Greetings from Stephen Latham, Director

April is shaping up to be a busy month! Last week we heard about the future of Medicare and the public health consequences of our food choices. This coming week features our special event on Alzheimer’s and Advance Directives at the Anlyan Center auditorium, Tuesday the 9th at 4:30. Bonnie Steinbock (Philosophy, Albany) will speak on Alzehimer’s, Advance Directives and Physician Aid-in-Dying; Paul Menzel (Philosophy, Pacific Lutheran) will speak on Severe Dementia, Advance Directives and Withholding Food Assistance; and Jane Givens, MD (Harvard Medical and Hebrew SeniorLife) will speak on End of Life Care in Advanced Dementia. The event is co-sponsored by the Program in Biomedical Ethics at Yale School of Medicine, and is funded by a gift from Jerome Medalie ‘45W. Details in the link and below. Dinner will be served, so please RSVP to

On Wednesday the 20th, David Keith (Harvard, Applied Physics and Public Policy), will speak to our Technology and Ethics group about “Geoengineering.” Details below!

And later in April: our visiting scholar Tom Murray (President Emeritus of The Hastings Center) will be giving a public talk entitled “Why We Play: Technology, Values and Embodiment in Sport” at ISPS at 5pm on Tuesday, April 23; and on April 24, Andrew Light (George Mason, Center for Global Ethics) will speak to our Technology and Ethics group (4:15, ISPS) on the ethics and governance of geoengineering.

Congratulations to visiting scholar Zohar Lederman, and to former visiting scholars Mirko Garasic (Monash, Bioethics) and Michelle Piperberg (Barcelona, Philosophy), on the publication in the Journal of Medical Ethics of their jointly-authored “Family Presence During Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation: Who Should Decide?” The article is a real Yale bioethics production: the co-authors met here, were inspired to write the paper after seeing bioethicist Dan Sulmasy (University of Chicago, Medicine and Divinity) give a talk here, and acknowledge assistance from Summer Institute faculty member Steve Campbell (Coe College, Philosophy).

If you have an event or announcement you’d like to see in this Friday Newsletter, send it to me at, with the word “Frimail” in your subject-line.



April 9 at 4:30 PM

Anlyan Auditorium
300 Cedar Street

Alzheimer's and Advance Directives

Click for more info

Technology & Ethics

Wednesday, April 10, 4:15 PM

77 Prospect St, rm B012
Speaker: David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Professor of Public Policy, Harvard University
Topic: Geoengineering

  Updates from the Summer Institute

Campus Events

Conferences & Off Campus Events



Click here to sign up for the Bioethics Newsletter


Updates from the Summer Institute

From Associate Director Carol Pollard

*Raafay Syed writes: “I hope all is well with you at Yale!  I have some good news to share with you. I have been accepted to medical school at Stanford and have decided to matriculate there this August!  I am very excited to work with David Magnus and other faculty at the Center for Biomedical Ethics there as I continue to pursue my interests in the field.  I am also deeply grateful for the rich intellectual experience I was able to have during the summer program in 2011.  Many of my interviewers asked specific questions about the program, and I'm certain that it helped me out in the application process.”  (CONGRATULATIONS AND GOOD LUCK, RAAFAY!)

*Leo Unger is now a medical student at Stanford University. (Congratulations Leo – and see Raafay’s entry above.  Hope you will meet up with each other!)

*David Deitz is now head of Business Development for Virgin Care, UK.  (Congratulations David!)

*Tuua Ruutiainen is now a medical student at Tulane University School of Medicine. (Congratulations Tuua!)

*Jessica Handibode is now a Health Specialist at National Institutes of Health. (Congratulations Jessica!)

*Lauren Lefebre is now a Health, Wellness & Fitness professional in Washington, DC.  (Congratulations Lauren!)

*Erin Kampschmidt writes: “I hope everything is going well in New Haven and you have found another fabulous group of students to join our ranks this summer.  I wanted to let you know that I’ve started working with Community Legal Aid Services, Inc., Akron, Ohio, in their health law project.” (Congratulations Erin!)

*Christiana Peppard, past summer seminar leader (now Assistant Professor of Theology, Science and Ethics at Fordham University) again is in the news!  She was on MSNBC this past Sunday (an Easter special) talking about the Pope, religious and secular ethics, and global resources on the Melissa Harris Perry Show.  “The concepts and conversation partners are great.  Happy Easter to all.”  (Congratulations Christy!)

