i read the news today, oh boy

From the UK, word of “The 10:23 Event,” to take place on January 30:

At 10:23am on January 30th, more than three hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be taking part in a mass homeopathic 'overdose' in protest at Boots' continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.

Sceptics and consumer rights activists will publicly swallow an entire bottle of homeopathic 'pillules' to demonstrate that these 'remedies', prepared according to a long-discredited 18th century ritual, are nothing but sugar pills.

The protest will raise public awareness about the reality of homeopathy, and put further pressure on Boots to live up to its responsibilites as the 'scientist on the high street' and stop selling treatments which do not work.


i read the news today, oh boy

Phil Plait:

“You may have heard the recent news that an expert panel of pediatricians reviewed the literature on gastrointestinal disorders and autism, and found no link between them. A key phrase in their findings was

The existence of a gastrointestinal disturbance specific to persons with ASDs (eg, ‘autistic enterocolitis’) has not been established.

“They also found that there was no evidence that special diets help autistic kids. Mind you, this was a panel of 28 experts, scientists who have devoted their careers and lives to investigating autism.

“So if you were a reporter at ABC News, who would you turn to to get an opinion on this? If you said Jenny McCarthy, then give yourself a gold star, because that’s just what ABC News did. …

“Because people like Jenny McCarthy muddy the waters and add so much noise to the real science, people are turning away from real medicine and embracing ‘alternative’ methods that we know don’t work.

“The result it not just that kids who need help aren’t getting it (the so-called ’what’s the harm?’ fallacy). The result is that kids are getting sick, and some of them are dying. When you reject reality and turn to nonsense, it has real effects. And it’s not just affecting your kids, it affects all kids.”


i read the news today, oh boy

Phil Plait:

Those of us skeptical of these alternatives to modern medicine don’t want these things to fail. We already know that some mainstream medicines are based on what could once have been called herbal medicines — aspirin is the obvious example, originally made from willow bark — so we know better than to dismiss these potential additions to medicine out of hand.

What we do dismiss are anecdotes provided as evidence, or used to make claims that aren’t warranted from the evidence. All those anecdotes are is a place to start investigating the evidence for a potential medicine, not evidence in and of themselves.


i read the news today, oh boy

It would be easier to just cut-and-paste the entire article, but you should go to the source.

Nate Silver:

[T]he odds of being on [any] given departure which is the subject of a terrorist incident have been 1 in 10,408,947 over the past decade. By contrast, the odds of being struck by lightning in a given year are about 1 in 500,000. This means that you could board 20 flights per year and still be less likely to be the subject of an attempted terrorist attack than to be struck by lightning.


i read the news today, oh boy

Roger Ebert:

New Age beliefs are the Creationism of the Progressives. I move in circles where most people would find it absurd to believe that humans didn't evolve from prehistoric ancestors, yet many of these same people quite happily believe in astrology, psychics, reincarnation, the Tarot deck, the i Ching, and sooth-saying. …

At dinner in my environs I rarely hear anyone share that they have been born again in Jesus. They may well have been, but they keep it to themselves.

They were raised to avoid religion and politics at dinner parties with strangers. Yet they assure everyone they are "a typical Gemini," were royalty in a previous lifetime, have a personal spirit guide, and have been told they will develop a serious disease but will recover from it. …

We live in the harrowing early years of a century when the nation must compete in a new way, and this battle will be fought on the grounds of science defined by the traditional Scientific Method. We can have no patience with a chief executive who professes the value of ancient superstitions in the forming of policy.


i read the news today, oh boy

With permission, I quote from an email my friend, Dr. Jean Smith of the CDC, wrote about vaccines (speaking as an individual here, not as a spokesperson for her organization):

[T]he young parents of today don’t have any first-hand knowledge of what vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs) can do, and of the remarkable dedication and work of scientists and doctors of the past 2 centuries to protect children from the early deaths that were a staple of every generation until OURS….. i.e., we were the first cohort (U.S. baby boomers) to benefit from the advances in vaccinology and development of life-saving vaccines.  Starting with Edward Jenner (smallpox vaccine) and continuing on…. Real break-throughs were only made in the very late 50s and mid-60s.  I am sure that all … will recall the breakthrough of polio vaccine… The Salk (“killed”- i.e. inactivated) vaccine coming first (injectable), when we were young children in 1955; later … the development of the attenuated live poliovirus vaccine by Alfred Sabin… which we all received on sugar cubes at school, 1962.  Our parents breathed a huge sigh of relief, as one of the biggest polio epidemics in history had hit [in] 1952 … .   In that epidemic/outbreak, 20.000 children in the US were paralyzed… poliovirus hits the spinal cord, and paralysis is fully evolved within 4 days.  As I am sure you all will recall, children ended up trapped in “iron lung” machines that provided external breath-in, breath-out pressure to allow the lungs to fill and empty out. …

Before our time, children died of pertussis (whooping cough) and diphtheria, and neonatal tetanus, and smallpox.  By the time we were young children, vaccines against these diseases were already widespread, so we were not plagued by these diseases, in general.  Go to an old-time cemetery and look at the grave-stones… you’ll be able to discern what was going on with infectious diseases at a certain time, especially when you see tomb-stones of children in a family who all died around the same time.

