Archive for October 24th, 2009
Check out The Last Enemy, a BBC Masterpiece series that’s available on Watch Instantly. Quite good.
If there’s any doubt, read this report by Joe Mozingo in the LA Times. The report begins:
In the flat light of the grand jury room, a nervous, deeply embarrassed 13-year-old girl sat alone — no attorney, no mother, no friend — facing three tiers of middle-aged strangers silently studying her from their leather armchairs.
The questions that day in March 1977 were clinical in tone.
The answers would set off a furor from Hollywood to London and Paris that has yet to subside.
Samantha Gailey — sandy brown hair, dimpled chin, missing class at her junior high in Woodland Hills — described her alleged rape by director Roman Polanski two weeks before at Jack Nicholson’s home above Franklin Canyon. She clutched a small heart charm her friend had given her.
“After he kissed you, did he say anything?” asked the prosecutor, Roger Gunson.
“No,” the girl said.
“Did you say anything?”
“No, besides I was just going, ‘No, come on, let’s go home. . . .’ He said, ‘I’ll take you home soon.’ “
“Then what happened?”
“And then he went down and started performing cuddliness.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means he went down on me, or he placed his mouth on my vagina. . . . I was ready to cry. I was kind of — I was going, ‘No. Come on. Stop it.’ But I was afraid.”
Samantha’s testimony that day was unequivocal: She had kept trying to get away from him, putting her clothes back on, saying no repeatedly. She had made up a lie about having asthma to get out of a Jacuzzi. He persisted. She was scared. She did not physically fight him off. He began to have sex with her, then concerned she might get pregnant, switched to anal sex. When he drove her home, he told her not to tell her mom, adding, “You know, when I first met you, I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything like this with you.”
A generation of spectacle would follow: …
The disability from migraine headaches is an enormous health burden affecting over 30 million Americans. In newly released research, 79 migraine sufferers were followed for at least five years after having undergone detection of migraine “trigger sites” and surgery. The new data finds promising outcomes for treating trigger sites surgically for migraine headaches resulting in elimination of pain for those afflicted with the condition.
Since the surgery, 10 of the 79 patients required additional surgeries for newly detected trigger sites and were eliminated from the final analysis. Sixty-one of the remaining 69 patients (88 percent) have maintained the initial positive response to the surgery. Twenty patients (29 percent) reported elimination of migraines entirely, 41 patients (59 percent) noticed a significant decrease, and only eight patients (11 percent) experienced less than 50 percent improvement or no change.
This new data provides strong evidence that surgical manipulation of one or more migraine trigger sites can successfully eliminate (cure) or reduce the frequency, duration, and/or intensity of migraine headaches with lasting results.
The debate over health care reform has been defined by exaggerations and falsehoods. Republicans have falsely labeled the Democratic plan "government-run health care" and warned of death panels for the elderly and taxpayer subsidies for illegal immigrants. Democrats, meanwhile, have exaggerated the savings of their plan and made false claims about their favorite villains, the insurance companies.
Both sides have kept the Truth-O-Meter busy. PolitiFact has rated more than 80 health care claims since January, covering everything from the salary of insurance company executives to allegations about tax subsidies for abortion. As congressional leaders prepare to bring their health care bills to the House and Senate floors, we’ve assembled this guide to help you sort out the truth on the health care bills. We should emphasize that the bills are in flux and details can change, but these rulings can serve as a general guide for the proposals under discussion.
Distortions from the opponents
Critics have portrayed the Democratic plan as a government takeover of health care, as a system that would prey on the elderly, use tax dollars to pay for abortion, and expand health care coverage for illegal immigrants. But in many cases, they have misstated the facts, or taken a grain of truth and exaggerated it.
• Not a government takeover of health care. The Democratic plans would leave the current system of private insurance in place while increasing regulation for insurance companies, requiring everyone to buy health insurance, and providing more subsidies for low-income people. One aspect still up in the air is the public option, a health insurance plan that would be run by the government. People could choose whether to enroll in the public option. (An estimated 12 million would, according to the Congressional Budget Office.) But Republicans have consistently portrayed the entire plan as government-run. When Sen. Tom Coburn said that under Obama’s plan, "all the health care in this country is eventually going to be run by the government," we rated it False.
• No death panels for Granny. The famous death panel rumor sprouted from a small clause in the health care bill involving Medicare. The new rule said Medicare would pay for a doctor’s visit for the purpose of end-of-life planning, such as discussions of living wills or hospice care. Opponents equated that with lessons in how to kill yourself, but every expert on health care for the elderly that we consulted said the idea was ridiculous. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin said that seniors and the disabled "will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care." We rated that Pants on Fire…
It’s odd, but what I see is a distinct warming trend:
Click graph to enlarge. Graph is from here.
When a survey commissioned by the National Football League recently indicated that dementia or similar memory-related diseases had been diagnosed in its retired players vastly more often than in the national population, the league claimed the study was unreliable.
But confidential data from the N.F.L.’s dementia assistance plan strongly corroborates claims of a link between football and later-life cognitive impairment. Records indicate that pro football’s retirees are experiencing moderate to advanced early-onset dementia at rates several times higher than the general population, the most glaring evidence to date of the dangers of professional football in past eras.
As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to hold a hearing on Wednesday on the issue of brain injuries in football, this latest data further underscores the possible safety risks of the modern game at all levels, from the N.F.L. to youth leagues.
The new information was collected by a lawyer for the 88 Plan, which the league and its players union began in 2007 to reimburse medical expenses of retirees being treated for dementia, and was presented to the union in a memorandum, which was obtained by The New York Times. The lawyer, Douglas W. Ell of the Groom Law Group, compared the age distribution of 88 Plan members with several published studies regarding dementia rates around the world, and wrote that “the numbers seem to refute any claim that playing N.F.L. football substantially increases” later risk for dementia.