*Imre Bard, incoming 2013 summer student, writes: “I was just going through past editions of the Friday Newsletter, and it occurred to me that there are rather few reports about bioethics issues related to human enhancement…I'm aware that many scholars consider that debate to be a bit over-hyped; however, if you are interested, we recently published a review article in the journal Neuropharmacology about student use of cognition enhancers, with a focus on European data, since that has been mostly absent from discussions so far. If you think it's of sufficient interest, maybe it can be included in the Newsletter at some point.”  (Yes, of course.  Click here.  Congratulations Imre!)

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This Week on Campus

Monday, April 8

History of Science and Medicine Lecture
Time: 4 PM
Location: 320 York St, room 211
Speakers: Jed Z. Buchwald, Doris and Henry Dreyfuss Professor of History, California Institute of Technology
                 Mordechai Feingold, Professor of History, California Institute of Technology
Topic: Newton and the Origin of Civilization

Tuesday, April 9

Rudd Center/Poynter Fellowship Lecture
Time: 12:30 PM
Location: 170 Whitney, 3rd floor auditorium
Speaker:Dan Harris, Anchor and Correspondent, ABC News
Topic: A Skeptic's Guide to Using Meditation to Fight Overeating -- and Making Yourself 10% Happier, Generally

Wednesday, April 10

School of Forestry Seminar
Time: 12 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, Burke Auditorium
Speaker: Roger Peng, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health
Topic: Estimating the health benefits of reducing particulate matter air pollution

Politics, Markets & Environment Workshop
Time: 12 PM
Location: 195 Prospect St, room 321
Speaker: Michael Aklin, NYU
Topic: Science, Religion, and Environmentalism

Sustainable Food Project Seminar
Time: 4 PM
Location: 100 Wall St, room 120
Speaker: Frederick Kaufman, journalist and author
Topic: Bet the Farm: Talking Corporate Greed

Thursday, April 11

Slifka Center Lecture
Time: 4 PM
Location: 80 Wall St
Speaker: Boris Dittrich, advocacy director, Human Rights Watch
Topic: How to Fight the Homophobes: Lessons from Human Rights Watch

Humanities in Medicine Lecture
Time: 5 PM
Location: 300 Cedar St, Anlyan Auditorium
Speaker: Omar Sultan Haque, MD, MTS, Co-Director of the UNESCO Chair in Bioethics; & Instructor in Psychiatry and Law, Harvard Medical School
Topic: Dehumanization in Medicine: Causes and Cures

Friday, April 12

Agrarian Studies Colloquium
Time: 11 AM
Location: 77 Prospect St, room B012
Speaker: Matthew Bender, History, The College of New Jersey
Topic: Water Brings No Harm: Knowledge, Power, and the Struggle for the Waters of Kilimanjaro

Zigler Center Lecture
Time: 11:30 AM
Location: 100 Wall St, room 116
Speakers: Angelica Ponguta PhD, Maria Chin Reyes PhD
Topic: Effective Programs for Parents of Young Children in the Majority World: A Systematic Review

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Conferences & Off Campus Events

Beyond Kiobel: Human Rights and Corporate Liability in the 21st Century, Robert L. Bernstein International Human Rights Symposium, Yale Law School, Room 127, April 11-12
Since their inception, international human rights laws have aimed to hold state actors accountable for the abuses they perpetrate. In the 21st century, however, the face of the perpetrators has changed. Today, it is not just governments, but also corporations — and, often, complicated unions of the two — that wield abusive power. This change has frustrated traditional mechanisms of accountability and, in doing so, has raised the question of how to hold corporations liable for their role in human rights violations. In Kiobel v. Dutch Royal Petroleum Co., the Supreme Court of the United States is grappling with this issue through the specific prism of the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), a law that allows U.S. federal courts to assess civil liabilities for human rights abuses against aliens, including abuses that occur abroad. Kiobel presents many questions, one of which is whether ATS liability extends to actions brought against corporate defendants. Not surprisingly, Kiobel has inspired upwards of 100 amicus briefs: Behind its technical veneer, the case poses rich questions about the roles that corporations play in today’s world, how international human rights laws make sense of these roles, and whether civil liability can be an effective means of holding corporations accountable for abuses committed abroad.  This year’s Bernstein Symposium will address these issues from conceptual, historical and strategic perspectives. Individual panels of distinguished scholars and advocates will discuss the status of the modern corporation in international law, the history of corporate liability for human rights violations, and avenues for holding corporations accountable after Kiobel. The symposium is open to the public.  For a detailed schedule, click here.

