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Today in “but, what, why” news October 25, 2014

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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When The Onion produced an article headlined “Experts: Ebola Vaccine At Least 50 White People Away,” I thought “wow, that’s so true”…in the sense of “wow, that is a piece of grim satire, but it sure does highlight essential truths about global racial dynamics.”

Turns out it’s “so true” in the sense that we’ve had an Ebola vaccine that tested as 100% effective in nonhuman primates since 2005.

And if they had promptly moved on to human trials, “researchers said…a product could potentially be ready for licensing by 2010 or 2011.”

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More of the numbers on guns. Plus the reason why we don’t have as much research as we should February 3, 2013

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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The attention span of the American media seems, miraculously, to be holding. The NYT picks a week and pulls stories from every day. The Twitter @GunDeaths links all the gun deaths in the US since Sandy Hook (or rather, all of the subset that it hears about).

Five people accidentally shot at gun shows on “gun appreciation day.” And that’s not even getting into all the other people shot around the country.

Other recent incidents include a 22-year-old getting shot and killed on the way to visit a friend, because his GPS led him into the wrong driveway and the homeowner decided it was a “home invasion”; and two men killed at a gun range — where they still had to call the police, because evidently a Texas gun range still doesn’t contain enough ~good guys with guns~ to be of any use.

“Across the United States, more than 5,700 children and teens were killed by guns in 2008 and 2009 — a number that would fill more than 200 public school classrooms — according to data compiled by The Children’s Defense Fund. That number includes 173 preschoolers, nearly double the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during the same time.

“Now, researchers who’ve studied the effect of the laws have found that states with a stand your ground law have more homicides than states without such laws. […] Hoekstra checked to see whether police were listing more cases as “justifiable homicides” in states that passed stand your ground laws. If there were more self-defense killings, this number should have gone up. He also examined whether more criminals were showing up armed. In both cases, he found nothing.”

I say all of this as a gun owner. I say it as a conservative who was appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president. I say it as someone who prefers Fox News to MSNBC, and National Review Online to the Daily Kos. I say it as someone who thinks the Supreme Court got it right in District of Columbia vs. Heller, when it held that the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to possess guns for self-defense. (That’s why I have mine.) I say it as someone who, generally speaking, is not a big fan of the regulatory state.”

[O]ne of the loopholes that enabled passage of the original ban limited research on the law’s effectiveness to the first year’s data rather than allow more conclusive long-term studies. A long–range, independent study issued as Congress allowed the ban to expire in 2004 found criminal use of assault weapons had fallen by one-third or more as a share of gun crimes in major jurisdictions.”

That bizarre loophole isn’t an isolated incident, either. The NRA actively pressures the government and institutions not to do research on the effects of guns, leaving us with a dearth of up-to-date research. Gosh, could it be that they’re afraid actual data will undermine the myths they count on to make money?

That includes the myth about just wanting to ~protect women and children~ (which is apparently not “emotional manipulation” when they say it): “Far from making women safer, a gun in the home is ‘a particularly strong risk factor’ for female homicides and the intimidation of women. In domestic violence situations, the risk of homicide for women increased eightfold when the abuser had access to firearms, according to a study published in The American Journal of Public Health in 2003. […] Another 2003 study, by Douglas Wiebe of the University of Pennsylvania, found that females living with a gun in the home were 2.7 times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun at home.”

If everyone who got shot felt the need to speak to Congress about gun control, we’d never hear the end of it.

And every hope is worth saving December 18, 2008

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup.
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Cracked.com is addictive. Not as bad as Wikipedia (or, worse, TVTropes), but I started with these bizarre discoveries (#6 is a manuscript; Aziraphale and Yomiko would perk up at that) and ended up at why the 21st century is making us miserable.

And then I lost a while more at the medical posts on Making Light, which cover everything from heart attacks to car crashes to apocalypses.

Speaking of which, Apocalypse: The Musical looks like a good watch. Followed by Barackula, because there is no way that “Barack Obama versus vampires” could fail to be awesome.

The Joy of Sex is getting rereleased, prompting reviews and historical perspective.

On average, you only get about half the information right when reading email. Not exactly news, but still depressing.

To end on a happy note: the new Red Dwarf movie has a shooting date. Flail abounds.

Obamallamarama December 15, 2008

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When I suggested a few posts back that Barack Obama was a Time Lord, the universal reaction of commenters was “of course! He’s the Master!”

Which makes sense. I mean, they have a lot in common. The Master was handsome and charming, and so is Obama. The Master seemed to come out of nowhere and rise quickly to power, and so has Obama. The Master ordered the murder of hundreds of millions of people, and . . .

