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A Conversation with Dr. Sean Woods, D.C., Author of “The Healing Vibe: Understand the Cause and Overcome Disease”

May 11, 2020

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In: The Buzz

During these unprecedented times of the COVID-19 pandemic that has practically paralyzed our world, I’ve tapped into a curiosity that’s gnawed at me lately.

Let’s say, since our worlds turned upside down and we’ve all practically became prisoners in our own homes over the past 8 weeks, I’ve more than tapped into this curiosity.  I’ve dove in and inhale everything I can find to help better understand – what is happening to our healthcare system?  Why are certain people dying of COVID-19 and others aren’t?  Is it really true, that “COVID-19 has revealed the deadly realities of a racially polarized America,” according to the cover story of the New York Times Magazine (May 3, 2020).

One of the experts I’ve turned to in my quest for answers about the COVID-19 crisis and the impact on our healthcare system is Dr. Sean Woods, a gifted Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.) in Alexandria, VA.  His work has taught me a heck of a lot about how to lead a healthier and happier life.  I met Dr. Sean – as he’s affectionately known to his patients – through Dr. Miranda Wall Van Blarcum, who also is a Doctor of Chiropractic, a former yoga and Pilates teacher at Mind the Mat, my local yoga and Pilates sanctuary, before she moved to Austin, Texas with her husband.  After Miranda left for Texas a few years ago, I started to see Dr. Sean every month.  He owns a holistic health and wellness practice, The Chiropractic Associates in Old Town Alexandria with his wife, Michelle, and has become one of the most important people in my life (after my husband, Andy, of course.) 

While many people think chiropractors just crack your back or adjust your spine – which they do – most people don’t know that chiropractors can also help you learn about nutrition, how to self-heal and self-regulate your body.  These might seem like weighty concepts.  But Dr. Sean breaks them down into common sense, easy-to-understand explanations about how your body works, how your organs work and are connected to the rest of your body, why going number two is one of the most important things you need to do (more than once a day), why you feel better when you eat certain foods (especially fruits and vegetables), why you feel like crap when you eat all the wrong stuff and how certain herbs and supplements can help your body eliminate parasites that could eventually kill you. 

Yes, kill you. 

In his new book which just came out in early May 2020, “The Healing Vibe: Understand the Cause and Overcome Disease,” Dr. Sean Woods has given us all a gift “to inspire hope for those who are having healing challenges and are feeling hopeless,” “to inspire courage for those who are facing a health concern that leaves them feeling fearful,” and to “provide inspiration for those who feel overwhelmed and helpless and think there is nothing they can do.”  The cover of Dr. Sean’s book is a beautiful, radiant, colorful heart which he drew himself to capture the essence of his book.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Sean outside of the adjustment room to learn about his book and have an open and frank conversation about what’s wrong with our healthcare system and why more people don’t see healthcare the same way he does. 

Eileen Rivera: What motivated you to write this book?

Dr. Sean: I had a breakthrough moment.  Frankly, I was getting frustrated hearing from patients who would tell me they had been to ten different doctors and none of those doctors could tell them what was wrong with them.  I could figure out the answer to their problems after the first ten minutes of seeing them. 

I was also getting frustrated when patients would tell me, you’re the only doctor who talks like this! You’re the only doctor who talks about the need to move beyond treatment of symptoms to what matters the most, which is being able to digest the food you eat and be able to eliminate what you don’t need.  I was having regular conversations with my patients to help them understand digestion, absorption, assimilation and elimination.  Soon I was having conversations about a concept that really got their attention – the cause of all disease.

For example, let’s take a common case of gastritis. As a chiropractor, I don’t treat these conditions, I correct spines. When stomachs dysfunction though, they pull the spine anterior (forward) in the middle of the back. (This concept is explained in my book). Unless the gastritis gets corrected, not just eradicating symptoms, the patient comes back routinely for me to adjust the area.  I adjust, they get relief, they eat poorly again, and they are soon back in my office wondering why the adjustments don’t “hold”. These kinds of scenarios are a big reason I needed to add nutrition into my practice years ago. These next ten years is where I began to figure out how the body is interconnected on more levels than I even imagined. 

