Jerry Falwell’s hit parade.

Timothy Noah in Slate Magazine: “For 20 years, evangelicals have chided the mainstream media for treating Falwell’s ghastly pronouncements as news; Falwell, they often confide in private, ceased being a significant figure well before he left his signature political organization, the Moral Majority, in 1987. If so, someone forgot to tell Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz., who as a presidential candidate in 2000 condemned Falwell’s intolerance (‘The political tactics of division and slander are not our values, they are corrupting influences on religion and politics, and those who practice them in the name of religion or in the name of the Republican Party or in the name of America shame our faith, our party and our country’) but last year, as a presidential candidate positioning for 2008, made peace with Falwell and gave a commencement address (‘We have nothing to fear from each other’) to the 2006 graduating class at Falwell’s Liberty University. On news of Falwell’s death, McCain said in a statement, ‘Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country.’ Nonsense. He was a bigot, a reactionary, a liar, and a fool. Herewith, a Falwell sampler…”

Gonzales Pressed Ailing Ashcroft on Spy Plan, Aide Says – New York Times

In his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, James Comey, former assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft, describes Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card rushing to the critically ill Ashcroft’s hospital bedside in March 2004 to pressure him to override Comey’s refusal to reauthorize the secret warrantless domestic surveillance program before its expiration the following day.

“The hospital visit by Mr. Gonzales and Andrew H. Card Jr., who was then White House chief of staff, has been disclosed before, but never in such dramatic, personal detail. Mr. Comey’s account offered a rare and titillating glimpse of a Washington power struggle, complete with a late-night showdown in the White House after a dramatic encounter in a darkened hospital room — in short, elements of a potboiler paperback novel.” (New York Times )

Understanding Empathy

Can You Feel My Pain? “Is shared experience really necessary for a physician to understand or treat a patient? I wonder. After all, who would argue that a cardiologist would be more competent if he had had his own heart attack, or an oncologist more effective if he had had a brush with cancer?” — Richard Friedman MD (New York Times )

Is the "Five-Second Rule" a Myth?

“Harold McGee, also known as the New York Times’ “Curious Cook,” has an article about a new paper from a Clemson University research group led by Paul Dawson on the validity of the “five-second rule” — the old adage that if you drop food on the floor but pick it up within five seconds, it’s okay to eat it. According to a 2003 survey conducted by Jillian Clarke (a high-school intern at the University of Illinois who later won an Ig Nobel Prize for her research), more than 50% of adult men and 70% of adult women knew of the five-second rule, and many said they followed it. Now the Clemson researchers have gathered data to assess its validity once and for all. The results?” [read on] (Freakonomics Blog via walker)

The researchers’ basis for determining if the dropped food is safe to eat depends on ascertaining what bacterial load they pick up from a dirty surface after various intervals. But that does not address the likelihood that the added bacterial load is probably an infinitesimal addition to the daily bacterial load to which we are exposed already, from the same varieties of microbes, even if we never eat a piece of dropped food. More important, although I am not a bacteriologist or an immunologist, I seem to recall an argument that exposure to dirt should be considered akin to an inoculation, invigorating the immune system, and that an obsession with cleanliness may actually leave a person in immunological jeopardy when the time comes to defend oneself. At least that’s my reasoning when I eat something I’ve dropped…and I utilize something more like a thirty-second rule.

Study: Vitamins tied to prostate cancer

A study of approx. 300,000 men revealed the correlation. “Heavy multivitamin users were almost twice as likely to get fatal prostate cancer as men who never took the pills, concludes the study in Wednesday’s Journal of the
National Cancer Institute
. Overall, the researchers found no link between multivitamin use and early-stage prostate cancer. The researchers speculate that perhaps high-dose vitamins had little effect until a tumor appeared, and then could spur its growth.”