Saturday, December 30, 2006

Politics: 10 most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006

More Slate year-end fun.

Politics: Ford's pardon of Nixon wrong then, wrong now

Says Slate editor Timothy Noah.

Sparkgrass Policy Statement

The death penalty is barbaric, even when used on barbarians.

The only time it is justified to kill someone is when you are Jack Bauer. Otherwise, unacceptable.

In the above statement, I'm assuming that Jack Bauer is second only to Christ in that whole omniscience thing. In no way interpret that as condoning inhumane methods when you aren't as bad ass as Jack Bauer. When you're less bad ass than Jack Bauer, such methods are just sloppy absurdity.

Even if you are Kiefer Sutherland in another role, you aren't as bad ass as Jack Bauer.

Friday, December 29, 2006

NCAAF: Why it's so warm in Michigan (for December, of course)

Hell is freezing over, so the heat is being pumped up to Michigan.

Medicine: Pediatric hospitals that serve fast food raise more alarm

An article in Pediatrics, suggests that having fast-food restaurants in children's hospitals influences patients' families to eat fast food and to think that it's relatively healthy. And apparently, at least 59 of the nation's 250 children's hospitals have fast-food restaurants. This isn't shocking, although the logic behind it is kind of odd. I mean, hospitals are full of sick people; why can't they associate sick kids with fast-food? What do we have to do to let people know that (tasty, delicious) fast food is bad for you? My idea, instead of toys, give kids insulin syringes and aspirin to prepare for a future of type two diabetes and ischemic heart disease. Any other ideas?

MedPol: Bastards from the FDA say food from clones is safe

So the FDA has looked at all the evidence and announced that it can't find anything dangerous about consuming cloned food products (not that shocking since clones are pretty much delayed twins). But instead of being pleased that the FDA, charged with "assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of . . . our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation", has acted on a wealth of scientific information, we're pissed that they didn't take our feelings on cloning into account. I for one don't want the FDA to take my feelings into account; that's how Plan B ended up on the shelf (and not over the counter) for several years. If people don't want to buy it, then they can try to find something wrong with it, or (as many people already do) buy products labeled with "organic" (which I'm sure this whole debate will make more popular). Either way everyone gets what they want, and I can't wait till I can have the same exact burger every time I go to McDonalds (same cow, same cheese from same cow, same lettuce substitute, etc.)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Politics: John Edwards for President

Lord help us. I honestly have no idea what his politics are. To me, he'll always be that idiot from the Vice Presidential debates who made Dick Cheney look well informed and intelligent. Oh, and apparently he loves YouTube so as a young voter I must love love him.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Politics: only the good die young

Former President Ford dies at 93.

Condolences in order. Ford's death leaves Jimmy Carter as the least competent former president alive. Apologies for the offensive subject line. It's mostly an inside joke with my wife, and my traffic isn't high enough to justify excluding inside jokes.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Sparkgrass Christmas

If you're visiting those uber-conservative family folks, and feel a need for some nice liberal inoculation, ThinkProgress's Naughty and Nice List should give you a nice cathartic moment.

Elementary school teachers aside, what do you prefer: thinkprogress's or thinkprogress'. I know we were taught various useless rules about which is "correct," but the s-apostrophe thing just always made me feel a little empty, like I was bastardizing that poor genitive ending. Granted, I had speech therapy as a little'un for an s-sound articulation disorder, so maybe I just have personal issues surrounding memories of my hissing 9-year old self, but I still just dislike the inconsistency of the s-apostrophe. Apostrophe-s is where it's at.

But yeah, Merry Christmas.

A sampling:

NAUGHTY: Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), for attacking incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress.
NICE: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), for still wanting to be friends with Rep. Virgil Goode.

NAUGHTY: The 109th Congress, for doing nothing.
NICE: The 110th Congress, for promising to work five days a week.

NICE: Nancy Pelosi, for becoming the first female Speaker of the House.
NAUGHTY: The Capitol, for having no women’s restroom in the Speaker’s office.
It goes on, and includes some obvious partisan hackery (including the 5-days a week line, which is fun to say, but obviously quasi-irrelevant). But it's Christmas. Indulge.

It's only 334 days until Bill O'Reilly launches the next "defensive" "War on Christmas®."

Friday, December 22, 2006

Politics: Obama too African for African-Americans?

African-Americans however, who are are accustomed to leaders who emerge from the civil rights movement, sometimes appear to struggle to relate to Obama.

"For some African-Americans, he has not really affirmed their identity. He has affirmed his own mixed identity, but he has not strongly affirmed the right and the claim of African-Americans in this society to equal treatment," said Walters, a professor at the University of Maryland.

Others said Obama is simply an unknown figure to many African-Americans who are almost reflexively suspicious.
As a white Southerner who knows practically nothing about his genealogy and what his ancestors might have been doing pre-1863, I know nothing about what it means to be an African-American with a slavery legacy, other than what I can get from books. As a kid born in the final weeks of the Carter administration, I know nothing about the civil rights movement outside of books and interviews.

That said, my initial impression is that if there are individuals who don't like Obama because he's not black enough, then said individuals should get their heads out of their asses, because I'm sure John McCain is white enough for white people, and they'll be glad to vote accordingly.

I don't care if Obama is paisley purple with green stripes. If he's traveling around telling people that one of his top three priorities is health care for all, he's got my positive attention. And he'd certainly be paisley enough for me.

Merry Christmas, Reds fans: Griffey proves he can get hurt doing anything

Ken Griffey Jr. broke his left hand in an accident at home, the latest in a series of injuries that have derailed the career of the All-Star outfielder.

Griffey's throwing hand will be in a hard cast for three weeks, then will be re-examined, Reds spokesman Rob Butcher said Friday.

Butcher said he could not say when or how the accident occurred because Griffey did not authorize any more details to be released.

General manager Wayne Krivsky wasn't sure whether Griffey will be ready for the start of spring training. The club will have a better idea when the hand is examined again in three weeks.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Harry Potter and the ...

If you go to, click on the eraser and you will be taken to a room — you'll see a window, a door and a mirror.

In the mirror, you'll see a hallway. Click on the farthest doorknob and look for the Christmas tree. They click on the center of the door next to the mirror and a wreath appears. Then click on the top of the mirror and you'll see a garland.

Look for a cobweb next to the door. Click on it, and it will disappear. Now, look at the chimes in the window. Click on the second chime to the right, and hold it down. The chime will turn into the key, which opens the door. Click on the wrapped gift behind the door, then click on it again and figure out the title yourself by playing a game of hangman.
Or you can just click on the damn link and it'll tell you in the last line. But it's much more cracked out to go through the seventeen arcane steps.

Btw, that's one lame title.

Happy Birthday, Jack Bauer!

Any guy who can put up with Joel Surnow's right-wing bullshit deserves Sparkgrass props. The lead vampire from the Lost Boys (or lead jackass medical student from Flatliners, or lead dude-who-wakes-up in Dark City) is 40 today.

Medicine: J&J wins FDA approval for Risperdal 2.0 (Haldol 3.0)

The new treatment is designed to deliver paliperidone -- the active ingredient in Risperdal -- through a technology that allows the drug to remain in the body over a longer period of time.
I'd hate for somebody to have to come up with, ya know, a new drug. Not to say that a longer acting atypical isn't a nice addition to the palette, but the fact that J&J's stock is suddenly worth more because their chemists did some reformulation work on the weekend is pretty frustrating.