Now, gastritis is one of the most common human ailments that exist on the planet, and it’s hard to believe that with all the medical science that exists out there, and the billions placed on research, the only good advice from your doctor for gastritis is to take a prescription to block stomach acid. A dysfunctional stomach left uncorrected is, in my opinion, one of the most dangerous conditions that can exist within a body that is need of proper digestion to exist. Once the body loses its ability to properly digest proteins, which is the major role of hydrochloric acid, we set ourselves up for a multitude of major problems. The problems that can occur are much more far reaching from the stomach and which we don’t have time to talk about here. 

What became frustrating for me is that I routinely fix both acute and chronic stomach conditions in my office everyday. Correction doesn’t have to be hard, but it takes time. I need to stay on top of my patients dietary changes and ultimately knowing how to use the correct supplementation at the right time. At the end of the day with the billions of dollars spent on stomach conditions, the medical community has no clue how to actually fix and heal gastritis. I stopped taking a stance against medicine years ago. I just want help those I can. I don’t know, call me crazy, but this is not fair to the patient who comes to a doctor looking for answers to their symptoms. I think it demonstrates that something is inherently wrong with the medical health care system today. I don’t know, some days, it gets to me.

So, I decided to write a book that puts my 20 years of knowledge, and the very things I do in my office everyday, into an all encompassing “thesis,” you might say, on how all disease manifests in the human body. No small task!

Eileen Rivera:  So, what is the cause of disease? 

Dr. Sean: The cause of all disease leads back to a lack of love for yourself, or self-love. The concept that feeling bad can cause disease is tough for most people to grasp, and it’s a concept I write a lot about in my book. For those people who roll their eyes at this and say, “This has nothing to do with real science.”  I believe they need to re-evaluate their understanding of the human being and ways it expresses health.

An excerpt I particularly like from Dr. Sean’s book drives home this point: “I have found through years of practice that the patients who truly do the best are the ones who begin the task of self-love and extreme self-care to improve blockages and make their bodies strong again.”

Eileen Rivera:  Why did you decide to publish your book in the middle of a global pandemic?

Dr. Sean:  The timing was really a decision made by the universe! 

Eileen Rivera:  How do we improve our healthcare system?  How can people improve their own health?

Dr. Sean:  Well, without people taking greater responsibility for their individual health then improving the healthcare system will not take place. To use the COVID-19 virus as an example, unless there is a fundamental shift in understanding of why a virus would take over a planet, now or in 1918 [when the Spanish flu pandemic struck], we’ll be faced with another virus [like COVID-19].  The reason a virus like the Coronavirus or even the flu virus will sweep across the planet is because there are plenty of sick people for the virus to clean up. It is not the intent of a virus to enter healthy human cells and begin destroying them. 

When viruses enter unhealthy human cells, they begin the process of removing the toxicity from them. Although viruses can make you sick, and if they do, they end up showing you how sick you were. In most cases, the virus will leave you healthier than when it started with you. That can be a hard concept to comprehend. People can improve their own health quickly by caring more about the things they are putting in their body and begin the process of cleaning up their bodies.  Otherwise, with the levels of toxicity that exist on this planet and within people’s bodies, the next virus will create another fearful event with more death and suffering than what we’re experiencing now.

Eileen Rivera: Whoa. That’s heavy stuff. What needs to shift?

Dr. Sean:  Humans need to take their presence on this earth 10 times more seriously than they do now.  What I mean by that is, humans need to care about themselves a lot more than they do now, they need to know that viruses take advantage of their toxic cells, and if they are serious about their healthy existence on this planet they would begin cleaning themselves up!  If you have a clean body, a virus like COVID-19 will have no interest in you.

Eileen Rivera:  What do you mean by cleaning up your body? You can’t mean, injecting Clorox or a disinfectant. 

Dr. Sean:  Besides eating cleaner with more fruits and vegetables, the first step to cleaning up your body is to remove excess protein.  Most people eat too much protein because they believe that protein is a good fuel source for your body.  Excess and improperly digested protein in a body is a fantastic catalyst for the replication of any virus and for the development of many of the autoimmune diseases that have people on edge these days.

