Tagged: anti-science

Planned Parenthood under attack, again

Planned Parenthood is under attack — again. This time, a campaign of misinformation about the retrieval of fetal tissue used in research and therapy is the excuse. When women have made the decision to terminate a pregnancy, Planned Parenthood allows them the opportunity to have the fetal tissue that would otherwise be discarded be used by qualified researchers to help answer important medical questions. The organization does so carefully, following all applicable laws and ethical guidelines.

In a Perspective article now published in the Journal, Charo presents compelling arguments defending these uses of fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood, its physicians, and the researchers who do this work should be praised, not damned. The research is not easy to do, but as Charo explains, it has benefited millions of people worldwide. If the antichoice forces were allowed to rule the day, these advances would never have been made.

We strongly support Planned Parenthood not only for its efforts to channel fetal tissue into important medical research but also for its other work as one of the country’s largest providers of health care for women, especially poor women. In 2013, the most recent year for which data are available, Planned Parenthood provided services to 2.7 million women, men, and young people during 4.6 million health center visits. At least 60% of these patients benefited from public health coverage programs such as the nation’s family-planning program (Title X) and Medicaid. At least 78% of these patients lived with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. Planned Parenthood’s services included nearly 400,000 Pap tests, nearly 500,000 breast examinations, nearly 4.5 million tests for sexually transmitted illnesses (including HIV), and treatments. The contraception services that Planned Parenthood delivers may be the single greatest effort to prevent the unwanted pregnancies that result in abortions.

It is shameful that a radical antichoice group whose goal is the destruction of Planned Parenthood continues to twist the facts to achieve its ends. We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health. We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work, and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.

I second that emotion. My contempt for the sophistry, the deceitful liars who planned and executed this latest attack on Planned Parenthood can scarcely be voiced in a civil manner.

I don’t care in the least if you wish to run your life, your family’s life by some rulebook written in the 14th Century. But, to have the gall, the smugness of a True Believer to justify egregious politics reactionary enough to impose your belief system on the rest of what is supposed to be a free and democratic nation is unconscionable.

GOP Masters of Sophistry

I make no case for Hillary other than she’s a decent alternative to the cowards, ideologues and bigots staffing and leading today’s Republican Party. That description of that political entity isn’t especially radical. I know too many Recovering Republicans who feel the same.

Who will I vote for in Democrat primaries – after I make my usual every-other-year-registration as someone other than Independent? Bernie, of course. He comes closer to a model of truth and service, sound knowledge and integrity of anyone I’ve had a chance to vote for in decades.

Yes, I still would rather be voting for someone in a 3rd Party independent of ownership by the usual corporate lobbyists. Even that class representation needn’t be restricted to the two old parties. Essentially useless, an impedance to progress.

And, still, Hillary is lightyears ahead of the thugs in the Republican Party. The choice in November 2016 will be easy-peasy.

Dismantling higher education in America

While researching a recent column for Al Jazeera America on the “killing of tenure” and what it means for the future of higher education, it became clear that the attempts by conservatives to dismantle the institution of tenure, highlighted by the Wisconsin legislature’s removal of previously statutory tenure protections, are only one component of a much wider array of threats to the profession of teaching and research.

For academics lucky enough to have tenure at an “R-1 research university” — one with “extensive” doctoral level graduate programs and support for faculty research as well as teaching — the erosion of traditional tenure protections is damaging because it threatens not only academic freedom but research and teaching that contribute hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. GDP. The continued downtrend in funding for university research has paralleled and is tied to the erosion of tenure, academic freedom and shared governance more broadly. All these trends are tied to the corporatization of the university; that is, the increasingly privatized model of higher education which does away with shared governance and tenure in favor of centralized administration and contingent labor, puts profits and the bottom line ahead of the public good, and efficiency and “customer service” ahead of a well-rounded education that encourages critical inquiry and independent thought.

Today upwards of three-quarters of faculty members nationwide are working outside of the tenure system. This reorientation of the profession away from tenure, shared governance and academic freedom, which together formed the bedrock of the great American university system, has left contingent and tenure-line faculty alike to face an unprecedented array of obstacles to their economic, let alone professional, survival.

Indeed, upwards of a quarter of faculty with doctorates live below the poverty line — eight percentage points higher than the national average for all Americans. Think of this in the context of the American dream, where dedication and education are supposed to ensure a piece, however modest, of the American dream. If 10 years of intensive college and graduate study can’t even get a person a better salary than the average Walmart cashier, there is something profoundly wrong.

The average American voter still sits back, accepting every ideological lie from the political economy of wealth and power. The working people who built the wealth of the nation on their backs are relegated more often to leftover jobs, ignorant of the qualities needed nowadays for advancement. The best-educated segment of our populace is considered advanced meat robots by conservative politicians, nothing more than articulate proletarians – interesting, but, unproductive by the liberal side of American politics more concerned with the workings of Wall Street than the potential of academia.

The best-educated of our political elites sit back and prate about the young tigers of the whole world still coming to the United States for their education – even though that phenomenon, premised upon the worldwide myth of an educational system that began to crumble over a half-century ago, already shows the cracks of diminishing returns. Other nations now better educate their young. Other nations are well along at building networks of new and powerful research and thought.

Congress only debates who should rule: Caeser or Mammon?