Medicine: What, not Why, most important for change

My least favorite psychiatrist ever (in competition with Peter Breggin), American Enterprise hack Sally Satel, has a fairly reasonable, albeit provocative, article in the NYT about the importance of behavior change over insight in drug addiction recovery. Now, I can't say that I appreciate the degree to which she is a condescending jerk about her patients who are just trying to find some meaning in their shitty lives, but in between all of her AEI hackery, I still think this article is good enough to link. Imagine that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

LGBT: Service with a smile

A new poll reports that approx 3/4 of American GI's are comfortable serving with lesbian and gay colleagues. In fact 1/4 of those polled were aware of a gay or lesbian colleague currently serving with them. I really hope this Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy can be "straightened" out with the new legislature coming to town in December. We're at the point were we need every soldier we can get, gay or straight!

Premarital Sex is the norm

It seems, according to this study of 38,000 Americans, that premarital sex isn't just the norm, it's almost universal. 95% of Americans have premarital sex... then why do we still have this false notion that waiting for marriage is the ideal and what we all should be shooting for? I can't imagine having an ideal that only 5% of people actually attain. We need to strengthen our sex ed by teaching children how to protect themselves, not ignoring the role of condoms and birth control to spew an abstinence-only message. Abstinence works, but so do condoms and OCPs.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Old Dog Trey: Ernest?

Birds of a feather are flocking outside.

LitPol: Michael Crichton is a douchebag

Summary: You write a pseudoscience novel about global warming in which you claim that ecoterrorists are trying to destroy the earth and take rich people down with them. A Washington political columnist for TNR writes a cover-story trashing you for your crappy pseudoscience.

Do you
A) write a letter-to-the-editor to the New Republic, defending your stance
B) ignore it, because it's not like the anti-global warming crowd reads TNR anyway
C) write the columnist into your next book as a child rapist!

It doesn't take a Harvard Anthropology degree to figure out the answer to this one. Obviously, it's C! Mick Crowley not only rapes a two-year-old, but also has a small penis!

Alex Burnet was in the middle of the most difficult trial of her career, a rape case involving the sexual assault of a two-year-old boy in Malibu. The defendant, thirty-year-old Mick Crowley, was a Washington-based political columnist who was visiting his sister-in-law when he experienced an overwhelming urge to have anal sex with her young son, still in diapers. Crowley was a wealthy, spoiled Yale graduate and heir to a pharmaceutical fortune. ...

It turned out Crowley's taste in love objects was well known in Washington, but [his lawyer]--as was his custom--tried the case vigorously in the press months before the trial, repeatedly characterizing Alex and the child's mother as "fantasizing feminist fundamentalists" who had made up the whole thing from "their sick, twisted imaginations." This, despite a well-documented hospital examination of the child. (Crowley's penis was small, but he had still caused significant tears to the toddler's rectum.)
Real mature. Real Crichton.

Understand that Michael Crichton was amazingly important in my career choice, back when I was twelve. I thought Jurassic Park was awesome, and Crichton went to med school, and then Crichton wrote fun stuff that my twelve-year Dickens-reading self thought was the greatest literature the world could have to offer.

Then I turned sixteen or so and read some James Joyce and some Fitzgerald and learned a little about neuroscience and, well, that was that, I was on my way to being an English-major med student.

Which is why it pains the hell out of me to state the obvious: Michael Crichton is a right-wing douchebag hack. I wondered after reading the racist Rising Sun, but I didn't know any Japanese people, and my dad worked at an oil refinery, so I cut him a break. There was a certain male populism to Disclosure, which I now understand was abject anti-feminist women-hating. And even Prey took a few shots at liberal politics, but hey, nanotech was cool.

Then State of Fear, which I won't even waste my time on. I'd love to see Al Gore and Michael Crichton in a steel cage match.

So, Michael Crichton, write me into your next one. I'm a senior med student at the University of Michigan, in a Master's program in clinical research, and I'm going into Child Psychiatry. I haven't raped any children, and I believe by most metrics I don't have a small penis, and my family was way too poor to be heir to any sort of pharmaceutical fortune, but I'm sure you can figure out something. You're a douchebag like that.

Politics: Bayh not running in 2008

"As you know I have been exploring helping the people of my state and our country in a different capacity," he wrote. "After talking with family and friends over the past several days, I have decided that this is not the year for me to run for President and I will not be a candidate for the presidency in 2008.

"It wasn't an easy decision but it was the right one for my family, my friends and my state. I have always prided myself on putting my public responsibilities ahead of my own ambitions."
Please send Daniel Solzman at Kentucky Democrat your condolences. He basically had his next two years' schedule cleared to campaign for Bayh. We have to make sure he doesn't start hitting the Manischewitz too hard.

Daniel, I'm sure Barack could use your help on universal health care.

Friday, December 15, 2006

LGBT: Civil Unions in New Jersey

NJ legislature has passed a bill authorizing civil unions in that state in an effort to comply with their supreme court ruling. While this isn't the gold medal marriage bill that most LGBT individuals are looking for, we should be grateful that there was plenty of support for this big step. Like Assemblyman Reed Gusciora said, "The distance between nothing and civil unions is greater than the distance between civil unions and marriage." I think that's a key fact to keep in mind. So, to all of you activists, keep fighting... but don't lose sight of the gains we've gathered so far!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

LGBT: Soy as the cause?

This nutjob actually thinks that ingesting soy as a baby will lead to homosexuality. He's blaming it on all those "estrogens" found in soy products. Oh, he's trying to blame childhood leukemia on soy products too. The sad thing is that there are probably some people out there who will actually believe him.

Well, I want to go on record as saying I NEVER had any soy products as a baby (to the best of my knowledge) and I'm pretty sure it had nothing to do with my sexual orientation. Seriously, I'm all for free speech, but some people are just crazy!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

LGBT: Gay Evangelicals?

Gay evangelicals struggle to find a church where they feel welcome and comfortable practicing their faith. Given the recent outing of two prominent evangelical leaders, let's all pray that this spurs some questioning from the evangelical community at large as to the acceptance of LGBT individuals. If someone like Rev Barnes can struggle his whole life and not be able to "convert," maybe that means that conversion isn't really the answer. Maybe some people were actually created gay by God and are meant to love a partner of the same sex. Maybe Jesus doesn't want us to be judged and discriminated against. Just a thought.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Religion: "Bad Catholics and Birth Control"

Chris Tessone recommends a recent National Catholic Reporter editorial on the latest statements from the US Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops at Even the Devils Believe.

LBGTPol: spinning Mary Cheney's baby (not just on a merry-go-round)

Something fabulous about the way William Saletan breaks down the spins:

Nice liberal spin: They're model parents, together for 15 years and committed for life. Honor them by legalizing gay marriage.

Nice conservative spin: Nothing against this couple—we're sure they'll try their best—but kids need a dad as well as a mom.

Mean conservative spin: "Mary Cheney Cruel to Children … Our society already has too many children born without the benefits of marriage."

Mean liberal spin: If that's the way you haters feel, there's still time for an abortion.
Feels... very... cold... in... here...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My Old Ky Home: Eastern Kentucky students hold onto Confederate school symbols

I'm sure I could try to say a lot about how I understand where these podunkers are coming from, but how I really wish they'd get a clue that it's not nice to do something when everybody else thinks it's bad (even if you swear that's not why you're doing it!). But I'll let one of Kentucky's finest tell you in her own words why it's okay to have confederate flags all over her high school:

"To us it's not about the hatred," said Tiffany Owens, an 18-year-old cheerleader at Allen Central High School in eastern Kentucky. "I have colored friends around here and they never say anything."
Sure, it ain't about the hatred. But it sure is about being embarrassingly ignorant of history and culture at large.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Books: Fresh Air's Maureen Corrigan's 2006 picks

It's always depressing for an English major medical student to find end-of-the-year book lists and realize he's only heard of one of the books on the list, and read none of them.

