Friday, August 10, 2018

Jerry & Rita Alter's Heist Of The Century — Willem de Kooning's $160 Million Painting

Jerry & Rita Alter's Heist Of The Century — Willem de Kooning's $160 Million "Woman-Ochre" Painting

A quiet, small-town couple may be the masterminds of a mysterious stolen painting worth approx. $160 million

Priceless oil painting was stolen in daring heist in 1985 from the University of Arizona and recovered as part of an estate sale in August 2017 in New Mexico.

Jerry and Rita Alter spent Thanksgiving Day 1985 with family in Tucson.

A newly discovered photo from the gathering shows them smiling side by side at the dinner table, plates of pumpkin pie in front of them.

Jerry was a retired music teacher and Rita a speech pathologist; a couple of New Yorkers in their 50s who had moved to rural New Mexico.

A day after the photo was taken, a valuable painting by the artist Willem de Kooning was taken from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson. Officials believed the thieves — a man and a woman — distracted a guard, cut the painting from the frame, rolled it up and carried it out of the museum under a coat. 

The thieves and the painting disappeared without a trace.

Composite sketches, in hindsight, resemble the faces in the Thanksgiving photo, down to their position side by side.

No one would have made the connection at the time. But three decades later, the painting, “Woman-Ochre,” turned up in the Alters’ New Mexico home, discovered by accident in the master bedroom following the couple's death.

No one handling the Alters' estate was aware of the background or value of the oil abstract of a nude woman. But when the home's furnishings were sold to a local antiques shop for $2,000, customers immediately recognized it as the work of de Kooning.

The painting is thought to be worth more than $100 million.

August marks the first full year since the painting's recovery. In the 12 months since, clues have emerged that might explain how an unassuming, retired couple came into possession of the artwork.

Rita Alter's nephew and executor of their estate, Ron Roseman, recently discovered the Thanksgiving Day photo while going through family photos and shared it with The Arizona Republic.

Roseman said he doesn't want to believe his beloved aunt and uncle might have been involved in a major art theft.

"We have no idea when they got it, how they got it, if they were involved, if they bought it from someone. Ultimately there’s a lot of coincidence," he told The Republic.

The Alters, it turns out, left other interesting clues, or coincidences, besides the Thanksgiving Day photo.

The FBI has declined to discuss the de Kooning case until it's resolved.

A Red Car
University police didn't find much evidence at the museum crime scene. The museum had no video cameras. Police found no traces of fingerprints.

One witness did say whoever took the painting drove off in a rust-colored sports car.

The Alters almost exclusively drove red cars, their nephew said. "All their cars over the years, but one, was red. They had one blue car," Roseman said.

A composite sketch of the thieves show the woman wearing a scarf and “granny” glasses.

The man was described as 25 to 30 years old with curly hair, an olive complexion, thick mustache and glasses.

The woman may have been a man in disguise, said UA Police Chief Brian Seastone, who was the lead detective on the case before it was turned over to the FBI.

The Alters have two adult children but they have not been able to shed light on how their parents obtained the painting, Roseman said. Neither could be reached for comment by The Republic.

The family photo taken Thanksgiving Day 1985 in Tucson shows the Alters' son, 23-year-old Joseph, at the table with his parents and other family members.

About six months ago, Roseman said he showed a photo of "Woman-Ochre" to Joseph to see if he might remember or have anything to say about the painting.

Roseman said his cousin laughed for about 30 seconds when he saw the painting.

"Why are you laughing?" Roseman asked him.

"That's one of the ugliest paintings I've ever seen," Alter told him. 

The Alters Liked Art
Roseman likes to imagine his aunt and uncle acquired the stolen painting in a not-so-nefarious way.

Jerry Alter, a professional musician and a band teacher in New York City schools, left teaching at 47. Roseman said the couple decided to "get out of the rat race" and moved to rural New Mexico in 1977.

Jerry drew up blueprints and hired contractors to build a ranch-style house atop a mesa on 20 acres in Cliff, a blink-and-you-miss-it town of fewer than 300 people. Rita Alter started work as a speech pathologist for the local school district, Silver Consolidated Schools.

They frequented art museums, which leads Roseman to another possible scenario on how his aunt and uncle ended up with the de Kooning.

