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The feds are still dodging the Charleston Gazette's requests for information on the toxic water spill in West Virginia.

Last Thursday, I wrote that the Gazette--frustrated by the lack of a response to repeated calls...

The feds are still dodging the Charleston Gazette's requests for information on the toxic water spill in West Virginia.

Last Thursday, I wrote that the Gazette--frustrated by the lack of a response to repeated calls left for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)--reached the CDC's director at home. He promptly booted them to the press office. That didn't seem to be the way an important public health agency should act during a public health emergency.

After I posted, I asked Irene Wielawski and Felice Freyer, the co-chairs of the Right to Know Committee of the Association of Health Care Journalists, whether they could shed any light on the CDC's behavior. Wielawski contacted the Department of Health and Human Services, where she reached Mark Weber of public affairs.

She emailed me to tell me what he had told her. He said the department held a...

Tabitha M. Powledge of On Science Blogs has some sort of obsession with the number of bacteria enfolded in each of us. She can't let it go. But she must. Apparently, the "fact" that nine out of ten cells in our bodies are microbes is not a fact after all,...

Tabitha M. Powledge of On Science Blogs has some sort of obsession with the number of bacteria enfolded in each of us. She can't let it go. But she must. Apparently, the "fact" that nine out of ten cells in our bodies are microbes is not a fact after all, she writes.

Brace yourself: It looks like the correct ratio is 3 microbes for every human cell. "I am a bit mournful about this development," Powledge writes. "The idea of 10 microbes to every human cell is so much cooler than only 3 to 1."

And cool is what it's all about.

Fortunately, she's able to recover enough to point us to some interesting posts on how tweets affect a scientific paper's impact and whether vitamin E can slow the decline of Alzheimer's patients.

She also explores the not-exactly-accurate announcement by Illumina that it can...

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Tom Frieden, M.D., MPH (yes, his official bio says "Tom") was appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June, 2009. His bio says his top three priorities are (1) fighting global disease threats; (2) reducing the...

Tom Frieden, M.D., MPH (yes, his official bio says "Tom") was appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June, 2009. His bio says his top three priorities are (1) fighting global disease threats; (2) reducing the incidence of smoking, inactivity, diabetes, hypertension, and others; and this one (3):

Strengthening public health & health care collaboration - by aligning, coordinating and integrating public health and health care to improve health outcomes.

Last Thursday, up to 7,500 gallons of a chemical compound called MCHM spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia, forcing a shutdown of the drinking water supply for 300,000 people, in what The New York Times called "a sweeping health and...

A "shriveled piece of intestine" from an unfortunate, unknown victim of Philadelphia's 1849 outbreak of cholera has given researchers just enough material for them to decode the DNA of the bacteria that struck him down.

...

A "shriveled piece of intestine" from an unfortunate, unknown victim of Philadelphia's 1849 outbreak of cholera has given researchers just enough material for them to decode the DNA of the bacteria that struck him down.

So reports Tom Avril of the Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that while the sequencing of this historical, and historic, cholera will be "of no immediate help to doctors who treat the modern form of the disease," it will "offer clues as to how the microbe has tweaked itself to remain a deadly fixture in the human experience."

You might be wondering who would save a piece of intestine for more than 150 years and why.

Avril asks his readers, "Care to guess who had something like that sitting on a shelf?"

It's a fair bet that many of his...

[Update: A Science News staffer who fears she is growing paranoid wants to know why we have steadfastly ignored SN's list of top 25 science stories of 2013. And...

[Update: A Science News staffer who fears she is growing paranoid wants to know why we have steadfastly ignored SN's list of top 25 science stories of 2013. And so do I! Who is responsible for this calamity? Answer: All of us. Our rigorous (?) search for lists left you out, and it shouldn't have. And SN's No. 1 for 2013? "Your body is mostly microbes."]

 

Have you had your fill of the science stories of 2013?

Before you answer, you should take a look at the grandest list of lists that I've found. Tabitha M. Powledge put it together at On Science Blogs, collecting lists from here at the Tracker and everywhere else she could find them. If these...

