What I'm Reading (Feb. 1)

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Reading and understanding legal decisions
Boeing is not the only company with a trust problem
Can bad science result in good regulation?
How much Vitamin D should you be taking?

One of the courses in MBA school was a primer on the law in healthcare – just enough to make us dangerous, and not fully informed. Of course, as a member of ACSH, I have access to Dr. Billauer, an attorney and scholar. But then I ran across this, and I thought I would share. After all, sharing is caring.

“I have taught law to undergraduates for the past 12 years, so I am sympathetic to the nonlawyer’s plight. Here are some techniques I teach my students to help them break a Supreme Court opinion into digestible parts. They should help you begin to understand what was decided, why and how in the important cases being considered by the court this term.”

From The Conversation, How to read a Supreme Court case: 10 tips for nonlawyers


I have followed the development of autonomous cars for years now, especially their more spectacular accidents. Last year, in what can only be described as a horrific accident, a pedestrian was hit by a car driven by a human and then run over by an autonomous vehicle. While we don’t have the National Highway Traffic And Safety Administration report, there is the report by the outside investigators hired by Cruise.

“The reasons for Cruise’s failings in this instance are numerous: poor leadership, mistakes in judgment, lack of coordination, an “us versus them” mentality with regulators, and a fundamental misapprehension of Cruise’s obligations of accountability and transparency to the government and the public. Cruise must take decisive steps to address these issues in order to restore trust and credibility.”

It took Boeing years after its merger with McDonnell Douglas to lose our trust; GM’s Cruise division, following the logic of Silicon Valley, has “moved fast and broken things.” Here are the findings of the outside investigators. And a nod to Wired for sending me in the right direction.  


Can bad science result in good outcomes? It depends. Here is a tale of regulation from 60 years ago.

“Sternglass’s academic reputation in the field of low-dose radiation exposure risk assessment garnered broad public interest, media attention, and scientific recognition over the next four decades. Sternglass’s acclaim may have influenced President John F. Kennedy to sign the limited nuclear test ban treaty in 1962. …Sternglass made numerous claims about the adverse effects of low dose radiation, and while he effectively generated and directed attention to radiation-induced health concerns, he failed to provide convincing scientific support.”

From Health Physics, a bit of regulatory history.


Here at ACSH, we love the work of Joseph Schwarcz, Ph.D., from McGill’s Office of Science and Society. I have always had questions about how much Vitamin D we really need. Dr. Schwarcz covers all the bases and comes to an intriguing conclusion. But here is how it begins.

“Walk into any pharmacy or health food store, and you will see shelves filled with vitamin D supplements. Then stroll over to a bookstore and you will find all sort of books touting the wonders of the vitamin. Next, search PubMed for articles about vitamin D. There will be thousands, with different conclusions about what constitutes adequate blood levels and how these are to be achieved. Where will that leave you? Confused, I suspect.”


From McGill’s Office of Science and Society, The Vitamin D Puzzle