They could have been at an art exhibit or art gallery, he said, when someone approached them and said, "I have something better in my garage."

He surmises the Alters could have bought the painting under the belief it was either an original de Kooning or a good copy.

David Van Auker is co-owner of the antique shop that inadvertently purchased the stolen de Kooning as part of the Alters' estate sale. He has a theory about how long the painting was in the Alters' home. 

Van Auker said the painting was "hidden" from guests behind a door in their master bedroom — as if the couple didn't want anyone but themselves to see it. He found cobwebs and dust when he examined the painting as he was looking over objects in the home in early August 2017.

When the painting was removed from the wall, it left an outline on the wall where the frame had hung, indicating the work had been there for some time.

"I honestly believe that it had been there since the day it was stolen," he said.

The Alters also apparently took steps to safeguard the valuable work.

A camera team from WFAA television station in Dallas was able to enter the Alters' former home for a 2017 documentary on the de Kooning theft.

They examined the area where the painting had hung. On the baseboard, they spotted a thick screw, blocking the door from opening all the way and damaging the painting.

A Veiled Confession?
The Alters were deeply in love, said Roseman, their nephew. When he was going through the contents of their estate, he found love letters they had written to each other, even into old age.

They met in 1955 or 1956 at a hotel in the Catskill Mountains, where H. Jerome "Jerry" played clarinet in a jazz band and Rita Sinofsky had gone to be a waitress. When Rita got there, however, she discovered there wasn't a job opening, so she went to a café to mull over her predicament.

That's where Jerry spotted her, decided she was the one and struck up a conversation, Roseman said. They married a year or two later. 

They would fly to exotic vacations during school breaks, visiting more than 140 countries and taking some 13,000 slides.

The Alters wrote three books together, one about traveling, another about poetry and a twist on Aesop's Fables.

"The Cup and The Lip: Exotic Tales" features fictional accounts of travel adventures. In one story, "Eye of the Jaguar," a grandmother and her granddaughter case a local city museum and then return to steal its prize exhibit, a 120-carat emerald.

The thieves leave behind no clues. The jewel is kept hidden "several miles away" from the museum, behind a secret panel, "and two pairs of eyes, exclusively, are there to see!" he wrote.

The details are similar to the de Kooning theft.

Roseman said he read parts of his uncle's book five or six years ago. At the time, though, he would have had no inkling a stolen painting was behind their bedroom door, where only the Alters could see it.

It wasn't until after the famous painting was recovered, Roseman said, that a New York Times reporter, researching a story about the painting's recovery, brought to Roseman's attention the emerald-theft story's similarities to the de Kooning theft. 

Painting May Not Have Changed Hands
The recovered de Kooning, now safely back at the university, holds a few clues to its travels.

UA museum officials believe the painting was reframed only once after being stolen, a possible sign the work of art hadn't passed through multiple owners.

The painting was mounted in a gold commercial frame. Someone crudely stretched the canvas and screwed it into the frame, methods inconsistent with professional framing.

Roseman, who is a high school computer teacher, said he was close to his aunt and uncle, especially during the late 1970s and early '80s when he was a student at the University of Arizona. He visited them about once a month in Cliff, which is about 225 miles east of Tucson.

After he graduated college, he visited less frequently.

Jerry Alter died in 2012. He was 81.

A few years later, Rita Alter started showing signs of dementia. She placed dozens of sticky notes inside her car to remind herself how to drive with instructions such as, "press the middle pedal to stop the car."

Roseman, who lives in Houston, and other family members made plans for round-the-clock care in January 2017, so she could remain in her home. That's when Roseman first saw the painting behind the door of the master bedroom. But like others, he didn't recognize the work as being valuable or stolen.

Roseman considered himself pretty close to his aunt and uncle. They were worldly and fascinating. And he loved hearing about their travels.

But after the events of the past year, he was "not close enough evidently," he said with a laugh.

How The de Kooning Was Recovered
Rita Alter died in June 2017 at age 81. Roseman, the estate's executor, arranged to clear out and sell the house.

Manzanita Ridge Furniture & Antiques in nearby Silver City purchased furniture, African art objects and a couple of paintings, including the as-yet-unidentified de Kooning. Silver City is known for its vibrant arts district.

