May 29, 2015

New treatment offers new hope for Iowans with severe depression

Dr. Eric Barlow

Dr. Eric Barlow

A psychiatrist in central Iowa is among the first in the state to use a new type of therapy for patients with what’s called treatment-resistant depression. It strikes five to six-percent of the population, people for whom counseling and drugs simply don’t work.

Dr. Eric Barlow, of Urbandale, says he’s been offering his patients transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, for about a year now with excellent results.

“It’s a very targeted treatment where we can literally modulate or affect the activity of individual neurons in the brain right at the area of the brain where depression is, in essence, born,” Dr. Barlow says, “the biological generation center for depression which is in the left frontal part of the brain.”

During a treatment session, patients sit in what looks like a dentist’s chair and have a special helmet placed on their head.

“Usually, the treatment sessions are such where we do 20 to 30 treatments in an acute series which takes four to six weeks because they’re 20-minute treatments, five days per week,” Barlow says. “Usually about two weeks into the treatment, people start to feel a little bit better. That’s an average, some are sooner than that, some are later in that month.”

While some patients might experience a slight headache or fatigue after the treatment, it’s not usually painful or even uncomfortable.

“Generally, what they are experiencing physically during this treatment is a hard tapping sensation on the right side of their head, like a woodpecker is tapping them on the head, many times over the course of two seconds,” Barlow says. “We have two seconds of pulses, 20 seconds of rest, two seconds of pulses, 20 seconds of rest, and that repeats for 20 minutes.”

The TMS device used in the treatment was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2013 and Barlow says he’s treated more than 100 patients with it in the past year.

“I’ve not seen such a robust response with anything that I’ve used over the course of over 12 years of clinical practice in psychiatry than I have with this treatment,” Barlow says. “Probably 80 to 85% of the folks that we’ve treated have shown marked improvement.”

Transcranial magnetic stimulation represents a significant advance in the treatment of depression, he says, one that is much safer than other therapies. Barlow’s office at Compass Clinical Associates in Urbandale is offering a free informational session on TMS on June 16th.

 

Paul says he’s ‘one of the few to be honest’ about U.S. intervention in Middle East

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul says despite a crowd of competitors for the GOP’s 2016 presidential nomination, he doesn’t find it difficult to stand out from the pack.

“I think it’s rather easy for me,” Paul said this morning during an interview with KROS Radio. “I’m the only one really opposed to the domestic spying program. I’m the only one that says the NSA has gone too far…I’m really one of the few to be honest about intervention in the Middle East, to acknowledge that there are unintended consequences and that we need to look before we leap.”

According to Paul, most of those who are running supported “Hillary’s war” in Libya.

“They just wanted more of it. They wanted boots on the ground and I think the question needs to be asked of every candidate: ‘If you had it to do all over again, would you still be for toppling and killing Gaddafi? Do you think we’re better off?’ Paul said. “I think, without question, we’re worse off.”

Senator Paul is campaigning today in eastern Iowa. The trip comes after Paul stirred up controversy earlier this week by suggesting ISIS exists because “hawks” in his party promoted risky intervention in the Middle East. Paul today argued Islamic militants were able to “snatch up” weapons the U.S. gave to forces in Syria fighting against that nation’s dictatorship.

“That’s an incontrovertible fact and ISIS did grow stronger as we were pouring weapons into the Syrian civil war…When we intervene, we have to think through the consequences of intervention. Degrading Assad and making Assad weaker by putting arms into the other side of the civil war did allow ISIS to grow stronger…because we were also weakening Assad, who was an opponent of ISIS,” Paul said.

“…The people who want to criticize me will have to answer to that and I think it’s a good factual debate to have.”

The Kentucky senator has also taken heat from some of his rivals for seeking an end to the government’s bulk collection of telephone data. Paul today countered that the “vast majority” of Americans agree with him.

“Inside the beltway there may be some naysayers,” Paul said, “but I think they have not yet caught up with public opinion.”

