Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Cohabitation not necessarily a divorce risk

USA Today reports:
Teachman's analysis of federal data on 6,577 women whose first marriages occurred between 1970 and 1995 found that a woman who has lived only with her future spouse has no greater risk of divorce. But for women who lived with someone else in addition to the eventual husband, there is a greater risk of divorce, found the study, published in 2003.

Those aren't the only studies reflecting changes — researchers across the country, including at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota, Pennsylvania State University, Cornell University and others, are studying cohabiting couples. Among other recent findings:

• The odds of divorce among women who married their only cohabiting partner were 28% lower than among women who never cohabited before marriage, according to sociologist Daniel Lichter of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

• Divorce rates for those who cohabit more than once are more than twice as high as for women who cohabited only with their eventual husbands, says Lichter's study, to be published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in December.
I have heard Michael Medved and others say that cohabitation before marriage increases the risk of divorce. Apparently there are big differences among female cohabitators.

Fast food ban

LA news:
LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Los Angeles City Council has approved a one-year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a low-income area of the city. The moratorium unanimously approved Tuesday is a bid to attract restaurants that offer healthier food choices to residents in a 32-square-mile area of South Los Angeles. Councilwoman Jan Perry says residents at five public meetings expressed concern with the proliferation of fast-food outlets in a community plagued by above-average rates of obesity. Nearly three-quarters of the restaurants in South L.A. serve fast food. That’s a higher percentage than other parts of the city but the restaurant industry says the moratorium won’t help bring in alternatives.
This will not reduce obesity.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ballot description changed

California is going to have this Proposition 8 on the Nov. ballot:
Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
It was scheduled to have this official ballot description:
Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: The measure would have no fiscal effect on state or local governments. This is because there would be no change to the manner in which marriages are currently recognized by the state.
Now AG Jerry Brown wants to change it to this:
Changes California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that oOnly marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact on state and local governments.
The LA Times reports:
Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for the attorney general, denied that there was any political motivation for the move.

Instead, he said, the change was necessary because of the dramatic turn of events that have taken place since the petitions were circulated: namely that the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage and thousands of gay couples have since wed.
Of course it is political. The new description makes it sound like the California Constitution had a clause saying that same-sex couples had a right to marry. In fact Prop. 8 just affirms the existing law, before the California Supreme Court meddled with it in May.

Prop. 8 will not affect the ability of same-sex couples to form domestic partnerships and file joint state tax returns, adopt children, and enjoy the other state benefits of marriage. It only affects whether the partnership will be called "marriage" by the state.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Larry Summers was wrong, or maybe right

Janet Shibley Hyde claims that boys and girls are just the same in almost everything, and published some research on math test scores. As a statistician blogger points out, the NY Times reported this as disproving Larry Summers, and the Wall Street Journal said that it confirmed what Summers said.

Update: Heather Mac Donald makes similar points.

Hitler did not snub Jesse Owens

The lead story on Page 1 of the San Jose Mercury News says:
John Lysak, the Bay Area's oldest former U.S. Olympic athlete, ... you can shake the affable 93-year-old hand that once shook the hand of Jesse Owens - unlike, say, the hand of Adolf Hitler, who snubbed Owens, the great American sprinter. It happened at the 1936 Games in Berlin.

Hey, you can read about it in the history books. Or you can talk to Lysak, who was there in the stadium. He was taking a break from his kayak competition to watch some track and field.

"I saw it happen," Lysak said of the infamous Olympic moment.

Hitler walked down from his seat to participate in the ceremony after Owens had won the first of his four gold medals. But after Hitler warmly greeted the German athletes, he ignored the African-American who was the finest runner on the planet.

"Afterward," Lysak said, "I ended up on the same ship back to the United States as Owens. I asked him about it. He told me that the snub didn't hurt his feelings because as a black man, that kind of thing had been going on his whole life. He'd gotten used to it."
The story is false. Adolf Hitler shook a few hands on the first day of track and field competition, and none after that, at the request of Olympic officials. Owens won his first medal on the second day, and was treated as warmly as any other athelete. You can read about it here or many other places.

About a week ago, the newspaper announced on Page 1 that Microsoft was definitely going to take over Yahoo. The paper needs some fact checkers.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Save the males

A UK paper reports:
American author Kathleen Parker's courageous thesis is that initially, through extreme feminism, then via its craven implementation into society, women have demonised men and trivialised their contribution, especially to family life. ...

She argues: 'As long as men feel marginalised by the women whose favour and approval they seek, as long as they are alienated from their children and treated as criminals by family courts, as long as they are disrespected by a culture that no longer values masculinity tied to honour, as long as boys are bereft of strong fathers and our young men and women wage sexual war, then we risk cultural suicide.'