David Van Auker, one of the shop's owners, found the painting striking. He thought it would be the perfect addition to a guesthouse he owns. He and the shop's co-owners, Buck Burns and Rick Johnson, brought the painting to the store in the back of a truck along with lamps and African art.

"The painting actually kind of got thrown in on top last," Van Auker said.

He leaned the painting against a coffee table in the store. The next day, the painting started attracting attention.

"I think that's a real de Kooning," one of the customers said.

Van Auker assumed it was nothing more than a copy. But then two more visitors voiced similar opinions that it was a real de Kooning.

Van Auker typed the words "de Kooning" into his internet browser. Among the results was a 2015 story about a de Kooning painting taken in a daring heist. The photo with the story looked exactly like the one in his store.

Van Auker hid the painting in the shop's bathroom, the only interior room with a lock.

He nervously placed a series of calls: to the university art museum, to the FBI and to The Republic reporter who had written the 2015 story.

The museum's curator, Olivia Miller, was, of course, immediately interested. She asked Van Auker to email photos and measurements of the painting.

With each photo that she examined, Miller grew more excited.

She and other museum staffers drove to the antique shop the next day where, after seeing the painting in person, they arranged to bring it back to the university under police escort.

"After 31 years, stolen 'Woman-Ochre' returns," UA proclaimed.

'Doing The Right Thing'
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Tim Carpenter, who works on the bureau's Art Theft Program, said when he learned "Woman-Ochre" had been found, his first reaction was shock.

The 30-year-plus case had gone cold. When art has been missing for decades, it's only natural to wonder whether the piece has been lost or destroyed, he said.

Valuable stolen art is extraordinarily hard to sell. It's common for high-value pieces to disappear for decades.

But it's gratifying when art is recovered thanks to the actions of "good Samaritans," who call the FBI when they suspect they have come across stolen art, he said.

"I hate to be corny, but it really reinforces the notion that good people are out there and doing the right thing," Carpenter said.

When architect and businessman Edward J. Gallagher Jr. donated "Woman-Ochre" to the museum in 1958, it was appraised at $6,000.

The painting was valued at $400,000 for insurance purposes when stolen.

UA officials aren't releasing a current value on the advice of attorneys, and the museum couldn't and wouldn't sell the painting, under an agreement made with the donor.

But it's safe to say "Woman-Ochre" is worth more than $100 million. A similar de Kooning work, "Woman III," sold for $137.5 million in 2006.

When Will 'Woman-Ochre' Go On Display?
Thefts of valuable paintings in broad daylight are rare, according to the FBI.

Most museum thefts involve smaller, easier-to-fence items, such as historical documents or lower-value artifacts. It's usually museum insiders who are involved, stealing objects out of storage.

The de Kooning theft seemed to be a brazen crime that left few clues behind.

The empty frame showing where a thief ripped Willem
The empty frame showing where a thief ripped Willem de Kooning's "Woman-Ochre" painting out of its frame in November 1985. (Photo: Courtesy University of Arizona)

In their haste, the thieves damaged the painting.

A sharp blade was used to cut the painting from its frame. The de Kooning was then ripped out, creating a tear in one corner. The thief rolled the canvas tightly and stuffed it under a coat, causing horizontal creases in the paint.

UA officials are raising funds for repairs, but they don't yet know the extent or cost.

They have difficult decisions to make. Can the painting be reattached to its original frame? How much evidence of the theft should be left, if any?

Museum Curator Olivia Miller said there's a "good likelihood" repairs could start sometime in the next year so that, eventually, "Woman-Ochre" can be displayed at the museum again, more than 30 years after being taken.

The FBI isn't saying who took the de Kooning.

But it's hard to discount the clues, or coincidences, that point to a quirky couple from New Mexico with time to spare on a Thanksgiving vacation in 1985.

Roseman, their nephew, doesn't want to believe the Alters are responsible. But with all the potential clues that have emerged in the last year, "I can see that it's possible," he said.

If that's the case, the de Kooning theft turned out to be the perfect crime. — Anne Ryman | The Arizona Republic

Inside The Mind Of A Thief | Burglar Confessions

Inside The Mind Of A Thief | Burglar Confessions

The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a home burglary is to get "Inside the Mind of a Thief." This Allen Police Department exclusive interview of career home burglar, Michael Durden, will open your eyes on what criminals look for when choosing a target.

