Yes, Virginia, the world is going crazy

Here are some of the observations and insights that were shared via social media during the past two weeks.

And now for something completely different [for my long-time readers]:

Pertussis epidemic: How Vermont’s anti-vaxxer activists stopped a vaccine bill” via @nahumg

Schools and homes are where disease spreads. And in Vermont, [Doctor] Till says there are “pockets of unimmunized” posing a threat to their communities, especially in the “hot spots of anti-vaccination.” One such hot spot lies outside the capital, Montpelier. “These young parents were born in the vaccine era and have not seen devastating diseases,” he says. Till says these parents are “picking and choosing which vaccines they give to their children.” One of the vaccines these parents are most often choosing not to give their children is against polio.

“I feel so sorry for the public.” Former chief scientist, Frito-Lay on industry’s deliberate contribution to obesity – via @TimOReilly

The public and the food companies have known for decades now — or at the very least since this meeting — that sugary, salty, fatty foods are not good for us in the quantities that we consume them. So why are the diabetes and obesity and hypertension numbers still spiraling out of control? It’s not just a matter of poor willpower on the part of the consumer and a give-the-people-what-they-want attitude on the part of the food manufacturers. What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive. I talked to more than 300 people in or formerly employed by the processed-food industry, from scientists to marketers to C.E.O.’s. Some were willing whistle-blowers, while others spoke reluctantly when presented with some of the thousands of pages of secret memos that I obtained from inside the food industry’s operations. What follows is a series of small case studies of a handful of characters whose work then, and perspective now, sheds light on how the foods are created and sold to people who, while not powerless, are extremely vulnerable to the intensity of these companies’ industrial formulations and selling campaigns.

Court of Appeal seems to ban Bayesian probability (and Sherlock Holmes) – via @undunc

… when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth
(Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four, ch. 6, 1890)

In a recent judgement the English Court of Appeal has not only rejected the Sherlock Holmes doctrine shown above, but also denied that probability can be used as an expression of uncertainty for events that have either happened or not.

US Dept of Justice DOJ Admits It Had To Put Aaron Swartz In Jail To Save Face Over The Arrest - via @wikileaks

Apparently the DOJ thought it was a reason to throw the book at Swartz, even if he hadn’t actually made any such works available.

The “Manifesto,” Justice Department representatives told congressional staffers, demonstrated Swartz’s malicious intent in downloading documents on a massive scale.

Some may agree with that, but it seems like a jump towards “thoughtcrime” since he hadn’t actually made any move towards making the JSTOR data available. It’s possible that he planned to only make the public domain works (of which there are many) available. It’s also possible he planned to leak the whole thing. But, really, you would think that there should be a bit more evidence of that before prosecutors throw the book at him.

More importantly, it suggests that Swartz was arrested and prosecuted for expressing his opinion on how to solve a particular problem. You may or may not agree with it, but I thought the US was supposed to be a place where we were free to express ideas. There’s even some famous part of our Constitution about that…

Finally, on a lighter note:

@Cmdr_Hadfield we found your space to-do list! Just one item left.” @davyay

to do list

 

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