It's enough to set a feminist's hair on end.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

UK schools ban cheese

A UK newspaper reports:
Schools in Plymouth banned from putting cheese on jacket potatoes

Thousands of schoolchildren were yesterday stopped from eating cheese on jacket potatoes for lunch.

Education chiefs ordered all 17 primary school canteens in Plymouth not to put the topping on baked spuds in a bid to improve pupil health.

The city council claimed it had been forced into the ban in an bid to meet new Government nutrition standards.
Cheese is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. I don't know what they are trying to do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Local eccentrics

The local paper reports:
Walking in the buff down Pacific Avenue

SANTA CRUZ -- Fresh off a flight from North Carolina, Gwen Baine and her family were enjoying the warm Santa Cruz sun Wednesday afternoon when she couldn't believe what she was seeing -- a woman sauntering down Pacific Avenue wearing nothing but a smile. ...

The woman, who appeared to be in her mid-30s and may have been wearing a wig, walked very "ladylike" past Kianti's outdoor patio where Baine's granddaughter Sophie said, "Oh my goodness that woman doesn't have any clothes on." ...

But Santa Cruz police spokesman Zach Friend said, "If we gave a citation for every one of Santa Cruz's idiosyncrasies, we'd be swimming in an ocean of citations."
I'd like to say that the locals here are very tolerant, but they are not. More later.

Female preacher wants same-sex marriage

The letter to the San Jose paper complains about the California ballot initiative to restore the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman:
Proposition 8 would deny the civil freedom to marry to many of our residents. I can speak for many local clergy, who have done extensive research into the biblical witness and know that the Bible does not even address our current situation: same-gender adults who freely choose a lifelong commitment to love and care for each other. Jesus says nothing about these relationships, but he certainly does support fidelity. I think most of us do. We should vote accordingly.

Rev. Margo Tenold
Co-director Council of Churches of Santa Clara County
No, that is not the current situation. California marriage is not a lifelong commitment; either party can bail out unilaterally. Maybe Jesus supported fidelity, but California law does not. Adultery is entirely legal in California, and the same-sex marriage debate won't change that. It would be nice if the same-sex marriage nuts would actually address the current ballot situation.

Embarrassing to women and rappers

The LA Times reports:
Social stigma drives some women to remove tattoos

Tattoo It appears sexism is alive and well when it comes to tattoos. Although just about as many women as men get tattoos nowadays, a new study shows that women seek removal of tattoos more than men because of negative social fallout.

About 25% of people ages 18 to 30 have tattoos, and that number is expected to rise to about 40% in the next few years, according to the study, published today in the Archives of Dermatology. Previous studies have shown that about 20% of people end up dissatisfied with their tattoos, and about 6% seek tattoo removal using laser treatment. ...

But in the 2006 survey, women also reported that they felt stigmatized by the tattoos. For example, 93% said having to hide the tattoos on occasion was a factor in the removal compared with 20% of men. About 40% of women endured negative comments at work, in public or in school compared with 5% of men.
Gosh, who would have guessed?

Meanwhile, rapper Rick Ross is embarrassed by just the opposite. Despite his denials, it has not been proved that he once worked in law enforcement.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Frustrated parents have to teach math to their kids

CNN reports:
NEW YORK (AP) -- On an occasional evening at the kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York, Victoria Morey has been known to sit down with her 9-year-old son and do something she's not supposed to.

"I am a rebel," confessed this mother of two.

And just what is this subversive act in which Morey engages -- with a child, yet?

Long division.
The schools are unlikely to teach math properly to your kids.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Healthy to add fat to diet

Yet another study shows that a high-fat diet is better than a low-fat diet:
The Atkins diet may have proved itself after all: A low-carb diet and a Mediterranean-style regimen helped people lose more weight than a traditional low-fat diet in one of the longest and largest studies to compare the dueling weight-loss techniques.

A bigger surprise: The low-carb diet improved cholesterol more than the other two. Some critics had predicted the opposite.
There are many studies like this. Physicians who say that fat is bad for you just don't know what they are talking about.

Here is another:
ScienceDaily (July 20, 2008) — Scientists have long been puzzled by how the Masai can avoid cardiovascular disease despite having a diet rich in animal fats. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet believe that their secret is in their regular walking.

There is strong evidence that the high consumption of animal fats increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Many scientists have therefore been surprised that the nomadic Masai of Kenya and Tanzania are seldom afflicted by the disease, despite having a diet that is rich in animal fats and deficient in carbohydrates.
Maybe the Masai have more energy because they have healthier diets.

Update: Tierney and Taubes at the NY Times point out that this study showed that eating a lot of saturated fat leads to better cholesterol profiles. Conventional medical wisdom says that saturated fat is unhealthy. It appears that physicians are wrong about saturated fat being harmful.