Please share this video with friends and family to spread important crime prevention tips that can prevent you from becoming a victim.

1) What makes a neighborhood attractive to thieves? 0:45 mark
2) Does having a dog deter a burglar? 2:48 mark
3) Do Neighborhood Watch programs work? 4:28 mark
4) What makes a house attractive to a burglar? 6:12 mark
5) Once a burglar targets a house, what's next? 11:28 mark
6) Once a burglar is in the house. How much time is spent inside? 24:49 mark
7) How should homeowners hide valuables? 31:00 mark
8) What can a homeowner do to not make their house an easy target to a burglar? 35:59 

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Chelyabinsk Meteorite Event: Wake-Up Call For Earth

Chelyabinsk Meteor Event

Chelyabinsk Meteor: Wake-Up Call For Earth

A small asteroid broke up over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013. The shock wave it generated shattered glass and injured about 1,200 people. Some scientists think the meteor may have briefly outshone the sun. The blast was stronger than a nuclear explosion, triggering detections from monitoring stations as far away as Antarctica.

The incident was another reminder to space agencies about the importance of monitoring small bodies in space that could pose a threat to Earth. The same day Chelyabinsk happened, the U.S. House of Representative's Science, Space, and Technology Committee said it would hold a hearing to discuss asteroid threats to Earth, and how to mitigate them on top of NASA's current efforts.

Coincidentally, the explosion came on the same day that an asteroid was flying by Earth. Called 2012 DA14, it passed within 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometers) of Earth. NASA quickly pointed out the asteroid was travelling in the opposite direction to the small body that exploded over Chelyabinsk. 

"The asteroid will travel south to north," Don Yeomans, head of the agency's Near-Earth Object Program Office, told in 2013. "The bolide trail was not south to north and the separation in time between the fireball and 2012 DA14 close approach is significant."

Bolides and fireballs are terms to describe exceptionally bright meteors that are spectacular enough to be seen over a very wide area, according to NASA. They usually reach a visual or apparent magnitude of minus 3 or brighter. (The sun’s apparent magnitude is minus 27.) The terms are used interchangeably, although technically, bolide refers to a fireball that explodes in the atmosphere.

Other terms: Asteroids refer principally to small, rocky bodies. A meteoroid is an asteroid or comet fragment that is between 10 microns and about 1 meter in size. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, its path is called a meteor or “shooting star.” If any of the pieces reach the ground, those pieces are called meteorites. 

Piecing Together Its History
In the days after the explosion, meteorite hunters worldwide rushed to the remote area to try to find pieces of the impactor (which exploded high up in the atmosphere). Just three days after the explosion, on Feb. 18, 2013, the first reports came in that pieces had been found around Lake Chebarkul, 43 miles (70 km) north of Chelyabinsk. At that same location, scientists spotted a hole in the ice, which they also thought could be traced back to the impact.

“This is the biggest event in our lifetime," rock dealer Michael Farmer of Tucson, Ariz., told OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site to, around this time. He was preparing to leave for Russia when he gave the interview. "It's very exciting scientifically and for collecting, and luckily, it looks like there will be plenty of it.”

Meanwhile, experts reviewed both the fragments and many amateur videos of the explosion. It is common in Russia for drivers to use dashboard cameras in cars in case of a collision, in which case the camera footage could be used as evidence. This provided a lucky treasure trove for scientists as many of these cameras caught the explosion while drivers were on the road.

About two weeks after the explosion, scientists were starting to pin down the bolide's size, speed and origins. The infrasound signature on the nuclear-detection network, which is operated by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, was the largest ever detected.

"The asteroid was about 17 meters [56 feet] in diameter and weighed approximately 10,000 metric tons [11,000 tons]," Peter Brown, a physics professor at the University of Western Ontario in Canada, said in a statement. "It struck Earth's atmosphere at 40,000 mph [64,370 km/h] and broke apart about 12 to 15 miles [19 to 24 km] above Earth's surface. The energy of the resulting explosion exceeded 470 kilotons of TNT."

