28-year-old sex education book banned in Malaysia

Malaysia has banned the sale of a children’s sex education book written by a British author 28 years ago, saying its contents “could threaten moral values”.

It had on Tuesday ordered bookstores to suspend sales of “Where did I come from?” by Peter Mayle, pending further investigations.

The 44-page illustrated book published in 1984 aims to help parents explain to children such topics as sex, conception and birth.

Malaysia’s Home Ministry said in a statement that the book was deemed harmful to society after critics complained it contained graphic illustrations. “The home ministry today has decided to ban the book … because it contained elements which could threaten moral values and is offensive to the public,” Abdul Rahim Mohamad Radzi, deputy secretary-general of security said.

Abdul Rahim warned that those who breached the order risked being jailed for up to three years.

Actually, the book probably could be 280 years old and it would still be banned in Malaysia. Does anyone expect theocrats to allow citizens access to real information about useful topics?

Senator Olympia Snowe decides not to rejoin the cesspool that now is Congress

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Citing excessive partisanship and a dispiriting political environment, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a three-term Republican from Maine, said Tuesday that she would not run for re-election in November. Her surprise decision delivered a potential blow to Republicans who need just a handful of seats to regain control of the Senate; Ms. Snowe was considered one of their safer incumbents.

“After 33 years in the Congress this was not an easy decision,” said Ms. Snowe, 65, a moderate who served 16 years in the House before moving to the Senate. “My husband and I are in good health. We have laid an exceptionally strong foundation for the campaign, and I have no doubt I would have won re-election.”

But in sharp comments citing the lack of comity in the current Congress as a motivating factor in her sudden retirement, Ms. Snowe, who spent a career voting against her Republican colleagues almost as often as with them, said she had had enough.

“I do find it frustrating,” she said, “that an atmosphere of polarization and ‘my way or the highway’ ideologies has become pervasive in campaigns and in our governing institutions.”

She added: “Unfortunately, I do not realistically expect the partisanship of recent years in the Senate to change over the short term. So at this stage of my tenure in public service, I have concluded that I am not prepared to commit myself to an additional six years in the Senate, which is what a fourth term would entail.”

Ms. Snowe cast key votes on bills that were dear to Democrats, including the economic stimulus measure and a law upending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy governing gay men and lesbians in the military. She was facing a Tea Party-backed challenger, but her opponent had failed to gain much traction in a state where Ms. Snowe was popular and had the backing of the new Republican governor.

Now, a moderate Democrat or Independent has a good chance to win that seat. The Republican Party in Maine has been suffering through the same plague of bible-thumping reactionaries that has infected most other state parties. Encrusted with resentment of uppity women, contemptuous of people who believe our Constitutional freedoms include civil rights – it’s likely the Republican candidate for senior senator in Maine will now be slightly to the Right of Attila the Hun.

Japan’s post-tsunami reconstruction efforts hampered by ghosts

Japan’s reconstruction following the devastating earthquake and tsunami nearly one year ago exactly is being delayed by an unlikely factor – ghosts.

Numerous reports of ghost sightings have reportedly been made by residents in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, home to nearly a fifth of all tsunami fatalities.

Reconstruction and repair have been put on hold in some instances due to workers’ fears that the spirits of the dead who passed away a year ago will bring them bad luck if they continue…

A taxi driver, who did not want to be named, added that he was unwilling to stop in certain parts of the city that were badly damaged in the tsunami for fear of picking up a customer who is a spirit of the dead.

Meanwhile, another local woman described hearing stories of people seeing queues of people rushing towards the hills, a replay of their final moment as they attempted to escape the tsunami…

As the first anniversary of the disaster approaches, Ishinomaki appears, on the surface at least, to be returning to a new level of normality, with the tsunami debris cleared away in most areas and a growing number of businesses reopening…

However, experts described the city’s apparent widespread belief in ghosts as a “natural” side effect of a large-scale tragedy which wiped out vast swathes of the community and a potentially positive part of the healing process.

“Human beings find it very difficult to accept death, whether they are inclined by nature to superstition or are very scientifically minded,” said Takeo Funabiki, a cultural anthropologist…

When there are things that many people find difficult to accept, they can find expression in the form of rumours or rituals for the dead, among other things. The point is that it takes the shape of something that you can share with other people in your society.”

