Sunday, May 26, 2024

In-person celebration of Nancy Fox's life slated for June 2 in Novato at her daughter's home

Nancy Fox, my wife/friend/concertmaster and collaborator for 36 years plus, died May 2. I will never forget her intelligence, charm, loveliness, and incredible sense of humor. 
An in-person, open house, celebration of her life will be held in a week — from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Pacific time Sunday, June 2 at the 25 Wildwood Lane, Novato, home of her daughter, Laura Schifrin, and her granddaughter, Hannah Schifrin.
Obviously, I will be there, too.
The tribute to Nance will be free form, meaning there will be no rigid structure, but attendees may choose to relate anecdotes about her that evoke smiles or to perform some music in her honor. No one is required to do anything or stay for the entire time.
Food and drinks will be available.
Neither the Schifrins nor I expect anyone to travel a long distance for the event.
Laura can be reached at 415-515-9988 and
Although an rsvp isn’t required, it would be helpful — to allow the right amount of food to be ordered.
The following Sunday, June 9, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Pacific, 7 to 8:30 Eastern, a Zoom celebration will be held. Just click on this link:
Meeting ID: 997 614 7615
Passcode: 694840
I can be reached at 415-459-3434 and

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Maker of Roundup weedkiller solicits help from lawmakers to protect it from suits about cancer

Bayer, manufacturer of Roundup, the country's best-selling pesticide, is seeking help from legislators to protect it from claims that it failed to warn buyers about cancer risks.

According to an Associated Press story by Hannah Fingerhut and David A. Lieb in yesterday's editions of the San Francisco Chronicle, chemical giant Bayer, "stung by paying billions of dollars for settlements and trials, has been lobbying lawmakers in three states to pass bills providing it a legal shield from lawsuits that claim its popular weedkiller Roundup causes cancer."

Legal experts warn that identical bills introduced in Iowa, Missouri, and Idaho this year, with wording supplied by Bayer, could have even broader consequences — "extending to any product liability claim or, in Iowa's case, providing immunity from lawsuits of any kind," the article contends.

Matt Clement
The piece quotes Matt Clement, a Jefferson City, Missouri, attorney who represents people suing Bayer, to the effect that "it's just not good government to give a company immunity for things that they're not telling their consumers. If they're successful in getting this passed in Missouri, I think they'll be trying to do this all over the country."

Some 167,000 legal claims against Bayer, the Fingerhut/Lieb story says, contend that Roundup causes non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The corporation already has "suffered several losses in which juries awarded huge initial judgments," the article goes on, and "has paid about $10 billion while thousands of claims linger in court."

Roundup's main ingredient, glyphosate, is derived from phosphate mined in Idaho. 

The debate over whether glyphosate is truly a demon in the weedkiller equation "escalated when a 2015 report by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, said it's 'probably carcinogenic to humans,' a decision that was based on some evidence of cancer in people as well as evidence in study animals."

The federal Environmental Protection Agency, on the other hand, had regularly concluded that it's not likely to be carcinogenic to humans "when used as directed," the AP story contends. A federal appeals court panel in 2022, on a third hand, ordered the EPA to further review the situation after ruling that the agency's decision "was not supported by substantial evidence," the Fingerhut/Lieb piece continues.

The story ends by quoting John Gilbert, an Iowa Falls farmer who's used Roundup only in a limited fashion. He calls local Republicans hypocritical for attempting to protect corporate interests after campaigning on standing up for Iowans' interests.

The final paragraph of the story: "The bill 'invites a lot of reckless disregard,' said  Gilbert, who is on the board for the Iowa Farmers Union. 'No amount of perfume's gonna make it anything but a skunk."

More information about politics surrounding the risks of disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten,  aimed at male caregivers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Patients already using new experimental blood tests to detect cancer, Washington Post reports

Some patients may be using blood tests to detect cancer that haven't been cleared by the FDA.

A story by Marlene Simons in today's editions of The Washington Post reports that Galleri, a new multi-cancer detection test, is but one of 20 tests in various stages of development that analyze substances in the blood that might indicate cancer. 

Those tests, the article says, "may be especially useful finding 'silent' cancers — such as pancreatic or ovarian cancer — which often don't cause symptoms until the disease is advanced and more difficult to treat."

On the flip side, Simons' piece indicates, "while these findings are promising, experts warned of drawbacks. So far, there's no evidence that finding cancer via a blood test translates to longer survival and fewer deaths, or even a cure, experts said."

Dr. Lori Minasian
The WashPost story also quotes Dr. Lori Minasian, deputy director of the National Cancer Institute's division of cancer prevention, as warning that "people want to believe there is one test that can pick up all the different kinds of cancers, and if it's negative, they can go on their way. But it's not that simple.

Several experts, the piece continues, "pointed out that multi-cancer detection tests don't find every cancer at its earliest stage, in part because certain cancers spread quickly."

