Daily Rounds: How Sandy Killed; Beeper Madness; Sexualized Pink Ribbons; Big Sugar’s ‘Sweet Lies’

In storm deaths, mystery, fate and bad timing (The New York Times) – “They stepped in the wrong puddle. They walked the dog at the wrong moment. Or they did exactly what all the emergency experts instructed them to do — they huddled inside and waited for its anger to go away. Hurricane Sandy, in the wily and savage way of natural disasters, expressed its full assortment of lethal methods as it hit the East Coast on Monday night. In its howling sweep, the authorities said the storm claimed at least 40 lives in eight states…Most of all, it was the trees. Uprooted or cracked by the furious winds, they became weapons that flattened cars, houses and pedestrians. But also, a woman was killed by a severed power line. A man was swept by flooding waters out of his house and through the glass of a store. The power blinked off for a 75-year-old woman on a respirator, and a heart attack killed her.”

A medical calling (The Boston Globe) – “These are times of unremitting technological contact, we just can’t avoid each other, yet patients are admitted and — even more often — unsafely discharged, without a word of communication. The first I hear about the event is from the local pharmacist, asking for refills on medications I did not know had been begun, for patients I did not know had been hospitalized. I return the call with confidence. Pharmacists always pick up.”

Sexy breast cancer campaigns anger many patients (USA Today) – “Many breast cancer survivors say a crop of pink-ribbon campaigns have hit a new low — by sexualizing breast cancer. An online porn site this month has been using breast cancer to increase its Web traffic by offering to donate 1 cent for every 30 views of its videos. The intended recipient for the donation, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, rejected the offer and instructed the site to stop using its name. Yet pornographers are only the most extreme example of a disturbing trend: using sex to sell breast cancer — or simply get attention, say Gayle Sulik, author of Pink Ribbon Blues. Sulik, who recently lost a friend to the disease, notes that magazines and advertising campains now routinely use topless young women to illustrate a disease whose average victims are in their 60s.”

Big Sugar’s sweet little lies: How the industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill? (Mother Jones) – “Precisely how did the sugar industry engineer its turnaround? The answer is found in more than 1,500 pages of internal memos, letters, and company board reports we discovered buried in the archives of now-defunct sugar companies as well as in the recently released papers of deceased researchers and consultants who played key roles in the industry’s strategy. They show how Big Sugar used Big Tobacco-style tactics to ensure that government agencies would dismiss troubling health claims against their products. Compared to the tobacco companies, which knew for a fact that their wares were deadly and spent billions of dollars trying to cover up that reality, the sugar industry had a relatively easy task. With the jury still out on sugar’s health effects, producers simply needed to make sure that the uncertainty lingered. But the goal was the same: to safeguard sales by creating a body of evidence companies could deploy to counter any unfavorable research. For 40 years, the sugar industry’s priority has been to shed doubt on studies suggesting that its product makes people sick. This decades-long effort to stack the scientific deck is why, today, the USDA’s dietary guidelines only speak of sugar in vague generalities.”

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