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Week of 15 November 2002 · Vol. VI, No. 12

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New York Times: Computers can cut down on drug errors

Citing studies that indicate errors or mismanagement of medication played a bigger role than diagnostic errors in deaths and complications among heart and stroke patients, an American Heart Association panel advised that doctors should use computers more and handwriting less, reports the November 12 New York Times. The panel also called for a mandatory system for reporting medication errors and greater efforts to educate doctors about drugs with similar names. The panel’s leader, Jane Freedman, a MED professor of medicine and a physician at Boston Medical Center, says that drug errors are particularly troublesome in cardiology, a field that relies heavily on an ever-changing and broad list of medicines. Computer programs can help, she says, by flagging drugs that should not be taken together. The panel advised that doctors should avoid abbreviations and type rather than scrawl and that new efforts should be made in prescribing helpful drugs to patients. “Studies show that not everyone leaving the hospital who should be getting potentially lifesaving medications such as beta-blockers or aspirin are getting them,” Freedman says.

Australian Financial Review: A new communist party in China?

The Chinese Communist Party’s 16th congress, now under way in Beijing, may herald a new age of openness in political reform, reports the Australian Financial Review on November 12. The CCP may now be maneuvering to establish the “ideological room” that would allow it to introduce some measures of political reform, says Joseph Fewsmith, a CAS professor of international relations and an expert in modern Chinese politics. “Although it is too early to say that this development heralds fundamental change, it is clear that a considerable amount of thinking and experimentation are going on. Although the 16th party congress will be important for many reasons, it seems likely that whatever leadership arrangements are made, the pace of political reform will increase. Whether it will increase sufficiently is more difficult to answer.”

Platkin on Health, WBNG-TV (Binghamton, Del.): No seed of truth in grapefruit diet

Will a certain food or drink help you lose weight? Binghamton, Del.’s WBNG-TV health news reporter Charles Stuart Platkin explored diet gimmicks like the grapefruit diet in his November 6 show Platkin on Health. The fat-burning claims made by advocates of the diet represent a “myth as old as the orchard hills,” says Joan Salge-Blake, a SAR clinical associate professor in the department of health sciences. “Grapefruits don’t burn fat. If they did, Floridians would be as fit as a fiddle. There isn’t any food that burns body fat.”

Christian Science Monitor: Unmanned drone effective stalker

The CIA’s recent assassination in Yemen of a top al-Qaeda official using the Predator, an unmanned missiled aircraft, signaled a more aggressive approach by the United States to fight terrorism, says the November 6 Christian Science Monitor. “I think we’ve learned that the old notion of deterring these people doesn’t work anymore,” says Arthur Hulnick, a CAS associate professor of international relations and a 28-year veteran of the CIA. “What you can do is preempt them by hitting them before they strike.” The Predator can fly in under 15,000 feet and is equipped with a real-time camera so controllers up to hundreds of miles away can see the targets and fire a missile. “The Predator allows you to get in on the deck at a low level and see what you’re shooting at,” says Michael Corgan, a CAS associate professor of international relations, director of undergraduate studies, and a retired naval commander. “It’s below most radar search envelopes, and it moves quite fast over the ground, so it’s hard to hit with gunfire.” He adds that the Predator changes the art of warfare because it lessens the need to put U.S. troops at risk.


15 November 2002
Boston University
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