I can’t take ghosts – or angels – or some grayhead in the sky very seriously. Of course, I understand the reasons for denial, the pain and anguish over the loss of dear ones. I’ve been through it enough times myself.

I just settle down with simple psychological parameters. If you’re well balanced and sound within your self-understanding of reality, it takes six weeks max to reaccustom yourself to extreme loss. The other thing I always do is to skip having a touch of a single malt whiskey to “sooth” the pain. Crutches are as difficult to get rid of as the pain that brings them on.

Republicans put your boss and government in your bedroom

You might like your boss or you might hate your boss, but either way there’s probably one place you don’t want your boss hanging around: in your bedroom. But that’s exactly where Republicans want to put your boss — in your bedroom and in between you and your doctor when it comes to making your own personal health care decisions.

Here’s the rundown of this week’s battle in the conservative war on birth control and women’s health care.

WHO: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and allies including Sens. Scott Brown (R-MA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH).

WHAT: Legislation that would allow ANY employer or insurance company to deny ANY essential or preventative health care benefit for essentially ANY reason. Benefits that could be denied include:

cancer screenings
diabetes screenings
STD screenings
prenatal care
mental health coverage

This bill is so extreme that if your boss believed in healing exclusively through the power of prayer, he would have sufficient legal grounds to deny you coverage for various medical conditions. If your boss had a moral objection to single mothers, he could deny unmarried pregnant women prenatal coverage. Or if your boss had a “moral” objection to overweight people, diabetes screenings would not have to be covered.

Republican hostage-taking sophistry demands they attach this rider to a highway and transportation bill that supports at a minimum 1.8 million jobs. They couldn’t care less about the jobs – but, letting you have insurance governed by medical and scientific standards is counter to their commandment that says our lives must be governed by their religion-of-the-month.

The worst kind of hypocrisy still infects Congress. Their acceptable-rating among American voters is now down to 10% and the self-righteous pimps for theocracy continue as if nothing is still as important as chaining papier mache morality to every aspect of our recovering economy. We can only hope that the diminishing number of voters willing to admit to being Republicans join the rest of the United States, Democrat and Independent alike, in shoving these clowns out the door in November. Getting an honest job would be the best thing that ever happened to their morality.

If there’s one thing Republicans and other pretend-Libertarians hate is letting people make their own choice. They want to limit the possibility that we might not go along with whatever archaic ignorance about biology is popular this year with bigots.

Put all the choices into play via our insurance. If we don’t want them – we don’t have to use them; but, the choice should be ours – not our employers, not Congress.

Find out where knowledge about your DNA is leading – 3 Books

The medical world is holding its breath, waiting for the revolution. It will be here any minute. Definitely by the end of the decade. Or perhaps it will take a little longer than that, but seriously, it’s right around the corner. More or less.

That’s the genomics revolution, with its promise of treatment focused on the individual rather than the group. At last, patients will be more than the product of their age, sex, ethnicity, illnesses and bad habits; treatments will be aimed like a laser at their personal genetic particulars, and if those genes are not quite what they should be, then those genes will be fixed.

…A particularly readable and comprehensive vision can be found in Dr. Eric J. Topol’s new book, “The Creative Destruction of Medicine.”

Dr. Topol, a cardiologist and researcher at the Scripps Research Institute with the energy of 10 (if his prose style and his honor-laden biography are any indication), dispenses in short order with our current population-based medical strategies. They are wasteful and inexact, he points out, often marginally beneficial to the group and downright harmful to the individual.

He presents an array of far better ideas, a few now actually being practiced in rudimentary form. These include pharmacogenomics, in which specific genes that govern responses to medications are routinely assayed, and cancer treatments that probe tumors for specific genetic targets rather than relying on standard chemotherapy…

In “Am I My Genes?,” the psychiatrist and ethicist Dr. Robert L. Klitzman plunges readers into the world of genomic medicine as it exists today: a barely mapped terrain of immense overlapping uncertainties. Many thousands of patients are bravely stumbling along in there…

Although written for an academic audience, this book should make compelling reading for anyone considering genetic testing for…many conditions: It provides an instant community of fellow travelers along with a sophisticated moderator. Dr. Klitzman moves through all the basic landmarks, including the big ones: “Do I want to know?,” “Whom should I tell?” and “Why me..?”