21 Reasons Why Gender Matters

Here is a good essay on the importance of fathers and mothers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Global warming causes kidney stones

SciAm magazine reports:
Add kidney stones to the growing list of possible consequences of global warming. A new study warns that as many as 2.3 million more people may develop these mineral deposits in their kidneys by the year 2050 as the result of a warming world. The reason? There's a greater risk that they will be subject to dehydration in more sultry climes, which is believed to be a major contributor to stone formation, according to research published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.
They are really getting desperate to find scare stories about global warming. It is more likely that people will drink a little extra water, if they get too hot.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Study claims fat folks don't know they are fat

A BMJ study (criticized here) found that, among people with a BMI of 26, 60% said that they were overweight in 1999, but only 40% said so in 2007. The study concluded that millions of people were too stupid to know that they were fat. Official charts say that anyone with a BMI over 25 is overweight.

A 2005 JAMA study found that folks with a BMI of 27 live the longest. Maybe 20% of the population has wised up to current research, and it is the official BMI tables that are out of date.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Apes now have rights in Spain

The cartoonist is an animal rights freak who explains his beliefs:
I don't personally believe that cruelty to any species of animal is less immoral than cruelty to our fellow humans. To me, we are all the same in our desire to be pain free, happy, and alive. I don't believe this because I am vegan, I am vegan because I believe this.
Spain has just granted animal rights to great apes:
Ingrid Newkirk, a founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, considers Spain’s vote “a great start at breaking down the species barriers, under which humans are regarded as godlike and the rest of the animal kingdom, whether chimpanzees or clams, are treated like dirt.”

Other commentators are aghast. Scientists, for example, would like to keep using chimpanzees to study the AIDS virus, which is believed to have come from apes.

Mr. Singer responded by noting that humans are a better study model, and yet scientists don’t deliberately infect them with AIDS.

“They’d need to justify not doing that,” he said. “Why apes?”
Because apes are less valuable than humans, and the medical research could save a lot of human lives. This should be obvious.

Use it or lose it

Here is some obvious research. A new study in the American Journal of Medicine has thisabstract:
Regular Intercourse Protects Against Erectile Dysfunction: Tampere Aging Male Urologic Study

Erectile dysfunction is common among men aged more than 60 years. Its cause involves both physiologic and psychosocial factors.

To evaluate the effects of coital frequency on subsequent risk of erectile dysfunction, data were analyzed from a population-based 5-year follow-up study that was conducted in Pirkanmaa, Finland, using postal questionnaires. ...

The overall incidence of moderate or complete erectile dysfunction was 32 cases per 1000 person-years ... The risk of erectile dysfunction was inversely related to the frequency of intercourse. ...

Regular intercourse protects against the development of erectile dysfunction among men aged 55 to 75 years. This may have an impact on general health and quality of life; therefore, doctors should support patients' sexual activity.
You can also find the abstract here, and the full article here. It is not a joke.

The authors claim to have found a cause-and-effect relationship, and not just a correlation. That is, lack of intercourse causes ED, and not the other way around.

Maybe next someone will do research to show that people who do regular push-ups are less likely to lose the ability to do push-ups.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

US Census Bureau won't count same-sex couples as being married

The lead story on Page 1 of the San Jose newspaper reports:
Tens of thousands of same-sex couples are expected to marry legally in California by 2010, if a constitutional ban on gay marriage doesn't pass at the polls in November.

But no matter what the voters decide, the official government count of the number of married same-sex couples in California is not in doubt. It will be zero. ...

Critics say the census plan will mask the records of legal, same-sex, married couples and therefore degrade the quality of the government's demographic data.
No, it is just true (in this context) that we'll have thousands of legally married same-sex couples. The California Supreme Court said that same-sex couples could register and call themselves married under California law, but everyone agrees that they will not be married under federal law or under the laws of nearly all the other states.

It is incorrect to call a couple "legally married" unless there is a marriage that is recognized under the applicable laws. In the USA, a California same-sex couple can have a marriage recognized under some laws, but not others. The US Census is doing the correct thing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Pediatricians push more harmful guidelines

Here is another attempt to get your kids on drugs:
The nation’s pediatricians are recommending wider cholesterol screening for children and more aggressive use of cholesterol-lowering drugs starting as early as the age of 8 in hopes of preventing adult heart problems.
The advice is debunked here. The advice is bad for adults, and untested on kids.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Why German is less offensive than Spanish

Ruben Navarrette Jr. writes in a newspaper op-ed:
Twenty-three years ago, on the night I graduated from high school, one of my co-valedictorians wrote into his speech a single sentence welcoming his grandparents, who had traveled to the United States to attend the ceremony. The sentence was in his grandparents' native language.

