Yale Daily News corrects erroneous report of a #Parkinson’s disease cure

Well, my public shaming seems to have worked.  The Yale Daily News has updated  the erroneous story it published last week indicating that a cure for Parkinson’s disease had been found.   Here’s what the correction says:

A previous version of this article used a quote from one of the study’s lead authors stating that an alternative cure for Parkinson’s had been found. In fact, the results are only preliminary, and a cure for the disease has not yet been discovered.

Let’s hope that Levent Mutlo, the post-doc who made the cure claim, has learned to align his brain with his mouth, and that author of the article George Saussy, will show at least some skepticism the next time someone says something that is too good to be true.

Some people with Parkinson’s are desperate to find a cure for the degenerative neurological disease.    That’s what makes stories like one published in the Yale Daily News especially worrisome because it provides them with a false sense of hope.   Sadly, this isn’t the first time the media has over-hyped a research study and won’t be the last.

Throwing cold water on the ALS Ice Water Challenge

  Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former Boston College baseball player who is confined to a wheelchair because amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), agreed in July to have himself doused with bucket of ice water to raise awareness of his affliction, which also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.    The ALS  Ice Water Challenge has succeed beyond his wildest dreams attracting 15 million people including everyone from entertainer Justin Timberlake to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.   Therein lies the problem.

Though I feel for Frates, whose wife is expecting their first child, and anyone who has been touched by this awful and always-fatal disease, most Americans are never going to meet anyone like him.  According to the ALS Association,  there are at most 30,000 people in the U.S. with the neurodegenerative condition at any given time.      Compared with other diseases that’s pretty small potatoes.   For instance, there are roughly 14 million people with cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.   About 5.2 million people have Alzheimer’s disease and about 1 million have Parkinson’s Disease, including yours truly.

Though the media coverage of ALS Ice Water Challenge talks about the need to raise “awareness” about the disease,  I don’t understand why that’s necessary.    Unlike HIV or Ebola,  ALS isn’t communicable.    Though there is some evidence that ALS has a genetic basis, like Tay-Sachs or Sickle-Cell Anemia,  most cases are “sporadic”, meaning the patient has no family history of the disease.   It seems that the people who need to be aware of ALS are painfully “aware” of it.

Moreover, the $10 million or so that the ALS Society has reportedly raised from the Ice Water Challenge probably won’t make a damn bit of difference in the search for a cure since it costs billions for drug companies to bring new medications to the market.    By the way, the pharmaceutical companies aren’t hiding a cure for ALS or any other awful disease.   These companies are about maximizing profits and shareholder returns if they are publicly traded.   A new wonder drug for Hepatitis C called sofosbuvir costs $90,000 for a 12-week course of treatment.   Imagine what a pharmaceutical company would charge for an effective ALS treatment or — god willing a cure.   It would make sofosbuvir’s costs seem like chump change.

I don’t begrudge the ALS Society their 15 minutes of fame.  Barbara Newhouse,  the non-profit’s CEO, has vowed to invest the Ice Bucket Challenge money “In helping people with ALS and their families and caregivers in the battle against the disease, while resolutely pursuing all avenues to extend, improve and ultimately save lives.” I solute the creativity of ICE Bucket Challenge.   If people are touched by disease, they should donate to the ALS Society, which is rated highly by the watchdog group Charity Navigator.    The publicity surrounding it has received it certainly a godsend.  (Update) The ALS Society is in the black as of its most recent 990 filed today though it had operated in the red during the 2013 fiscal year.

Of course,  I am annoyed that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is diverting attention from Parkinson’s disease.  Some may say that people with Parkinson’s and other conditions need to create their own “challenge” to grab the public’s attention.  I understand that argument but it makes me feel kind of sad, as if it I have to make my suffering entertaining to grab the public’s attention.  Even so, that’s easier said than done.

Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, the public is like kittens playing with a tinfoil ball when they are excited by a fad.  They quickly move onto to something else when they get bored by their toy.  Let’s see how donations to the ALS Society hold up in six months or a year.

(Post has been revised)

There are too many bosses at #PhiladelphiaInquirer

Let’s set aside the issue about whether Bill Marimow deserved to be fired as the editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and discuss a more troubling question:  Who’s the boss?

Former New York Nets owner Lewis Katz. H. F. “Jerry” Lenfest,  South Jersey political boss George E. Norcross III; Krishna Singh, chief executive of the Holtec International Corp.; William Hankowsky, chief executive of Liberty Property Trust; and Joseph Buckelew, chairman of Conner Strong & Buckelew, joined forces last year to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News and website Philly.com for $55 million.

What made them think they would be able to set aside their considerable egos and work together to run one of the largest U.S. newspaper, an industry which none of them had any experience?   I know they spoke of their desire to own the papers for the “benefit of the community”, but what does that mean?    It’s doubtful that they appreciated the depth of the paper’s problems.

Every business needs a boss.   In theory, the boss of Interstate General Media is supposed to be Publisher Robert Hall.    In reality, it remains unclear who is running the company. Norcross has installed his daughter Lexi as the head of Philly.com and has decided to concern himself with such mundane details such as the brand of coffee employees drink in their break room.

