Musician strums guitar throughout brain surgery

A musician played the guitar while undergoing brain surgery to fix cramping in his fingers, according to the surgeon who conducted the operation in India.

Abhishek Prasad, 37, was fully awake during the four-hour procedure under local anesthetic, said Sharan Srinivasan, head neurosurgeon at the Bhagwayn Mahaveer Jain Hospital in Bangalore.

For 20 months, Prasad suffered from a neurological condition called musical dystonia before the surgery July 11, the surgeon said.

“This is a form of a task-specific movement disorder, which comes out only when playing a musical instrument. In his case … it was the cramping of three fingers, middle ring and little, on his left hand beuse of the misfiring circuits in his brain,” the surgeon said.

Whenever he played the guitar, his fingers would get stuck.

‘Radio-frequency ablation’

Srinivasan said he performed “radio-frequency ablation” to correct the condition, a treatment he had trained for in Japan.

The treatment uses radio-frequency currents to destroy the part of the brain circuit triggering abnormal tremors.

After putting a frame on Prasad’s head and using a special MRI scan to map his brain, Srinivasan said his team had to rely on Prasad’s reactions to pinpoint the exact area that required burning.

“This is why the patient has to be fully awake during the surgery. He has to give me a real time feedback,” the surgeon said.

“As I am entering the brain, I’m stimulating the brain at various levels to make sure I’m in the right location, I’m not in the wrong location. Once I confirmed that I’m there, then I started burning the circuits with radio-frequency currents.”

The patient’s real-time response is critical to the operation.

“As I’m doing it, he kept playing the guitar and he is seeing his fingers releasing,” the surgeon said.

Local anesthesia

Srinivasan said he took extra measures to ensure the patient was not in pain.

“He was only under local anesthesia, which means wherever I made a cut in the skin, I give an injection, so that he doesn’t feel the pain. Because the brain itself has no pain. Only the skin or the top of the skull that is painful.”

Srinivasan said it was the first time surgery of this kind had been performed in India.

“So, this is a milestone in India’s medical field.”

Between 1% and 2% of musicians are believed to have musical dystonia, and anyone conducting repetitive tasks that keep stimulating the same brain circuit is prone to the condition, according to the surgeon.

“Patients think they have a psychological problem. They don’t know it’s a neurological circuit issue that can be fixed.”

Prasad was in hospital for three days after the surgery, and is doing well, Srinivasan said.

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Prince George marks 4th birthday with new photo

You have to admit: Prince George is one cute 4-year-old.

The young lad certainly looks like a happy boy, with a smile in his eyes and a toothy grin in an official portrait released by Kensington Palace to coincide with his birthday on Saturday.

“(His parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton) are delighted to share a new official portrait of Prince George to mark HRH’s 4th birthday tomorrow,” Kensington Palace said in a tweet on its verified account.

George’s parents, the palace added, “are very pleased to share this lovely picture, and would like to thank everyone for all of the kind messages they have received.”

The photo was taken in June at Kensington Palace by Getty Photographer Chris Jackson.

Jackson tweeted that he was honored the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released his photo.

Jackson posted another photo of Prince George taken Friday on the last day of the family’s trip to Germany.

He wrote: “On the eve of his birthday little Prince George got to explore a helicopter in Germany!”

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White House demands release of US prisoners in Iran or face ‘serious consequences’

The White House is demanding the release of all Americans currently being held in Iran and says President Donald Trump is “prepared to impose new and serious” consequences on the country if they are not released and returned.

A statement released by the White House Friday said the Trump administration is “redoubling” its efforts to bring home Americans “unjustly detained” abroad.

The statement mentioned three Americans specifically by name: Robert Levinson and Siamak and Baquer Namazi. Levinson has been held captive in Iran for over 10 years and The Namazis were taken during the Obama administration, according to the statement.

“The United States condemns hostage takers and nations that continue to take hostages and detain our citizens without just cause or due process. For nearly forty years, Iran has used detentions and hostage taking as a tool of state policy, a practice that continues to this day with the recent sentencing of Xiyue Wang to ten years in prison,” the statement read.

The statement urged that Iran is responsible for the care and well being of all US citizens it has in its custody. It added that Trump is willing to impose new consequence unless all “unjustly imprisoned’ American citizens are released by Iran.

Another American, Chinese-born Xiyue Wang, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison in Iran after being convicted of spying. Wang was arrested in Iran last summer while doing scholarly research in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation, a Princeton University statement said.

The White House announcement comes at the heels of a new administration policy — banning Americans from visiting another country known for imprisoning Americans — North Korea.

The State Department announced on Friday it will authorize a geographical travel on US nationals visiting the country because of “mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention.”

