Alarm after vomiting passenger dies on flight from Nigeria to JFK | New York Post

A plane from Nigeria landed at JFK Airport Thursday with a male passenger aboard who had died during the flight after a fit of vomiting — and CDC officials conducted a “cursory” exam before announcing there was no Ebola and turning the corpse over to Port Authority cops to remove, Rep. Peter King said on Thursday.

via New York Post.

Just how much dishonesty is going on here?

We are told that it would be “counterproductive” to ban flights from infected areas into the US.

We are told that it is not airborne, even though it apparently is: http://www.nature.com/srep/2012/121115/srep00811/full/srep00811.html

This is crazy.

 

On Using Godwin’s Fake “Law” To Silence Ethical Debate

Godwin’s Law ought to be enshrined next to Newton’s Laws or Kepler’s Laws for all posterity. For the uninitiated, Godwin’s Law states, “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.” The concept was devised by Mike Godwin in 1990 and officially codified into law in a Wired article in 1994. Since then, the evidence for this law has only gotten stronger.

Because of the unquestioned veracity of Godwin’s Law, it is perhaps inevitable that a journalist will, eventually, be compared to a Nazi.

via RealClearScience

Let us start with what ought to be obvious: Godwin’s “law” is not a law. It is an Internet joke that was funny the first few times you heard it, then started getting kind of annoying.

If someone is comparing you to a Nazi for frivolous reasons, don’t “call Godwin’s Law”, the way a five year old “calls” the front seat as he and his sister race for the car. Confront them! Trivializing the Holocaust is a serious thing, and you should make that case forcefully.

But this is not an obviously frivolous comparison. It might or might not be correct or “right” or “valid” or “legitimate”, but the author absolutely intends to make the case that the new “good” eugenics is not different in kind from the old “bad” attempts to control that which is currently viewed as beyond mankind’s control.

It’s a serious argument. It raises valid questions. Are we prioritizing the “purity” or “health” of the race is prioritized over the rights of individuals? Are we overreaching, using, exploiting, seeking to take more than we’re actually able to handle? Do we know what we’re doing? Are some of us going to benefit at the expense of others?

Are we compromising ethics in the same way that Nazi scientists did – and for similar reasons?

That argument deserves better than playground taunts about Godwin cooties.

A man voices opposition to reckless human experimentation on ethical grounds, and the science guy spews forth a stream of emotive invective laced with ad hominem attacks. Raise a question about the proper use of an applied science, and you don’t have a legitimate avenue of discussion. You are anti-science. But are you?

from Celebrate Life Magazine

Really, what this is about is whether a parent has the right to a “perfect” child – or whether society has reason to demand that action be taken against the birth of imperfect children before birth – even if that means stealing something of value from the child in order to “give” something of value to the parents, or to the larger society – or to the scientists who have the most to gain (while of course they aren’t the ones taking any of the risks).

The stakeholders differ – parents, not “The State”, are viewed as the ones who can and should decide when it’s justifiable to experiment on one’s own descendents. But this distinction is not significant from a logical point of view. It is only significant – very significant – from an emotional point of view, because we idealize parents and we don’t like to think about even the possibility of a conflict of interest between what a parent wants and what a child might want or need or have reason to value.

And the language is changed; we use language that suggests the child is the beneficiary. This is how our culture handles the taboo regarding the conflict of interest between parent and child that isn’t supposed to exist.

The only way to honestly balance the rights of all stakeholders is to do just that: balance the rights of all stakeholders. After taking out the exaggerated promises of success, and the equally exaggerated tendency to minimize (or outright deny) risk, what would a child in such a situation want?

I was an IVF baby. Given this intimate connection with technology and test tubes, you might think I’d be a cheerleader for all developments in the field. But a new technique under consideration has broad and troubling implications, not only for hopeful parents-to-be and their potential future children, but for all of humanity.

This new technique, called mitochondrial replacement or “three-parent IVF,” would make genetic changes to IVF embryos and thus to every cell of the children born as a result of it. And these changes would be passed down to future generations. Human inheritable genetic modification of this kind is currently prohibited in over 40 countries and by several international agreements due to numerous problems and concerns. But proposals that would break this long-respected international consensus are now under consideration in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The goal of the new technique is, in one sense, the same as with all IVF procedures: to allow parents to have an (at least partially) genetically related child. But mitochondrial replacement requires genes from three people, and a biologically radical process to combine them. It is being proposed for a small number of women who suffer from a particular kind of severe mitochondrial disease (many kinds are actually caused by nuclear DNA, which this procedure would do nothing to help.) The idea is that replacing the unhealthy mitochondria in an affected woman’s egg with the healthy mitochondria of a donor’s egg could produce a disease-free child (that could have Dad’s eyes and Mom’s bone structure).