Eileen Rivera:  If not protein, what are the best fuel sources for your body?

Dr. Sean:  The best fuel sources for the body are without a doubt fruits and vegetables. If you were to compare fuel to that of a car.  Think of fruit as putting 93 Octane into your body, very clean with very healthy fiber left over. Vegetables are a close second at about 87 Octane. Using fat for fuel can work but it is more relative to using diesel, not as clean.  The body can use protein for fuel, but at the expense of water and with the dirtiest residue left over. Protein is more like coal, burns longer but the hardest on the body.

Eileen Rivera:  What if you don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables, what do you eat? 

Dr. Sean:  You must always think when you’re about to put something in your mouth, what is the objective of the food I’m about to eat?  What is it going to do for my body?  I believe that if you were interested enough you could find fresh fruits and vegetables to eat. If you only have access to a 7-11, for example, there’s fresh fruit in there, like bananas, apples, oranges, and salads. Eating a bag of Cheetos and drinking a bottle of diet soda, what will that do for your body?  That’s literally putting poison in your body. I’m not saying that you should never eat or drink these things, but you need to understand them. This is what I mean about taking care of yourself so that a virus doesn’t have to take care of you.

Eileen Rivera: Wow, poison. You talk a lot about gut health and the importance of having healthy gut bacteria. You’re fond of saying that when you have good gut bacteria, it will tell your brain, “the world is good, I’ll be fine.”  You’re also famous for knowing when your patients have a parasite in their gut, and what that tells their brain, which is not so good.  How do you know when your patients have a parasite inside their bodies?

Dr. Sean:  I can tell right away when someone has a parasite in their body.  These are some of the common signs I notice quickly:  bloating, gas, migraine headaches, itchy skin, random pimples, skin blotches, asthma and allergies, obesity, feelings of hate and suicide, anorexia, excessive hunger with no weight gain, moodiness or depression.

The lower microbial world, which includes parasites, viruses, yeast, and even bad bacteria will cause low emotional states when overgrown in the gut and throughout the body and brain! It is important to understand that these bad bugs can only grow in an environment that you are creating mostly by poor food choices. The new science that has emerged in the last two decades proves that health can only be obtained by creating it for yourself. My book demonstrates on many levels why this science is true.

Eileen Rivera:  How can your book help people get healthier and survive COVID-19?

Dr. Sean:  I hope my book will help more people gain greater insight into how the body words, learn the most important factors that affect healing and ultimately how to restore long lasting health.  As I stated in the opening of my book, “when you get your body to function more effectively, you help yourself achieve a better level of health, both physically and emotionally.”  My hope is that my book will show more people that they have more power than they realize in reversing any unwanted health condition. The formula is rather simple, applying the new healthy habits is the hard part.

My vision for the book is to shift this country’s understanding of what it takes to be truly healthy, to reduce the fears associated with a virus coming to attack them, and ultimately improve the health care system by helping people get so healthy they remove themselves from it.

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To order a copy of Dr. Sean Woods’ book, The Healing Vibe: Understand the Cause and Overcome Disease, please visit:  https://www.panaceanutritionals.com/

For more information about Dr. Sean Woods and The Chiropractic Associates, 1240 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, please visit: https://www.chiroassoc.net/

Eileen Cassidy Rivera is an award-winning healthcare technology executive and strategic communications and marketing professional. At present, Eileen is director of government services and industry positioning at one of the world’s largest healthcare technology companies.  She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband, three children and sweet dog, Lucky, and may be contacted at eileencrivera1@gmail.com or LinkedIn.

To HIMSS, or not to HIMSS, that is the question.

For those of you who have never heard of HIMSS, you are not alone. My family often asks me, “What is HIMSS?” The follow-up questions are typically, “Does HIMSS have a sister conference called HERS?” Ha ha. Very funny. “So, why are you spending so much time on this HIMSS thing? When is it over?”

For those of you involved or remotely involved with health technology, health IT or you’re a healthcare provider, you stand a good chance of knowing what HIMSS means and what it’s all about. And you’re probably chuckling to yourself as you’ve probably heard these questions a few times before.