But at least I don't have mono, said the PA at University Health Services today! Maybe that means I'll feel like non-crap just in time to half-ass a bunch of finals projects I have this semester that I would have loved to focus on without fevers, chills, and sweats.

Update: No more fevers, but I didn't do any better on Slate's Best Books of 2006.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

LGBT: Mary Cheney pregnant

and some conservative groups are upset about it. WTF??? Can we say, "none of your damn business!"

Don't get me wrong. Mary Cheney is a Hypocritical Bitch. But that doesn't mean I don't think that the Hypocritical Bitch's Partner, who will be functioning as a parent for Spawn of Hypocritical Bitch, shouldn't have all the rights that I'll have someday when my wife and I hatch our own eggs.

Here's some highlights:

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."

"It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group's think tank. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."

Crouse said there was no doubt that the news would, in conservatives' eyes, be damaging to the Bush administration, which already has been chided by some leaders on the right for what they felt was halfhearted commitment to anti-abortion and anti-gay-rights causes in this year's general election.

Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, expressed empathy for the Cheney family but depicted the newly announced pregnancy as unwise.

"Just because you can conceive a child outside a one-woman, one-man marriage doesn't mean it's a good idea," said. "Love can't replace a mother and a father."
Yeah, that love thing is totally overrated. Unloving mom+dad+2.6kids+goldenretriever households are so much better than those loving mom+mom+2.6kids+goldenretriever households. Right.

So, congratulations to Hypocritical Bitch and Hypocritical Bitch's Partner. No, really. I think it rocks that they are standing up for their human right to love who you want to love. Maybe the kid will even grow up to realize how grandad's politics were shit, and how mommy was really confused about her politics, but at least had the guts to stand up for what she believed when it came to bringing a kid into a loving household.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Medicine: which antidepressant tastes best for you?

First, we have psychiatric scratch-and-sniff.

Now, we have taste tests for whether you should be tried on a serotonin or noepinephrine targeting antidepressant!

The authors, led by Melichar and Lucy Donaldson, a neuroscientist and physiologist also at the University of Bristol, found that a person's sense of taste--known to be genetic and once thought to be fixed--is in fact plastic and responds to changes in neurotransmitter levels as well as to different moods. The research group gave 20 volunteers either one of two classes of common antidepressants--serotonin specific reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or noradrenaline reuptake inhibitors (NARIs)--or a placebo. (Both classes of drugs increase the levels of the specific neurotransmitter that they act upon in the brain.) Before taking the treatments and then again two hours after, the subjects took taste tests where researchers gave them solutions of tastants in different concentrations and told them what taste to expect--sour, salt, sweet or bitter. The participants then had to indicate at what concentration they could detect taste.
Most interestingly, this research, if it panned out to be a valid clinical test, would lend some credencce to the role of the waning monoamine theory of depression and psychopathology.

Monoamine theory is waning, you say? Note that this is one of my own personal scientific quirks, and I'd bet money that twenty years from now my reasoning will pan out. But don't think that I have fabulous direct evidence that monoamine theory is BS. I just really believe that it is BS.

MedPol: Soldiers Say Army Ignores, Punishes Mental Anguish

NPR study via HuffPo:

1 in 5 Iraq vets are coming home with a serious mental health problem like anxiety, depression, or PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Experts believe that over time, the number will reach almost 1 in 3.

How has the military responded to these wounded warriors? A new investigation by National Public Radio looked at troops diagnosed with mental health disorders, and concluded that "officers at Ft. Carson punish soldiers who need help, and even kick them out of the Army."

Five months before, Jennings had gone to the medical center at Ft. Carson, where a staff member typed up his symptoms: "Crying spells... hopelessness... helplessness... worthlessness." Jennings says that when the sergeants who ran his platoon found out he was having a breakdown and taking drugs, they started to haze him. He decided to attempt suicide when they said that they would eject him from the Army.
Read or listen, and understand the ways in which are soldiers are being abused for suffering from mental illness.

Medicine: psychiatric scratch-and-sniff

It originated in a discovery by Melbourne University researchers of a link between these illnesses and a poor ability to identify smells.

To test their theory, they developed a set of 40 scratch-and-sniff cards and asked people to identify the smell from a list of four possibilities, such as coffee, roses, oranges and petrol.

Professor Warwick Brewer, from the university's Orygen Research Centre, said the people who later went on to develop a brain disorder had demonstrated difficulty correctly answering more than half the questions.

He said the simple test also could be used by relatives of people with these conditions.

"Because of the genetic link in many illnesses, it is hoped the test could also be used by family members of people who have developed an illness of the brain."

Professor Christos Pantelis, from the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre, said smell ability provided unique information about brain structure and function.

"Mental illness can arrest the full maturation of the frontal lobe, while degenerative illness can damage it," Professor Pantelis said.
Chance of clinical utility ever: 0.2%. But cool enough.

As an added bonus, Elissa Ely had a touching case anecdote in yesterday's NYT: A Heart That Needed Fixing, a Mind That Said No. And yes, I just said touching. I'm that lame.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Medicine: Bulimia round-up

Anorexics, bulimics learn methods online: study

Young sufferers of anorexia and bulimia who try to hide their eating problems from their parents and doctors are turning to a growing number of Internet chat rooms dedicated to perpetuating their illness.

A pilot study released on Monday of U.S. eating disorder patients aged between 10 and 22 showed that up to a third learn new weight loss or purging methods from Web sites that promote eating disorders by enabling users to share tips, such as what drugs induce vomiting and what Internet sites sell them.

But the study -- published in the American Academy of Pediatrics' journal Pediatrics -- found that eating disorder sufferers were also learning new high-risk ways to lose weight from each other on Web sites aimed at helping them recover.
Many women may not recognize bulimia symptoms
Many women may fail to recognize bulimia symptoms in themselves, particularly if they don't go to the extremes of self-induced vomiting, new research suggests.

In a study of 158 women with bulimia-type eating disorders, Australian researchers found that nearly half did not acknowledge a problem with their eating. This was particularly true of those who did not vomit to control their weight.

Blogging: Oh the places you'll go

I've always refrained from demonstrating what search terms direct folks to Sparkgrass, but this collection just cracked me up a little too much.

Num Perc.Search Term
drill down17.69%pm&r sucks
drill down17.69%pro's of emergency contraception
drill down17.69%camden nj looking for sexual partner
drill down17.69%video clips of a prostate massage in inprogress
drill down17.69%nancy pelosi colbert
drill down17.69%lunesta versus zoplicone
drill down17.69%wii nancy pelosi stephen colbert
drill down17.69%volvo breathalyzer seatbelt
drill down17.69%tayshaun prince bi-sexual
drill down17.69%bumbler spaniel
drill down17.69%james dobson christian treatment center for anxiety eating di
drill down17.69%will cymbalta make semen clear
drill down17.69%community health articles people comment

Something tells me I'm doing all the right things.

And I'm fairly sure that cymbalta does not make semen clear. But that's certainly subject to a randomized controlled trial.

Medicine: NYT on Pfizer's loss

The news came to Pfizer’s chief scientist, Dr. John L. LaMattina, as he was showering at 7 a.m. Saturday: the company’s most promising experimental drug, intended to treat heart disease, actually caused an increase in deaths and heart problems. Eighty-two people had died so far in a clinical trial, versus 51 people in the same trial who had not taken it.

Within hours, Pfizer, the world’s largest drug maker, told more than 100 trial investigators to stop giving patients the drug, called torcetrapib. Shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday, Pfizer announced that it had pulled the plug on the medicine entirely, turning the company’s nearly $1 billion investment in it into a total loss.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Medicine: drug companies stick heads between tails, run away

Two drug company disasters in as many days.