It’s an enticing story, and some insist that the technique should be made available as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the families whose hopes have been raised, the feel-good story of a “life-saving treatment” covers up critical safety and efficacy problems, and hugely important social and ethical considerations.

On the safety front, there are a number of concerns for the women involved….

…There are also profoundly worrying safety and efficacy concerns for any resulting children, which a growing number of scientists are speaking up about.

This ethical dilemma would only be compounded by the fact that an effective, less invasive option already exists.

via Huffington Post (emphasis mine)

It cannot be argued that it is self-evident that any child would want to be experimented on in such a way.

And there is the conflict. Do we value some concept of scientific knowledge and/or genetic purity as a good in its own right, engineering perfect humans as an inherent good, or do we value the rights of people – all of whom are currently born imperfect, as measured against the current and future ideals of those who would “improve” us all?

Here is the quotation that caused all the trouble:

The empirical sciences don’t speak to principles of right and wrong. Those must be supplied by the human practitioners of science, or short of that, people of conscience with the moral clarity and will to hold them accountable. The conflict between Smith and Berezow, then, was not a case of anti-science versus science, but of science informed by conscience and directed for human good versus science barreling on, ignorant of good and evil. That kind of science was to novelist Mary Shelley, Frankenstein; to Lewis, The Abolition of Man; and to Jews in Nazi Germany, the death camps of Buchenwald and Auschwitz.

“Golden Rice Opponents Should Be Held Accountable for Health Problems Linked to Vitamain A Deficiency”

Except for the regulatory approval process, Golden Rice was ready to start saving millions of lives and preventing tens of millions of cases of blindness in people around the world who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.

It’s still not in use anywhere, however, because of the opposition to GM technology.
via Scientific American

Sure – we can arrest people for interfering with scientists’ right to save the world, because scientists are so expert that they know what they’re doing and can absolutely guarantee that everything will work as promised…so that means if they’re wrong, they can be held liable for manslaughter if anyone dies, right?

Right?

Whaddya mean “that’s not how science works”?

Baby born to a mother who had taken thalidomide while pregnant. Image via wikipedia.

Baby born to a mother who had taken thalidomide while pregnant. Image via Wikipedia.

Authority means accountability. If scientists want the one, they should be ready to accept the other.

And that doesn’t even touch the issue of whether they are taking too much license with the environment we all share. I hate saying that, because I am not at all a fan of environmentalists, and I hate sounding like them. To me the question is not environment vs. science, but rather the correct way to handle risk. The history of science is full of projects that crashed first and only learned to fly after examining what went wrong the first three or seven or fifty times. Scientists don’t own the environment. We all do. That is why the correct way to win debates over whether or not there is such a thing as “genetic pollution” or whether cross-pollination issues are potentially of concern is by persuading the voters – not by punishing thoughtcrimes, as this writer advocates, by making people criminally liable for invented crimes just because those people and their hard-to-rebut arguments happen to be politically inconvenient.

…or just because the scientific community doesn’t know how to effectively rebut a valid point?

…or just because the scientific community doesn’t want to even try, because they think people should just obey?

Maybe if scientists want to go back to the good old days – when people still trusted them – they could start with an apologize for their own past lack of accountability (which is why people stopped trusting them, after all). Blind obedience hasn’t worked out very well for too many of us.

Milgram Experiment advertisement. Image via Wikipedia.

Milgram Experiment advertisement. Volunteers were treated unethically. Image via Wikipedia.

The history of science is littered with experiments that were supposed to be safe but wemt wrong. A disturbing number of these science-gone-wrong stories have occurred in the third world. Scientists have a long and ugly history of using developing-world populations as their personal guinea pigs. For example, most people have heard of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment – but how many people know that after it was exposed and shut down, the scientists moved it overseas?

The Commission confirms that despite knowledge that it was unethical, US government medical scientists PURPOSELY infected  “at least 1,300 who were exposed to the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis, gonorrhea and chancroid” to study the effects of penicillin. At least 83 subjects died.”

