Trump Walks the Walk on Hydroxychloroquine

(p. A6) WASHINGTON—President Trump said he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that he has cited as a possible defense against the novel coronavirus but that some scientists have cautioned needs further study and could be dangerous.

“I happen to be taking it, hydroxychloroquine,” he told reporters at the White House on Monday. He said he had consulted with the White House doctor and suggested he is taking the drug as a preventive measure. Mr. Trump said he has been checked regularly for Covid-19, has tested negative and has no symptoms. He said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for about a week and a half.

. . .

On Monday [May 18, 2020], Mr. Trump continued to stress anecdotal evidence in favor of the drug and told reporters, “I was just waiting to see your eyes light up when I said this.” He also expressed confidence in the drug’s safety. “I’m not going to get hurt by it. It’s been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things.”

For the full story, see:

Catherine Lucey, Jared S. Hopkins. “President Trump Says He Is Taking Hydroxychloroquine as Preventive.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 19, 2020): A6.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 18, 2020, and has the title “Trump Says He Takes Contested Drug for Prevention.”)

The key reference on advocates of a drug who take it first themselves, without confirmation from randomized double-blind clinical trials, is:

Altman, Lawrence K. Who Goes First?: The Story of Self-Experimentation in Medicine. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998.

China Sent Fewer Masks to World Than Claimed

(p. A6) This spring, Beijing energetically promoted its exports and overseas donations of medical supplies and asked foreign politicians to thank China publicly for the shipments. But a study released on Tuesday [May 6, 2020] found that the shipments were slow to get started.

. . .

The tonnage of China’s net exports of respirators and surgical masks was down 5 percent in March from the same month a year earlier, according to an analysis by Chad Bown, a trade specialist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

The analysis, based on Beijing’s own customs data, also found that China cut way back on exports of medical supplies in January and February and stepped up imports in those months.

For the full story, see:

“Top British Doctor Quits After Violating Lockdown.” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 6, 2020): A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 21 [sic], 2020 and has the title “Top U.K. Scientist Resigns Over Coronavirus Distancing Violation.” The print and online articles are a series of brief articles that are only related by being on some aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the online version, all of the brief articles must be searched-for under the name of the top brief article.)

Global Warming Allows Study of Transhumance to Flourish

(p. D3) OSLO — Ice patches that melted from the slopes of a remote mountain pass in Norway have revealed artifacts that provide new insight into the livelihood of hunters, traders and travelers along a route thousands of years old, archaeologists said this month.

. . .

The discoveries, outlined in the scientific journal Antiquity, were made on the central mountain range in Norway’s Innlandet County by the Glacier Archaeology Program, one of many programs worldwide studying what glaciers and ice patches are laying bare as they shift and melt because of climate change.

. . .

These discoveries have illuminated scientists’ understanding of transhumance, which describes how, where and why people moved from one place to another for trade, food, marriage or customs — sometimes over icy mountain passes rather than through the easier terrain, but longer distances, of valleys.

In 1991, hikers accidentally discovered the remains of a man, later nicknamed Ötzi the Tyrolean Iceman, preserved in 5,300 years’ worth of ice and snow in the Italian Alps. This marked the start of a promising period of archaeology that has gained pace as climate warming has revealed more artifacts, said Dr. Stephanie Rogers, a research assistant professor at Auburn University’s department of geosciences.

. . .

Dr. Rogers, who has done research on glacier archaeology in the Alps, said the discovery of the Iceman “really flipped a switch.”

“What was that person doing up there?” she asked, adding that researchers realized that “if we found something in this place, we are going to find something in other places.”

The field of transhumance has gained momentum in the past 10 to 20 years as artifacts have been laid bare because of the warming climate melting ice patches and moving glaciers, Dr. Rogers said.

For the full story, see:

Henrik Pryser Libell and Christine Hauser. “Warming Climate Reveals an Ancient Trade Route.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 28, 2020): D3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 16 [sic], 2020, and has the title “Warming Climate in Norway Reveals Relics of Ancient Viking Trade Route.”)