But the outside data on which he primarily based this conclusion was not only mishandled — the wrong numbers were taken from one published study, grossly overstating worldwide dementia rates — but the analysis also included several faulty assumptions, experts said in later interviews. Correcting for these errors indicated rates of dementia among N.F.L. retirees about four to five times the expected rate.
“This was a preliminary effort at the request of the union to understand the facts,” said Ell, adding that he was acting as a lawyer for the union. “I understand now that it was flawed. I believe the union wants the true facts to come out and welcomes inquiries into this area.” …
Continue reading. Any reason not to simply outlaw professional football?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded yesterday to the U.N. Report finding Israel guilty of war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity by pointing out that Hamas committed war crimes — a fact nobody disputes but which doesn’t exonerate Israel in any way. Netanyahu argued, accurately, that Hamas committed four types of war crimes, one of which is this: “they’ve been holding our captured soldier, Gilad Shalit, without access to the Red Cross, for three years.”
So holding prisoners without providing access to the Red Cross is a “war crime”? Who knew?
The CIA quietly moved scores of detainees out of its own “black site” prisons in recent years and turned them over to foreign governments, refusing to provide the International Red Cross any information about their treatment or whereabouts, according to a report made public this week.
There is substantial reason to believe that these “ghost detainees” included some high-profile suspects, including Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a Libyan-born jihadist captured in Afghanistan whose claims about ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were prominently used by top Bush administration officials to justify the war in Iraq, according to human-rights activists who have closely followed the issue. Following the U.S. invasion, al-Libi recanted those claims, saying he fabricated his story about Iraq-Qaeda ties in order to get his interrogators to stop their abusive treatment of him. After his recantation became known in 2004, U.S. government officials dropped all public references to him and he was never heard from again — even though he was once hailed as the U.S. military’s first big “catch” after the 9/11 attacks.
When Red Cross officials later pressed for information about what happened to such “ghost” detainees, U.S. government officials insisted they were returned to their country of origin under assurances they would be given “humane” treatment, the report states. But the Red Cross was never given access to the detainees — nor told anything about what happened to them after they were sent back. Nor were U.S. State Department officials given details of the transfers or details about the nature of the “assurances” of humane treatment provided by foreign intelligence services to the CIA, according to a former top Bush administration official who was aware of the transfers but who asked not to be publicly identified because the issue remains highly classified. “This issue has been hiding in plain sight — but nobody has connected the dots,” said the former official.
The Red Cross remains “gravely concerned” that a “significant number” of these prisoners may have been subjected to abusive treatment — and that the organization “has not received any clarification of the fate of these persons,” the report states.
Something very unusual happened on The Washington Post Editorial Page today: they deigned to address a response from one of their readers, who "challenged [them] to explain what he sees as a contradiction in [their] editorial positions": namely, the Post demands that Obama’s health care plan not be paid for with borrowed money, yet the very same Post Editors vocally support escalation in Afghanistan without specifying how it should be paid for. "Why is it okay to finance wars with debt, asks our reader, but not to pay for health care that way?"
The Post editors give two answers…
Trent Hamm has a post worth reading and an idea worth trying:
A little over a year ago, I began trying a new idea in my personal journal. Each day, I wrote down the five best things that happened to me that day.
I started this as a way to reflect on the positive things in my life and, psychologically, it’s been a very positive thing. I can browse through those lists and realize how good my life is, even when times feel kind of tough. Each day, I sit down and reflect on all of the good things that happened in my life. In the end, it’s really raised my mood and helped me to reflect on the wonderful aspects of my life.
Once I crossed the one year mark with this, I decided to take a tally of the things I had written down. How many involved my kids? How many involved my wife?
And perhaps most interestingly to you, how many of the entries involved spending money?
Here are the results (rounded to the nearest percentage): …
Here at Skeptical Science, I tend to go on a bit about CO2. However, as readers often point out, CO2 is not the only driver of climate. There are a myriad of other radiative forcings that affect the planet’s energy imbalance. Volcanoes, solar variations, clouds, methane, aerosols – these all change the way energy enters and/or leaves our climate. So why the focus on CO2? Is it because I’m a hysterical treehugger determined to run peoples’ lives with a one world government? Or is there a rational, scientific reason for this CO2 preoccupation? Let’s find out which…
When I first started investigating global warming science, I attempted to discern the cause by a process of elimination. I studied all possible causes and ruled out any that couldn’t be causing all the warming. As my understanding grew, I came to realise this was an inappropriate approach. Understanding what drives climate does not occur by a process of elimination. It’s happens by a process of integration. There are many influences of climate and they all need to be considered together to gain the full picture.
For clarity, let me note a few definitions. Radiative forcing is loosely defined as the change in net energy flow at the top of the atmosphere. In this post, we’re talking about the radiative forcing from 1750 to 2005. Values are taken from Chapter 2 of the IPCC AR4 which in turn took all their values from peer reviewed papers – apologies that I was too lazy to cite all the original sources. Positive radiative forcing has a warming effect (so obviously, negative radiative forcing has a cooling effect)…
I’m noticing that the Mühle razor pictured seems always to result in a very good shave indeed. It carries the same Astra Keramik Platinum blade that I installed when I got the razor, and today’s shave was as good as ever. The Grosvenor brush, though soaked, still didn’t carry quite enough lather for the third pass, but a quick whisk of the brush over the top of QED’s Grapefruit & Peppermint loaded with enough soap for the final pass—and I do like the Grapefruit/Peppermint combination, though it’s not one that would have occurred to me. Aqua Velva provided a cooling finish.