HIMSS, which stands for Health Information Management and Systems Society, formerly the Hospital Management Systems Society, is a Chicago-based “global, cause-based, not-for-profit organization focused on better health through information technology (IT).” HIMSS states that it “leads efforts to optimize health engagements and care outcomes using information technology.” Founded in 1961, HIMSS “encompasses more than 52,000 individuals, of which more than two-thirds work in healthcare providers, governmental and not-for-profit organizations across the globe, plus over 600 corporations and 250 not-for-profit partner organizations that share this cause.”

At its annual conference, more than 1260 companies will exhibit in spaces larger than your average size home. Some companies design their exhibit booths to feel like you’re in a home, complete with fireplaces, comfortable leather sofas, coffee tables, vases, flower arrangements, decorative drapes and yes, cappuccino machines. Other companies even set up a fully-stocked bar in their exhibit booths that open promptly for happy hour – with lines of thirsty conventioneers making their rounds through the hall before descending on the multitude of company-sponsored after-parties.

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Two Hip Replacement Surgeries: Lessons Learned about Patient Responsibility

Oct 8, 2014

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In: The Buzz

It’s true. I’m much younger than the average age for hip replacement surgery. At 44, six years ago, an orthopedist replaced my left hip. Six months ago, a different orthopedist replaced my right hip. I guess you could say I’m “really hip.” To what, I am still trying to find out.

Throughout my medical journey and two hip replacement surgeries, I learned some important lessons I hope might help others who face similar situations every day:

  • We need to take more responsibility for our own health by doing research on our health conditions as well as the physician’s recommended medical “cures.”
  • We need to advocate more assertively for ourselves throughout the medical establishment. We can’t assume physicians have access to anything close to our complete medical history.
  • We need to be the keepers—at least for now—of our own medical records until complete, accessible, and timely electronic medical records become a reality.

“You’re So Young”

The typical reaction when I tell people I’ve had two hip replacement surgeries is, “You’re so young; what happened?” It’s a normal comeback. It takes me back to my senior year of high school when I was in a freak car accident. It’s a story my husband and kids have heard more often than they care to remember.

On that particular day, I made a decision I’ll always regret, to skip my last class and sneak out the back door of my high school. As I was crossing the street, out of nowhere I was struck by a car that collided into another car. I was hit twice on the left side of my body.

The next moment I recall was looking up in a strange place with my mother’s arm draped around my shoulder, waiting for me to open my eyes. When I finally did, I had a throbbing headache, couldn’t move my left leg, and had no idea where I was. After hours of x-rays and observation at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, on March 30, 1981, I went home on crutches with lots of bruises but miraculously escaped a broken bone, or so I thought.

Life went on normally for the next 10 years. In my late 20s, I started to suspect that something wasn’t quite right in my left leg. I could never seem to get comfortable in a seated position. I tried to ignore the discomfort but was constantly fighting throbbing leg pain.

It was way before the Internet or Google so it wasn’t easy to research what I was feeling, let alone find a specialized doctor to help me feel better. One day, I walked by a chiropractor’s office and decided to schedule an appointment.

And so began my journey in the healthcare world. The chiropractor who worked on me during those years remarked that I was “so young” to have this kind of pain. Unfortunately, I didn’t benefit from chiropractic adjustments. The ensuing years were filled with visits to orthopedists. In those years, there was nothing close to an electronic health record, so every time I met a doctor, I’d write down my medical history over and over again. I saw four different doctors across the Washington, D.C., area. When all they could find was a “really healthy spine,” the only relief they could offer was muscle relaxants.

When I got married and became pregnant with my first child, I ditched the drugs and thankfully gave birth to a healthy boy. During my first pregnancy, that throbbing leg pain temporarily went away. A few years later, the same pain came back. During those years of sleepless nights, caring for my baby, and holding down a demanding job, I wondered how I would get through each day. When I had the time, I exercised to strengthen my back and legs, hoping I could overcome the pain naturally.

Eight years later, I became pregnant again and gave birth to a healthy girl. During that pregnancy, I had a similar experience of temporarily escaping leg pain that came back with a vengeance one year later.

