VW cheated smog testing on almost a half-million cars

The EPA is accusing Volkswagen of illegally using software to cheat emissions standards, allowing the German automaker to sell half a million cars that produce nitrogen oxide, which creates smog, at up to 40 times the legal limit.

In a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act sent to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, today, the EPA said diesel-powered VW cars used a “defeat device,” a kind of “a sophisticated software algorithm [that] detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test. The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations.”

The accusation applies to 482,000 diesel-powered, four-cyclinder Jetta, Beetle, Audi A3, and Golf cars sold between 2008 and 2015 in the US, and to Passat cars sold from 2014 to 2015…

The White House has directed VW to recall the affected cars, and the automaker will be required to fix the problem, at no cost to car owners.

“Clean diesel,” by comparison to old standards [think drippy Oldsmobiles] works well and produces better miles per gallon figures. Some of the systems require a bit more owner management which VW may assume Americans aren’t disciplined enough to perform.

The majority of diesel-powered passenger cars in the country are sold by the Volkswagen group – which includes Audi.

Pretty sleazy.

The antidepressant Paxil is unsafe to prescribe for teenagers – more folks say


Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Fourteen years ago, a leading drug maker published a study showing that the antidepressant Paxil was safe and effective for teenagers. On Wednesday, a major medical journal posted a new analysis of the same data concluding that the opposite is true.

That study — featured prominently by the journal BMJ — is a clear break from scientific custom and reflects a new era in scientific publishing, some experts said, opening the way for journals to post multiple interpretations of the same experiment. It comes at a time of self-examination across science — retractions are at an all-time high; recent cases of fraud have shaken fields as diverse as anesthesia and political science…

“This paper is alarming, but its existence is a good thing,” said Brian Nosek, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, who was not involved in either the original study or the reanalysis. “It signals that the community is waking up, checking its work and doing what science is supposed to do — self-correct.”

The authors of the reanalysis said that many clinical studies had some of the same issues as the original Paxil study, and that data should be made freely available across clinical medicine, so that multiple parties could analyze them…

Over the years, thousands of people taking or withdrawing from Paxil or other psychiatric drugs have committed violent acts, including suicide, experts said, though no firm statistics are available. Because many factors could have contributed to that behavior, it is still far from clear who is at risk — and for whom the drugs are protective.

RTFA. The debate rages on. Both sides of this particular question point out what they consider inaccuracies, deliberate or otherwise, in studies antithetical to their position.

Please don’t endorse sophistry and kid yourself about the truth lying somewhere between two extremes. Fact is,
one of the extremes may be overwhelmingly correct. Meanwhile, argue, interrogate your physician if they’re prescribing something you question.

Coppers shoot man in his driveway – recording them with his smartphone


Sanchez’ father pointing out bullet holes in his garage

An innocent bystander who was holding a cell phone on his own property was shot last week, with officers saying they perceived an “imminent threat” because they mistook his phone for a gun, according to several news reports.

Almost as standard an excuse as “the dog ate my homework”.

Danny Sanchez of Rancho Cordova, California, the unarmed man who was shot by police, reportedly underwent surgery Friday to remove bullet fragments from his leg. The officers who shot at him are reportedly on paid leave while the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department investigates the shooting.

The incident happened Thursday when Sanchez’s next-door neighbor, Ben Ledford, was allegedly “firing up to 100 machine gun rounds at a home across the street, killing a dog inside the house,” CBS Sacramento reported. Ledford surrendered to police, but officers fired at Sanchez after they saw him stand at the edge of his open garage and extend his hand out with an object—which turned out to be his cell phone…

“He was yelling, ‘Dad I’m shot, I’m shot,’ so I grabbed him inside and closed the garage door,” said the man’s father, John Sanchez…”I put a tourniquet around his leg and a clean towel.” Danny Sanchez was apparently either taking pictures or video of police.

Police “told him they were sorry that he got shot and everything, that they made a mistake,” John Sanchez told CBS Sacramento. There were bullet holes in Sanchez’s garage and car.

Officers thought there “was an imminent threat to themselves and blah, blah, blah,” and “discharged their weapons based on what they perceived at the time,” Sgt. Jason Ramos told KCRA. Sanchez’s home was searched and he was “detained briefly” for questioning, but he is not facing charges, the report said.

The point was made, eh? Try to photograph your local copper in action – justified or not – you may get shot.

Breakthrough treating sickle-cell anemia

Physicians at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System have cured 12 adult patients of sickle cell disease using a unique procedure for stem cell transplantation from healthy, tissue-matched siblings.

The transplants were the first to be performed outside of the National Institutes of Health campus in Maryland, where the procedure was developed. Physicians there have treated 30 patients, with an 87 percent success rate. The results of the phase I/II clinical trial at UI Health, in which 92 percent of treated patients were cured…

The new technique eliminates the need for chemotherapy to prepare the patient to receive the transplanted cells and offers the prospect of cure for tens of thousands of adults suffering from sickle cell disease.

About 90 percent of the approximately 450 patients who have received stem cell transplants for sickle cell disease have been children. Chemotherapy has been considered too risky for adult patients, who are often more weakened than children by the disease.

“Adults with sickle cell disease are now living on average until about age 50 with blood transfusions and drugs to help with pain crises, but their quality of life can be very low,” says Dr. Damiano Rondelli, chief of hematology/oncology and director of the blood and marrow transplant program at UI Health, and corresponding author on the paper.

“Now, with this chemotherapy-free transplant, we are curing adults with sickle cell disease, and we see that their quality of life improves vastly within just one month of the transplant,” said Rondelli, who is also the Michael Reese Professor of Hematology in the UIC College of Medicine. “They are able to go back to school, go back to work, and can experience life without pain.”

Sickle cell disease is inherited. It primarily affects people of African descent, including about one in every 500 African Americans born in the U.S. The defect causes the oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be crescent shaped, like a sickle. The misshapen cells deliver less oxygen to the body’s tissues, causing severe pain and eventually stroke or organ damage.

Bravo! Some of the best medical news in a while.