The explosion was pegged as 30 to 40 times stronger than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, during World War II. Chelyabinsk, however, did not produce as much of a blast as the Tunguska meteor, another object that exploded over Siberia in 1908. The explosion a century before flattened 825 square miles (2,137 square km) of forest, a report said. Nevertheless, dust from the Chelyabinsk impactor stayed in the atmosphere for months. [Infographic: Huge Russian Meteor Blast is Biggest Since 1908]

Asteroid Fallout
In the months afterward, scientists learned more about the origins of the Chelyabinsk impactor, and also raised a coffee-table-size piece of the bolide from the lake in which it crashed. Some of the pieces inside the meteorite were formed in the first 4 million years of solar system history, David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston said in December 2013 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

In another 10 million years, the pieces (along with some dust) created an asteroid about 60 miles (100 km) wide. This parent body had a huge impact about 125 million years after the solar system was formed, with more strikes coming during the “late heavy bombardment,” a time of frequent small-body strikes between 3.8 billion and 4.3 billion years ago. Two other impacts came in the last 500 million years. Closer to the Chelyabinsk event, the parent body experienced yet another impact and was also nudged out of the main asteroid belt into an orbit that crossed near Earth's.

In February 2014, one year after the impact, several scientists said that the danger of small asteroids was now foremost in many public officials' minds, especially because it was said to be the first asteroid-related disaster. Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency had already attended a planetary defense conference — a first for a meeting always dominated by scientists — and the Obama administration asked Congress for $40 million in asteroid-seeking funds for NASA, double what the agency had before. NASA also launched a “Grand Challenge” to get input from the public, industry and academia on asteroid-protection methods.

More study is still going on into the origins of the Chelyabinsk bolide. Initially it was thought to be part of 1999 NC43, a 1.24-mile (2 km) wide asteroid, but the orbit and mineral composition between the two bodies turned out to be different. In April 2015, a study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society suggested Chelyabinsk was a part of asteroid 2014 UR116. — Elizabeth Holwell |

Friday, August 3, 2018

"The Phil Mickelson Dance" Commercial Gone Viral

"The Phil Mickelson Dance"
Commercial Gone Viral

Mizzen+Main CEO Kevin Lavelle: After signing Phil, my creative director said we should do an ad showing how our shirts stretch and perform by having Phil dodge golf balls being hit at him. Instead of just dodging balls, he should be dancing to ... Ghostland Observatory's "Vibrate." I was not terribly excited about pitching this concept to one of the top athletes in the world mere weeks after he agreed to partner with us, already catapulting us into a new level of national conversation. Surely, he would doubt my sanity.

Shortly thereafter, we were meeting with him to go over a few things and Amy (Mickelson's wife) was with us. I slowly eased my way into this pitch, then went for it and played the song on my iPhone. Amy immediately started laughing while Phil broke out into a big smile. Amy looked at him and said, "Should I tell him or should you?" to which Phil replied "Go for it." Amy's was overjoyed to share: "Phil can do The Worm!" At this moment I knew we would make this happen. I then got to see some home videos of Phil's extraordinary dancing skills, along with The Worm and the high kick.

Phil: I don't take myself too seriously. When I realized that I would be dancing to Ghostland Observatory, which I had to Google, Amy couldn't help cracking up because, well, she's been subjected to my dancing for years. It took me awhile to get comfortable with the idea of dancing on what would be on national television, but once I did, it was so much fun to shoot.

Amy Mickelson: Phil loves to have fun, and not many people have gotten to see the true extent of his dance moves. I couldn't help but laugh when I heard the concept, because I knew he would absolutely nail it in a perfectly Phil way.

Lavelle: So from there, we started the quick turn of planning, including the warehouse, buying 2,000 square feet of golf grass to shoot on, and hiring our lighting, camera, and VFX crews. Richard Ross, Director: We showed Phil the dance and he understandably was a little hesitant at first, but he was really gracious and gave it a go. We started breaking the routine down step by step, and he picked it up easily and nailed it. The Worm was obviously a highlight. My wife, Layne, choreographed it and did great teaching it to him. A huge team effort.

Lavelle: The ad took about 90 minutes to shoot. We're a nimble crew, and Phil was a champ.

Ross: I've seen this video a hundred times and I'm still blown away by his performance. We were amazed when we first saw it. Even playback on set, the whole crew cheered him on.

