Cupping therapy: no pain and no noticeable gain

During the hottest part of summer, temperatures in Beijing regularly soar above 95 F (35 C). To cope with the heat, women shed pants and long-sleeved shirts for tank tops and skirts, while the less fashion-conscious men simply roll up their shirts, exposing their midriff, however rotund.

The Beijing summer look for men that never goes out of style.

The summer look for men in Beijing that never goes out of style.

A few summers ago, one of the these bare-bellied men walked past me on the street. As I turned to look at him, I noticed a series of purple and pink bruises on his back, each about the size of a baseball. At first glance, it looked like he had been the victim of a brutal assault. But each of the bruises was the same size, and perfectly circular.

I told one of my friends what I had seen, and she said the bruises were from cupping, a form of traditional Chinese medicine commonly used in Asia and the Middle East. In China, cupping is known as baguan, and is used to alleviate everything from headaches to back pain. Continue reading

If you could talk to a gunman

Whenever a mass shooting like the one in Connecticut occurs, there’s always a group of Americans who argue that the tragedy could have been prevented if someone besides the shooter had been armed.

It’s a flawed argument. Even if an employee at the elementary school had had a gun – a teacher, for example – Adam Lanza had more and better weapons, was protected by body armor and was ready to die rather than surrender.

It’s certainly possible an armed teacher, in the right place at the right time, could have stopped Lanza. But that sort of Hollywood ending isn’t likely. Shootouts are almost always messy, even when professionals, such as police officers, are involved. Continue reading