KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Can You Translate English to Gujarati?

Ahmedabad, Gujarat, IndiaCalling all of my readers from India! Do you or any of your family or friends speak both English and Gujarati?

I would like to know how to say "best wishes"—as the sign-off in an e-mail—to one of my clients who lives in Ahmedabad. I do that sort of thing as a very small way of letting my ESL (English as a second language) clients, from whatever nation, know that I appreciate their coming to me for editorial assistance. (I am a freelance medical copyeditor.) I know that they have already done a huge amount of work in writing their research papers in English; the least that I can do for them is to reach a little way toward them in their language.

I found an online forum about Gujarati in which one member posted that "Mari shubkman tamari sath che" translates as "My best wishes are with you." Is that correct, or should I say something else in my e-mail to my client?

Updated at 12:25 a.m., July 1, 2009: Thanks to a friend of a friend, I now have the Gujarati for "best wishes" (shubhechao), "How are you?" (Tamay kem cho?), and "Thank you" (Aabhar). What did we all do before the Internet?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lantus Insulin May Be Linked to Cancer

Just heard about this on Twitter, and it worries me, because I take Lantus (generic name: glargine) insulin as one of the medications for my newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes:

"Studies Show Diabetes Drug Might Have Cancer Link," says the headline of a story in the Wall Street Journal; the drug in question is Lantus. I couldn't read the full story because it's behind a subscription firewall; if you have a subscription, you should be able to read it. I found a version from the news service Reuters:
Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA) said on Friday that new data on the safety of its blockbuster diabetes drug Lantus had not reached any definitive conclusions on a possible link to cancer.

The French drugmaker has been rocked in the past two days by a safety scare over Lantus, following rumours that a damaging analysis of the product's safety was shortly to be published in a major medical journal. Its stock fell 8 percent on Friday.

Sanofi said it had just been made aware of data associated with a retrospective follow-up of four patient registries but said no firm conclusions could be drawn on any possible causal link to the occurrence of malignancies.

It added that the authors of the study had also pointed this out.

"We consider that the results of these patient registries are not conclusive," Jean-Pierre Lehner, the company's chief medical officer, said in a statement. ...
And here's a story from Science Daily with more info on the science:
The risk of cancer possibly increases if patients with diabetes use the long-acting insulin analogue glargine instead of human insulin. The Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG), in collaboration with the "Wissenschaftliches Institut der AOK" (WIdO), the research institute of the German Local Health Care Fund, analysed the data of almost 130,000 patients with diabetes in Germany who had been treated with either human insulin or the insulin analogues lispro (trade name: Humalog), aspart (Novorapid) or glargine (Lantus) between January 2001 and June 2005.

The analysis has now been published together with further studies in the scientific journal Diabetologia.

The disturbing result is that malignancies were found more frequently in patients treated with glargine than in those prescribed a comparable dose of human insulin. "Our analysis does not provide absolute proof that glargine promotes cancer," says Peter T. Sawicki, IQWiG's Director and co-author of the study. "Our study does, however, arouse an urgent suspicion which should have consequences for the treatment of patients." ...
Ironically, when I viewed the page, there was a Lantus banner ad at the top.

Here are PDFs of the uncorrected author page proofs of soon-to-be-in-print studies that initially raised alarms, made freely available by the medical journal Diabetologia because lots of people are concerned about Lantus now:

Two of the studies found a possible risk; the other two had inconclusive results.

If you take Lantus, please have a chat with your physician—as I plan to do with mine as soon as I can get an appointment—about the advisability of switching to another kind of injectable insulin. Do not stop taking Lantus without consulting your physician. Yes, I know, lots of substances are carcinogenic, but if you can avoid injecting a potential carcinogen into your body, that's probably a good thing.

By the way, because Sarnoff-Aventis is the maker of Lantus, its stocks' values are dropping because of the news.

Updated at 12:03 a.m., June 28, 2009: The Reuters story has been updated.

Updated at 11:13 p.m., June 28, 2009: Here is a very balanced discussion of the issues from a diabetes expert who has type 2 diabetes herself.

Updated at 8:45 a.m., June 29, 2009: Here is a Q&A from Reuters.

Updated at 5:11 p.m., June 29, 2009: And now, Sanofi weighs in, trying to make the Lantus studies out to be much ado about nothing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Trying to Buy Love

The online newsletter Inside Higher Ed is running a story, dated June 23, saying that the marketing department of textbook publisher Elsevier sent out e-mails to textbook authors offering $25 Amazon.com gift cards to anyone who would post a five-star (positive) review of a new Elsevier textbook to Amazon.com or BarnesAndNoble.com. Elsevier is now reportedly saying that the offer was "a poorly written e-mail" by "an overzealous employee" and that the company wants "unbiased, honest reviews."
Here's what the e-mail—sent to contributors to the textbook—said:

"Congratulations and thank you for your contribution to Clinical Psychology. Now that the book is published, we need your help to get some 5 star reviews posted to both Amazon and Barnes & Noble to help support and promote it. As you know, these online reviews are extremely persuasive when customers are considering a purchase. For your time, we would like to compensate you with a copy of the book under review as well as a $25 Amazon gift card. If you have colleagues or students who would be willing to post positive reviews, please feel free to forward this e-mail to them to participate. We share the common goal of wanting Clinical Psychology to sell and succeed. The tactics defined above have proven to dramatically increase exposure and boost sales. I hope we can work together to make a strong and profitable impact through our online bookselling channels."
Overzealous employee. Uh-huh. This is the same company whose parent corporation, Reed Elsevier, used to host international weapons fairs in London, Abu Dhabi, various cities in Europe, Rio de Janeiro, and Taiwan that were attended by high-ranking military officials from all over the world ... until uproar in the medical research community convinced the corporation to drop the shows. Physicians, who are trained to save lives, didn't like knowing that their research articles were being published in medical journals produced by Elsevier, whose parent corporation was showcasing tools for taking lives.