Lavelle: We wanted to do something that highlighted what our product is capable of on one of the most well-known athletes of all time with this spot. Of course we wanted significant coverage, site traffic, sales, etc. Everyone always wants that. This ad was the absolute perfect combination of both of those main goals: demonstration of product and virality. It's so much more than I thought it could be. I am absolutely thrilled, and I know Phil is too. He loves it.

What the company definitely nailed was eyeballs. Whether Mickelson was good or bad at dancing -- that's up to the viewers -- one thing's clear: it was so over the top that it's impossible not to see -- or unsee -- what Phil was doing on Thursday.

"I'll do private (lessons) for the right price,'' Mickelson told the AP after his round at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational Thursday. — Darren Rovell | ESPN

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Alex Rodriguez On Dating Jennifer Lopez | Today Show

Alex Rodriguez's Today Show Interview

Alex Rodriguez Opens Up About Dating Jennifer Lopez And Embarrassing Family Moments

Alex Rodriguez, or A-Rod as fans call him, joined Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb in the fourth hour. The baseball star talks about his being a father, dating Jennifer Lopez and sometimes embarrassing his kids.

— A-Rod & J. Lo —

Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez Are Officially 2017's Most Stylish Power Couple GQ

Jennifer Lopez's "infamous" birthday abs photo (2018)

Monday, July 16, 2018

Still Storch — A Scott Storch Story

Scott Storch - Still Storch

There are few music careers like that of Scott Storch. The esteemed producer-songwriter made his initial mark in Philly as a key member of the Roots. A great start, but just the beginning of a wild ride to the top.

Storch’s way with crafting hooks and shaping melodies, as well as his knack of being in the right place at the right time, brought him to Cali, where the inspired keyboardist began shaping the sound of pop, hip-hop and R&B, working with an array of artists that stretch from Dr. Dre and Beyoncé to 50 Cent and Christina Aguilera. The hits rolled in, the money stacked up, and creativity exploded. 

A big chunk of the 2000’s best music has Storch’s name on it. Then, through a string of drug troubles and monetary woes, he dropped out of sight for decade. It was the music’s loss. Now he’s back in action, and our intimate profile ‘Still Storch’ paints a portrait of a man who’s seen it all and is still cranking out great tracks.

These days his studio hosts artists such as French Montana, Chris Brown, A$AP Ferg as well as talented newcomers like Kyle and Thutmose. A victory come-back. For hip-hop fans, ‘Still Storch’ is a must-see mini-doc, an extended look at talent, addiction, and an unyielding passion for artistry. — Vevo Original

Eli Manning Mesmerized by Saquon Barkley's Quads

Even Eli Manning Can't Stop Staring At Saquon Barkley's Massive Legs

The world has officially discovered Saquon Barkley's gargantuan thighs

Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley has enormous legs. It’s not a surprising fact when you think about what a beast he was at Penn State and at the NFL combine, but it’s incredible.

When Eli Manning went on Bleacher Report’s Simms and Lefkoe podcast, even the quarterback admitted that he’s also impressed by the size of Barkley’s legs.
Manning said:
“His quads are the size of my waist and whole upper body. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. I don’t often stare at another man’s legs, but in that case, you just can’t quite help it.”
Manning is full of jokes when it comes to his athletic teammates.

When he was asked about his teammates, such as Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr., going shirtless for their workouts while Manning always wears a shirt, the QB jokingly said, per, “We do practice with our shirts on with the Giants. With the friction, they might have to make an adjustment the first few weeks. It might be something new for them and take a little time to get used to that.”

Friday, June 15, 2018

2018 FIFA World Cup: Cristiano Ronaldo's 3 Goal Hat-Trick


GOAL No. 1

GOAL No. 2

GOAL No. 3


Cristiano Ronaldo scored an amazing free-kick for Portugal to complete a remarkable hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw in the FIFA World Cup '18 opener — ironically, CR7's 51st career hat-trick was also the 51st hat-trick in World Cup history.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Common Drugs May Be Contributing To Depression

Stuart Bradford

Common Drugs May Be Contributing To Depression

Over one-third of Americans take at least one medication with depression as a potential side effect, a new study reports.

Could common prescription medications be contributing to depression and rising suicide rates?

