Friday, July 31, 2009

Organic food no healthier

A London UK paper reports:
Organic produce is no better for health than conventional food, the Government's Food Standards Agency announced today.

Their report, after a 12-month study based on 50 years of research, says the benefits of chemical-free vegetables, fruit and meat have been overstated.
No surprise here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

NPR hates making money

I often listen to NPR Science Friday for socialist science podcasts, but last week's show on a cell phone microscope was particularly offensive. The guest was a professor who was teaching students how to invent devices that are suitable for diagnosing infectious diseases in Third World countries. At one point (about half-way at 3:30) the host said:
It is amazing it is a student project. You are not worried that they are going to drop out of school and go get rich, are you?
This was such a bizarrely leftist thing to say. The university is training people to have money-making careers. If one of them successfully goes into business saving millions of people from tuberculosis, why would anyone worry that he might make some money in the process? That is not a worry, that is a good thing. The student would only make money by bring medical services to poor people who would not get help otherwise. The more money he makes, the more lives he will have saved.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tom Wolfe on NASA

Author Tom Wolfe writes:
“Why not send robots?” is a common refrain. And once more it is the late Wernher von Braun who comes up with the rejoinder. One of the things he most enjoyed saying was that there is no computerized explorer in the world with more than a tiny fraction of the power of a chemical analog computer known as the human brain, which is easily reproduced by unskilled labor.
What a silly thing to say! Von Braun died 32 years ago, and robot technology has advanced a lot since then.

Wolfe goes on:
What NASA needs now is the power of the Word. On Darwin’s tongue, the Word created a revolutionary and now well-nigh universal conception of the nature of human beings, or, rather, human beasts. On Freud’s tongue, the Word means that at this very moment there are probably several million orgasms occurring that would not have occurred had Freud never lived. Even the fact that he is proved to be a quack has not diminished the power of his Word.
Now I am really lost. NASA needs to mimic a quack who somehow inspired female orgasms? Tell me that this article is some sort of joke.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

HBO is the gay network

Hollywood reports:
Four nets were rated "good," led by HBO with 42% representation of LGBT characters, a 16% increase from last year. Virtually all non-sports original HBO series included LGBT content, with shows such as "True Blood" and "The No. 1 Lades Detective Agency" lauded for featuring "complex and authentic LGBT characters from diverse backgrounds."

Also singled out in the report is ABC's drama "Brothers & Sisters," which features three regular gay characters, as well as the network's "Grey's Anatomy," which has a bisexual woman among the leads.

Overall, "GLAAD analysts found that ABC consistently offers the most fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the five broadcast networks," the survey said.
The worst network, according to this gay lobby, had only 5% LGBT depiction. Only about 2% of the population is LGBT, or as some call it, LGBTQI.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Google wants court to give it all the old books

A Google lobbyist Jonathan Hillel writes in a Si Valley paper op-ed:
Furthermore, the claim that Google will have exclusive access to orphan works is unfounded. The settlement gives Google a nonexclusive license. New entrants can enter the market at will. Even if the only way to license these works is to settle another class-action lawsuit, the $45 million precedent makes litigation inevitable.
No, they cannot enter at will. A new entrant will get sued, and might have to pay a $45M settlement.
The court must consider whether the rights of orphan work authors will be fairly represented under the settlement. Consumer benefit, not pressure from the Justice Department, should guide the court's decision.
This guy does not even make any sense. Does he want the court to consider the rights of orphan work authors, or consumer benefit? They are directly at odds.

Copyright law is broken, but it won't be fixed by some judge granting Google a monopoly on orphan works.

The attack on good food

Ellen Goodman writes:
A more personal measure is David Kessler's bestseller, "The End of Overeating," which is both a thinking person's diet book and an investigation into an industry that wants us to eat more. The former head of the FDA had crusaded against smoking, but found himself helpless before a chocolate chip cookie. So this yo-yo dieter set out to discover what exactly we're up against.

Kessler is a scientist, not a conspiracy theorist. But he writes about how the food industry has learned to produce "hyperpalatable combinations of sugar, fat and salt" that not only appeal to us but "have the capacity to rewire our brains, driving us to seek out more and more of those products."
No, David Kessler is not a scientist. Physician, lawyer, and administrator, but not a scientist.

I am happy that food makers are selling food that tastes good. If it is hyperpalatable, so much the better.

Taller men earn more

A UK paper reports on an Australian study:
An extra couple of inches can add nearly £500 a year to a man's salary – a pay rise equivalent to an extra 12 months' experience.

