Who would win in a battle between Florida Man and Minnesota Man?

I know that Florida Man gets all the press, but Minnesota Man is an up-and-comer.

Officers arrived at the couple’s home and found the words “Death Parde God Hell” spray-painted on the front door. A naked Duane Johnson allegedly ran outside and said his wife was dead, then ran back inside to take a bath. He was later found in the bathtub hallucinating and trying to wash white and black “things” from his skin, according to deputies.

Debra Johnson’s body was found wrapped in a sheet the top of the stairs, deputies said.

The newspaper reported that Debra had been living in a nursing home, but Duane checked her out days earlier because she wanted to die at home.

Duane Johnson said they took methamphetamine and she stopped taking her medications. They spent their final hours having sex and “rocked out” to their favorite metal band, Quiet Riot.

He said when Debra couldn’t eat or drink, he used snow to moisten her mouth, according to the court documcents.

Duane said Debra began having convulsions, but wouldn’t let him call police. After she died, Johnson said he washed his wife’s body and wrapped her in linen “like the Bible told me to do.”

They casually mention that he ran naked outside. That was on Wednesday, when it was below -30°C. Florida Man couldn’t do that!

I have to respect their commitment to death with dignity, where they get to decide what dignity means.

Inference: Dracula is a creationist and climate change denialist

When this new online “science” journal, Inference, came out, no one was fooled. The first issue featured an article by the notorious crank creationist, Michael Denton, so it wasn’t as if it wasn’t obvious. Jeffrey Shallit wrote the first expose, I think, noticing that the grubby fingerprints of David Berlinski were all over it. Ho hum, yet another attempt by creationists to create a pet journal, to feed the illusion that they’re actually doing credible, peer-reviewed work. But then another mystery has arisen: where is all their money coming from?

When Inference first approached me, the offer was appealing: up to $4,000 for a 4,000- to 6,000-word essay. According to their website, the Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Sheldon Glashow was on the editorial staff, which—as a physicist myself and a fan of Glashow’s work—was almost enough for me to accept on the spot. But a declaration in italics on their masthead gave me pause: “We have no ideological, political, or religious agendas whatsoever.” This struck me as unusual over-emphasis, so I did a little digging and came across a 2014 blog post by the computer scientist Jeffrey Shallit, where he muses on the first issue of this new “science” publication, adding: “the weirdness is strong—very strong—with this one.”

When someone claims they have “no ideological, political, or religious agendas whatsoever”, they’re lying. What they’re really claiming is that their biases aren’t biases at all, which is a real danger, because it means they aren’t thinking and challenging their own assumptions.

But wow. That’s some nice pocket change for an article — I am so used to just writing stuff for free. That adds up over multiple issues with multiple articles, and it isn’t funded by ads, so there has to be a pipeline somewhere that’s pouring cash into the enterprise. This article did some digging and found out who: it’s Peter Thiel.

Those tax returns reveal that Inference’s entire operating budget came from $1.7 million in donations during its first three years (through August 2017, the latest reports available). These donations came from a single donor: Auzen LLC. Looking at corporate tax reports and other registration documents, it’s unclear whether Auzen LLC and another entity, Auzen Corporation, are involved in activities other than funding Inference. But those documents make it clear that Auzen LLC and Auzen Corporation are run by the same people — and they also state that the sole director of Auzen Corporation is Peter Thiel.

Ah, another billionaire poisoning the world. “No ideological, political, or religious agendas whatsoever”…bullshit. He’s a libertarian wanna-be vampire and climate change denier who loves Donald Trump and thinks letting women vote was a bad idea. His agenda is devious but transparent.

Not all of Inference‘s articles are junk science. About 90 percent of the articles in the publication appear to be accurate, written by genuine scientists and science writers—at least several of whom weren’t aware of the publication’s record on evolution or climate change, or the source of its funding.

But whatever Inference’s actual intentions, one thing is clear: The inclusion of demonstrably pseudoscientific writing alongside the work of highly regarded researchers puts the two on equal footing—a false equivalence that gives creationism and climate denial an air of legitimacy that is not only unwarranted, but misleading to readers. Add in the fact that the enterprise is apparently funded by a billionaire with close ties to President Donald J. Trump—whose administration has a clear history of attacking and undermining science—and there seems ample reason to question just what it is that Inference and its backer are hoping to accomplish.