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The Blanchard W. Means Memorial Lecture
Drugs, Genes, and Science Fiction:  the Ethics of Human Enhancement
Dr. W. Miller Brown

April 11, 2013 at 4:30pm

Life Science Auditorium, Trinity College, Hartford CT

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The American Association for the Advancement of Science & The Dana Foundation are pleased to invite you to the first in the 2013 series of public events on Neuroscience & Society: Neuroscience and the Law.  This will take place on April 25, 2013 at 5:30 p.m., with a reception to follow, at the AAAS Auditorium, 1200 New York Ave, NW (Entrance at 12th and H Streets), Washington, DC 20005. Research on the brain has shed new light on the relationship between our thoughts, feelings, and behavior. These advances have not been lost on the legal system, where they raise serious issues for the law, from matters relating to the admissibility of evidence to decisions about criminal culpability. Speakers at this event will address what neuroscience can and cannot tell us about human behavior; the ways in which neuroscience is entering the courtroom; and the challenges this emerging knowledge poses for the trier of fact. For more information about the Neuroscience and Society series visit our website.

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Articles of Interest

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In the News

Featured Article

Doucleff, Michaeleen. In India, Discrimination Against Women Can Start in the Womb. NPR. 29 March 2013.
India has lately become infamous for its epidemic sexual violence and discrimination against women. Sexual harassment there is so rampant that it even has a nickname: Eve-teasing. But mothers may be practicing discrimination, too, in how they treat their daughters in the womb. Indian mothers were slightly more likely to seek out better prenatal care when carrying a boy than when carrying a girl, economists report in the Journal of Human Resources. Continue reading…

Drugs & Pharmaceuticals

Hamilton, Jon. Number Of Early Childhood Vaccines Not Linked To Autism. NPR. 29 March 2013.
A large new government study should reassure parents who are afraid that kids are getting autism because they receive too many vaccines too early in life. The study, by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, found no connection between the number of vaccines a child received and his or her risk of autism spectrum disorder. It also found that even though kids are getting more vaccines these days, those vaccines contain many fewer of the substances that provoke an immune response. Continue reading…

Kestenbaum, David. When A Famous Hospital Didn't Want An Expensive New Drug. NPR. 28 March 2013.
Last year, a new drug called Zaltrap was approved as a kind of last-chance therapy for patients with colorectal cancer. Studies suggested Zaltrap worked almost exactly as well as an existing drug called Avastin. In fact, the main difference between the two drugs seemed to be the price. Saltz and his colleagues at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York made what seemed like a very reasonable decision: The hospital would not stock the more expensive drug. But taking cost into account for a new cancer drug was a very unusual decision for the hospital. Continue reading…


Wines, Michael. Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms. New York Times. 28 March 2013.
A mysterious malady that has been killing honeybees en masse for several years appears to have expanded drastically in the last year, commercial beekeepers say, wiping out 40 percent or even 50 percent of the hives needed to pollinate many of the nation’s fruits and vegetables. A conclusive explanation so far has escaped scientists studying the ailment, colony collapse disorder, since it first surfaced around 2005. But beekeepers and some researchers say there is growing evidence that a powerful new class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids, incorporated into the plants themselves, could be an important factor. Continue reading…

Law and Bioethics

Kennedy Calling For Equal Coverage of Mental Health—Yes, Still. CommonHealth. 29 March 2013.
Mental health “parity” is officially a done deal. Congress passed a law back in 2008 requiring health insurers to treat mental health on a par with physical health, covering care for mental illness and addiction no less than they cover physical care. Many states have also passed their own mental health parity laws. So why has former Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island — lead sponsor of the 2008 bill together with his late father, Sen. Ted Kennedy — spent much of the last couple of years criss-crossing the country to advocate for mental health parity? Why did he feel the need to come to a Massachusetts Division of Insurance hearing this week to push parity yet again? Continue reading…

Howard, Zach. Elite women's college rejects transgender student, prompts outcry. Reuters. 28 March 2013.
A transgender high school student has had her application to a prestigious all-women's college denied because she is tagged as legally male on government documents, prompting a vocal online and social media campaign on her behalf. Calliope Wong, 17, a Connecticut senior who was born a male but has identified as female since adolescence, says Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, twice opted not to read her application and returned it in the mail. Continue reading…

