Alzheimer’s disease tied to brain’s navigation network

‘The way you navigate a virtual maze may predict your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that people at risk for Alzheimer’s have lower activity in a newly-discovered network of navigational brain cells known as “grid cells.” The finding could lead to new ways to diagnose this debilitating disorder. The discovery of the grid cell network won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology last year.

The neurons that make up the “grid” are arranged in a triangular lattice in the entorhinal cortex—a region of the brain used in memory and navigation. The “grid” activates in different patterns based on how individuals move, keeping track of our location in the coordinate plane. Researchers think the cells help create mental maps and allow us to navigate through space even in the absence of visual cues.

“If you close your eyes and walk ten feet forward and turn right and walk three feet forward, the grid cells are believed to [track your position],” says neuroscientist Joshua Jacobs at Columbia University. Intriguingly, people withthe so-called e4 variant of a gene known as APOE—the largest genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s later in life—are at a higher risk for developing abnormalities in their entorhinal cortex. Because the grid cells are found in the same region, scientists wondered if the reason Alzheimer’s patients are more likely to get lost and have difficulty navigating could be explained by damage to the network…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Antioxidants help tumors to spread

‘The largely unregulated supplement industry sells a variety of weird and sometimes dangerous stuff that it wink-nudge promises will cure what ails you, but even the most accurately labeled, evidence-based supplements can make sick people much, much sicker.

People who eat diets rich in antioxidants — plants, mostly — are at a lower risk of many illnesses, including cancer. There’s good evidence to support the idea that the anti-oxidants in their diet are protecting them from cancer by attacking mutation-causing free radicals.

But when those anti-oxidants are extracted and turned into supplements, they have a very different effect from the foods in which they’re found. In a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Karolinska Institute report on a study that found antioxidants were responsible for speeding up the growth of melanomas; last year they reported a similar finding for antioxidants and lung cancer.

The Karolinska Institute’s Martin Bergö, a molecular biologist, hypothesizes that antioxidants are protecting cancer cells from free radicals. Cancer cells are particularly vulnerable to “oxidative stress” — the damage from free radicals, and this retards the spread of cancer, unless, that is, you’re megadosing on anti-oxidants…’

Source: Boing Boing

Is Déjà Vu Triggered by Resonance with Parallel Universes?

‘Michio Kaku, though best known for his work with physics, has some ideas of his own about what we experience when we experience déjà vu. “There is a theory,” says Kaku in the Big Think video above,”that déjà vu simply elicits fragments of memories that we have stored in our brain, memories that can be elicited by moving into an environment that resembles something that we’ve already experienced.

”But wait! “Is it ever possible on any scale,” he then tantalizingly asks, “to perhaps flip between different universes?” And does déjà vu tell us anything about our position in those universes, giving us signs of the others even as we reside in just one? Kaku quotes an analogy first made by physicist Steven Weinberg which frames the notion of a “multiverse” in terms of our vibrating atoms and the frequency of a radio’s signal: “If you’re inside your living room listening to BBC radio, that radio is tuned to one frequency. But in your living room there are all frequencies: radio Cuba, radio Moscow, the Top 40 rock stations. All these radio frequencies are vibrating inside your living room, but your radio is only tuned to one frequency.” And sometimes, for whatever reason, we hear two signals on our radio at once.

Given that, then, maybe we feel déjà vu when the atoms of which we consist “no longer vibrate in unison with these other universes,” when “we have decoupled from them, we have decohered from them.”’

Source: Open Culture

What Would Real Brain-to-Brain Communication Look Like?

‘The past few years has seen “brain-to-brain communication” move from the realm of science fiction into reality. Numerous papers have reported on different brain-to-brain interface devices, of which a typical example is this 2014 report by Rajesh Rao and colleagues describing a device in which EEG is used to detect activity in one person’s brain, which then sends a message over the internet and then uses a TMS coil which generates a magnetic pulse that induces activity in the brain of another person.’

