Look to the women
, says McCain: Cindy McCain, that is. While her husband’s political opponent charmed the media with his cross-country trip, the founder and funder of the American Voluntary Medical Team was visiting Rwanda, too often known simply for the 1994 genocide that has scarred its people. Brought there by Women for Women International,  McCain writes in the Wall Street Journal that the country’s women, resilient young and old, are leading its revival:

Women are at the forefront of the physical, emotional and spiritual healing that is moving Rwandan society forward. One of them, from eastern Rwanda, told me her story — a violent, tragic and heartbreaking testimony of courage. She spoke of surviving multiple gang rapes, running at night in fear of losing her life, going days without food or water and witnessing the death of her entire family — one person at a time, before her eyes.

The injuries she sustained left her unable to bear children. Illness, isolation and an utter lack of hope left her in abject despair.

And yet the day I met her, she wasn’t consumed by hatred or resentment. She sat, talking with me and a few others, beside a man who had killed people guilty of nothing more than seeking shelter in a church. She forgave him. She forgave the perpetrators of her tragedy, and she explained her story with hope that such cruelty would never be repeated.

It is a humbling experience to be in the presence of those who have such a capacity for forgiveness and care. It is also instructive. If wealthy nations want their assistance programs to be effective, they should look to the women who form the backbone of every society. With some education, training, basic rights and empowerment, women will transform a society — and the world.

Women today make up a disproportionate percentage of the Rwandan population. In the aftermath of the genocide, they had to head households bereft of fathers. They had to take over farms, and take jobs previously done by men. But there were opportunities, too: Today, 41% of Rwandan businesses are owned by women.

Newmix is heartened to see the piece this week, and hopes that it signals a higher profile for Ms. McCain. We also hope she’s nudging her husband about his own “women’s issues,” especially his stands on reproductive rights and his professed ignorance on alleged inequities in pharmaceutical coverage for men and women.

About that bone density test. Yesterday, the pharmaceutical-industry buzz was all about Amgen’s new anti-osteoperosis drug Denosumab, which previous tests had already showed can build bone density. And a new set of tests, announced yesterday, shows promise for prevention of fractures:

Roger M. Perlmutter, Amgen’s executive vice president for research
and development, said the data would not be presented until the
American Society for Bone and Mineral Research meeting in September.
But he said the results of the trial “exceeded my expectations.”

Denosumab had already been shown in smaller studies to build bone
mineral density. But there was a question of whether that would
translate into a strong reduction in the risk of fractures, which the Food and Drug Administration regards as the most relevant measure of an osteoporosis drug.

While most analysts and doctors expected a reduction in spinal
fractures, the main goal of the trial, there was some surprise that
denosumab also reduced hip fractures, which are costly and potentially
lethal medical problems. Hip fractures are rarer than spine fractures,
making it more difficult to show a statistically significant effect.

Denosumab also reduced the incidence of fractures elsewhere in the body, like the arms and legs.

The trial results might also assuage safety concerns. Some earlier
studies suggested that patients getting denosumab had a higher rate of
serious infections and cancer. But Amgen said Friday that in the new
trial the incidence of serious side effects was similar among those
getting denosumab and those getting the placebo. However, no numbers
were provided.

Dr. E. Michael Lewiecki, an investigator in the clinical trial who
has not seen the data, said the results sounded “about the best that
anybody could expect.” Dr. Lewiecki, osteoporosis director of the New
Mexico Clinical Research and Osteoporosis Center and an adviser to
Amgen, added, “That’s terrific news for everyone with osteoporosis.”

But just as we might anticipate some relief if the new drug works out, news from University of Arizona have uncovered a puzzling phenomenon: the stronger a postmenopausal woman’s bone mineral density, the higher the risk of breast cancer.

In the study, researchers found a strong association between bone
mineral density (BMD) and breast cancer in postmenopausal women. The
association was independent of a well known tool for estimating breast
cancer risk called the Gail risk model, which includes family and
reproductive history, age, and race/ethnicity, along with history of
breast biopsies and atypical breast findings.

The results of the study suggest that incorporating BMD tests with
standard risk assessments, like the Gail model, could markedly improve
doctors’ ability to predict breast cancer risk in older women, the
researchers say.

Prior studies have found an association between higher BMD and
higher risk of breast cancer, Dr. Zhao Chen from the University of
Arizona in Tucson and colleagues note in the journal Cancer.

For their research, they examined risk factors for breast cancer in
9941 older women. Over an average of 8.43 years, 327 women developed
breast cancer. At the start of the study, hip BMD and Gail risk scores were known for all of the women.

Not surprisingly, the researchers report, women with a high Gail
risk score had a 35 percent increased risk for developing breast cancer
compared to women with a low Gail risk score. But they also found a 25
percent increase in breast cancer risk with each unit increase in hip

While hip BMD and the Gail score were independent of each other,
women who had the highest scores on both assessments had a markedly
higher risk of breast cancer.

Tucson researchers acknowledged that correlation does not imply
causality, and urged further studies. Newsmix will wait till those
studies are done before deciding that survival in midlife demands a
degree in genetics, to understand it all.

You said you’d always wanted to try “good works.”: As midlife
collides with our oscillating economy, as observed by Newsmix and
others last week, some agencies are stepping up by placing unemployed
over-55 women with nonprofit groups that sorely need skilled workers:

Dressed elegantly in black and gold, Annie Wolfe exudes confidence
and capability. A nurse for more than 30 years, she worked her way into
a good-paying job with the state of Ohio.

When a family member got sick and she had to return to her Charleston
home, she wanted to work – at least part time. Who wouldn’t want to
hire a woman with her skills and experience?

No one, it seemed.


For a year, Wolfe sent out resumes and filled out
applications. She believes that no one wanted to hire a woman who had
already celebrated her 60th birthday.

“They just want to see the last 10 years on your résumé,” she said.

Then she read in the newspaper about Experience Works, a program to
help adults get into the workforce. Now she is the voice of West
Virginia Rx, a new program designed to help more people have access to

Experience Works, a nonprofit group, traces its roots to the Lyndon B.
Johnson era and the Green Thumb program, which helped people move from
agricultural jobs to other work. Now, the program helps older workers
update their work skills to changing times.

“These are people who work hard,” said Belva Faulkner, the program’s
Kanawha County representative. “Older workers know why they are
working, and they are reliable workers with good work ethics.”

To qualify for help from Experience Works, people must be 55 or older
and meet income guidelines. Faulkner places people with a nonprofit
agency where they can work part-time or full-time, and the program will
pay them minimum wage for 20 hours a week.

“We work with the whole person,” Faulkner said.

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