A 6ft tall man can expect 1.5 per cent more than a workmate who is 5ft 10 ins. However, female workers would need an advantage of 4 ins to get a similar boost in earnings over colleagues. ...

He said that while size could be an advantage in some jobs like a taller shop assistant being able to reach a top shelf without a ladder, or a slimmer construction worker being able to move around the building site more rapidly.

But he felt that the most likely explanation was down to feelings that taller people commanded more respect and discrimination against short people.

"Perhaps this has to do with status – having greater respect for taller people might be inadvertently leading to higher wages," he said.

"Or perhaps it is because of discrimination, with shorter people getting the same treatment in the labour market as women and minorities have experienced in the past."

The study also found fat people no longer earn less than their skinnier colleagues – possibly because so many people are now overweight.
There are other explanations besides discrimination.
He said that taller boys may be more confident as height affects things like participating in clubs and athletics, and those confidence-boosting activities as a youth lead to earning power as an adult.
Yes, that is a possibility. It is also possible that taller men are healthier and smarter.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kids may not be getting fatter

The WSJ says Maybe Children Aren’t Getting Fatter.

I don't know, but the new US Surgeon General Regina Benjamin wears a size 18 dress, and "fat teenager" now has a whole new meaning:
Born and raised in South Carolina, Alexander Draper grew up to reach a dangerous 555 pounds by the age of 14. That's when law enforcement stepped in.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why are we so fat?

Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic magazine, trying to explain why we are so fat:
Kolbert, reviewing The Fattening of America by Eric Finkelstein and Laurie Zuckerman, notes that food has gotten cheaper relative to the other goods and services. And fatty foods have gotten a lot cheaper. The price of soft drinks, for example, have dropped by more than 20 percent, and they now account for seven percent all calories in the US.
No. Soft drinks are not examples of fatty foods. Soda has no fat at all!

If you do want fattening food, you can now get ratings of fast food in calories per dollar. Seems sensible to me. I wish grocery stores would have that, along with the unit pricing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tom Watson saves golf

I think that Tom Watson deliberately muffed that last putt on the 18th hole. If he had sunk that putt, then he would have won the British Open at age 59, and it would forever be difficult for anyone to seriously claim that golf is a sport. How could it be a real sport when an over-the-hill 59-year-old could win a big championship?

Thanks, Tom. You are a hero to golfers everywhere. You proved that you could compete with the best of them, but you were too much of a gentleman to humiliate the whole golfing world. The rest of us can still pretend that golf is a sport.

Rationing health care

Animal rights guru and bioethics prof Peter Singer writes:
The way we regard rationing in health care seems to rest on a similar assumption, that it’s immoral to apply monetary considerations to saving lives — but is that stance tenable?
He has a long article in the NY Times Magazine in favor of rationing health care, and spends most of it trying to justify applying monetary considerations.

His attitude is so bizarre. Everyone agrees that it is okay to apply monetary considerations to buying food, housing, transportation, or just about anything else, and yet we don't want those things to be rationed.

The presumption seems to be that if the govt subsidizes health insurance somehow, then there will be govt medical gatekeepers that will forbid certain medical procedures even if you pay for them yourself. That is how it works in Canada, and that is apparently in the Obama plan.

I just don't see why health insurance requires rationing. We have insurance for all sorts of other things -- cars, fire, etc. -- and nobody says those are rationed.

But a leftist jewish atheist academic bioethicist tends to have a really warped view of the world. I won't try to summarize his wacky views. Just look at his Wikipedia bio. Based on that, I would not be surprised if he thought that govts have a moral obligation to ration food, housing, cars, and everything else.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Couple loses kid for being uncooperative

A NJ appeals court just ruled:
Defendants V.M. and B.G. are the biological parents of J.M.G., born on April 16, 2006. During her hospitalization in anticipation of J.M.G.'s delivery, V.M. demonstrated combative and erratic behavior including a refusal to consent to a cesarean section (c-section). Despite the medical opinion that the fetus demonstrated signs of distress and that the procedure was necessary to avoid imminent danger to the fetus, the child was born by vaginal delivery without incident.
So the medical opinion turned out to be wrong, and the C-section turned out to be not necessary.

The hospital did not like the mom's attitude, and ordered two psychiatric exams. The authorities ultimately seized the baby and put it in foster care. The parents' rights were terminated.

The court grappled with the issue of whether the mom could be charged with abusing or neglecting the unborn fetus, because she had an absolute constitutional right to kill the fetus under the current abortion law.
There is no allegation that [the baby] was actually harmed by her parents. Rather, the judge's finding was based solely on the imminent danger of harm presented by [the mom's] actions and mental condition. The unique problem here is that much of [the mom's] erratic behavior occurred before [the baby's] birth, while [the mom] was still pregnant.
So the judges disagreed about whether refusing the C-section was child abuse and neglect.

Since the erratic behavior consisted mostly of refusing the C-section, the judges justified their decision on the mom's uncooperative behavior with authorities after the birth. For example, this was alleged:
Caseworker Heather Frommer immediately went to the hospital, interviewed staff and spoke to [the mom and dad]. [They] denied that [the mom] had ever received psychiatric treatment, had ever refused to consent to a c-section or had ever been evaluated by a hospital psychiatrist.
Of course there was no tape recording or any objective evidence that the parents lied to anyone. Nor is there any law requiring a citizen to reveal psychiatric treatment to a CPS caseworker.

Here is another example of the parents' uncooperativeness:
The judge expressed his frustration, observing that he "wanted desperately to reunify this family," but the parents were "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory." He also expressed concern that no psychiatrists would undertake the evaluation if they thought they would be sued, to which [the mom] responded, "[t]hat's your problem." When [the mom] was asked if she would waive her right to sue psychiatrists, she replied, "[n]o way." As a result, the judge ordered that a psychiatrist be appointed who would have the same immunity as the court.
It seems to me that the mom was entirely within her legal rights to reserve her right to sue. Nor does it appear that this imposed any hardship on the court, because the court has the power to immunize the psychiatrist.

The case against the dad is even stranger. He is not accused of erratic behavior, and he had no power to force the mom to consent to a C-section. So instead this contrived argument is given by the court:
Dr. Shnaidman stated that [the dad] was cognitively intact, but that he also suffers from psychosis. She described his diagnosis as "folie à deux," a rare condition in which one person subscribes to the psychoses and paranoid delusions of another. She explained that [the mom and dad] function in a very paranoid and secretive way, with each person's paranoia supporting the other's.
It is not paranoia if the authorities are really out to get them.

The bottom like is that the parents have lost their kid because the authorities did not like their attitude, even tho no one ever showed that they did anything harmful.

Woman fined for barking dogs

An Arizona newspaper reports:
Renee Maurer was sentenced to three years' probation and a $940 fine charge today in Phoenix Municipal Court for allowing her dogs to disturb the peace of her Northeast neighborhood.

Several neighbors filed a petition earlier this year to have Maurer prosecuted in court for her barking Pomeranian and miniature poodle.

Neighbors testified in court on Monday that the dogs have barked constantly for the last three years. ...

Maurer said she was disappointed about the sentencing and her neighbors.

"I feel ostracized in my own community," said Maurer, adding that neighborhood relations will now be "extremely awkward and uncomfortable."
She is just now feeling ostracized? It wasn't the sentencing that made the neighbor relations awkward, it was the barking dogs.

DNA tests are getting easier

A British newspaper reports:
DADS will soon be able to buy DNA paternity test kits over the counter - to prove kids are theirs.

The £30 packs let them take simple swabs which are flown to a lab for analysis.

But medical ethics experts warned that the tests - a regular item on Jeremy Kyle's ITV daytime talk show - could foster a "culture of suspicion" and cause marriages to break up.

Josephine Quintavalle, of campaign group Comment On Reproductive Ethics, added: "The people who might suffer most are children rejected by parents."
No. This test never causes children to be rejected by parents. It only causes rejection by non-parents. It never deters an actual parent.

The test does not foster suspicion, it eliminates suspicion. It is the wife's infidelity that causes the marriages to break up, not the test.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cat lover claims cat can read human minds

NY Times evolutionary science reporter Nicolas Wade writes:
If scientists are to be challenged on the nature of cats, firmer ground might be the question of whether cats can read human minds.

People have an ability, called “theory of mind” by psychologists, to infer what is going on in the minds of other people. Psychologists doubt whether any other species possess this ability, at least to the same degree. Baboons, for instance, are very intelligent primates yet seem to have only a weak theory of mind. A mother baboon may ford a crocodile-infested river, leaving her infant crying on the other side and being apparently unable to infer the reason for the infant’s distress.

But a cat of my acquaintance seems to be very adept at reading minds, at least those belonging to people. When he needs to be let back into the house, he jumps up onto the ledge outside the kitchen window, waiting for people to notice him and open the door. If ignored, he will grab the mesh of the storm window in his claws and rattle it impatiently to gain attention, having clearly read people’s disinclination to get up and open the door for him yet again.
This is so ridiculous that I cannot tell whether he is joking or not. Nevertheless, cat lovers and others say stuff like this all the time, so I am responding to it.

This is no evidence of mindreading at all. There is a much simpler explanation. The lean theory is that the cat has simply learned, by trial and error, that rattling the storm window opens the door. The cat may not be aware that humans even have anything to do with it.

We need some research on why humans subscribe to such mindreading theories.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Superman and Batman arrested in NY

The New York Post newspaper reports:
Their comic-book adventure went awry when cops approached the dynamic duo on 43rd Street to see whether they had the required license to perform in costume in public, Frisoli said.

When they said no, cops asked for IDs. Again, they answered no, which prompted cops to handcuff Batman.

That's when Superman took off, screaming, "I'm not getting arrested."

But a crowd of police took him down and brought him to a special Fortress of Solitude -- the Midtown South station house.
I had no idea that NY now requires a license to be Batman.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

No free speech for divorced dads

Law prof Volokh writes:
"Father Shall Not Use Profanity or Racial Epithets in the Boys' Presence or Within Their Earshot"

That's from a Delaware Family Court order that came out in 2002, JJ.W. B. v. K.A. B., 2002 WL 31454072 (Del. Fam. Ct.), but that I just came across. If the father used such words in violation of the court order, he would be subject to criminal prosecution for contempt (though practically speaking it seems likelier that the court would further reduce his visitation time with the children).
I am appalled that some lawyers there argue that married parents and single parents have free speech rights, but divorced parents with joint custody have no such rights.

There is no good cause for any judge to tell a parent what opinions he can express to his own kids. Period. Unless the parent is objectively causing some serious harm to the kids, the court should butt out.

One commenter suggests requiring that "a prenup in which all the terms are hashed out and agreed in advance.

At one time, the marriage contract was a way of publicly and legally acknowledging the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. But no more. Family courts now decide custody citing only the Best Interest Of The Child (BIOTCH), regardless of any marriage or prenup. About 40% of American births today are to single moms. It is about 25% for whites, 50% for Mexicans, and 75% for blacks.

There is just no possibility that anyone is going to sign a prenup restricting free speech rights years into the future, and no possibility that any court would pay attention to it, and no possibility that any such rule or practice would have any impact on American child-rearing.

Marriage and marriage law in the USA is not what it was just a few years ago. Most people do not seem to realize or accept this. Even most lawyers don't.

Work of the Devil

Florida news:
The sign reads “Islam is of the Devil” and was placed Sunday in the church’s front lawn. It was vandalized and torn down that evening but was re-erected on Monday, said Terry Jones, the pastor at the church. ...

Jones said Islam’s growing popularity in the United States needs to be addressed because Christians are not standing up for what they believe in.

“To be a Christian, you would have to agree with that sign,” Jones said.

He said the sign is not meant to attack individuals but to attack the religion of Islam because it is oppressive and violent. ...

Ismail ibn Ali, president of Islam on Campus at UF, said in an e-mail that he hopes non-Muslims who read the sign will Google “Islam” and see what the religion is about before making judgments.
I hope they do. They will find that some religions are better than others.

Fat in the South

Time magazine reports:
People from Mississippi are fat. With an adult obesity rate of 33%, Mississippi has gobbled its way to the "chubbiest state" crown for the fifth year in a row, according to a new joint report by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Alabama, West Virginia and Tennessee aren't far behind, with obesity rates over 30%. In fact, eight of the 10 fattest states are in the South. The region famous for its biscuits, barbecue and pecan pies has been struggling with its weight for years - but then again, so has the rest of the country. ...

Maybe it's the culture. Southerners definitely enjoy their fried chicken (not to mention fried steak, fried onions, fried green tomatoes, fried pickles and fried corn bread). Even when their food isn't fried, they like to smother it in gravy. But while nutritionists frequently blame Southerners' large guts on their regional food choices, the accusation is a little unfair. Just as Californians don't actually live on wheat grass and tofu, Southerners don't really sit around eating fried chicken every day.
News to me. I eat fried chicken in California myself. It is not any more fattening than anything else. The article goes on:
To combat this affliction, some Southern states have adopted programs to fight rising obesity. In 2003, Arkansas passed a school body mass index–screening program that assesses weight and sends the results home to parents. Tennessee encourages its schools to buy fresh ingredients from local growers. And in 2007, Mississippi adopted nutritional standards for school lunches. Most of these programs are relatively new, so it will be a few years before experts can determine their efficacy.
Those measures will not cause anyone to lose weight.