Cancer Mortality Declines Mainly Due to Less Smoking and Better Lung Cancer Treatment

(p. A12) . . . the American Cancer Society reported that the United States had experienced the sharpest one-year drop in cancer death rate ever recorded, . . . .

. . .

The society’s latest annual report on cancer statistics, released on Wednesday, noted that the death rate had dropped steadily over 26 years, from 1991 to 2017. The largest single-year decline ever reported, when the rate fell 2.2 percent, occurred from 2016 to 2017.

. . .

Experts attributed the decline in mortality to reduced smoking rates and to advances in lung cancer treatment. New therapies for melanoma of the skin have also helped extend life for many people with metastatic disease, or cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

For the full story, see:

Michael Levenson. “Cancer Death Fell Sharply, And Trump Took Credit.” The New York Times (Monday, January 13, 2020): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Jan. 12, 2020 and has the title “Trump Took Credit for Lower Cancer Death Rates. Advocates Say Not So Fast.” Where there was a minor wording difference between the print and online versions, the quotation above follows the online version. )

The report from the American Cancer Society, mentioned above, is:

Siegel, Rebecca L., Kimberly D. Miller, and Ahmedin Jemal. “Cancer Statistics, 2020.” CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians 70, no. 1 (2020): 7-30.

Coffee Gives Us “More Ideas, More Talk, More Energy, More Time, More Life”

(p. C4) After five centuries, we still have questions about coffee, but we agree on what we need it to do. Most of us drink coffee not because we have a finely calibrated understanding of its role in blocking the adenosine that makes us feel tired and increasing the dopamine that makes us feel good. Instead, we drink coffee because . . . of our bottomless desire for more ideas, more talk, more energy, more time, more life.

For the full commentary, see:

Augustine Sedgewick. “How Coffee Became a Modern Necessity.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 4, 2020): C4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the same date and title as the print version.)

Sedgewick’s commentary is related to her book:

Sedgewick, Augustine. Coffeeland: One Man’s Dark Empire and the Making of Our Favorite Drug. New York: Penguin Press, 2020.

Sarilumab Showed “Hint” of Promise for Critically Ill Covid-19 Patients

(p. A10) . . . , preliminary results on treatments with . . . sarilumab, marketed as Kevzara and made by Regeneron and Sanofi, indicate that it does not help patients who are hospitalized but not using ventilators.

. . .

The patients fell into two groups — “severe,” meaning they required oxygen but did not need a ventilator or so-called high flow oxygen, and “critical,” those who needed a ventilator, high flow oxygen or were in intensive care.

. . .

The results for the critically ill patients are not conclusive but there is a hint that such patients may be helped, so the study will continue with only critically ill patients. More than 600 have been enrolled. Results are expected in early June [2020].

For the full story, see:

Gina Kolata. “Drug Shows Slim Promise For Critical Covid Cases.” The New York Times (Tuesday, April 28, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 27, 2020, and has the title “Arthritis Drug Did Not Help Seriously Ill Covid Patients, Early Data Shows.”)

“The Better the Person, the Crumbier the House Is Going to Look”

I smiled at Jerry Seinfeld’s comment below that good people are too busy doing good to spend enough time for their house to look fabulous. (Admission: I have never been known for having a neat office.)

(p. C4) I like wearing the suit and having the crowd and the energy and the crackle — I like the magic. I don’t want to know who you really are. I don’t want to see how you really live. We’re all just sick of people’s houses. They’re all so depressingly normal. And the better the person, the crumbier the house is going to look. Because they’re too busy to do anything. The only people that have fabulous, fabulous places, stink. They’re horrible at what they do. They’re spending their money on the house instead of focusing on their art.

For the full interview, see:

Dave Itzkoff, interviewer. “He’s Now ‘Post-Show-Business’.” The New York Times (Tuesday, May 5, 2020): C1 & C4.

(Note: the online version of the interview has the date May 4, 2020, and has the title “Jerry Seinfeld Is Making Peace With Nothing: He’s ‘Post-Show Business’.”)