Source: Neuroskeptic

Ebola Is Coming Back (It Never Really Went Away)

‘Last Friday, London’s Royal Free Hospital announced that it was treating Pauline Cafferkey, a Scottish nurse who had served in Sierra Leone during this year’s West African outbreak, for what they termed “an unusual late complication” of Ebola. Somehow, the Ebola virus was once again raging through her system, nine months after her initial infection and recovery.

The case is dismaying, but it’s no freak occurrence. Even though the worst of the Ebola outbreak is over, the virus keeps reappearing—in survivors, new patients, and the press. In the past 24 hours, Ebola has struck two people in Guinea, and a paper out this week in the New England Journal of Medicine announced that Ebola patients still housed traces of the virus’s RNA up to nine months after they first showed symptoms. And even if they’re not wracked by the disease anymore, Ebola survivors suffer a whole range of maladies that come from the lingering virus: back pain, hearing loss, meningitis, seizures. (Though, thankfully, the survivors probably aren’t infectious.)

The WHO counts 42 days without new cases as the cut-off for a region to be Ebola-free (Guinea was weeks away), but they may need to rethink that length of time, or the very idea that a region can be Ebola-free, says Dan Kelly, an Ebola researcher at UC San Francisco.  To stretch the mole analogy, the squiggly virus collects in certain hidey-holes the immune system doesn’t patrol as well—eyes, brains, testes, and even semen—where it can then lurk for months before replicating and causing problems for its host. (In another study this week in NEJM, scientists found that Ebola can be transmitted through sex, which presents a whole ‘nother set of risks.) Scientists still don’t know how long Ebola stays infectious in the body.’

Source: WIRED

These 50 Treasured Places Are At Risk of Disappearing

‘Fifty cultural heritage sites in 36 countries are threatened by everything from climate change and looting to natural disasters and commercial development, according to a report released Thursday by the World Monuments Fund.Compiled every two years, the World Monuments Watch list raises awareness and mobilizes funding for the preservation of endangered sites of outstanding significance. In its 20-year history, the program has named 790 sites in 135 countries and arranged roughly $350 million of financial support for treasured places around the world.POPULAR STORIES An Isolated Tribe Is Emerging From Peru’s Amazonian WildernessWill a New Bout of King Tut Fever Bring Visitors Back to Egypt?Will a New Bout of King Tut Fever Bring Visitors Back to Egypt?The 50 sites on the 2016 list range from World War II concentration camps in Italy to the approximately 5,000-year-old underwater city of Pavlopetri off the coast of the Southern Peloponnese in Greece.’

Source: National Geographic

Extraordinary Artificial Skin Can Transmit Sense Of Touch To Brain Cells

‘Even though there have been incredible advancements in the field of prosthetics, including some more unorthodox ones, those who are unfortunate enough to lose a body part will be unable to replicate the sense of touch with their artificial limb. A remarkable new study by a team of Stanford University engineers, published today in Science, has perhaps begun to finally address this problem: they have created a plastic skin that can “feel,” transmitting sensory information as an electric signal to the brain.’

Source: IFLScience

How the illusion of control leads you to perpetually wait for your life to begin

‘As the Bennetts explain in the book, most people seek a therapist in an effort to actively deny that they don’t have any control over their emotions. Stuck in a neurotic, fruitless loop, people begin to wonder why they can’t achieve perpetual happiness or erase their proclivity to procrastinate. If they could just fix the things they see as broken, they could then become the people they’ve always wanted to be and finally begin their lives. But just how much control do you really have over your feelings or your essential nature? According to the Bennetts, much less than you would like to believe. Your efforts are better spent elsewhere. In this episode, listen as Michael and Sarah explain what you should be doing instead, and why they say – “Fuck feelings.” ‘

Source: Boing Boing

Delete these genes, extend your life by as much as 60 percent

‘A 10-year effort to identify the genes responsible for ageing has led to researchers finding 238 specific genes that, when removed, significantly extend the lifespan of yeast cells in laboratory testing.If the results of this genetic editing can be replicated in humans – which is a possibility, since many of the genes and genetic pathways involved are also found in higher life forms – we may be able to seriously boost human lifespans by turning off ageing processes. The researchers found that the life of yeast could be extended by as much as 60 percent in some circumstances…’

Source: ScienceAlert via Newsvine

We’re flushing all these antidepressants into our water. How big is the problem?