First, CATIE-II gets published, and suggests that perphenazine, a typical (high potency) antipsychotic off-patent, is probably as good a place to start as any atypical antipsychotic for schizophrenics. Which isn't to say that psychiatrists are ready to throw atypicals out the window. Instead, tons of skepticism, in the face this cost-effectiveness report, will start spewing forth from the managed care folks, who (we're scared, at least) will try to justify restrictions on atypicals. Bad day for drug companies, great day for managed care, and an unclear day for psychiatric patients.

And then, even more importantly for poor lil' Pfizer, clinical trials for torcetrapib have been halted. What is torcetrapib, you might ask? Only the most important drug (from a stock holder's perspective) in the last ten years for any major drug company. Lipitor only has a few more years on-patent, and pravastatin will probably be off patent in the next year or so, i.e. insurance companies will probably do everything they can to get physicians to switch their Lipitor-taking patients into generic pravastatin-taking patients. I'm interested to see how far Pfizer's stock might plunge, as probably nothing could have been more devastating for the company.

None of the doomsday articles point to Roger Newton's new cholesterol drug, an infusable HDL-variant shown to reduce plaque sizes substantially (yes, 4% of a plaque is SUBSTANTIAL). Now, last I heard, most indications pointed towards the use of the infusable for stabilization after plaque ruptures, but after hearing Newton talk about Esperion's goals, I have to believe that Pfizer (who aquired Esperion for 1.3 billion in 2005) has more anti-cholesterol strategies up their sleeve than news articles suggest.

But still, losing torcetrapib, which Pfizer contemplated pairing with Lipitor to blackmail folks into continuing to take their proprietary statin, suggests that the blockbuster model of drug development might really be dying faster than we thought.

Obviously, Pfizer should pair Lipitor and Geodon and send them to sub-Saharan Africa. Maybe the Africans could trade the drugs to the Russians to get the AIDS drugs they need.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Sanity Preserved: Frist not running in 2008

I'd say he should take his ball and go home, but I wouldn't wish such a terrible thing on Tennessee.

Oh wait, Tennessee wished that upon themselves.

I'm not sure how a transplant surgeon magically just reappears onto the scene after 12 years of limited-to-no time in an OR. But anything to get Frist out of politics and away from kitty cats and poor people.

Brilliant: Wii + Stephen Colbert vs Nancy Pelosi

I normally just need any excuse to dedicate some video watching time to Colbert, you're flat out depriving yourself if you don't catch this on.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Politics: Apologetics for Prediction Markets

Bo co-authored an article in TNR explaining how, despite popular lambasting of prediction markets after the midterm elections, their predictive power is as strong as ever.

For those of us with little disposable income and a need for a prediction market fix for mostly popular concerns, Inkling offers a little bit of fun. All my damn inklings are tied up right now though, so much that I can't even sell credit against Michigan to play Ohio State in a title rematch.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lost: Top 50 Loose Ends

Or the top 50 reasons why we should all violently storm Hawaii for some answers. Or just stop watching. But Lost has crack in it, so I guess we're all stuck.

Sorry about my hiatus from blogging the past few weeks, I've a stack of links ready to go a mile high. We'll see how many of them are still up to date by the time I get around to them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

MedEthics: 5 kidneys are better than 1

I read this headline in the newspaper today: "Doctors pull off 5-way kidney transplant". Considering that kidney transplants are not cutting edge (and the only impressive part of the feat was the number of simultaneous transplants) I had to ask myself, why would anyone (in this case Johns Hopkins) consider this a good thing? Five simultaneous surgeries with five donors, five recipients, 12 surgeons, and 6 operating rooms. Seems like a recipe for disaster. Apparently the recipients had living donors who weren't matches and so by pooling resources (and one "altruistic donor") there was enough matches to swap kidneys. And the reason they did it simultaneously: "to prevent anyone from backing out later or in case someone fell ill." This seems horrible. That in order to get people to donate life, we have to put them in a dangerous situation, essentially a five way Mexican standoff (put the kidney down and nobody gets hurt) seems horrible. Welcome to the Guinness book of Medical records.

Culture: The War on Christmas

I want you!

I'm serious.

See also "The War on Christmas Explained."

Monday, November 20, 2006

World Leader Slumber Party

I make this post about a NY Times article covering Bush's visit to Vietnam for two reasons. First of all, I find the photo hilarious. And secondly, I find the fact that Bush "sped past the evacuation spot on his arrival here, but made no stops that would invite comparisons to the current debate over whether the United States should stay or retreat from Iraq" also great. I mean, he's in Vietnam, the whole country is a metaphor for Iraq and trying to "downplay" that is hysterical (almost as funny as the photo which pictures President Bush, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, rear, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, foreground).

Safer Driving Through Technology

Apparently new laws in New Mexico requiring car breathalyzers have lead to a significant drop in drunk driving. MADD, as well as several industry groups seem to be moving to increased use of such devices with possible installation on all cars. The article also mentions some neat non-invasive ways of testing, such as a pulse-ox like device that measures blood alcohol (although most medical professionals would call the current breathalyzer pretty non-invasive). My big question was cost, which can add up since the rental of the devices can cost about $2 a day. Additionally, this article brings up a good point about programs that suspend licenses; namely that since people need to drive, they just end up driving without a license unmonitored. (Crazy conservatives please note that this same line of thinking also applies to refusing to issue undocumented aliens drivers licenses.)

Troy W. Prichard, a lawyer who defends people arrested on drunken driving charges, had this to say:

There could be the responsible guy that just lapses that one time. Getting the handcuffs put on him might be all that guy needed to know not to do it again. But, another guy, it may be his first and he’s on the road to 12.
While this is true, it doesn't really contribute much to the issue and supports my belief that lawyers that defend drunk drivers are horrible little creatures with small brains and no sense of right and wrong.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Game: Mutual Contempt

As one of the few impartial observers in Ann Arbor (my Cats are going to a bowl? What?!?!?), I can particularly enjoy the Slate conversation: A Michigan fan and an Ohio State fan explain why they hate each other and who's going to win Saturday's big game.

As hard as I've tried, I just can't really care about college football when college basketball is so much a more beautiful sport. Having said that, I spent last weekend in Columbus with Matz, at a Decemberists concert, only to realize that, damn, Ohio State undergrads really are the most obnoxious drunken pieces of shit on the planet. I doubt Michigan undergrads are golden children, but the fact that most of them can wipe their asses by themselves suggests to me that they're light-years more evolved than the Buckeyes dancing drunk and pummeling my very short wife with their white-fraternity asses.

So I will root for Michigan next week, not because I'll have a few degrees from there, but because I really hope there are some assholes in Columbus who have their hearts broken along with their national championship hopes.

And if not, eh, Kentucky's headed to a bowl! Of course, that means we keep our retard coach, Rich Brooks. I would rather have had another 2-9 season so we could maybe get a coach that, say, any other Div-1 school would want.

Medicine: Replacement parts?

It may sound like science fiction, but apparently it's not! Researchers have announced at this week's AHA mtg that they can grow some replacement organ parts from fluid found in the pregnant uterus. They've actually grown a new heart valve.

What does this mean? Are we all going to have our amniotic fluid collected as we're born and then stored for later life when we need a replacement part? Perhaps. But the more realistic possibility is to use this technology to help replace congential defects shortly after birth.

Sounds exciting - now let's see if the right wing can find something objectionable to it :)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Medicine: Not so fast (or slow, as the case may be)

This article from the NEJM demonstrates why we need better decision making about interventional procedures in medicine. Angioplasty (using a balloon +/- a stent to open a clogged artery) has been praised as the savior of heart disease. As a result, many cardiologists are recommending this procedure to all their patients with evidence of coronary disease or recent infarct (read: lots of $$ for the MD doing the procedure). However, we now have data that shows undergoing angioplasty 3-28 days post-MI is actually more harmful than good. So, while this should cut down on the number of procedures being done, that would be dependant on interventional cardiologists keep up with the latest research AND being willing to cut a procedure that brings in big bucks for them. I hope their oath to patient care comes before their desire to fill their wallets!

Friday, November 10, 2006

LGBT: Civil Unions in Mexico

Even Mexico City, capital of an uber Catholic nation, has approved a bill for same-sex civil unions. And we think we're progressive in the US? Maybe we need to look up (Canada) and look down (Mexico) and say to ourselves, what have they figured out that we still haven't?!?!?!

LGBT: No landscaping for gays?

A company in Houston, TX sent an e-mail to a would-be-customer informing them that they could not landscape this couple's yard because the company refuses to work with homosexuals. I guess it's their right, but seriously? What does cutting grass and planting bushes have to do with who shares a bed? Some people are just so ignorant it's almost funny (if it wern't so scary!).

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

LGBT: Arizona stops a trend

Those "crazy liberals" in Arizona have stopped a trend of late. They are the first state to defeat a proposed constitutional ammendment to ban same-sex marriage. Something tells me all that sun must be good for them :)

Jesus Loves the US: S.D. Rejects Abortion Ban, Missouri Backs Stem Cells

On the day after the first election since I was eligible to vote that I felt the world was a little less screwed than it was before, I'll limit commentary to the two big happy health initiatives. Both demonstrated that our country can, at times, suppress the wingnuts and aspire to reality-based policy. Hurray!

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Granholm needs to fire aids

Now I actually support Governor Granholm, but whoever let her wear this while voting and let her picture be taken should be fired. Can you say . . . frumpy? And I know, lets take a photo while she feebly attempts to slide the ballot into the secrecy sleeve. On top of that, isn't the point of the secrecy partitions and the sleeve to prevent people (say someone with a camera) from seeing your ballot? Other politicians go with the laid back baseball cap look, but somehow they don't look that bad. Am I being harder on her because she's a woman?

I should take back some of my venom from above. Apparently Devos kept his ballot secret, but now all of Michigan is well aware of his bald spot.

LGBT: Transgendered in NY? Ok by the state!

Here is a NY Times article about a change in state policy such that trans individuals can have their gender changed on their birth certificate without having had a sex-change operation.

Monday, November 6, 2006

Politics: Humpty Dumpty: wrong on wall-sitting

All Things Considered has some attack ad voice artists reading nursery rhymes. This is some incredibly funny shit, more than worth your six minutes of listening.

I think they like the way I say liberal.

Politics: Stay the Course, YouTube style

Find it here if the link below is acting funky.

Friday, November 3, 2006

MedEcon: Americans outsource their healthcare

This USA Today article isn't groundbreaking, but it does demonstrate a disturbing trend. Some of the people in this article were insured in the US, but had their requests for hip surgery declined by their insurance. Thus they did what any good capitalist would do and flew to India. Another gentleman had angina and instead of going to an ED, flew to India for cardiac cath and stent placement. Maybe I'm just biased, but it kind of bugs me when Americans (some of the most protected patients in the world when it comes to provider training, drug approval, use of new technology) decide they'd rather get cheap surgery without the protections of US medicine. And I don't see this trend disappearing, as the likelihood of national healthcare continues to increase, healthcare rationing will also rise forcing many to choose an international option to get the procedures they want. And worse yet, when one of these patients gets an infection or restenosis (not because it was done in India but because it happens to some portion of all patients) they'll walk into my ED with no medical records, and maybe a slew of international phone numbers scribbled on a sheet of paper, and demand to be fixed.

The odd thing is that I'm okay with purchasing prescription drugs from Canada, but I find surgical outsourcing to be reckless and horrible. Is there really that much difference between the two?

Politics: John Kerry

Dialogue the Third: Democrates and Republius discuss the recent controversy at Gladly Suffering Fools.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Video Games: Trailer for next killer Zelda

Medicine: All the public hears from Star*D IV: A New Hope, and more on SSRIs and childhood suicide

For depression relief, try variety of medications
Study: Antidepressants help most patients if they sample several kinds
Well that's nice. At least they're not accusing psychiatrists of killing children today. It's amazing that such a landmark study can be distilled into such a vanilla, yet pretty accurate, headline.

Instead, we just have a study of dubious design tying lower suicide rates to higher rates of prescriptions of SSRIs to kids. There's a certain macro-attractiveness about the study design, and as one commenter in the article mentions, at least we know we're probably not creating this raging army of childhood suicides by giving out medicines to try to treat their depression. But the statistical value of such removed exposure and outcomes are pretty minimal, given just how much better we could probably design (more expensive) studies to measure the same outcome so much more accurately.

But it seems like we already have all the info we really need about SSRIs and childhood suicidal behaviors. We know that, in no study, has a kid actually committed suicide because of an SSRI, but that some kids probably have an increase, at least in the short-term, of likelihood of self-harm. Solution: monitor the kids closer! I think we can be comfortable with the idea that sometimes, things have to get worse before they can get better. If we admit such, we can design interventions to minimize dangerous thoughts and behaviors in the critical window following the beginning of treatment in a depressed patient.

Politics: Jesus Hearts Clinton

Frank Lockwood of the Lexington Herald-Leader is showing the American Family Association of Kentucky who's in charge.

If crime rates really are an expression of God's displeasure over "secularization," then what are we to make of the declining rate during the Clinton Administration?

Bible Belt Blogger: "Did Clinton Save America From God's Wrath?"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Music: Ann Friedman (of Feministing) interviews Colin Meloy (of The Decemberists)

And it only gets better:

Ann: I can imagine you’d tell fabulous bedtime stories.

Colin: The first lullaby I ever sang to him was “The Old Main Drag,” the Pogues song about prostitution. Both of us [me and Carson] have real fixations on dark subject matter. But he might rebel against it and be a Republican or something.

I've thoroughly refrained from gushing on and on about how ridiculously amazing The Crane Wife is, because this would quickly become a Decemberists blog.

Zombies: First Person

So what are the zombies thinking?

Gladly Suffering Fools: "I'm a Zombie."

Also funny: "Monday Things Around the House Blogging: An Illegal Immigrant's Tale."

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Politics: Don't Say the T-word

I would suppose that any al Qaida operative who's any good at it already knows a torture method or two, and has thought about it enough. The real (and obvious) reason that Mr. Bush doesn't want to speak publicly about how US agencies question suspects that is that he wants VOTERS to stay in the dark. But you knew that, right? Check out this conversation between Mr. Bush and O'Reilly at Catholic Anarchy.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Medicine: Lawrence C Kolb (1911-2006)

I'd summarize all the stuff this uber-psychiatrist did, but my hands would fall off. Lawrence Kolb, psychiatric pirate ninja, died in his sleep at the age of 95 of natural causes.

I'm glad to see he died of natural causes. It always scares me when people die of unnatural causes. Especially this close to Halloween.

Zombies: Dawn of the Dead Zombie Walk!

Dude, if anything would make me move to Pittsburgh, it would be the opportunity to participate in the Walk of the Dead.

LGBT: New Rules for Gay Catholics

This NY Times article describes the draft of new guidelines being put before the US Bishops regarding ministering to gay and lesbian Catholics.

They are apparently trying to "reach out" while maintaininging a safe distance. Some pretty offensive stuff.