And that is exactly the phenomenon that fascinates H. Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at M.I.T. whose “Connectome” lays out the newest research into why we think the way we do. For Dr. Seung, it is self-evident that you are more than your genes. The real you sits firmly within your skull, and while your brain’s 100 billion nerve cells may carry your genes, the “you” they form is shaped by the ways they connect to one another…

As a newborn, Dr. Seung writes, you are pretty much just a product of your genes and some initial random connections, but every second of your first few years adds to the cumulative web of connections that form you. By the time you are a toddler you have more synapses, or connections among your neurons, than you ever will again: In some ways the adult you is just an edited 2-year old, one of many eminently pleasing thoughts he sets forth.

This is complicated stuff, and it is a testament to Dr. Seung’s remarkable clarity of exposition that the reader is swept along with his enthusiasm, as he moves from the basics of neuroscience out to the farthest regions of the hypothetical, sketching out a spectacularly illustrated giant map of the universe of man.

All added to the list. I may have to resume my practice back when I only edited and wrote for one blog. Take a chunk of Friday off to catch up with my reading.

Problem is – this site of mine is especially satisfying because readership and followers are within the margin of error for 50/50 women and men – and depending on the time of day here in the Rockies and time zones around the world, the audience varies from 18% to 68% US-based. The rest of the world is onboard just about all the time.

Lady coppers told to stop wearing under-wire bras because they’re dangerous in a gunfight

Guess they’re going to add the bit about bras

Women police officers have been instructed not to wear under-wired bras – because the metal could cause extra harm if they are shot.

Essex Police have written to all their female officers urging them to buy sensible underwear from Marks & Spencer instead.

In a letter the force explains that any metal parts of a bra could cause extra damage if they’re shot in the line of duty. They have also been given a special briefing to outline potential ballistic damage that can be caused by their underwear.

The letter reads: “Although there is no such thing as a bullet-proof bra, a good comfortable fitted non-wired bra from a retailer like Marks & Spencer would help prevent ballistic damage…

A spokeswoman for Essex Police said the force’s health and safety officers supported the advice.

But one unnamed female constable said: “It’s a bit bizarre, as while obviously our safety is being taken seriously, the chances of getting shot in Essex are very small.”

The new shirts, which are tight black T-shirts, were brought in by the force earlier this year to save cash on uniforms. The advice by Essex Police follows Home Office official guidance on lingerie.

It reads: “The Home Office Scientific Development Branch have always advised officers that body armour should be close fitting to the body and hard objects such as metal buttons, press studs, badges and the like should never be placed beneath body armour.

“If this advice is followed there should be no need for female officers to wear specially padded protection at the bust area as the trauma protection provided by body armour certified to HOSDB standards is sufficient to prevent serious injury – although the wearing of padded bras will not adversely affect the safety of the wearer providing they contain no metallic/plastic wiring.

Uh, OK. Will there be an inspection before officers go out in the field? Padding, underwire or otherwise?


Who’s unhappiest in the UK? Men in their late 40s living in London

Middle aged men who live in London or the West Midlands are the unhappiest people in the UK, while pensioners enjoy life the most, official research from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows.

In a survey of 80,000 people’s happiness, the first of its kind, the ONS found that men aged between 45 and 49 are the least satisfied with life in the UK. Conversely, men and women aged between 65 and 80 are the most satisfied. This is followed closely by teenagers aged between 16 and 19.

London or the West Midlands are the gloomiest regions. People who live here are the least happy with their lives and also value the worth of what they do with their lives less than people in other regions. The findings come despite London being the wealthiest part of the country by some distance.

The happiest place in the UK, and also the one with the highest levels of life satisfaction and feelings of worth, is Northern Ireland, the ONS found…

In terms of the general outlook on life, the ONS found that women routinely put higher worth on the things they do in their lives than men do. Women were also found to be happier than men in most age groups. However this changes when men reach retirement age. Once they hit 65, men are found to become slightly happier than women…

The findings are based on four questions that people were asked about their happiness, anxiety levels, satisfaction and feelings of worth. They were asked to rate how they felt on a scale of one to 10. People were not asked about their incomes…

The survey also found that married people have higher levels of “life satisfaction” than couples who co-habit. However cohabiting couples are happier than single people…

Juliet Michaelson, a senior researcher at thinktank Nef, said: “This data tells a story overlooked by traditional economic measures about what really matters to us. London is the richest region in the UK, but it is not the happiest – respondents scored poorly on all of the well-being indicators.

