Law proposed to allow Texas teachers to use deadly force against students

Teachers would be able to use deadly force against students, and would be safe from prosecution, under legislation filed last week in the Texas state House.

The Teacher’s Protection Act by Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, would allow educators to use force or deadly force if they feel they need to protect themselves against a student or anyone else on school grounds. It also allows teachers to use deadly force to protect school property, and to avoid prosecution “for injury or death that results from the educator’s use of deadly force…”

Monty Exter, lobbyist with the state’s largest educator group, said the Association of Texas Professional Educators believes these policies should be determined at the local level. Currently, Texas law allows educators who use reasonable force against a student to be immune from disciplinary proceedings. Flynn’s additional would doubly protect teachers, since the law also states the “use of force, but not deadly force, against a (student) is justified.”

Exter added the ATPE’s legal team doesn’t believe Flynn’s legislation adds any additional protections for teachers that don’t already exist for every Texan claiming self-defense: “We understand he’s trying to carve out some liability protections. But, we can’t see that the liability protection in that particular bill is any different than the protection that exists in law for a regular citizen.”

“Educators in Texas actually do have some legal protections that do allow them to use physical force to protect themselves and protect others, as long as the use of physical force is reasonable,” said ATPE managing attorney Paul Tapp.

Being allowed to kill your fellow Texans, visitors and passersby for pretty much any reason is a long-standing Texas tradition. You need only make a convincing case to a judge who probably was elected on a platform pre-approved by the NRA. Shucks – his grand-daddy likely couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about the occasional lynching.

Women of National Geographic

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Meave and Louise Leakey

We’re celebrating women in science and the major impacts they’re making in a variety of fields.

Meet some of the female scientists National Geographic has had the honor of supporting through the years. Hear from “Her Deepness,” Sylvia Earle, about the role of women in science—and find out who recently named her as a “Woman of the Year”.

Discover the incredible solar power breakthrough National Geographic Emerging Explorer Xiaoling Zheng is working on.

See how Big Cats Initiative Grantee Amy Dickman is transforming lives—human and feline—in Tanzania. Then learn why it’s crucial that more women get into science, and how we can help remove the barriers to their success.

Lots more at NatGeo. Click the link above and enjoy and learn.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Most scientists agree – Americans don’t know much about science


Sandra Cunningham/Shutterstock

Americans’ purported cluelessness about science has led to wide gaps in how the general public views the world compared to how scientists perceive it, according to a new study released…by the Pew Research Center.

Some 98 percent of scientists polled rated the general public’s lack of science knowledge as a problem, with 84 percent of them calling it a major issue.

One result: Regulations on land use, the environment and food safety aren’t generally influenced by the best science, according to a recent poll of 3,748 scientists conducted by the Pew Research Center in cooperation with the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The spread between what scientists think and what the general public thinks about a dozen science-related issues varied, but there were some noticeable gaps…

There was a 51 percentage point difference in views about whether genetically modified food is safe to eat. Some 88 percent of scientists were for it while less than 40 percent of the public agreed.

Sixty-eight percent of scientists think it’s safe to eat foods grown with pesticides compared with 28 percent of the public.

Almost all of the scientists believe in evolution. Just 65 percent of the general public feels the same way, according to Pew polling…

There was one notable — if sad — area on which everyone polled appears to agree: Americans need to improve the science, math and technology education available to students across the country.

Historically, we have a consistent if backwards track record on improving any aspects of education. If there is potential benefit to our war machine – we’re all for it. Go America! Rah, rah.

Though a lesser influence, reflect upon our teacher’s unions which have adopted the sort of protectionist policies characteristic of AFL craft unions. Treating schoolteachers – and teaching – like plumbers with city contracts is not my idea of building useful education, a nation of bright young kids stepping out of school to create a positive, progressive world.

Worse than that – is the tradition that we seem to have acquired in the late 1950’s that moved the core responsibility of school systems to keeping our little darlings safe from hurt feelings – at the expense of standards of learning. And how to learn.

Nope. The creeps at the top of our economic pyramid would like a small improvement in meat machines capable of a slightly higher level of technical performance – where they can’t be replaced by a robot on the assembly line. That’s all, folks.

Firefighters more likely to get cancers — it ain’t just 9/11 and NYC

Firefighters are twice as likely to get certain types of cancer than the general public, according to recent studies. But scientists say stricter firefighting safety practices could lower those rates…

But the risks are many, said Grace LeMasters, University of Cincinnati epidemiology professor.

She listed a multitude of cancer-causing agents including soot, cadmium, inorganic lead, arsenic and diesel exhaust…

LeMasters examined the medical information of 110,000 firefighters because she wanted a more comprehensive view of the cancers firefighters potentially face on the job…

“When they are fighting the fire their skin is dilating and that is because of the heat,” LeMasters said. “And when your skin becomes more porous, this soup of cancer agents that they’re exposed to can be absorbed through the skin much better.”

