The Lancet medical journal has fully retracted a 1998 study that linked a routine childhood vaccine to autism. A British medical panel ruled last week that a doctor who linked the common mumps-measles-rubella vaccine to autism acted “dishonestly and unethically” in his research. More than a decade ago, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published controversial research suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and the rising incidence of autism and autism-spectrum-related cases. More than a dozen researchers helped conduct the study and most have since renounced the study’s findings. “It has become clear that several elements of the 1998 paper by Wakefield et al are incorrect, contrary to the findings of an earlier investigation,” the editors of the Lancet wrote in a statement today (Feb. 2). Yet many parents and some medical and science professionals still believe the vaccine is linked to autism although numerous studies have failed to support that conclusion. The 2 1/2-year probe by the council concluded that Wakefields research methods were flawed and unethical and that he acted “irresponsibly.” Wakefield has denied any wrongdoing and called the council’s findings “unjust.” “The allegations against me and against my colleagues are both unfounded and unjust, and I invite anyone to examine the contents of these proceedings and come to their own conclusion,” Wakefield said in a statement today. The statement was provided by Thoughtful House, an Austin, Texas, treatment center for children where Wakefield now works.
Famed actress Claire Danes and cable television’s HBO give autism the star treatment Saturday night in a critically acclaimed biopic of author Temple Grandin, a doctor of animal sciences and likely the best-known autism advocate. Grandin, 62, who was diagnosed with autism in the 1950s, is one of the world’s top experts in animal psychology. Her diagnosis was later refined as Asperger Syndrome as researchers became more knowledgeable about autism-spectrum issues. Danes serves up a fabulous acting job, according to Entertainment Weekly. “Director Mick Jackson uses a variety of techniques — onscreen graphics, quick cuts, fantastical flashes, and heightened sound effects — to give viewers a sense of what it feels like to be autistic. As Temple explains, she ”thinks in pictures.” She remembers everything she sees. Her brain is a crowded and overwhelming place. Because we’re given visual glimpses of how she thinks, we begin to understand cows and horses the way Temple does,” Jennifer Armstrong writes. The biopic’s supporting cast includes Julia Ormand as Temple’s mother; Catherine O’Hara as Temple’s aunt; and David Strathairn as her teacher. HBO’s “Temple Grandin” airs at 8 p.m. February 6, 2010.
Most colleges and universities offer couses, workshops or seminars on etiquette these days because good etiquette is a foundation of academic, social and business success. It’s not just about negotiating which knife or fork to use at a formal dinner. Or knowing the difference between black-tie and white-tie attire. Nor is it simply mastering the fine art of small talk and cocktail party kibitzing. Etiquette is charm school on steroids — learning to be comfortable around other people and to make them comfortable around you. Today’s complex world requires people to move easily between business, school and social settings — conveying confidence to those around them. Equally important is knowing when, where and what to say — and how to say things. Think it’s difficult to navigate interactions with professors, job supervisors and prospective employers? It can get even more complicated as you enter the world of business in a multicultural society. But help is available. Most colleges offer etiquette courses through their business programs. Some offer special etiquette dinners, especially for juniors and seniors. Not sure if a brush-up in etiquette is right for you? Just for fun, here’s a quiz to test your etiquette instincts.
Is your back aching from treking across campus with those heavy textbooks? Major textbook publishers — McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Pearson, Kaplan — signed deals with software company ScrollMotion to get their textbooks on the iPad. ScrollMotion will help port those publishers’ test prep manuals, study guides and other educational materials to the new medium. Textbooks on iPads promise a host of features for students — allowing them to highlight text in 6 different colors, create audio recordings, play course-related videos, take quizzes, and conduct searches of texts. CourseSmart Executive VP Frank Lyman expects digital versions of textbooks to account for 15% of all textbook sales by 2012 “Apple has a history of growing markets,” Lyman told Bloomberg News. “They’ve grown the smartphone market. They’ve grown the personal-computer market. The tablet will capture that next group of students who haven’t yet had that light bulb go off.”
Do people with Asperger Syndrome have any hope of joining a fraternity (or sorority)? That question is peppered throughout cyberspace and the answers vary. Students with AS are reluctant to approach Greek organizations for fear of rejection. And fraternities — many of which actively partner with Autism Speaks and other autism-related groups on fundraisers — vary in the degree to which they have AS members in their organizations. Fraternities are highly social organizations which, by their very nature, attract people of like minds. The nuances of such a group might be difficult for a person with AS to navigate without a sponsor or friend who can facilitate integration into the organization. But if you’ve always wanted to be a Greek and are willing to accept the responsibilities that go along with that, check out fraternities. You might find that there are other fraternity-like affinity groups, such as in the arts, community service, technology, and sports that are more attuned with your interests.
Scam alert. Do not call that number! There’s a new wave of emails hitting inboxes and warning you to register your cellphone on the government’s do-not-call list before telemarketers get hold of it and start their incessant calling. The government’s Federal Trade Commission specifically prohibits telemarketers from getting and using your cellphone number. What’s insidious about the bogus emails is that if you call the number given, you’re actually giving your cellphone number to some potentially fraudulent operation that will do who-knows-what with it, according to the Better Business Bureau.
There’s more evidence that brain connectivity issues are at the root of autism spectrum disorders such as Asperger Syndrome, according to new findings published online in the journal Nature Neuroscience. The result of the brain’s miswiring is that information flows in unexpected directions. Research suggests that perhaps there are not enough connections in the area of social cognition where the ability to recognize and respond correctly to social cues is centered. Lead investigator Dr. Mustafa Sahin of Children’s Hospital Boston, whose findings are an outgrowth of his study of a rare disorder known as tuberous sclerosis complex, is hopeful that one day the miswiring of the brain can be corrected by drugs that target selected neural molecular pathways.
Student users of the upcoming Microsoft Office 2010 will be able to snap up a boxed copy of the education-only version, Office Professional Academic, for just $99 when it comes out in June. It’ll be sold through selected retailers and most campus bookstores and will sport Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook email along with Publisher and database program Access. The software also comes with Office Web Apps, lightweight versions of Microsoft Office that work in your browser.
This passage from President Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech, The Man in the Arena, delivered at the Sorbonne in Paris in 1910, is worth remembering as we face life’s challenges. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”