The decision follows the June release of US citizen Otto Warmbier, who was arrested last year while on a sightseeing tour to North Korea. After being held prisoner by North Korea for 17 months, Warmbier was handed over to the US in a vegetative state. He died a few days later in Ohio.

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State controlled oil is at center of political conflict, Venezuelan diplomat says

From the Venezuelan embassy in Havana, Alí Rodríguez Araque attributed the political gridlock in Venezuela to a conflict centered on who controls the oil. 

Rodríguez served under former President Hugo Chávez and now under his successor President Nicolas Maduro he is the ambassador to Cuba.

Before becoming a diplomat, he was the president of Petróleos de Venezuela, the general secretary of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the minister of finance and minister of electric energy. 

“This is an opposition protected by Donald Trump who wants to raise levels of violence to who knows what extremes,” Rodríguez said. 

Venezuelan activists estimate there have been at least 116 deaths linked to the ongoing nearly four months of protests against Maduro, 4,072 arrests and 15,000 wounded. Maduro’s opposition blames the violence on a Cuban-style crackdown.

Protesters face repression from the National Guard and a government-trained paramilitary force known as the “colectivos.” Venezuelan activists in South Florida believe Cuban agents are also involved. 

CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY

President Trump is listening to Cuban-American lawmakers who want Maduro out of office. Earlier this week, Trump threatened to take “strong and swift” economic actions. His decision would be a change from the individual sanctions issued by President Barack Obama’s administration. 

Florida Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) want the Trump administration to ban Venezuelan crude oil imports.

Venezuela is the third-largest supplier of crude oil to the U.S. This would hurt Gulf Coast refineries and could lead to higher gas prices in the U.S. The White House’s budget proposal included selling off half of the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the emergency oil stockpile. 

The “risk goes down dramatically when we have increased domestic production like we have,” Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the office of management and budget, said during a press conference in May.  

PETRO-SOCIALIST FAILURE

Further pressure on oil prices would worsen the Bolivarian government’s “petro-socialist” strategy. Without healthcare, government jobs, subsidies and education benefits, some loyalists are joining the opposition. 

Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy suffered when oil prices continued to tumble below $30 a barrel.

Venezuelan bonds crashed this week and investors were preparing for the possibility of a default. The government has to pay about $5 billion in debt by the end of this year. The country is also indebted to Russia and China. 

Amid corruption, food and medicine shortages and a triple-digit inflation, the democrats want elections in 2018. This week protesters organized a 24-hour strike Thursday and held a symbolic election involving millions of voters Sunday.  

Maduro’s response has been to push for a July 30 vote to elect the members of the specially assembly tasked with rewriting the 1999 constitution. 

“The Constitutional Assembly is no more than an inquiry of the people to update the constitution, to deepen and expand the achievements of the Venezuelan people and increase their participation,” Rodríguez said.

PARALLEL STATE

In a push for a parallel state, Maduro’s opponents in congress appointed 13 justices and 20 substitute judges to an alternative Supreme Court on Friday.

“The opposition rejects any proposal for dialogue,” Rodríguez said. 

The top court is stacked with socialist loyalists who have sided with Maduro. The nearly four months of protests continued after the Supreme Court took away powers from the democratically-controlled congress and later reversed its decision. 

“We are not backing down! Venezuela will have a Supreme Court of Justice and institutions at the service of the people and not at the service of whatever government is in power,” said Carlos Berrizbeitia, a congressman with the Democratic Unity Table coalition, during a ceremony held at a plaza in Caracas. 

The democratic coalition’s position is that the Supreme Court justices were appointed illegally last year in a move by the socialist party to maintain control of the judicial branch of the government. The appointments were rushed before a 2015 election filled the majority of congressional seats with democrats. 

“Our justice system has been hijacked,” said Sonia Medina, a congresswoman with the democratic Popular Will party.  “It is at the service of the regime. The judges have removed themselves from submitting to the rule of law, from the honor of judicial power, to repress, pursue, torture and jail.”

Jose Mendoza, the president of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber, accused the democrats in congress of treason. He said the appointment of the judges was illegal, because there weren’t any Supreme Court openings. 

SOUTH AMERICA ON ALERT

Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Argentina were among the South American members of Mercosur that called on Maduro to release political prisoners and asked him to give up on rewriting the constitution. 

During his press conference in Havana Friday, Rodríguez said there is a misunderstanding about the purpose and the way Maduro wants Venezuela to rewrite the constitution.

“We want the solution to be democratic and peaceful,” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez also said that the effort to rewrite the constitution “is about a little-known model in America, which tries to make the structure of power more horizontal.” 

Maduro deployed some 185,000 troops around the country to make sure the July 30 election isn’t sabotaged. And his opponents were planning a massive protest on Saturday, the 113th day of protests this year.

Local 10 News Andrea Torres contributed to this report from Miami. Weddle contributed from Caracas, Venezuela.  

