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Paul Raeburn's Tracker

[Update, 11/27/13: Denise Grady of the Times reports that the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology has reversed its position, meaning that its members may now be "permitted to...

[Update, 11/27/13: Denise Grady of the Times reports that the American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology has reversed its position, meaning that its members may now be "permitted to treat male patients for sexually transmitted infections and to screen men for anal cancer." Here's a clear example of a story that made a difference. Congratulations to Grady.]

How many medical organizations would order their doctors not to treat certain patients, or else risk losing their jobs?

Thanks to a story by Denise Grady at The New York Times, we now know of one: The American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

"To remain certified by ABOG, the care of male...

Take a close look at any part of the U.S. healthcare system, it seems, and you'll find another botched practice that sickens or kills patients and wastes billions of dollars.

What could be simpler than this: Test newborns for illnesses that can be identified and prevented, saving lives and saving vast...

Take a close look at any part of the U.S. healthcare system, it seems, and you'll find another botched practice that sickens or kills patients and wastes billions of dollars.

What could be simpler than this: Test newborns for illnesses that can be identified and prevented, saving lives and saving vast expenditures on treatment that would otherwise be required later.

Take the blood at birth, overnight it to a lab, check the results, and adjust treatment accordingly. That's what hospitals and doctors do.

Here's what Ellen Gabler and her colleagues at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found out when they reported on how well the system is working in 31 states from which they could get...

When it comes to debating science stories and medical claims, sometimes less is more.

During the past 15 months, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, a science writer and the author of An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune...

When it comes to debating science stories and medical claims, sometimes less is more.

During the past 15 months, Moises Velasquez-Manoff, a science writer and the author of An Epidemic of Absence: A New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases, has published three articles in the Sunday Review section of The New York Times.

Each has made an unproven and controversial claim. The first, published in August, 2012, argued that "at least a subset of autism — perhaps one-third, and very likely more — looks like a type of inflammatory disease," possibly because we no longer live in "environments that resemble our evolutionary past, full of microbes and parasites."

The...

[Updates with mention of AP story.]

Obama isn't the only one with a disastrous healthcare rollout--leading cardiologists have made a mess of their healthcare proposal, too.

And to make things worse, The New York Times is now offering medical advice.

In anticipation of the annual...

[Updates with mention of AP story.]

Obama isn't the only one with a disastrous healthcare rollout--leading cardiologists have made a mess of their healthcare proposal, too.

And to make things worse, The New York Times is now offering medical advice.

In anticipation of the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Dallas this week, cardiologists last week issued new guidelines for the treatment and prevention of heart disease--with the imprimatur of both the heart association and the American College of Cardiology. That's as good a pedigree as you can ask for.

Alas, they didn't get it right.

Among other things, the guidelines provide a new risk calculator that doctors can use to determine whether patients should be treated. The calculator, like the healthcare.gov website, immediately came under sharp criticism. In today's paper, Gina Kolata of The New York Times  ...

[You can find another look at this story in Charlie Petit's post last week.]

For about a week, I've been mulling over an AP...

[You can find another look at this story in Charlie Petit's post last week.]

For about a week, I've been mulling over an AP investigative story on problems with the Obama administration's ethanol policy.

I've come to the conclusion that it's a pretty good story--not a great one. And the problem is not with the reporting, but with the writing and editing.

The story reports that the Obama administration was pushed into its ethanol policy by Obama's strong support for ethanol in his first presidential campaign--a tactic aimed at winning votes in Illinois, his home state, and Iowa. That left the Obama EPA to craft regulations that would encourage ethanol use and protect the environment. As the AP's Dina Cappiello and...

Last week, I wrote about the astonishing "news" that scientists had done something we would have thought impossible: They discovered a new body part!

As I wrote then, the discovery was "amazing, except for one...

Last week, I wrote about the astonishing "news" that scientists had done something we would have thought impossible: They discovered a new body part!

As I wrote then, the discovery was "amazing, except for one little detail, a detail so trivial I'm embarrassed to bring it up: It isn't true."

USA Today, Gizmodo, Vanity Fair, and Time were among the many news organizations that fell for a sloppy press release that, like a story passed around a campfire, was inflated until little of the truth remained.

As I pointed out then, the first line of the study reporting this finding accurately said that the body part in question--a knee ligament--had been described by a French surgeon in 1879.

Gretchen Reynolds of the Phys Ed blog at The New York...

This post is likely to contain more conflicts of interest than have ever heretofore been shoved into one box. I work for MIT, the Tracker is based at MIT, Technology Review is both a general interest magazine published at MIT and it serves as the MIT alumni magazine, and I'm an alumnus of MIT....

This post is likely to contain more conflicts of interest than have ever heretofore been shoved into one box. I work for MIT, the Tracker is based at MIT, Technology Review is both a general interest magazine published at MIT and it serves as the MIT alumni magazine, and I'm an alumnus of MIT. Oh, and I almost forgot--I've written for Technology Review, but not recently.

Despite all of that, I'm about to post a glowing review of the current issue of Technology Review. Do with it what you will.

Under the editorship of Jason Pontin, an Oxford graduate who is also Tech Review's publisher, the magazine has covered a broad range of science and technology, including the technology business and life sciences. (Incidentally, I don't know Pontin, although we have interacted on Twitter.)

The November/December issue provides a good example of what...

Yesterday, I posted on an amusing article by The New Republic's Julia Ioffe about her case of pertussis, or whooping cough--which she blamed on the celebrity anti-vaccine activist Jenny...

