Welcome to Focal Point

Hello, Big Think. Welcome to Focal Point, a blog about politics, ideas, photography, media, feminism, and more. I'm a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. I do both print and photojournalism, hence the name of the blog. 


I didn't set out to become a blogger. I started in 2004 while I was applying to PhD programs in philosophy.

When the applications didn't work out, I drifted into pharmaceutical advertising during the Vioxx era. I became deeply disenchanted when I realized that the industry was literally hijacking medical science to sell drugs. They weren't just spinning the results of studies. I saw pharmaceutical companies conceiving, executing, and analyzing research in the service of marketing objectives. I began to worry that evidence-based medicine was being hacked.

Eventually, I quit to blog and report full-time, but the experience left a lasting impression.

One antidote to the corporate corruption of science is education. As a reporter, I write a lot about science, medicine, and the political contexts in which they unfold. When you're battling deadlines, it's easy to miss the big picture. I hope Focal Point will be a place to explore those larger issues. Expect to read about U.S. health care reform and reproductive rights. Along the way, we'll tackle sex, drugs, and the DSM.

I'm very excited to be joining Big Think. Let's reason together.

Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
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How to bring more confidence to your conversations

Entrepreneur and author Andrew Horn shares his rules for becoming an assured conversationalist.

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Videos
  • To avoid basing action on external validation, you need to find your "authentic voice" and use it.
  • Finding your voice requires asking the right questions of yourself.
  • There are 3-5 questions that you would generally want to ask people you are talking to.
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Bespoke suicide pods now available for death in style

Sarco assisted suicide pods come in three different styles, and allow you to die quickly and painlessly. They're even quite beautiful to look at.

The Sarco assisted suicide pod
Technology & Innovation

Death: it happens to everyone (except, apparently, Keanu Reeves). But while the impoverished and lower-class people of the world die in the same ol' ways—cancer, heart disease, and so forth—the upper classes can choose hip and cool new ways to die. Now, there's an assisted-suicide pod so chic and so stylin' that peeps (young people still say peeps, right?) are calling it the "Tesla" of death... it's called... the Sarco! 

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Scientists find a horrible new way cocaine can damage your brain

Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.

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Mind & Brain
  • Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
  • Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
  • Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
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