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December 2009
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January 2010

Stopping the sneak thief of sight

Glaucoma is called the "sneak thief of sight" since it has few early symptoms. This group of diseases represents the second leading cause of blindness (second only to diabetes). Vision loss derives from damage to the optic nerve, frequently identified with elevated intraocular pressure.

My latest HND piece takes a look at glaucoma, along with various treatment modalities, one which is a novel method called Pneumatic Trabeculoplasty (PNT). PNT is approved for use in many countries outside the US, including Canada and the EEC. US clinical trials are planned.

PNT's big advantage is that it is quick, easy, and non-invasive.

Read the complete article.

Chinese drywall junk science

As if there aren't enough problems connected with the Chinese drywall mess, we can add one more: Junk Science. Given the fertile ground of Florida—long home to scammers of all descriptions—could you expect any less?

My latest HND piece skewers some of the frequently encountered pseudo science, and gives credit to one agency that has done it right, the Consumer Product Safety Commission. We take a look at XRF, FTIR, and even the latest nonsense—Chinese drywall sniffing dogs.

As we explain, a better term would be "corrosive" or "tainted" drywall, since not all product from China is corrosive, and not all corrosive product is Chinese. Be wary of the politics here, too, since it is more about delay than taking care of affected homeowners.

Read the complete article.

Some good news on the otherwise grim lung cancer front

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in both men and women in the United States and throughout the world. Sadly, most cases of lung cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage, conferring a poor prognosis.

As it is, only about 16% of NSCLC patients are diagnosed early enough to be eligible for surgery. Most of the rest undergo some form of chemotherapy. Overall, fewer than 5% of advanced non-small cell lung cancer patients survive five years.

My latest HND piece looks at a possible breakthrough drug, that seems to make chemotherapy agents work better, and be tolerated better by the patient, as well. The drug is NOV-002, from Novelos Therapeutics, Inc., a New England-based biopharmaceutical company.

I also cover the types of Clinical trials, noting that NOV-002 is now approaching the end of a Phase III trail, and mention two other promising ways that chemo efficacy can be improved.

Read the complete article.

Tom Shales versus Brit Hume

A few days ago, Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales imposed himself in the Tiger Woods mess by reacting to some helpful advice given Woods by Fox news personality Brit Hume. In essence, Hume suggested that Woods, supposedly a Buddhist, should convert to Christianity, because Buddhism doesn't offer "the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith."

While not PC, Hume's description is nonetheless accurate, but what's more important? Being accurate or politically correct? Thus, Shales engaged in about a 900-word rant in his column, attacking Hume.

To make matters worse, though, even most of the defenders of Hume were unable to state the simple truism that he was correct.

Read my essay on this mini-tempest.

My take on Avatar

This should have been posted on December 21st, but got lost in the Christmas rush.

For its reputed budget of $400 million, there certainly SHOULD be glorious FX. The biggest problem is that the story is awful—not to mention that the dialog is very poor, and there is no chemistry whatsoever between the romantic leads.

Even more disturbing is the critical praise being heaped on this motion picture. Perhaps the most embarrassing gushing came from Roger Ebert, who is rapidly becoming my least favorite movie critic. Check out these direct quotes...

Avatar is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message. It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na'vi, as Lord of the Rings did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation.

I've complained that many recent films abandon story telling in their third acts and go for wall-to-wall action. Cameron essentially does that here, but has invested well in establishing his characters so that it matters what they do in battle and how they do it. There are issues at stake greater than simply which side wins.

As to the "Green" message, it is puerile beyond belief. The Na'vi have no technology, yet they are able to live off the land in perfect harmony with nature. Almost nothing is shown regarding how they feed themselves or produce their tools. If Cameron actually believes that the American Indians were Green, and his tale is some sort of retelling of manifest destiny, he is mighty far off the mark. For PC fools like Ebert, though, it's just wonderful.

The movie is about as anti-war as Starship Troopers (1997). Indeed, rather than being anti-war, its third act includes plenty of ultra violence, to satisfy the blood lust of the audience, while stroking its anti-war sentiment.

Did you notice how Ebert tries to excuse Cameron for doing exactly what Ebert would normally condemn in the third act? If he really thinks that the Na'vi characters were well-established, beyond being 9-foot tall blue flower children, I'd sure like to know what I missed. As to new movie stars being created, only Sam Worthington could possibly fit this description, although his perf was not enough to overcome Zoe Saldana's surprisingly weak effort, which was also hampered by the film's worst dialog.

Read my complete review.

Redskins reborn in 2010?

OK. Zorn finally got the axe, which has been expected since about September, 2009. The big rumor is that he will be replaced by Mike Shanahan. BUT--would this change anything for suffering Redskins fans?

Yes, it would, in that under a new regime, it is likely that we can improve on 4-12.

However, if Danny Snyder does bring in Shanahan, he will still be taking his Fantasy Football approach. Shanahan is a "name guy," and might serve to ease pressure on Snyder—for awhile. The fact is, though, that without John Elway, Shanahan's record is far from stellar, with only one playoff victory (1999-2008).

Memo to Danny: Fantasy Football is so-named since all you have to do is get the already proven stars. REAL football requires that you be able to analyze talent, before everyone else knows about it.

Some cool new developments in the war against mosquitoes

Great science will always trump junk science—eventually. My latest HND piece looks at novel biological warfare techniques against the mosquito, mankind's greatest enemy in the animal kingdom.

Those new methods, of course, represent the great science. The junk science was all the Rachel Carson inspired nonsense about DDT, that set the fight back a few decades.

It seems that a bacterium called Wolbachia, which infests 60 percent of all insects, can wreak havoc on mosquitoes, and also prevent them from being infected with dengue and malarial pathogens. Another tactic is to interfere with the mating process, that only occurs once in a lifetime for most mosquitoes.

To be sure, these are wonderful natural approaches, but they must be used in conjunction with—and not instead of—the tried and true techniques of insecticides and knocking out the breeding sites.

Read the complete article.