Archive for September 22nd, 2011
So my laptop suddenly warned me that the battery was about to expire—but it was plugged in! And then I noticed the little light on the power plug at the computer was not lit. I took the computer with power cord to a few different outlets: no light on any.
So it’s either the computer or the cord. I suspect the cord, but… So I go to the Apple store to seek help (and a new power cord, probably). The guy at the door wants to sign me up for a Genius Bar appointment in three hours, expecting that I will be happy to drive home, wait, and drive back.
I suggest that we just take a quick look to see if the problem’s the computer or the cord. Although I could tell he didn’t like the idea, I took one of the power cords on a display computer (they’re attached magnetically) and attached it my computer: the little light lit at once.
“It’s not the computer, it’s the power unit,” I said, showing him the light.
I wanted just to swap for a new power unit, but they refused to do that. Although the power unit is covered under warranty (I got the computer only a few months ago), and although the power unit is obviously bad and the replacement is there, and my customer file is readily available—No. Absolute refusal. I must talk to a technician. Or I could just buy the power adapter. $80.00.
So now I must wait (I’m writing this on my desktop) and return in a couple hours. Custoner service, Apple style. I suppose it’s better than customer service, IBM style.
Still, I suppose it does give the store employees some satisfaction to force customers to follow their rules, especially when the rule is senseless. Power over others: the TSA runs on that.
The military has not in general done justice well. The usual response is to focus on enlisted personnel, using them as scapegoats in order that no officers suffer any punishment beyond mild administrative actions and those limited to lieutenants. Michael Doyle and Marisa Taylor report for McClatchy:
Six years ago, Congress tried cracking down on rape in the military. Prompted by disturbing reports of sexual assaults in military academies and war zones, lawmakers rewrote the rules. They wanted to protect victims and help prosecutors.
Now it’s clear that the effort backfired.
The politically attractive but poorly understood legal changes have incited courtroom confusion, judicial frustration and constitutional conflict. Extensive interviews and a McClatchy review of thousands of pages of court documents and internal studies find a congressionally caused crisis of military justice that few civilians know anything about.
The rewritten sexual assault law puts judges “in an impossible position,” the top military appellate court warned. Military lawyers find it “cumbersome and confusing,” a Pentagon task force noted. It leads to “unwarranted acquittals,” Defense Department officials added. And some judges call it unconstitutional.
“The law is an abomination as it is now written,” said Charles Gittins, a former military judge advocate who’s now a defense attorney.
Individual military judges likewise assail the new law. One, Marine Corps Lt. Col. Raymond Beal II, called it “horribly flawed.” Another, J.A. Maksym of the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals, blasted it as “poorly written, confusing and arguably absurd.” Yet another, Air Force Col. Don Christensen, called it “almost incomprehensible.”
“If you had 100 monkeys with a typewriter, they’d probably come up with something like this,” Christensen declared during a 2009 aggravated sexual assault case.
A Senate bill introduced in June and proposed by the Defense Department tries to fix the problems that the earlier congressional action created. The bill is pending.
The present law now under fire has particularly complicated trials that involve intoxicated victims and those who say they’ve been assaulted by acquaintances, two common allegations in the military. The confusion about the law can lead to injustice.
Consider the case of a former Air Force enlisted man stationed at California’s Travis Air Force Base.
Stephen Prather, 23, had been accused of aggravated sexual assault by an intoxicated guest of a party that Prather and his wife threw in October 2007.
Prather said he and the guest had engaged in consensual sex. The woman, though, testified that she fell asleep and woke briefly to find Prather on top of her. When she awoke again, she said, she found semen on her underwear.
Prather had raised the woman’s alleged consent as a defense. Prosecutors countered that the woman, whom court documents didn’t identify, was too intoxicated to give consent.
The problem was that the rewritten law had shifted the burden of proof involving consent, appeals court judges concluded. Prather, as the defendant, had the burden to prove that the alleged victim was capable of consenting. Under the Constitution, though, it’s the prosecution that’s supposed to shoulder the burden of proof.
This “results in an unconstitutional burden shift to the accused,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces said of the new law in its February 2011 decision dismissing Prather’s conviction. . .
Good progress on my type 2 diabetes: my fasting blood glucose level was 87 (wow! It’s been years since it was below 100. It used to be regularly around 90-95); my HbA1c was 5.3%; and I officially no longer have to do blood-glucose readings. (I haven’t been, but the doc said this time that I could discontinue those.)
175.8 lbs this morning. Still want to get down to 170.
I have repeatedly blogged how the Catholic church vigorously and knowingly protects pedophile priests, going to great lengths to keep them safe from detection and prosecution, even to the point of transferring them to new parishes (with new prey) when discovery is threatened. Indeed, bishops have agreed to stop this practice but then deliberately ignore their own agreements so as to provide the protection the pedophiles need. (See this post for an example.)
