2006 Archive

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The Year in Health Fads: Why Graphics are Bad for You
Trevor Butterworth, December 28, 2006
Op-Art in The New York Times confuses rather than clarifies the year in health news.

Worst Press Release of 2006
Trevor Butterworth, December 26, 2006
Georgetown University booze researchers try their best to spin new data.

Toxic Christmas Trees?
Trevor Butterworth, Dec 22, 2006
Is the media’s obsession with outgassing producing a lot of hot air? Plus, a roundup of Christmas tree terrors.

Washington Post’s Heart Stopper
Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D, December 19, 2006
A gruesome tale of life-saving heart implant devices: they keep shocking people who are dying from other causes. And this affects how many people?

Make the Addicts Suffer!
Maia Szalavitz, December 18, 2006
Weird: Wall Street Journal ignores current data, experts, on rehab treatment –
turns to Ford-era drug expert and “spanking machine” supporter for advice.

Time’s Toy Reporting Scares Parents
Trevor Butterworth, December 13, 2006
But is it ethical to publish a one-source tip sheet for parents when the source can’t prove a risk? (addenda added)

Contraception v Abstinence Education
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D, December 12, 2006
If you look at the statistics, perhaps the twain should meet.

Fooled by Probability
December 11, 2006
In a brilliant video presentation, statistician Peter Donnelly shows how easily we are fooled by questions of probability - and how the outcomes can be disastrous (via TEDTalks).

Healthiest or Least Healthy State?
Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D, December 7, 2006
A study in demographics can yield surprising results.

Mass Hysteria About “Toxic” Toys is Spreading
Trevor Butterworth, December 5, 2006
The Huffington Post’s “Fearless Voices” just don't want to listen to science or reason.

Food Addiction, Redux
Maia Szalavitz, December 5, 2006
Arguments over food “addiction” miss the point: You can’t sue evolution.

How Many Kids Have Autism?
December 1, 2006
Analysis from WSJ's Numbers Guy.

Time’s Risk Analysis
Trevor Butterworth, December 1, 2006
When it comes to analyzing the “multidimensional math problem of risk,” we can learn to do better, says Time magazine. Indeed.

Childless by Choice?
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D, November 30, 2006
Anecdotal evidence of a growing trend could do with more statistical analysis.

Raging Bulls
Trevor Butterworth, November 28, 2006
We’re mad as hell, and they’ve got the psychologists to prove it! Turning anger into a trend story means abusing common sense.

Bogus Toy Danger
Trevor Butterworth, November 27, 2006
Who is watching the public interest watchdogs? When it comes to the risks from dangerous toys, some reporters and newspapers are ready to swallow nonsense.

Media Distort Health Risks, Say Experts
Maia Szalavitz, November 21, 2006
A report from the Foundation for American Communication’s seminar on covering health risks at Columbia University.

The Limits of Money
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D, November 20, 2006
Study on how the idea of money affects behavior produces some odd ideas in the press.

Staying Skeptical of Addiction Treatment

Maia Szalavitz,October 12, 2006
How the Los Angeles Times should have covered the extravagant claims made for “Prometa.”

It’s the Exhaust Fumes, Stupid
Trevor Butterworth, November 17, 2006
New car smell health scare stinks: Ecology Center study measures use of plastics not level in car air.

Hyping Internet Addiction
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D, November 16, 2006
The Washington Post creates a bigger problem than those doing the research.

Red Meat and Breast Cancer
Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D, November 15, 2006
An otherwise excellent story about breast cancer is limited by not citing hard number.

When Journalism Becomes a Health Hazard: Star Tribune Advocates “Self Education” on Consumer Safety, Chemical Risk

Trevor Butterworth, October 30, 2006
Evironmentalists dominate media coverage on supposed risks from cosmetics. Call for European Union-style ban on chemicals. Why shouldn't Americans enjoy same protection? But leading scientists say environmentalists mislead public over the risks.

When a PR Company Misuses Science
Trevor Butterworth, October 27, 2006
Qorvis Communications is a new breed of smarter PR company, says the Washington Post – which means journalists should be careful they’re not outsmarted.

Is AA Effective? Wall Street Journal vs Cochrane Collaboration
Maia Szalavitz, October 27, 2006
WSJ claims Cochrane report misled media

New York Magazine’s Fact-Restricted Calorie Article
Maia Szalavitz, October 26, 2006
Starvation is clearly not a good route to take, even for a good science journalist.