Paul met with supporters early this morning at a financial services company in Clinton and stopped at a Davenport baseball park over the noon hour. He’ll have a mid-afternoon meet and greet at a coffee shop in Muscatine. Early this evening, Paul will appear in Davenport at an event to raise money for Senator Chuck Grassley’s 2016 reelection campaign.

(Reporting in Clinton by Dave Vickers of KROS Radio; additional reporting and editing by Radio Iowa’s O. Kay Henderson)

Two Iowans fail to make National Spelling Bee semifinals

Zander Reed

Zander Reed

The two Iowa boys who were competing in the National Spelling Bee were eliminated in the second round.

Twelve-year-old Zander Reed of Ames is a seventh grader who competed in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2013 and 2014. He misspelled the word alleviate during the oral spelling test and was eliminated from the second round.

Thirteen-year-old Bryan Keck of Dubuque spelled two words correctly when he stepped behind the microphone on stage, but his score on a computerized spelling and vocabulary test wasn’t high enough to advance to the next round.

Bryan Keck

Bryan Keck

There were a total of 285 competitors at the start of the Spelling Bee this past Tuesday. Only 48 made it to today’s semifinals.

In case you’re curious, Bryan Keck correctly spelled the word omnivorous and the name of a tiny beetle that preys on wasps — a name that’s really hard to both spell and pronounce. He scored 19 out of 36 on the computerized spelling and vocabulary test.

Over $1 million in Iowa Lottery prizes went unclaimed in 2014

Powerball-ballA spokesperson for the Iowa Lottery says it’s unusual for large prizes to go unclaimed, but a lot of winning tickets for smaller prizes weren’t turned in last year.

Mary Neubauer says two Powerball tickets purchased in the state — one worth $10,000 and the other worth $20,000 — will expire next month. “We usually don’t see prizes at this level go unclaimed, but in fiscal year 2014, the total of prizes that went unclaimed in our lotto games added up to nearly $1.4 million,” Neubauer says.

The valuable Powerball tickets that remain unclaimed were purchased nearly a year ago at lottery retailers located on opposite sides of the state. The $10,000 winning ticket bought in Council Bluffs will expire at 4 p.m. on June 18, while the $20,000 winning ticket purchased in Waukon will expire at 4 p.m. on June 29.

If the owners of those tickets fail to turn them in by the deadlines, Neubauer says the prize money will eventually go to someone else. “Here in Iowa, the money from unclaimed prizes goes into the lottery’s prize pools for future games and promotions, so it will be given back to players in the form of prizes, just not those particular prizes that expired without being claimed,” Neubauer says.

Farm Bureau president says farmers concerned about EPA’s ‘Waters of the U.S.’ rule

Craig Hill

Craig Hill

The leaders of several Iowa farm groups say they’re worried the EPA’s final draft of rules to curb pollution in small waterways and wetlands will subject farm ditches and farm ponds to federal oversight. Iowa Farm Bureau president Craig Hill says this final rule failed to address many of the concerns farmers raised after the EPA released a first draft of new Clean Water Act regulations last spring.

“The penalties are so severe if you are found to be in breach of the Clean Water Act,” Hill says. “Those penalties can range up to $37,500 per instance. Jail is one of the penalty provisions.”

Hill says it appears farmers will have to get federal permits for “normal farming practices.”

“The permitting process is very cumbersome, awkward and expensive,” Hill says. “And, according to what we read in this new rule, farmers will be required to get permits for things they’ve never been required to get permits for before.”

EPA officials say the new rule covers about three percent more waterways in the United States that have a “direct and significant” connection to lakes and rivers that are already covered by the Clean Water Act. Hill says farmers still aren’t sure whether they’ll have to get permits for the ponds on their property.

“Every pond has an overflow. Well, the overflow is not exempt,” Hill says. “So when they say ponds are exempt it has no meaning because the water that comes out of a pond is, by definition, a water of the U.S.”