This past winter set a global heat record

This map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows vast areas around the world where temperatures from December through February were above average this winter. Only the Northeast U.S. was in a big chill…

Last week, the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service reported that La Plata County’s average temperature for the meteorological winter – from December through February – was 5 degrees above average…

But Southwest Colorado was just part of a bigger global trend.

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, with data from NASA, announced this week that this winter and the first two months of 2015 were the hottest on record globally, with the chilly Northeast U.S. sticking out like a cold thumb in a toastier world.

At nearly 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th-century average, last month was the second-warmest February on record globally, slightly behind 1998.

But the combined January and February temperature beat the old record for the first two months set in 2002.

December through February broke the meteorological winter record set in 2007.

NOAA records go back 135 years to 1880. But, that’s OK. You probably can find a guy who trained as a weatherman for some local radio station, or a conservative investor who made money in the “weather business” – to dispute the sum of global scientific record-keeping and analysis.

And with slightly over 6% of the land area of planet Earth, you know the opinion of Americans about the weather is the only one that counts.

We need a baloney detection kit

Test all the crap stuck into the brains of fear-driven culture — about sex, GMO food, climate change, sex, vaccination, sex, mandatory education. Everything loonies on the Left or Right want to runaway and hide from – and stop anyone else from examining or using.

All anti-science. Even though science enabled our species getting to where we are – from our cave-dwelling days and nights.

Well, from primitive agriculture forward. I can imagine the Shaman’s Association condemning the wheel as endangering future generations.

The most bogus health claims of 2014

Every day seems to turn up opportunities to abuse science in new and perverse ways, especially when it comes to health. You open a newspaper or news site, and you read about a health claim making the rounds: a diet that will give you the energy of a teenager, an exercise routine that will elongate your legs, a policy that will protect Americans from scary viruses…

In the interest of the correcting the record, we rounded up the most egregious abuses of health science in 2014…

1) We can stop Ebola by cutting off West Africa and locking up health workers


Kaci Hickox at her home in MaineSpencer Platt/Getty Images

The Ebola epidemic was the biggest health story of the year and arguably one of the most important global news stories. But almost as soon as the virus turned up on American soil — in a Liberian man who has since died — dubious claims about travel restrictions started to go around. In particular, there were politicians who argued that travel bans and quarantines were needed to protect Americans from Ebola…

Governors in a number of states, including, New York and New Jersey, called for 21-day quarantines of health workers…

The trouble with trying to muzzle the virus through travel bans and quarantines is — as every single public health researcher and official noted — we have seen time and again that they don’t work. That’s why science-minded men and women were monolithically opposed to these measures.

Luckily, the great travel ban and quarantine caper coincided with a mid-term election in November and then quickly disappeared as soon as the ballots were cast.

4) Gwyneth Paltrow: water has feelings and you can add length to your legs

Gwyneth Paltrow is also not exactly known for doling out evidence-based wisdom. But she brought her ignominiously bad science to a new level in a May 2014 edition of her newsletter goop:

I am fascinated by the growing science behind the energy of consciousness and its effects on matter. I have long had Dr. Emoto’s coffee table book on how negativity changes the structure of water, how the molecules behave differently depending on the words or music being expressed around it.

In the newsletter, a supposed health guru named Habib Sadeghi also wrote:

Japanese scientist, Masaru Emoto performed some of the most fascinating experiments on the effect that words have on energy in the 1990’s…In his experiments, Emoto poured pure water into vials labeled with negative phrases like “I hate you” or “fear.” After 24 hours, the water was frozen, and no longer crystallized under the microscope: It yielded gray, misshapen clumps instead of beautiful lace-like crystals. In contrast, Emoto placed labels that said things like “I Love You,” or “Peace” on vials of polluted water, and after 24 hours, they produced gleaming, perfectly hexagonal crystals.

You don’t need me to explain why this is total crap. It’s flat out ridiculous, and one of the worst assaults on science from a public figure who should know better.

RTFA for more details about each of these – and several more.

Dr.Oz, Congress, vaccines causing promiscuity, gluten, e-cigarettes are characteristic of Americans believing crap, inventing crap to believe, believing crap that crap sellers produce to get people most of all to buy their crap – and on and on.

I don’t know how Julia Belluz held the article down to anything less than book length.

FDA tells gay and bi men — “Stop having sex and you can donate blood!”

The Food and Drug Administration is relaxing a decades-long ban on blood donations from gay and bi men…The current policy, meant to protect against HIV transmission, bars any man who’s had sex with a man since 1977 from donating blood.

But the FDA is still requiring men to abstain from sex with other men for at least a year before donating.

That effectively bars men in monogamous same-sex relationships from donating.

We have good blood tests for HIV, which LGBT health advocates argue make any deferral or ban unnecessary…

When Australia dropped its ban, donations grew substantially and HIV infections did not.

So, why can’t the United States comprehend up-to-date science and manage regulations about donating blood in a sensible, useful and fair manner? The usual answer is that the politicians with oversight on such matters are bigoted cowards who would rather follow the moralizing of the lowest common denominator of ignorance – instead of providing the least bit of leadership.

And nothing has changed. Public pressure has forced the FDA into a practically valueless reiteration of the same crap rules they’ve had in place for years.

They just want to look a little bit enlightened.