Reading this article, it seems that wanting to experiment on third world populations is what this is all about. Poverty isn’t caused by lack of resources. It’s caused by corruption and other political problems. We already have more than enough food to feed the world. So don’t fall for the guy using Third World poverty-stricken people as meat shields: this is not about solving the problems of the poor. It’s about the question of whether scientists promising awesome things have the right to bypass that part of the political process where they have to prove their awesome products are safe and worthwhile – to our satisfaction, not their own.

In other words, it’s about self-governance (as opposed to top-down experts telling us what to want, think, feel, need, desire, use, and not use).

And the people who want the right to override our political processes – because they are quote-unquote ‘experts’ – have a history of being ethically stunted people who view the developing world as their own personal sandbox for exploitative experimentation.

But medical ethicists say that even if today’s research is not as egregious as the Guatemala experiment, American companies are still testing drugs on poor, sometimes unknowing populations in the developing world.

Many, like Markel, note that experimenting with AIDS drugs in Africa and other pharmaceutical trials in Third World countries, “goes on every day.”

“It’s not good enough, in my opinion, to protect only people who live in the developed world — but all human beings,” he said.

via ABC

Scientists have relied on bullying to artificially manipulate outcomes – in the case of GMO foods, they have forced people to falsely equate GMO foods with lower-risk foods. Yes, lower risk. There is a risk in GMO foods, and the scientists want us to behave as if there isn’t. That’s the heart of the matter right there – that is what they want, but they are not willing to do what they have to do to earn the outcome; they want to manipulate the outcome dishonestly. They want to deny the existence of real issues that could or do exist. They want to skip the part where they have to persuade us, and their preferred method for doing this is to replace self-governance with top-down bullying – using the three-step “impending doom” song-and-dance beloved of “progressives” everywhere:

  1. Make optimistic promises about how great the results of the proposed policy will be, then treat those promises as if they’re fact. (How could you be against ending world hunger?)
  2. Make dire predictions of impending doom if the policy is not implemented, and act as if criticizing (or even evaluating) the policy equals wanting that horrible doom to fall. (You don’t just want to end world hunger, but you want everyone to starve and die!)
  3. Ignore or, if necessary, deny the consequences if these grossly exaggerated and highly improbable predictions are incorrect.

There is always risk in science – that is why we don’t hold scientists accountable for the deaths their mistakes cause, even though science has caused a steady stream of death and mutilation. We know that science is frequently wrong. The flip side of this is acknowledging that scientists don’t really know, and aren’t honestly in a position to guarantee safety or certainty. Some of the worst atrocities in the history of science come from scientists losing their objectivity – forgetting that they don’t really know. Getting carried away.

It is accurate and correct to perceive GMO products as risky – potentially very risky – to both health and the environment. It isn’t “anti-science” to point out that risk warrants caution. We don’t actually know they’re safe. Note that the people insisting that we should accept they are safe are people who want all the profits while we are stuck with all the risk. (Normally risk and reward go together, but of course it’s always nicer if you can keep the reward and give some other poor slob the risk.)

The honest way to handle it would be to admit that consumers have good reason to prefer non-manipulated foods – and to price GMO foods less, accordingly. But they don’t want to do that. They want to make it so that you can’t tell if a food is GMO or not. They want to replace non-GMO foods with GMO foods.They want to own the food supply.

And, no, the fact that they’re willing to forego profits doesn’t mean anything – not when you’re talking about a product with the power to foster dependency and create market dominance. Remember when Nestle gave away baby formula? WHOOPS!

If their real goal were to prevent vitamin A deficiency, it wouldn’t be hard to dispense vitamin A to all at-risk populations without forcing farmers into accepting crops that may be wonderful or may cause serious problems.

A Step Forward in Mass-Manufactured Human Beings

Cutting-edge research around the world will soon launch a new era in human procreation – a world in which embryos can be ‘brought to term’ in artificial wombs, replacing traditional pregnancies.

via IEET

And rendering women superfluous. What was that about men being obsolete?

Babymaking will move further from being a human activity to being a mere manufacturing process – the Industrial Revolution meets “biological colonialism“.

The question of manufacturing human beings via industrial processes is addressed in the IEET article:

However, ethicists voice concerns that this technology could endanger the very meaning of life. Mother-child relationships, the nature of female bodies, and being ‘born’, not ‘made’ all play a role in defining how most people around the world view this magical state of existence called life. Artificial wombs will enable both men and women to reproduce entirely alone, removing intercourse from the reproductive equation.