Harris, Gariner and Katie Thomas. Low-Cost Drugs in Poor Nations Get a Lift in Indian Court. New York Times. 1 April 2013.
People in developing countries worldwide will continue to have access to low-cost copycat versions of drugs for diseases like H.I.V. and cancer, at least for a while. Production of the generic drugs in India, the world’s biggest provider of cheap medicines, was ensured on Monday in a ruling by the Indian Supreme Court. Continue reading…

Johnson, Kirk. In Washington, Abortion Debate Counters Trend. New York Times. 1 April 2013.
The legality or availability of abortion is under challenge from North Dakota to Arkansas this spring as conservative state legislatures throw down roadblocks. But here in this corner of the Far West, winds may blow the other way. Washington already was the only state ever to have legalized abortion through a popular vote — in 1970, three years before the United States Supreme Court defined the national legal terrain on the issue in Roe v. Wade — and is now debating a law that would require health insurers to pay for an elective abortion. Continue reading…

Schwarz, Alan and Sarah Cohen. A.D.H.D. Seen in 11% of U.S. Children as Diagnoses Rise. New York Times. 31 March 2013.
Nearly one in five high school age boys in the United States and 11 percent of school-age children over all have received a medical diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These rates reflect a marked rise over the last decade and could fuel growing concern among many doctors that the A.D.H.D. diagnosis and its medication are overused in American children. Continue reading…

Public Health

Grush, Loren. Genetics may determine who becomes a heavy smoker. Fox News. 26 March 2013.
Individuals who pick up smoking as teenagers have a much higher risk of becoming heavy smokers as adults.  And for some, the risk is even greater – depending on their genetics. A team of researchers from the United States, the U.K. and New Zealand utilized previous research on genetics and smoking to develop a genetic risk profile for individuals who eventually become heavy smokers.  Continue reading…

Telis, Gisela. Hypercleanliness may be making us sick. Washington Post. 25 March 2013.
A growing body of evidence suggests that all the antibacterial-wiping, germ-killing cleanliness of the developed world may actually be making us more prone to getting sick — and that a little more dirt might help us stay healthier in the long run. The idea, known as the hygiene hypothesis, was first proposed in 1989 by epidemiologist David P. Strachen, who analyzed data from 17,414 British children and found that those who had grown up with more siblings (and presumably more germs) were less likely to have allergies and eczema. Since then, the theory has been cited as a possible explanation for everything from multiple sclerosis to hay fever and autism. But its particulars aren’t so clean and clear. Continue reading…

Research Ethics

Unique study reveals genetic 'spelling mistakes' that increase the risk of common cancers. Medical Xpress. 27 March 2013.
More than 80 genetic 'spelling mistakes' that can increase the risk of breast, prostate and ovarian cancer have been found in a large, international research study within the framework of the EU Network COGS. For the first time, the researchers also have a relatively clear picture of the total number of genetic alterations that can be linked to these cancers. Ultimately the researchers hope to be able to calculate the individual risk of cancer, to better understand how these cancers develop and to be able to generate new treatments. Continue reading…


Knox, Richard. Catalog of Gene Markers for Some Cancers Doubles in Size. NPR. 27 March 2013.
The largest gene-probing study ever done has fished out dozens of new genetic markers that flag a person's susceptibility to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. The 74 newly discovered genetic variants double the previously known number for these malignancies, all of which are driven by sex hormones. Continue reading…

Krieger, Lisa. Biological computer created at Stanford. Mercury News. 29 March 2013.
A team of Stanford engineers has made a simple computer inside a living cell, where it could detect disease, warn of toxic threats and, where danger lurked, even self-destruct cells gone rogue. The startling achievement, unveiled in Friday's issue of the journal Science, takes us to a new frontier -- where nature's instruction manual is being programmed to deliver information long-concealed within our bodies. Continue reading…

Bilton, Nick. The Child, the Tablet and the Developing Mind. New York Times. 31 March 2013.
I recently watched my sister perform an act of magic. We were sitting in a restaurant, trying to have a conversation, but her children, 4-year-old Willow and 7-year-old Luca, would not stop fighting. The arguments — over a fork, or who had more water in a glass — were unrelenting. Continue reading…