Investigating Alternative Medicine not Worth the Bother?
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D., October 25, 2006
If people aren’t willing to believe it, says NBC, why spend money checking quackery out?

Gotcha! Science Catches up with Media on Seafood Safety

Trevor Butterworth, October 18, 2006
STATS told you so back in 2004; scientists blame media for giving public false message on risks from fish.

Did Wall Street Journal Find Fatal Flaw in Lancet Iraq Study?
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D. and Trevor Butterworth,
October 18, 2006
Too few cluster points render Iraq casualty figure “bogus,” claims op-ed piece.

The Science of Counting the Dead
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D., October 17, 2006
A recent study published in the Lancet claims that over 650,000 “excess” deaths have occurred in Iraq since the invasion in March, 2003. STATS look at how scientists figure these numbers out, how their methods compare to other counts, and whether criticism of the numbers is justified. A companion article examines the media coverage.

How the Media Covered The Lancet’s Iraqi Casualty Study
Robert Lichter Ph.D, October 13, 2006
A surprising inability to convey the study’s findings accurately.

Counting the “Arbitrary” Costs of Global Warming
Trevor Butterworth, October 13, 2006
The bill is in on doing nothing about global warming – but how accurate can Tufts' study be?

Staying Skeptical of Addiction Treatment
Maia Szalavitz., October 12, 2006
How the Los Angeles Times should have covered the extravagant claims made for “Prometa.”

San Francisco Chronicle’s Cosmetic Scare

Rebecca Goldin, October 11, 2006
Science is about evidence – isn’t reporting supposed to be as well?

CBS Cornball on Obesity

Trevor Butterworth, October 3, 2006
High fructose corn syrup is addictive to journalists covering obesity.

Curveballs: The Fuzzy Math Behind Sex Discrimination in the Sciences

Trevor Butterworth and Rebecca Goldin Ph.D,
October 2, 2006
As the evidence for sex discrimination in the sciences mounts, media pundits continue to cite math test scores for innate differences between women and men. Here’s why the numbers don’t add up.

Fingering the Media

Rebecca Goldin Ph.D., September 28, 2006
What is it about finger length that journalists find irresistible?

Welcome to the New Drug Scare of 2007
Maia Szalavitz, September 27, 2006
Meth, we hardly knew you; say howdy to methadone, the new demon drug according to the media, who – oops – helped turn it into a hazard.

The Science of Luck

Rebecca Goldin Ph.D, September 20, 2006
It’s all a matter of probability.

The Duh Report: Smarties Stay Sober, Narcissists Crave Fame, Cell Phones Addictive

Trevor Butterworth, September 15, 2006
Research that seems to confirm the obvious has some obvious flaws.

Greenpeace: Our Sex Toys are Toxic!

Trevor Butterworth, September 11, 2006
Environmental group gets all hot and bothered over phthalates in vibrators.

A Cosmetic Victory for Public Health
Trevor Butterworth, September 8, 2006
Fears over phthalates force manufacturers to change formulas for nail polish: we are saved from an illusory risk.

Slate ’s Saucy Oral Sex Story Needs Better Statistics

Maia Szalavitz, September 7, 2006
A sample of patients from an inner-city clinic does not a national trend for teens make.

College Ranking Mania:
The Washington Monthly’s Bizarre Best College List

August 29, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.
Is Cal Tech only the 109th best college in the nation? Is South Carolina State superior to Harvard? A careful look at the Washington Monthly’s methodology reveals its flaws and biases.
Editor's note: We respond to the Washington Monthly's criticism of this article here.

Unbalanced Coverage of Pain Doctor’s Successful Appeal
August 23, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Associated Press account ignores support for doctor in medical community, national debate on pain treatment; story not just about drug trafficking.

Medicine’s Focus on Evidence is Not “Fascist”
August 21, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
A call to arms against a sea of “evidence-based logic” flounders in bad faith.

NBC Reports Rumsfeld Terror Policies Hurting Drug War
August 22, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
“In depth” report on allocating resources turns into advocacy as network fails to question data, quote experts or analyze terror needs.

