Harvard Researchers Subpoenaed

This is one to watch. We might all get to learn more about the Harvard-Industrial Complex.

The Times reports:

Federal prosecutors have issued a subpoena seeking information about the work and statements of three prominent Harvard researchers who have been the focus of a Congressional investigation into conflicts of interest in medicine.

The researchers — Drs. Joseph Biederman, Thomas Spencer and Timothy E. Wilens — are named in the subpoena, which was sent on Wednesday to Fletch Trammel, a lawyer who represents state attorneys general in lawsuits that claim makers of antipsychotic drugs defrauded state Medicaid programs by improperly marketing their medicines.

The three researchers have advocated increased use of antipsychotic medicines in children and have accepted lucrative consulting agreements from the drugs’ makers. Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican investigating conflicts of interest in medicine, found that each of the researchers had failed to report much of his consulting income to Harvard. Mr. Grassley has also said that Dr. Biederman and Dr. Wilens might have violated federal and university research rules. The controversy led Dr. Biederman to suspend his work with the drug industry.

George Will Controversy Now Over – Mooney Cleans His Clock

Congrats to Chris Mooney for getting his rebuttal to George Will published in the Washington Post. And kudos to the post for allowing his serious factual answer to an article composed entirely of crank arguments and lies (they also published a rebuttal from WMO Secretary General Michel Jarraud dealing with the lies in Will’s article)

Mooney does an excellent job, and points out the frank dishonesty not just regarding the sea ice data (the only point the obtuse Ombudsman would even talk about), but also how every other argument in the entire article represents flawed rhetoric. In particular I enjoyed how Mooney made an issue of the denialist tactics that were used, the cherry-picking of data, the use of inappropriate sources, etc. His final point I agree with very strongly:

In this context, finding common ground will be very difficult. Perhaps the only hope involves taking a stand for a breed of journalism and commentary that is not permitted to simply say anything; that is constrained by standards of evidence, rigor and reproducibility that are similar to the canons of modern science itself.

Readers and commentators must learn to share some practices with scientists — following up on sources, taking scientific knowledge seriously rather than cherry-picking misleading bits of information, and applying critical thinking to the weighing of evidence. That, in the end, is all that good science really is. It’s also what good journalism and commentary alike must strive to be — now more than ever.

We can’t just hope people will recognize good scientific information when they hear it. It is important that those who present the information in the media have good standards by which they evaluate scientific information, and standards for the presentation of scientific results. The Washington Post initially failed to do so in this instance, hopefully they will evaluate Will’s factual claims more rigorously in the future, and subject his sources to a greater deal of scrutiny.


We’re closing in on the final moments. All the med students have gathered in the old med school auditorium at UVA. Per tradition, we all carry a dollar bill for a pool, with the last person to receive their envelope getting the pot (we get called randomly).
Results around 12, I’ll keep updating this post.

11:35 NBC 29 is here for their yearly match coverage. And the room is full of babies! A family event except for the covert drinking.

11:40 The dean is here with a sack of letters. Progress…. He says we’re the best class ever! Take that all you alumni!

11:45 One of our administrators is singing “matchmaker” to us. Ha!

11:50 I have envelope, received to polite clapping.

12:00 And the winner is… Wait… Crap they’re missing a letter. This will be a minute. Ok were good. General Surgery at Maryland!

Choosing a Medical Specialty V — Match Day!

In two hours I find out where I’ve matched and will spend my residency. It’s a special day for medical students, and may be the one day a year they really, universally cut loose. Much more than graduation, match feels like the culmination of years of hard work.

I’ll put up a post at around 12 saying where I ended up. If you’re curious about the process see our other posts on the match Choosing a Medical Specialty I, II, III, and IV.

Adult stem cell lies – everything old is new again

It’s come time to lie about science again – this time about the reality of embryonic stem cell pluripotency – and some of the old lies are coming back out of the storage shed. For instance, Andrew Breitbart on Real Time last night, and in a video from (liar for Jesus) Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, I’ve heard about how adult stem cells have cured or treated 72 diseases. Oh and embryonic stem cells, they’ve cured none. It’s been a while since we’ve seen this adult stem cell nonsense.

I had to jog my memory for a minute, I knew this was a lie, but it had been so long since I heard it, that I really had to think about where I had heard it from. Oh yeah, this nonsense list that was famously cribbed by Ann Coulter from a right-to-life group.

