Yale Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Greetings from Stephen Latham, Bioethics Center Director

Brave the cold tonight  to see our Technology and Ethics group’s screening of Doug Wolens’ film “The Singularity” at the Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium, 53 Wall St., at 7:30pm.  There will be a discussion with the director afterwards.

Looking ahead: Our friends at the Connecticut Coalition to Improve End-of-Life Care have an amazing event planned for Saturday, April 12 at Yale’s West Campus. It’s a full day of panels and talks on palliative care, featuring plenary speakers Timothy Quill, MD (Rochester), Angelo Volandes, MD (Harvard) and Christina Puchalski, MD (George Washington). The full conference agenda is here. Register here.

We won’t publish a Newsletter on Fridays during Spring Break (March 7 and 14), so in next week’s edition I’ll try to list everything that’s coming up immediately after the break. If there’s anything you’d like to see included, email it to me at Stephen.Latham@Yale.edu, with the word “Frimail” in your subject line.

  TONIGHT at 7:30 PM
Technology & Ethics Film Screening
Location: Whitney Humanities Center Auditorium, 53 Wall St
Film: The Singularity
Discussion with director Doug Wolens.

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Grants, Fellowships & Jobs

Calls for Papers & Nominations



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Updates from the Summer Institute

From Associate Director Carol Pollard

*Thanks to our Singapore students (Rachel Teo and Theodora Kwok) for sending the newly-minted bioethics casebook titled “Making Difficult Decisions with Patients and Families” just published at the Centre for Biomedical Ethics, National University of Singapore.  Its editors include Nancy Berlinger, Michael C. Dunn, and Michael K. Gusmano (of The Hastings Center.)  Congratulations to all!  I will certainly use it this summer!

*According to Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s publication titled “MIT Technology Review of the 50 Smartest Companies,” Monsanto is among the nation’s smartest tech companies.  (As usual, we will have a site visit at Monsanto headquarters in Mystic, Connecticut, this summer.  And as always, it’s so very interesting!)

*Alma Massaro reports: “Good News!  I’ve just submitted my PhD dissertation.  My final exam will be on April 4th.  The title (in English) is something like “The Place of Animals in Eighteenth Century Christian English Thought.”  I also wanted to let everyone know that I'm organizing a summer school on animal ethics at Milan University.  We are thinking about holding it the first weeks of September.  I’ll send more information when it’s prepared.”  (Congratulations Alma!)

*Sam Garner writes: “I got my first real research paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics.  It's a comprehensive moral critique of industrial food animal production (IFAP), or factory farming.  I co-authored it with my good friend/colleague John Rossi from the Drexel School of Public Health.  It took a long time to get done (almost 3 years), and I'm pretty happy with the paper.  We're just finishing up the final edits now.  John and I also have three book chapters coming out sometime soon in an encyclopedia on agricultural ethics.  The chapters cover IFAP, conceptual issues in animal welfare, and value judgments in the nutrition literature.  So I'm very happy about all that.  I have a few other papers on animal ethics that I'm working on right now, but those won't be ready for a while.   At work (NIH), I have a couple papers on HIV and ethics that are nearing completion, so hopefully those will be published soon.  One is a meeting report on ethical issues in HIV prevention and vaccine trials, and the other is a paper based on an ethics consultation we had here.  My office sent me to Italy for the UNESCO Bioethics Congress back in November where I gave a talk on the ethics of animal research.  I was very happy with how the talk turned out and ended up having a wonderful time. Otherwise I'm just thinking about my “career,” where I want to go next, and what I need to do to get there.  I'm getting a lot of good experience, but I'm not sure what it's going to lead to.  I'm still swimming (I have a couple meets coming up), still playing the saxophone, and even giving a lesson to my neighbor's son.  And for the past couple years I've been learning to breakdance -- not sure I told you that.  I love it!”   (Congratulations on all fronts, Sam!)

