Econstudentlog

Wikipedia articles of interest

1. Tuskegee syphilis experiment.

“The Tuskegee syphilis experiment[1] (also known as the Tuskegee syphilis study or Public Health Service syphilis study) was an infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 in Tuskegee, Alabama by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in poor, rural black men who thought they were receiving free health care from the U.S. government.[1]

The Public Health Service, working with the Tuskegee Institute, began the study in 1932. Investigators enrolled in the study a total of 600 impoverished, African-American sharecroppers from Macon County, Alabama; 399 who had previously contracted syphilis before the study began, and 201 without the disease. For participating in the study, the men were given free medical care, meals, and free burial insurance. They were never told they had syphilis, nor were they ever treated for it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were being treated for “bad blood,” a local term used to describe several illnesses, including syphilis, anemia and fatigue.

The 40-year study was controversial for reasons related to ethical standards; primarily because researchers knowingly failed to treat patients appropriately after the 1940s validation of penicillin as an effective cure for the disease they were studying. Revelation of study failures by a whistleblower led to major changes in U.S. law and regulation on the protection of participants in clinical studies. Now studies require informed consent (with exceptions possible for U.S. Federal agencies which can be kept secret by Executive Order[2]), communication of diagnosis, and accurate reporting of test results.[3]

By 1947, penicillin had become the standard treatment for syphilis. Choices available to the doctors involved in the study might have included treating all syphilitic subjects and closing the study, or splitting off a control group for testing with penicillin. Instead, the Tuskegee scientists continued the study without treating any participants and withholding penicillin and information about it from the patients. In addition, scientists prevented participants from accessing syphilis treatment programs available to others in the area.[4] The study continued, under numerous US Public Health Service supervisors, until 1972, when a leak to the press eventually resulted in its termination. The victims of the study included numerous men who died of syphilis, wives who contracted the disease, and children born with congenital syphilis.[5] […]

By the end of the study in 1972, only 74 of the test subjects were alive. Of the original 399 men, 28 had died of syphilis, 100 were dead of related complications, 40 of their wives had been infected and 19 of their children were born with congenital syphilis.” […]

“In October 2010 it was revealed that in Guatemala, Public Health Service doctors went even further. It was reported that from 1946 to 1948, American doctors deliberately infected prisoners, soldiers, and patients in a mental hospital with syphilis and, in some cases, gonorrhea, with the cooperation of some Guatemalan health ministries and officials. A total of 696 men and women were exposed to syphilis without the informed consent of the subjects. When the subjects contracted the disease they were given antibiotics though it is unclear if all infected parties were cured.[15]” (here’s a relevant link link to that story)

2. Containerization. File under: Stuff we don’t think about even though we probably should. A few quotes:

“As of 2009 approximately 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide is moved by containers stacked on transport ships;[13] 26% of all container transhipment is carried out in China.[14] For example in 2009 there were 105,976,701 transhipments in China (both international and coastal; excluding Hong Kong), 21,040,096 in Hong Kong (which is listed separately), and only 34,299,572 in the United States. In 2005 some 18 million containers made over 200 million trips per year. […]

However, few initially foresaw the extent of the influence of containerization on the shipping industry. In the 1950s Harvard University economist Benjamin Chinitz predicted that containerization would benefit New York by allowing it to ship its industrial goods more cheaply to the Southern United States than other areas, but did not anticipate that containerization might make it cheaper to import such goods from abroad. Most economic studies of containerization merely assumed that shipping companies would begin to replace older forms of transportation with containerization, but did not predict that the process of containerization itself would have a more direct influence on the choice of producers and increase the total volume of trade.[10]

The widespread use of ISO standard containers has driven modifications in other freight-moving standards, gradually forcing removable truck bodies or swap bodies into standard sizes and shapes (though without the strength needed to be stacked), and changing completely the worldwide use of freight pallets that fit into ISO containers or into commercial vehicles.

Improved cargo security is also an important benefit of containerization. The cargo is not visible to the casual viewer and thus is less likely to be stolen; the doors of the containers are usually sealed so that tampering is more evident. Some containers are fitted with electronic monitoring devices and can be remotely monitored for changes in air pressure, which happens when the doors are opened. This reduced the thefts that had long plagued the shipping industry.

Use of the same basic sizes of containers across the globe has lessened the problems caused by incompatible rail gauge sizes in different countries. The majority of the rail networks in the world operate on a 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) gauge track known as standard gauge, but many countries (such as Russia, India, Finland, and Lithuania) use broader gauges, while many others in Africa and South America use narrower gauges on their networks. The use of container trains in all these countries makes trans-shipment between different gauge trains easier.”

3. Praetorian Guard. These guys had a lot of power – the Roman Emperors: Caligula, Galba, Pertinax, Elagabalus, Balbinus, Pupienus and Aurelian were all simply murdered by the Praetorian Guard; some of the others also died more or less because of the actions of some of the members of the Guard. And of course lots of those emperors who didn’t get killed were in power more or less because the Guard did not disapprove too strongly.

4. Battle of Trafalgar.

5. Wheat leaf rust. “Wheat leaf rust, is fungal disease that effects wheat, barley and rye stems, leaves and grains. In temperate zones it is destructive on winter wheat because the pathogen overwinters. Infections can lead up to 20% yield loss – exacerbated by dying leaves which fertilize the fungus.”

Imagine the food price- and nutritional consequenses of a global 20 % reduction of wheat production over, say, a five year period. Or (worse), such a reduction in rice production. In an alternative universe, some child right now sits in a classroom with no knowledge of Hitler, because he’s spent the history lessons learning about the horrors of the great global outbreak of Claviceps purpurea in 1939.

September 20, 2011 - Posted by | biology, history, wikipedia

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