To understand the problem with this list and why these citations don’t say what they think they say, we have to learn a little bit about adult stem cells and a big scary word – transdifferentiation. Adult stem cells, which exist in many tissues throughout your body, have specific jobs to perform for the human body to continue to function. Hematopoietic (blood) stem cells make all the red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets you need to as they are continuously lost or degenerating as part of their natural life span. Stem cells in your gut continuously replace the lining of your intestines as it wears down from the harsh process of breaking down food. There are stem cells that have been isolated from most tissues that function as a repair and maintenance pool of cells to keep our organs functional. Not all organs have a ready pool of stem cells, and most stem cell populations, with the notable exception of blood stem cells, are hard to harvest without risking injury to the host.

However, while these cells are great at doing their job, the issue with adult stem cell research is, can they do another stem cell’s job? That is, instead of making just blood, could a hematopoietic stem cell make, say, an insulin secreting pancreatic cell? The answer, despite some initial promising results around 2001, is no. While hematopoietic stem cells may be able to make some other mesenchyme or connective tissue cells from the mesodermal germ layer, it doesn’t appear that we can make such adult stem cells transdifferentiate – or make a type of cell from another embryonic germ layer. This ability is what is meant by totipotency. The ability to differentiate not just into one of the three major tissue types (mesoderm, ectoderm and endoderm), but all three of them.

So, what is up with this list then? They have 72 treatments using adult stem cells!

No they don’t. This is a lie. They really only are describing one treatment in most of these list items. That is, hematopoietic stem cell replacement of marrow being used in the course of treatment of many diseases. The hematopoietic stem cells are not treating these illnesses, they’re letting us use chemo, or irradiation, and then replenishing the patient’s blood supply. In other words, they’re doing what a good blood stem cell does, replace blood. They’re not treating the disease at all.

Let’s take a look at some of these references.

Continue reading “Adult stem cell lies – everything old is new again”

Jon Stewart should win the Pullitzer

Check out all three parts. Jon takes Cramer out behind the woodshed and indicts the whole financial/journalism failure at CNBC.

Denialism Humor

Brought to us by The Onion San Francisco Historians Condemn 1906 Earthquake Deniers:

The 1906 Earthquake Deniers, a group reviled by Californians and scholars alike, held three days of lectures and roundtable discussions over what they call a “century-long hoax” of exaggerated seismic activity in the Bay area, and part of a conspiracy to bring the World’s Fair to San Francisco in 1915. Historians protested the conference, saying the organization’s statements denying any major seismic activity in 1906 are reprehensible and out of line with all available geologic data from the time.

“If an earthquake of that size really did strike downtown San Francisco, then where is all the rubble?” read one pamphlet, entitled “After$hock$: Truth, Lies, And The Business Of Earthquakes,” obtained by reporters. “Where are these alleged 3,000 dead? And why does the mayor refuse to answer questions about the fires that mysteriously started moments after the supposed ‘earthquake’ occurred? Ask yourself: Who is he protecting?”

The early 1906 Earthquake Denier movement began shortly after World War I, when historian Michael P. Harrison published an article alleging that the Chinese government and San Francisco Mayor Eugene Schmitz devised a plan to purposely light the city on fire to acquire funds for a new Chinatown. The modern day movement, however, gained momentum in 1971 with Professor David Compson’s controversial book Earthquake?, which argued that the inability to freely question the disaster was “the equivalent of mental rape.”

Mental rape. Awesome. They even included the persecution complex.

And for someone who might be moving to San Fran in a month, this hit a bit close to home:

“San Franciscans need to wake up and smell the lies and deceits they’ve been fed for the last century,” Earthquake Denier Jared Meeder said. “If a giant earthquake did actually occur, why would anyone in their right mind rebuild a city knowing full well that another earthquake could easily come along and destroy it again?”

“Think about it,” Meeder added.

Thanks The Way Things Break and NVCC Geo Blog.

George Monbiot’s Top Ten Climate Change Denialists

His choices are interesting but I think he hits the highlights. After all he has fake experts Pat Michaels and Steve Milloy, and of course Christopher Monckton. I might disagree with the inclusion of a nobody like Sarah Palin. She’s a twit more than a real purveyor of disinformation like Marc Morano, or S. Fred Singer. He has included Inhofe so I guess that’s Morano-inclusive.

What do you guys think? Any glaring omissions?

And check out my piece at the Guardian on how to spot a climate change denialist.