Articles of Note:

Without a Trace,” book review by Al Gore on The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert, The New York Times Book Review, February 16, 2014
Driving Under the Influence, of Marijuana,” Maggie Koerth-Baker, The New York Times, February 17, 2014
Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future,” Sheril Kirshenbaum and Chris Mooney, CNN (Only 74% of Americans know the Earth revolves around the sun…and more) 
“Updates on the Three Big Promises for Tomorrow’s Cure for Cancer: epigenetic therapies; targeted metabolic pathways; and microRNAs, “ BioSeeker Group, February 27, 2014.  (for further information, contact anna.johansson@bioseeker.net.)
Belgium Close to Allowing Euthanasia for Ill Minors,” Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times, February 13, 2014
The Lies That Doctors and Patients Tell,” Sandeep Jauhar, MD, Opinion, The New York Times, February 20, 2014
When Doctors Need to Lie,” Sandeep Jauhar, MD, Well/Opinion, The New York Times, February 22, 2014
US Psychologists Renew Push for Ban on Assisting Military Interrogations: APA Angered Many by Choosing Not to Censure Psychologists Who Took Part in Guantanamo Detainee’s Torture,UK Guardian, February 20, 2014
Many in China Can Now Have a Second Child, but Say No,” Dan Levin, The New York Times, February 26, 2014
Genetically Modified Babies, Marcy Darnovsky, OP/ED, The New York Times, February 23, 2014

AND: A web page that may be helpful in thinking through the process of informed consent!
The resources fall into 3 categories:  (1) links to examples of diverse informed consent forms (therapy, therapy w/ kids, forensic work, coaching, assessment, etc.) from different sources (APA Insurance Trust; Center for Ethical Practice; etc.);   (2) excerpts stating the informed consent requirements from the standards and guidelines of 17 professional boards and associations -- e.g., American Group Psychotherapy Association; American Psychoanalytic Association; California Board of Behavioral Sciences; Canadian Psychiatric Association; & Psychological Society of Ireland -- including links to each of the 17 original documents;  (3) quotes addressing informed consent (for psychotherapy with kids & adults; for e-therapy; for forensic exams; for supervision;  etc.) from clinical, ethics, and forensic textbooks; research studies; and articles in professional journals.  The web page is here.


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This Week on Campus

Tuesday, March 4

Cognitive Science Seminar
Time: 11:35 AM
Location: 2 Hillhouse Ave, room 207
Speaker:  Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy, UC Riverside
Topic: The Moral Behavior of Ethics Professors and Models of Moral Cognition

Child Study Center Grand Rounds
Time: 1 PM
Location: 230 S Frontage Rd, Cohen Auditorium
Speaker: Andrew Papachristos, Associate Prof. of Sociology
Topic: Tragic, but not Random: Using Network Science to Understand America's Gun Violence Epidemic

Order, Conflict, and Violence Seminar
Time: 4 PM
Location: 115 Prospect St, room 005
Speaker: Jay Ulfelder, Independent Researcher
Topic: Forecasting Mass Killing

Wednesday, March 5

Environmental Economics Seminar
Time: 4 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, room 321
Speaker: Sang Kim, Yale SOM
Topic: Time to Come Clean?  Disclosure and inspection policies for green production

Humanist Community Lecture
Time: 7 PM
Location: 1 Prospect St, room 114
Speaker: Frans de Waal, primatologist and former Time 100 member
Topic: The Bonobo and the Atheist

Thursday, March 6

Industrial Environmental Management Lecture
Time: 12 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, Burke Auditorium
Speaker: Andrew Mangan, US Business Council for Sustainable Development
Topic: By-Product Synergy as a Competitive Strategy: Creating Value through Resource Reuse

Humanities in Medicine Lecture
Time: 5 PM
Location: 300 Cedar St, Anlyan Auditorium
Speaker: Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, New York University
Topic: A Singular Intimacy: Navigating life as a doctor and writer