During a skiing trip with my family, I knew I needed to take drastic action. I could barely hold my toddler daughter while walking across the snow let alone make it down the mountain on skis. When we got home from that trip, I booked a visit with a different chiropractor. She recommended I have my hip x-rayed, which no other doctor had suggested.

“My hip?” I asked her incredulously.

“Yes, I think you have arthritis in your hip. You need to get it checked out right away,” said my new best friend.

And so the next chapter of my healthcare journey began.

A Diagnosis – Finally!

By that point, I had seen five orthopedic surgeons, none of whom had hinted about the possibility of arthritis. I was in tears of pain and hope when I walked into a new orthopedist’s office. The first question he asked was, “Have you ever been in an accident?” That was the first time a doctor had asked me that question. I told him about my accident, now 27 years in the past. He looked as if he had just discovered a cure for cancer. He quickly directed me to the x-ray room and instructed the radiologist to take x-rays that would soon change my life.

The x-rays revealed a narrowing of my left hip joint and a fracture in my left hip bone, which the doctor explained caused osteoarthritis, a deterioration of cartilage tissue between my hip bone and hip joint. The cartilage tissue that served as a cushion or shock absorber between my hipbone and hip joint was gone. After the injury I experienced as a teenager, my body did not grow new cartilage. Quite literally, the doctor said, “It’s bone on bone.”

The impact of getting hit by two cars caused a hairline fracture, which was apparently undetected in x-rays after the accident. Over the years, daily running and having two kids slowly contributed to the onset of osteoarthritis in my left hip.

Without hesitation, the orthopedist recommended hip replacement surgery as soon as possible.

Hip Replacement No. 1

I kept thinking, why did it take so long to find out what was causing that pain? Why didn’t any of the doctors I’d seen over the years hint about the possibility of arthritis as a cause of my pain? Why didn’t they ask me if I’d been in an accident? When they sent me for x-rays and MRIs, why didn’t they catch osteoarthritis in my left hip? Why were the doctors only looking at my back? Why weren’t they curious to look at other body parts that contribute to leg pain?

These questions were swirling in my head leading up to my hip replacement surgery in May 2008. I was so focused on getting ready for surgery and preparing for post-surgery that I finally stopped beating myself up for not prompting or asking questions that may have led to an earlier diagnosis.

A few weeks after my surgery, while I was home recuperating, I began to come to peace with what had happened. A physical therapist helped me learn how to walk again. She came to my house twice a week and taught me exercises to strengthen my leg, hip, and gluteus maximus muscle. The surgeon had made a four-inch incision in the gluteus maximus to remove the damaged joint, which was then replaced with a prosthetic titanium ball and socket along with a stem inserted into my thighbone.

The physical therapist also became my sounding board for venting about my long and frustrating healthcare journey. She assured me I wasn’t alone and told me many of her patients shared similar stories about confusing hip and back pain.

The next chapter of my healthcare journey began as I slowly recuperated and started to experience a pain-free life. I began to return to an active lifestyle and resume doing the kinds of sports and activities I enjoyed. I took exercise classes, rode my bike, practiced yoga, and went skiing again. I could finally sleep at night without being awoken by constant arthritic pain.

When I had my left hip replaced, my doctor told me I should expect my right hip to go in five years. At first, I didn’t believe him and dismissed his prediction. He explained how I’d be favoring my right hip, causing the cartilage in the joint to wear down prematurely. Over the next few years, I rarely thought about that conversation and instead focused on enjoying my pain-free life.

His prediction, however, proved to be true. About two years ago, I started to feel new pain in my right hip. My original surgeon had moved to the West Coast, so I went to a new orthopedist. He took an x-ray of my right hip, which appeared normal. I continued doing exercises including going to a boot camp, but it became increasingly difficult to ignore the pain.