The new rule failed to answer key questions farmers raised last spring, according to Hill, like what is a lawful grass waterway.

“We know what a grass waterway is in Iowa and farmers are installing those on their own accord. Every spring and fall we’re reshaping and trying to perform conservation, but we turn to NRCS — the Natural Resources Conservation Service — for an outline of what is proper and best management practice and so on,” Hill says. “Well, according to EPA, they will only consider a waterway lawful by their definition.”

The president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association says the EPA seems to be “restricting” farmers efforts to “voluntarily improve our environment,” rather than partnering with farmers to advance conservation measures.

The chairman of the Sierra Club’s Iowa chapter praised the EPA’s rule, arguing it is “a critical step toward protecting streams and wetlands that feed our drinking water supplies.”

Experts offer conflicting opinions about the rule’s potential impact on the lawsuit the Des Moines Water Works has filed against three northwest Iowa counties.

First of two Iowa comic cons opens tomorrow in Council Bluffs

Star Wars costumesPeople who love science fiction and comic books usually have to travel to one of the nation’s bigger cities to attend a “comic con” or convention, but in the next few weeks, two of the events are being held in Iowa.

The “O Comic Con” gets underway tomorrow in Omaha-Council Bluffs, drawing vendors, artists and exhibitors, while organizer Matthew Fujan says they’ll also have about 30 celebrity guests from TV and films.

Stars at the Council Bluffs event include Jamie Bamber from NCIS and Battlestar Galactica, as well as Walter Koenig, who played Checkov in the original Star Trek TV show. Fujan says guests are encouraged to come in costume.

“We’re expecting a lot of people to be dressed up as their favorite characters from movies, TV shows,” he says, including heroes and villans from Star Wars, as well as Superman, Spiderman and Captain America.

Fujan says it’s a family-friendly event and the Omaha Public Library is hosting several programs just for kids, including superhero work stations where you can show off super-skills.

“They also have the superhero theater where they’re going to be reading comic books in different voices,” he says. “It’ll be on the screen so people will be able to read along with them.”

The O Comic Con runs Friday through Sunday at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs.

A similar event is planned in Des Moines that will run June 12-14 with a different roster of celebrity appearances, headlined by William Shatner, the actor who played Captain Kirk in the original Star Trek TV show, and Iowa native Brandon Routh of Norwalk, who stars on Arrow and played the lead role in the movie, “Superman Returns,” in 2006.

 

More details on $42 million project in Muscatine released

3D Images (3)Developers of a $42 million project in Muscatine that’s getting financial help from the state say they’ll break ground in September. Officials with the hotel, to be built along the Mississippi River, provided more details about the project on Wednesday.

Andy MacLellan is the chief operating officer for the Merrill Hotel and Conference Center, which will include 114 rooms and suites. The six-story building will feature a ballroom and conference space on the top floor. “It’s 12,500-square-feet and a very flexible space,” MacLellan said. “One of the major features is a 1,250-square-foot terrace that overlooks the Mississippi River, so it’s wide enough that you can do events out there, receptions, sit-down dinners, that sort of thing.”

In March, the Iowa Economic Development Authority Board awarded the project with a $10 million tax rebate. It’s also being funded by a $21 million USDA loan.

Some other features of the project include a fitness space with a spa, an indoor pool, a “light fare” restaurant, and a connection to a former hotel that now houses condominiums, two restaurants and a bar.

For many years now, the city of Muscatine has been without a downtown hotel or meeting space. “Yet, most of the business in Muscatine emanates from downtown, from the major industries here, but it all leaves the city because there’s no place to house people,” MacLellan said. “This will obviously give the city the opportunity to not only host those major businesses, but lots of other venues.”

The hotel is named for the lead investor of the project, 91-year-old Stanley Merrill Howe, the former president and CEO of Hon Industries. The Merrill Hotel and Conference Center is slated to open in the summer of 2017. It’s expected to create around 50 full-time jobs, plus part-time jobs.