Okay, so they have some differences. But only subtle ones.

But I do want to point out that, with that pose, those ears, and that suit, there are other options. (Also, Hillary is apparently the Rani.)

And it turns out Woodrow Wilson drew up plans for an immediate transfer of power in the event of his defeat in the 1916 elections. Clever man, that one.

I refuse to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person. August 5, 2008

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The NYT magazine has a huge article about trolling. It goes pretty in-depth, so even if you don’t need to be introduced to 4chan, it’s worth a read.

On a brighter note, the U.S. State Department now has its own wiki. And by all accounts, it’s working pretty well.

Speaking of wikis, this is all kinds of hilarious: Wikihistory.

And speaking of hilarious . . . okay, Embrace the Horror starts out parodic (H. P. Lovecraft meets the Flying Spaghetti Monster), but it gets viciously deterministic by the end.

If you need a pick-me-up after that, the Onion is happy to oblige: Al Gore Places Infant Son In Rocket To Escape Dying Planet.

And, to close on what may be the warmest and fuzziest note possible: 15 reasons Mr. Rogers was best neighbor ever. Seriously, this is amazing. It will restore your faith in humanity.

NYTimes – Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading? July 30, 2008

Posted by Erin Ptah in Fandom, Meta, News Roundup.
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A little something to contrast with the Rebecca Tushnet NPR interview: the NY Times has a story about reading on the Internet, and their Everyfamily includes a 15-year-old daughter who reads fanfiction.

And, look, I don’t mean any disrespect to this girl. I really don’t. But since the media is going to bump into fandom no matter what fandom does, who would you rather see them talk to? A law professor who teaches at Georgetown Law and has been a clerk for the United States Supreme Court, or a high schooler who can’t spell the word “dying” correctly?

For those of you who don’t have NYTimes.com accounts, the full article follows.

(more…)

When the Devil goes bald, there will be hell toupee July 19, 2008

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If there are one or more people on your friends list reading your blog who make your world a better place just because they exist, and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the Internet, then post this same sentence in your journal.

I’ve been running the Bechdel test ever since I heard of it, which has injected a note of sadness into things I wish I could just unabashedly love. (I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry, anyone?) Turns out film schools teach writers not to pass it. Hiss.

On a happier note: Fanfiction discussed on NPR. Featuring an interviewer who is not hung up on “omg how weird is this?”, speaking to an academic researcher who very clearly Knows Of What She Speaks.

And these family-friendly gay cruises are just heartwarming.

Closin’ tabs. July 16, 2008

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Buddhism may be dying out in Japan. And part of the problem may be commercialization. Does that mean it’s time for a Buddhist Martin Luther?

Oh, and they found a cool rock that either predicts Jesus or shows that Jesus was just cashing in on the buzz of the time, depending on how you want to interpret it.

Some rumination on how it’s darned hard to make jokes about Obama. I almost always laugh when TDS and TCR rag on him, but so much of the audience resists it—well, Jon comments on that in the article. (And Maureen Dowd brings some delicious snark.)

Schools are using more forcible restraint on problem kids. Most cringe-worthy line: “And the children, who have an array of psychiatric diagnoses, from attention deficit to autism, often do not understand what is happening or why.”

For something more thoughtful and less stomach-churning, check out this psychiatrist’s consideration of when to give out his email to patients. Also, therapists can have trouble dealing with rich people.

And on a brighter note entirely, Massachusetts is on the verge of knocking down yet another marriage-related limit, partly because recent developments in California have revealed that same-sex marriage brings the cash. We get rights, the state gets money . . . everybody wins!

Finally: Is it just me, or is this reviewing a book of RPF about Laura Bush?

Fun links and fireflies May 28, 2008

Posted by Erin Ptah in News Roundup, Personal.
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I’ve ushered four fireflies out of the house so far this evening. (I sure hope it was four fireflies, rather than one very determined one.) Luckily, they don’t have good enough reflexes to avoid being caught.

News roundup (wow, I’ve been sitting on some of these for a while):

A bunch of studies about language, and specific ways in which it helps you perform. Fun fact: many languages don’t distinguish between “blue” and “green”. Meanwhile, Russian (and Italian) have words for “blue” and “blue” (a distinction that English doesn’t make).

The NYT profiled xkcd. Is that cool or what?

And a recovering blogging junkie lays out her story. Seriously . . . this is pretty heavy stuff. I’m going to be thinking about it for a while.

That said, I’ll end on a note of silly-yet-righteous indignation: Stop Making Movies About My Books, by Dr. Seuss (in the Onion, naturally). I want to smack the author for writing lines that scan so badly; on the other hand, I agree with every word.