This is also the same company whose marketing department produced fake medical journals to help Big Pharma sell more drugs.

It keeps getting harder to find honesty in this world.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Freelancers Left High and Dry

Here's a sad New York Times story of publishing freelancers facing financial ruin because their clients have stopped paying:
A factory in New York has vanished. The door is locked and the lights are out. The phone rings and rings. No one answers. The promised checks are not in the mail, and a small army of workers, owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, scramble to pay the rent and buy groceries. ...

Mr. Baxter is one of about 50 unpaid freelance writers, editors, page designers and others who worked this year for Inkwell [Publishing Solutions] on textbooks that are to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is owned by a holding company based in the Cayman Islands, and floats in oceans of debt.

"The explanation I have been given is that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt owes Inkwell money," Mr. Baxter said. More than 30 freelancers who were interviewed by phone or e-mail told the same story: Inkwell stopped paying them for work on textbooks, claiming that Houghton had stopped paying it. ...
What makes things worse is that in New York State, full-time freelancers are not entitled to unemployment compensation. We're at the mercy of the financial health of our clients. And we lose homes and health insurance just like people laid off by employers do, but we're not counted in the unemployment statistics. We're invisible.

Updated at 11:55 p.m., June 22, 2009: Someone who commented on the blog post here claims to have access to a memo that was distributed to all Houghton Mifflin Harcourt employees after the Times story appeared, saying that HMH did pay Inkwell and is asking the Times to print a correction. This may not be the end of the story.

Updated at 12:20 p.m., June 24, 2009: The original June 19 column in the Times now has a postscript, added today:
The About New York column on Sunday, about the closing of Inkwell Publishing Solutions, a book development company in Manhattan, reported that about 50 of its freelancers were still owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for their work on textbooks commissioned by the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In an e-mail message to the freelancers, Inkwell's president blamed slow payments by Houghton, which did not respond to three requests for comment before the column was published. On Monday, a spokesman for Houghton said it had made the "vast majority" of its payments on time to Inkwell, with the final two checks it owed issued on May 8 and June 1. Inkwell ceased operations in mid-May.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Goodies from the AMA Manual of Style

Cool tools from the online AMA style manualI just noticed a set of cool tools that's available with an online subscription to the AMA Manual of Style: quizzes (and answers) on AMA style for references, "correct and preferred usage," punctuation, and grammar.

Once you're a subscriber and logged in, look in the left-hand column for the "Learning Resources" link. And any subscribers who would like to use the quizzes in a classroom can click a link to e-mail a request for permission to photocopy and distribute the quizzes; the JAMA and the Archives journals say that they will not charge for such use.

Go here to subscribe.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Oops! Sorry About the Fake Science

Hear about the recent uproar in the STM (scientific, technical, and medical) publishing community over the faux medical journal Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine commissioned by giant pharmaceutical Merck? Merck paid the Australian division of Elsevier to publish eight compilations of scientific articles in a format that looked like a peer-reviewed journal. The New York Times reported:
... The Merck-sponsored publication is among the evidence in the Australian trial in which the lead plaintiff in a class action suit alleges, among other things, that the company used misleading and deceptive marketing strategies in promoting Vioxx.

Nine of 29 articles in the second issue of the journal referred positively to Vioxx, and an additional 12 articles referred positively to another Merck drug, Fosamax, a bone treatment, Mr. Donovan said. ... [Donovan is an expert witness for the plaintiff.]

Elsevier issued a press release today saying that it is working on new guidelines for custom publications that it produces for pharmaceutical companies, so that they will be clearly identified as not being peer-reviewed medical journals.

So Merck's on trial. Will Elsevier ever be, for making money off a drug that it must have known has been reported to have killed people? I say they'll probably both get off scot-free. Once again, the consumer will pay.

Why Americans Are Going Broke

Many Americans are just one major medical illness away from financial catastrophe.

A research team from Harvard Law School, Harvard Medical School, and Ohio University reported in the American Journal of Medicine that 60% of U.S. personal bankruptcies are caused by overwhelming medical bills ... and that more than 75% of families that declared bankruptcy because of medical bills had health insurance that provided insufficient coverage.

The researchers said that the proposed changes to the health-insurance system that are being considered "are unlikely to help many Americans" and urged converting to a single-payer system. I agree; our current system is well past broken.

Vanishing into the Amnestic Sphere

I've always been unable to explain very well why I don't retain much of what I read on the job. But my editor colleague Elaine breaks it down perfectly:

"People often comment to me that I must learn a lot from all the different material I copyedit. It's hard to explain that the mind in 'copyediting' mode works differently from the one in 'learning' or 'reading for pleasure' mode—you just don't retain much meaning or knowledge when you're thinking in the 'small' terms of details of spelling, usage, punctuation, and so forth. There's no time for the kind of rehearsal and deep reading that leads to retention. (Unfortunately, I've done a lot of really interesting books that have completely vanished into the amnestic sphere.)"

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