‘There’s no way around it, the headlines are disturbing. And they come, not from tabloids or click-bait blogs, but from papers published in scientific journals. They describe fish and birds responding with altered behavior and reproductive systems to antidepressants, diabetes medication, and other psychoactive or hormonally active drugs at concentrations found in the environment. They report on opiods, amphetamines and other pharmaceuticals found in treated drinking water; antibiotics in groundwater capable of altering naturally occurring bacterial communities; and over-the-counter and prescription drugs found in water leaching from municipal landfills. And these are just some of many recent studies examining the countless pharmaceuticals that are now being found just about everywhere scientists have looked for them in the environment…’

Source: Vox

We have passed Peak Fish

‘I noted the other day that since the early 1980s, the world has lost about half of its coral reefs. According to a recent study, there’s more to worry about in the sea: the ocean contains half the fish it did 45 years ago.’

Source: kottke

The Internet May Be Changing Your Brain In Ways You’ve Never Imagined

Five years ago, journalist Nicholas Carr wrote in his book The Shallows: How The Internet Is Changing Our Brains about the way technology seemed to be eroding his ability to concentrate. “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words,” he wrote. “Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.”

In the book, which became a New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Carr explored the many ways that technology might be affecting our brains. Carr became particularly concerned about how the Internet seemed to be impairing our ability to think deeply and to focus on one subject for extended periods.

Today, social media and digital devices have an arguably greater place in our lives and hold on our attention spans than they did in 2011. So what has  changed since Carr wrote his seminal work five years ago? We chatted with the journalist and author about how our increasing interactions with mobile technology might be affecting the most important organ in our bodies…’

Source: Huffington Post

The Home Depot shooter must be jailed

The NRA encourages a culture of irresponsible gun ownership: ‘Those who oppose even the smallest movement towards better gun safety policies do so love to invoke the figure of the “responsible gun owner” as their reason for wanting more unfettered gun access. “Law-abiding gun owners will not accept blame for acts of criminals,” NRA head Wayne LaPierre said in his 2013 remarks to Congress. “Teaching safe and responsible gun ownership works.

”It all sounds good on paper, but Detroit got to see what that mentality actually looks like in practice this week, when a woman who was certified for concealed carry—meaning she had to take gun safety classes and everything—decided that the best way to deal with a shoplifting that had nothing whatsoever to do with her was to pull out her gun and open fire in a Home Depot parking lot. This is what you get from the simplistic dividing of people into “law-abiding” and “criminal”, as well as assuring people that taking a few classes makes you a responsible gun owner: A woman who was so sure of her righteousness and responsibility that it didn’t even occur to her not to do something so immoral and stupid. Immoral because under no circumstances should the penalty for shoplifting be death at the hands of a vigilante. Stupid because she was in a parking lot, where innocent people are milling around, with soft bodies that will take a stray bullet whether the NRA considers them law-abiding or not.

But the fact that there are idiots in this world isn’t the most troubling fact about this story. No, what is even more troubling is that the woman remains unarrested and uncharged, and may not be facing any criminal charges at all. Unfortunately, under Michigan law, it may not be possible to charge her with a crime at all because, foolishly, the state allows people to take potshots at people who are fleeing from the commission of a felony…’


Meet the Chimps That Lawyers Argue Are People

‘Earlier this summer, these two chimps received worldwide attention when activists with the Nonhuman Rights Project argued in a New York courtroom that Leo and Hercules should legally be considered people with a right to be free. Absent from those proceedings were Hercules and Leo themselves. News stories about the lawsuit—eventually dismissed, currently being appealed—were illustrated with stock chimpanzee photographs. A video accompanying the new study is the first chance most people will have to see the chimps, and their appearance raises anew the question: Is a chimpanzee a person?’

