I chanced upon an ancient backup of my RSS feed subscriptions, a cold hard stone of data from my time at Wired in the mid-2000s. The last-modified date on the file is December 2007. I wiped my feeds upon coming to Boing Boing thenabouts: a fresh start and a new perspective.
What I found, over 212 mostly-defunct sites, is a time capsule of web culture from a bygone age—albeit one tailored to the professional purpose of cranking out blog posts about consumer electronics a decade ago. It's not a picture of a wonderful time before all the horrors of Facebook and Twitter set in. This place is not a place of honor. No highly-esteemed deed is commemorated here. But perhaps some of you might like a quick tour, all the same. Read the rest
It's been years since the major pharma companies agreed to participate in the Registry of All Trials, meaning that they'd end the practice of only reporting on trials whose outcomes they were pleased with, leaving about half of all trials unreported-on. Read the rest
The notorious, Hitler-endorsing, Brexit-backing, anti-vaxx, cancer-scare-promoting, compulsively lying, photoshop failing, plagiarizing, M15-creating, hateful, lethally transphobic, Creative Commons misunderstanding, evil, teacher-demonizing, royal-wedding-lying, Melania Trump distressing, racist, grandstanding, pig-fuckery-promoting tabloid will no longer qualify as a "reliable source" for the purposes of Wikipedia citation. Read the rest
Battle is a town in East Sussex, England. Battle has a railway station. A pilfered road sign directing travelers to Battle Station is currently £23.95 on eBay. "This deserves a good home" writes Ben Goldacre. Read the rest
The UK government has passed rules banning academics who receive public funding from "lobbying" ministers and MPs about their research, meaning that the people whom the government pays to acquire expertise in matters of public policy aren't allowed to speak to policy-makers anymore. Read the rest
Crofton Black is a British counterterrorism investigator who has spent years tracking down the detritus of extraordinary rendition -- a polite euphemism for the government practice of snatching people, flying them to a distant country, and torturing them. Read the rest
"Radical ecology" has come to mean a kind of left-wing back-to-the-landism that throws off consumer culture and mass production for a pastoral low-tech lifestyle. But as the brilliant science journalist and Marxist Leigh Phillips writes in Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff
, if the left has a future, it has to reclaim its Promethean commitment to elevating every human being to a condition of luxurious, material abundance and leisure through technological progress.
Cyagen also makes stem cells and other bio-research materials: they'll pay academics $100 in vouchers per citation, multiplied by the impact factor of the journal in which the paper is published. Read the rest
Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method, but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and scientists' fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld, meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years -- and sometimes forever. Read the rest
I met Caspar in 2001 while working for EFF; he was working for the Foundation for Internet Policy Research, which tirelessly lobbied the Lords and Parliament on the new surveillance powers that the Blair government wanted to bring in. Read the rest
Over the past decade, pharma-fighting Dr Ben Goldacre has written more than 500,000 words of fearlessly combative science journalism.
Pfizer's patent on pregabalin -- an anti-epilepsy med -- expires this year, but there's another patent on using the public domain drug to treat neuropathic pain; in a shocking letter to UK doctors, the pharma giant warns of dire consequences should medical professionals dare to prescribe the generic for the patented use. Read the rest
An alarming report from the California Dietetic Association describes a kind of corporatist apocalyptic nightmare where junk-food companies pony up fat sponsorships in order to pervert the agenda and distort the science. Nutritionists, like other medical professionals, have to attend educational meetings in order to keep up their credentials.
Their professional bodies have seemingly been totally co-opted through corporate sponsorships, and nutritionists who try to document this are thwarted by "no photography" policies. But even without pictures, it's obvious that a panel on corn sweeteners that's paid for by the corn growers and only sports employees of high-fructose corn syrup is not going to produce a rounded picture of the science of obesity and HFCS.
The situation for nutritionists is a microcosm for the whole health industry. As Ben Goldacre details in his essential book Bad Pharma, doctors' continuing education is almost entirely funded by pharmaceutical companies that present multi-hour adverts for their products -- including dodgy studies that they funded -- in place of genuine, impartial scientific training. Read the rest
PA Consulting, a management consulting firm, obtained the entire English and Welsh hospital episode statistics database and uploaded it to Google's Bigquery service. The stats filled 27 DVDs and took "a couple of weeks" to transfer to Google's service, which is hosted in non-EU data centres. This is spectacularly illegal. The NHS dataset includes each patient's NHS number, post code, address, date of birth and gender, as well as all their inpatient, outpatient and emergency hospital records. Google's Bigquery service allows for full data-set sharing with one click.
The news of the breach comes after the collapse of a scheme under which the NHS would sell patient records to pharma companies, insurers and others (there was no easy way to opt out of the scheme, until members of the public created the independent Fax Your GP service).
According to researcher and epidemiologist Ben Goldacre, this story is just the beginning: there's an "infinitely worse" story that is coming shortly. Read the rest
Ben Goldacre and David Spiegelhalter have published a paper in the British Medical Journal called "
Bicycle helmets and the law", exploring the complex epidemiological conundrum presented by research on safety and bike helmets. As Goldacre pointed out, this is a perfect teaching case about the difficulty of evaluating risk and its relationship to law and the behavior. The paper is short and very clearly written, and makes a great companion to Goldacre's excellent books, Bad Science and Bad Pharma. Read the rest