Links 10/22/14

Links for you. Science:

Doing Diligence to Assess the Risks and Benefits of Life Sciences Gain-of-Function Research
In The Ebola Fight, A Defense Of Embattled CDC Chief Thomas Frieden (worth noting that if Texas Presbyterian hadn’t fucked up, we wouldn’t be having this discussion)
Budget cuts hurt USA’s ability to prepare for Ebola
An Ebola ‘Czar’ Won’t Stop Ebola. But What Can He Do? Czars and travel bans won’t prevent another Ebola case in the U.S.
If Airport Ebola Screening Makes You Feel Safer, You Should Know What Workers Are Saying (if we don’t protect all of the people who are the first points of contact, then we are not ‘bioprepared’)

Other:

The Making of Ferguson: Long before the shooting of Michael Brown, official racial-isolation policies primed Ferguson for this summer’s events. (long, but very good)
The many reasons millennials are shunning cars (another reason: driving is an awful experience today)
Riots Hit Kiev, Neofascists Hold Torch-Lit March In Ukraine
Alice Walton, The Villain (by the fruits of your labor, do they prosper)
Is This the Single Most Important Statistic About Millennials?
William Gibson Has No Idea How the Future Will See Us (I’m guessing ‘incredibly violent is somewhere on the list)
The Racist Housing Policies That Built Ferguson: The geography of America would be unrecognizable today without the race-based social engineering of the mid-20th century.
Syracuse University bravely saves students from exposure to journalism
Freezing Eggs Is an Extreme Example of How We’ve Privatized the Work/Family Clash
Midtermia
11 People Who Should Really Shut Up About Ebola
Grooming Students for A Lifetime of Surveillance (a little tin-foily in tone, but parents would be shocked to realize how much monitoring of their children’s habits goes on)
The GOP’s Dangerous Demagoguery on Ebola

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Louise Hand Laundry

Observed on 12th Street, between O and P, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Laundry house

You can read more about the history of the building here and here.

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The 100 Percent Fallacy and the Costs of Our Ebola Panic

Paul Waldman makes an excellent point about our Ebola hysteria–and it is a panic (boldface mine):

But Murphy is right in that Ebola is producing some of the same insane overreactions that terrorism did and continues to do. That “We have to be right 100 percent of the time” argument has been repeated a zillion times with regard to terrorism, and there are two problems with it. The first is that we don’t, actually. What if we were right 99 percent of the time? Then there might be a successful terrorist attack every once in a while. And then what? It would be awful, and the nation would survive. We don’t say we have to stop 100 percent of the 30,000 or so gun deaths in America each year, or that we have to prevent 100 percent of the medical errors that kill tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, or that we have to prevent 100 percent of the excess deaths from respiratory illness due to power plant pollution.

On all those other things, which kill many more of us than terrorism ever will, we say, well, we’ll do what we can, but you have to balance preventing those deaths against other things that are also important to some of us. Sure, it’d be nice if we didn’t have so many gun deaths, but we don’t want to restrict people’s right to bear arms. It’d be great if fewer people got sick from dirty air, but we don’t want our electric bills going up. When you enter “100 percent” territory, all other considerations must be secondary.

The second problem with the “100 percent” argument is that it inevitably becomes the justification for all manner of policy excesses, including spending hundreds of billions of dollars to create an Orwellian national security state and abandoning all kinds of civil liberties. We need to keep records of everyone’s phone calls, because we have to be right 100 percent of the time. We need to know what books Americans take out of the library, because we have to be right 100 percent of the time. We need to invade Iraq, because we have to be right 100 percent of the time….

So why not close all the schools? And while we’re at it, stop all flights in and out of Texas and post Army units at the highways on the state’s border with shoot-to-kill orders on anyone trying to leave? After all, Ebola only has to be right once.

Waldman’s absolutely right. There are other costs too. First, some CDC personnel–who are already stretched thin–are being retasked to Ebola work. Second, we are now shifting funds from influenza vaccine research–and influenza kills thousands to tens of thousands annually in the U.S. alone–to Ebola vaccine research. That may very well be the right thing to do, but let’s not pretend that there won’t be costs from this down the road. If we limit contact with Africa (i.e., travel and trade restrictions), this could hurt our economy. I can’t even imagine, if we overreact, the chaos that will ensue once norovirus (‘winter vomiting disease’–it’s as fun as it sounds!) and influenza seasons begin (the initial symptoms of both diseases mirror those of Ebola).

Keep in mind that no one other than two healthcare workers who came in contact with Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan–while he was very ill and infectious–have contracted the disease. Not his family, not his fiancée–and it’s not clear that they received the best infection control support from the Dallas Department of Public Health (not that I blame Dallas DPH: between Texas Gov. Perry’s unwillingness to put resources in public health and our general lack of ‘biopreparedness’, they did pretty well). Lots of things went wrong: people traveled when they probably shouldn’t have, many medical personnel didn’t have adequate protection, and so on, yet there was no outbreak outside of the hospital.

We should keep that in mind before we freak out.