Grants, Fellowships, & Jobs

Neuroethics Faculty Position
Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences, Michigan State University
Review of applications begins February 28; position open until filled 
The Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences at Michigan State University invites applications for a faculty position in bioethics, with a specialization in neuroethics. This will be a fixed-term (non-tenure track), academic year (9 month) appointment. Rank is open. Salary will be commensurate with experience. The initial term of appointment will be for two years. The appointment will begin August 16, 2014. The successful applicant will devote 65% time to research and scholarship; 25% to teaching; and 10% to outreach. Research will be primarily in the area of neuroethics. The individual will be expected to successfully pursue research collaborations, including projects with the potential for external funding, with faculty or clinicians in the Division of Clinical Neurosciences; The Department of Translational Science & Molecular Medicine, including its Translational Neuroscience Research Team; the Neuroscience Program; or others engaged in brain-based clinical research or treatment. Funds will be provided to support an active and productive research agenda. Teaching will primarily be in courses led by the Center for Ethics and Humanities in the Life Sciences in MSU's College of Human Medicine and in relevant medical residency programs, with possibilities for teaching at the graduate level in departments appropriate to the individual's doctoral training. Outreach will take a variety of forms, including presentations to health professional and public audiences. Applicants must have a Ph.D. or other terminal degree in a discipline relevant to bioethics scholarship, have an excellent scholarly record in neuroethics, and possess the ability to work collaboratively with those from other disciplines. Experience teaching bioethics to health professional students is highly desirable. We are particularly interested in candidates who will enhance faculty diversity and inclusion at Michigan State University. To view this posted position, visit the MSU Applicant page jobs.ms.

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2-year Fellowship in Clinical Ethics
Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital System  Deadline: March 10, 2014
The Baylor College of Medicine Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy and the Houston Methodist Hospital System Biomedical Ethics Program are seeking a full-time clinical ethics fellow to train with the Center faculty and staff who lead the Clinical Ethics Consultation Service at Houston Methodist Hospital, a premier, high-volume consultation service with over 450 annual consultations. Applications for this two-year fellowship will be considered from professionals with terminal post-graduate degrees in bioethics, medicine, nursing, religious studies, law, and other related fields.  This fellowship offers a competitive stipend, excellent benefits, and opportunities for continued professional development.  The fellowship offers: Comprehensive training in clinical ethics consultation including the opportunity to observe and conduct ethics consultations for a high-volume Clinical Ethics Consultation Service (~450 consultations per year) at the Houston Methodist Hospital and its affiliates, including on-call duties; Participation in clinical, research and educational activities within the Center with the support and mentoring of the Center faculty; Participation in Biomedical Ethics Committee and subcommittee meetings; Participation in activities related to our undergraduate and graduate medical curricula, including the award-winning ethics track program; Preparation and delivery of presentations on clinical ethics-related topics for clinical audiences; Opportunities for high quality collaborative ethics scholarship; Participation in outcomes research related to clinical ethics consultation.  Qualifications: Terminal post-graduate degree; Candidates with an interest in transplantation ethics preferred;  Strong interpersonal skills; Excellent oral and written communication skills; Strong organizational skills, working both independently and collaboratively to achieve mission goals and deadlines; Strong presentation and teaching skills. Tentative start date: July 1, 2014. Interested applicants should submit: (1) a cover letter, (2) a resume or CV, and (3) the names of at least three professional or academic references to Joseph Sayegh at sayegh@bcm.edu by March 10, 2014. Further information about the Center for Medical Ethics & Health Policy can be found at www.bcm.edu/ethics.  Further information about Houston Methodist Hospital can be found at www.houstonmethodist.org/.  Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital are Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action/Equal Access Employers.