Source: National Geographic

Ebola Nations Declare First Week With No New Cases

‘The recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of over 11,000 people to date, mainly in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, as reported by BBC News. Today, it is a pleasure to report that these three countries at the very heart of the deadly epidemic have recorded their first week with no new cases since the outbreak began in March of last year…’

Source: IFLScience

The placebo effect grows stronger

‘It’s getting more difficult for new painkilling drugs to be approved because the rate of effectiveness vs. placebos in drug tests is falling. But oddly, the drop is only being seen in the US. Based on patients’ ratings of their pain, the effect of trialled drugs in relieving symptoms stayed the same over the 23-year period — but placebo responses rose. In 1996, patients in clinical trials reported that drugs relieved their pain by 27% more than did a placebo. But by 2013, that gap had slipped to just 9%. The phenomenon is driven by 35 US trials; among trials in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, there was no significant change in placebo responses. The analysis is in press in the journal Pain…’

Source: Kottke

There Is Red Water on Pluto

“New Horizons has detected numerous small, exposed regions of water ice on Pluto,” NASA noted in the press release. NASA doesn’t know yet why water appears on some regions of Pluto and not others, but it notes that Pluto’s watery regions are a deep red color.“I’m surprised that this water ice is so red,” Silvia Protopapa, New Horizons scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. “We don’t yet understand the relationship between water ice and the reddish tholin colorants on Pluto’s surface.”..’

Source: Motherboard

How To Talk To A Grieving Person 

‘In the weeks and months after my father died, “How are you?” became my least favorite question. It was always benign and well-intentioned, but it also inevitably reminded me that I felt like shit. I’d rather have given a gruesome blow-by-blow account of how my father died than talk about how I felt. But talking—or, more importantly, finding someone who will listen—is what grieving people so desperately need.

There is a gulf between mourners and the rest of the world. We want to talk, but we don’t want to make people uncomfortable. We can tell they want to say something, but they don’t know how. But how the hell do you talk to a grieving person? It can be baffling, especially when a simple “Hey, what’s up?” can set someone off.

But you have to start somewhere. “I think it’s important for people who haven’t lost someone to say, ‘I have no idea what you’re going through, but I’m here to listen,’” my friend Tessa told me of her own experience mourning her father. “And for people that have been through it, share that. It makes us feel less alone, I think.”

True, you might say the wrong thing! It’s okay, though…’

Source: Dead Spin

How guards and prosecutors retaliate against solitary confinement prisoners who blow the whistle / Boing Boing

‘The Dallas Six is a group of prisoners who were beaten, shocked and gassed by prison guards who had previously beaten them in retaliation for complaints about abuse in solitary confinement.

The letters of grievance the men sent were intercepted by guards who violently retaliated against them, sparking a nonviolent protest (the men covered the windows of their cells). This, in turn, was used as a pretense for “cell extractions” during which the non-violent prisoners were beaten, shocked, gassed and left in their underwear, covered in gas residue, shackled in stress positions.

Prosectors collaborated with the guards who attacked the men, bringing trumped up assault charges against the men for allegedly resisting the guards, though the videos don’t support the charge (the prosectors have argued against introducing the videos into evidence).

The story of the Dallas 6 is a microcosm for the everyday torture in the American penal system, which imprisons more people than any other country in the world’s history. It’s not a coincidence that the Dallas 6 are black, nor that they began their journey into the penal system with zero-tolerance busts for petty crap like shouting at their elementary school teachers.

Molly Crabapple’s reporting on the Dallas 6 is a must-read, and her accompanying illustrations are beautiful and haunting.’

Source: Boing Boing

Without People, Wildlife Make a Comeback at Chernobyl

The accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986 had a devastating impact on the local population and forced 116,000 people to permanently leave their homes. But now researchers have discovered that, while the people may not have returned, the contaminated area of Belarus is teeming with wild animals, including elk, wild boar, deer and wolves. Perhaps surprisingly, many of these numbers seem to be on the rise and some of them are higher than in uncontaminated areas.

The abandoned area around the nuclear power plant, known as the Chernobyl exclusion zone, includes about 4750 square kilometres of land in both Ukraine and Belarus. The contamination in the exclusion zone is patchy, as the distribution of radioactive isotopes on the ground was influenced by the weather conditions at the time of the accident and the days following it. The radiation levels have reduced over the nearly 30 years since the accident, but in many parts of the zone they are too high for people to return.