These tests, which aren't covered by Medicare or other insurance, have yet to be cleared by the Food and Drug Administration for final approval — but are available as "lab-based" tests under federal guidelines that "permit their use in certain settings."

Caveats include many unanswered questions, the story says, "such as whether use of the tests should be based on age, risk factors, or family history." Along with the notion of how frequently people should take the blood tests, the remaining issues make it almost certain that they "probably are several years away from widespread use."

More information on research into various diseases can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Biden administration limits pollutants from chemical plants in hope of cutting cancer risks

A federal agency has put restraints on more than 200 chemical plant pollutants.

The action by the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a story by Lisa Friedman in editions of The New York Times this week, was aimed at shielding people who live close to plants that release toxic chemicals into the air.

Friedman's story indicates that this is "the first time in nearly two decades that the government has tightened lies on pollution from chemical plants."

The new rule specifically targets ethylene oxide, a chemical used to sterilize medical devices, and one used to make rubber in footwear, chloroprene. Both, now classified as carcinogens, are considered "as a top health concern in an area of Louisiana so dense with petrochemical and refinery plants that it is know as Cancer Alley," according to the article.

Most of the 200 facilities are in Louisiana, Texas, and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, as well as in the Ohio River Valley and West Virginia.

Michael S. Regan, EPA administrator, told the Times that the new regulation — which requires the plants to monitor vents and storage tanks for the two chemicals and plug any leaks — would reduce emissions by 80 percent.

The plants, Friedman's piece asserts, "will also be required to reduce emissions of four other toxic chemicals: benzene, which is used in motor fuels as well as oils and paints; 1,3-butadiene, which is used to make synthetic rubber and plastics; and ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride, both of which are used to make a variety of plastics and vinyl products."

Patrice Simms
Patrice Simms, vice president for litigation for healthy communities at Earthjustice, an environmental group, is quoted to the effect that "in a very real sense this is about life and death," further contending that it's impossible to overstate the importance of the new regulation to families that live next to large polluting facilities.

Not everyone agrees. The Times says Republicans and industry groups insist the new Biden administration rule is "onerous, and they questioned the EPA's scientific assessment of the chemicals."

More information about risks of disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Studies by 2 Columbia Univ. cancer researchers have been retracted because they altered data

Studies by two Columbia University researchers in have been pulled, further illustrating whaat experts say is the sluggishness of scientific publishers to address serious errors. 

That information appears in a recent story by Benjamin Mueller in editions of The New York Times, which also notes that the cancer scientists have now had four studies retracted and have had "a stern note added to a fifth accusing [them] of 'severe abuse of the scientific publishing system.'"

Last year, "a scientific sleuth in Britain uncovered discrepancies in data published by the Columbia lab, including the reuse of photos and other images across different papers," Mueller's article indicates, adding that the Times last month reported that a medical journal  the year before "had quietly taken down a stomach cancer study by the researchers after an internal inquiry by the journal found ethics violations."

Dr. David
The Times further reported that the pair — Dr. Sam Yoon, chief of a cancer surgery division at the university's medical center, and Dr. Changhwan Yoon, a more junior biologist there who's not related — have continued publishing studies with suspicious data. Since 2008, the story continues, the two "have collaborated with other researchers on 26 articles that the sleuth, Dr. Sholto David, flagged for misrepresenting experiments' results."

Experts, according to Mueller, charged that the incidents "illustrated not only the extent of  unreliable research by top labs but also the tendency of scientific publishers to respond slowly, if at all, to significant problems once they are detected."

For every paper that is retracted, opined Dr. Ivan Oransky, co-founder of Retraction Watch, which keeps a database of 47,000-plus retracted studies, "there are probably 10 that should be. Journals are not particularly interested in correcting the record."

Imaging experts, Mueller's story maintains, have claimed "some irregularities identified by Dr. David bore signs of deliberate manipulation, like flipped or rotated images, while others could have been sloppy copy-and-paste errors."

More information about scientific research — good and bad — can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Princess of Wales (Kate Middleton) diagnosed with cancer, following royals with similar ills

Catherine, Princess of Wales, formerly known as Kate Middleton, said in a personal, emotional video message last week that she has cancer, though she didn't say what form or stage.

In a story by Karla Adam, Bryan Pietsch, and Jennifer Hassan in editions of The Washington Post a few days ago, she also disclosed that she was in the early stages of chemotherapy and "was getting stronger every day."

Catherine, Princess of Wales
The 42-year-old princess said the news came as "a huge shock" and that her husband, William, and she "have been doing everything we can to process and manage this privately for the sake of our young family," the article states.

Kate's disclosure adds another casualty to the British royal cancer cavalcade. In February, Buckingham Palace announced that King Charles III had cancer, again disclosing neither the form nor stage. The month before, Sarah Ferguson, ex-wife of Prince Andrew, said she'd been diagnosed with malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer.