The night before, at the eighth-grade graduation across town, a young girl, another valedictorian, did something similar. She included a single sentence thanking her parents - in their native language - for their support.

The line in the high school speech was in German; the one in the speech for the junior high school was in Spanish. Guess which speech caused a fuss?
I think that there is a big difference. No one is forcing anyone to learn German. Germans come to this country and learn English. They don't complain about they would have controlled part of the USA if only they had won the war.

The law requires my ballots to be printed in English and Spanish. The same law prohibits ballots being printed in German. Speaking Spanish is a threat to Americanism, and speaking German is not.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The right to say Yuck

UK news:
Toddlers who say "yuck" when given flavorful foreign food may be exhibiting racist behavior, a British government-sponsored organization says. The London-based National Children's Bureau released a 366-page guide counseling adults on recognizing racist behavior in young children, The Telegraph reported Monday.

The guide, titled Young Children and Racial Justice, warns adults that babies must also be included in the effort to eliminate racism because they have the ability to "recognize different people in their lives."The bureau says to be aware of children who "react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying "yuck".
We grown-ups also want the right to occasionally say "yuck".

Obama is embarrassed that Americans speak English

Here is Backtrack Obama, giving yet another reason why he is embarrassed to be an American:
You know, I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English- only." They want to pass a law, "We want English-only."

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But understand this. Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish. You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language.

You know, it's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say [is], "Merci beaucoup." Right?

You know, no, I'm serious about this.
I want a President who is not embarrassed to be an American. I also want one who will do something about the immigration problems, and not just tell me that my kids will need to learn Spanish.

Update: Another columnist addresses the issue.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Professor badmouths hot dogs

The San Jose Mercury News reports:
[Joey] Chestnut, who clocked in at 210 pounds before the contest, downplayed his win, which carries a $10,000 prize.

"I'm just a normal guy eating hot dogs on the Fourth," he said. "You can't overcomplicate it."

Then he burped. He was clearly tired. The hot dogs had staggered him. No doubt he'll need recovery time, said Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor at the New York University School of Medicine.

"Hot dogs are extremely unhealthy, especially when eaten at high volume. They're really processed. They have high cholesterol and too much salt," he said.

And thanks to the quantities the competitors ate, they'll likely suffer nausea, bloat, headache and possibly high blood pressure for several days as the body slowly digests the food.

"One is bad for you, five's worse and 50 is terrible," he said.
You would think that the newspaper could find a medical professor who knows more about food than the clerk in a natural food store. Food does not become unhealthy just because it is processed, or contains cholesterol and salt.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Letting kids have their own way

The UK Sunday Times newspaper reports:
As the mother of two young daughters, Ruth Appleton is used to doling out praise for almost everything they do. Even she was taken aback, however, when her younger daughter, Rachel, now 5, arrived home from nursery clutching a certificate for “sitting nicely on the carpet”.

“It made me wonder what she was doing the rest of the time,” said Appleton, from Porthcawl, Wales. “I thought it was a bit over the top rewarding her for something so routine. But it’s part of a whole culture of stickers and smiley faces and ‘celebration assemblies’.”

Anyone with children at primary school will instantly get the picture: no child’s existence is complete without “circle time”, or “show and tell” sessions at which they are encouraged to parade their achievements and examine their feelings. The received wisdom on child-rearing says nothing should be allowed to damage a child’s sense of self-worth: just last week the Football Association (FA) decided to ban teams including children under eight from publishing their results, for fear of putting the kids under too much pressure if they lost a match.

As parents, we are encouraged to nurture our children’s sense of “self”, but are we unwittingly doing them more harm than good? ...

It is becoming a worldwide trend. A recent production of Snow White at a primary school in Japan featured 25 Snow Whites, no dwarfs and no wicked witch, as parents objected to one child being picked out for the title role. In Sweden a boy was prevented from handing out invitations to his birthday party at school because he was “discriminating” against the two classmates he did not invite.
This nonsense has infected American schools also.

Obama flip-flops on same-sex marriage

The San Jose Mercury News prints this editorial:
John McCain's support for the initiative to ban gay marriage in California - Proposition 8 - was predictable, ...

Obama and McCain both have said they believe marriage should be between a man and woman. They part company on the impulse to legislate their personal belief ...

Make no mistake. This is a civil rights issue. Under law, only marriage confers certain legal rights of inheritance, medical decision-making and child custody.
The newspaper is mistaken. Same sex couples can get all of those "legal rights" under California law, regardless of whether Proposition 8 passes or not. All they have to do is to register as domestic partners. The editorial is as wrong as it can be.

Obama is trying to be both for and against same-sex marriage at the same time. He has flip-flopped on many other issues as well, ranging from the Iraq War to wearing a flag lapel pin.