Since the days of the 60s-70s, more advances in vaccinology have been made … Pneumococcal vaccines, haemophilus influenza (Hib) vaccine, and others and resulted in sharp decreases in death and disability. …

At every ACIP meeting, we have members of the public come to the microphone, telling their sad stories of their children dying or being disabled by VPDs.  (These are healthy Americans!  Not people from India or Mexico….)   One mother came with her daughter, who has prosthetic arms and legs, as a result of meningococcal disease….  (widespread, meningococcal sepsis, which caused death of arteries/veins in legs/arms, necessitating amputation).  Others come with stories of their childrens’ deaths.  There is a group of parents called Families Fighting Flu, who had healthy children playing in the backyard one day, dead the next. …

I am sad to see such skepticism about the motives of those who work on continuous societal improvements and advances, of which vaccines are just one example. … [I]f your grandchildren have not been vaccinated against certain VPDs, they will be at risk if they should ever undertake int’l travel; and if they have kids from developing countries move into their communities.  There have been any number of cases of unvaccinated Americans being infected in these settings.


i read the news today, oh boy

Jody Rosen:

[T]he All Songs Considered audience has a fuzzy understanding of the word "all." "The Best Music of 2009 (So Far)" consists almost entirely of indie-rockers: acts like The Decemberists, Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Neko Case, Andrew Bird, Regina Spektor, and Animal Collective, the Brooklyn art-rock group that took the top spot in both the best songs and best albums tallies. On the Best Songs list, there are no songs that cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, and none by African-American performers. Two black artists, Danger Mouse and Mos Def, made the Best Albums list, at numbers 20 and 23, respectively.

None of this is a surprise, of course. NPR's audience skews white and college-educated; so does Animal Collective's fan-base. In matters of musical taste, everyone has a God-given right to provincialism and conservatism, even those NPR listeners who consider themselves cosmopolitan and liberal. The numbers, of course, tell a different story. The NPR list leans not just white, but male—dudes with beards and guitars. So far in 2009, the No. 1 song on the Billboard charts has been by a black or female artist—or by groups featuring both blacks and whites or men and women—a total of 41 out of 42 weeks. (The exception is the current No. 1 hit, "Down," a collaboration between an Anglo-Asian R & B singer, Jay Sean, and an African-American rapper, Lil Wayne.) Who are the progressives again—the public radio crowd or the Top 40 great unwashed?

Stephen J. Dubner:

Humankind has long witnessed periods of time marked by the rise of new cultural, religious, and political movements. Well known examples (to the Western world) include protestantism, the renaissance, the inquisition, the industrial revolution, socialism, etc. I don’t know the answer to this question but I think it is a fair one: Is the global warming movement about science, religion, politics, or a little of all three?

Heather Havrilesky:

Marriage is like an inflamed bunion. It requires a lot of care and attention, but all it does is make you itch and wince in return. You can never get away from it, but you can't touch it as often as you want to, either. You're not supposed to ignore it, but if you look too closely at it, it'll only make you nervous.


i read the news today, oh boy

Zen Habits:

What’s the fastest way to get a task off your to-do list?

Just delete it … or don’t put it there in the first place. …

Because not doing it at all is often the best way to get things done.

Phil Plait:

Incidentally, saying that the Universe is meaningless doesn’t imply there’s no reason to live. What I am saying is that there is no direction to the Universe, no intent, no internal morals or purpose or meaning. But we still exist. People look for meaning in everything, even when it isn’t there, and it can lead them astray. …

And finally, don’t ask what I think the meaning or purpose of life is. I think it has neither, but that makes it no less magnificent or joyous to me. I know what I want my life to be like, and I have enough real questions to keep me busy for a thousand lifetimes. I don’t feel the need to look for ones that aren’t there.


i read the news today, oh boy

danah boyd:

Herein lies the reality that makes all of this quite messy to deal with. It wasn't just anyone who left MySpace to go to Facebook. In fact, if we want to get to the crux of what unfolded, we might as well face an uncomfortable reality... What happened was modern day "white flight." Whites were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. The educated were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from the suburbs were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those who deserted MySpace did so by "choice" but their decision to do so was wrapped up in their connections to others, in their belief that a more peaceful, quiet, less-public space would be more idyllic.

Amy Larocca on Carrie Fisher:

The happy ending of the story, if it really can be called that, is that she underwent electroshock therapy and now feels much, much better than she ever has before, even if she sometimes doesn’t remember things that happened in the past few months. “But that could be all the acid I did,” she says. “You do the math. But fuck the past four months anyway. Worth it!” Fisher likes to shout things for emphasis sometimes. “Totally. Fucking. Worth it!

Australian Associated Press:

A HOMEOPATH has been sentenced to at least six years in jail and his wife will serve at least four years for the manslaughter of their eczema-stricken daughter.

Thomas Sam, 42, and his wife Manju, 37, were convicted in June of the manslaughter of their nine-month-old baby Gloria by failing to seek proper medical treatment.

The tertiary-educated couple were accused of "gross criminal negligence" by failing to get the treatment, instead mainly relying on homeopathic remedies. …

A "very wide chasm" lay between how they had acted and how any other reasonable parent would have acted, Justice Johnson said.

"The omission of the parents to seek proper assistance for her can be characterised accurately as cruelty," he said.

"Gloria was totally dependent on her parents complying with their clear duty of care for her and each offender fell profoundly short of their parental obligations to their daughter." …

"This is not a case of a hidden condition going untreated and ultimately causing death.

"Rather this case involves an accumulation of obvious health problems which, whilst not properly treated, saw the child descending towards death."