For instance, while they are suggesting that I "may benefit" from sharing my "tendencies" with close family and friends, they strongly discourage "public announcements" about it at church (are they serious? tendencies? come on, that's just downright ignorant!). And they also say that I shouldn't be allowed to serve as a Eucharistic Minister.

Are these people serious? Do they really think this is a step forward?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Medicine: Creative writing classes lead to better bedside manner

Or at least, that's what this Yale study reports, that by taking a writing workshop, 15 residents were better able to empathize with their patients.

Yale University researchers found that medical residents who completed a creative writing workshop felt the experience helped them better view their patients as people, and not just medical cases.

The effect, according to the researchers, seems to stem from the fact that the residents not only reflected on their own emotions and the experiences of their patients, but also wrote it down as a story.

Now of course, the study methods don't come anywhere close to meeting any sort of criteria to be included as "evidence-based" practice. But who cares? How about the simple institution of ars medicinae artis gratia?

But I wonder why researchers decided to wait until residency, when a culture of helplessness and pessimism is already deeply ingrained. Why not include this in medical school training during the clinical years, or at least during the fourth year, when nobody's doing anything important anyway, and med students have a taste, but not a total disillusionment, of what it means to be paged at four in the morning by a borderline asking for pain meds while trying to put in an A-line on your pneumonia patient who's probably going to have to be transferred to the unit anyway.

Yay for narrative medicine. But let's not go so far as to say that creative writing classes will make better doctors. Let's just say that it might make better human beings, and let the doctors fall where they will.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Medicine: TV-Autism Smackdown/CounterSmackdown

So Time GOES OFF on the TV-autism study from last week, making a handful of excellent points mostly about the way that the media (statisticians and research scientists) make improper derivations from correlational studies. It is notable to say that the study hasn't actually been published yet, but these quotes are from press releases and the such:

"Approximately 17% of the growth in autism in California and Pennsylvania during the 1970s and 1980s was due to the growth of cable television," and "just under 40% of autism diagnoses in the three states studied is the result of television watching due to precipitation."

Result of? Due to? How can these researchers suggest causality when no actual TV watching was ever measured? "The standard interpretation of this type of analysis is that this is cause and effect," Waldman insists, adding that the 67-page study has been read by "half a dozen topnotch health economists."

Could there be something to this strange piece of statistical derring-do? It's not impossible, but it would take a lot more research to tease out its true significance. Meanwhile, it's hard to say just what these correlations measure. "You have to be very definitive about what you are looking at," says Vanderbilt University geneticist Pat Levitt. "How do you know, for instance, that it's not mold or mildew in the counties that have a lot of rain?" How do you know, for that matter, that as counties get more cable access, they don't also get more pediatricians scanning for autism?
Sure, and Wallis does make some good argument that going Freakonomic on health care statistics leads us all to use language that we can't use. We can't say that TV causes autism, but we can say they are very associated. In the case of this correlation, it seems most likely that a confounder affecting both variables probably gives us the R-squared, the "caused-by" variable, that we're seeing. Or maybe it's TV. Who knows.

But we have to give props to Gregg Easterbrook for SLAMMING Wallis and Time for what he thinks is absurd scientific idealism. Short enough to post in full:

This article is awfully casual about accusing others of "irresponsibility." It is common for ideas in research to begin with incomplete statistical observations that inspire National Science Foundation- or Institutes of Medicine-sanctioned studies to prove or disprove the underlying larger claim. The sort of research TIME takes two Cornell University professors to task for not having already conducted at their own expense would require millions of dollars for a very complex multi-year home-monitoring study with hundreds of families in the study group allowing two-way recording devices throughout their homes and hundreds more in the control group.

A correlation found during initial research is exactly the sort of event that triggers funding for such major studies. TIME declaring that a statistician who finds a clue should not publish unless he can offer definitive proof is like saying an astronomer who discovers a star should not reveal its location unless he can prove the origin of the universe. And suppose this theory of autism turns out to be true. Should those with suspicions remain silent, offering no caution to parents of young children?

At any rate, since TIME sees fit to accuse others of irresponsibility, it would have been nice if TIME's article had disclosed that its corporate parent has a financial interest in denouncing this research. TIME is owned by the same company that owns Time Warner Cable, a leading cable television carrier, and owns Cartoon Network, which is marketed to young children.

Ouch. I'm bleeding after reading that.

So let's blame who we should blame: the folks who publish "TV causes autism" crap all over their headlines to drive traffic to their sites, to sell newspapers, and even, oddly enough, boost ratings. The Cornell study might need an editor to throw in some subjunctive verbs. But this army of media douchebags who couldn't properly interpret a medical study if their Blackberrys depended on it need some good old fashioned Cuckoo's Nest-style ECT (before the widespread use of neuromuscular blockers that has made the procedure perfectly uneventful to watch).

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Medicine: preschoolers on Ritalin, and how the media doesn't know what to do with them

So this headline about a study published in JAACAP last week on the safety and benefits of prescribing methylphenidate to kids under 6 has pretty much been taken every which way. Joe Yaroch at Corpus Callosum beat me to this post, but I might have a few more things to add. Dr Y points out two versions of the headline he ran across:

Meds Help Preschoolers with ADHD
Psych Central News Editor
Tuesday, Oct, 17, 2006

Study warns of risks of preschool Ritalin
Associated Press
Posted on Fri, Oct. 20, 2006
WTF? Now, one might simply look at the source of the article and say that Psych Central might have a vested interest in spinning the study positively. But as Dr Y notes, these headlines are both right. They're also entirely unsurprising and absolutely vanilla. This study simply wasn't that newsworthy, and doesn't say anything more than "ritalin helps clinically hyperactive kids under 6, and you gotta be careful giving it to them and watch them closely." No shit, AP.

But that's not my favorite part of the CNN article. This is:
"This is a catastrophe. It just opens up the way for drugging the younger kids," said Dr. Peter Breggin, a New York psychiatrist and longtime critic of psychiatric drug use in children.

Breggin said the research is part of a marketing push by the drug industry to expand drug use to the youngest children.
A New York psychiatrist. As if that is ALL Peter Breggin is. Breggin has made a career out of being anti-psychiatry. He doesn't use meds. He bitches about his little conspiracy theories and is generally a fairly annoying douche. He takes a reasonable message, which is "be careful with these crazy meds," and turns it into prosetylizing assholery, like "meds are bad, you are bad if you give meds, you are bad if you take meds, bwahahahaha!"

Now, is this study even CLOSE to the final word on giving kids under the age of 6 methylphenidate? Of COURSE not. I'm all for stern critique of giving kids with developing nervous systems a potentially neurotoxic chemical, especially when preschoolers don't really have such a great need to sit still until they get into graded school. But I'm even less for popular anti-psychiatry "the drug companies are trying to turn us into capital robots" conspiracy theory.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Colbert Report: Cooking With Feminists & Ice Cream 3-Ways

Thursday, October 19, 2006

LGBT: Boycott a blood drive?

A group of students in Milford, CT are boycotting a blood drive to protest a national law preventing men who've had sex with men to donate blood. The law currently states that any male who's had sexual contact with another male, even once, since the mid 1970's is banned from givving blood. On a national level, the Red Cross would like to change the policy... but something tells me that the current atmosphere in Washinton, DC is not quite ammenable to such a discussion at this time :)

As much as this pains me, I still don't believe it's ok to lie to the questioners when you go to give blood. So I guess I'll just sit on the sidelines and wait for our lawmakers to find some better sense... I may be waiting a long time!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Books: Is It Just Me

... or is Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat the worst-written nonfiction book to sell more than 200 copies ever?

I'm only on chapter two, but I feel like advanced middle-schoolers could fact check this guy, and raise the stock of red ink. And it's nice to make things simple for people, but simplicity at the expense of sense doesn't seem worth much.

