Saturday, February 26, 2011

American Council on Science and Health, 2011: Week Seven

 By Rich Kozlovich

This week is full of thought provoking issues. It goes from fraud to common sense public health. There is one issue highlighted here today that involves disturbing long term ethical and moral issues; who decides who gets what in health care.

I need to explain that I have always felt that entirely too much money is spent on people at the end of their lives and not nearly enough on those at the beginning of their lives. Naturally the elderly need more care, which takes more money simply because they have more problems as their bodies wear out. Well, I will be 65 this year and my views haven't changed, I still think that too much is spent on the elderly; often times keeping people alive who are miserable and ready to go. I have made it clear that I don't want my life extended if I can't "live" my life. I don't want to be bed ridden and wearing a diaper, because I can't even go to the bathroom by myself. That is an indignity I can do without. However, I still don't want some government bureaucrat making that decision for me or anyone else either.

This has implications that are so far reaching, so deeply disturbing and so antithetical to everything that is part and parcel of the American psyche that I can’t help but see a similarity between this and the direction Margret Sanger wanted the world to go with her views on eugenics?

Is it so farfetched to believe that this is a system that eventually will put the government in a position to decide on who gets born and who may “have” to be aborted, and who will be “allowed” to die, irrespective of cost? Remember that it went on, and as far as I can tell, it still goes on in China. Why did Chou En Lai die when he did? Because Mao ordered that he should not be given treatment, even though he was his comrade in arms for all those years, and the person who carried out Mao’s genocidal policies. Is this concern over reaching on my part? Perhaps….but it isn’t without logical foundation.

Enjoy this week's offerings.

New Book Takes On Erin Brockovich’s “Greenscam”
Reporter Norma Zager's new book Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills Greenscam is damning. Zager is a past winner of the Los Angeles Press Club's Journalist of the Year and Best Investigative Reporter awards, and like so many people, she started out as a Brockovich supporter. Zager thought that she had been assigned to cover a lawsuit initiated by Brockovich which would show that Beverly Hills schoolchildren and teachers were being needlessly exposed to deadly toxins in the

Worst pollution on air or in print?: More junk science from The Lancet
The highly reputed British medical journal The Lancet released a "study" purporting to show that exposure to traffic was the leading proximate cause of heart attacks. The researchers also claimed that air pollution triggered more heart attacks than getting angry, having sex, snorting cocaine, smoking marijuana or suffering a respiratory infection. The study authors based their conclusions on a "meta-regression analysis" of 36 specially selected "individual and population" studies
For those who have never read a book on statistics; I can tell you that there is a reason it is called the “arcane science”, and meta-analysis studies is one reason. “Meta-analysis takes individual studies that don’t stand up on their own from a statistical point of view and combines their statistics to construct a new statistically stronger and newsworthy study.” When “junksters” are unhappy with the end result of strong studies they will resort to meta-analysis. Although it has been pointed out that the use meta-analysis isn’t entirely inappropriate, it has been misused so much that anything that smacks of meta-analysis is called, into question, and should be until all the data is sorted out. Special thanks to Steve Milloy for his explanation of this in his book, Junk Science Judo.
New Book Takes On Erin Brockovich’s “Greenscam”
Reporter Norma Zager's new book Erin Brockovich and the Beverly Hills Greenscam is damning. Zager is a past winner of the Los Angeles Press Club's Journalist of the Year and Best Investigative Reporter awards, and like so many people, she started out as a Brockovich supporter. Zager thought that she had been assigned to cover a lawsuit initiated by Brockovich which would show that Beverly Hills schoolchildren and teachers were being needlessly exposed to deadly toxins in the
As in the case of all of these junk science claims. It is followed by unjustified compensation! Worse yet is the long term economic impact because this kind of stuff breeds; inaction! No economy can survive without someone inventing products, producing products and selling products. The fear of unwarranted litigation is part and parcel of our economic woes. Attorneys and activists may be thriving from this type of activity, but that is like demanding a seat at the Captain’s table on the Titanic.
I know this comparison is a bit overused, but it is used so often because it is true. As for the activists and this type of irrational activism…..well….it is hard to fix stupidity or insanity. Remember, all ideological values aren’t based on facts, logic or reality, and everything we are told should bear some resemblance to what we see going on in reality.
Supreme Court says vaccine lawsuits not allowed outside vaccine court
In a decision providing comfort to anyone hoping to protect children from the ravages of preventable diseases, the United States Supreme Court voted six-to-two yesterday that the special Vaccine Injury Compensation Court must remain the only judicial means through which to settle vaccine lawsuits.
I’m optimistic about this. Activists filing lawsuits on some issue or other will “shop” the judge and the court to have a higher assurance of a positive ruling. After reading Whores, by the founder of Judicial Watch, Larry Klayman, I can understand why there are so many stupid rulings from these courts. We need courts that specialize in science. Courts that are required to explain the science behind their decisions, and have the ability to explain the science. Then perhaps that will stop much of the insanity.
Whooping cough vaccine a matter of public health, not philosophy
Pertussis, better known as whooping cough, came back with a vengeance in 2010, infecting over 21,000 people - thehighest incidence since 2005 and among the worst years of infection in over half a century.