Note to self: When the revolution comes, make sure some of the people storming the citadel of malignant capitalism are carrying wooden stakes. Also, do it during the day so Thiel can’t flap away.

Drinking, smoking, hanging out in saloons, following sports and the stock market — it’s a nightmare world!

In 1908, Harry Dart was commissioned to produce an image of what horrors would be produced by the suffrage movement. I guess he succeeded?

Apparently, the worst thing he could imagine was that women might do the very same things men did all the time. I’m supposed to recoil from this unthinkable future…but it’s just fascinatingly detailed.

Microbiologists don’t need labs, apparently

All they need to do is visit student residences.

A student died after eating leftover pasta that had been left on his kitchen benchtop for five days.

The 20-year-old from the Brussels in Belgium became sick after eating leftover spaghetti with tomato sauce which had been prepared five days earlier and stored at room temperature.

Many thoughts are wheeling through my brain right now.

What kind of environment was this in that food left out for 5 days wasn’t covered in green fur?

Was it all furry with mold, and the student ate it anyway?

I don’t eat food that’s been refrigerated for more than a few days. How desperate was this person? What circumstances led someone to such a dire meal?

I don’t recommend this as an analysis tool, but how did it taste? Shouldn’t the first mouthful have been his first warning?

He became violently ill after eating it. Second warning. You’ve just done something incredibly dangerous.

I wonder how many student kitchens are greater health hazards than anything they might encounter in a microbiology lab. On second thought…I don’t want to know.

Students do not deserve death for poverty and carelessness. How about if we all recognize that what grows on our food and what we stuff in faces might be the greatest threat to our health and survival?

I swear to…who?

I am so glad that I don’t watch Fox News, but that other people suffer through it to let me know what they think is the latest threat to the Republic. It seems the newest change that has Republicans foaming at the mouth is a new oath.

The House Committee on Natural Resources has in the past used a witness oath that reads, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

The proposed new version will say, “Do you solemnly swear or affirm, under penalty of law, that the testimony that you are about to give is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?”

If it helps them make up their minds, as a devious atheist with a scheming mind I could regard that “so help you God” clause as a loophole — God doesn’t help me, so the oath doesn’t apply. Also, you’ve just made me affirm a religious oath that I do not believe in, so by saying “yes”, I’ve already said a lie. A few more won’t hurt, then. And if my punishment for lying is hellfire, which I don’t believe in, then there is no compulsion here.

As Rob Boston points out,

The gang at Fox News might want to ponder the following statement: “A magistrate ought not to tender an oath to an unregenerate man … and cause him to take the name of God in vain.”

What left-wing Marxist said that? Actually, it was colonial-era religious freedom pioneer Roger Williams. Williams was a far-sighted man and a devout Christian to boot. Fox News could learn a thing or two from him.

Exactly. The Republicans already would consider me an unregenerate man, so why should I find that oath binding? It does have the benefit of giving us unregenerates an opportunity to spit in the face of their imaginary god, but otherwise, it doesn’t have much going for it.

Surprise! A billionaire’s favorite graph is one that justifies billionaires!

Wow. This is a capitalist miracle: extreme poverty is rapidly declining!

Except…what is extreme poverty? What about regular poverty? Is there something we could call moderate poverty? And, errm, where do those numbers from the 1800s and 1500s come from? Why is the 19th century represented with such a smooth, gradual improvement when we know that the lives of so many were ruined and suffering by colonialism (where does Rhodesia fit into this graph) and slavery? Those are charts that raise more questions than they answer.

Jason Hickel tries to answer some of the questions. The early numbers are guesswork, molded into the desired form, and the economic data are a case of applying an invalid metric to messy human reality.

What Roser’s numbers actually reveal is that the world went from a situation where most of humanity had no need of money at all to one where today most of humanity struggles to survive on extremely small amounts of money. The graph casts this as a decline in poverty, but in reality what was going on was a process of dispossession that bulldozed people into the capitalist labour system, during the enclosure movements in Europe and the colonisation of the global south.

