Bigots will seize upon anything to advance bigotry

March 31st is the day that has been designated Transgender Day of Visibility and president Biden made an annual proclamation to that effect. The date is an international recognition that has been around since 2009. The White House routinely issues proclamations such as this to recognize various things, and this one was one of 11 that were issued on March 29th.

But this year, March 31st is also Easter Sunday and so bigots have shrilly proclaimed that the date of the visibility day was deliberately chosen by the White House so as to be an insult to Christianity.
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The Trump stock bubble

Serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) seems to be about to receive a huge financial windfall at exactly the moment when he most needed it, when he is facing a multitude of huge fines as a result of losses in sexual assault and fraud cases.

The windfall comes in the form of a merger between his social media company Trump Media & Technology Group (that is behind his social media site Truth Social) and a financial shell company, Digital World Acquisition. That combined company went public and as of Friday, it had a market capitalization of close to $8.4 billion, with SSAT’s share being around $4.9 billion.
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Woman charged with murder over abortion sues prosecutors

In Texas a woman who was charged with murder for self-managing an abortion, and spent two nights in jail before the charge was dropped, is now suing the prosecutors for $1 million.

The lawsuit filed by Lizelle Gonzalez in federal court Thursday comes a month after the state bar of Texas fined and disciplined the district attorney in rural Starr county over the case in 2022, when Gonzalez was charged with murder in “the death of an individual by self-induced abortion”.

Under the abortion restrictions in Texas and other states, women who seek abortions are exempt from criminal charges.

The lawsuit argues Gonzalez suffered harm from the arrest and subsequent media coverage. She is seeking $1m in damages.

According to the lawsuit, Gonzalez was 19 weeks pregnant when she used misoprostol, one of two drugs used in medication abortions. Misoprostol is also used to treat stomach ulcers.

After taking the pills, Gonzalez received an obstetrical examination at a hospital emergency room and was discharged with abdominal pain. She returned with bleeding the next day and an exam found no fetal heartbeat. Doctors performed a caesarian section to deliver a stillborn baby.

The lawsuit argues that the hospital violated the patient’s privacy rights when they reported the abortion to the district attorney’s office, which then carried out its own investigation and produced a murder charge against Gonzalez.

Cecilia Garza, an attorney for Gonzalez, said prosecutors pursued an indictment despite knowing that a woman receiving an abortion is exempted from a murder charge by state law.

Prosecutors would had to have known that even in Texas, women could not be charged for receiving an abortion but they decided on charging her with murder anyway, in what seems like a purely vindictive effort to frighten other women who may seek to terminate their pregnancies using legal medications.

Surprising results in probability

Following an interesting discussion on my post on UFO cults about the likelihood of life having emerged somewhere in the universe, I thought that I would explore some non-intuitive results in that case and others involving probability.

I have mentioned before that it is hard to get an intuitive idea about probabilities and that it is easy to get led astray. The Gambler’s Fallacy is one example. In that case, when the outcome depends on the roll of the dice or where a ball on a roulette wheel lands, people tend to think that, in the case of the latter, several blacks turning up in a row makes the next outcome more likely to be red. This is not true because each event is independent of the others. It does not matter how many blacks turn up in a row, that does not change the probability of the next one. Many a gambler has been ruined by thinking otherwise.
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Shock win for Democrat in Alabama, and Kari Lake admits defaming election official

There is an old political saying that ‘all politics is local‘, meaning that candidates for office needed to emphasize their local connections and highlight local issues in order to connect with voters. This was especially true for down ballot races that were for seats in state and local elected bodies. While national issues sometimes entered the discussion, they tended not to be front and center.

Not anymore. Nowadays, national issues are driving pretty much all elections, tending to overshadow local issues like infrastructure projects. As a consequence, local races are now viewed as venues for testing national issues. Hence the shock result in an Alabama state house race is raising eyebrows.

Alabama is a solid red state and the house seat had been comfortably won in 2022 by a Republican David Cole by a margin of 54-46% over Democrat Marilyn Lands. But Cole had to resign after being found guilty of voter fraud. (Is anyone surprised snymore that the party that shouts loudest about voter fraud seems to regularly produce people who actually commit it?)
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The celebrity memorabilia craze

People seem to love what are known as collectibles, items that have no functional use but they want to own either because they see it as an investment that they think will grow in value over time and/or because they attach some significance to it. In the case of the former category, one has thing like works of art and jewelry and people have been collecting them for a long time. Aesthetics play an important role in this market.

But more recently there has been a surge in people seeking out items whose only value is that they were once owned by a celebrity. In the March 25, 2024 issue of The New Yorker, Rachel Monroe takes a deep dive into this world.
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Nitrogen gas manufacturers try to block use for executions

Many states in the US that still have the death penalty are finding it hard to find ways to execute people. Apart from the recorded cases of being unable to find veins into which the lethal drugs are delivered, the manufacturers of those drugs, not wishing to be associated with this death industry, are refusing to supply the drugs. But those states that are determined to retain the death penalty are now seeking other ways, even suggesting that we bring back hanging or the electric chair or the firing squad.

One method that is gaining vogue is to use nitrogen gas to essentially asphyxiate people. Given that nitrogen is so plentiful and makes up about 80% of the air around us, it would seem that getting access to it would be easy. But apparently it has to be bought from medical suppliers and three top suppliers that provide medical nitrogen are balking at having their product be used by the death industry.
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Trump gets good and bad legal news

The good news for serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) is that a panel of New York state appeals court judges has agreed to a reduction in the bond that he has to pay in his appeal of the civil fraud judgment obtained by state attorney general Letitia James to $175 million, and given him ten days to come up with the money. The original amount of $454 million plus interest was due today and SSAT’s lawyers had said that he could not pay it. This allows the appeal to go ahead once he pays this reduced amount but he will still have to pay the full amount if his appeal fails. The appeals process could take several months.

The bad news for him is that the judge overseeing the criminal case involving his hush money payments to Stormy Daniels has rejected his appeal for further delays and has scheduled the trial to begin on April 15th with jury selection. The original trial date was set to begin earlier this month and Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg had already agreed to a one month delay due to new documents surfacing.
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Rooting out scientific fraud with cash rewards

The reward structure in American universities, especially in the sciences, puts a great deal of pressure on scientists. In order to get research grants, which are an important measure used in promotions and getting tenure, scientists need to publish a lot of papers and show that they are major findings. This has resulted in some of them rushing to print without performing due diligence to make sure that their results are robust and repeatable. In some cases, this is just sloppiness or allowing their prejudices to unduly guide the interpretation of results, though that is still dishonorable. In the more serious cases, fraud is involved, either by deliberately massaging data to get the required result or by actually manufacturing the data.

Science has long been based on trust because it takes a lot of effort to reproduce the works of others and the custom has been to build on the work of others, not check them. It is only when some anomaly turns up that people comb through the work to see what might have gone wrong. Because of the prevalence of recent scandals, there are now efforts underway to put in place mechanisms to root out problems, and one of them involves giving cash rewards to those who investigate and reveal such cases.
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