I have a thing about finishing books I start, so I'm stuck reading this turd. Pity me, please. Or at least tell me why this book doesn't suck.

Politics: My frontrunner pulls out

Democrat Mark R. Warner, the former governor of Virginia, has decided not to run for president in 2008, fearing the impact of a drawn-out campaign on his family. "I want to have a real life," he said.

Warner scheduled a late morning news conference in Richmond to make the announcement. In a written statement, he said he made the decision after celebrating his father's 81st birthday and taking his oldest daughter, Madison, on a college tour.

"I know these moments are never going to come again," Warner said. "This weekend made clear what I'd been thinking about for many weeks -- that while politically this appears to be the right time for me to take the plunge, at this point I want to have a real life.

"And while the chance may never come again, I shouldn't move forward unless I'm willing to put everything else in my life on the back burner," he said.
I admit I'd be very interested to see if this "want to have a real life" explanation is really Warner's #1 motivation. But if so, can't blame the guy for being a decent human being.

Bill Richardson and Evan Bayh are still in the pipeline, and Bayh is CERTAINLY running. Daniel at KyDem would be out of a job if Bayh withdrew, so I think he'd make Bayh run at knife-point if necessary.

But then that'd see us with possibly a Jew-vs-Mormon election. Much better than the Hillary-McCain battle forecasted.

I'm not ready for presidential elections yet.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Medicine: Genentech (expensive) vs Genentech (cheap)?

Finally, anyone with an even mild interest in health management and policy should be following Genentech's new drug for macular degeneration. So Genentech dumped tons of money into making a new drug for that purpose, and a zillion dollars later, come up with Lucentis, a monoclonal antibody that will cost about 2000 bucks per dose and require monthly dosing. The only problem is that, while developing Lucentis, folks started wondering if one of Genentech's other drugs, Avastin, from which Lucentis is derived, might be helpful in its own right.
Avastin is a cancer drug which inhibits tumor angiogenesis. You can guess what happened next:

Before Lucentis was approved, as doctors started hearing the results of its clinical trials, many retina specialists began using Genentech’s cancer drug Avastin off-label as an eye treatment, at a cost of $20 to $100 a dose.

Both Avastin and Lucentis work in a similar way, and some eye doctors say they believe Avastin is equally as effective. However Avastin has not been tested in rigorous clinical trials as Lucentis has. So interest has been growing for a trial to compare the drugs.
This case demonstrates why having a prescription drug plan attached to Medicare might have some tremendous upside, in that the federal government now has a vested interest in controlling drug costs which will indubitably be in conflict with the interests of pharma and biotech firms. And that's something new, because the government doesn't really do ANYTHING to get in the way of pharma and biotech firms, besides making sure they don't directly poison the population. Incentives for innovation are good, but making profits with bad innovation (such as when you spend a zillion dollars developing a new drug for a new indication when one of your own damn proprietary products treats the disorder already) shouldn't be encouraged. Science depends on serendipity, and this time, serendipity bit Genentech in the ass. Don't feel bad, serendipity has made Genentech zillions of dollars in the past.

And just imagine, that Genentech wasn't interested in funding this research itself! It's wonderful to see NIH taking a role researching A) off-label usages of already approved drugs (generally left to the drug companies, who will only do so when having approval helps their profit margins, not when medicine needs further information), and B) trying to contain costs for a drug of prime interest to the Medicare population.

Medicine: News Roundup

The CDC is funding the biggest ever study of autism, including 2700 kids, to try to hash out genetic and environmental aspects of the disorder. But conspiracy theory dumbasses still abound:

But some parents of autistic children say the CDC — which promotes childhood vaccinations — is not interested in fully exploring vaccinations as a potential cause.

“We don’t want the CDC to do anything. We don’t trust them,” said Wendy Fournier, president of the National Autism Association.
Also on the autism front, Risperdal now has FDA approval for treatment of aggression and other positive symptoms in autism. Atypical antipsychotics have been used for years off-label for such indications, but now physicians and insurance companies will feel legally obligated to choose risperidone over quetiapine or other atypicals, which are probably just as effective.

Unsurprisingly, Children with ADHD use significantly more health services 2 years before and 2 years after they are diagnosed compared with children without ADHD. Even less surprising:
Despite similar insurance status, Asian American, African American and Hispanic American children had $221 lower total average costs per year related to ADHD than white American children did. They also had lower ADHD-related pharmacy costs than white American children.

"Lower use of medications among ethnic minorities may be explained in part by cultural differences in the acceptance of ADHD diagnoses and treatment," the authors suggest.
People with IBS are much more likely to have depression, migraines, and fibromyalgia. Grumpy physicians would probably say that whiny people have whiny people diseases. Sparky says those physicians should be drug out and shot in the back yard. Even so, this study furthers theories that a single sort of neurobiological error might account for these, and several other, disorders. I would be that epilepsy and bipolar disorder would also be found to be elevated, but that's my neurobiological conspiracy theory.
Compared with non-IBS patients, those with the condition were 60 percent more likely to also have any one of the three disorders, the report indicates. The elevated risks for depression, migraine, and fibromyalgia were 40 percent, 60 percent, and 80 percent, respectively.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

MedPol: Ali endorses Granholm over stem cell policy fight

I have to appreciate another Kentuckian supporting Granholm for Michigan governor. Michigan has some of the most restrictive stem cell policies in the nation.

State law does not permit Michigan researchers to get embryos left over from fertility treatments in the state.

State scientists can use embryonic stem cell lines from California, Illinois or other states with less restrictive laws, but those lines sometimes are patented by other researchers.

In Monday’s first gubernatorial debate, Republican Dick DeVos said he is against embryonic stem cell research but supports research using adult stem cells.

Opponents say embryonic stem cell research destroys human life, one reason President Bush earlier this year vetoed federal legislation expanding federal funding of such research.

Granholm supports legislation being sponsored by state Rep. Andy Meisner, D-Ferndale, that would allow more embryonic stem cell research in Michigan, and has asked citizens to voice their support for easing restrictions on such research in Michigan by signing an online petition.

Ali’s endorsement enabled Granholm to make a point of her support in her campaign against DeVos. Observers said she’s more likely than DeVos to benefit from raising the issue.

“The Granholm camp can start painting a picture of him as an out-of-synch true-believer,” said Craig Ruff of Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants.

“A plurality of voters support the Granholm position,” said Ed Sarpolus of the Lansing-based polling company EPIC-MRA. “She’s looking for those on-the-fence voters” whose decision doesn’t hinge on the economy.
Ali suffers from Dementia Pugilistica, a fancy name for a Parkinson's-like disease developed after getting bashed upside the head for way too many years.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

PC Comics: Garfield has gone too far

While reading my comics I was rather annoyed by this one, and not just because Garfield tends to be kind of pointless and annoying (except for those clever lasagna jokes). I see that Jon is referring to the "juice harp" in the final pane. I had always thought it was a Jew's harp, and Wikipedia backs me up on this. Saying that though it has no particular semitic connection, the common term is Jew's Harp and people have taken to using the terms jaw harp, juice harp, English trump, and guimbard to avoid controversy. This seems stupid. I'm all for respecting other races/religions/etc by avoiding pejorative terms (thus I don't use the term Negro, and find Phoenix's Squaw Peak to be offensive, and try to never "Jew down" anyone on prices), but we go too far when we take non-offensive phrases and remove any possible racial/ethnic reference to make them politically correct (e.g. cross legged instead of indian style). That's just gay.

Light from the Heart Nebula
Credit & Copyright: Matt Russell

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Politics: Mark Foley Jokes!