Another story, by Jill Lawless of the Associated Press, notes that "the ranks of working royals have been thinned, making the monarchy's future suddenly look fragile." It cites Prince Harry being in California, estranged from his brother, while Prince Andrew "is in disgrace over his friendship with Jeffrey Epstein and faced allegations of sexual abuse."

The most visible royal now, that article says, is 76-year-old Queen Camilla, Charles' second wife (the first being the nationally beloved Diana, who was killed in a car crash).

The triple-bylined Post story indicates that the princess explained that "after she underwent major abdominal surgery in January, she thought that her condition was noncancerous [but] tests after the operation found that cancer had been present."

Her elaboration was the result of multiple conspiracy theories that had been proliferating in British media.

Kate also was quoted as saying that "as you can imagine…it has taken me time to recover from major surgery in order to start my treatment. But most important, it has taken us time to explain everything to George, Charlotte, and Louis [their three kids] in a way that is appropriate for them and to reassure them that I will be okay."

In the United Kingdom, according to the National Health Service, 50% of people will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime, with the most common forms being breast cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, and bowel cancer. 

More about unexpected diagnoses can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.      

Friday, March 22, 2024

U.S. bans last type of asbestos still being used, joining 50 countries that already prohibit it

The phaseout will take more than a decade but the United States has just banned the last type of asbestos still in use.

Its move means America will join 50 other nations that have already prohibited the deadly carcinogen that's linked to lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer that forms in the lining of some internal organs.

A story by Coral Davenport in yesterday's editions of The New York Times notes that the Biden administration's action marks the first time since 1989 that the "federal government has moved to significantly restrict the toxic industrial material."

Davenport's piece says the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation would ban the use, manufacture, and import of chrysotile asbestos, also known as white asbestos, a mineral used in roofing materials, textiles, and cement, as well as gaskets, catches, brake pads, and other automotive parts.

It is also a component, the story adds, in diaphragms used to make chlorine (which in turn is used in pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and to purify drinking water).

Michael Regan, EPA administrator, is quoted as saying that "President Biden understands that [concern over the dangerous chemical] has spanned generations and impacted the lives of countless people."

Critics, who feel that the new rule is insufficient, point to asbestos being "linked to an estimated 40,000 deaths annual in the United States," the story indicates.

Mesothelioma, it goes on to say, "disproportionately affects firefighters, who are exposed to asbestos through damaged buildings and have a much higher risk of developing the cancer than the general population."

Linda Reinstein
Linda Reinstein, president and founder of the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization, is quoted to the effect that her group is "alarmed that the rule allows an unnecessarily long transition period and creates inconsistent compliance deadlines for certain asbestos users that will enable dangerous exposure to chrysotile asbestos to continue for years to come."

Davenport's story maintains that the new rule "stands in sharp contrast to the position of the Trump administration, which fought legislation that would have banned asbestos." The piece further states that Trump "inaccurately declares asbestos '100 percent safe' in his 1997 book, Trump: The Art of the Comeback, and claimed the movement to remove asbestos 'was led by the mob, because it was often mob-related companies that would do the asbestos removal."

More information about substances that can cause disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

U.S. environmental agency curbs cancer-causing gas being used to sterilize medical equipment

The federal EPA has placed tougher restrictions on an odorless, colorless cancer-causing gas used to sterilize medical equipment.

According to a story by Maxine Joselow in The Washington Post earlier this week, the move to limit ethylene oxide is "aimed at helping disadvantaged communities across the country reduce their exposure to a toxic pollutant."

The medical industry not surprisingly "warned that the rule could disrupt the supply of safe medical equipment at hospitals and clinics nationwide," the article says.

Joselow's piece indicates that criticism came, too, from some environmental and public health advocates who found the new limits too weak, saying they "would not adequately protect low-income and minority communities that are disproportionately affected."

Ethylene oxide has been linked to several types of cancer, particularly lymphoma and leukemia. The new rule applies to almost 90 sterilization facilities owned and operated by some 50 companies, the EPA says. "Those facilities will have to reduce ethylene oxide emissions by more than 90 percent," the article maintains.

Michael Regan
Michael Regan, the first black man to serve as EPA administrator, "has put an emphasis on curbing deadly pollution in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods," the Washington Post story contends. 

He's quoted from a statement: "We have allowed the science and listened to communities to fulfill our responsibility to safeguard public health from this pollution — including the health of children who are particularly vulnerable to carcinogens early in life."

Joselow's story also cites last year's analysis from the Union of Concerned Scientists that found "roughly 14 million people live within five miles of facilities that met ethylene oxide, and that nearly 60 percent are people of color. Nearly 31 percent are low-income."

The gas, according to the story, "is used to sterilize about half of all U.s. medical supplies, including billions of syringes, heart valves, pacemakers, and feeding and breathing tubes."

More information on environmental causes of disease can be found in Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer, a VitalityPress book that I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.