ACSH Morning Dispatch: On the Rise

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- Quote to Note: “We are very concerned about the increase in HIV among young men who have sex with men,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Health Commissioner for New York City. “We’re headed in the wrong direction. Unless young men reduce the number of partners they have, and protect themselves and their partners by using condoms more consistently, we will face another wave of suffering and death from HIV and AIDS.”

- When Dr. Elizabeth Whelan began reading aloud from 02138 magazine, the room silenced. But ACSH staffers were not entranced by the usual intelligence associated with Harvard, rather in shock over the words coming off of the pages of the article “Raising Harvard.” The piece, about how to rear Harvard-worthy children, began with a mother’s routine in utero. “Consume docosahexaenoic acid (DHA),” the author suggests. But don’t even think about eating fish to get the Omega-3 fatty acid critical to brain development – consuming fish could “risk exposure to toxic PCBs and mercury.” Also encouraged: Buy a $149 BabyPlus Prenatal Education System that teaches “sound lessons” in utero “via a device resembling a terrycloth fanny pack.”
Is this satire, ACSH’s Dr. Gil Ross wondered? Not only does this magazine buy into the idea that mercury and PCBs cause brain damage, but to promote buying a sound-system for your fetus? Oh no, this is very real, Dr. Whelan told us, as she continued reading. We hope pregnant women will ignore such unsupported advice, and instead follow sound-science principles.

- Although buried on an inside New York Times Metro section page, ACSH staffers were saddened and frustrated to read a story on new HIV statistics. HIV is up in New York City by 33 percent for men who have sex with men and who are under the age of 30. The rate for men over the age of 30 is down 22 percent.
Dr. Ross said one reason he thinks that contributes to this increase is that these young people do not remember the ‘90s or the ‘80s, when AIDs was like a black curtain in the city. When it comes to fixing the problem, though, the solution is not as simple as merely education; to teens who are hormonal, AIDs does not seem like a huge threat. The saddest part is that spreading HIV is preventable if proper protection is used. New Yorkers should also know their own HIV status – an amazing fraction of HIV positives are not even aware of their potential for transmitting the deadly virus.

- Yesterday a court ruling that struck down a New York City rule that required fast-food restaurants to post calorie counts on their menus. ACSH staffers agreed that mandating caloric postings is overstepping government bounds, and to limit it to fast-food chains is discriminatory and arbitrary. Furthermore, it won’t work. Even if expanded to all New York restaurants, the legislation suggests it’s the fault of restaurants and food producers for the ever-growing American waists, and idea that insinuates that foods are like cigarettes. No particular food or group of restaurants is the cause of a single person’s struggle with weight loss.

Corrie Driebusch is a research intern at the American Council on Science and Health (,