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December 2008

Almost 45 years ago! The Umbrellas of Cherbourg

Not sure what made me think of this little gem of a movie from 1964 just now. Maybe it's the cold, dreary New Year's Eve weather, here in the DC-metro.

If there is one chick flick that the guys will like, this is it. The film is beautifully photographed, and there's eye candy galore with an almost supernaturally gorgeous Catherine Deneuve.

Read my complete review/retrospective.

And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see

You might recognize that line from Isaiah, but did the prophet know anything about the phenomenon called "blindsight"?

My latest HND piece details the story of a physician and double stroke victim, whose visual cortex was ruined, although his eyes were not damaged. Researchers have found that signals from his retina are now picked up in another part of his brain, and he can discern facial expressions and navigate through an obstacle course—despite being blind.

This story seems to be the inverse of work done on a girl whose eyes were damaged in an explosion, but when TV images were fed to her visual cortex, could "see" in her brain.

Amazing stuff!

Environmental health should equal public health, right?

Few would argue that we need a lot more Omega-3 fats in our diet, not to mention finding a protein source with less fat overall. But, it seems that there is something even more important than public health, and that is fund-raising by so-called "environmental" organizations.

For years, I've been warning people to beware of the supposedly simon-pure motives of outfits such as Greenpeace and the Environmental Working Group, who are only too willing to bend the facts to keep the checks coming in.

Greenpeace is running TV spots decrying the ruination of the Alaska pollock population, even though this is utterly false, according to nearly every marine authority. As it is, the National Fisheries Institute was able to get Reuters (not exactly a rock-ribbed conservative outfit) to rewrite a story, that originally read like a Greenpeace press release.

True enough, there ARE sustainability problems in the fishing biz, such as the Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. In contrast, the Alaska pollock is one of the best managed stocks in the world. But, how much money would you send to Greenpeace if you received an appeal letter stating that American fisheries have no sustainability problems?

As to the Environmental Working Group, they and others have pounced on a leaked draft (probably leaked by EPA, which is also working on the draft) from the FDA saying that the benefits of eating seafood, greatly outweigh the risks from mercury. It seems that the FDA reviewed many recent studies, and came to this conclusion based on the science. Here again, what kind of appeal letter or website posting could these organizations have made with "Eat more seafood--it's good for your health"?

The biggest laugh in all this is EPA claiming that FDA does not match EPA's scientific rigor. Of course, that's true, but not in the way EPA meant it.

Read all about it, in my latest HND piece, and please beware of the Eco Poseurs.

There's no formaldehyde in Victoria's Secret bras, and the plaintiff and her attorney are busted

You might enjoy reading the letter (3.3 MB) from the attorneys representing Victoria's Secret.

Not only is there no formaldehyde in the bras, but it is very likely that Ritter's smoking or how she cleaned the bra could have added the compound to it.  More than that, her personal hygiene habits (such as wearing the bra for days without taking it off or showering) probably caused her dermatitis.

Finally, it is clear that her attorney has been less than honest about his supposed test results, assuming that any testing was even done. Looks like a pretty crude attempt at a shakedown to me. Just one more example of why defendants should ALWAYS fight back.

Go here for the full story.

So, what's up with the Alaska pollock population?

According to Greenpeace, the levels are down because of overfishing. But, according to everyone else—including NOAA, the North Pacific Management Council, and the National Marine Fisheries Service—there's no problem at all.

Heck, even according to Greenpeace itself, there's no problem—if you consider that this fish shows up on their "Red List" for the US, but not for Canada. As such, the group holds that a single species is sustainable on one dinner table but not on another. Would any of Greenpeace's sycophant media toadies care to explain that little gem?

Our take is that the economic crunch is hitting Greenpeace's fund raising, and even more than usual, they won't let facts and logic stand in the way of an emotional appeal letter or TV spot.

See what our friends at the National Fisheries Institute have to say about this.

No standard for parametric release: Does anyone care?

The classical method of assuring that a load of medical instruments and devices is in fact sterile, after being treated by the sterilizer, is to include a biological indicator (BI). The BI contains a bacterial species deemed difficult to kill by the particular sterilization method employed. The BI is removed after the sterilization cycle, and is cultured to test the cycle. Most BI's require 48 hours for the results to develop.

Best hospital practices, in fact, will specify that the load should not be released until the results of the BI are available.

An alternative is to employ parametric release.

Parametric release is a mechanism for the release of sterilized products to user departments based on the measurement of physical sterilization process parameters in fully validated equipment. It is a broad term used in health care to describes processes which are so well controlled that it becomes possible to release devices immediately after the sterilization cycle, without using biological indicators or end-product sterility testing.

Numerous American and international standards cover best practices for steam and ethylene oxide sterilization (used for heat-sensitive devices), and include the matter of parametric release.

However, few if any hospitals run validated sterilization cycles for steam or ethylene oxide sterilization, since specialized sensors are required, which are more common in so-called "industrial" i.e. large-scale sterilization facilities. That is to say--few if any hospitals use parametric release for steam or ethylene oxide sterilization.

Here's the problem: Another method of sterilization, now deployed in thousands of hospitals, utilizes hydrogen peroxide gas plasma. It has been touted as essentially a replacement for ethylene oxide, and boasts a much faster cycle time.

But, the faster cycle time would be of no benefit if the loads were released on BI, since that would render them no faster--in a practical sense--than ethylene oxide. Thus, many hospitals are releasing the plasma loads parametrically. Unfortunately, no standard exists to validate this process.

Although criteria for a parametric release have been published, this does not constitute a recognized third-party standard. Moreover, the manufacturer has stated that "It is always the hospital's responsibility and decision to implement parametric release."

Does this mean that the hospitals are using patients as the biological indicators?

36-24-36 (91-61-91 cm)

Many people think that 36-24-36 is the perfect female figure. Evolutionary psychologists tend to look at the WHR (waist/hip ratio) and have found that most men prefer women with a ratio of 0.7.

Of course, many women do not achieve this ideal, and there are some--including anthropologist Elizabeth Cashdan--who argue that not having a perfect figure may have advantages for women in certain situations. Unfortunately, her reasoning is a bit strained.

Check out my HND piece In Search Of The Perfect Figure.

Does having religion improve health outcomes?

The data sure supports this contention. In fact, one of Sally Beare's 50 Secrets Of The World's Longest Living People is to "have faith."

There was a big conference on this subject just last week in DC, and naturally the media had to quote atheist activist killjoy Richard Sloan, a behavioral psychologist from Columbia who has created a cottage industry from attempts to debunk the health/religion connection.

The problem with Sloan is that if you put his reasons for not accepting the connection into a context with some of his other research, you'll detect a rather sophomoric scientism, that is applied quite selectively.

Check out my recent Mike's Comments piece on all this.