Source: Gizmodo

Reddit Without Comments!

‘Reddit is launching a brand new website today to unearth news from its social aggregator. Called Upvoted, the site will surface pictures, videos and commentary from Reddit and present it as news — without the option to comment on a single thing.Wired reports that the new website, which is set to launch later today, “looks and feels much like any other news site out there.” That means you should expect stories, pictures, videos, infographics, podcasts and the like, covering anything from politics and science to sports and, presumably, cats. The Verge suggests that the new website will dig a little deeper, too, “providing more context on their background through interviews with the Reddit users behind the stories” — something that will be powered by a dedicated editorial team.’

Source: Gizmodo

Want to get American gun violence to European levels? Then you need to confiscate guns.

President Obama is clearly fed up. His speeches after mass shootings — speeches that have become a bit of a morbid ritual, given how regularly the shootings occur — have grown angrier, more emotional, and more disgusted at America’s gun violence problem and Congress’s unwillingness to do literally anything to stop it. “This is a political choice that we make,” Obama declared Thursday night, after the 294th mass shooting of 2015, “to allow this to happen every few months in America.”But let’s be clear about precisely what kind of choice this is. Congress’s decision not to pass background checks is not what’s keeping the US from European gun violence levels. The expiration of the assault weapons ban is not behind the gap. What’s behind the gap, plenty of research indicates, is that Americans have more guns. The statistics are mind-blowing: America has 4.4 percent of the world’s population but almost half of its civilian-owned guns.

Source: Vox

Why is there something rather than nothing?

That is the question that physicist Lawrence Krauss answers in his book, A Universe from Nothing. The book’s trailer provides a little more context. Everything we see is just a 1% bit of cosmic pollution in a Universe dominated by dark matter and dark energy. You could get rid of all the things in the night sky — the stars, the galaxies, the planets, everything — and the Universe would be largely the same.And my favorite line from the trailer: Forget Jesus, the stars died so you could be born.

Source: Kottke

An Ancient Volcanic Collapse Triggered an 800 Foot Tsunami Wave

‘Scientists have just uncovered one of the largest tsunami events in the geologic record, and naturally, it started with an epic splash. 73,000 years ago, the eastern flank of Cape Verde’s Fogo volcano collapsed into the sea, kicking up an 800-foot wave.

Think about that for a sec. That’s two thirds the height of the Empire State Building. If a mega-tsunami of that size struck a coastal city today, the consequences would be pretty apocalyptic. And such events aren’t outside the realm of possibility.

“Most of these fairly young oceanic volcanoes — such as in the Azores and the Canary Islands and Hawaii — are incredibly high and steep, so the potential energy for a collapse to happen again is there,”said Ricardo Ramalho, a co-author on a study describing the mega-tsunami that was published this week in Science Advances.’

Source: Gizmodo

Check Out the Ghost Shark!

‘The ghost shark is creepy as hell. It floats around the darkest part of the ocean looking like a fallen angel that just clawed its way out of hell. It’s not entirely a shark. It’s more like a shark’s earlier, eerier relative.’

Source: io9

Western Philosophy: Derived from Eastern Spiritualism?

‘In a fascinating piece in this month’s Atlantic, UC Berkeley professor Alison Gopnik details her four year journey out of a mid-life crisis via David Hume and Buddhism. The just-turned-fifty Gopnik begins reading Buddhism, connects the religion’s ideas to those of the eighteenth century philosopher, then launches an ambitious research project driven by the question of how Hume came up with his philosophy that was “so profoundly at odds with the Western philosophy and religion of his day.”

Hume is most famous for his rejection of the idea of an inherent self. He also had gone through a psychological crisis. To help calm his nerves, he moved to small town in France and finished what would become one of the most substantial works of Western philosophy–A Treatise of Human Nature. Relying on the hunch that Hume would have had to have known something about Buddhist philosophy in order to write Treatise, Gopnik digs through archives and travels to Europe to discover that the Jesuit priests in that provincial French town had indeed heard of Buddhism and possibly even had copies of certain Tibetan texts. Although she admits that she can’t be certain, she determines that “Hume could indeed have known about Buddhist philosophy” at the time he wrote Treatise.