But proponents believe people will reason, “Why risk gestating the baby in a biological womb, when this new science can produce a child with our exact genetic makeup, perfect personality, and zero flaws.

We are already seeing ethical questions coming from the use of surrogates – for instance, people who would not be able to find and marry an appropriate mate are using artificial reproduction technologies to bypass that problem, putting children into the hands of people such as the infamous case of the Israeli pedophile who contracted with an Indian surrogate mother (and the Israeli government has no power to remove the child, but must wait until there is evidence of harm).

We are already at the point where people are literally suing doctors who allow imperfect babies to be born. As we define what it means to have “perfect” personality and “zero” flaws, we will confront the question of whether there is in fact any difference at all between having “ideals” vs. merely “following fashion”.

When all the Down’s, autistic, and “sick” kids are removed from the gene pool, will that be enough? No – already there are those who define being too short, tall, skinny, fat, etc. as “flawed”.

Do we really want an entire planet full of people who look like Britt Ekland (circa 1978)? And when we have that, are we going to experience monocropping failures?

“Should government force businesses to hire felons?”

Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that the use of background checks in hiring is racially discriminatory. In 2012, the EEOC issued “guidance” to the nation’s businesses, citing statistics showing blacks and Hispanics are convicted of crimes at significantly higher rates than whites. Therefore, the EEOC ruled, excluding job applicants based on their criminal records would have “a disparate impact based on race and national origin.”

The EEOC did not say past felonies could never be considered in job applications. But the guidance made clear that an employer who chooses not to hire a felon could have to present a detailed defense to the EEOC. “The employer needs to … effectively link specific criminal conduct, and its dangers, with the risks inherent in the duties of a particular position,” the guidance said. Employers who cannot prove to the EEOC’s satisfaction that excluding a felon from a particular job is a “business necessity” could be in trouble. And whatever the outcome, the company could have its hands full with a costly lawsuit from the government.

“One bright-line policy you should not adopt is having a no-felons policy,” EEOC commissioner Victoria Lipnic told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a March 2012 speech. “If you have that policy, that’s going to be a problem if you’re subject to an EEOC investigation.”

Hearing that, many employers might say: This is crazy. There are companies that will reject a job candidate because he posted something embarrassing on his Facebook page, and the Obama administration is warning businesses they’ll be in trouble if they don’t hire convicted felons?

Of course a business, after a background check, might well choose to hire a felon. But that is the employer’s decision — not the Obama administration’s.

via Washington Examiner

This was an op-ed about an Obama nominee (whose nomination is now squelched), but the policy itself seems to be a real policy (http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/arrest_conviction.cfm).

Screen for felony convictions, and you may be sued.  That’s an actual warning to American employers, courtesy of the Obama EEOC.

via CFIF

What a horrible burden to put on businesses. It’s almost as if Obama wants to drive everyone out of business.

The Texas suit alleges that the EEOC’s guidelines on employers’ use of criminal history effectively intrudes on the State of Texas’ “sovereign right to impose categorical bans on the hiring of criminals.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that the EEOC’s 2012 guidelines would serve to force Texas employers to hire felons under threat of disparate impact investigations and suits prompted by the EEOC.

Currently the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has an absolute ban on hiring felons to become law enforcement agents, one that is supported by Texas law, but may violate the EEOC’s guidelines.

The parade of horribles caused by following the EEOC’s authority includes hiring felons as  “[t]roopers, jailers, and school teachers.” In the alternative, ignoring the EEOC’s guidance would risk a hellstorm of Title VII disparate impact investigations, a significant burden even if the investigation is found to be frivolous.

via blogs.findlaw.com

Two Separate Questions

So what are we to make of the divisions that emerged in the course of Arizona’s consideration of its version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the responses it inspired? I think it comes down to a matter of priorities, and to the broad-based willingness to let personal inclinations about what society ought to look like overwhelm a reasonable understanding of the ramifications of giving government the power to shape that society.

via The Federalist

Two question:

  1. “What society should look like” – that is, we should or shouldn’t limit Christian power, and/or we should or shouldn’t limit gay rights, or whatever.
    (In other words, the ends that may or may not justify the means.)
  2. Question #2: Should government have the power to shape society into (1)?

Are people even thinking at all about how it might change our world to change our structure of governance – changing the right to be free from governmental coercion into the right to use government to coerce the other guy?

