What we’re reading 19 February 2010

blogsIn the BMJ editorial office, we often come across interesting articles, blogs, and web pages. We thought we would share these with you. Some are medical, some techie, and some just general.

Annabel Ferriman, news editor, writes:
I have just finished The Comedians http://www.amazon.co.uk/Comedians-Graham-Greene/dp/0099478374/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266574744&sr=8-1
by Graham Greene, which I read because of its connection with Haiti. It was published in 1966 and was set in the time of the dictator Pap Doc Duvalier, and his henchmen, the Tonton Macoutes. Very depressing. Apparently during Papa Doc’s rule (he was called Papa Doc because he was a doctor and first made his name by caring for the poor), which stretched from 1957 to 1971, the country suffered from a brain drain, from which it has never recovered.  So Haiti’s chaos today can be attributed a little to this dictator.

Trevor Jackson, magazine editor, is meant to be reading (for his book group) Jonathan Kaplan’s award winning account of his life as a war surgeon, The Dressing Station http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dressing-Station-Surgeons-Odyssey/dp/0330480790/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266578749&sr=8-1
However, as usual, he has been distracted by other things, in particular Glenn Paskin’s wonderful biography of one of the greatest pianists of all time, Vladimir Horowitz http://www.amazon.com/Horowitz-Biography-Vladimir-Glenn-Plaskin/dp/0688026567/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266578981&sr=1-1

He has also been keeping up with controversy over the Pope’s planned visit to the UK, and is increasingly outraged that British taxpayers might have to fork out an estimated £20 million for his security http://www.secularism.org.uk/government-says-it-will-fund-ele.html, particularly given his recent attacks on the Equality Bill http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/ian-bell/let-s-see-the-pope-s-agenda-for-what-is-it-interference-1.1003346 How many doctors or nurses would £20m pay for? Trevor has signed the Make the Pope Pay petition http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/ProtestthePope/

On a related note, he has also been irritated by Mrs Blair’s introduction of “Cheria Law” – where the former prime minister’s wife spared an offender from jail on the grounds that he was “a religious person” http://richarddawkins.net/articles/5070 While I generally think prison is a waste of taxpayers’ money, the idea that there should be one law for the religious and one law for rest of us is abhorrent. As A C Grayling says, Mrs Blair has clearly shown herself to be unfit for the bench.

On the London Review of Books blog, emeritus profess or bacteriology Hugh Pennington retaliates against the “conspiracy theorists” who claim that swine flu was hyped http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2010/01/28/hugh-pennington/enter-the-conspiracy-theorists/
In a piece that begins by citing a recent BMJ Editor’s choice, he says, “The pandemic is not a ‘fake’ . . .  And whether pandemic or seasonal, influenza is never ‘run-of-the-mill.’ More than a third of the 388 killed by H1N1 in the UK since last May had no significant risk factors.” Post mortems of the swine flu pandemic seem likely to run and run – until the next global health alert.

Helen Jaques, technical editor, writes:
Does Barbie’s new geeky look fit with reality?
Barbie, the toy doll, has been assigned a new career as computer engineer thanks to an online survey by makers Mattel. But how does tech support Barbie – with her wedge shoes, spangled leggings and pink laptop – compare with real women in IT?

How to Do the Ultimate Aging Study
Aging, as this article in Wired points out, isn’t just chronological: some people are spry well into their pensionable years whereas others are afflicted by the diseases of aging, such as stroke, by middle age. This article outlines the possibility of a common underlying cause that kicks off the aging process and discusses how to study it.

Juliet Walker, assistant web editor, writes:
An interesting article about the world of publishing, albeit women’s magazines rather than scholarly publishing. This looks at the huge success enjoyed by the women’s weekly magazine, Grazia, which sells more copies per week than its monthly counterparts sell in a month.

David Isaacson, doc2doc community manager, writes:
I usually keep my eye on social media news, being a community manager it makes sense to keep up with the online world. This week an article on the BBC about geotagging updates on Twitter and how they might be used against you (to rob your house) not only intrigued me but shocked to me as to how much information people are willing to share online.

David Payne, editor bmj.com, writes:
The most outrageous examples of health insurers denying coverage

Sabreena Malik, doc2doc clinical editor, writes:
Reading Dr Saqib Noor’s blogs from Haiti this week has made me both cry and smile.