About the only thing that the owners all agreed on was that they should hire Marimow, who had done two other tours with the Inquirer.  Former Inquirer columnist Gail Shister noted in Philadelphia Magazine that Marimiow isn’t universally beloved. “As a newsman, Marimow’s moral authority is beyond question,” she writes. “As a manager, the same cannot be said.”

Katz and Lenfest are suing their fellow owners over their decision to fire Marimow.   Given the level of animosity that is evident among the paper’s owners, I don’t see how they can continue to work together.   Winding down this partnership isn’t going to be easy or cheap.  This distraction is the last thing the paper needs.

Further complicating the situation is the long-time romance between Katz and Nancy Philips, a veteran Inquirer editor.  That explains why Marimow was blocking needed change at the paper, according to his critics.  Norcross  told the  New York Times, that Katz “wants to control the newsroom to satisfy his friends and punish his enemies.”  That’s a ludicrous idea.

First of all, herding cats is easier than getting a large group of journalists to agree on anything Katz and Philips  have made little effort to hide their relationship. Robert Hall,who has been associated with the paper for years, must have mentioned it at some point to the company’s owners. Continue reading

Ever wonder when #StorageWars jumped the shark?

“Storage Wars” is chock full of awesomely fake moments that it’s hard to choose just one.

My favorite, though, has to be Dave Hester’s Elvis newspaper find from 2011. The show said the stack of papers announcing the death of “The King” was worth $90,000. That’s a load of crap.

Newspapers aren’t scarce. Millions of copies of them are sold on a daily basis even in today’s Internet-dominated world. People hold onto papers when something especially newsworthy happens for years if not decades. Finding an Elvis newspaper isn’t hard, A quick check on eBay underscores this point.   None of the auctions, by the way, had any bids.

If you still want one of the actual Elvis newspapers found by Hester, check out Storage Treasures.com, which is giving them away.   The site was founded by “Storage Wars” auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson. Supplies appear to be plentiful.

Interestingly,  the Elvis paper episode happened several years before Hester complained that he was fired for complaining the show was rigged.

#Newspapers ain’t dead yet

In my first piece for Investopedia, I note that stock of newspaper publishers have been doing surprisingly well even though the fundamentals for the industry remain horrible.  From the story:

Indeed, the sector that every investing pundit loves to hate has been beaten to a bloody pulp over the last few years is starting to show signs of life, faint though they may be. Some investors, such as Warren Buffett see value here. Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, the soon-to-be-owner of the Washington Post, seems to as well as does Southeastern Asset Management, a hedge fund that recently disclosed a 12% stake in the new News Corp. (NYSE:NWS), Rupert Murdoch’s print holdings such as the Wall Street Journal.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that good times are near just less godawful ones.   Publishers are diversifying into faster-growing businesses such as television.   Some papers such as the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times are benefiting from paywalls. The Washington Post didn’t start charging to access its website until this year, a huge blunder.

Attention #BarneyMiller fans: I need your help

Few people know that getting “Barney Miller”, one of the most popular and groundbreaking television programs of the 1970s and 1980s, on the air was nothing short of a miracle.   This is a largely unknown story that I want to tell in a book I am planning to write.l

Executive Producer Danny Arnold, a largely unknown sitcom pioneer, who pushed “Barney Miller” to address many hot-button political issues including gay rights, one of the first shows to do so. He clashed with ABC, which aired the show for 8 seasons and even threatened to pull the show from the network if he didn’t get his way.

Arnold’s story is a complex one. On the one hand, he could be charming and generous, lavishing extravagant gifts such as an Aston Martin on people who worked for him. But many found him to be intimidating. He was known to have unpredictable, volcanic mood swings. Few were spared his wrath, even people who he otherwise liked. Arnold had a low opinion of the human race and often said that smiling was a sign of stupidity.

A perfectionist who demanded so many changes to scripts at the last minute that they were never completed before an episode was filmed, Arnold drove the cast and crew crazy, He also snuck off the watch the races at Santa Anita when otherwise should have been working. To top it off, Arnold had to cope with feuds among the cast and a decade-long legal fight over the show’s ownership with co-creator Theodore J. Flicker which he lost at a cost of millions. He died in 1995.

As an award-winning journalist who has written about the media for more than a decade, I am qualified to tell the “Barney Miller” story. My book will offer the first comprehensive account of the “Barney Miller” story, which has been told so far on a piecemeal basis in anthologies. have interviewed members of the cast and crew along with scholars who will help me put the show in its proper historical context.

I want to hear from “Barney Miller” fans.  What   What have you always want to know about the show?  What are your favorite episodes?  What were the qualities about the show you especially liked?

By the way, Abe Vigoda is alive, at least he was when I spoke with him a few months ago.   The clip I put in this post is from the classic “Hash Brownies” episode, one of the many “Barney Miller” classics.  Enjoy.

Why NBC’s `Million Second Quiz’ is the `Biggest Loser’

If you haven’t been caught up in the excitement over NBC’s “Million Second Quiz”,  you aren’t alone.

As I noted on MSN moneyNow, “total viewership fell to 3 million on Saturday, down from the 6.5 million who watched its debut Monday.”   MSQ, as it calls itself, has got to be one of the most confusing game shows in history.  I have watched it a few times and I don’t get it.

For those wondering if there is such a thing as too much Ryan Seacrest, the answer seems to be a million times yes.