Posted in CDC, Public Health, Viruses | 1 Comment

Links 10/21/14

Links for you. Science:

Why Bats Are Such Good Hosts for Ebola and Other Deadly Diseases
Fight fear of Ebola with the facts (maybe infectious disease specialist Besser should have been CDC director instead?)
The Origami Condom and NIH Ebola funding
The CrowdFund Science Crowd Mistakes “An Experiment” for “Doing Science”
Skunk Works Reveals Compact Fusion Reactor Details: Lockheed Martin aims to develop compact reactor prototype in five years, production unit in 10

Other:

“Yes Means Yes” is a terrible law, and I completely support it
The War Nerd: Nobody could have predicted Islamic State’s retreat from Kobane (except me) (excellent)
Hospital turns to PR to fight Ebola (this is what happens when you let the CEO class control healthcare)
Paid Sick Days Benefit Worker and Employer
The Serious Problem With Obama’s Choice Of Ron Klain As Ebola Czar
World Health Organisation admits botching response to Ebola outbreak
A Peach Of A Problem
WHO Admits That It Failed Utterly In Its Response to Ebola
Dallas nurse Briana Aguirre: ‘We never talked about Ebola’ before Thomas Eric Duncan arrived
America’s Hollow Foreign Legions
#GamerGate is an attack on ethical journalism (I’m sticking with table top miniatures)
A Tale Of Two Silicon Valleys: Wage theft, billionaires, and the rest of us
The Best Evidence Against Common Core

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Loukanikos, Dog of Freedom, R.I.P.

We did have a soft spot for Louk, so we are greatly saddened by this announcement:

Like all legends, Loukanikos appeared out of nowhere. It was December 2008, and Athens had been in upheaval for two weeks after the killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos by a police officer, who was subsequently found guilty of murder. Riots rocked the center of the city daily. It was a moment that politicized my entire generation, and as a simple observer on the day, I remember standing on the southwest corner of Syntagma Square, taking photos of the small clashes taking place in front of the parliament building and on the surrounding streets. As a police platoon started heading my way to retreat in the narrow streets around Athens’ shopping district behind me, I noticed a dog following them, barking at the heavily armored policemen.

I didn’t know it then, but that was Loukanikos. Lore had it that he hated cops, politicians and austerity, so he took to the streets again and again to make his point. Most will say he barked but would never bite, but some riot police shins would beg to differ. He would occasionally be seen carrying away tear gas canisters in his mouth. His courage got him a spot on Time magazine’s personality of the year list in 2011.

In memoriam:

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Why We Need Teacher Tenure: Because Protecting Children Shouldn’t Be a Firing Offense

A while ago, I wrote about how elementary school teachers in Holyoke, MA were being told to use public disclosure of test scores to ‘encourage’ better performance. Because humiliating children is a great way to make kids hate learning. Or something. Since this is 21st century America, the school superintendent tried to pin this policy on the teachers–who then publicly presented documentation that rebutted this false allegation, and pinned the blame squarely on the superintendent. As the kids like to say, you’ll never guess what happened next (boldface mine):

Now, Morales thinks his standing up to the administration has cost him his job. And a preliminary finding from the Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations backs him up. In September, the board found that there was probable cause to believe that the non-renewal letter he received in June from the district was because of his protected union activity.

Morales tells Salon that for the first two and a half years he taught in Holyoke, the western Massachusetts town where he grew up, his evaluations were stellar. But after the school committee meeting last February, his evaluations “just got so unbelievably negative.” He was elected president of the Holyoke Teachers Association, a local chapter of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, in May as a reform candidate, part of the Educators for a Democratic Union (EDU) caucus that also elected Barbara Madeloni president of the state union. A month later, he was fired.

All of a sudden I start speaking out and I can’t do anything right,” he says. “I can’t write good lesson plans, I can’t control my classroom, I’m doing everything possible wrong. All of a sudden. The writing for me was on the wall.”

…In Massachusetts, a teacher achieves “professional teacher status,” equivalent to tenure, after three years in one school district. Morales, who has been teaching for seven years, was just on the cusp of having this protection in Holyoke. It’s worth noting that tenure or its equivalent is not what Brown and other campaigners like to call it, a guaranteed job for life — the school district can still fire you, they’re just required to give you due process first.

Morales finds the attack on him frustrating because, he says, by speaking out he hoped to make things better. “Even in some of my speeches, you can go back and listen to them, I said ‘This is not about any one person or any one policy, it’s about a system that’s broken,’” he says. “I’m doing my job as a teacher, but because of my extracurricular activities speaking against some of the reforms, all of a sudden, my livelihood gets tied to my extracurricular activities and that’s just so inappropriate. Because here you have kids that are in front of me, and if I witness bad things, am I not supposed to report those things?

For all the people who rail against teachers unions and tenure, these kids could be yours.

No good deed goes unpunished, I guess.

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Links 10/20/14

Links for you. Science:

One more question, Dr. Frieden: 11 things we’d like to know about the new Ebola case
Here’s What It Looks Like When Ebola Fear Comes to the Heartland
Lax U.S. Guidelines on Ebola Led to Poor Hospital Training, Experts Say
The media is doing an awful job explaining Ebola, and #ClipboardMan is proof (but scientists are awful communicators. Or something)
The Ripple Effects of a Travel Ban Could Make The Ebola Problem Even Worse

Other:

Property rights
Why We Need to Break Up Amazon… And How to Do It (excellent)
Steven Attewell: Steve Rogers Isn’t Just Any Hero (this is really good)
The truth about our American schools! And about our non-journalism (one would think Vox would know the NAEP stats inside and out)
Shepard Smith: ‘Do Not Listen To The Hysterical Voices’ In The Media About Ebola
Carl Icahn has the worst idea for what Apple should do with its cash (Icahn is a fucking asshole)
Understanding Stalin
Abortion Without Apology: A Prescription for Getting the Pro-Choice Groove Back
As Boston Encourages Biking, More Suburban Cyclists Are Getting Struck
What people get wrong about the Yes Means Yes law
West Africans in Washington say they are being stigmatized because of Ebola fear
Many Americans Are Weirdly Indifferent About How the Federal Government Is Controlled
Don’t get too excited about a Wonder Woman movie

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