Buzz Lechowski, the division chief of operations for the Sedona Fire District, said it’s critical firefighters wear breathing gear on the scene of a fire, even after the blaze is put out. He pointed to the 1,140 people, including firefighters, who didn’t wear their masks in the debris and ash of Ground Zero and got cancer after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Lechowski can’t speak for every department, but he said Sedona firefighters are meticulous about wearing their equipment properly and keeping it clean.

“The old crusty salty firefighter thing was ‘oh look I’m all black, my coat’s black, my helmet’s all dirty and as I walk there’s soot flashing off me,’” Lechowski said. “We just don’t live in that world anymore.”

Lechowski said firefighters also face different threats today.

“A house used to have wood furniture, pine paneling and all these things,” Lechowski said. “Now it has plastic garbage cans, window coverings. You live in an oil house now because everything’s plastic.”

RTFA for the tale of Travis Powell, Sedona firefighter. He’s busy fighting cancer, now. His mates in the Sedona FD have a personal reminder of the dangers apart from the fire itself.

A story worth reading.

Purifying water with sunlight and photocatalysts

Drinking clean water is something that many people in the world can’t take for granted, as they rely on polluted sources and often have no access to purification systems. In response to that problem, Panasonic is developing a new technology that looks to the sun to clean water extracted from the ground. The company recently presented a system that uses sunlight and photocatalysts to purify polluted water at a high reaction rate, to improve access to clean water where it’s needed.

The breakthrough is in the new system’s ability to bind titanium dioxide (TiO2), a photocatalyst that reacts under ultraviolet light. One of the difficulties associated with TiO2 is that it is difficult to collect once dispersed in water, since it comes in super fine particles. Previous methods of binding it to larger matter have already been used, but they suffered a loss of active site surface area. Panasonic has found a way to bind the TiO2 to another particle, zeolite (a commercial adsorbent and catalyst), which solves that problem by enabling photocatalysts to maintain their active site. And, the method requires no binder chemicals because the two particles are bound together by electrostatic force.

When the novel photocatalytic particles are stirred, TiO2 is released from the zeolite and dispersed throughout the water. As a result, reaction speed is much faster than other methods of fixing TiO2 on the surface of substrates, and a larger volume of water can be processed in a short amount of time. If the water is left still, it will cause TiO2 to bind to zeolite again, making it easy to separate and recover the photocatalysts from the water so they can be used again later.

The technology was recently unveiled at Tokyo’s Eco Products Fair. Panasonic is working with a number of institutions in India to test the product and its capabilities. The company says around 70 percent of the population of India relies on ground water, which is exposed to different types of pollution, from agrochemical residues to metals from leather tanneries.

The history of the evolution of economics is the quest for scarce goods. Water being the most life-critical of any scarce commodity.

Why are scams more common on the Right than the Left?


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Since the tea party burst onto the political landscape in 2009, the conservative movement has been plagued by an explosion of PACs that critics say exist mostly to pad the pockets of the consultants who run them….A POLITICO analysis of reports filed with the Federal Election Commission covering the 2014 cycle found that 33 PACs that court small donors with tea party-oriented email and direct-mail appeals raised $43 million — 74 percent of which came from small donors. The PACs spent only $3 million on ads and contributions to boost the long-shot candidates often touted in the appeals, compared to $39.5 million on operating expenses.

….[Democrats] have mostly avoided the problem, though they also benefit from the lack of tea party-style insurgency on their side. That could change if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary inflames deep ideological divisions within the party. But on the right, this industry appears only to be growing, according to conservatives who track it closely.

And this problem isn’t limited just to consultants who set up PACs to line their own pockets. Media Matters reports that right-wing outlets routinely tout—or rent their email lists to people touting—all manner of conspiracy theories and out-and-out frauds. Here’s an excerpt from Media Matters’ list:

Mike Huckabee sold out his fans to a quack doctor, conspiracy theorists, and financial fraudsters.
Subscribers to CNN analyst Newt Gingrich‘s email list have received supposed insider information about cancer “cures,” the Illuminati, “Obama’s ‘Secret Mistress,'” a “weird” Social Security “trick,” and Fort Knox being “empty.”
Five conservative outlets promoted a quack doc touting dubious Alzheimer’s disease cures.
Fox analyst Charles Payne was paid to push now worthless stocks.
Newsmax super PAC boondoggle.
Right-wing media helped “scam PACs” raise money from their readers.

…So here’s my question: why is this so much more common on the right than on the left? It would be nice to chalk it up to the superior intelligence of liberal audiences and call it a day, but that won’t wash. There’s just no evidence that liberals, in general, are either smarter or less susceptible to scams than conservatives.

One possibility is that a lot of this stuff is aimed at the elderly, and conservatives tend to skew older than liberals. And while that’s probably part of the answer, it’s hardly satisfying. There are plenty of elderly liberals, after all—certainly enough to make them worth targeting with the same kind of fraudulent appeals that infest the right.

