Double Dose: Academics' Ethics; Blogging About Disablism; "My Beautiful Mommy" Bombs with Bloggers, Scores on Publicity; Plastic Surgery on TV; Contraceptives in Middle School; Breast Cancer Rates Drop - for White Women; and More

By Christine Cupaiuolo — April 19, 2008

Ethics Worth More Than Financial Payments: “With little fanfare, a small number of prominent academic scientists have made a decision that was until recently all but unheard of. They decided to stop accepting payments from food, drug and medical device companies,” reports The New York Times.

No longer will they be paid for speaking at meetings or for sitting on advisory boards. They may still work with companies. It is important, they say, for knowledgeable scientists to help companies draw up and interpret studies. But the work will be pro bono.

The scientists say their decisions were private and made with mixed emotions. In at least one case, the choice resulted in significant financial sacrifice. While the investigators say they do not want to appear superior to their colleagues, they also express relief. At last, they say, when they offer a heartfelt and scientifically reasoned opinion, no one will silently put an asterisk next to their name.

Blogging Against Disablism Day: Coming May 1. Last year, more than 170 people took part. Diary of a Goldfish has the details: “You can write on any subject, specific or general, personal, social or political. In the previous two BADDs, folks have written about all manner of subjects, from discrimination in education and employment, through health care, parenting, family life and relationships, as well as the interaction of disablism with racism and sexism.”

Plus: Tips on language.

“My Beautiful Mommy”: “Oh I just can’t think of enough bad things to say about this book but for starters…” begins Lucinda Marshall’s critique of a new children’s book written by a plastic surgeon to help kids age 4-7 get with the whole “mommy makeover” (tummy tuck and breast augmentation). It’s emblematic of reactions read ’round the web (though EW surprisingly feels the need to ask, “a practical solution for a well-defined demo, or pure evil?” Hmmm. Let me think.)

The book got a lot of attention this week after this Newsweek story came out. Making Light has good info on how a self-published vanity-press book made major league headlines … including a mention on Wait, Wait …. Don’t Tell Me” this morning.

Plastic Surgery on TV: When Botox, face lifts and reconstructive surgery gets in the way of acting, is it appropriate for a critic to call it out? Mary McNamara at the L.A. Times writes:

People should be free to look as they choose, and this town is tough on women — don’t talk to me about Judi Dench and Helen Mirren, they’re British. Would an American woman ever get away with anything approaching Nicolas Cage’s hair or James Spader’s increasing portliness? Of course not.

But television is a visual art, and if people are going to significantly alter the way they look in ways not directly connected with the roles they are playing, it can affect not only their performance but the whole tone of the show.

So you tell me, what is a critic supposed to say when part of the problem with a show is that the leading lady’s face seems incapable of movement or her eyes appear to be moving toward the sides of her head or her lips just look weird?

Plus: Maureen Ryan on women keeping it real: “In future, I’ll not only attempt to acknowledge when a plastic face impedes the enjoyment of a show, but I’ll also make it my business to congratulate the women who look like they’ve lived, for hanging on to what’s made them distinctive individuals.”

Remember the Controversy Over Contraceptives in Portland, Maine?: “For all the firestorm surrounding the decision to make prescription contraceptives available at King Middle School, only one girl has used the service in the six months since the program began, officials say,” reports the AP.

As of Thursday, the only student to obtain a prescription for contraceptives was a 14-year-old girl, the city reported in response to a Freedom of Access request from The Associated Press.

“If it helps one student who otherwise might be in a position of being at risk, then it’s worth it,” said Lisa Belanger, who oversees Portland’s student health centers.

Falling Breast Cancer Rates Prevalent Only Among White Women: “New research shows a sharp drop in U.S. breast cancer cases in recent years was limited to white women, possibly because they abandoned hormone replacement therapy in greater numbers than minority groups,” reports Reuters.

White women had been more likely to use hormone therapy, and were also the most likely to abandon the drugs after U.S. regulators warned about the cancer link in 2003, according to Dr. Dezheng Huo of the University of Chicago and the study’s lead investigator.

“The sharp reductions seen in Caucasians aged 50 to 69 years were not seen among other ethnic groups,” Hou told the American Association for Cancer Research.

The researchers said the decline has been mainly among women older than 50 with estrogen-receptor positive cancer.

Why We’re Fatter: This Slate article isn’t new — in fact, it was published in 2006 — but it was just brought to my attention and it’s definitely an interesting read. Writer Sydney Spiesel reviews five of the 10 explanations for obesity identified in a study by David Allison and Scott Keith of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“In all likelihood, the rise in obesity results from a combination of several of these factors, each making its own contribution and perhaps interacting with other causes in some yet-more-complicated way,” writes Spiesel.

History As Appetizing As Tater Tots: I admit I fall hard for history texts that bring in the social and cultural implications, which is why I’m putting this on my summer reading list: “School Lunch Politics: The Surprising History of America’s Favorite Welfare Program” (Princeton University Press, 2008) by Susan Levine, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor of history.

“The National School Lunch Program has outlasted almost every other 20th century federal welfare initiative and holds a uniquely prominent place in popular imagination,” Levine said in this UIC release. “It suggests the central role food policy plays in shaping American health, welfare and equality.”

Levine, by the way, is also the author of “Degrees of Equality: The American Association of University Women and the Challenge of Twentieth Century Feminism,” and “Labor’s True Woman: Carpet Weavers, Industrialization and Labor Reform in the Gilded Age.”

Strategic Spending on Organic Foods: With the price of organic foods rising, here’s some good advice for shoppers who want to prioritize spending on those organic fruits and vegetables that have a high pesticide residue when grown conventionally. Check out the The Environmental Working Group’s list of 43 fruits and vegetables tested for pesticide residue.

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