Weekly Roundup 1/31/2011

Remarks by the President on the Situation in Egypt
President Barack Obama, Jan. 29

How should the U.S. respond to the protests in the Middle East?
The Washington Post, Jan. 30, 2011

With Egypt, Diplomatic Words Often Fail
Helene Cooper, The New York Times, Jan. 30, 2011

Synopsis: President Obama says embattled Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak must “give meaning” to his promise of better democracy and greater economic opportunity. Five experts selected by The Washington Post offer varying views on the best U.S. policy toward the widening protests against Mubarak’s government. And The New York Times’ White House correspondent notes the difficulties posed by uncertainty in a vital U.S. ally.

Takeaway: “We’re in completely uncharted territory,” one expert tells the Times. “This is a big deal with huge potential consequences for U.S. strategic interests in a vital region.”

For further reading, see “Human Rights Issues” by Kenneth Jost, CQ Researcher, Oct. 30, 2009.

-- Kenneth Jost, Associate Editor


Unproven for Older Women, Digital Mammography Saps Medicare Dollars
Joe Eaton, Elizabeth Lucas and David Donald, Center for Public Integrity, Jan. 30, 2011.

Synopsis: The march of medical technology and the billions of dollars it costs goes on, with insurers such as Medicare unable to stem the tide. Direct-to-consumer marketing of technologies like digital mammography – for which Medicare now pays about 50 percent more than for traditional film mammography -- is persuading patients to demand them, even when medical evidence shows them to be no more effective than older, cheaper technologies.

Takeaway: “We are living in a time when a lot of medical interventions have been oversold, and [digital mammography] is another one,” said Dr. Russell Harris, a professor and preventive medicine expert at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. “The people who make the machines, who benefit by selling newer machines, have triumphed.”

“The story behind the rise of digital mammography is a tale of intense industry marketing, direct-to-consumer advertising, political lobbying, and strategic campaign donations to politicians who shepherded beneficial Medicare reimbursement rates through Congress, creating the financial incentive for clinics and hospitals to replace film machines with digital,” according to the Center for Public Integrity reporters.

-- Marcia Clemmitt, Staff Writer


The Boy Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest: Dealing With Julian Assange and His Secrets
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 30, 2011.

Synopsis: Times editor Bill Keller provides a compelling account of his negotiations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to publish a vast cache of classified government diplomatic cables.

Takeaway: Keller’s insider account is essential reading for those who are following the WikiLeaks saga and/or ruminating on First Amendment rights and the definition of a journalist in today’s new online world. Keller writes: “I came to think of Julian Assange as a character from a Stieg Larsson thriller – a man who could figure either as hero or villain in one of the megaselling Swedish novels that mix hacker counterculture, high-level conspiracy and sex as both recreation and violation.”

--Thomas J. Colin, contributing editor


"Smoked out"
The Economist, Jan. 22-28, 2011.

Research shows a link between the viewing of actors smoking in the movies and the consumption of cigarettes by people leaving the theater, a response “clearly relevant to those involved in public-health policy,” The Economist writes.

Takeaway: “Although smokers trying to quit are advised to avoid other smokers, and to remove smoking-related paraphernalia from their homes, it might not occur to them to avoid films in which smoking is depicted.”

--Thomas J. Billitteri, Managing Editor