Links 10/30/14

Links for you. Science:

What Made Women Scarce in Computer Science Courses in the US?
Biological litmus paper detects Ebola strains
In an astonishing and unexpected revival, dubbed the ‘Phoenix Effect’, reefs around the world are returning to life
Death Of Northern White Rhino Leaves Only Six Left In Existence
Sanity and Santé: How the Gambia is Keeping Ebola at Bay (but somehow the states of New Jersey and New York can’t?)

Other:

What Not to Do
Chuck Todd, Man of the People
YOUTHFUL SHENANIGANS
More Men Are Raped in US Than Women?
Rocket’s Red Glare
For Iraq’s Sunnis, sectarian militias pose an extra threat
The future is disappearing: How humanity is falling short of its grand technological promise
They Need Him, So Why Was Michael Sam Cut From the Dallas Cowboys?
Will the War on Terror Be the Template for the Ebola Crisis?
Ebola Hysteria Fever: A Real Epidemic
@TIME Gets Tenure Wrong, Part I: It Is NOT Hard To Fire a Teacher (no, it isn’t)
Joe Scarborough’s Ebola panic: He’s just “asking questions” about how we’re all going to get sick
When Stupid Is an End In Itself
If you want an abusive Daddy-in-chief for president, Chris Christie’s your man
Fast Food in Denmark Serves Something Atypical: Living Wages

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Nightmare in Georgetown

Observed at the corner of 31st and Q Streets, Georgetown, D.C.:

Nightmare in Georgetown

Not so scary from a distance:

Nightmare in Georgetown

All-knowing, all-seeing:
Continue reading

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Some Thoughts on De Facto Ebola Quarantines

With Ebolamania in full swing, a phrase that has really bothered me is ‘understandable fear’, because most of the Ebola-related fears are not understandable at all.

Here’s an example of understandable fear. You’re on the subway, and the guy next to you projectile vomits, then turns to you and says, “Boy, that trip to Liberia really knocked the wind out of my sails!” You would be a dope to not be concerned (to say the least).

An unreasonable fear is thinking someone who has no symptoms, especially no fever, can give you the disease–because that can’t happen. At all. The only ‘good’ thing about Ebola virus is that we can identify who can transmit the disease (feverish) and, important, who can’t. Avoiding someone who has no symptoms will protect you as well as changing the motor oil in your car would.

That is to say, not at all.

Over the weekend, I discussed the utter inanity of isolating an asymptomatic nurse who had worked with Ebola patients. While most of the attention was focused on New Jersey, in part because New Jersey Governor Christie’s default personality setting is “asshole” and in part because New Jersey seemed utterly unprepared, other states have also instituted overly strict regulations that are unnecessary. Consider D.C. (boldface mine):

By contrast, local health authorities in Washington on Friday began implementing a more aggressive voluntary isolation procedure, notifying all licensed health-care providers returning from Ebola-affected regions to isolate themselves for 21 days, including from public places such as mass transit, grocery stores and bowling alleys, and to limit physical contact with spouses or others.

Essentially, this is an at-home quarantine for no reason at all. We are denying those who have risked much (or all) their basic freedoms because some of us are foolishly afraid, not because there is a legitimate medical reason to do so. Here’s what that means (boldface mine):

Or look at the case of Kaci Hickox, the Doctors Without Borders nurse detained at Newark Airport. This is what she thought about while she was held, in a tent, even after her Ebola test came back negative:

I recalled my last night at the Ebola management center in Sierra Leone. I was called in at midnight because a 10-year-old girl was having seizures. I coaxed crushed tablets of Tylenol and an anti-seizure medicine into her mouth as her body jolted in the bed.

It was the hardest night of my life. I watched a young girl die in a tent, away from her family.

Imagine coming back from that experience and being told: You cannot see anyone you care about. You cannot go out in public. You will stay alone in a tent, too. You will spend the next three weeks without any human contact whatsoever. You cannot see your spouse, your kids, or your friends. And, by the way, thanks for your service.

“Nurses and doctors everyday risk their lives for patients,” says Linda Greene, an infectious disease specialist and board member of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, which opposes Ebola quarantines. “Our approach to them, when they return, is punishment. Three weeks is a long time.”

To its credit, the CDC’s new guidelines would require daily monitoring–which should be done–but do not call for at-home quarantine, if the worker is asymptomatic and cooperating with authorities.

Leaving the curtailing of civil rights and the basic indecency of confining people for no goddamn reason, these stricter measures clearly haven’t been thought through:

On the off chance she does have Ebola, will the State of New Jersey [or the District] force hospital personnel to remain in quarantine as well? What about all of the people who interrogated her? Will they be quarantined as well? …Most importantly, have they even considered this question?….

In Nebraska, it took forty to sixty people to care for a single patient. We’re going isolate at-home all those medical workers without cause? If we had multiple cases, we would start to run out of trained workers.

Unnecessary fear incurs unnecessary costs. Though if you’re not the one paying those costs, I suppose no sacrifice upon the altar of needless fear is too high…

Posted in Civil Liberties, Public Health, Viruses | 8 Comments

Links 10/29/14

Links for you. Science:

A Poop Bank in Massachusetts Will Pay You $40 Every Day
Salamander Shindig Appears On Front Doorstep, Shocks Homeowner
How the Right-Wing Media Smeared a Science Project
Bowling Alone
Public transit does spread diseases. But Ebola isn’t one of them.