If true, this discovery would be remarkable because it’s widely assumed that Buddhism didn’t make it to the European continent until the nineteenth century.’

Source: Big Think

NASA Discovers Evidence for Liquid Water on Mars

‘For years, scientists have known that Mars has ice locked away within its rusty exterior. More elusive, though, is figuring out how much of that water is actually sloshing around in liquid form. Now, NASA scientists have found compelling evidence that liquid water—life-giving, gloriously wet H 20—exists on Mars.

We’re not talking gushing rivers or oceans here. These scientists have been investigating “recurring slope lineae,” patches of precipitated salt that appear to dribble down Mars’ steep slopes like tears rolling gently down a cheek. Planetary scientists hypothesized that the streaky formations were products of the flow of water, but they didn’t have concrete, mineralogical evidence for that idea until now, says Lujendra Ojha, a scientist at Georgia Tech who first spotted the lineae back in 2010. In a new Nature Geoscience paper, published online today, Ojha and his colleagues present “smoking gun validation” that it was liquid water flowing on Mars’ surface that formed these tear stains.’

Source: WIRED

Assisted Death Laws Won’t Make It Better to Die in the US 

‘Currently sitting on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk is a bill that, if signed into law, would allow doctors to prescribe life-ending drugs. Not surprisingly, this is controversial. Proponents believe the law would save diseased people from the worst days of their prognoses. Opponents say the law violates the sanctity of life, and can be exploited by ill-meaning family, physicians, and insurance companies at the patient’s expense.

But there’s a third group who believe this debate misses the real problem: that the American health care system is just an all around miserable place to die.’

Source: WIRED

How to Invent a Language, From the Guy Who Made Dothraki

‘IF YOU’RE A science fiction or fantasy fan, chances are you’ve heard a language constructed by David J. Peterson. He created both Dothraki and Valyrian for HBO’s Game Of Thrones, as well as written or spoken languages for Thor: The Dark World, SyFy’s Defiance and Dominion, and The CW’s The 100 and Star-Crossed. And in becoming the most recognizable name in the conlang (constructed language) community, he’s been instrumental in raising not just awareness of constructed languages, but their quality as well. By now, viewers expect their alien or foreign tongues to sound like they have syntax and grammar. No longer would a scene like this one from Return of the Jedi—Princess Leia/bounty hunter Boushh speaking fictional language Ubese to Jabba—pass muster.

Peterson has already written a guide to Dothraki, but his new book has even larger ambitions. The Art of Language Invention, out tomorrow, is a combination knowledge base and history lesson for those interested in constructing languages. It’s a distillation of the knowledge Peterson gained from the original email listserv that popularized the term “conlang,” blended with some of what he studied as a linguistics Ph.D. student at UC San Diego. But while it’s presented as an introduction for anyone interested in learning more about conlangs, it’s still incredibly dense. Unless you’ve taken a fair amount of linguistics, or are innately familiar with phonetic inventories and symbols, there’s a high barrier to entry for the average pop culture fan curious about how Dothraki came to be. The best parts of the book come at the end of the four main sections, where Peterson presents case studies on issues he face in creating languages for Game Of Thrones and Defiance, and how the knowledge he gained from the online community and his university training assisted in construction.

So rather than trying to explicate the book for you, we talked to Peterson himself—focusing on the community at large and its changing place in popular culture. Not surprisingly, he’s got some bold ideas for how the conlang community is dealing with being under a spotlight, and how innovative language creation can aid humanity’s future.’

Source: WIRED

Laurel and Hardy: it’s still comedy genius

Frank Skinner once admitted that new girlfriends were always “subjected to the Laurel and Hardy test”, when he would play a video of the Laurel and Hardy dance sequence from Way Out West. “If she didn’t laugh, I instantly wrote her off as a future companion,” said Skinner, conceding that this wasn’t exactly rational behaviour.

