Friday, February 3, 2006

Groundhog Forecast Pooh-Poohed

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow when he emerged from hibernation in Pennsylvania yesterday to predict six more weeks of winter, but the groundhog's methods failed peer review by scientists at the world's largest weather convention.

Phil's prognosticating prowess was scrutinized earlier in the week by the scientists at the 86th annual convention of American Meteorology Society in Atlanta, where one researcher noted that the groundhog's accuracy since the predictions were first recorded in 1887 languished at 39 percent.

Resistant Flu Tied to Drug Misuse

Misuse of two antiviral drugs in China, Russia and other countries probably led to the development of resistant influenza strains against which the drugs are now nearly useless, health experts said. The medicines are amantadine and rimantadine, which are used to treat common seasonal influenza.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the most prevalent flu strain in the country this season is resistant to amantadine and rimantadine in 91 percent of 120 samples. The level was 11 percent in the previous flu season.

Infectious-disease specialists David Weinstock and Gianna Zuccotti of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York said "misuse . . . most likely contributed to this rapid increase in resistance. In China, Russia and some other countries, amantadine and rimantadine are both available without a prescription."

They made the comments in an editorial accompanying a report from the CDC, both of which are to be published the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Stem Cell Expert's Move Rebuked

A University of Pittsburgh scientist acted irresponsibly in asking to remove his name from a South Korean stem cell study that was published in the journal Science and later found to be fabricated, a group of ethicists said.

Pittburgh's Gerald Schatten made the request to the journal in November after saying he discovered that the paper's first author, South Korean researcher Hwang Woo Suk, lied about the source of stem cells for the experiments. The request violated "basic tenets of individual integrity," said authors led by Mildred Cho, a Stanford University science ethicist.

"Authors provide the authority of a publication and take responsibility for its authenticity," the group says in a commentary in today's issue of Science. Schatten's request to have his name taken off Hwang's paper was "inappropriate, especially because his avowed contribution to the article was to the overall analysis and preparation for publication."

The University of Pittsburgh is conducting its own investigation.

EPA Prodded Over Diesel Pollution

Trains and boats powered by diesel-fueled engines cause about 4,400 premature deaths, nearly 5,700 nonfatal heart attacks and more than 73,000 asthma attacks in children, says a study by associations representing air pollution control officials.

The study by the trade groups -- the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials -- is an attempt to prod the Environmental Protection Agency to act on a promise of new rules.

The groups used an EPA formula in their calculations

The EPA said almost two years ago it would propose by mid-2005 emissions standards for diesel locomotives and marine engines but has not.

-- From News Services

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