Lawsuit over definition

AP reports:
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, sued the U.S. government Wednesday over a federal law that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The federal Defense of Marriage Act interferes with the right of Massachusetts to define and regulate marriage as it sees fit, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said. ...

Besides Massachusetts, five other states — Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Iowa — have legalized gay marriage. ... The lawsuit focuses on the section of the law that creates a federal definition of marriage as "a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife."
This story is one big contradiction. If Massachusetts had really legalized gay marriage, then it would not be suing. It is suing because it failed to legalize gay marriage.

Those other states did not really legalize gay marriage either, because federal law supersedes state law.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New stem cell policy

The NY Times reports:
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration released final rules governing stem cell research on Monday that will allow many older stem cell lines to be eligible for federally financed research. ...

The rules still forbid financing of research using stem cell lines from embryos created solely for research.
This differs from Pres. Bush's 2001 policy in that Bush allowed federal funding of research using all existing stem cell lines at the time.

There is a difference. Apparently some of the Bush-approved stem cell lines were made from embryos that were created for the purpose, and they will not be allowed under the Obama policy. Obama will allow many others.

I don't have any opinion about which policy is better, I just don't think that one policy is any more pro-science than the other. The two policies just draw an ethical line slightly differently. The practical consequences may be negligible.

In case you are waiting for medical labs to regenerate organs from stem cells for you, that is a long way off. Just look at how many bald people are around. We will have regenerated hair implants long before we get more complicated organs.

Remembering Michael Jackson

Dean Tong writes:
Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, is dead. The multiple child sexual abuse allegations Jacko endured over a decade from 1993 – 2003 are dead, forever. His music lives, forever. This column hones in on the abuse allegations Jackson faced; allegations that sullied his reputation and character, and allegations he both settled out of court and defeated in front of a jury of his peers at trial. ... Unfortunately, for most or all men who are unjustly accused of child molestation, twice, the maxim “where there’s smoke there’s fire wins out.” You are guilty by mere association and someone out there still thinks you did it even after being exonerated.
Jacko was a weirdo, but not a child molester. I followed his trial, and I was convinced that he was completely innocent of the charges against him. So was the jury. In America, we believe citizens are innocent until proven guilty.

So enjoy his music and dancing, and remember him for the good things that he did.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Two Cops Make Out in Patrol Car

Glenn Sacks writes:
Police Chief Tim Escola and Officer Janine England of Perry Township, Ohio took a trip in a police cruiser to pick up a prisoner in Cincinnati. ... The car had a video camera mounted on the dashboard that recorded them kissing and caressing each other. That's a violation of department policy and when an anonymous report was made about the pair, Escola abruptly retired in lieu of departmental discipline. Pursuant to the investigation into the tip, the video was made public.

The department announced that England would not face any form of discipline for her part in the incident which appears on the video to have been entirely consensual. Strangely enough, Law Director Charles Hall said, in explaining why England would not be disciplined, "I don't think I can reprimand her for a department violation, when he's there and engaging in the same activity."

To which some of us respond, "Huh?" If they're engaging in "the same activity," and that activity violates departmental policy, it would seem they should both be disciplined. What am I not getting?

Maybe it's this: Prior to her job at Perry, England was a peace officer with Montville Township. She resigned that job and sued Montville for sexual harrassment and racial discrimination, a suit she later dropped. Hmm. I wonder what events led up to her resignation and claim of harrassment. Could it have been sexual activity with another officer? Just a wild guess. Could it be that Perry Township is just trying to avoid a similar lawsuit? Again, just a wild guess on my part.
I think that I get the pattern. The woman seduces a co-worker, and then sues for sexual harassment. I wonder how many times she has gotten away with it.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Ruling good for cable companies, not viewers

Forbes reports:
The ruling looks like a clear victory for subscribers of cable services, long frustrated by awkward set-top box technology and perpetually rising subscription fees.
No, it is only a clear victory for the cable TV companies. This decision allows the cable companies to sell extra services, and charge more money. I would rather have a set-top box with a hard disc, and save programs there. I shouldn't have to pay monthly fees to view what I have already recorded.