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State controlled oil is at center of political conflict, Venezuelan diplomat says

From the Venezuelan embassy in Havana, Alí Rodríguez Araque attributed the political gridlock in Venezuela to a conflict centered on who controls the oil. 

Rodríguez served under former President Hugo Chávez and now under his successor President Nicolas Maduro he is the ambassador to Cuba.

Before becoming a diplomat, he was the president of Petróleos de Venezuela, the general secretary of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the minister of finance and minister of electric energy. 

“This is an opposition protected by Donald Trump who wants to raise levels of violence to who knows what extremes,” Rodríguez said. 

Venezuelan activists estimate there have been at least 116 deaths linked to the ongoing nearly four months of protests against Maduro, 4,072 arrests and 15,000 wounded. Maduro’s opposition blames the violence on a Cuban-style crackdown.

Protesters face repression from the National Guard and a government-trained paramilitary force known as the “colectivos.” Venezuelan activists in South Florida believe Cuban agents are also involved. 

CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY

President Trump is listening to Cuban-American lawmakers who want Maduro out of office. Earlier this week, Trump threatened to take “strong and swift” economic actions. His decision would be a change from the individual sanctions issued by President Barack Obama’s administration. 

Florida Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Rep. Carlos Curbelo and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) want the Trump administration to ban Venezuelan crude oil imports.

Venezuela is the third-largest supplier of crude oil to the U.S. This would hurt Gulf Coast refineries and could lead to higher gas prices in the U.S. The White House’s budget proposal included selling off half of the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the emergency oil stockpile. 

The “risk goes down dramatically when we have increased domestic production like we have,” Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s director of the office of management and budget, said during a press conference in May.  

PETRO-SOCIALIST FAILURE

Further pressure on oil prices would worsen the Bolivarian government’s “petro-socialist” strategy. Without healthcare, government jobs, subsidies and education benefits, some loyalists are joining the opposition. 

Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy suffered when oil prices continued to tumble below $30 a barrel.

Venezuelan bonds crashed this week and investors were preparing for the possibility of a default. The government has to pay about $5 billion in debt by the end of this year. The country is also indebted to Russia and China. 

Amid corruption, food and medicine shortages and a triple-digit inflation, the democrats want elections in 2018. This week protesters organized a 24-hour strike Thursday and held a symbolic election involving millions of voters Sunday.  

Maduro’s response has been to push for a July 30 vote to elect the members of the specially assembly tasked with rewriting the 1999 constitution. 

“The Constitutional Assembly is no more than an inquiry of the people to update the constitution, to deepen and expand the achievements of the Venezuelan people and increase their participation,” Rodríguez said.

PARALLEL STATE

In a push for a parallel state, Maduro’s opponents in congress appointed 13 justices and 20 substitute judges to an alternative Supreme Court on Friday.

“The opposition rejects any proposal for dialogue,” Rodríguez said. 

The top court is stacked with socialist loyalists who have sided with Maduro. The nearly four months of protests continued after the Supreme Court took away powers from the democratically-controlled congress and later reversed its decision. 

“We are not backing down! Venezuela will have a Supreme Court of Justice and institutions at the service of the people and not at the service of whatever government is in power,” said Carlos Berrizbeitia, a congressman with the Democratic Unity Table coalition, during a ceremony held at a plaza in Caracas. 

The democratic coalition’s position is that the Supreme Court justices were appointed illegally last year in a move by the socialist party to maintain control of the judicial branch of the government. The appointments were rushed before a 2015 election filled the majority of congressional seats with democrats. 

“Our justice system has been hijacked,” said Sonia Medina, a congresswoman with the democratic Popular Will party.  “It is at the service of the regime. The judges have removed themselves from submitting to the rule of law, from the honor of judicial power, to repress, pursue, torture and jail.”

Jose Mendoza, the president of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber, accused the democrats in congress of treason. He said the appointment of the judges was illegal, because there weren’t any Supreme Court openings. 

SOUTH AMERICA ON ALERT

Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Argentina were among the South American members of Mercosur that called on Maduro to release political prisoners and asked him to give up on rewriting the constitution. 

During his press conference in Havana Friday, Rodríguez said there is a misunderstanding about the purpose and the way Maduro wants Venezuela to rewrite the constitution.

“We want the solution to be democratic and peaceful,” Rodríguez said.

Rodríguez also said that the effort to rewrite the constitution “is about a little-known model in America, which tries to make the structure of power more horizontal.” 

Maduro deployed some 185,000 troops around the country to make sure the July 30 election isn’t sabotaged. And his opponents were planning a massive protest on Saturday, the 113th day of protests this year.

Local 10 News Andrea Torres contributed to this report from Miami. Weddle contributed from Caracas, Venezuela.  

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