Now it’s the entomologists, too?

This story is so stale I ought to just scribble up some boilerplate and change the name of the discipline every time a new case comes to light. Now it’s an entomology professor behaving badly.

In February, two months after being charged with sexual assault and harassment against two students in his department, James Harwood resigned from his position as an associate professor of entomology without stated cause.

According to 122 pages of investigation documents that were leaked to the student paper, the independently run Kentucky Kernel, Harwood violated school sexual assault policies by “fondling” the two students at two conferences in 2012 and 2013. He was also found to have sexually harassed the students in each case. Three other students did not file formal complaints but testified to the investigator about other alleged incidents of sexual misconduct as recently as 2015.

In a completely expected twist, the University of Kentucky has also been working to keep the information about James Harwood quiet.

The investigation, which concluded in December, was initially kept secret. The investigator recommended that Harwood’s “employment with the University be terminated and his tenure as a faculty member be revoked.” But Harwood’s subsequent agreement with the university allowed him to resign instead of going through the lengthy process of a disciplinary hearing. This also means that the investigation won’t be disclosed if he applies to new jobs.

Well, so much for keeping his harassment history under wraps — now everyone knows. And that’s good.

So they might as well drop the lawsuit against their own student newspaper, right?

Even Rush Limbaugh is aware that people are laughing at him

His latest conspiracy theory: the Left is infiltrating farming with lesbians. I know, that’s ridiculous, and I must be getting this from one of those fake news sites, or the Onion, or something. So I had to triple and quadruple and septuple check that this wasn’t some made-up story. But I knew it had to be true when that unimpeachable source, World Net Daily, confirmed it. Here’s a bit from his radio program.

You sit in there and laugh. Okay, go ahead and laugh at it, but I’m telling you what they’re doing. They are trying to bust up one of the last geographically conservative regions in the country; that’s rural America. Rural America happens to be largely conservative. Rural America is made up of self-reliant, rugged individualist types. They happen to be big believers in the Second Amendment. So here comes the Obama Regime with a bunch of federal money and they’re waving it around, and all you gotta do to get it is be a lesbian and want to be a farmer and they’ll set you up. I’m like you; I never before in my life knew that lesbians wanted to be farmers. I never knew that lesbians wanted to get behind the horse and the plow and start burrowing.

Horse and plow? Burrowing? The lesbian farmers are all looking at you funny for just that, Rush.

I have some information for Rush: Lesbians are people. Some of them might want to farm. Some of them live in rural America. Some of them might want to be scientists, or zookeepers, or bankers, or mothers.

Also, it’s not nice to assume that everyone in rural America is as bigoted as you are, Rush.

A low standard for miracles

Lyle Jeffs, of the infamous polygamous Jeffs clan, has disappeared from house arrest. His lawyer has an explanation.

As this Court is well aware, Mr. Jeffs is currently not available to inform his counsel whether or not he agrees to the Continuance, she wrote. Whether his absence is based on absconding, as oft alleged by the Government in their filings, or whether he was taken and secreted against his will, or whether he experienced the miracle of rapture is unknown to counsel.

I’ve got to remember this excuse.

“Hello, officer. Oh, a bank was robbed in town? How sad.”

“That big pile of money I was rolling around in? No, that’s not from the bank. That was immanentized into existence by the divine will of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He loves me very much.”

“Yes, my face might be on the security cameras, but that’s because the FSM is such a jolly prankster — He probably put it there for a laugh.”

“Bye! Hope you catch the robber!”

At least now I’ve got the name of a lawyer, Kathryn Nester, who will be happy to back up my defense.

Everyone loves Volvox

This past weekend, I was off at Lake Itasca with a group of new biology students, and one of the things they did was collect plankton and bring them back to the lab where we took micrographs of what they found — lots of algae and crustaceans and rotifers, etc., etc. But we also saw some colonial protists, and one of the things I saw the students excitedly discuss was Volvox. It’s always nice when I can just sit down and shut up and the students are enthusiastically explaining to each other how biology works.

So, anyway, I think I know a few more people who are in the market for the swag mentioned by Matthew Herron.

ImmyVolvoxBag

What Zika does to fetal brains

It’s not pretty. The NY Times has published images of babies born with Zika-induced microcephaly, and whoa, but that virus really does a number on the developing cortex. Scientists are beginning to figure out how it’s disrupting development, and now there’s concern that even superficially unaffected children might have late-occurring deficits.

Dr. Levine said the images suggest that Zika is like a formidable enemy able to do damage in three ways: keeping parts of the brain from forming normally, obstructing areas of the brain, and destroying parts of the brain after they form.

With such a vicious and unpredictable virus, “it’s key to realize that Zika is more than microcephaly, that there’s a number of other abnormalities as they’ve shown in this paper, and its effects are going to be even more broad,” said Dr. Spong, whose agency has begun a study of what will ultimately be 10,000 babies born in Zika epidemic areas including Brazil and Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, here in the US, our useless congress is frozen in stupidity, unable to act. Why? Because this problem requires management and screening by family planning groups, and all the Republicans can see is that funding rational responses to Zika will require the assistance of organizations like Planned Parenthood, and that one of the necessary options for affected women should be termination of the pregnancy. The research in Brazil is, in part, trying to find unambiguous criteria for diagnosing affected fetuses in utero, to eliminate false positives and to allow families to respond appropriately to the afflictions.

