It is nearly as dangerous to base life's decisions on individual scientific studies as it is on Bible verses taken out of context. Nonetheless, I enjoy reporting encourging news, and this morning's is about chocolate. This Scientific American article reports on a study of the cocoa consumption (in any form) of 470 elderly Dutch men, which found that those who ate the most cocoa were half as likely to die of cardiovascular or any other disease as those who ate the least. They haven't identified the protective mechanism yet; maybe it was the antioxidants, maybe the men were just happier. :)

Still, there's no need to go overboard on the Ghirardelli. The average daily cocoa consumption of the highest group was "more than four grams." Four grams is not a lot of cocoa, even in its pure form.
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 6:53 am | Edit
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What is worse, dying because you can't afford medical treatment, or dying because the cogs in a socialized medicine system decide they can't afford to treat you? Or because someone else thinks you would be better off dead than alive?

A high court in the United Kingdom has ruled that two year old Charlotte Wyatt's life belongs in the hands of the hospital where she is being treated; her parents cannot force doctors keep her alive if the doctors decide it would be in the child's best interest to die.

Whatever your views on what would be best for Charlotte, and whatever confidence you might have in your own doctor, this court precedent should terrify you. The chasm between trusting the advice of a doctor who has treated your family for years and proven his compassion and competence, and submitting to the decision of a medical bureaucrat (be he doctor, judge, or accountant) that the patient does not deserve to live, is that between heaven and hell.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 27, 2006 at 10:13 am | Edit
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Affluenza, by John de Graaf, David Wann, and Thomas H. Naylor (Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, 2001)

affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more

Many years ago I was walking through downtown Wayne, Pennsylvania with my father, and we stepped into the Encore bookstore. While browsing, I came upon The Plug-In Drug, Marie Winn’s indictment of television. It was a life-changing book. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 at 1:31 pm | Edit
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Fixed ideas, even if later discredited, are hard to dislodge. This is why urban legends and Internet rumors must repeatedly be quashed. Either we like what we "know" and don't care enough to be concerned about its veracity, or a new generation comes upon the outdated information and unwittingly embraces it. Or both.

This, I'm afraid is what will happen in the case of obstetrical practice. Several years ago a study (the "Term Breech Trial") led to the conclusion that it was safer for breech presentations to be delivered by Caesarean section, rather than vaginally. Consequently, this has become standard, established practice.

However, an article in the January 2006 issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports serious flaws in the Term Breech Trial, and concludes that the recommendations from that study should be withdrawn.

Most cases of neonatal death and morbidity in the term breech trial cannot be attributed to the mode of delivery. Moreover, analysis of outcome after 2 years has shown no difference between vaginal and abdominal deliveries of breech babies.

Because Caesarean sections are considered to be more convenient than vaginal deliveries (nature is so messy!), and because people seem less inclined to sue doctors for interventions than for not intervening, I don't expect to see a rise in the number of women allowed to attempt vaginal deliveries of breech babies. Nonetheless, it is important to note yet another instance of major life decisions being made on the basis of erroneous data.
Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 8, 2006 at 1:53 pm | Edit
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I haven't yet managed to post my review of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but I'll let End of the Spear sneak in ahead while it's fresh in my mind, because I'm afraid if you don't see it soon, you'll have to wait for the DVD. Not that we had a hard time finding a showing yesterday, but it had already come and gone at our first choice theater.

Half a lifetime ago I read Elizabeth Elliot's Through Gates of Splendor. Subsequently I lost track of the story of the five American missionaries who were killed in Ecuador, but I could never totally forget it, especially since we have several friends in Ecuador—including some who were there at the time—and even sang in choir for a while with one of the children of the slain men.

Despite these connections, the story seemed "long ago and far away," so it was almost shocking to have an opportunity to learn "the rest of the story." Particularly because at last I could hear it from the other side. As I sat in the theater, the movie critic in the back of my mind starting saying things like, "That's all speculation; they don't know what really happened on the beach [where the killings occurred]." Suddenly I realized I was wrong: At the end of Through Gates of Splendor they didn't know—but they do now. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 6, 2006 at 2:03 pm | Edit
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