FDA wrote in a statement.

But it’s not just the Symbiq pump that has security problems. According to a WIRED report last year, security experts who studied on Midwestern medical facility chain over the course of two years found a host of security vulnerabilities. Just a few issues they founded included “Bluetooth-enabled defibrillators that can be manipulated to deliver random shocks to a patient’s heart or prevent a medically needed shock from occurring; X-rays that can be accessed by outsiders lurking on a hospital’s network; temperature settings on refrigerators storing blood and drugs that can be reset, causing spoilage; and digital medical records that can be altered to cause physicians to misdiagnose, prescribe the wrong drugs or administer unwarranted care.”

The retirement of the Symbiq pump may only be the beginning of a landslide of recalls and added security features in the medical field.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

How Effective Are PTSD Treatments for Veterans?

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Though many treatments for PTSD can alleviate symptoms, veterans continue to meet the criteria for the disorder

A new study published Tuesday suggests commonly used first-line treatments for PTSD in veterans may not work as well as medical experts once thought.

The number of American veterans who suffer from PTSD continues to be a serious national public health problem. Recent data show that more than 200,000 Vietnam War veterans still have PTSD, and other research shows that around 13% of Iraq or Afghanistan veterans who experienced combat have PTSD. The numbers continue to climb. As TIME previously reported, PTSD diagnoses among deployed troops grew by 400% from 2004 to 2012.

Now new research, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveals that go-to treatments for the disorder may not be as effective as many in the medical community may have believed or hoped. To reach their findings, researchers from the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center reviewed 36 randomized control trials of psychotherapy treatments for veterans suffering from PTSD over a 35-year span. Two of the most commonly used treatments—and the most widely studied—are cognitive processing therapy (CPT) and prolonged exposure (PE) therapy.

CPT is a treatment that focuses on changing dysfunctional thoughts, and exposure therapy is meant to help patients face what’s causing them stress and fear.

The research showed that while up to 70% of the men and women who received CPT or PE experienced symptom improvements, around two-thirds of people receiving the treatments still met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis after treatment. The researchers note that current veterans affairs policies emphasize the use of the two methods as treatments of choice.

The researchers also argued that veterans with PTSD are likely to have worse outcomes from treatment compared to civilians with PTSD. Though the researchers are unsure why that is, there’s some speculation: “Compared to civilian traumas such as car accidents and natural disasters, military deployment involves repeated and extended trauma exposure,” says study author Maria M. Steenkamp, an assistant professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone. “It also involves not just life-threat, but exposure to traumatic losses and morally compromising experiences that create shame and guilt.” Veterans are also more likely to have additional mental health issues such as anxiety or substance abuse, she adds.

The researchers also raise the question of whether focusing on trauma during PTSD treatment is really that effective. Based on their review of the trials, they found that when CPT and PE were compared to non-trauma focused psychotherapy, patients showed similar improvement.

However, not everyone agrees that the findings should be cast in such a light. Dr. Paula Schnurr, the executive director of the National Center for PTSD under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says there’s not consensus that veterans have a more difficult time overcoming PTSD symptoms compared to civilians, and adds that some people who treat veterans feel avoiding fears and trauma perpetuates problems, rather than processes them. In addition, symptom improvement is an important part of PTSD treatment since it improves veterans’ quality of life. Schnurr was not involved in the study, though some of her own research was analyzed in it.

“If a person has a meaningful response, they have a meaningful improvement in their quality of life,” says Schnurr, adding that many treatments for other mental health conditions have similar outcomes. “As scientists we will always try to enhance the effectiveness of these treatments for more people…My takeaway message [from the study] is one of optimism and also encouragement for people to seek treatment.”

The researchers say other treatment options should continue to be explored, and there are practitioners who are trying different methods, from acupuncture to healing touch therapy. Another new study published Tuesday in JAMA looked at 116 veterans with PTSD who either underwent mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy that focused on being present and non-judgmental in the moment or a present-centered group therapy that focused on current life problems. The results showed that those in the mindfulness group had a greater improvement in self-reported PTSD symptom severity. However, they were no more likely to lose their PTSD diagnosis.

There may not be a cure yet for PTSD, but the amount of research looking into how to improve or innovate treatments is encouraging. Veterans who need support can find resources here.

TIME Crime

Homicides Are Spiking This Year After Falling for Decades

Large hand holding gun with people walking along barrel
Gary Waters / Getty Images—Ikon Images

A study says homicide rates are down. But 2015 rates—especially for gun violence—are very different.