Selling Alcohol Online Survey Snares NBC
August 16, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Industry group with interest in quashing online alcohol sales pays for survey showing teens at risk; NBC omits crucial data showing little interest in Internet booze-buying.

Bursting Technorati’s Blogosphere
August 15, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Extravagant claims for the growth of blogging reveal a problem in measurement.

How The News Ruined Your Cheeseburger
August 11, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
The media implies long-term damage from a study measuring a few hours.

Snuffed Out: New York Times Takes Aim at “Snus”
August 10, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Article ignores evidence for harm reduction; quotes only those opposed to smokeless tobacco product.

Associated Press Revises Story to Fix Addiction Error
August 8, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
But only in headline, rest of article still misses the point.

Myth-Busting the Innate Difference Debate
August 4, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
When it comes to science and math, discrimination explains more than differences in the brain; so watch out, women are also a lot more aggressive than once thought.

Targeting Youth? Alcohol Advertising in Magazines
August 1, 2006
Trevor Butterworth and Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.
The media likes one side of a complicated story; ignores new study challenging widely believed claim that alcohol industry targets teens.

Aerosol Percentages Require Context
July 28, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
Recent reporting on aerosols illustrate the importance of comparison.

A Tale of One Teen and Two Cancer Treatments –
Just Don’t Say One of Them Doesn’t Work

July 26, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Coverage of the Abraham Starchild Cherrix’s battle to forgo chemotherapy for alternative cancer therapy avoids talking about the fundamental issue: does the Hoxsey method work? And how would one go about making that judgment?

National Research Council Rejects EPA Risk Assessment Methodology
July 20, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Risks from dioxin overstated: EPA not justified in relying solely on linear risk assessment for suspected carcinogens. Decision undercuts many environmental health scares.

Is Meth America's No 1 Drug Problem?
July 19, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Survey of county law enforcement officials skews data for political ends, raises puzzling questions; but media succumbs to press-release "journalism."

Obesity – not ‘Videophilia’ – Responsible for Decline in National Park Visits
July 12, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
No wait, maybe it’s soccer – or pork. Washington Post’s “Vital Evidence” column clueless on National Parks study.

Deficit Number Slip Up at the Associated Press
July 11, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
A problem with subtraction creates better than expected economic news.

The Not-Quite-So-Grim Neurology of Teenage Drinking
July 7 , 2006
Maia Szalavitz
What the New York Times, CBS News and other media failed to mention in covering new studies on teen alcohol consumption.

In Praise of the New York Times
July 3, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
The New York Times has come in for a lot of criticism from STATS, but now, in two stories on breast-feeding and high fructose corn syrup, we come to praise rather than blame.

The United Nations Drug Report — Are They High?
June 30, 3006
Maia Szalavitz
The global drug problem has been contained (thanks to a combination of execution and breeding).

How Not To Poll Climate Experts on Global Warming Movie
June 28, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Cheap journalism at the Associated Press reveals little about accuracy.

Science and the Benefits of Breast-Feeding: The Authors Respond to Critics
June 26, 2006

What Science Really Says About the Benefits of Breast-Feeding (and what the New York Times didn’t tell you)
June 20, 2006
Dr. Rebecca Goldin
Director of Research, Statistical Assessment Service,Assistant Professor, Mathematical Sciences, George Mason University
Dr. Emer Smyth
Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Univ. of Pennsylvania)
Dr. Andrea Foulkes
Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst

The Science Times section of the New York Times announced today that it had received more than 100 letters “pro and con” over its article “Breast-Feed or Else.” Coverage of the reaction suggests that this is a controversial topic, with the Times acting as an honest broker; but when a newspaper compared cigarette smoking to using infant formula, we suspected that there’s got to be something screwy with the science, which is, in fact, the case. By failing to take a thorough, critical look at the evidence for this new public health campaign, the Times has caused needless anguish to countless mothers.

Los Angeles Times Gets "Road Rage" Right
June 13, 2006
S. Robert Lichter Ph.D
How to see through the spin on a scientific study.

Good News Dilemma For America's Teens
June 12 , 2006
Maia Szalavitz
It just doesn't fit the media's storyline.

Short, Diabetic, and Missing the Point
June 10, 2006
Rebecca Goldin, Ph.D
CNN stumbles over biological markers in study on diabetes.

