Wayward Press Clips

by Fred Gardner, October 30, 2013

A front-page article in the New York Times Oct. 27,  headlined “Few Problems With Cannabis for Cali­fornia” takes a common-sense, macro-level look at what 17 years of medical use hath wrought in the Golden State. Among the documented benefits: marijuana use reduces alcohol use and drunk driving.  

Tod Mikuriya, MD, predicted this would happen and provided relevant documentation in his 2003 paper, “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol.” The Newspaper of Record did not give Mikuriya any acknowledgment. Instead, he was ignored — implicitly dissed — by UCLA's famous “drug policy expert,” Mark Kleiman.  To quote the NYT piece by Adam Nagourney and Rick Lyman:

Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an expert on marijuana policy who was the chief adviser to Washington on its marijuana law, said the connec­ tion between alcohol and marijuana use, if borne out, would be a powerful argument in favor of decriminalization.

“If it turns out that cannabis and alcohol are substi­ tutes, then by my scoring system, legalizing can­ nabis is obviously a good idea,” Mr. Kleiman said. “Alcohol is so much more of a problem than can­ nabis ever has been.”

Still, he said, it will take time before long-term judgments can be made.

“Does it cause problems?” he said. “Certainly. Is it on balance a good or bad thing? Ask me 10 years from now.”

Tod's paper reported on 92 patients who were using cannabis, entirely or to some extend, instead of alcohol (mainly to promote disinhibition in social situations). Tod was in contact with Kleiman, whom he considered somewhat pompous and opportunistic. Kleiman once knew about — and should have borne in mind — Tod's findings. Tod was the real expert when it came to mari­ juana. But to Kleiman and his ilk, findings not published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine can conveniently be overlooked, and researchers not university-connected can easily be marginalized. One of Tod's reasons for willing O'Shaughnessy's into existence in 2003 was to have an outlet where he could publish “Cannabis as a Substitute for Alcohol” and get it to patients and col­ leagues. The paper is a magnum opus. Hard to imagine anything more understanding and empathetic being written on the subject. Check it out!

PS Kleiman calls his blog “The Reality-Based Commu­ nity.” What he means is “The Status-quo Loving Com­ munity.” The man expects to be dispensing expertise at taxpayer expense 10 years from now. Nice work if you can get it.

Gen Giap’s Obit in the Guardian

We recently visited the expat offspring in England. One of the fringe benefits was getting the Guardian every morning. On October 5, reading an obituary for Gen Vo Nguyen Giap, who made it to 102, something struck me as misleading and I sent in a letter to the editor (which I rarely do at home, though I read misleading material every day in the Newspaper of Record). I wrote,

The obituary of Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap by Robert Templer misleadingly states, “the Geneva Accords divided the country into the communist north and US-backed south, setting the stage for another war…” If memory serves, the Geneva Accords provided a timetable for elections and the reunifi­ cation of Vietnam. It was the violation of the Geneva Accords — the refusal by the US-backed Diem regime in the South to take part in the promised elections — that led to the war.

I got a note acknowledging receipt and didn’t think more about it. Then, to my surprise, on Oct. 25 I got this from the Obits editor:

Mr. Gardner has a point and yet his version is not quite right either. The Geneva Accords divided the country on a temporary basis until elections for a national government could be held. The accords specifically made the point that the division was not political ie not to do with a communist north or a non-communist south. Remember that the Viet Minh, in theory, was a popular front organisation including both communists and non communists, and the southern government was also, in theory, open to various political tendencies, including socialists if not communists.

However, to say that the United States and the southern government violated the accords is not right. Neither signed the accords, but merely “took note” of them. This was a dodgy stance obviously intended to give them the chance to wriggle out of the clause on elections. This they duly did when it became obvious that national elections would probably be won by the communists. This was perhaps wrong, but it was not technically a viola­ tion.

I think we probably should make a correction, but at the moment I cannot find Robert Templer to ask for his comments. However, we'll try not to lose sight of the matter — best, Robert White, Obits editor

Very impressive that they would go to such lengths to get it right. (Not that I did.)

Devious Device Makers

The FDA published new rules Sept. 20 requiring most medical devices sold in the US to carry a code identifying the model, date of manufacture, and lot num­ ber. “The codes will be stored in a publicly accessible database to help regulators, doctors and companies monitor safety issues with devices,” the Associated Press reports. The corporate media did not use the announce­ ment of this small reform to review all the recalls of defective  defibrillators, artificial hips and drug pumps that led up to it. We all know that 3,000 Americans died on 911, but how many deaths and ruined lives can be attributed to Medtronics, HP, et al. in the past decade?

The device manufacturers get sued, stall for years in court, are ordered to pay “huge” fines (which are actu­ ally minuscule, given their profits), and the deadly sys­ tem rolls on.

Dangers of Airport Noise

An editorial in the British Medical Journal October 11, “Airport noise and cardiovascular disease,” looks at three big, relevant studies and concludes:

“These studies provide preliminary evidence that aircraft noise exposure is not just a cause of annoyance, sleep disturbance, and reduced quality of life but may also increase morbidity and mortality from cardiovascular disease. The results imply that the siting of airports and consequent exposure to aircraft noise may have direct effects on the health of the surrounding population. Planners need to take this into account when expanding airports in heavily populated areas or planning new air­ ports.”

The BMJ editorial reiterates: “Planners take note.” We think New York city planners and real estate devel­ opers had already taken note when they steered negroes to St. Alban’s, Queens, in the postwar years. The real estaters may not have had the mortality data, but they intuited the deadly truth.

Candace Pert

Candace Pert died of a heart attack Sept. 12. It was her discovery of the opioid receptor that won the Lasker Prize for Sol Snyder. As described by Jonathan Schwartz in the New York Times,

Such omissions are common in the world of science; the graduate student in the lab rarely gets credit beyond being the first name on the papers describing the research. But Dr. Pert did something unusual: she pro­ tested, sending a letter to the head of the foundation that awards the prize, saying she had “played a key role in initiating the research and following it up” and was “angry and upset to be excluded.”

Her letter caused a sensation in the field. Some saw her exclusion as an example of the burdens and barriers women face in science careers.

In a 1979 article about Dr. Pert in the The Washing­ton Post, Dr. Snyder, who had lauded Dr. Pert’s contri­ butions in his Lasker acceptance speech, argued that “that’s the way the game is played,” adding that today’s graduate students will be tomorrow’s lab chiefs, and that “when they have students, it will be the same.”

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