Since 1960, U.S. homicide rates have been falling—that is, until this year. Meanwhile, intimate-partner violence and child abuse have gone up—to 12 million and 10 million Americans, respectively—according to a survey released Tuesday in JAMA. Taken together, it paints a bleak picture for Americans’ safety, and it has violence prevention scholars trying to figure out what led to the changes—and when.

At the annual meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association on Monday, police chiefs grappled with the fact that some cities are seeing a 50% increase in murders compared with last year. Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier pointed to the nation’s capital as an example: This time last year, D.C. had 69 homicides; this year, D.C. has seen at 87 homicides. Nearby Baltimore tallied 42 homicides in May alone, with 45 in July. And in Chicago, there have been 243 homicides this year so far—a 20% spike from last year.

Until last year, “we saw decreases for homicide and aggravated assault,” says Dr. Debra Houry, a co-author of the JAMA study who works with the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “It’s promising because it shows that violence is preventable.”

Homicide rates in 1980 stood at 10.7 per 100,000; by 2013, they’d been cut in half. Aggravated assault saw a similar halving of incidences between 1992 and 2012.

But Andrew Papachristos, a professor of sociology at Yale and a criminal justice expert who has focused much of his research on Chicago’s gang and gun violence, says that JAMA‘s findings may not offer a nuanced enough picture of what’s going on in the United States, because it looks at general trends across the country. While on average crime might have fallen until to this year, some cities, such as Chicago and Milwaukee, are still facing severe problems with violence, particularly in certain areas of the city. Indeed, within cities, “the rates of violence across neighborhoods can be exponentially higher in certain areas and almost zero in others,” he says.

Policy changes can make a difference, says Papachristos. Programs that aim to decrease unemployment, particularly among African Americans, is a critical policy adjustment, he says, since unemployment is correlated with gun violence. He also cites outdated gun laws as part of the problem.

One policy bright spot was found in a study released by the American Journal of Public Health earlier this summer, which looked at Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase handgun law as a case study. The law dates to 1994 and it requires gunowners to purchase a license prior to acquiring a handgun. The state would only allow people to buy guns if they passed a background check and gun-safety course. The result? Connecticut residents can credit the law for a 40% reduction in gun-related homicides. (Of course, in a dreary statistic that illustrates Papachristos’ point, it’s not down everywhere in the state; Hartford is experiencing a massive surge in gun violence this year.)

But even with some signs of promise, any changes to law or policy might come too late for many victims of American crime this year. Criminal justice expert Rod Wheeler told Fox that America is snowballing into the most violent summer the country has seen in decades.

“I said this back in June, that we’re going to have a long, hot, bloody summer,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s coming to pass.”

TIME safety

FOMO Is Making Teens Terrible Drivers

The pressure to be "always on" is leading young people to take their eyes off the road

A frightening amount of drivers will fess up to texting while driving. One recent survey found that 70% of people will admit to using their smartphones at the wheel. Now a new study goes beyond bad behaviors to investigate the motivations behind them. When it comes to teen drivers at least, it appears the culprit is an ascendant cultural plague: FOMO.

FOMO, an acronym for fear of missing out, is not just another cloying bit of slang, report Liberty Mutual Insurance and the non-profit SADD, an acronym for Students Against Destructive Decisions. In their study of 1,622 high school juniors and seniors around the country, teen drivers said they feel pressure to respond immediately to texts even while driving and that they can’t help but peek at their phones when notifications pop up in their apps. The expectations of their “always on” lifestyles, the researchers say, have “potentially deadly consequences.”

“Today’s hyper-connected teens … may be more plugged into their devices than the actual driving task,” says William Horrey, principal research scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, in a statement. Teens may struggle to attend to everything they should on the road even without a smartphone, he says, because they are less experienced drivers. Once a device is thrown into the mix, messages and updates and videos and tweets become additional competitors for their attention, along with the radio, the climate controls or the hundred things happening outside the car.

In the study released Tuesday, more than half of teens said they text while driving in order to keep their parents updated and about one-fifth of them said they believe their parents expect a response within a single minute, even when they are at the wheel. (For their part, nearly 60% of 1,000 parents also surveyed for the study said they do not have a set expectation for response times.) About half of teens said they text more when they’re in the car alone than when others are in the car with them. The most popular apps they said they used while driving break down as follows:

  • Snapchat: 38%
  • Instagram: 20%
  • Twitter: 17%
  • Facebook: 12%
  • YouTube: 12%

The list highlights that, like older drivers, teenagers aren’t just texting while driving. They’re watching videos and taking selfies.