But we’ve got nitwits like Marco Rubio here.

Obviously, microcephaly is a terrible prenatal condition that kids are born with. And when they are, it’s a lifetime of difficulties. So I get it.

I’m not pretending to you that that’s an easy question you asked me. But I’m pro-life. And I’m strongly pro-life. I believe all human life should be protected by our law, irrespective of the circumstances or condition of that life.

No, it is an easy question. When you’ve got a fetus with a brain that’s been destroyed by a virus, you give the woman you plan to burden with the responsibility of caring it for the rest of its broken, diminished “life” the choice of what to do.

Some women will find that choice difficult, and I can respect that; others will find it easy. What’s wrong is that Rubio has to struggle with the question of whether women should have autonomy.

Another suit against Fox News

You will not be surprised by what Andrea Tantaros says.

“Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny,” Ms. Tantaros’s suit says.

Tantaros is a wingnut, but even wingnuts should be able to expect some decency and fair treatment in their workplace.

I wonder if these revelations will have any effect at all on the evangelical Christian conservatives who do so dearly love the network?

Nah, I’m lying. I don’t wonder at all. If they can swallow Trump, they can choke down anything.

A peek into the mind of an abuser

Wow. This reddit thread by a guy whose girlfriend left him is amazing. He’s getting good advice, but what was so strange was reading this guy’s own version of the story and seeing how wrong he was.

Short version: his girlfriend quietly left him, has a lawyer call him and tell him he has 45 days to pack up and move out; she paid the deposit on the place, the lease was in her name, he says they’ve been sharing the bills, and she’s offered to pay the last bit of rent until he’s gone. But she wants no contact with him, has moved all her stuff out, hasn’t told him where she has gone, and has blocked phone contact. He’s baffled about why, and wonders if she can really do all that.

Along the way he casually mentions that he’d hit her in a domestic dispute a few years before, and that they’d recently had an argument in which the police were called. He downplays these events, but it seems to me that such a thorough, calm, and well-planned departure was probably a rational response to abuse. He writes as if he’s the victim here.

He’s the sole source of information, and even he can’t twist the facts to exonerate himself, which tells me he has to be far worse than he lets on. And his ex-girlfriend? She’s brilliant. It’s a textbook example of how to terminate an abusive relationship, if you have the financial resources (that’s a key modifier: abusers often force dependency, this woman was lucky her boyfriend was a slacker).

Australia has anti-science nuts, too

We Americans like to think we’ve got the greatest everything, including the greatest science denialists. Who can forget Sarah Palin’s rage against mere fruit fly research? And now we’ve got Donald Trump, irate about his hair spray.

Over the past few months, we’ve seen Donald Trump lower, again and again, the bar for political discourse. All the while, though, he’s been lowering the scientific bar, too. In May, for instance, while speaking to an audience of West Virginia coal miners, Trump complained that regulations designed to protect the ozone layer had compromised the quality of his hair spray. Those regulations, he continued, were misguided, because hair spray is used mainly indoors, and so can have no effect on the atmosphere outside. No wonder Hillary Clinton felt the need to include, in her nomination speech, the phrase “I believe in science.”

And it’s not just hairspray: there is a legion of scientific issues on which Trump is ignorant and wrong.

Just to be fair, though, I’ll remind everyone that Democrats have sometimes gone down this road: I remember Proxmire and his Golden Fleece award, in which he railed against science he didn’t understand, and then there’s Tom Harkin, throwing away money on quackery.

But now Australia is getting in on the game, in a very Proxmirish move.

absurdresearch

Oh, yeah, how dare they study philosophy, history, psychology, or sociology. We must ridicule what we don’t understand.

Sydney’s Daily Telegraph is suffering one of their frequent relapses into frothy-mouthed panic about government wastage on research grants. Poking at layabout academics for ‘wasting’ tax dollars on seemingly frivolous projects reminds me of nothing more than the schoolyard bully who secretly knows he peaked in year 9. Today, the Tele flattered me by holding up one of my own projects for ridicule, ironically illustrating their point that rusted-on ideology, and patronage provide the most direct route possible to mediocrity.

Don’t academics understand that the only thing we’re supposed to do is cure cancer? It’s a zero-sum game, and every study of medieval history or Renaissance art or the psychology of gender or goddamn fruit flies means another metastasizing tumor and horrible slow death.

So the solution is to demand that the Australian Research Council present grant proposals for review to the beery patrons of local pubs. Yeah, that’ll steer research funds appropriately.

Ray Hadley picked up the Telegraph’s baton in an interview with the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, demanding that the ARC justify its funding decision in the front bar of a Western Sydney or North Brisbane pub.

Yes, after the forlorn cries for better funding of research rang through Science Week last week, and as the ARC sits in Canberra to decide the outcomes of this year’s biggest schemes, the pro-ignorance side of the culture wars has decided to play their favourite game. Their attempts to paint researchers as out-of-touch layabouts draining the public purse are, if you read the comments on Blair’s blog, playing well with the patrons of those very pubs.

Uh-oh. Nobody tell Trump about this idea to put bars in charge of NIH/NSF/NASA. He’d probably think it was a terrific plan. So would his fanatical followers.