Not a Metaphor: Minneapolis School Explodes

Again with Minneapolis and a dramatic and deadly failure of infrastructure. In this case, a high school suffered an explosion that entirely removed an adjoining section between two wings architecturally engineered to be structurally independent. Those wings are still fully standing in pictures from after the event. Though not much is known, at the moment it appears the explosion was caused by a “gas leak” – one presumes they mean “natural gas” aka methane.

Look to the Star Tribune for ongoing coverage: you can start with this article. Most reports say there is one confirmed death, though other reports say that there is one strongly presumed death that has not yet been confirmed. The ST article is quite clear that emergency services reported one death as “confirmed” but then downgraded that to “unconfirmed” about 15 minutes later, thus the confusion. There are consistent reports that more than one person is still missing or trapped, in some (at least one?) cases an individual has managed to communicate to emergency services despite being currently unrescuable. The number missing, however, is small. As the ST article is continually updated, the latest news I have is that the number is down to two. Crews are working to clear debris to reach these persons and find any missing ones. However, and let me say this strongly: All coverage I’ve read (4 independent sources so far) says that the students are all safe, all located, all evacuated. Injuries are limited to adults.

A number of years ago, there was a school shooting at a high school significant to my own youth. At the time, a friend was working for the school district and had worked at the high school during part of her employment with the district. Though we are important to each other, I hadn’t kept up with her very well and it had been 10 months since we had spoken, so I wasn’t sure where she might be. It didn’t take long to figure out that she wasn’t hurt (or even present) at the shooting, but there were those agonizing hours when even though I knew it was unlikely she was present or injured, I just didn’t know. For any in the community in a similar position, I offer you my sympathy.

However, the occurrence of this tragedy can’t be seen only through a personal lens. When Minneapolis suffered a freeway collapse, there were many individual tragedies for people killed, injured and traumatized as well as for those who lost someone they loved. Nonetheless, we had a very significant (and still unfinished) discussion about aging infrastructure in the USA. This explosion is likely to provoke similar conversations, perhaps even overlapping ones if part of the explosion’s cause is attributed to an aging and/or poorly maintained facility. If you wish to comment on the causes found and any implications you might derive from those identified causes, please feel free to do so, but also write with some awareness that you never know whether or not someone else reading the comments here might be personally affected.

Dogmatism: Empathy and Analytical Thought in Tension

Researchers from Case Western have recently expanded on research that might be interesting to FtB audiences. The university’s write up identifies previous research as finding that brain “circuits” for empathy and for analytical thinking are separate but use overlapping resources and are (perhaps because of this) used alternately more than they are simultaneously:

The researchers say the results of the surveys lend further support to their earlier work showing people have two brain networks—one for empathy and one for analytic thinking – that are in tension with each other. In healthy people, their thought process cycles between the two, choosing the appropriate network for different issues they consider.

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Fascist Policing: How Not to Do It, Buffalo Edition

In Buffalo, a number of Black kids and young Black men were playing foot ball in the street – a common activity in many places across the US. One imagines that the players were engaged in the usual shouting for the ball, playful trash talk, and other noise making that comes with a friendly game of touch football among friends. Despite the daylight hour, apparently a neighbor took exception to all this activity and called the police to register a complaint about the noise. A white cop, Officer PATRICK McDONALD was dispatched.

You know where this is going, don’t you?

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Darth Sokal and the Phantom Science

Not content with past exposes of predatory journals, Discover.com blogger Neuroskeptic tells the tale of hir own saga fighting the evil empire. In hir words,

I wanted to test whether ‘predatory‘ journals would publish an obviously absurd paper. So I created a spoof manuscript about “midi-chlorians” – the fictional entities which live inside cells and give Jedi their powers in Star Wars. I filled it with other references to the galaxy far, far away, and submitted it to nine journals under the names of Dr Lucas McGeorge and Dr Annette Kin.

The idea being that many hoaxes would be obvious to those with an understanding of the relevant field(s), but typically would not be obvious to those without expertise. The question, I suppose, was merely one of how brazen are the fraudulent and predatory journals in their ethical violations, not simply whether they are acting ethically. The results? Out of 9 publishers who received the manuscript:

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I Didn’t Know Historians Have Senses of Humor

Via Rawstory I saw a bit of writing on the political jeopardy to Trump’s presidency and how, in the author’s view, this jeopardy is greater even than what Nixon faced in the time period before impeachment proceedings began. I started reading and in the first full paragraph came upon one of the great historical jokes of all time:

Since George Washington Americans have taken pride in electing honest presidents. Whether the chief executive is rated by historians as great, average, or failure, there has been general agreement that honest men have occupied the White House.

I had to find the History News Network site to examine the quote at its source, it was so unbelievable. Slowly, slowly it dawned on me that in this piece of serious writing, this line must have been slipped in by an editor as a joke. I mean, Holy Historical Humor, Batman, could any student of history ever actually believe this?

 

 

USA in last place. I am not surprised.

NewScientist has a brief article on an international comparison of the health systems of 11 wealthy, industrialized nations. Each system was ranked on its performance within 5 different “domains”.

The domains were ease of access to healthcare, how equal access is to people of different incomes, administrative efficiency, how well the care process works for people who use it, and how good the health outcomes are.

So I know my friends in the States are dying to know, how did the US perform?

“We measured performance quality across five domains, and the USA fell short in all five,” says Eric Schneiderof the Commonwealth Fund think tank in Washington DC.

Of course you MAGA mavens out there are going to insist that this is all the fault of the ACA, but hold on to your hat, you’ll never believe this:

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Feminist Friday: Countdown

Feminist waves have been endlessly debated, and wave theory has been perpetually (and perhaps deliberately) misunderstood amongst the public generally and anti-feminists specifically. To give feminists the credit they are due and also to help clear up consistent misunderstandings, I have encouraged you all, my wonderful readers, to name feminists about whom you’d like to know more.

My series on the ethics and thought of various feminists will (I hope) be a regular Frigga’s Day feature here, but for various reasons it will not start until next week. In the meantime, I hope that you celebrate this Friday by reading (if you haven’t already) my post on the Seneca Falls convention which gave contractarian feminisms their initial shape, the document produced by the Seneca Falls attendees, my writing on why Crenshaw first elaborated the metaphor of intersectionality and how it is/was useful, or my thoughts on the limits of her initial articulation of intersectionality.

Or, perhaps, you could simply give me more ideas for which feminists deserve the attention of Pervert Justice in the comments of this post or the original announcement of this effort.

In the meantime, have a good Friday and a good weekend!

Gordon College and the Institution of Rape

A day or two ago PZ Myers put up a post about sexual harassment of graduate students, and I followed on with some speculations about how numbers might be relatively low in some programs, yet still dauntingly high in others. These writings were sparked by a forthcoming journal article in the Utah Law Review that reports, among other findings, a 10% rate of women graduate students self-reporting as victims of sexual harassment. The cases they were able to study weren’t mild, either, and did not support the fears and hyperbole of those screaming about squashed academic freedom and an environment in which one careless, ambiguous, but innocent statement can result in serious consequences for the careers of even tenured faculty. On the contrary, they found:

First, contrary to popular assumptions, faculty sexual harassers are not engaged primarily in verbal behavior. Rather, most of the cases reviewed for this study involved faculty alleged to have engaged in unwelcome physical contact ranging from groping to sexual assault to domestic abuse-like behaviors. Second, more than half (53%) of cases involved professors allegedly engaged in serial sexual harassment.

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