Seeking Treatments Before Surgery

Last year, I made an appointment with the orthopedist to talk about pain relief treatments. He suggested a cortisone injection, which I had never had and was willing to give it a try. When I arrived at the hospital for the injection, my previous medical history was not easily viewable. I had to tell the nurses about my previous hip replacement surgery and two births, all at the same hospital. The hospital had just implemented a new electronic health record system, but I couldn’t believe how little information it knew about me

I was wheeled into an operating room where I saw my right hip on a 32-inch screen and watched the doctor inject cortisone into my hip. The nurse’s first reaction was, “You have no space between your hip bone and joint; where is the cortisone going to go?” I stared at her, wondering what I was doing there. She pointed her finger at the area on the x-ray monitor where I should have had a visible space. Instead, it was all white. She told me the chances of feeling relief from the cortisone injection would be minimal. I was bewildered. Why had I gone through this whole ordeal for no relief? After the procedure, I talked to the doctor to understand what the cortisone injection would accomplish. Without hesitation, she said I had arthritis, told me she would send the x-ray to my doctor, and recommended we discuss other options.

Hip Replacement No. 2

Other options? The only real option was as clear as day. Daily activities became less pleasurable due to nagging hip pain, so I knew it was time for my second surgery. And so I began the next chapter of my healthcare journey. I made an appointment with my orthopedist to look at the x-ray taken during my cortisone injection and discussed next steps.

Getting ready for the procedure was déjà vu all over again. I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive for at least six weeks. Thankfully, my husband held down the family fort, and my boss, a medical doctor, fully understood the situation and was very supportive.

My second hip replacement surgery went well. Like my first surgery, I was up the next day with the help of a walker and a physical therapist. I went through one month of home physical therapy at home and two months of outpatient therapy. I slowly regained my strength, mobility, and range of motion. I started practicing yoga again, which has greatly accelerated my recuperation. I am on a path to a pain-free life. Hallelujah!

I decided to record my healthcare journey to help me remember the long saga and also to hopefully help others who might be experiencing similar feelings and frustrations and who could benefit from answers to questions they might not know to ask. As I reflect on the past three decades navigating the system to cure a condition that more than 306,600 people have addressed through surgery, I feel lucky.

Be Your Own Healthcare Advocate

How important it is to be your own healthcare advocate is more apparent to me now more than ever. You can’t wait for the doctors to prompt questions you need to ask. You have to do your research (mostly online) and talk to medical professionals and people you know who’ve gone through or are experiencing a similar health situation. Also, you can’t rely on your heath information being transferred from old health charts to electronic heath records at your primary care physician, specialist doctor, or hospital.

Leading healthcare technology companies, including my employer, provide state-of-the-art technology to enhance patient-physician relationships through patient and provider portals and other care continuum tools. Increasingly, healthcare systems in the United States and globally are implementing this technology to empower the patient’s role and command of their own wellness. Despite my professional background, it’s become evident to me that it is the patient’s responsibility to connect the dots for doctors, weave your own medical history, and guide medical professionals to an outcome you deserve.

Eileen Cassidy Rivera is now thriving and active. She is vice president of marketing at a health IT company where she applies lessons learned from her personal healthcare journey to lead the company’s strategic growth and positioning in the healthcare industry. She lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with her husband and three children and may be contacted at eileen@cassidyrivera.com

Article originally published in Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare on October 8, 2014.

What kind of message are we sending to our kids to close schools when it snows 4 inches?

Alright, I know.  It’s been 6+ months since I wrote a blog entry.  I was on a roll there, I know. Truth be told, I took a corporate job in late August last year that has been keeping me very busy. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “You just started your own company, began working with new clients, launched your website, and you sold out so quickly?”  That’s not EXACTLY what my friends and family have been telling me, but I am enjoying my new job leading global marketing and communications at a local company…but there’s no excuse for not writing – so here I go…are you ready?

So, this blog post is 30% therapeutic, 30% cathartic and 40% an attempt at making a really big, fat, and hairy statement about the insanity of closing schools when it snows…4 inches and the temperature dips into the single digits?  OK – I must take a big, deep inhale before I write anymore. Breathe. OK – done.  But, really? How are these decisions made? Who makes them? Based on what facts? I digress for just a bit.

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Crisis Communications 101 for Government Contractors

You can’t help but notice the front page and lead newscasts about Edward Snowden, a former employee of government contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, who is on the loose, seeking political asylum for allegedly leaking details of top-secret Government surveillance programs to the media.  Then, another government contractor, USIS, the company that allegedly screened Snowden for his top-secret clearance, reportedly misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks. Read More