I do see, however, that this behavior seems common to all organizations: protect their members from those outside the organization at all costs—especially, it seems, if the outsiders are correct and the member is in the wrong. It’s a question of loyalty, as I’ve pointed out, and humans—as social animals—place a high value on group loyalty, much higher than the value placed on loyalty to principles and moral guidelines.
So the military covers up military crimes, the financial industry protects perpetrators of financial misdeeds, police forces protect aberrant members, and so on. Usually, at some point the misdeeds become so great that they threaten the group, at which point action is taken. But action is almost always delayed in order to hide the crime and protect the group: groups don’t like “outsiders”, even if (or especially if) they’re in the right and the group member is in the wrong.
It’s true for doctors as well. When doctors are caught in medical malpractice, the problem is finding other doctors who will testify. Difficult: doctors protect their own. And you’ll notice that many doctors (certainly not all: every group has members who are able to look dispassionately at the merits of individual cases, but these are almost always a small minority) feel that the best way to stop medical malpractice is to make it infeasible for victims to have recourse to the courts. These doctors spend all their energy attacking lawyers (“trial lawyers” can be said with a tone and inflection more commonly used with “serial rapists”) and trying to pass laws that prevent lawsuits or restrict awards regardless of harm done.
And, as in many cases of groups protection schemes, when a miscreant is eventually identified, typically by actions taken outside the group, the offenders are protected—the Catholic church transfers offenders to new locations, medical associations and licensing groups refuse to sanction members, and so on. This story, by Tracy Weber and Charles Ornstein, is typical:
Two years ago, drugmaker Eli Lilly pleaded guilty to illegally marketing its blockbuster antipsychotic Zyprexa for elderly patients. Lilly paid $1.4 billion in criminal penalties and settlements in four civil lawsuits.
But a doctor named as a co-defendant in one suit – for allegedly taking kickbacks to prescribe the drug extensively at nursing homes – never was pursued.
Last year, Alpharma paid $42.5 million to settle federal allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to prescribe its painkiller Kadian.
“Health-care decisions must be based solely upon what is best for the individual patient and not on which pharmaceutical company is paying the doctor the biggest kickback,” Rod J. Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, said in a statement announcing the settlement.
But the doctors accused of trading prescriptions for paid speaking gigs faced no consequences.
At least 15 drug and medical-device companies have paid $6.5 billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks. However, none of the more than 75 doctors named as participants were sanctioned, despite allegations of fraud or of conduct that put patients at risk, a review by ProPublica found.
Reporters reviewed hundreds of pages of court records and interviewed current and former federal prosecutors, state medical board officials, attorneys for whistleblowers and, when possible, the doctors. For each doctor identified in a suit, ProPublica checked for state medical board discipline, penalties from the Medicare program and federal criminal charges.
In many of the cases, it appears that not even a cursory investigation was done to see whether the physicians had behaved inappropriately. . .
It seems unsurprising that Bisphenol-A, when used in the linings of cans holding food, appears as well in the food. This substance mimics hormones in the body: not a good thing to ingest, particularly bad for pregnant women and young children. But: industry likes using Bisphenol-A. So our government totally does not know what to do: protect children and the environment? or do what its corporate masters demand? It’s quite a dilemma, as you can imagine.
Janet Raloff has a Science News article about a recent finding:
Then again, it only tested a dozen cans. And considering there were two replicates of each type (one purchased in California, the other in Wisconsin), that means it examined only six foods for BPA, a constituent of food-grade plastics and metal-food-can liners.
Partially compensating for the new study’s small size, the Breast Cancer Fund argues, is that the items it focused on are “marketed to and consumed by children.”
Labels on three of those products have cartoon or Sesame Street figures, two others mention having the taste kids love and the last has a bunny on the label with kid-sized pasta inside. Since U.S. health agencies have identified developing children as being most at risk for any adverse effects of BPA, kids’ entrees and serving ware are precisely where we’d least like to find the contaminant.
Still, three soups and three pasta dishes hardly represent a reasonable cross-section of canned goods, even those typically fed to kids. So it would be hard to estimate from the values measured in these foods — from 34 to 148 parts per billion in the soups and from 10 to 34 ppb in the pasta products — a child’s weekly (much less annual) intake of foodborne BPA.
To get a better gauge of that, parents might want to consult findings of a study that we reported on four months ago (almost to the day). In that investigation, Food and Drug Administration chemists turned up the estrogen-mimicking BPA in 71 of 78 canned goods sampled.
If the Breast Cancer Fund study had been peer reviewed (which it wasn’t), reviewers should certainly have required a comparison of the newfound BPA values with previously reported amounts.
FDA, for instance, found that a number of foods that children often eat — among them canned tuna and vegetables — had BPA tainting of 300 to more than 700 ppb. Canned pasta and meat products, by contrast, tended to be on the low end of the range of BPA contamination that FDA chemists measured (and within the ballpark just reported by the Breast Cancer Fund).
The North American Metal Packaging Alliance — whose members make food cans — puts a rather upbeat spin on the Breast Cancer Fund’s findings, saying that . . .