The usual saw will be trotted out about money not buying happiness – the wealthiest will prattle on about how happy poor people must be. In truth, the decisions you make about how you live your life may have little or no correlation with income; but, rather expectations and how well they are realized – goals, how realistic they may be and how thoroughly you realize them.

Giant red balls invading Britain

Giant red ball in Barcelona

Giant red balls are about to invade Britain. The huge spheres have already been spotted around the world, squeezed between buildings or perched on bridges. They are the work of New York artist Kurt Perschke, who places the 15-foot inflatable ball in unexpected locations. He has so far visited several cities around the world, including Chicago, Barcelona, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, and will tour Britain this summer.

Brits, of course, will be getting big balls this summer in Poland and Ukraine – when they try once again to be competitive in European Championship Football. Har.

Texas healthcare providers set new record — accused of $375 million in Medicare, Medicaid fraud

Sarah Saldaña, US Attorney with a history of fighting corruption

The owner of a Texas medical service provider was among seven people indicted in a massive health care fraud scheme that allegedly bilked Medicare and Medicaid of nearly $375 million…

The federal indictment accused Jacques Roy, a doctor who owned Medistat Group Associates in DeSoto, Texas, of leading a scheme that billed Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary or were not done. Also indicted were Roy’s office manager as well as the owners of three home health agencies. A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses the agencies of using Roy to rack up millions of dollars in false claims…

Roy had “recruiters” finding people to bill for home health services, said U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana, the top federal prosecutor in Dallas. Some of those alleged patients, when approached by investigators, were found working on their cars and clearly not in need of home healthcare, she said.

Medicare patients qualify for home health care if they are confined to their homes and need care there, according to a federal indictment.

Saldana said Roy used the home health agencies as “his soldiers on the ground to go door to door to recruit Medicare beneficiaries…”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also announced the suspension of an additional 78 home health agencies associated with Roy. The agencies were collecting about $2.3 million a month, said Peter Budetti, CMS’ deputy administrator for program integrity.

Until recently, HHS could not effectively track data to identify the kind of fraud now linked to Roy, who was billing beneficiaries “off the charts” for more than five years, officials said…The department is now beefing up its data analysis and tracking other cases, Levinson said. It has also established task forces in several U.S. cities to track Medicare fraud…

Digitizing and interconnecting medical records is one of the programs vehemently opposed by Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats early days in the Obama administration. I wonder how many of the thieving cruds in this case are stalwarts of Texas conservative politics?

Health care fraud is estimated to cost the government at least $60 billion a year, mainly in losses to Medicare and Medicaid. Officials say the fraud involves everything from sophisticated marketing schemes by major pharmaceuticals encouraging doctors to prescribe drugs for unauthorized uses to selling motorized wheelchairs to people who don’t need them.

Again, the clownshow run by nutballs ranging from Mike Huckabee to Ron Paul says these are the corporate gangsters we should trust with running healthcare in the United States. Anyone see any of the vaunted “self-regulating” leaders in insurance and healthcare ever turn over a fraudster?

Folks in Colorado will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana

Colorado voters will decide whether to legalize possession of limited amounts of recreational marijuana…

The initiative, known as Amendment 64, makes Colorado the second state to put a measure to allow recreational marijuana on the Nov. 6 ballot. Washington state put similar measure on the ballot last month…

Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, one of the measure’s chief proponents, said the campaign would use the next eight months to build a “broad base of support” across the state. “Coloradans have a chance to make history this November, and we believe they are ready to do just that…”

The measure would legalize possession of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would also let people grow as many as six marijuana plants in their home.

Specially regulated stores would be permitted to sell marijuana, but communities would have a right to ban such businesses.

State lawmakers would create a special marijuana tax, with the money going to education.

Decriminalizing marijuana is overdue. I expect similar measures to pass in any sensible state or nation – sooner or later. That doesn’t mean I think rational thought and reflection has suddenly affected every American. Or that our politicians have ceased to base their perpetual re-election campaigns on anything more than the lowest common denominator of education and perception.

It’s just that damned near everyone in this neck of the prairie smokes a little weed, considers it roughly akin to having a beer with supper. And rightly so. Most of the hypocrite fundamentalists who get their rave on over the topic are just as likely to watch their Saturday NASCAR fix on television – roach clip in hand or bong on the living room table next to their bible. Enough people realize the agitprop agin ganja is nothing more than garden variety crap for Sunday morning at church – and the real world needs to get on with living in the present.