Yesterday, I posted on an amusing article by The New Republic's Julia Ioffe about her case of pertussis, or whooping cough--which she blamed on the celebrity anti-vaccine activist Jenny McCarthy.

Ioffe wrote that she had been vaccinated as a child, but that the vaccine had worn off, and therefore she had become vulnerable to catching whooping cough from unvaccinated children.

Later in the day, the science writer and blogger Tara Haelle, a senior editor at dailyRX, noted in a comment that Ioffe's whooping cough might not be McCarthy's fault. The comment links to a lengthy, solidly reported post on her blog...

The AP's Seth Borenstein reminds us in a quick but important story this week that while storms such as Typhoon Haiyan cannot be prevented, the devastation they cause can be--or at least...

The AP's Seth Borenstein reminds us in a quick but important story this week that while storms such as Typhoon Haiyan cannot be prevented, the devastation they cause can be--or at least it can be sharply reduced. Poverty, shoddy construction, and a booming population are among the factors that can be managed to minimize the staggering consequences of huge storms, Borenstein writes.

As Kerry Emanuel, an MIT meteorologist, told Borenstein, "You have a very intense event hitting a very susceptible part of the world. It's that combination of nature and man. If one of those ingredients were missing, you wouldn't have a disaster."

The same point was made by others, including Alex Thomson of...

[Update 11/13: See my new post today, which corrects some misinformation in Ioffe's piece and suggests that maybe this wasn't Jenny McCarthy's fault after all.]

 

Julia Ioffe...

[Update 11/13: See my new post today, which corrects some misinformation in Ioffe's piece and suggests that maybe this wasn't Jenny McCarthy's fault after all.]

 

Julia Ioffe has a cold.

Well, not exactly. She has a "100-day cough," otherwise known as pertussis, or whooping cough. She has been coughing for 72 days. "Not on and off coughing, but continuously, every day and every night, for two and a half months. And not just coughing, but whooping: doubled over, body clenched, sucking violently for air, my face reddening and my eyes watering. Sometimes, I cough...

If you're a fan of J-horror films, you're going to love Fox News, which reports the following: "Japan's 'toxic monster' creeping towards US." The story begins this way:

...

If you're a fan of J-horror films, you're going to love Fox News, which reports the following: "Japan's 'toxic monster' creeping towards US." The story begins this way:

An enormous debris field is creeping toward the U.S. in the wake of the massive earthquake and tsunami that shook Japan in 2011, killing nearly 16,000 people and launching 1.5 million tons of floating objects into the sea.

That most concentrated part of the junk field is easily broader than Texas and centered approximately 1,700 miles off the Pacific coast, between California and Hawaii...

A Texas-sized toxic monster! Actually, no. Fox is teasing us. Before you can picture something like the photograph above--something extending for a thousand miles--Fox pulls back. It is likely, Fox reports, "that the trash...

It was startling news, but an easy story to write: Scientists have discovered a new body part! Amazing, isn't it, that something could have eluded us since the time of Hippocrates?

Well, it would be amazing, except for one little detail, a detail so trivial I'm embarrassed to bring it up: It isn'...

It was startling news, but an easy story to write: Scientists have discovered a new body part! Amazing, isn't it, that something could have eluded us since the time of Hippocrates?

Well, it would be amazing, except for one little detail, a detail so trivial I'm embarrassed to bring it up: It isn't true.

But, hey, it's an unusually warm Thursday in New York, I'm feeling good about life, so let's give the journalists who bungled this story a break.

Why? Because in order to discover that the story wasn't true, they would have had to dig down all the way to the very first line of the study's abstract, which says, "In 1879, the French surgeon Segond described the existence of a 'pearly, resistant, fibrous band' at the anterolateral aspect of the human knee..."

That's the body part in question, as...

[Lest I be accused of missing the lede, this update: Hillary Rosner, who won the AAAS award for pupfish, also won awards this year from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the...

[Lest I be accused of missing the lede, this update: Hillary Rosner, who won the AAAS award for pupfish, also won awards this year from the Society of Environmental Journalists and the National Association of Science Writers. Nice hat trick. And if you see her coming, duck!]

Stories about the Devil's Hole pupfish, crowd-sourced solutions to protein-folding problems, and black lung in miners were among the winners of the 2013 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards, the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced today.

The abbreviated list of winners follows. You can learn more about them from the AAAS press release:

Large Newspaper: Circulation of 100,000 or More...

At the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers last weekend in Gainesville, Fla., a rumor circulated that the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard might be resuming its popular...

At the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers last weekend in Gainesville, Fla., a rumor circulated that the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard might be resuming its popular conference on narrative journalism, which was suspended several years ago.

It's not true.

I emailed Nieman's curator, Anne Marie Lipinski, to ask her about it. "Our narrative plans are evolving, but we're unlikely to plan an encore of that same conference," she said, with no further elaboration.

-Paul Raeburn

[Updates with link to Chris Arnade's Flickr page.]

"I write, I listen, I research, I tell stories. Mostly just listen. I don't think we listen without judgment enough," writes Cassie Rodenberg...

[Updates with link to Chris Arnade's Flickr page.]

"I write, I listen, I research, I tell stories. Mostly just listen. I don't think we listen without judgment enough," writes Cassie Rodenberg, introducing her Scientific American blog The White Noise. "I explore marginalized things we like to ignore. Addiction and mental illness is The White Noise behind many lives -- simply what Is."

What she doesn't say is that the place where she goes to listen can be as dangerous as a war zone--Hunt's Point, in New York's South Bronx.

It's home to the Hunts Point Food Distribution Center, which...

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