- The Washington Times - Monday, March 31, 2008

The ‘ha-ha’ factor

“TV comedians cracked more jokes about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer in a single week than they made about anyone else during all of 2008. David Letterman was toughest on Spitzer, while Jay Leno focused more on Hillary Clinton.

“Major Findings: Eliot Spitzer was the butt of 175 jokes during the first week after the prostitution scandal became public. That makes him first among all joke targets so far in 2008, in a list dominated by presidential politics.

“Hillary Clinton is running a close second with 174 jokes, President Bush is third with 163, John McCain is fourth with 140, Mitt Romney fifth with 121, Barack Obama sixth with 103, Bill Clinton seventh with 59, Mike Huckabee eighth with 55, Fidel Castro ninth with 47, and Ralph Nader and Roger Clemens are tied for tenth with 41 jokes.

“For the month of March alone, Spitzer’s total of 175 exceeds that of President Bush and all the presidential candidates combined (157). Hillary Clinton is a distant second with 45 (including many referencing her husband’s own past sex scandals), John McCain has 41 and Barack Obama has 37.”

— From a Center for Media and Public Affairs study released March 28

Skin deep

“The country’s tanning salons are taking on the medical establishment with a bold campaign to convince Americans that exposure to ultraviolet radiation is actually good for you.

“ ’Go get a tan. Your body will thank you,’ the Indoor Tanning Association proclaims in a TV ad that will appear nationally.

“The association launched its marketing drive today with a full page ad in the New York Times to counter medical research that blames ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning salons for causing melanoma.

“ ’The dermatologists, the sunscreen and cosmetic industries have tried to say that somehow moderate tanning causes melanoma, which is just not true,’ Sarah Longwell of the Indoor Tanning Association told ‘Good Morning America’.

“Longwell says the studies warning against prolonged tanning in the sun or use of indoor tanning beds relied on ‘junk science.’ The ads say tanning actually is helpful because the body needs to get vitamin D from the sun.”

— Elisabeth Leamy and Allen Levine, reporting for ABC News on March 28

All in the genes

“23andMe, a personal genomics startup in California, is about to unveil a new social-networking service that allows customers to compare their DNA. The company hopes it will encourage consumers to get DNA testing, potentially creating a novel research resource in the process.

“ ’I think the idea of social networking has untapped potential,’ says George Church, a pioneer in genomics at Harvard Medical School and a member of 23andMe’s scientific advisory board. ‘The idea has precedence in patients like me, people who have been enabled to find one another by their disease. Here, people can find each other by their alleles [or genetic variations].’

“23andMe is one of a number of companies that have sprung up in the past year to offer genome-wide DNA testing directly to consumers. People who order the $999 kit send in a sample of spit and, in return, receive an analysis of nearly 600,000 genetic variations linked to disease and other factors, such as ancestry, height, and eye color.

“Customers can learn their genetic risk, compared with the general population, of myriad diseases, including Alzheimer’s, diabetes, macular degeneration, and cancer. But many scientists and physicians say that it’s unclear whether the average user can truly comprehend this information, and whether knowing her genetic risk will actually improve her health.”

— Emily Singer, writing in Technology Review, March 26

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