Another possibility is that it’s basically a supply-side phenomenon. Maybe liberal outlets simply tend to be less ruthless, less willing to set up scam fundraising organizations than conservative outlets. In fact, that actually does seem to be the case. But again: why? Contrary to Vogel’s lead, this kind of thing has been a problem on the right for a long time. It definitely got worse when the tea party movement created a whole new pool of potential patsies, but it didn’t start in 2009. It’s been around for a while.

So then: why is this problem so much bigger on the right than on the left?…It’s got to be something institutional, or something inherent in the nature of American conservatism. But what?

Ken Vogel probably grew up in the age of solid-state communications – instead of vacuum tube-powered radios. He missed the generations of Americans who were told by radio preachers to “place your hands on the radio and feel the warmth of God reaching out to save you!”

Of course they were warm. You could burn yourself on those suckers if you reached inside the radio – or first couple generations of TV’s – and touched the tubes.

True Believers accept authority easier than any skeptic. While folks on the Left often get there because of skepticism learned from watching a corrupt establishment lie about damned near everything. The veneer of lies was more than evident in that classic Republican candidate debate when the moderator asked how many didn’t believe in evolution. A few – the preachers – threw their arms up right away. The rest dragged their arms up as they looked out at the audience of True Believers. They knew they had to join in or be rejected by the idjits.

And so it goes. Want to buy some underwear woven with copper wires to aid your virility?

Expensive placebos work better than cheap placebos — Gotcha!

For the most part, there is no difference — chemical or otherwise — between generic drugs and their more expensive, brand-name counterparts. But that doesn’t mean they can’t have varying effects, especially if their users are under the assumption that expensive drugs are more effective.

In a recent study, researchers found a patient’s perception or expectations of a drug (based on how much it costs) significantly affected the drug’s efficacy.

“Patients’ expectations play an important role in the effectiveness of their treatments, and the placebo effect has been well documented, especially in people with Parkinson’s disease,” explained lead study author Alberto J. Espay, a researcher at the University of Cincinnati who is currently serving as a fellow with the American Academy of Neurology.

“We wanted to see if the people’s perceptions of the cost of the drug they received would affect the placebo response,” Espay added.

To find out, Espay and his colleagues gave a group of study volunteers two shots of a placebo drug for Parkinson’s disease. Of course, the participants weren’t told it was a simple saline solution. Doctors told them that they were receiving two drugs, one shot and then the second after the first “wore off.”

Prior to the shots, doctors told the participants each drug had proven equally effective, but that one was significantly more expensive than the other — one costing $100 per dose and the other costing $1,500 per dose.

Despite being the exact same saline solution, the “expensive” placebo minimized hand shaking and improved motor skills among the Parkinson’s disease patients more effectively than did the “cheap” placebo.

After eventually revealing the ruse, researchers found the difference in efficacy was most pronounced among patients who admitted to expecting an improved result from the expensive version of the drug.

The brain is powerful drug — one that researchers hope to use to improve treatments.

If you casually note the number of miraculous cures popular through history – you shouldn’t be surprised at any of this. Both the placebo effect and the belief in “getting what you pay for” are demonstrably strong. Combined in a society rife with ignorance, the sophistry is destined to have some effect.

Homeless adults – mental illness and cognitive deficits

Nearly three-quarters of homeless adults with mental illness in Canada show evidence of cognitive deficits, such as difficulties with problem solving, learning and memory, new research has found…

“This points to an often unrecognized problem for the segment of Canada’s homeless population that suffers from mental illness,” said Dr. Vicky Stergiopoulos, chief of psychiatry at St. Michael’s Hospital and a scientist in its Centre for Research on Inner City Health.

These are the skills that people need to follow treatment or support recommendations, maintain housing stability or successfully complete day-to-day tasks.”

Each year up to 200,000 Canadians are homeless. The prevalence of mental illness among homeless individuals is much higher than the rest of the population, with more than 12 per cent suffering from severe mental illness, 11 per cent having mood disorders and close to 40 per cent reporting alcohol and drug addictions.

All of the participants in Dr. Stergiopoulos’ study experienced mental illness. About half met criteria for psychosis, major depressive disorder and alcohol or substance abuse, and nearly half had experienced traumatic brain injury…

“The data doesn’t help us to predict whether someone will have cognitive challenges, but it does show that if they experience homelessness and mental illness, it’s very likely,” said Dr. Stergiopoulos. “It adds to our understanding about why people may have difficulty accessing or keeping housing.”

Dr. Stergiopoulos noted the study is important for those who work directly with disadvantaged populations because it highlights that adaptations and improvements need to be made to treatment and support options. Lack of engagement is not necessarily because someone doesn’t want help, but may be because they don’t understand how to access or make use of it.

At least it sounds like our Northern Neighbors are trying. Perhaps Harper isn’t as callous as his role model Ronald Reagan.

Every Republican’s favorite Tin Jesus just about single-handed created the tidal wave of homeless, especially those with mental illness. His efforts to crush the US Public Health Service and hospital system put thousands of the mentally ill on our streets.