During the 1932 presidential campaign, Eleanor Roosevelt spent a few months as an editor. Publisher Bernarr Macfadden—whose New York Evening Graphic, a gossip rag, was nicknamed “the Pornographic”—recruited her to edit his proposed “high-class” magazine on child care, Babies, Just Babies. According to Mark Adams’s biography of Macfadden, Mr. America (Harper), Roosevelt received $500 per issue, with a proviso that the fee would increase to $1,000 if her husband won the presidency.
“Babies!” editor Roosevelt wrote in the inaugural issue. “Can you think of anything more wonderful?”
Adams says Babies, Just Babies “was a source of more ridicule than revenue—the Harvard Lampoon published a parody called Tutors, Just Tutors.” After the election, Mrs. Roosevelt resigned. It seemed “the most sensible thing to do,” she told Macfadden. And Babies, Just Babies stopped publishing.
Disinforming the World
Around the world, lots of people have discerned a U.S. government conspiracy behind AIDS. Much of the blame for that belief falls on the Soviet Union, Thomas Boghardt reports in the Central Intelligence Agency’s journal Studies in Intelligence (December 2009).
Nobel Peace Price
The Nobel Peace Prize doesn’t always promote peace. In Political Science Quarterly (Winter), Ronald R. Krebs argues that it sometimes fuels repression.
The historian Robert Dallek thinks it’s time to put an additional safeguard in place against presidential malfeasance.
Writing in Presidential Studies Quarterly (March), Dallek faults the impeachment process as unwieldy. Better, he says, to let the voters decide whether a president should continue in office. Under Dallek’s plan, which would require a constitutional amendment, 60 percent of the House and Senate could place a recall measure before the electorate. If a majority voted in favor, the president and vice president would be ousted and the Speaker of the House would become president.
“There seems little danger that the recall provision would be abused. Only two governors have been recalled in the last century, including Gray Davis in California, where Arnold Schwarzenegger has given the recall a good name,” Dallek remarks. A national recall could “help keep our all-too-flawed presidents and their administrations on the straight and narrow.”
The piano virtuoso Glenn Gould was known for his eccentricities. Some of his recordings feature him humming (or, to some ears, groaning) over the music. He wore coats and gloves even in hot weather. And he hated physical contact. One instance of unwanted touching provoked him to cancel concerts and file a lawsuit, Brian Dillon recounts in The Hypochondriacs (Faber & Faber).
In late 1959, Gould visited the Steinway & Sons piano company in New York City. An employee named William Hupfer, in Hupfer’s account, patted him on the shoulder. Gould said, “Don’t do that; I don’t like to be touched.” Hupfer apologized.
Within a few weeks, Gould was complaining of severe pain in his left hand. “When X-rayed the shoulder blade was shown to have been pushed down about one-half an inch,” he claimed in one letter. In another, he wrote, “At the moment it looks very grim.” In 1960 and 1961, he canceled many of his concerts and spent a month in a full-body cast. One of his physicians later said that Gould was physically fine.
A year after the incident, Gould filed a $300,000 suit against Steinway. He claimed that Hupfer had “brought both his forearms down with considerable force on plaintiff’s left shoulder and neck,” thereby injuring “the nerve roots in his neck and spinal discs in the neck region.”
A few months later, Gould met with Henry Z. Steinway,... READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>
Allergists urge asthma sufferers to stay away from smoke, whether from tobacco or other sources. But that wasn’t always the case. In Medical History (April), Mark Jackson recalls a time when doctors advised asthmatic patients to light up.
In the 19th century, many sufferers treated their asthma by smoking the stalks and roots of jimsonweed, known as stramonium. In 1835, one doctor endorsed stramonium as an asthma treatment that had the added benefit of producing “a grateful forgetfulness and a balmy oblivion, like opiates.” An 1860 asthma treatise advocated smoking stramonium each night to “keep the disease at bay.” By the end of the century, many companies were marketing stramonium cigarettes or stramonium powder that an asthmatic could burn in a bowl, inhaling the smoke.
The stramonium prescription largely died out by the middle of the 20th century, as doctors concluded that smoke worsens bronchial inflammation. But there may have been something to the treatment: Some of today’s asthma inhalers administer atropine, an alkaloid derived from stramonium.READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>
King Tutankhamen became big news in February, more than three millennia after his death, when newly released DNA analyses indicated that he probably died of malaria. For Howard Markel, though, the Tut study raised as many questions as it answered.
“Respecting the dead after burial is sacred across all ethnicities and religious beliefs and time periods,” said Markel, director of the Center for the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan. “Does a famous person lose that?”
In Markel’s view, the decision to dig up human remains ought to depend on whether the research would enhance our knowledge of history or our understanding of disease today. The Tut study satisfied both criteria, he said: It revealed not just a cause of death but also vast information about King Tut’s family tree. It also yielded some of the earliest examples of the malaria parasite, and thus the opportunity to learn how the parasite has changed over time.
Not all such studies will qualify. “Some people have wondered if Abraham Lincoln had Marfan’s disorder [an inherited connective-tissue disorder],” Markel said in an interview. “Does that really change our knowledge of Lincoln, what he did, how he conducted the Civil War? Someone asked me whether we should dig up Isaac Newton and see if he had Asperger’s syndrome. Well, we don’t have a gene for Asperger’s.But even if we did, how would that... READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY >>