Lazy linking

Another round of interesting links from the internet

Should complementary and alternative medicine charities lose their charitable status?

Right now, the Charity Commission is in the middle of a public consultation, asking whether or not organisations that offer complementary and alternative therapies should continue to have charitable status. This review presents an unprecedented opportunity for the public to turn the tide, and to make it clear to the Charity Commission that it is not enough to make a medical claim, but that such claims have to be backed up by reliable evidence.

The Good Thinking Society has raised the problem with organizations based on promoting pseudo-science having charitable status, forcing the Charity Commission to hold a public consultation on the subject. As part of his work for the Good Thinking Society, Michael “Marsh” Marshall (host of Skeptics with a K) has written a great opinion piece in the Guardian explaining the reasons behind the Good Thinking Society’s focus on this.

Note: the public consultation ended on March 19th, but it is still worth reading the piece anyway.

Making Progress Toward Open Data: Reflections on Data Sharing at PLOS ONE

Since its inception, PLOS has encouraged data sharing; our original data policy (2003 – March 2014) required authors to share data upon request after publication. In line with PLOS’ ethos of open science and accelerating scientific progress, and in consultation with members of the wider scientific community, PLOS journals strengthened their data policy in March 2014 to further promote transparency and reproducibility.[1] This move was viewed as controversial by many, particularly for PLOS ONE, the largest and most multidisciplinary journal to ever undertake such a mandate. In this post, we look at our experience so far.

Interesting blogpost by PLOS ONE on their data sharing policy, and what the effect of their policy has been, three years after they implemented it.

The Doomsday Scam

This NY Times Magazine article is from November, 2015, but I have just recently come across it. It is a fascinating look into a hoax-substance red mercury, which is supposed to be highly dangerous, and the people searching for it.

The Eurocrat Who Makes Corporate America Tremble

Vestager’s entire tenure has been laced with an instinctive mistrust of big corporations. She’s driven investigations of Amazon.com, Fiat, Gazprom, Google, McDonald’s, and Starbucks—and she still has two and a half years remaining in her term. Rulings on McDonald’s and Amazon, both under scrutiny for their tax deals with Luxembourg, are imminent. If Vestager levies a multibillion-dollar fine against Google—a distinct possibility because the company is fighting three separate European antitrust cases—she will truly set headlines aflame. Google came under review for allegedly forcing Android phone manufacturers to pre-install its suite of apps, favoring its own comparison-shopping services in its search results, and preventing third-party websites from sourcing ads from its competitors. As with Apple and Amazon, these cases were bequeathed to Vestager by her predecessor, but she’s accelerated them to their finish lines.

Great profile of EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager, which focuses not only on her work, but also how the American corporations don’t know how to approach her.

‘The Drug Whisperer’: Drivers arrested while stone cold sober (warning: autoplay video)

Apparently some American police districts teaches cops how to “recognize” signs of drug use. I use scare quotes around recognize, as this news segment clearly shows that they do nothing of the sort. Instead they jail people without a cause.

 

Lazy linking

Catching up on sharing interesting links – some of these might be used for posts in the future.

Seems like the far-right is spreading everywhere, including into the more niche communities, such as the furries. This has led to this article, which must be a headline writer’s wet dream (warning Daily Mail link)

Neo-Nazi furries uproar causes convention cancelation

The rise of the alt-right movement has many people nervous about the spread of neo-Nazi sympathies – and the furry community is apparently not immune to these political trends.

In shocking news, the Rocky Mountain Fur Con, the annual event that brings together furries, has been canceled after a splinter group known as the Furry Raiders came under fire for embracing ‘altfur’ symbols similar to those of Nazis and fascists.

Furries are pretty much at the bottom of the internet pecking order, but I can’t help notice that unlike many other groups that the far right has tried to infiltrate, they actually take action – in this case cancelling the convention.

My fellow FreethoughtBlogger Crip Dyke has written a great blogpost about the One Drop rule

The One Drop Rule

Shermer has had an abomination of a tweet called out by PZ Myers over on Pharyngula, and I’m sure most of you have read that. There are many good points to make about it and a number have been made there, but here I’d like to say something that hasn’t been mentioned yet over there. Here, I’d like to offer some praise for a One Drop Rule.

The One Drop Rule that Crip Dyke is praising is not the one that we generally know, but rather the inverse one – the one where minorities took in anyone who was forced out by the One Drop Rule, providing a community and a home for them.

This article is a year old, but it is important to keep sharing it, since the stereotype still exists, and forms policy in the US

A racist stereotype is shattered: Study finds white youth are more likely to abuse hard drugs than black youth

By now we can all agree that the real target of Reagan’s enduring war on drugs was never drugs, it was African Americans. But if rising incarceration rates among black youth or the utter failure to curtail drug use is not enough proof, perhaps a new study from Northwestern University on racial differences among drug users will do the trick.

According to the study’s findings recently published in the American Journal of Public Health, abuse and dependence on “hard drugs” (opiates, amphetamine, etc.) are “less common among delinquent African American youth than those who are non-Hispanic white.”

It can be debated whether the “war of drugs” is a good idea or not (though I think most of my readers will on the side of thinking it being a bad idea), but studies like this clearly shows that the law is being used to target minorities rather than doing what they are supposed to do.

 

The next link is an interesting article about mixed up identities and the slow awakening of the awareness of racial prejudice of a white woman in the US.

For 18 years, I thought she was stealing my identity. Until I found her

A woman apparently using my name meant a nightmare of unpaid traffic fines and a criminal record. But when I tracked her down, a different story emerged

Most of the problems encountered in the article is due to the lack of a national identity in the US, where people get confused with other people all the time (something John Oliver has covered relating to credit scores), but I found it interesting how the author slowly become aware of the racial prejudice that affected her namesake(s)

I had never been to any other kind of court except traffic court (at which, both times, the police officers had flat-out lied). While I was familiar with the statistics –75.6% of arrestees for misdemeanor crimes are African Americans or Hispanic – the reality took my breath away. Like any other privileged white person living in the protected segregation of New York, who isn’t directly dealing with the New York criminal justice system, I hadn’t seen it first hand. The room was almost entirely filled with people of color, other than the judge, the court-appointed lawyer, and me. Most of them had summonses for smoking pot, one of the city’s least offensive offenses.

 

It is incredible hard to hide one’s identity on the internet, especially if you are a public person, but you’d think that the head of the FBI would be able to do so. Apparently not.

This Is Almost Certainly James Comey’s Twitter Account

Digital security and its discontents—from Hillary Clinton’s emails to ransomware to Tor hacks—is in many ways one of the chief concerns of the contemporary FBI. So it makes sense that the bureau’s director, James Comey, would dip his toe into the digital torrent with a Twitter account. It also makes sense, given Comey’s high profile, that he would want that Twitter account to be a secret from the world, lest his follows and favs be scrubbed for clues about what the feds are up to. What is somewhat surprising, however, is that it only took me about four hours of sleuthing to find Comey’s account, which is not protected.

Going to IT conferences, where security is often covered, has left me a bit cynical about the chances of hiding, or even protecting yourself, on the internet, but it seems Comey has done some pretty basic mistakes, which a person in his position should have avoided (e.g. not making the profile private).

 

This Scandinavia and the World strip pretty much summons up Brexit.

 

Berkeley Breathed made a great April 1st joke: A merger of Berkeley Breathed and Calvin and Hobbes. This even let to a great comic strip:

April 1st comic strip

Berkeley Breathed with Calvin and Hobbes

Lazy linking

I’ve come across a bunch of links that I thought my interest other people

First a bit of science geekery

What happens when a bullet hits an ‘unbreakable’ Prince Rupert’s drop

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Prince Rupert’s drop, this weird, scientific enigma is a glass object that’s created by dripping molten glass into very cold water.

That process creates all kinds of crazy physical properties, which we’ll go into later, but the end result is a teardrop-shaped piece of glass that’s pretty much unbreakable at its bulbous ‘drop’ end, but which shatters from the slightest pressure at the elongated tail end. Scientists have been obsessed with them since the 1600s. But what happens if you shoot one with a bullet?

There are a video showing the experiment in super slow motion.


 

And now, to something very different – the sometimes less foreseeable consequences of change

Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse

Much has been said about the ways we expect our oncoming fleet of driverless cars to change the way we live—remaking us all into passengers, rewiring our economy, retooling our views of ownership, and reshaping our cities and roads.

They will also change the way we die. As technology takes the wheel, road deaths due to driver error will begin to diminish. It’s a transformative advancement, but one that comes with consequences in an unexpected place: organ donation.

I don’t think the progress towards car automation, which would result in fewer fatal accidents in traffic, should be stopped because of a concern for fewer organ donations (because of those fewer deaths), but it is something that needs to be taken into consideration in future planning and research. There is work into growing organs in labs, and this should probably be intensified/prioritized.


 

There is a great NY Times article taking a look at fake academic journals and conferences.

A Peek Inside the Strange World of Fake Academia

The caller ID on my office telephone said the number was from Las Vegas, but when I picked up the receiver I heard what sounded like a busy overseas call center in the background. The operator, “John,” asked if I would be interested in attending the 15th World Cardiology and Angiology Conference in Philadelphia next month.

“Do I have to be a doctor?” I said, because I’m not one. I got the call because 20 minutes earlier I had entered my phone number into a website run by a Hyderabad, India, company called OMICS International.

“You can have the student rate,” the man replied. With a 20 percent discount, it would be $599. The conference was in just a few weeks, I pointed out — would that be enough time for the academic paper I would be submitting to be properly reviewed? (Again, I know nothing about cardiology.) It would be approved on an “expedited basis” within 24 hours, he replied, and he asked which credit card I would like to use.

If it seems that I was about to be taken, that’s because I was. OMICS International is a leader in the growing business of academic publication fraud. It has created scores of “journals” that mimic the look and feel of traditional scholarly publications, but without the integrity. This year the Federal Trade Commission formally charged OMICS with “deceiving academics and researchers about the nature of its publications and hiding publication fees ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars.”

It is an interesting area – there are some conferences/journals that are obviously fake (OMICS seems to be one of these), so it is hard to feel sorry for people giving them money. Others are much better at hiding their fakeness, and might even been connected to reputable publishing houses, which makes me feel much more inclined to feel sorry for the people believing them to be real. Especially people without a strong academic background.


I am generally not into sob stories about sportspeople, but this is a truly inspiring one.

The remarkable story of TCU’s Rhodes scholar, Caylin Moore

Growing up in Southern California, Moore’s family struggled financially. Dinner often came from the Dollar Menu at McDonald’s or Carl’s Jr. There were times when Moore’s mother didn’t have enough money to feed all three of her kids. “She would say, ‘Cay, You can only get one item,'” Moore recalled. “So I would just do pushups to take the pain from my stomach to the pain in my arms.”

Sometimes, Moore did pushups until he passed out in a pool of sweat. But he also built his upper body, which helped him excel in football, and that helped him reach college. Rather than give in to the many burdens on his shoulders, nudging him closer to the ground, Moore literally pushed back.

I think that it helps that the article focuses less on the sports aspects, and more on the academic and community aspects.


 

From back in May, an interesting article on how long-lived lies can exist on the internet

How I used lies about a cartoon to prove history is meaningless on the internet

Years ago, maybe around 2003 when I was in middle school, I stumbled across the site TVTome.com. It was a user-edited wiki for TV shows. To be an editor for the big, popular shows you had to prove why you were qualified. After all, creating the official record of what happened on The Big Bang Theory was an important responsibility. But for some forgotten garbage show like Street Sharks, the screening process was nonexistent. Sensing an opportunity for nonsense, I became the Street Sharks editor and filled its page with lies. I made up characters, voice actors, episodes, plot descriptions, everything.

[…..]

For a little while, all these falsehoods just sat there, not bothering anybody. However, sometime later, TVTome got bought and integrated into the much bigger CBS Interactive website TV.com. Thanks to that expanded platform, all of my lies rapidly began infecting the rest of the internet. Most sites since have mostly purged themselves of my misinformation, but for years, IMDB, Amazon, and numerous smaller sites were unintentionally hosting my creative writing. If you’re paranoid and trying to spot a fake, pretty much any episode with a specific 1994 air date and episode description is a fraud. If a shady website claims it has streaming videos of “Feelin’ Lobstery” or “Goin’ Clammando,” and a lot still do since I still found these descriptions, it’s lying to you even more than usual. The only place that’s still entirely accurate is Wikipedia, hilariously enough.

We all know that we can’t trust anything on the internet, but it is interesting to read a case story of how a childhood prank has been spread, and even in some cases, caused false memories.


 

Somewhat related to the Steets Sharks  story, is the story about a movie, Shazaam, which only exists in the memories of people

The movie that doesn’t exist and the Redditors who think it does

Over the years, hundreds of people online have shared memories of a cheesy Nineties movie called “Shazaam”. There is no evidence that such a film was ever made. What does this tell us about the quirks of collective memory?

It is fascinating how no evidence (including the supposed main actor denying the existence of the movie) can convince some of the people believing in the existence of the movie.


Ending on a light note, an excellent profile of the person behind the brilliant MerriamWebster twitter profile

The Wordsmith Behind the Best — and Wittiest — Twitter of 2016

What with the 3 a.m. tweetstorms, Hamilton tirades and his prodigious use of “Sad!,” President-elect Donald J. Trump kinda won Twitter this year. No matter. We’ve got our eye on the runner-up, which on Monday tweeted a little lexicographical commentary: “‘Surreal’ is one of the most common lookups following a tragedy. ‘Surreal’ is our 2016 Word of the Year.”

Burned by a dictionary! If you use Twitter, chances are you’ve seen @MerriamWebster’s tweets. It has schooled the internet on the status of “bigly” as a word and the fact that “unpresidented” is not. During the second presidential debate, it revealed mass ignorance laid bare: “Note that more people are looking up ‘lepo’ (as in, “What’s a lepo?”) than ‘Aleppo.’ #debate.”

The person behind the saucy — and sometimes scorching — pedantry is a 33-year-old grad-school dropout and onetime freelance writer who favors claret-colored lipstick: Lauren Naturale. While a team of lexicographers feeds her material, Naturale is the company’s social media manager and the person behind the dictionary’s Twitter edition.

I am definitely a fan of that twitter account.

Lazy linking

A few links to things I have come across recently

3 Men Arrested in Plot to Bomb Kansas Aparment Complex, Mosque Following Presidential Election

Three members of a southwest Kansas militia dubbed the “Crusaders” were arrested Friday on charges stemming from a plot to attack a housing complex that houses a mosque in Garden City, Kan.

It is hardly a surprise that right-wingers are a genuine terrorist threat in the US, and it is good to see that the law enforcement are aware of this, and can stop them before they can effectuate their plans.

 

Parkinson’s researcher with three retractions heads to court on Monday

On Monday, Parkinson’s researcher Caroline Barwood will head to court in Brisbane, Australia, following a probe at her former institution, the University of Queensland (UQ).

Barwood was granted bail in November, 2014 — charges included  that she “dishonestly applied for grant funds,” and fabricated research that claimed a breakthrough in treating Parkinson’s disease, according to The Guardian. In March, Bruce Murdoch, a former colleague of Barwood’s at UQ, pleaded guilty to 17 fraud-related charges, and received a two-year suspended sentence after an institutional investigation into 92 academic papers.

It is fairly rare that scientists are facing trial after having fabricated research, probably because it can be difficult to be sure whether they actually fraudulently fabricated their result. In cases like this, where there were claims of breakthroughs in an area, giving people false hope, I think it is important for there to be a legal follow up.

 

Taking Trump voters’ concerns seriously means listening to what they’re actually saying

Donald Trump’s supporters deserve to have their concerns taken seriously.

If the media and commentators in 2016 can agree on nothing else, it’s this. It’s a bit of an odd meme. I can remember literally no one in 2012 dwelling on the importance of taking the concerns of Mitt Romney voters seriously, even though they made up a considerably larger share of the population than Trump supporters. No one talks about taking the interests of Hillary Clinton supporters, a still larger group, seriously.

But Trump supporters, a smaller group backing a considerably more loathsome agenda, have received an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy, undertaken as a sort of passive-aggressive snipe at unnamed other commentators and politicians perceived to not be taking their concerns seriously.

But there’s something striking about this line of commentary: It doesn’t take the stated concerns of Trump voters, and voters for similar far-right populists abroad, seriously in the slightest.

In the primary, though, the story was, as my colleague Zack Beauchamp has explained at length, almost entirely about racial resentment. There’s a wide array of data to back this up.

UCLA’s Michael Tesler has found that support for Trump in the primaries strongly correlated with respondents’ racial resentment, as measured by survey data. Similarly, Republican voters with the lowest opinions of Muslims were the most likely to vote for Trump, and voters who strongly support mass deportation of undocumented immigrants were likelier to support him in the primaries too.

We see the same in Denmark, where we always hear about how the voters for the xenophobic Danish Peoples’ Party (Dansk Folkeparti) have a lot of concerns which we should take serious, but when you listen to what the actual supporters say, it is all about foreigners and getting rid of them.

 

Lazy linking

A few links that I have come across recently which might interest you readers.

India’s angry Dalits rise against age-old caste prejudices

Every day, newspapers are awash with stories of injustices against Dalits and their oppression by upper-caste Hindus. Among the attacks on Dalits in the past month: a 13-year-old girl who was beaten up for drinking from a temple water pump; a Dalit team in the traditional Indian sport of kabaddi attacked by a rival upper-caste squad for winning a match; an impoverished Dalit couple hacked to death following a disagreement with an upper-caste shopkeeper over a debt of 15 rupees (22 cents).

But while Dalits — formerly known as “untouchables” — are still victims of thousands of attacks each year despite laws put in place soon after India’s independence, there has been a slow change in the way they react to the atrocities, say social scientists and Dalit activists.

If you speak with Indians from the higher castes, they often claim that the caste system doesn’t really exist any longer, and that people from the lower castes have the same opportunities as anyone else. Stories like the ones mentioned in the article, however, shows that this is not the case, and that the caste system is still used to repress people from the lower castes, allowing people from higher castes to do whatever they want, with little consequence.

The Disgusting Breitbart Smear Campaign Against the Immigrant Owner of Chobani

Hamdi Ulukaya is the model American immigrant success story.

In 2005, the Turkish-born Kurdish entrepreneur purchased a defunct Kraft foods plant in upstate New York with an $800,000 loan from the Small Business Administration. In just a few years, his Chobani yogurt went from selling a few containers at a Long Island kosher grocery to being the No. 1 selling yogurt brand in the country with annual revenue topping $1.5 billion. In addition to employing more than 2,000 people directly—all of whom earn above minimum wage and enjoy generous benefits—the company purchases 4 million pounds of milk from American farmers every day.

Breibart is wagering a smear campaign against Hamdi Ulukaya and Chobani with no regards to truth or decency.

I’d love for some of the victims of Breibart’s campaigns to be able to sue them for libel, bankrupting them like Gawker was bankrupted.

Kolkata will take a century to recover from Mother Teresa

If Mother Teresa, to be canonised at the Vatican on September 4, is to be named a patron saint of anything it should be for “misinformation”. In the last 20 years of her life, truth became an unknown entity to her. The media aided and abetted her lack of integrity and in a way she cannot be blamed for believing in her own lies.

Intellect was not her strong point and, for someone like her, to be surrounded by hordes of sycophants who were telling her if she said black was white then that had to be true, it became intoxicating. The media did spread the mega-myth about her, but she herself was the source. She repeatedly told the world she went around the city 24×7 “picking up” destitute from its squalid “gutters” (she did not), that she fed up to 9,000 in her soup kitchens (she did not), she never refused a helpless child (she did as a rule), that the dying destitute in her so-called home for the dying Nirmal Hriday died a “beautiful death” (they were treated harshly and often died a miserable, painful death).

Great article by Aroup Chatterjee on the real Mother Teresa and the consequences of her work in Kolkata. Aroup Chatterjee has been fighting Mother Teresa for a long time, and was a major inspiration for Christopher Hitchens.

Student who protested against asylum seeker’s deportation on flight found guilty

Melbourne woman Jasmine Pilbrow found guilty of interfering with an airline crew member for refusing to sit down during protest over the deportation of a Tamil asylum seeker

Pilbrow’s action led to the asylum seeker being taken off the plane.

Pilbrow argued that her actions were “in response to circumstances of sudden or extraordinary emergency”, and thus was legal, even if the actions themselves could be considered illegal in isolation. Unfortunately, the judge didn’t accept this argument, and found her guilty.

American Women in the 1900s Called Street Harassers ‘Mashers’ and Stabbed Them With Hatpins

In recent years, a conversation about catcalling and other forms of street harassment has grown heated online. But those who tire of unsolicited comments in public have been making their displeasure known for a long time, reports Laura Donovan for ATTN:. In the late early 1900s women were stabbing mouthy men with their hatpins. And that wasn’t the worst fate to befall so-called “mashers.”
Maybe hatpins should come into use again?
And finally, I have a couple of new blog posts up at my IT-related blog:

Is microservices the new SOA?

Think smaller

Project managers vs Product owners

I am trying to blog a bit more there, so if you’re interested in IT projects and IT consulting, then follow that blog.

 

Lazy linking

A round up of interesting articles and posts that I have come across the last couple of weeks.

400-year-old Greenland shark is oldest vertebrate animal

The Guardian article is about the newest research into the Greenland shark which indicates that they have a lifespan of centuries, and might be the oldest vertebrate animals around. The scientists did this by looking at the carbon-14 in the eyes of some captured sharks, and used this to estimate the ages of the specimens. This is obviously imprecise, but it does clearly indicate that the sharks have been around for a long time.

As a side note, this article can’t help remind of the old story about the bowhead whale swimming around with a 100-year old harpoon fragment embedded in it.

 

In other marine news, it appears that humpback whales protect potential prey from Orcas, even when the prey is of entirely different species, such as seals.

Humpback whales interfering when mammal-eating killer whales attack other species: Mobbing behavior and interspecific altruism?

Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) are known to interfere with attacking killer whales (Orcinus orca). To investigate why, we reviewed accounts of 115 interactions between them. Humpbacks initiated the majority of interactions (57% vs. 43%; n = 72), although the killer whales were almost exclusively mammal-eating forms (MEKWs, 95%) vs. fish-eaters (5%; n = 108). When MEKWs approached humpbacks (n = 27), they attacked 85% of the time and targeted only calves. When humpbacks approached killer whales (n = 41), 93% were MEKWs, and ≥87% of them were attacking or feeding on prey at the time. When humpbacks interacted with attacking MEKWs, 11% of the prey were humpbacks and 89% comprised 10 other species, including three cetaceans, six pinnipeds, and one teleost fish. Approaching humpbacks often harassed attacking MEKWs (≥55% of 56 interactions), regardless of the prey species, which we argue was mobbing behavior. Humpback mobbing sometimes allowed MEKW prey, including nonhumpbacks, to escape. We suggest that humpbacks initially responded to vocalizations of attacking MEKWs without knowing the prey species targeted. Although reciprocity or kin selection might explain communal defense of conspecific calves, there was no apparent benefit to humpbacks continuing to interfere when other species were being attacked. Interspecific altruism, even if unintentional, could not be ruled out.

Nation Geographic has a good write up about this: Why Humpback Whales Protect Other Animals From Killer Whales

 

In completely unrelated news, it appears that better health coverage makes people more healthy. Hardly a surprising information, but there are now actual data to back this common-sense conclusion up.

Obamacare Appears to Be Making People Healthier

A few recent studies suggest that people have become less likely to have medical debt or to postpone care because of cost. They are also more likely to have a regular doctor and to be getting preventive health services like vaccines and cancer screenings. A new study, published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, offers another way of looking at the issue. Low-income people in Arkansas and Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid insurance to everyone below a certain income threshold, appear to be healthier than their peers in Texas, which did not expand.

It seems incredible that it is necessary to collect data about this, when it is so obvious that it would be the case. There are, however, many things that appears obvious, which turns out to be wrong, so it is good that the researchers uses this opportunity to find data to expand our knowledge.

 

Jennifer Raff has written a very interesting post about human cannibalism:

Cannibalism and Human Evolution

The post starts out with the following bit of family story:

One of my aunts was once asked during an interview for a position in the criminal justice field “Is there any kind of criminal you don’t feel you could work with?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Have you ever seen ‘The Silence of the Lambs?’ I don’t do cannibals.”

This reminds me of a story I was once told by an elderly lady from New Zealand, who told about back when she went to school, and one of her teachers explained to the class that people used to be cannibals, but that this no longer was the case, and that they of course don’t know what humans taste like, to which a Maori girl in the class put her hand in the air, and said, “excuse me miss, it tastes like chicken”.

The girl, who almost certainly didn’t have any firsthand knowledge of this, didn’t make any friends in the class.

There certainly is a strong taboo surrounding cannibalism. Probably especially so when you are in areas where it has been practiced within the last couple of centuries.

 

ThinkProgress has a good article on John Lott, a pro-gun “scientist” who is actually a fraud:

The NRA’s Favorite Gun “Academic” Is A Fraud

The United States seems to be in a perpetual cycle mourning mass shootings in the country. This year alone, there have already been 233 mass shootings, where four or more victims were shot, leaving 310 dead and 930 injured. But every time another shooting happens, advocates pop up arguing that more guns don’t actually lead to more violence and stall the much-needed conversation about gun control.

John Lott is, if not the most influential, certainly the most prolific “academic” in the gun debate. He has authored weekly columns in local newspapers on the horrors of gun free zones, published widely-distributed books on the ostensible benefits of right-to-carry laws, and his newest book The War on Guns has received rave reviews by prominent conservatives, like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Newt Gingrich.

I had missed the fact that John Lott had turned up again like a bad penny.

As the ThinkProgress article explains, John Lott lies and distorts gun statistics, makes undocumented claims, lies about his data and research, and has been caught sockpuppeting both book reviews and comments to articles and blogposts.

Tim Lambert at Deltoid has done a lot of work debunking John Lott’s stuff in the past.

Lazy linking

A few links to interesting stuff that I have come across.

The evidence shows that chiropractors do more harm than good

Chiropractors rely heavily on manipulating their patients’ spines, and the benefits are not at all clear. Practitioners usually insist that their manipulations are effective for a bafflingly wide range of conditions. On the internet, for instance, it is hard to find an illness that chiropractors do not claim to cure. However, the published evidence generally reveals these claims to be little more than wishful thinking. Therefore, even relatively minor side-effects might tilt the risk/benefit balance into the negative.

There is now a lot of evidence showing that more than half of all patients suffer mild to moderate adverse effects after seeing a chiropractor. These are mostly local and referred pains that usually last for two to three days. Chiropractors often claim that these are necessary steps on the road to getting better. On a good day, we might even believe them.

But unfortunately there is more, much more. Several hundred cases have been documented in which patients were seriously and often permanently damaged after chiropractic manipulations.

The news is not surprising for anyone who has looked into the subject, but the numbers are truly alarming.

People are spreading dangerous lies about an invention that prevents millions of illness every year

Yet another post about the dangers of anti-vaccination. It is good, but I hate the fact that we have to keep writing this stuff.

David Neiwert has writte a great series of posts in “celebration” of Confederate Heritage Month, the latest is Confederate Heritage Month: The Strange Fruit That Fed Jim Crow.

If blacks’ slave status largely protected them from racial violence before the Civil War, then its abolition also left them remarkably vulnerable to such assaults upon the South’s defeat. Certainly, once emancipated, they became seen as a real threat to whites, and particularly to their dominant status; much of this perception, particularly regarding the violent nature of the newly freed blacks, as we shall see, was more an illusion produced by psychological projection than real in any meaningful way.

This became immediately manifest, during Reconstruction, when black freedmen were subjected to a litany of attacks at the hands of their former owners that went utterly unpunished. As documented by Philip Dray in his definitive study, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America, these crimes turned up in hospital records and field reports from the federal Freedmen’s Bureau, all of which described a variety of clubbings, scalpings, mutilations, hangings and even immolations of former slaves, all within the first year after Appomattox.

Links to the older posts can be found at the end of the post.

Ads force German xenophobes to hear the plights of refugees

People searching for anti-immigrant YouTube videos in Germany are going to have an awkward time doing so thanks to a novel advertising campaign by Refugees Welcome. The organization has put together a series of 30-second spots featuring real refugees who discuss their situations using a potent mixture of perspective, fact and humor to counter the country’s rising xenophobic tide.

Finally a good use for those unskippable ads on YouTube.

How to Explain Mansplaining

It was on a recent trip to Indonesia that, as a male bureaucrat sounded forth on a vast span of subjects without being asked to do so, I realized that the English language was in need of a new addition: the manologue. This otherwise perfectly charming man droned on and on, issuing a steady stream of words as I sat cramped in a tiny room with a group of fellow journalists and squinted at the labels on the soda cans hospitably placed on a table in front of us.

No, Obama doesn’t hold a “grudge” over Britain torturing his Kenyan grandfather. But so what if he did?

[W]hen Obama is accused of bearing an “anti-colonial” grudge, it is typically framed as irrational, often implied to be racial, or made alongside an accusation that he secretly hates America. “Anti-colonial” has become a kind of dog-whistle, and at times a racist one.

Why? Why is this possibility — that Obama might mind that his grandfather was wrongly and unapologetically tortured — so taboo that it is raised only as part of an often-racist dog-whistle?

President Obama is not the first head of state to do business with countries that mistreated his ancestors. But, frequently, it is assumed that those heads of state will bring that history with them — and that doing so is acceptable, even appropriate.

Former Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his brother, former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, often spoke of their father’s role in the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against Nazi rule, which biographers tend to describe — always in positive terms — as formative for how they led Poland.

A good article on the double standard on whether one should remember past wrongs or not.

And in the more quirky department: China Illustrates the Dangers of Dating Foreigners (aka White Guys named David)

 

 

Lazy linking

I am fairly busy until some time after Easter, so don’t expect neither massive blogging nor a banner from me until then. In the meanwhile, here are some links to articles, blogposts etc. that I think are worth reading.

As Women Take Over a Male-Dominated Field, the Pay Drops

A new study from researchers at Cornell University found that the difference between the occupations and industries in which men and women work has recently become the single largest cause of the gender pay gap, accounting for more than half of it. In fact, another study shows, when women enter fields in greater numbers, pay declines — for the very same jobs that more men were doing before.

This is something which has been suspected for a long time (with earlier studies indicating the same), but it is good to have new studies demonstrating it. This means that men can’t just dismiss the pay-gap as a symptom of different career choices. I will probably blog more about this study at some stage.

Hillary Clinton is funding congressional races so she can enter White House with a majority

One of the most intriguing storylines of the 2016 election has turned out to be one of the most underreported. Every candidate for President hopes to not only enter the White House, but do so with a congressional majority in hand. Although Hillary Clinton is the clear frontrunner and is likely to win the election, republican gerrymandering means that her odds of having a democratic House and Senate are questionable. But she’s spent the past six months trying to rectify that by essentially funding the congressional races of 2016 democratic candidates herself.

This seems like a very smart move. If there is one thing that the GOP has shown us under the Obama presidency, it is that they are not going to work with a Democratic president. This means that it is important to get as many Democrats into the congress as possible. This is a sound tactic, no matter who wins the Democratic primary, and if the GOP should somehow win the presidential race, it is vital that the Democrats hold real power in congress (a note: comments about democratic candidates and the merits of the one or another are not welcome, and will be deleted – I am not interested in getting my blog involved in the internal politics of the democratic party).

One more time: Vaccine refusal endangers everyone, not just the unvaccinated

One of the more frequent claims of antivaccine activists often comes in the form of a disingenuous question. Well, maybe it’s not entirely disingenuous, given that many antivaccinationists seem to believe premise behind it. The question usually takes a form something like, “If your child is vaccinated, why are you worried about my children? They don’t pose any danger to you.” Of course, the premise behind that question is, ironically, one that conflicts with many of the beliefs behind antivaccinationism, in particular the belief that vaccines are ineffective. Yet, the premise behind this question is that vaccines are so effective that there’s no reason for the parents of a vaccinated child to be concerned if that child comes in contact with another child with a vaccine-preventable disease. Of course, no one ever accused antivaccine activists of being consistent in their beliefs.

Once again, Orac does great work taking on the anti-vaccination crowd and their claims.

Bahrain must immediately release Zainab Al-Khawaja

Index on Censorship calls for the immediate release of human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested on Monday 14 March 2016 with her one-year-old son Abdulhadi.

“Zainab Al-Khawaja is facing retaliation for exercising her right to freedom of expression,” said Index’s senior advocacy officer Melody Patry. “Bahraini authorities have been harassing her and her family for years and this arrest — based on absurd charges — further shows Bahrain’s determination to silence its critics.”

I stand fully behind the call from Index on Censorship, and hope that the US, the EU and the rest of the democratic world will put pressure on the Bahraini authorities for the release of Zainab Al-Khawaja and other jailed critics.

Four words that might break my brain: “Black, gay Trump supporter”

I think most of us are with Tony on this one.

Change in suicide rates in Switzerland before and after firearm restriction resulting from the 2003 “Army XXI” reform

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Firearms are the most common method of suicide among young men in Switzerland. From March 2003 through February 2004, the number of Swiss soldiers was halved as a result of an army reform (Army XXI), leading to a decrease in the availability of guns nationwide. The authors investigated the patterns of the overall suicide rate and the firearm suicide rate before and after the reform.

METHOD:

Using a naturalistic study design, the authors compared suicide rates before (1995–2003) and after the intervention (2004–2008) in the affected population (men ages 18–43) and in two comparison groups (women ages 18–44 and men ages 44–53). Data were received from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. Interrupted time series analysis was used to control for preexisting temporal trends. Alternative methods (Poisson regression, autocorrelation analysis, and surrogate data tests) were used to check validity.

RESULTS:

The authors found a reduction in both the overall suicide rate and the firearm suicide rate after the Army XXI reform. No significant increases were found for other suicide methods overall. An increase in railway suicides was observed. It was estimated that 22% of the reduction in firearm suicides was substituted by other suicide methods. The attenuation of the suicide rate was not compensated for during the follow-up years. Neither of the comparison groups showed statistically significant changes in firearm suicide rate and overall suicide rate.

CONCLUSIONS:

The restriction of firearm availability in Switzerland resulting from the Army XXI reform was followed by an enduring decrease in the general suicide rate.

I couldn’t really see a way to include it in my last post about Swiss gun laws, but it is an interesting study, which shows limiting access to guns will lead to a decrease in suicides.

The delusion of immortality

Imagine all the poor transhumanists who were born in the 19th century. They would have been fantasizing about all the rapid transformations in their society, and blithely extrapolating forward. Why, in a few years, we’ll all have steam boilers surgically implanted in our bellies, and our diet will include a daily lump of coal! Canals will be dug everywhere, and you’ll be able to commute to work in your very own personal battleship! There will be ubiquitous telegraphy, and we’ll have tin hats that you can plug into cords hanging from the ceiling in your local coffeeshop, and get Morse code tapped directly onto your skull!

Alas, they didn’t have a Ray Kurzweil or Aubrey deGray to con them with absurd exaggerations.

If it isn’t clear, PZ Myers is not the greatest fan of transhumanism and the ideas pushed by people like Kurzweil. I am completely in agreement with him on this.