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News Briefs: Janury,2011

Mental Health First Aid” is an education course for laypeople--to help them recognize and react to mental illness in their colleagues or friends. In the wake of the Tucson shootings, the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare has been touting the 15-hour course as a way “for people to take action and possibly prevent such tragedies from happening...” New instructors are being sought to teach the program, and trainings for instructors are being held in San Diego, Chicago, Boston, New York, and other cities over the next six months. For info, see

A study suggesting ESP is real will appear in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology sometime in 2011. Study author Daryl Bern from Cornell tested 1,000 student subjects, finding that many could predict the future...sort of. In one experiment, subjects were shown two curtains on a computer screen, told one of the curtains hid an erotic picture, and asked to guess which one it was. They chose correctly 53% of the time. A control group, told simply that there was a picture--not an erotic picture--guessed right just 50% of the time. Despite complaints from some quarters, journal editor Charles Judd has been defending his decision to publish the study, telling ABC News, “It’s our responsibility to look at papers and give them a fair hearing, even if they fly in the face of conventional wisdom.” A publication date hasn’t yet been announced, but Judd says a disclaimer/explanation will appear alongside the ESP piece. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology is published by the American Psychological Association.

Families make you sick: Middle-aged people who feel their family members are excessively demanding or a source of worry are more than twice as likely to develop angina, according to a Danish study of 4,500 people in their 40s and 50s, published in December by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. For an abstract, see

A study linking autism and the MMR vaccine was not just wrong but a fraud, according to a report in the British Medical Journal (BMJ, January 5). The study in question, authored by Andrew Wakefield in The Lancet back in 1998, precipitated a significant drop in inoculations--the MMR inoculation rate in the U.S. fell from over 90% before that study came out to just 80% in 2003. The Lancet disavowed the study in 2010, pointing to significant errors in research. But the BMJ report goes further, saying Wakefield had--for two years prior to releasing his research--been receiving confidential payments from attorneys working on an MMR vaccine lawsuit. He was ultimately paid more than $650,000. For details, see two BMJ pieces here:, and

Financial infidelity” is a problem in a third of marriages, according to a Harris poll commissioned by Forbes. Among 2,000 adults surveyed, 31% admitted lying to spouses about money or debt. The most common deceptions involve, in descending order: 1) hiding cash; 2) lying about a minor purchase; 3) hiding a bill; 4) hiding a major purchase; 5) having an undisclosed bank account; 6) lying about debt accrued prior to the marriage; and 7) lying about earnings. Men and women are equally likely to lie about money, and about 16% of those affected by financial infidelity said it had led to divorce. (Source: Reuters, January 13.)



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