News and Views

While wildfires, floods and earthquakes threaten everyone in their paths, older folks are distinctly more vulnerable, as exemplified by the fact that of the people who died in the recent northern California wildfires, most were over 65 years old. Of course most people would recognize that the elderly residing in nursing homes are most at risk, but community-dwelling adults in their later years may also be less able to respond effectively to an emergency. Just a brief consideration of aging makes this obvious.

First, many older folks no longer hear as well as they used to. According to some reports, as many as two-thirds of those...

Last month, we were among many scientifically minded groups that were critical of UC Irvine's decision to accept a $200 Million gift from Susan and Henry Samueli, a couple who have deep pockets and even deeper beliefs in the power of alternative medicine. 

In a follow-up article, Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times recently noted a new change in the UC Irvine system website - the removal of "homeopathy" as a service available to patients. Homeopathy used to appear alongside stress reduction, herbs and dietary supplements, manipulative therapies, and detoxification. 

As alternative as some of those therapies are, they apparently make the...

In a type of contrition, Neal Barnard and his colleagues write about The Misuse of Meta-analysis in Nutrition Research, in this week's JAMA. I have written about meta-analysis previously, and I was happy to see Dr. Barnard cover some familiar ground. He points out that nutritional research is particularly challenged by meta-analysis because the methodology, populations, and comparisons differ. Additionally, dietary studies are rarely randomized clinical trials because of expense, size of the population necessary to demonstrate small improvements and because it is hard to blind people to what they are eating....

President Trump caused a controversy when he said that it is "frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever it wants to write." He is absolutely right, but what can be done about it? His emotive and knee-jerk solution of revoking media licenses is deeply problematic.

It is easy to sympathize with Mr. Trump's view on what he likes to call "fake news." Science writers, like those of us at ACSH, fight pseudoscience and false information every single day. Anti-vaccine propagandists and alternative medicine practitioners literally have blood on their hands. Anti-GMO activists are manipulative liars who have libeled honest scientists. TV doctors claiming miracle cures are...

Coming to the aid of strangers in need of urgent medical attention following sudden cardiac arrest is the primary motivation for bystanders using AEDs, or automated external defibrillators. 

These devices, as we spotlighted following the death of rock musician Tom Petty, are used to provide an electrical charge to a victim's heart that has stopped. They are conspicuously mounted on walls in public places, so that anyone can simply grab the easily-used machine on a moment's notice to provide life-saving assistance. 

But another key to encouraging the use AEDs are Good Samaritan Laws, enacted by states to shield bystanders from possible legal liability...

The story of a two-year-old toddler in need of a kidney transplant has made the news. Apparently, A.J. Burgess’ father is a match and was set to donate his organ and begin the steps necessary to do so when a parole violation threw a wrinkle into the plan.

Anthony Dickerson was to start the process upon his prison release, but was reportedly “returned to jail for violating his parole again for possession of a firearm or knife during the commission of or attempt to commit certain felonies.” It was then A.J.’s mother, Carmellia, says the hospital told them the transplant would be put on hold and reassessed after Mr. Dickerson demonstrates “good behavior for...

Last week the Supreme Court took up its 51st case involving gerrymandering. They have never struck down a lower court ruling, but perhaps this time is different because observational studies are under consideration. Before we jump in, here is a quick refresher about gerrymandering. Every ten years the US Census is performed and based on those results, state legislators realign their districts to meet a constitutional requirement that all districts have the same number of citizens. And every ten years, some legislators try to realign these districts to their political advantage. Using increasingly sophisticated techniques some legislators 'pack' districts "with large number of party supporters in relatively few districts where they win by large margins;” or 'crack' districts...

Bespoke condoms hit the market. With all that can be custom-made these days, why not them? Hoping to tackle the rampant fit and feel complaints of many men, Global Protection Corp. is marketing myONE Perfect Fit as an alternative to standard size condoms.  

But, will they actually reverse the declining trend in consistent use or disrupt the space as others have tried and failed to do? Boasting “10 LENGTHS. 9 WIDTHS. 60 SIZES,” myONE doubles down on men’s needs writing on their website: “Standard condoms can sometimes feel too tight, too loose, too short, too long. Sound familiar? That's because most condoms were the same size. Until now.”

Discussions around...

As I have written in my recent posts entitled "Marathon Lessons from a Novice," I am running my first marathon in less than one month. (1) With the event quickly approaching, I have been wondering a lot about marathons in general. How many people run one each year? What is the average finish time? What about the average age of runners? To answer these questions, I looked at the data from marathons run in 2016 in the United States and was surprised by what I found.  

How many people run marathons and how many marathons are there? 

In 2016, 507,600 people completed a marathon in the United States. Just under half (44 percent) of marathon finishers are women. 

There were 86 marathons with over 1,000 finishers. The top five biggest are (in order) ...

When the Internet finds out a woman is pregnant, prospective moms can expect to be bombarded with countless email advertisements for everything baby.  That is because most businesses recognize that the pregnant woman is a proverbial cash cow.  Pregnant moms, who are already stressed about their developing fetus' vulnerability and want to do best by their children, become the perfect target for those seeking to capitalize on fear. 

One such example is cord blood banking.  What exactly is it?   During the 1980s, it was discovered that the umbilical cord was a rich supply of potentially life-saving hematopoietic stem cells. These cells are similar to those found in bone marrow and capable of differentiating into many different cell types.  The cells can be used in a number of...