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Empirical Research on Ethical Issues Related to Central IRBs and Consent for Research Using Clinical Records and Data
Deadline: April 18, 2014, 5:00pm
Ethical questions and challenges are inherent in the conduct of scientific research and the application of new knowledge and technologies in the clinic. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a long history of supporting research on ethical issues, and the support of empirical bioethics research forms an integral component of the NIH commitment to enhance protections for human research subjects, increase the quality of biomedical, clinical, social, and behavioral research, and expand the evidence base to inform sound practice and policy. Furthermore, emerging scientific and technological advances may pose unforeseen risks or may be lacking ethical guidance.  The purpose of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to encourage Research Project Grant (R01) applications to explore two timely issues of significance for policy development relevant to: The principles and characteristics for central Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) and Consent and participant preferences for research using clinical records and data. Two current issues in bioethics that are of interest to the Federal government and the research community involve the use of central IRBs and research involving the use of clinical records and data.  First, the use of a single IRB for multi-site studies, which is permitted under current Federal human subjects research regulations (45 CFR part 46), was proposed as a requirement for domestic, multi-site studies in the 2011 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Common Rule.  While central IRBs have been used effectively in some contexts, research and analysis could inform the move to broader use of central IRBs.  Second, as clinical records are increasingly digitized and interoperable, new opportunities for research involving clinical records and data raise a host of issues including privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, and public and patient preferences.  The Office of the Director FY2014 funds will be used to support research to help inform the operation of central IRBs and research using clinical records and data. The goals of this FOA are to further the NIH commitment to enhanced protections for human research subjects, to increase the quality of biomedical, clinical, social, and behavioral research, and to expand the evidence base to inform sound practice and policy. Applications should address ethical issues with significant policy relevance relating to either central IRBs for multisite clinical trials or research involving clinical records and data. Applications addressing central IRBs should focus on addressing one or more of the following issues: Principles that should guide the formation and conduct of central IRBs; Standard Operating Procedures for the functioning of central IRBs; New resources or tools that may be needed to support the operation of central IRBs; and, Any other ethical or logistical issues related to the use of central IRBs for oversight of multi-site studies. Applications addressing research with clinical records and data should address at least one of the following issues: The appropriate content and duration of informed consent for research use of clinical records and data; Patient preferences about research use of clinical information, including preferred level of control, access to information about use of the clinical record or data, and return of results;  Patient preferences about the availability of clinical information for research (open vs controlled access); Patient preferences about distinguishing between "research" activities and "quality improvement" activities; Protecting privacy while enabling sharing of clinical records and data for research. As part of developing plans for an application, applicants are encouraged to consult with the appropriate  Scientific/Research Contact as early as possible.  This will provide an opportunity to clarify the applicant's understanding of program goals and guidelines.  

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Calls for Papers & Nominations

The American Society for Bioethics and Humanities 2014 Call for Proposals is Open until 11:59 pm Central Time, Thursday, March 6, 2014 for the ASBH 16th Annual Meeting, October 16-19, 2014, San Diego, California, Hilton Bayfront San Diego. We recommend that you download and print the call for proposals, read this document thoroughly, and collect all of the information in the requirements checklist. When you have all the information required, submit your proposal . More information is available at www.asbh.org. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the ASBH office at info@asbh.org or (847) 375-4745.

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Articles of Interest

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In the News

Featured Article

Smith, Matt. FDA Considering Three-Parent Embryos. CNN. 27 February 2014.
A promising way to stop a deadly disease, or an uncomfortable step toward what one leading ethicist called eugenics? U.S. health officials are weighing whether to approve trials of a pioneering in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people in an attempt to prevent illnesses like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. The proposed treatment would allow a woman to have a baby without passing on diseases of the mitochondria, the "powerhouses" that drive cells. Continue reading...

Alternative Medicine

Rao, Ankita. Dr. Yogi: Physicians Integrate Yoga Into Medical Practice. NPR. 27 February 2014.
Rajan Narayanan isn't your average yoga instructor. During his classes, he uses words like "neuroplasticity," avoids Sanskrit terms and sometimes shows up to teach in a suit and tie. Narayanan, a longtime practitioner and economist by day, is one of the founders of Life In Yoga, a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate people on the benefits of this ancient Indian practice. A major part of this effort, however, is directed at integrating yoga therapy in the mainstream health care system by training medical providers to use yogic breathing and techniques to treat various maladies. Continue reading...


Shogren, Elizabeth. Industry Challenges EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rules in High Court. NPR. 24 February 2014.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments Monday about the Environmental Protection Agency's first-ever greenhouse gas regulations for the biggest polluting facilities. The case focuses on a 3-year-old requirement that companies get permits anytime they construct new plants or modify existing ones that will emit a lot of greenhouse gases. EPA's supporters and most of its challengers agree this case is narrow in scope; the court's ruling is not expected to threaten EPA's broader strategy to fight global warming. Some industries challenging these permits argue that what they require can be costly and time consuming. They contend that the EPA contorted a provision of the Clean Air Act to make it fit greenhouse gases. Continue reading...