The feeling that they must like an Instagram photo or reply to a Facebook comment the moment it’s posted not only makes teenagers distracted, the researchers say, but may contribute to their general fatigue. In their survey, 58% of teens said they had either fallen asleep or nearly fallen asleep at the wheel, and about half of them said they get only three to six hours of sleep per night during the week, often because they’re up staring into their smartphone screens. The effects of driving while sleepy, the researchers point out, are similar to those of driving under the influence; 24 hours without sleep can be the equivalent of three cocktails.

SADD was founded to stop young people from drinking and driving but has expanded its mission to combat an array of things that undermine young people’s health and safety. Their experts suggest parents act on data like this by talking to their kids, making it clear that it’s fine not to respond while they’re en route somewhere and making sure they get a decent amount of shuteye each night. “Today’s parents are juggling their own busy schedules, and too often young drivers’ risky habits go unrecognized,” says SADD’s Stephen Gray Wallace in a statement.

It appears they should also continue to pound away at the message being trumpeted by everyone from trauma centers to wireless carriers: It’s dangerous to use your phone while driving, and despite how you might feel at the time, whatever it is can wait. Nearly 90% of the teens who said they use apps on the road also said they consider themselves “safe” drivers, the study found, as did 60% of those who make calls. While many said they’re texting with purpose—to coordinate an event or update a friend—nearly 20% say they text while driving “just for fun.”

“It’s critical that parents focus on pinpointing these dangerous driving habits early on,” says Wallace, “and have frequent conversations with their children about what safe driving really means.”

TIME Innovation

This New Watch Lets Blind People Read Real-Time Smartphone Data in Braille

The Dot uses a moveable braille interface made of magnets and pins strapped to the wrist like a watch

Until now, visually impaired smartphone users have had to rely on Siri and other readers to find their way around the Internet and digital world, but a new device in development in South Korea may change their experience completely by instantly turning text messages and other information into braille.

The Dot, a device that straps around the wrist like a watch, uses magnets and a grid of pins to create four braille characters at a time that change at adjustable speeds, allowing users to read text messages and use apps on any device via Bluetooth.

Eric Ju Yoon Kim, co-founder and CEO of startup Dot, told Tech in Asia he hopes his company’s innovation will free blind people to interact with their devices on their own terms. “Until now, if you got a message on iOS from your girlfriend, for example, you had to listen to Siri read it to you in that voice, which is impersonal,” he said. “Wouldn’t you rather read it yourself and hear your girlfriend’s voice saying it in your head?”

That kind of technology is not groundbreaking, but transferring it to a mobile device certainly is — just like the price: computers using so-called “active Braille technology” can cost $3,000, while Kim says that when the watch arrives in the U.S. this December it will sell for less than $300.

“Ninety percent of blind people become blind after birth, and there’s nothing for them right now — they lose their access to information so suddenly,” Kim told Tech in Asia. “Dot can be their lifeline, so they can learn Braille and access everyday information through their fingers.”

[Tech in Asia]

TIME Congress

Watch Elizabeth Warren’s Speech in Defense of Planned Parenthood

She was speaking before Monday's vote on a defunding proposal

Senator Elizabeth Warren has criticized members of Congress who want to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Do you have any idea what year it is?” Warren asked, speaking before Monday’s Senate vote on the defunding bill. “Did you fall down, hit your head and think you woke up in the 1950s or the 1890s? Should we call for a doctor?”

Warren was speaking after covertly recorded videos released by the Center for Medical Progress showed Planned Parenthood officials discussing the costs associated with fetal-tissue extraction. That footage, roundly criticized by both parties, set off a political firestorm, with Republicans alleging that the conversations proved that staffers were selling baby body parts for profit.

Senator Joni Ernst introduced a bill involving the sweeping defunding of the organization, in a bid to hit back against what, in a recent TIME op-ed, Ernst and Senators Rand Paul and James Lankford called “callous actions that strike at the moral fabric of our society.”

In response, Planned Parenthood has maintained that the videos were taken out of context and alleges that they were edited.

The Senate later voted down the bill, but the issue is expected to resurface as Congress attempts to pass spending bills later in the year.

TIME Companies

Jessica Alba Replies to Claims Her ‘Honest’ Sunscreen Brand Is Faulty on Instagram

"We’ll do what it takes to make it right"

Jessica Alba has responded to complaints that her eco-friendly Honest Company’s sunscreen isn’t effective, saying they are “taking every precaution to ensure that your product experience will keep you healthy and happy.”

In an Instagram post Tuesday, the 34-year-old actress, businesswoman and mom of two said, “protecting our loved ones is the reason we founded [Honest.]”