Other:

EBOLA VOLUNTEERS ARE THE NEW UNIONIZED TEACHERS (make sure you read the second part as well)
The UNC Scandal Exposes the “Student-Athlete” Lie Once and For All
Warren’s Challenge to Clinton
The New York Ebola patient is a hero. Stop criticizing his bowling trip.
Ebola: The Real Reason Everyone Should Panic–Our Global Institutions are Broken
Tip and Gip Sip and Quip: The politics of never
Bioethicist: Hotels, Not Quarantines, for Ebola Heroes (not a bad idea, but the reality is that it would resemble what’s happening in New Jersey–the decent option isn’t on the table)
A Doctor’s Diary: Encountering Chaos And Kindness In An Ebola Ward
Teacher spends two days as a student and is shocked at what she learns
U.S. Ebola fighters head to Africa, but will the military and civilian effort be enough? (I’m guessing most people haven’t even heard of the PHS, one of our eight uniformed services)
Dayenu in Reverse: The Passover Canon of Arendt’s Critics
Today in #Ebolanoia: Online abuse, threats to force-quarantined nurse (yes, going GamerGate on first responders who risk their lives will help. Or something)
The new “blame America first crowd”

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Church of Hard Times

Observed at the corner of 12th and Q Streets, Logan Circle, D.C.:

Church of hard times

Panning out:

Church of hard times

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Dear D.C. Council, Getting People to Clear Their Sidewalks Isn’t Hard

The D.C. Council is trying to figure out how to make people shovel their sidewalks after it snows. While this might seem ridiculous in D.C., it does snow here, and about half of city residents walk partially (mass transit) or entirely to work. So it matters. Apparently, however, there are challenges (boldface mine):

Over the last five years, various attempts have been made to change the law that requires residents and businesses to shovel their walks after a snowstorm. None have succeeded, despite the increasingly snowy winters that the city has dealt with in recent years. A new attempt this year looks more likely to succeed, but it still faces opposition.

The current law, which dates back to 1922, requires snow and ice to be cleared within eight daylight hours of the storm’s end. If that doesn’t happen, the city can clear the snow for the resident or business, then file a lawsuit to recover the costs of doing so.

But according to city officials, those lawsuits are rarely — if ever — filed. “This cumbersome and bureaucratic approach has led to zero enforcement,” says Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3), who since 2009 has been trying to change the law to make it easier for the city to levy fines on non-shovelers….

Under her bill, which she introduced again this year, homeowners who fail to shovel away snow or ice within the eight-hour window would face a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second and $100 for a third.

Fines would be steeper for businesses: $125 for a first offense, $250 for a second and $500 for a third. The Department of Public Works, Department of Transportation and Metropolitan Police Department would be empowered to issue tickets to violators…

But for Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who has long opposed changes to the law, the issue is how to identify who owns a particular home, especially when many homes in the city are owned by LLCs and occupied by renters.

“I don’t think this law is going to work. We don’t know who the property owners are. Unless there is a very clear indication that tenants are not responsible and will not be subject to fines, there’s going to be a lot of confusion and anger,” Graham says.

The Ward 1 Council member also worries how residents will respond when they receive their first ticket for not shoveling their walks. “The angriest response I have ever received to a fine in the District of Columbia has been when someone has been given a fine for jaywalking. This will take this to new heights,” he says.

OK, first of all, if the city doesn’t know who the property owners are, then how the hell are they collecting property taxes on the residence or business? Second, once you identify the owner, there’s a simple way to get an out-of-state/absentee landlord respond: make the fine a lien on the property. Boston did that, and sidewalks that had never been shoveled for years suddenly were cleared.

It’s amazing what the ability to impair a landlord’s ability to get a loan will do.

Again, according to the Census, half of all D.C. workers’ commutes involve walking. Clearing your sidewalk is part of owning a home. You shouldn’t be allowed to externalize that cost to someone’s bruised ass (or worse) after he or she slips.

Update: By a vote of 7-6, the D.C. Council has voted in favor of snow shoveling legislation.

Posted in Boston, DC | 1 Comment

Links 10/28/14

Links for you. Science:

Barnacle goose freefall
Ebola Has Come to New York. Here Are 6 Reasons Not to Freak Out, According to an Expert
US midterm elections offer little hope for science: November vote is unlikely to break a political stalemate that has squeezed research funding.
As Ebola Spreads, So Have Several Fallacies
Scrapping Prepublication Peer Review.

Other:

Menino breaks off cancer treatment, seeks palliative care
Plutocrats Against Democracy
Real-time tracking comes to the Green Line
Where the Tea Party Rules (the self-destructiveness is galling, though the gerrymandering doesn’t help either)
Pro Big Corporate IRS: Agency Guts Whistleblower Program, Leaves Billions on the Table
The Science Of The Common Core: Experts Weigh In On Its Developmental Appropriateness
Google Hearts TFA in Worst Way
The War Nerd: How do you deal with wannabe jihadis? An upgrade to business class
Teacher tenure: Wrong target
Academic promotions should consider social media
The Hemingwrite
Matt Yglesias Entirely Misunderstands Why the Book Publishing Industry Exists

Posted in Lotsa Links | 3 Comments