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In the Journals

Angwenyi, Vibian. Working with Community Health Workers as 'Volunteers' In A Vaccine Trial: Practical and Ethical Experiences and Implications. Developing World Bioethics. April 2013.
Community engagement is increasingly emphasized in biomedical research, as a right in itself, and to strengthen ethical practice. We draw on interviews and observations to consider the practical and ethical implications of involving Community Health Workers (CHWs) as part of a community engagement strategy for a vaccine trial on the Kenyan Coast. CHWs were initially engaged as an important network to be informed about the trial. However over time, and in response to community advice, they became involved in trial information sharing and identifying potential participants; thereby taking on roles that overlapped with those of employed fieldworkers (FWs). While CHWs involvement was generally perceived as positive and appreciated, there were challenges in their relations with FWs and other community members, partly related to levels and forms of remuneration. Specifically, payment of CHWs was not as high as for FWs and was based on ‘performance’. This extrinsic motivation had the potential to crowd out CHWs intrinsic motivation to perform their pre-existing community roles. CHWs remuneration potentially also contributed to CHWs distorting trial information to encourage community members to participate; and to researchers encouraging CHWs to utilize their social connections and status to increase the numbers of people who attended information giving sessions. Individual consent processes were protected in this trial through final information sharing and consent being conducted by trained clinical staff who were not embedded in study communities. However, our experiences suggest that roles and remuneration of all front line staff and volunteers involved in trials need careful consideration from the outset, and monitoring and discussion over time. Continue reading...

Jaycox, Michael. Coercion, Autonomy, and the Preferential Option for the Poor in the Ethics of Organ Transplantation. Developing World Bioethics. December 2012.
The debate concerning whether to legalize and regulate the global market in human organs is hindered by a lack of adequate bioethical language. The author argues that the preferential option for the poor, a theological category, can provide the grounding for an inductive moral epistemology adequate for reforming the use of culturally Western bioethical language. He proposes that the traditional, Western concept of bioethical coercion ought to be modified and expanded because the conditions of the market system, as viewed from the perspective of organ vendors systemically deprived of access to sufficient resources, are sufficiently exploitative as to diminish the possibility of these vendors giving informed consent. Moreover, empirical studies conducted by professionals in medicine, sociology, psychiatry, economics, and medical anthropology continue to contribute support to the growing interdisciplinary consensus that functionally coercive structural factors exert the most significant influence upon a vendor's decision to sell an organ within any market, regardless of legality or degree of regulation. Therefore any proposal to legalize and regulate the organ market remains patently unethical because doing so would likely function to constrain further the agency of poor potential vendors. Continue reading...

Padela, Aasim. Brain Death in Islamic Ethico-Legal Deliberation: Challenges for Applied Islamic Bioethics. Bioethics. March 2013.
Since the 1980s, Islamic scholars and medical experts have used the tools of Islamic law to formulate ethico-legal opinions on brain death. These assessments have varied in their determinations and remain controversial. Some juridical councils such as the Organization of Islamic Conferences' Islamic Fiqh Academy (OIC-IFA) equate brain death with cardiopulmonary death, while others such as the Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences (IOMS) analogize brain death to an intermediate state between life and death. Still other councils have repudiated the notion entirely. Similarly, the ethico-legal assessments are not uniform in their acceptance of brain-stem or whole-brain criteria for death, and consequently their conceptualizations of, brain death. Within the medical literature, and in the statements of Muslim medical professional societies, brain death has been viewed as sanctioned by Islamic law with experts citing the aforementioned rulings. Furthermore, health policies around organ transplantation and end-of-life care within the Muslim world have been crafted with consideration of these representative religious determinations made by transnational, legally-inclusive, and multidisciplinary councils. The determinations of these councils also have bearing upon Muslim clinicians and patients who encounter the challenges of brain death at the bedside. For those searching for ‘Islamically-sanctioned’ responses that can inform their practice, both the OIC-IFA and IOMS verdicts have palpable gaps in their assessments and remain clinically ambiguous. In this paper we analyze these verdicts from the perspective of applied Islamic bioethics and raise several questions that, if answered by future juridical councils, will better meet the needs of clinicians and bioethicists. Continue reading...

