I recently read The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz which was first published in 1956. It is an account of his escape from a Soviet Gulag and trek across Siberia and Mongolia to India. The book inspired a movie in 2010 called The Way Back starring Ed Harris. While I really enjoyed the book I started to wonder if it was true. “Slav” and his band of friends walked for 12 days through the desert only stopping to drink muddy water once. Really? Near the end the author describes his close encounter with a Yeti. Others have questioned the truth of the story including the BBC. I was disappointed to learn that the book is fiction. But isn’t that the case with a lot of what we see daily? Jimmy Kimmel recently perpetrated an internet hoax which went viral. Spam email often includes scams and crazy rumors. Now I check the Snopes website whenever I see a strange internet rumor. My favorite rumor is the one about applying Vicks to your feet to treat a cough. That one has been going around for at least five years.
In April, 2013 The Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulis was featured in The Daily Beast. After reading the article I knew that the author was going to say a lot of negative things about pediatricians and obstetricians, but I was curious what she had to say. According to the author, hospitals in the US do just about everything wrong in labor and delivery. Nurses start an IV then put the mother in bed on her back. Next comes an epidural and medicines to induce labor which leads to a C-section and higher infant and maternal problems. The author also blames pediatricians for giving a bunch of expensive and dangerous shots in order to make money. On a positive note I liked her comments about potty training being unnecessarily delayed in the US. Also she berates the American Academy of Pediatrics for taking donations from infant formula manufacturers. I agree with her that taking donations from formula makers while promoting breast feeding seems wrong. The book was well written and thought provoking, but very one sided. Her assertion that prenatal ultrasounds cause autism was not backed up by much evidence. I would characterize the author as a sensationalist rather than a journalist. It was an enjoyable read, but weak on careful evaluation of scientific research.