Perhaps we can all be divided by that Laurel and Hardy test. Those who love the Way Out West dance, which captures perfectly the charm and on-screen chemistry of the comedy duo, will already have been delighted by the news that the BBC1 is to show in 2015 a one-off 90-minute drama called Stan and Ollie – written by Jeff Pope of Philomena note – which is based around their 1953 tour of the UK, during which Hardy suffered a heart attack.


A Pill Doesn’t Have to Cost $750 To Be Outrageous and Exploitative

The internet’s villain of the month is easily Martin Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. In August, Turing, a pharma startup that had just received its first round of financing, bought the rights to manufacture an anti-parasitic drug called Daraprim. Turing’s first act was to jack the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per tablet, inciting much justifiable outrage.

Here’s the thing though: The drug was already priced outrageously and prohibitively. Daraprim is a very old and off-patent drug—just a few years ago, when the drug was still being manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, it cost $1 per pill. When GSK sold it to CorePharma in 2010 (CorePharma was eventually bought by Impax Labs, who sold the drug to Turing), the price went up to $13.50. Which is indeed much cheaper than $750 per pill, but relative cheapness doesn’t translate to accessibility. For many patients, a $13.50 daily medication might as well cost $750.

Source: Motherboard

Today’s Hero of the False-Equivalence Struggles: On the Media

‘False equivalence, for those joining us late, is the almost irresistible instinct in mainstream journalism to present differing views as being equally valid “sides” of an argument, even if one of them is objectively true and the rest are not.

False equivalence: “President Obama claims that he was born in the United States and thus is eligible to serve as president; his critics disagree on both counts.”

Actual truth: “Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961; a persistent ‘birther’ movement denies this fact.”

As chronicled over the years in posts collected here, the “both sides make their claims, who are we to judge?” reflex is very powerful in our business. That is largely because we’re most comfortable when acting in the role of a referee at a sporting event, a judge at a trial, a moderator at a debate, or some similar figure letting presumptively legitimate contenders fight it out on their own. To intervene directly and say “There are two sides here, but one of them is bunk” is uncomfortable, because it seems “partisan.” It is also risky, because it requires the reporter to learn enough about an issue to judge claims of relative truth.

Our friends at WNYC’s On the Media—Brooke Gladstone, Bob Garfield, and their team, whom I know and like—have done two very strong recent episodes on the false-equivalence snarl. In general you should listen to their show, but here are two especially worth seeking out.’

Source: The Atlantic

Why Everything Is Bad for You

Via The New York Times: ‘Health-scare stories, even those that are not overblown, draw their special power from the fact that we go through the days denying our mortality. Each one reminds us anew that there’s no way out. Unable to avoid this tragic and absurd-seeming condition, we lash out against our fates by finding fresh reasons to make a villain out of the one thing that is doing its part to keep us alive: food. We add salt to the psychic wound when we momentarily trick ourselves into believing that bugs, worms and dirt are the only things fit for human consumption. I’m not falling for it anymore. I’m going back to bologna and cheese…’

Is it Lying that Makes Us Truly Human?

Not only do we have a propensity for lying, we have built-in barriers that prevent us from detecting others when they do… People are social beings who require constant interaction and communication in order to survive. If we were constantly suspicious that everyone was lying, we’d probably all be holed up in a cabin like the Unabomber.

Source: Big Think

Two new studies show the FDA is rushing more drugs to market based on shoddy evidence

There was a time when the Food and Drug Administration was so sluggish and conservative in approving new drugs that people who desperately needed access to medicines would die waiting.

But fast forward to the early 1990s. By then, Congress had created four programs to expedite the development and approval process for new pharmaceuticals. These pathways were intended to push innovative new drugs — drugs to treat rare, serious, or life-threatening diseases — through the FDA more quickly.

Since these medicines were sorely needed, the idea was that rushing them through, often on the basis of more limited and preliminary clinical trials data, would help patients languishing with unmet medical needs.

Today, the FDA is now considered the fastest regulatory agency in the world. But there’s some concern that these expedited pathways are being used by drug companies to speed through medicines that aren’t actually helping patients with unmet medical needs — and that often aren’t any improvement over what’s already on the market.

Source: Vox