Persson, Ingmar. Getting Moral Enhancement Right: The Desirability of Moral Bioenhancement. Bioethics. March 2013.
Experiences from Two Malaria Vaccine Trials Involving Healthy Children on the Kenyan Coast. Developing World Bioethics. February 2013. We respond to a number of objections raised by John Harris in this journal to our argument that we should pursue genetic and other biological means of morally enhancing human beings (moral bioenhancement). We claim that human beings now have at their disposal means of wiping out life on Earth and that traditional methods of moral education are probably insufficient to achieve the moral enhancement required to ensure that this will not happen. Hence, we argue, moral bioenhancement should be sought and applied. We argue that cognitive enhancement and technological progress raise acute problems because it is easier to harm than to benefit. We address objections to this argument. We also respond to objections that moral bioenhancement: (1) interferes with freedom; (2) cannot be made to target immoral dispositions precisely; (3) is redundant, since cognitive enhancement by itself suffices. Continue reading...

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Ars Technica

Wilkinson, Allie. Climate change may be irreversible, but we control the future trajectory. April 4, 2013.
Irreversible does not mean unavoidable when it comes to climate change. Although we're committed to the damage from past carbon dioxide increases, steps to cut carbon emissions today would start to affect the rate of future global warming immediately. Continue reading…

Editorial. New strain of bird flu hops to humans in China. April 3, 2013.
Even as global health experts were nervously eyeing a new coronavirus that has caused more than 10 deaths, word has arrived that China may be facing a new threat from an influenza virus typically limited to birds. Currently, there have been nine confirmed infections that resulted in three deaths. However, there may be other infections that haven't come to the attention of health authorities, and the original source of the infections remains unknown. Continue reading…

Los Angeles Times

Editorial. Blowing smoke on workplace health. April 4, 2013.
The best way to hire productive employees is to look for people with qualifications, talent, honesty and commitment. Now, however, a small but growing number of employers are looking for something else as well: job applicants who don't smoke. As much as we despair of the death and damage caused by tobacco, this new employment criterion strikes us as a lamentable and unwarranted intrusion into applicants' private lives — and one that should worry anyone in this country who has an elevated risk for any sort of injury or illness. In other words, most of us. Continue reading…

Editorial. Bump in the road for healthcare law. March 29, 2013.
One figure in a new report neatly summarizes the potential pitfalls for Obamacare: 30.1%. That's how much premiums could rise next year, on average, for the roughly 1.3 million moderate- and upper-income Californians who buy individual health insurance policies. Most of that increase is attributable to the insurance reforms in the 2010 law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. The bill's title is not ironic — its provisions will slow the growth of healthcare costs and lead over time to a more rational and efficient system. But the transition will have some rough patches, and we're about to hit one. Continue reading…


Pala, Christopher. Detective work uncovers under-reported overfishing. April 2, 2013.
It is a whopper of a catch, in more ways than one: China is under-reporting its overseas fishing catch by more than an order of magnitude, according to a study published on 23 March. The problem is particularly acute in the rich fisheries of West Africa, where a lack of transparency in reporting is threatening efforts to evaluate the ecological health of the waters. Continue reading…

New Scientist

Editorial. Don’t fear babies made with the genes from three parents. March 20, 2013.
Nobody knows how many of them there are, but we know they exist. They are sometimes called "three-parent offspring", which sounds sinister. But if you met one you would never know them from any other kid. Continue reading…

New York Times

Editorial. Saving money, poisoning workers. April 4, 2013.
The workers at Royale Comfort Seating in Taylorsville, N.C., had a simple but grueling job. For 10 hours at a stretch they spray-glued pieces of polyurethane foam into shapes that became the spongy filling of cushions sold to many top furniture brands. Unfortunately, the glue contained a dangerous chemical known as n-propyl bromide, or nPB, and the spray guns left a yellowish fog in the air that coated everything in sight. Exposure to the toxic fumes left some workers so dizzy at the end of the day that they walked as if drunk. Continue reading…

Editorial. India’s Novartis Decision. April 4, 2013.
The Supreme Court in India ruled on Monday that Novartis, the pharmaceutical company, should not be given a patent for a cancer drug because it was too similar to Novartis’s earlier version. The decision, which is the culmination of a high-profile, seven-year legal battle, should help protect the availability of cheap generic drugs for poor patients. Continue reading…

Editorial. On the frontiers of brain research. April 2, 2013.
President Obama officially announced his new brain research initiative on Tuesday, with a pledge to put $100 million in his 2014 budget to support work at three federal agencies. It is a modest but welcome start for an effort that could transform our understanding of how the brain works and help researchers find new ways to treat and prevent brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s. Continue reading…