Barclay, Eliza. U.S. Lets 141 Trillion Calories Of Food Go To Waste Each Year. NPR. 27 February 2014.
The sheer volume of food wasted in the U.S. each year should cause us some shame, given how many people are hungry both in our own backyard and abroad. Now the U.S. Department of Agriculture has provided us with a way to understand our flagrant annual waste in terms of calories, too. It's pretty mind-boggling — 141 trillion calories down the drain, so to speak, or 1,249 calories per capita per day. And if we could actually reduce this staggering quantity of food waste, the price of food worldwide might go down, according to a report from researchers at USDA's Economic Research Service, Jean Buzby, Hodan Wells and Jeffrey Hyman. Continue reading...

Health and Medicine

Tavernise, Sabrina. Obesity Rate For Children Plummets 43% In A Decade. The New York Times. 25 February 2014.
Federal health authorities on Tuesday reported a stunning 43 percent drop in the obesity rate among 2- to 5-year-old children over the past decade, the first broad decline in an epidemic that often leads to lifelong struggles with weight and higher risks for cancer, heart disease and stroke. The drop emerged from a major federal health survey that experts say is the gold standard for evidence on what Americans weigh. Continue reading...

Bebinger, Martha. Massachusetts Launches Health Care Shopping Experiment. NPR. 26 February 2014.
To shop for health care, it would help to know what childbirth or a CT scan will cost ahead of time. But is it possible to actually list prices for medical procedures? And will patients armed with the information look for bargains when they seek care? Massachusetts is trying to find out. Since Jan. 1, hospitals and doctors there have been required to tell patients how much things cost, if they ask. It's part of the state's health care cost control law.  Continue reading...

Law and Bioethics

Frayer, Lauren. Anti-Abortion Push Has Spain Debating Definition Of ‘Progress’. NPR. 27 February 2014.
The Spanish government is on its way to creating one of the toughest abortion laws in Europe — a near-total ban, except in cases of rape or grave risk to the mother's health. Serious birth defects will no longer be grounds for terminating a pregnancy. Continue reading...

Medical Ethics

Shute. Nancy. Overdiagnosis Could Be Behind Jump in Thyroid Cancer Cases. NPR. 21 February 2014.
The number of people diagnosed with thyroid cancer has tripled since 1975, but many of those cases are probably due to small, slow-growing tumors that would never cause problems, the researchers say. "We're in the midst of an epidemic here, but it's largely an epidemic of our own creating," says Dr. Gilbert Welch, a professor of medicine at Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine and an author of the study. "People need to know that there's a tremendous amount of overdiagnosing going on in thyroid cancer." Continue reading...

Egypt’s Military Leaders Unveil Devices They Claim Can Detect And Cure AIDS. The Guardian. 27 February 2014.
Egypt's military leaders have come under ridicule after the chief army engineer unveiled what he described as a "miraculous" set of devices that detect and cure AIDS, hepatitis and other viruses. The claim, dismissed by experts and called "shocking to scientists" by the president's science adviser, strikes a blow to the army's carefully managed image as the saviour of the nation. It also comes as General Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who toppled Mohammed Morsi in July after the Islamist leader ignored mass protests calling for him to step down, is expected to announce he will run for president. Continue reading...

Reproductive Ethics

LaPook, Jonathan. New DNA Test Could Revolutionize Prenatal Screening. 10 News. 27 February 2014.
A report in the New England Journal of Medicine Wednesday could revolutionize prenatal screening for Down Syndrome and other disorders. Continue reading...

