February 2010

Jenny McCarthy Takes Back That Autism Thing

In a final blow against the fictional link between vaccines and autism, earlier this month the Lancet officially retracted the scientific paper which started it all.  Dr. Andrew Wakefield, who had taken funding from a group of lawsuit-eager lawyers in order to scrape up the right findings, has now been officially discredited.  In the Lancet's own words, Wakeman's research and findings were "dishonest and irresponsible."

And in the wake of this, now it seems that Jenny McCarthy's son doesn't have autism!

McCarthy was interviewed for an article in Time Magazine which asserts that her son Evan actually suffers from a rare condition called Landau-Kleffner syndrome.  The biggest proof of this is that Evan has gotten better, when in reality there is no cure for autism.  

Autism and Environmental Chemicals: The War On Your Health

Nicholas D. Kristof has another interesting editorial in the New York Times, this time about the link between environmental toxins (like phthalates) and autism.  Kristof focuses on the harmful chemicals (like BPA) which are components of plastic, but there is certainly no shortage of chemical evils in our lives.  And the data is beginning to show - surprise! - that being constantly bathed in toxic chemicals is not very good for us.  

More People Talking about Euthanasia

I live in one of the few states in the United States where Assisted Suicide, or euthanasia is legal. Both Oregon and Washington have legalized assisted suicides. Maybe it’s the rain that makes us more liberal up here -I’m not really sure.

Booth Gardener, who was a former governor of Washington state, and is a Parkinson’s Disease sufferer was also a strong proponent for legalization of  Euthanasia based on his own personal wish to end his life with dignity. The former governor was key in  getting the law passed in Washington State - just recently a movie made about Booth Gardener’s campaign entitled, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner was nominated for an Academy Award.

Do Bras Cause Cancer?

According to the director of the American Cancer Society, quoted in this New York Times article, "the short answer is no."  I would add that the long answer is also no.  But I'm quippy that way.

"Bras cause cancer" is one of those persistent rumors that as far as I can tell exists solely because of the internet.  I wonder how these crazy BS health rumors survived before the internet?  At any rate, as far as I can tell, half the internet believes it.

Only problem is: it's not true.  Bras do not cause cancer.  

Should the Pharmaceutical Industry Be Allowed to Advertise?

There are enough advertisements on TV by pharmaceutical companies to give any Hypochondriac a wet dream.  Seriously, if advertising can make you hungry for junk food and snacks when your normal appetite is virtually nil, can advertisements for prescription drugs make you think you are sick?

In 2001, a study showed that 30% of patients have taken the pharmaceutical companies “helpful advice” to “ask your doctor” for a particular drug; of the patients who requested a specific drug “as advertised”, 44% were prescribed that drug by their doctor, which demonstrates the both the gullibility of the average TV viewer and the insidiousness of the pharmaceutical industry.

Smoking Killed Captain Phil Harris

As you may have heard, Captain Phil Harris of Discovery Channel's insanely popular show "Deadliest Catch" has passed away after experiencing a series of debilitating strokes.  Captain Harris was only 53 years old - far younger than the typical victim of a fatal stroke.

As anyone who has watched the show knows, everyone smokes like crazy on Alaskan fishing vessels.  Captain Harris even had a scare in a recent season when he started coughing up blood, and x-rays showed a spot on his lungs.  Nevertheless, he kept smoking.  I well remember a poignant scene of Captain Harris standing out on the sidewalk of the Anchorage hospital, wheeling his IV cart before him, just another smoke break.

The Strangeness of Embodied Cognition

Humans are nothing like you imagine and just like the Wii in terms of our movements possibly controlling our minds and vice versa. We are also constantly making strange mind-body connections.

I just read a fascinating NYT article which focused on embodied cognition, which is basically the relationship between our minds and bodies; and according to Wikipedia, is setting off a firestorm in both the philosophy world and the world of AI.