Alba’s post links to Honest Company’s website and a message from the founders that reads: “As parents, it pains us to hear that anyone has had a negative experience with our Sunscreen … As with everything we do, we take sun protection seriously here at Honest.”

The statement from Alba and co-founder Christopher Gavigan went on to say the company was working to address instances where their sunscreen failed to protect against sunburn.

“For those who have expressed concerns about our Sunscreen Lotion, we want you to know that we hear you and we’re here for you. As always, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.”

Read the full statement here.

TIME vaccines

How to Change an Anti-Vaxxer’s Mind

TIME.com stock photos Health Syringe Needle
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

It's not easy, but a new study suggests one way to help persuade parents to vaccinate their children

Let’s take a moment and praise anti-vaccine parents. Really. They’re wrong on the science, wrong on the politics, and deeply, morally wrong to deny their own children a simple disease preventive that they themselves likely enjoyed growing up. But like all parents everywhere, they’re acting on a simple, powerful impulse: to keep their children healthy.

That’s a very noble goal, but it’s also one of the things that makes it so bloody hard to change their minds on the topic of vaccines. Public service campaigns don’t work; nor do one-on-one explanations of why the rumors about a vaccine-autism link are wrong. In some cases, there is even a backfire effect: the greater the effort expended to persuade the anti-vaxxers, the more convinced they become that they’re right.

So it’s extremely good news that researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign may at last have come up with a way to cut through the misinformation and get the truth across: Don’t just tell parents to vaccinate their children, show them what happens if they don’t.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by graduate student Zachary Horne recruited a sample group of 315 people—both parents and non-parents—and first conducted a simple survey designed to measure their pre-existing attitudes to vaccines. The subjects were asked to respond on a six-point scale, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree,” to five statements that included, “The risks of side effects outweighs any potential benefits of vaccines” and “I plan to vaccinate my children.”

All of the subjects were then divided into three groups: One group was given material to read about the latest research showing that autism and vaccines are in no way related. The second group was given a paragraph to read written in the voice of a mother describing what it was like when her child contracted measles; three pictures of children with measles, mumps and rubella; and written warnings about the importance of vaccinating children. The third group, serving as a control, read material on an unrelated science topic.

When the three groups’ attitudes to vaccines were tested again, the results were striking. Both the control and the so-called “autism correction” group showed a slight uptick in their approval of vaccines, but in neither case were the numbers terribly significant. The group that had learned about the wages of vaccine denialism changed markedly, however, with increased approval rates five times larger than those in the autism correction group and six times larger than in the control group.

“Rather than attempting to dispel myths about the dangers of vaccinations,” the researchers wrote, “we recommend that the very real dangers posed by serious diseases like measles, mumps and rubella be emphasized.”

As TIME reported in the Oct. 6, 2014 issue, this is precisely the approach that worked during the mumps outbreak in Columbus, Ohio last year. College students were nonchalant about getting vaccinated, but when they learned that the disease can lead to sterility in both men and women, they were a lot more inclined to step up for their shots. “I was pretty freaked out,” one Ohio State University student said. “I didn’t know mumps could lead to any of that.”

The power of the show-don’t-tell approach is nothing new. It’s the reason behind the anti-tobacco shock ads showing people dying of lung cancer, as well as the surgery fund-raising ads showing photos of babies with cleft lips. The trick in all of these cases is getting people to act fast. If too much time elapses between image and potential action, the power of the message is lost.

For that reason, Horne and his co-authors suggest that future research should look at the effectiveness of including the kind of counseling that was used in their study during routine well-baby visits, when vaccinating the child on the spot is an option. After all, the effect of scaring a parent straight may be temporary, but the damage done to a child who contracts a vaccine-preventable disease can be for life.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Workplace

Science Explains Why Women Are Always Freezing at Work

Business woman air conditioning
Getty Images

Turns out workplace thermostats are kinda sexist

Women who are always freezing at work finally know who to blame: Men.

In a new report published Monday in Nature, researchers found that most office building temperatures are set using a decades-old formula for a “thermal comfort model” that takes into account factors like air temperature, air speed, and clothing insulation. That’s converted into a seven-point scale and compared to the Predicted Percentage Dissatisfied, which gauges how many people are likely to feel uncomfortably cool or warm.

The problem is that one variable in that formula is inherently sexist. Turns out that the resting metabolic rate, or the measure of how fast we generate heat, that’s used in the calculation is based on a 40-year-old man weighing about 154 pounds. But women, who make up half of today’s workforce, typically have slower metabolic rates because they’re on average smaller and have more body fat. Thus, the study says the current “thermal comfort model” may overestimate women’s resting heat production by up to 35%.