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In the Journals

Armstrong, Natalie. Do informed consent documents for cancer trials do what they should? Sociology of Health and Illness. 2012.
Though patient information leaflets (PILs) are provided to those invited to take part in medical research, they usually fall short in facilitating informed decisions about participation. We aimed to explore why there is an enduring requirement for a process that seems not to 'work', and to explain why the problems have proven resistant to correction. We analysed applications for ethical approval for 13 oncology trials and related official guidance. We interviewed 26 patients invited to participate in the trials. Data analysis was based on the constant comparative method. We show that PILs function latently to satisfy purposes other than their manifest function as a decision-facilitating tool. PILs are the outcome of a process of institutional scripting that is strongly shaped by the accountability demands inherent in the ethical review process. This results in the PIL being made to serve purposes both as a prospectus and as a contract. Though PILs have value for some patients, most do not recognise these documents as operating primarily in their interests. Patients make decisions in ways that deviate from official ideals. This analysis is important in recognising that no simple technical fix is available, and in enhancing sociological understanding of the institutional role of documents. Continue reading…

Erickson-Davis, Cordelia. Ethical concerns regarding commercialization of deep brain stimulation for obsessive compulsive disorder. Bioethics. 2012.
The United States Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of the commercial use of Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) as a treatment for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) will be discussed within the context of the existing USA regulatory framework. The purpose will be to illustrate the current lack of regulation and oversight of the DBS market, which has resulted in the violation of basic ethical norms. The discussion will focus on: 1) the lack of available evidence on procedural safety and efficacy, 2) the numerous conflicts of interest held by research investigators, and 3) the ambiguity of both aforementioned categories due to an inherent lack of transparency in the research. It is argued that in order to address these issues, ethical analyses of DBS for psychiatric disorders must include the role of the industry forces that have become the primary impetus for this research. As such, DBS for OCD serves as an important case example in studies of neurotechnology and innovative surgery. Continue reading…

Mascia, Katherine. The Bioethics of Providing Cochlear Implants to Children: Informed Choices and Autonomous Decision Making. Journal of the American Deafness and Rehabilitation Association. 2012.
The significant advances in technology and educational options for children who are deaf present a parent with opportunities to make choices on behalf of their child. The variability in overall results for all available options and the long term implications of decisions made early in a child's life make it necessary for parents to utilize an objective process. A framework for ensuring the parent's right to make decisions on behalf of their child will be discussed using five principles of bioethics. Points of controversy regarding the use of cochlear implants as well as the use of American Sign Language (ASL) will be explored. The issue of informed choice is examined and analyzed. Continue reading…

Mello, Michelle. Ethical considerations in studying drug safety: The Institute of Medicine Report. 2012.
The tumult arising from revelations of serious safety risks associated with widely prescribed drugs, including rosiglitazone (Avandia, GlaxoSmithKline), rofecoxib (Vioxx, Merck), and celecoxib (Celebrex, Pfizer), has led to widespread recognition that improvement is needed in our national system of ensuring drug safety. The experience with rosiglitazone and the TIDE trial offers a lesson in how our current approach to the oversight of drug-safety and postmarketing research can fail both the public and the research participants. Reactive policymaking is tempting but problematic. The history of regulation of human subjects research suggests that rules that are "born in scandal and reared in protectionism" often fall short of providing meaningful protections to research participants and that, once adopted, regulations can ossify and become difficult to dislodge. Continue reading…

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Ars Technica

Johnson, Scott K Antarctic glacier shrank quickly in the past. February 21, 2014.
We recently covered some research on Greenland’s Jakobshavn Ice Stream, the world’s fastest glacier. While nothing on Antarctica can match that speed, the continent has ice streams of its own. Many have been shrinking, too—retreating and thinning as melting at the coast pulls continental ice out to die in the sea. Continue reading…

Timmer, John. USPTO issues patent for fraudulent stem cell procedure. February 22, 2014.
Last weekend, The New York Times discovered that the US Patent Office had issued a patent for a procedure to generate human stem cells. This, by itself, isn't especially surprising. What is surprising is the recipient: Hwang Woo-suk, the Korean researcher who is widely considered to have faked his data in the paper that claimed derivation of the first cloned human stem cells. Continue reading…