Is Road Rage Really a Mental Illness?
June 7, 2006
S. Robert Lichter Ph.D
The study neither says nor proves what the media claim it does.

The Terror Crunch
June 5 , 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Newsweek forgets to correct the other error in its infamous story on the odds of a woman over 40 marrying.

New Marijuana Study Suggests FDA Statement Wrong
May 24, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
No elevated risk for lung cancer even for heavy pot smokers.

Distracted Drivers Increase Highway Death Rate?
May 24, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.
The release of two studies on driving on the same day led to all sorts of confusion.

Where Have All the UFOs Gone?
May 15 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Previously classified document adds to scientific pessimism over existence of ETs. Belief in fairies more robust.

Reuters Raises Alarm Over Abortion Pill
May 11 2006
Trevor Butterworth
But look at the numbers for a different story.

Another Crazy Columbia Alcohol Study
May 08, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
Columbia University research riddled with substantial errors; wildly overestimates underage drinking, abuse, benefit to drinks industry.

Anti-Meth Ad Campaign a Wash
May 05, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Despite plaudits from the media, scare tactics fall flat with teens (updated).

Lie Detector Tests
May 01, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
A perfect illustration of sensitivity versus specificity.

Too Late for Katie?
April 17, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Horrifying child murder not drug-related, but that won't stop the meth-addicted media.

AIDS Has Not Devastated East and West Africa
April 06, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Excellent Washington Post story maps the evolution of flawed data.

Porn Causes Brain Damage
April 04, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
So say the activists, and that’s good enough for ABC News.

Does Faith Affect Health?
March 27, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.
It depends on what you mean, though the media may not help you sort it out.

How to Tell a Story with Statistics
March 21, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
New York Times shows how to let data drive a story.

RU-486 Takes the Blame Again
March 20, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.
The press warns about an extremely small risk but the alternative is riskier.

Today Show Revises Number of Missing Kids Downwards
March 9, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Yet claims the numbers are increasing.

Lung Cancer Rates: What’s Your Risk?
March 8, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
With the recent death of Dana Reeve due to lung cancer, STATS took a look at lung cancer rates, along with the likelihood of survival. The news is not good.

Nasty, Brutish and Short: For The New York Times Childhood is a Battlefield
March 2, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
An elastic definintion of abuse criminalizes sibling rivalry.

New York Times Impressed by Grim Anti-drug Advertising Campaign
March 1, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
But Montana's new meth ads may do more harm than good.

Wall Street Journal Slurs Young Women
February 24, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Paper fesses up: failed to spot federal data contradicting new alcohol consumption claim.

Guardian Goes Potty Over Cannabis-Schizophrenia Link
February 20, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
Guardian/Observer report takes its cues from U.S. drug czar not science.

How to Cover a Health Controversy: NYT and Aspartame
February 13, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
A model for reporting on controversial health risks.

New York Times Teflon Errors
February 08, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
For those keeping up with an endless saga of media innacuracy.

Fat Foods And Fat Bodies
February 08, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D.
Media does nothing to divert likely public misunderstanding of low-fat diet study.

Red Flag For CBS Teflon Story
February 07, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
New study important, but CBS coverage wrong on facts and scientifically irresponsible.

Finally, A Journalist Puts the Risk from Teflon into Perspective
February 03, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Washington Post turns to "Food 101" columnist and chemistry professor Robert L. Wolke.

The Little Survey That Could
February 03, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Sapphic teen trend excites New York magazine.

Is TV Sex Turning Teens On Too Early?
February 1, 2006
Maia Szalavitz
The New York Times thinks it has the answer.

Did EPA Move the Goalposts to Fine DuPont?
January 31, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
A must-read article for journalists and policy makers from the New York Law Journal.

Toy Tantrums - The Debate Over the Safety of Phthalates
January 30, 2006
Rebecca Goldin Ph.D
Alarming headlines trump serious discussion of safety issues.

More Crazy Teflon Coverage
January 27, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
No need to throw out your frying pan, “right now,” says ABC’s Brian Ross.

California Rejects Chemical Ban
January 20, 2006
Trevor Butterworth
Democrat has about turn: says health experts not politicians should decide whether chemicals should be banned.

Media Ignore Activist Warnings Over Alleged Chemical Threat
January 18, 2006
Trevor Butterworth