Effect Measure

Archives for December, 2007

Bird flu in Pakistan after a week

It’s been less than a week since the first reports out of Pakistan that cases of bird flu were appearing there. At the time we warned that the coming of flu season meant these kinds of reports were to be expected, but by the weekend concern increased as a family cluster appeared. As common in…

What causes traffic jams

One of the enduring mysteries is what causes traffic jams. Sometimes it’s obvious — sort of. I remember having to make a daily trip from New York to Bellevue Hospitals in New York down FDR Drive. At one spot the three southbound lanes suddenly widened into five lanes because of some construction and then, after…

Nature’s senior correspondent, Declan Butler, was one of the first to raise the profile of a pandemic threat in the scientific community and has had done some superb reporting since, including several stories on sharing gene sequences. The problematic actors in his earlier stories were respected scientists and the business-as-usual way they were approaching release…

Bombs, bullets and bupkis* for NIH and CDC

Bush and the Democratic Congress are still battling over the budget, although it is said they are getting closer. Getting closer to Bush unfortunately means giving him all the bombs and bullets he wants but not much else. A case in point is the latest proposal for the NIH and CDC budgets:

We have occasion to comment often here about how the same bird flu story is spun different ways. A case in point is reporting on statements made by the head of Indonesia’s National Avian Influenza Committee, Bayu Krisnamurthi and the two different directions Agence France Presse and Reuters took the story. Here’s AFP:

Buttering up the popcorn market

It is taking the Occupational Safety and Health Administratiohn (OSHA) a long time to write rules to protect flavoring workers from a serious lung disease called bronchiolitis obliterans, linked to artificial butter flavor used in microwave popcorn. According to the public health blog, The Pump Handle (which has been instrumental in keeping the diacetyl story…

Benin, voodoo and what I am afraid of

I don’t know much about the West African state of Benin, but the newswires have made sure to alert me to the fact it is the home of ritual Voodoo sacrifice. Which, it turns out, is relevant to bird flu because Benin is having a poultry outbreak with H5N1. This is not much of a…

Pregnant women standing on their own two feet

The title of the Nature paper is “Fetal load and the evolution of lumbar lordosis in bipedal hominins” (Nature 450, 1075-1078 (13 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06342) and the Editor’s comment is given the slightly snappier title, “The mother load.” (Nature (DOI:10.1038/nature06342). But I like the New Scientist version best: “Why pregnant women don’t fall over.”

WHO’s pep talk and fighting bird flu

With everyone on tenterhooks over the confusing outbreak of human bird flu cases in Pakistan and the first reported case in Burma (aka Myanmar), WHO is taking the opportunity to give its member nations a pep talk about swift reporting. Since there is evidence the reporting might not have been so terribly swift in that…

If I knew for sure what was going on with the reported human bird flu outbreak in Pakistan’s northwest border region I’d tell you. At this point it appears no one knows for sure — not WHO, not CDC, not even the Pakistani authorities. The region where the cases are reported is near the Afghan…