Over one-third of Americans take at least one prescription drug that lists depression as a potential side effect, a new study reports, and users of such drugs have higher rates of depression than those who don’t take such drugs.

Many patients are taking more than one drug that has depression as a side effect, and the study found that the risk of depression increased with each additional such drug taken at the same time.

About 200 prescription drugs can cause depression, and the list includes common medications like proton pump inhibitors (P.P.I.s) used to treat acid reflux, beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure, birth control pills and emergency contraceptives, anticonvulsants like gabapentin, corticosteroids like prednisone and even prescription-strength ibuprofen. Some of these drugs are also sold over-the-counter in pharmacies.

For some drugs, like beta-blockers and interferon, the side effect of depression is well known, but the authors of the study were surprised at how many drugs were on the list.

“It was both surprising and worrisome to see how many medications have depression or suicidal symptoms as a side effect, given the burden of depression and suicide rates in the country,” said Dima Mazen Qato, an assistant professor and pharmacist at the University of Illinois at Chicago who was the lead author of the paper, published Tuesday in JAMA.

She acknowledged that there are still “a lot of unanswered questions,” and that the study only points to a correlation, not a cause-and-effect relationship.

“We didn’t prove that using these medications could cause someone who was otherwise healthy to develop depression or suicidal symptoms. But we see a worrisome dose-response pattern: The more of these medications that have these adverse effects that you’re taking concurrently, the higher the risk of depression,” Dr. Qato said.

The researchers used a large and nationally representative database, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, to analyze the medications used by a representative sample of more than 26,000 American adults from 2005 to 2014. They researched side effects of commonly used prescription drugs, compiling a list of more than 200 medications that have depression or suicidal symptoms listed as potential side effects.

The overall use of any prescription medication that had depression as a potential adverse effect increased to 38.4 percent in 2013-14, up from 35 percent in 2005-6, the study found. The percentage of adults who were concurrently taking three or more drugs with the side effect increased to 9.5 percent in 2013-14, up from 6.9 percent in 2005-6, the report said.

The use of medications that have suicidal symptoms as potential side effects also increased, to 23.5 percent of the population in 2013-14, up from 17.3 percent in 2005.

Among patients using one drug that could cause depression as a side effect but who were not taking an antidepressant drug, 6.9 percent had depression, while the depression rate for patients taking three or more drugs with the side effect was 15.3 percent. By contrast, patients who were not taking any such drugs had a depression rate of 4.7 percent.

The researchers adjusted for other risk factors that can cause depression, including poverty, marital status, unemployment and certain medical conditions, like chronic pain, which themselves are associated with depression.

“The study is an important reminder that all medicines have risks, and most medicines have rare but serious risks — yet another reason that even commonly used medicines such as beta-blockers or proton pump inhibitors should not be used cavalierly,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study.

Dr. Philip R. Muskin, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and secretary of the American Psychiatric Association, said physicians must keep these side effects in mind when prescribing medications, and ask patients about whether they have a personal or family history of depression.

But he said it is hard to say whether the increased use of drugs, and combination of drugs with side effects including depression, has had an impact on society.

“There’s been an increase in suicide, that we know,” Dr. Muskin said. “Does it correlate to the use of these medications? The honest answer is we don’t know. Could it play a role? The honest answer is yes, of course it could.” — Roni Caryn Rabin | The New York Times

If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to or SamaritansUSA.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Life is NOT a Journey - Alan Watts

Alan Wilson Watts was a British philosopher, writer, and speaker, best known as an interpreter and populariser of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. His philosophies seem to transcend ego, politics and limitations. His monologues have a powerful way of connecting distant abstract ideas with the present moment and his words have a unique way of putting life into perspective. Life is a gift.

Alan Watts (January 6th, 1915 – November 16th, 1973)

Happiness is NOT the Meaning of Life - Alan Watts

Some of history's greatest philosophers have spent their entire lives writing about the meaning of life. Why are we here? Surely there must be a reason? Many people in western culture believe the meaning of life is to "be happy".

Alan Watts has a brilliant way of eloquently challenging this notion. If we were to live in a state of eternal bliss, then bliss would become dull. Without darkness, there would be no light. Without pain, there would be no pleasure. Happiness is based in perspective. Embrace every aspect of life, the good and the bad, and learn to see the beauty in it.
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