"Former Florida Congressman Mark Foley has resigned over allegations he sent explicit emails to underage boys. What is it with Congress? If they’re not grabbing your wallet, they’re grabbing your ass." –Jay Leno

"How about that Florida congressman Mark Foley? Whoa. At least the Democrats wait until the interns are 18." –David Letterman

“The Republicans reacted quickly. They transferred Foley to a different parish." –David Letterman

"So basically Pages are brought down there to perform sexual exploits for legislators?" –Jon Stewart
“No, that’s what the interns are for. Pages are just the aphrodisiacs, set the mood, get them primed. They’re the Fluffers of Liberty.” –Samantha Bee
Don't worry, there's more.

Politics: Thoughtful Republican Leadership

Is Trent Lott stupid, lazy, or both?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence in Iraq.

"It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."
I'd tell you what I think about this, but it should be obvious...

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Sunday, October 1, 2006

Medicine: Trojan judges access to sexual health information on college campuses

Those horndogs at Yale top the list, followed by those horndogs at... umm... Iowa? UofM and Stanford share second place with Iowa. As I've blogged before, UofM and Stanford can't ever be far away from each other in just about any ranking, even in the sex survey. UK came in at an acceptable 28th, still scoring a 2.4/4.

The study examines a number of sexual health outcomes, including availability of condoms, contraception, STD testing, sexual assault services, and outreach programs.

Complete Rankings.

All that really matters

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A2: Never going back

So, after the latest in a series of extremely frustrating experiences with the dollar movie theater in Ann Arbor at the Briarwood Mall, Courtney has vowed that we will never set foot in the place again.

Among the biggest complaints include the bathrooms being not fit for the third world, and the employees that work there generally being either obviously lazy, incompetent, or just flat out rude.

For example, once an employee basically dumped half of an ICEE on all over me and the counter, and just sort of laughed and left me to clean it up. She had overfilled it ridiculously, and as soon as I tried to pick it up, red sugar water went flying. That was months ago, after I'd waited in line for about twenty minutes because only one employee was working at the combined concession stand/ticketbooth, while another employee sat beside that employee telling her about how big of an ass her boyfriend was while a line of fifteen people waited for popcorn. Never mind maybe opening up a second register.

I won't detail yesterday's event, because I'd probably pop a blood vessel describing it. Or Courtney would hit something reading it over my shoulder. GRRR!!!

I love cheap movie theaters. But I don't like incompetent businesses, and I'd rather not support the incompetency of the Briarwood Dollar Movies or the pieces of shit that they've hired to work there.

Jesus Hates Online Gaming, Part I

In an attempt to placate a shadow constituency, Capitol Hill scumbags tacked on a self-serving online gambling ban to a port security bill that passed Friday night. Silly since, in reality, this issue is not even at the top of the extreme Christian right agenda (the only group of simpletons who could be pushing for such a ban).

This measure essentially makes it illegal for financial institutions to transfer money to internet gaming sites. Actually, this is funny since major credit card companies stopped transferring into gaming sites several years ago by their own decision. The perceived outcome from the gaming community is that the seasoned online gambler will not be too troubled, but that the casual player (read "dead money") will cower away. This is not an unreasonable assumption given our uncanny ability to lay down to scare tactics.

The bill has several carve outs for certain types of gambling including horse betting. That makes sense though, because the Bible says betting is ok as long as you bet on animals. I think this begs the question, "What would Jesus ban next?" And I'm crossing my fingers that the answer is Starbucks.

Friday, September 29, 2006

LGBT: Out of state couple to wed in Mass

A Mass. supreme court justice has just ruled that two women from Rhode Island can get married in Mass. because their state does not have laws preventing same-sex legal unions. This could be a another important step toward spreading the legal right of marriage to those who live outside Mass. Of course it doesn't help us here in MI (thanks Prop 2), but if it helps someone, I'm all for it!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Not your cousin's microbrew

Salon has an interesting story on the Taybeh brewing company. This West Bank microbrew seems to be uniting Palestinians and Israeli's on both sides of the border. But the story of the business is typically Mid-East

They opened the brewery with the blessing of then Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, whose picture still adorns the buildings of the Fatah-run council in Taybeh. To ensure sales in Israel, the Khourys obtained a kosher certificate for the beer from the rabbi at the neighbouring Jewish settlement of Ofra (with which relations cannot otherwise be described as very good).
And now, with the rise of Hamas they are considering a non-alcoholic beer with a green Hamas label. It's free enterprise, it's beer, it's a beautiful thing.
"We don't have a country yet," he added, "but we have our own beer."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Health: A Trans Fat Free Dining Experience

NYC is proposing a prohibition on Trans Fats in its 24,000+ resturaunts and fast food joints. This could be a HUGE step into government regulation of food health. Why the physician in me applauds this potential move, the french fry lover in me is a bit more cautious. I agree we need to find healthier alternatives to fast food and maybe it'll take a bold statement like this to get it done - but I'm just concerned that such an imposing law could set a precident for other similar laws that may be seen as "out of bounds." Only time will tell!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

LGBT: Being a gay frat brother

Here is a very interesting article about one man's experience coming out while in a fraternity at Yale. Somehow situations like this have a way of working themselves out for the best.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Medicine: Luxury Child Psych Care: Value or Class Privilege?

NPR covers the story of Amy, a 16-year old rich kid who was severely depressed. Amy, fragile in her middle-upper class menagerie, couldn't handle what sounds like a pretty dungeonesque child psych wing of a general hospital. Her rich parents found Sheppard Pratt's Overlook program. Overlook is $1700/ day, and doesn't take insurance, because, well, insurance won't pay $1700/day for psychiatric care.

My gut reaction, which isn't my final reaction, is a general a resounding WTF?!?! What business does an academic medical center have creating psychiatric hotels? Why is an academic medical center filling a luxury-care market niche? Why does Amy get to be "Amy times ten," as she says, while kid in the ghetto can't even be "Kid in the Ghetto times one."?

But class-warfare Sparky loses out to cost-efficiency Sparky every time:

Psychiatrist Vaeth doesn't have the data, but he thinks Overlook could prove cheaper than multiple short-term stays at other hospitals, and that insurers might learn from some of Overlook's approaches.

"If this program flourishes and does well and people say, 'Wow, if you have $1,700 a day, you will do well psychiatrically,' then why couldn't we develop a similar program but maybe scaled down to $1,000 a day?

That's closer to what insurance companies might be willing to pay.

Right now, Overlook is half full, and some other hospitals are considering luxury care, such as the Harvard-affiliated MacLean, which already offers an intensive therapy program. That program has fewer amenities like private rooms, but it is sometimes covered by insurance.

Amy left Overlook after four months, at a cost of about $200,000. Her aunt says her niece has gained enormous perspective and strength. Amy thinks so, too.
I admit that I'm not particularly going into child psychiatry to treat the children of parents who can afford 200k out of pocket hospital expenses and not launch the entire family into a deep, dark depression (which isn't to say I wouldn't happily treat them, or that I wouldn't accept out of pocket payment!). For 200k, I bet I could gain enormous perspective and strength too.

But Vaeth has a point that I can't even start to deny, which is that luxury psychiatric care (or at least a lot nicer than the white-walled dungeon Amy describes in the audio clip) might very well be a lot cheaper to the system if it allows a child to be accurately diagnosed and started on a treatment plan that will allow them to avoid multiple hospitalizations (and lost childhood to mental illness) in the future.

So, let's get NIMH to fund a study where poor kids can go to Overlook as well. Let's follow them for a few years, and let's find out if it pays for itself, or not. If not, let's at least leave the mint-on-pillow approach to the private sector.