Timmer, John. Outside Fukushima exclusion zone, residents getting minor radiation dose. February 26, 2014.
While the damaged facilities at Fukushima have dumped a lot of radioactivity into the environment, most of it has ended up either in the ocean, or in the groundwater at the site itself. Outside the 20km exclusion zone, most of the radiation came from a single plume released in the first few days of the crisis. The plume drifted to the northwest, leading to the evacuation of some communities outside of the exclusion areas. Continue reading…

The Economist

Science & Technology. Stacking the deck. February 22, 2014.
Sunlight is free, but that is no reason to waste it. Yet even the best silicon solar cells—by far the most common sort—convert only a quarter of the light that falls on them. Silicon has the merit of being cheap: manufacturing improvements have brought its price to a point where it is snapping at the heels of fossil fuels. But many scientists would like to replace it with something fundamentally better. Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times

Editorial. A costly pain in the neck, and what it says about healthcare in the U.S. February 21, 2014.
After a weeklong stay, the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix sent me on my way on Jan. 5 with five stitches, a titanium alloy plate in my neck and a hard plastic Össur Miami J cervical collar that will remain on my neck until late March. A few weeks later, I learned what I'd been charged for the Miami J: $447. Had I been given the chance, I could have purchased the brace online for less than $100. Allowing that sort of comparison shopping is one small thing policymakers could do to slow the growth of healthcare spending. But like seemingly everything related to healthcare, it wouldn't be that simple. Continue reading…

Editorial. Another healthcare crisis: Closing hospitals. February 26, 2014.
Lower Oconee Community Hospital in southern Georgia closed its doors this month, eliminating 25 hospital beds and up to 100 hospital jobs. This was the fourth Georgia hospital to fold in two years and the eighth rural hospital in the state to close since 2000. Although Lower Oconee's shutdown may not have registered much media coverage, those in search of medical attention in Glenwood, Ga., should be mindful that the closest hospital is now 30 miles away. As reference, Santa Ana is 30 miles from Los Angeles. When faced with a medical emergency, no one fancies a long road trip. Continue reading…

Editorial. When tinkering with our DNA, researchers should take it slow. February 25, 2014.
The manipulation of human genes could lead to profound advances in our ability to cure or prevent terrible diseases. But in some cases, it might also mean introducing genetic material that could be passed from one generation to the next, changing the human gene pool in a manner that could inadvertently harm peoples' health. Continue reading…

Editorial. California can’t afford to cater to anti-vaccination crowd. February 27, 2014.
The state of California issued an advisory on measles last week. Though only about a dozen cases have been reported so far, many more people have been exposed to the virus. In the Bay Area, thousands were warned to watch for signs of the disease after a man who'd been infected on a trip to Asia rode a BART train. In Los Angeles, far more people than necessary were exposed to measles because doctors failed to report two patients' cases immediately. One had traveled to Asia; the other had been exposed to a recently infected traveler. Continue reading…

New York Times

Editorial. Coping with Infectious Disease. February 21, 2014.
The list of infectious diseases that could leap from remote areas of the world to strike countries thousands of miles away is growing. A warning of what can happen occurred a decade ago when an outbreak in China of a mysterious new viral disease, known as SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, was covered up by the Chinese authorities, allowing infected airline passengers to carry the virus to more than two dozen other countries. The disease killed nearly 800 people and caused large economic losses in Asia and Canada.  Continue reading…

SundayReview. Should Obesity Be a ‘Disease’? February 21, 2014.
In June 2013, millions of Americans contracted a disease. They developed it not because of some pathogen or illness, but thanks to the American Medical Association’s decision to label obesity a “multi-metabolic and hormonal disease state.” Continue reading…

Editorial. Driving Down Child Obesity. February 27, 2014.
There are glimmers of good news in the struggle to control obesity, one of the greatest health risks confronting the United States and other affluent nations. The latest federal report shows a significant reduction in the obesity rate among children ages 2 to 5, a vulnerable period when obesity patterns are often locked in for a lifetime. It is only a modest step in the right direction for a small slice of the population, but it suggests that further gains may be possible with a determined effort. Continue reading…

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