Women’s physiology and wardrobe selection are also factors. Joost van Hoof, a building physicist at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, was not involved in the study, but provided this memorable commentary to The New York Times:

“Many men, they wear suits and ties, and women tend to dress sometimes with cleavage. The cleavage is closer to the core of the body, so the temperature difference between the air temperature and the body temperature there is higher when it’s cold. I wouldn’t overestimate the effect of cleavage, but it’s there.”

What’s there to do about the problem? The study offers this solution: change the temperature setting formula. Accounting for women’s metabolic rates and body tissue insulation, female workers might prefer a 75 degree Fahrenheit office, the Times says. Typical office temperatures now hover around 70 degrees.

TIME human behavior

Are There Really Benefits to Writing Things By Hand?

Writing by hand on chalkboard
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images Is writing by hand really psychologically beneficial?

A new Bic commercial claims four benefits to writing by hand.

Most office-working adults in America spend their days hunched over a computer, tapping at keys to form words on a screen. Very few use a notebook or spend time writing. Even those of us whose professional occupation is “writer” tend to spend far less time writing with a pen in hand than they do typing.

Of course, as with so many things that are perceived as old-timey, writing by hand has become if not a modern necessity, then a trend. Cursive lessons have become all the vogue in some circles and is credited with helping dyslexic students. J. K. Rowling famously wrote the Harry Potter series on napkins. Handwriting has been elevated to the highest levels of art, be it the digitally collected ecriture infinie or Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit on artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks.

Jumping on the bandwagon too is Bic, the pen company, which has launched a campaign to get kids to write. Called “Fight for the Write,” the campaign boasts a video featuring a boy inspiring a classroom of kids through a series of “interesting facts” that show the benefits of writing: increased creativity, better critical thinking, boosted self confidence, and a correlated improvement in reading capability with writing prowess.

But are these benefits real? The short answer: Mostly not. “There’s lot of caveats in handwriting research,” says Karin James, a psychologist at Indiana University who studies early childhood brain development at Indiana University and has looked at how writing by hand affects pre-literate brains.

The creativity claim is most likely a stretch because measuring creativity is nearly impossible. “How are you defining creativity?” James says. “There’s all kinds of ways to: across individuals, ages, contexts—social, academic. It’s really hard to study, so that [claim] is a stretch.”

Intuitively, the idea that handwriting can improve critical thinking makes sense: Writing more would seem to entail thinking more thoroughly about topics and journaling, we know, has been shown to be excellent for introspection. But while writing by hand has been shown to be a good exercise for introspection, the evidence of writing out homework assignments remains very muddled.

As for self-confidence: writing and reading comprehension are neurally connected, and better readers often have more academic self-confidence. “If a kindergartner is reading at a first grade level, they do better academically, which means they have more confidence in their ability to perform,” James says. “The more children write, the easier it is for them to recognize a letter. Letter recognition is the highest predictor to reading later on.”

So there is merit in this claim. But on its own, writing probably does little to boost self-confidence. More likely, James says, is that increased creativity and self-confidence are secondary, correlated effects.

In 2012, James published a study along with her co-author, Laura Engelhardt, that began: “In an age of increasing technology, the possibility that typing on a keyboard will replace handwriting raises questions about the future usefulness of handwriting skills.”

James and Engelhardt found that writing is particularly instrumental in the cognitive development of pre-literate 5 year olds. The kids, who were learning the alphabet, wrote, traced, and typed letters. MRI scans found that the kids who had written letters were able to perceive the letters better, helping them to read at better rates compared to the typers and tracers.

Still, since control groups are impossible in reading and writing studies—you can’t decide to not teach some kids to read or write—“It’s tricky,” James says.

The parts of the brain activated when children learn to write—the left fusiform gyrus, the inferior frontal gyrus and the posterior parietal cortex—are the same that are active in older children and adults when they are reading. James wanted to know whether reading affected writing or the other way around. “That’s why we looked at [pre-literate] kids,” she said. “We didn’t know if reading came first and activated this network for handwriting of if it was vice versa. We found that reading networks are activated when reading happens, and writing uses that network.”

So while the idea of writing by hand and its memory-enhancing capabilities have been covered—and studied—ad nauseum, the effects of writing on other mental indicators are less understood. Research is correlational. “We don’t really have facts, we have evidence,” says James. “But it’s highly suggestive evidence.”

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