Prior to colonisation, most people lived in subsistence economies where they enjoyed access to abundant commons – land, water, forests, livestock and robust systems of sharing and reciprocity. They had little if any money, but then they didn’t need it in order to live well – so it makes little sense to claim that they were poor. This way of life was violently destroyed by colonisers who forced people off the land and into European-owned mines, factories and plantations, where they were paid paltry wages for work they never wanted to do in the first place.

In other words, Roser’s graph illustrates a story of coerced proletarianisation. It is not at all clear that this represents an improvement in people’s lives, as in most cases we know that the new income people earned from wages didn’t come anywhere close to compensating for their loss of land and resources, which were of course gobbled up by colonisers. Gates’s favourite infographic takes the violence of colonisation and repackages it as a happy story of progress.

So money is a convenient proxy for real wealth, which is land and resources and labor, and using it as a metric conceals the fact that a few people have seized most of the real wealth, and masked their theft by doling out pittances to the displaced billions.

As if that isn’t enough, “extreme poverty” is an arbitrary parameter chosen to hide the ongoing grand larceny by people like Gates. It had to be set extremely low so that you wouldn’t see what’s actually been happening.

But that’s not all that’s wrong here. The trend that the graph depicts is based on a poverty line of $1.90 (£1.44) per day, which is the equivalent of what $1.90 could buy in the US in 2011. It’s obscenely low by any standard, and we now have piles of evidence that people living just above this line have terrible levels of malnutrition and mortality. Earning $2 per day doesn’t mean that you’re somehow suddenly free of extreme poverty. Not by a long shot.

Scholars have been calling for a more reasonable poverty line for many years. Most agree that people need a minimum of about $7.40 per day to achieve basic nutrition and normal human life expectancy, plus a half-decent chance of seeing their kids survive their fifth birthday. And many scholars, including Harvard economist Lant Pritchett, insist that the poverty line should be set even higher, at $10 to $15 per day.

So what happens if we measure global poverty at the low end of this more realistic spectrum – $7.40 per day, to be extra conservative? Well, we see that the number of people living under this line has increased dramatically since measurements began in 1981, reaching some 4.2 billion people today. Suddenly the happy Davos narrative melts away.

You know, if Bill Gates set a Universal Basic Income of $3 a day, he could set “extreme poverty” in the US to zero. What a triumph! I’m trying to imagine what I could do on $3 a day. I know I could live cheaply on a diet of rice and beans for that, but, well, just my mortgage is 10 times that, and it was -36°C this morning. Forget about owning a car. Or having electricity. Or getting sick. Right now, on an income considerably greater than that, one debilitating illness could wipe me out.

Shorter Bill Gates: Relatively fewer people are dropping dead in the streets of starvation or cholera today, so therefore concentrating billions of dollars into my hands is good for everyone.

Should he have done more?

Here’s an interesting problem in bioethics: a person knows the field, and has an appropriate response to an individual making a serious ethical lapse, but he doesn’t report it to other authorities. Should he have?

He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who used CRISPR techniques on human embryos, shared his ‘success’ in emails to Craig Mello, a Nobel-prize winning biologist, who then replied a few times with regret.

“I’m glad for you, but I’d rather not be kept in the loop on this,” Mello wrote, according to the AP.

“You are risking the health of the child you are editing… I just don’t see why you are doing this. I wish your patient the best of luck for a healthy pregnancy.”

“I think you are taking a big risk and I do not want anyone to think that I approve of what you are doing,” wrote Mello, who didn’t reply to a request for comment from the AP.

“I’m sorry I cannot be more supportive of this effort, I know you mean well.”

Good for Mello that he was immediately aware of the problematic nature of the research. I think my response would involve a lot more ALL CAPS sentences and a heavy use of exclamation points, and probably some profanity, but then, I’m not a Nobel-prize winning scientist. I would have also said confidentiality be damned, and contacted a swarm of other scientists and the major scientific societies and given the heads up, with a suggestion that everyone ought to be prepared to make a statement on this kind of genetic manipulation when it finally goes public. Maybe Mello did make some quiet notifications to a select few, the article doesn’t say, but it does mention this:

Mello didn’t go public with the revelation – and stayed on as an adviser to He’s company until news broke about the controversial experiment.

Yikes. He’s company. Because of course every biomedical advance must be coupled to a mechanism for extracting profit from it. That’s a great big fat bioethical problem lurking under everything.