The Greatest Silence

tgs-poster.jpgI missed this last night, both because I don’t have HBO, and because I was playing my last soccer game. If you have HBO, record and torrent it, because I can’t find it anywhere yet. This year’s Special Jury Prize at Sundance went to The Greatest Silence:

Since 1998 a brutal war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Over 4 million people have died. And there are the uncountable casualties: the many tens of thousands of women and girls who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from both foreign militias and the Congolese army.

The world knows nothing of these women. Their stories have never been told. They suffer and die in silence. In The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo these brave women finally speak.

The HBO page for the film is here, if you want to find the schedule. If any of my friends with cable and a DVR want to record it for me, I’d be grateful. There’s an interview with the director here. The HBO trailer:

Genetic link for lung cancer identified

464749_cigarettes.jpgSome really interesting genetic research was recently published in Nature on smoking and lung caner:

Three independent genetic studies have found some of the strongest evidence yet that your genes influence your risk of developing lung cancer.

Lung cancer, the most common killer cancer in the world, is largely caused by smoking. Tobacco is thought to be responsible for about 5 million premature deaths every year and smoking is still clearly the largest risk factor. But the new results suggest that, amongst smokers, some people may be as much as 80% more at risk than others thanks to their genes.

So how risky is smoking? You won’t need a genetic test; it suffices to say it’s fairly risky indeed:

About 50% of the general population carries a single copy of this cancer gene variant, members of the three research groups suggest. Data from all three studies — some of which did not include non-smokers — show that possessing this single copy raises the risk of lung cancer by about 30%.

What’s more, another 10% of the population is likely to carry two copies of this set of mutations, raising cancer risk by as much as 80% relative to people with equivalent lifestyles without the cancer-linked gene variant.

McCain is anti-vaccine

Into the Fray Over the Cause of Autism – New York Times

“It’s indisputable that autism is on the rise among children,” Senator John McCain said while campaigning recently in Texas. “The question is, What’s causing it? And we go back and forth, and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

Not as if I need another reason not to vote for McCain… I’ve posted numerous refutations of the thimerosal-autism link here before, and this one‘s as good as any. You can also take a look here [NSFW] at what happens when you don’t immunize children, but I’ll warn you the pictures are pretty graphic. Here’s my favorite Metafilter comment from a now-deleted thread:

It’s mercury, a neurotoxin.

You know what else is a toxin? Chlorine. That’s right: it corrodes sensitive mucous membranes and can digest living cells. I therefore suggest you stay away from table salt — it contains chlorine, you know. Clearly toxic!

Overdose Rescue Kits Save Lives

NPR: Overdose Rescue Kits Save Lives

Every year, overdoses of heroin and opiates, such as Oxycontin, kill more drug users than AIDS, hepatitis or homicide.And the number of overdoses has gone up dramatically over the past decade.

But now, public health workers from New York to Los Angeles, North Carolina to New Mexico, are preventing thousands of deaths by giving $9.50 rescue kits to drug users. The kits turn drug users into first responders by giving them the tools to save a life.

[…]

The nasal spray is a drug called naloxone, or Narcan. It blocks the brain receptors that heroin activates, instantly reversing an overdose.

Pretty awesome, right?  The Bush administration doesn’t think so:

But Dr. Bertha Madras, deputy director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy, opposes the use of Narcan in overdose-rescue programs.

“First of all, I dont agree with giving an opioid antidote to non-medical professionals. Thats No. 1,” she says. “I just dont think thats good public health policy.”

Madras says drug users arent likely to be competent to deal with an overdose emergency. More importantly, she says, Narcan kits may actually encourage drug abusers to keep using heroin because they know overdosing isnt as likely.

Madras says the rescue programs might take away the drug users motivation to get into detoxification and drug treatment.

Now, this would be an ok position for an idiotic, hack pundit or talk show host to have, but this is the deputy director of the ONDCP. Let’s see what their mission is:

The goals of the program are to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing, and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.

I always hear President Bush saying history will be the judge of his administration. I’ve got a good guess what word history will file his presidency under: failure. It’s like he hires people based on their ability to be willfully and blissfully stupid. The rationale against Narcan reminds me a lot of the opposition to the HPV vaccine; a twisted moral argument at worst, a bureaucratic cop-out at best.

Researchers create new rat heart in lab

Researchers create new rat heart in lab

Medicines dream of growing new human hearts and other organs to repair or replace damaged ones received a significant boost Sunday when researchers at the University of Minnesota reported success in creating a beating rat heart in a laboratory.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like to see that heart start beating. Creepy/cool, probably.

Childrens Hospital Boston’s interactive learning site

Childrens Hospital Boston has some really cool stuff on its web page:

Experiment with Childrens virtual neuron to see what conditions are needed to make it fire and what happens when you connect it to other neurons. This interactive feature also provides step-through animations illustrating how electrical currents move through the cell and how it passes signals on to other neurons.

Study Shows Why the Flu Likes Winter

I’ve long asked myself the same question:

Researchers in New York believe they have solved one of the great mysteries of the flu: Why does the infection spread primarily in the winter months?

The answer, they say, has to do with the virus itself. It is more stable and stays in the air longer when air is cold and dry, the exact conditions for much of the flu season.

“Influenza virus is more likely to be transmitted during winter on the way to the subway than in a warm room,” said Peter Palese, a flu researcher who is professor and chairman of the microbiology department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the lead author of the flu study.

I’m also curious as to why cold weather seems to cause a runny nose. I wonder if that study has already been done…

I’m beginning to think the BBC are drunks

What the hell, BBC News?

There is scant evidence that occasional binge drinking during pregnancy can harm the unborn child, say scientists.

First it was small amounts of alcohol, now there’s no evidence binge drinking is harmful? Granted, further down in the article, there is a reminder that this study isn’t a license to drink, and there may later be discovery of evidence of harm. But the way BBC frames the article and summarizes it in the subtitle, you wouldn’t think there’s a problem with dousing fetuses in ethanol.

(Next time on Blendor: The Beeb offers free smokes to pregnant moms!)

Shop around for your Rx

I had no idea that prescription prices could vary so much:

At a Walgreens in Northwest Austin, the generic Zocor costs $64.99. At the Apothecary Shop less than a quarter mile away, the same drug is $18.

Walgreens explains the difference in the level of service.

“Low prices don’t do you any good if the pharmacy isn’t open when you need it,” a company spokesman said in a statement.

Well, all that means is visit Walgreens if it’s an emergency, otherwise, shop around for the best deal. It’s awesome when you can support local, small businesses and get a better deal. Plus I just like anachronistically named establishments.