Shingles not just a one-hit wonder
Shingles, a disease caused by the Varicella zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chicken pox, will affect an estimated one in three Americans at some point, and there are one million new cases in the U.S. each year.

American Heart Association updates advice for women
Late last week the American Heart Association (AHA) issued updated guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease in women. The new guidelines are a revision of those most recently endorsed in 2007.

Better way to fight H. pylori
Researchers from Madgeburg, Germany report that a quadruple therapy regimen for those suffering from Helicobacterpylori (H. pylori) infection is more effective than the current three-drug treatment, to which the bacterium is rapidly becoming resistant.
Causes stomach Ulcers.
Study: Don’t let cell phones go to your head
Cellular phones may increase brain activity in regions closest to the antenna, according to a study published in the February 23 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Scrubs and public health: What not to wear outside the hospital
Hospital employees - including doctors, nurses and others - who wear their scrubs or gowns outside of work may unknowingly pose a public health threat, Dr. Betsy McCaughey told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Monday.

Special delivery: Mail-in STD tests, other programs aim to encourage youth self-testing
Up to half of sexually active young people will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) by age 25. Yet many avoid the embarrassment of getting an STD test or recoil from the prospect of discussing these subjects with their parents. For this population, Johns Hopkins University has developed a program that provides a free mail-in STD testing kit which offers anonymity and convenience. Called "I Want the Kit," the web-based program offers STD information and free gonorrhea and chlamydia tests


A drink a day helps keep heart disease at bay
Two new large meta-analysis studies published yesterday in BMJ provide further evidence for a view which ACSH haspromoted for years: moderate alcohol consumption protects against cardiovascular disease.

PCB removal from light fixtures not such a bright idea
After months-long pressure on the city to replace light fixtures containing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in schools, the Environmental Protection Agency finally got its way yesterday when the Bloomberg administration said it would allocate $708 million for the effort over the next decade.

Two smoking hot stories about nicotine
In the U.S., Judge Gladys Kessler announced a decision requiring tobacco companies to run advertisements and put notices on their product packages acknowledging that they deliberately misled the public about the health effects of so-called light cigarettes and the addictiveness of nicotine. The blurbs will include admissions from the companies that they were well-aware that nicotine was addictive when they claimed it was not and that low-tar and light cigarettes aren't meaningfully

New policy for kidney transplants: Brutal or moral?
The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the non-profit group charged with co-ordinating organ allocation, is considering a new policy which would give explicit preference to younger patients in need of kidney transplants.

Too many American women getting surgical breast cancer biopsies
A story in The New York Times about a report to be published in The American Journal of Surgery suggests that far more American women are undergoing invasive surgical biopsies for breast cancer than is warranted.

PSA test results: It isn’t how fast they go up
A study of 5,519 men conducted by Dr. Andrew Vickers of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York showed that rising levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA) were not an indicator of an increased risk of prostate cancer. Dr. Vickers' team found that only high absolute levels of PSA were a marker of increased cancer risk.
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If there is a health scare today, the American Council on Science and Health will most likely have the answer by tomorrow; and for members it will appear in your e-mail. No effort on your part, except to read the answer. All that the ACSH is interested in are the facts and they are prepared to follow them wherever they lead. Who can ask for more?  Please Donate Now!

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