Editorial. Using Medicaid dollars for private insurance. March 31, 2013.
The Obama administration and Republican officials in several states are exploring ways to redirect federal money intended to expand Medicaid, the main public insurance program for the poor, and use it instead to buy private health insurance for Medicaid recipients. The approach could have important benefits for beneficiaries and for the future of health care reform. But the idea also carries big risks. Federal officials will need to enforce strict conditions before agreeing to any redirection of Medicaid dollars that were originally intended to enlarge the Medicaid rolls. Continue reading…

Editorial. A prescription for sick workers. March 29, 2013.
New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has finally agreed to require businesses to provide paid sick leave for as many as one million workers. This is good news, although it will take at least a year for most employees to enjoy a basic benefit widely available elsewhere. Continue reading…


Borrell, Brendan. The WHO vs. the Tea Doctor. April 4, 2013.
Entebbe, Uganda—It's a little after 9 a.m. on the Wagagai Flower Farm, and Robert Watsusi pedals a bicycle laden with two 3-gallon jugs of a hot, bitter black tea. As he rounds a corner, workers emerge from football field–size growing houses to imbibe their weekly dose of the elixir they say keeps them free from malaria. “When I see people taking it, I feel happy,” says Watsusi. “It is very good for everyone.” Continue reading…

Stern, Mark. The Week I had HIV. April 3, 2013.
“You should go ahead and assume that you have HIV,” the doctor said. It was just before 7 on a frigid January evening. I was alone in my apartment in Washington, D.C.; I hadn’t been expecting a call from the doctor. Several weeks earlier, I had come down with a fever and spent a good week laid up in bed. When I finally called my primary care physician, whom I’d chosen only a month earlier due to his proximity to my apartment, his receptionist signed me up for the next available appointment, which was a week away. Desperate, I went to a hospital, then an urgent care center, where a doctor suspected some kind of infection and prescribed a hefty dose of antibiotics. Within a few days, my fever had faded, but I decided to keep my appointment regardless. My new doctor, whom I’ll call Dr. Smith, gave me a checkup, drew blood, and promised to run a full panel of tests. I hadn’t realized that HIV would be one of them. Continue reading…

Brennan, Patricia. Why I study Duck Genitalia. April 2, 2013.
In the past few days, the Internet has been filled with commentary on whether the National Science Foundation should have paid for my study on duck genitalia, and 88.7 percent of respondents to a Fox news online poll agreed that studying duck genitalia is wasteful government spending. The commentary supporting and decrying the study continues to grow. As the lead investigator in this research, I would like to weigh in on the controversy and offer some insights into the process of research funding by the NSF. Continue reading…

Brumfiel, Geoffrey. Is living in a nuclear evacuation zone good for you? April 2, 2013.
When the evacuation order came two years ago, Naoko Ito had to decide whether to stay or go. Her house had just been rocked by the great Tohoku earthquake, and an ensuing tsunami had washed away part of her seaside village. Her home seemed to have come through the worst of it, but just 10 miles away another crisis was brewing at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The tsunami had flooded emergency systems and a meltdown seemed imminent. The authorities wanted everyone out. Continue reading…

Saletan, William. Unfit to Bear Arms. April 1, 2013.
In the last few days, investigators in Connecticut and Arizona have released thousands of pages of documents about the Tucson and Sandy Hook massacres. The documents, coupled with investigative leaks and with testimony about the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., paint a clearer picture of what caused these tragedies. It isn’t just high-capacity magazines or defenseless victims. It’s a failure to link firearms access to mental health information. Continue reading…

Washington Post

Editorial. Obama must take the lead on Medicare reform. April 4, 2013.
Reforming Medicare must be part of long-term deficit reduction. Alas, between House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) plan to replace Medicare with a “premium support” and President Obama’s refusal to countenance it, Washington is hopelessly deadlocked. Continue reading…

Editorial. A promising and difficult plan to end polio. April 3, 2013.
The world witnessed only 223 polio cases last year, the lowest level in history and an impressive advance from the hundreds of thousands of children afflicted as recently as the 1980s. However, the eradication quest is not over, and the next steps look difficult. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative, an umbrella group, has unveiled a promising strategy over the next five years to reach zero cases, the elusive goal first set a quarter-century ago. Continue reading…

Editorial. New EPA rules on tailpipe emissions will save lives. March 31, 2013.
Every time you start up your car, it begins to spew a smelly mixture of gases that wafts into the atmosphere, reacts in the sunlight and forms the brownish haze called smog. Along with those gases come soot and other substances that condense into fine particles. Continue reading…

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