“Tone-deaf, ghoulish, & lacking in empathy,” tweeted Boing Boing writer Xeni Jardin.  “Reprehensible,” wrote Ayelet Waldman. “A tragically shallow misreading...

“Tone-deaf, ghoulish, & lacking in empathy,” tweeted Boing Boing writer Xeni Jardin.  “Reprehensible,” wrote Ayelet Waldman. “A tragically shallow misreading,” tweeted Steve Silberman.

A pair of opinion pieces published in quick succession by Guardian columnist Emma Keller and her husband, former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, were greeted on the internet as personal attacks on Lisa Bonchek Adams, a Connecticut resident who discusses life with metastatic cancer via ...

When Matthew Herper of Forbes called for nominations of young scientists to be part of the annual Forbes list of 30 Under 30, "no name came up more than that of Jack Andraka, the 16-year-old [now 17] who created a prototype cancer diagnostic test and won the top $75,000 prize...

When Matthew Herper of Forbes called for nominations of young scientists to be part of the annual Forbes list of 30 Under 30, "no name came up more than that of Jack Andraka, the 16-year-old [now 17] who created a prototype cancer diagnostic test and won the top $75,000 prize at Intel’s annual high school science fair," Herper writes.

Herper wasn't surprised. He notes that "for two years, Andraka has been everywhere." That includes 60 Minutes, ABC World News Tonight, and even Forbes. "He was honored as a “Champion of Change” at the White House and was Michelle Obama’s guest during the 2013 State of the Union Address," Herper writes. "He has given many TEDx talks, the most prominent of which...

An uproar over sexual harassment charges against one of the cofounders of the ScienceOnline meeting has so far not affected this year's attendance, one of the meeting's founders and organizers said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"We filled the registration within an hour, and we filled the...

An uproar over sexual harassment charges against one of the cofounders of the ScienceOnline meeting has so far not affected this year's attendance, one of the meeting's founders and organizers said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"We filled the registration within an hour, and we filled the remaining spots from a lottery," said Karyn Traphagen, the meeting's executive director, said. "Typically, we have 7-10 percent of attendees who cancel each year. This year, we have about 3 percent, but we have another seven weeks to go...We're moving ahead like we normally do." The meeting will be held Feb. 27-March 1 in Raleigh, N.C.

Only three of those who canceled said they were doing so because of the controversy over sexual harassment allegations leveled against Bora Zivkovic, another one of the meeting's founders and, until recently, the public face of ScienceOnline. Zivkovic...

[Update 2:01p: CJT, with a hat tip to the Tracker, tweeted that it had added the drug's brand name to its story.]

[Update, 12:12 pm: Richard Knox tweeted, "When 1st piece aired no price set. Always intended a folo."]

On Dec. 5, Richard Knox of ...

[Update 2:01p: CJT, with a hat tip to the Tracker, tweeted that it had added the drug's brand name to its story.]

[Update, 12:12 pm: Richard Knox tweeted, "When 1st piece aired no price set. Always intended a folo."]

On Dec. 5, Richard Knox of NPR reported that the Food and Drug Administration was on the verge of approving a new drug to treat hepatitis C, a leading cause of liver failure and liver cancer. The disease afflicts more than 3 million Americans, and the once-a-day pill can cure most patients, he reported--which makes the new drug a very important one.

Trudy Lieberman, writing in her blog  The Second Opinion at Columbia Journalism Review...

On Sunday morning, Charlotte Porter, a deft reporter and editor and a former colleague of mine at The Associated Press, noted a strange juxtaposition of stories on the front page of The New York Times--one that the front-page editors seem to have missed.

...

On Sunday morning, Charlotte Porter, a deft reporter and editor and a former colleague of mine at The Associated Press, noted a strange juxtaposition of stories on the front page of The New York Times--one that the front-page editors seem to have missed.

"Two stories on the New York Times front page today, one about gun advocates ganging up on a man who tried to be thoughtful in that debate, the other about GMO opponents ganging up on a man who tried to find the truth in that one," she posted on Facebook. "Wonder how many readers deplored the tactics in one while cheering them in another?"

The stories were indeed similar. One, headlined "Banished for Questioning the Gospel of Guns," by Ravi Somaiya, concerned Dick...

Radar Online published a curious story Saturday that led with this: "Jenny McCarthy wants everyone to know that her son WAS diagnosed with autism and she’s never thought otherwise."

...

Radar Online published a curious story Saturday that led with this: "Jenny McCarthy wants everyone to know that her son WAS diagnosed with autism and she’s never thought otherwise."

Excuse me, but didn't we know that? And why the emphasis on "was"?

That's because this story followed a Radar report hours earlier claiming that Jenny McCarthy had revealed that her son did not have autism. That would have been huge news. McCarthy is by far the most vocal and visible critic of vaccines, alleging that they caused her son's autism. If he doesn't have autism, her case...

Among the thousand natural shocks that journalism is heir to is the temptation to shill for money. Why muck about with persnickety editors when you can get cash on the barrelhead?

The latest opportunity to make a deal comes from DrColbert.com, the website of Dr. Colbert...

Among the thousand natural shocks that journalism is heir to is the temptation to shill for money. Why muck about with persnickety editors when you can get cash on the barrelhead?

The latest opportunity to make a deal comes from DrColbert.com, the website of Dr. Colbert's Divine Health, a medical practice that seems to revolve around the promotion and sale of various supplements and books such as What Would Jesus Eat? (available in paperback). 

DrColbert.com has a deal for you. You can earn cash--a $5 bonus!--for writing a blog post mentioning Dr. Colbert. Here are the instructions, according to an email sent out last month:

- Blog Post must contain unique content.
- Blog Post must be at least 100 words long.
- Adding an image increases creditability.
- Click here<http://cts.vresp.com/c/?eAccountable/a391d1bccc/0708f60f16/0e6a79efc0> for current specials to...

Over the holidays, David Brooks, the New York Times  op-ed columnist, bestowed his Sidney Awards on what he thought were the top magazine essays of the year. And in doing so, he betrayed a...

Over the holidays, David Brooks, the New York Times  op-ed columnist, bestowed his Sidney Awards on what he thought were the top magazine essays of the year. And in doing so, he betrayed a profound misunderstanding of scientific inquiry.

He praises a debate in The New Republic in which Leon Wieseltier and Steven Pinker debated "the proper role of science in modern thought." Pinker, Brooks writes, tells us that "despite what some blinkered humanities professors argue, science gives us insight into nearly everything." I doubt that Pinker dismisses all humanities professors as "blinkered," but Brooks seems to think we have to choose between one or the other--science or humanities. We don't.

Further, Brooks writes that Pinker believes "science has given us a...

Tracker Charlie Petit has done an excellent job of rounding up the best--and some of the worst--stories of 2013, in his List of lists and his parsing of all of them into what he offers as...

Tracker Charlie Petit has done an excellent job of rounding up the best--and some of the worst--stories of 2013, in his List of lists and his parsing of all of them into what he offers as a consensus view.

I wanted to add mention of a few examples of what are now fashionably known as longreads or longform journalism, but which were known before 2005 or so as feature stories. Or--in newspaper jargon--takeouts.

As I've said here before, longform ≠ good. Long stories can be awful. Or transcendent. I'm not the only one who thinks we should do away with the term "longform." The important distinction is not between long stories and short, but between good stories and bad.

With that grouchiness out of the...

One of the hazards of digesting the news every day is that it recedes so quickly into the past that we can have trouble remembering what happened.

So I decided to look back at 2013 at the Tracker. Here are a few posts I wrote over the past year that I thought might be worth a second look:

In January,...

One of the hazards of digesting the news every day is that it recedes so quickly into the past that we can have trouble remembering what happened.

So I decided to look back at 2013 at the Tracker. Here are a few posts I wrote over the past year that I thought might be worth a second look:

In January, a piece of personal-health journalism in the Columbia Journalism Review criticized others' health reporting on the grounds that most studies on which it is based are wrong. The author, David H. Freedman, paradoxically cited studies himself to try to demolish the others. He did not succeed.

The past year was a year of many "cures," I realized. One of the first occurred in March, when reporters wrote about a baby that was "cured" of...

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