Attempts To Terraform Mars Could Fail – With No Chance To Try Again

Most science fiction and news stories describe Mars terraforming as a long term but simple process. You warm up the planet first, with greenhouse gases, giant mirrors, impacting comets or some such. You land humans on the surface right away and they introduce lifeforms designed to live on Mars. Over a period of a thousand years or so, life spreads over the planet and transforms it, and Mars becomes a second Earth.

However no-one has yet terraformed a planet. There are many theoretical reasons for supposing it wouldn’t be as easy as that. What’s more, this process if it goes wrong could lead to a Mars that is worse for humans than it is now. It could so alter the planet that it can never be terraformed again in such a simple way.

What happens if you make a mistake with a planet?

Our only attempt at making a closed Earth-like ecosystem so far on Earth, in Biosphere 2, failed. There, it was because of an interaction of a chemical reaction with the concrete in the building, which indirectly removed oxygen from the habitat. Nobody predicted this and it was only detected after the experiment was over. The idea itself doesn’t seem to be fundamentally flawed, it was just a mistake of detail.

In the future perhaps we will try a Biosphere 3 or 4, and eventually get it right. When we build self-enclosed settlements in space such as the Stanford Torus, they will surely go wrong too from time to time in the early stages. But again, you can purge poisonous gases from the atmosphere, and replenish its oxygen. In the worst case, you can evacuate the colonists from the space settlement, vent all the atmosphere, sterilize the soil, and start again.

It is a similar situation with Mars, there are many interactions that could go wrong, and we are sure to make a few mistakes to start with. The difference is, if you make a mistake when you terraform a planet, it is likely that you can’t “turn back the clock” and undo your mistakes.

With Mars, we can’t try again with a Mars 2, Mars 3, Mars 4 etc. until we get it right.

via science20.com.

“Doctors on social media share embarrassing photos, details of patients”

Some doctors have misgivings about employing social media in the service of patient care: “What if one finds something that is not warm and fuzzy?” frets resident physician Haider Javed Warraich in a post this week on the New York Times’ Well blog. Despite his reservations, Warraich defends the practice, pointing out that doctors have used online intel to gauge suicide risk, discover relevant undisclosed criminal histories, and contact the families of unresponsive patients.

Social networking was also helpful on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. Doctors near the finish line tweeted accounts of the attack to local emergency personnel six minutes before official announcements were made, giving staff critical time to prepare for the arrival of victims.

But until the utility of online sharing in health care contexts becomes obvious to hospital operatives, they’ll continue to view it the way the rest of us regard twerking—if we ignore it long enough, surely it will just go away. Nearly 60 percent of the health care professionals surveyed by InCrowd report having no social media access in clinical settings at work.

The American Nurses Association, American Medical Association, and other trade groups have tried to soften administrators’ hard line by setting standards for social media use in the workplace. They’ve published guidelines packed with nuggets like “Pause before you post” and “Be aware that any information [you] post on a social networking site may be disseminated (whether intended or not) to a larger audience.”

via Slate

This really isn’t as difficult as Slate makes it seem.

Social media employing any potentially identifying information should be permissable if and only if there is a clear benefit to the patient, and privacy precautions are taken.

It’s really that simple.

There’s no reason why doctors need to be digging around or worrying about patients’ undisclosed criminal history, and there’s certainly no reason why we ought to view privacy violations as inevitable.

The life-saving nature of certain types of tweet (for example, the doctors who seek help in assessing suicide risk) may suggest that some types of privacy violations may seem justifiable, but there is no reason why professionals should not be held to roughly the same standards as other life-saving professional ethical codes with regards to judgment calls, and full privacy protections should only be waived if for some reason adhering to them might cause serious harm.

Professionals who don’t take privacy seriously should lose their license and face criminal charges. If the profession won’t police itself, the entire profession will suffer a loss of credibility – patients will rightfully lose faith and trust in doctors.

The issue seems somehow more complicated than this in the Slate article because they use examples that border on dishonesty: why would they even include the Boston Marathon bombing incident? What possible reason could they have for treating that situation as if it were somehow in the same category as the incident with the nurses who posted private patient photos on their Facebook pages? The Boston Marathon case could not have involved privacy violations, since the tweeters were writing about what they’d observed in a public situation.

Under no circumstances should patient information be uploaded to any site for reasons that are not beneficial to the patient. Nobody should be afraid to seek medical help for fear that he will end up on a Facebook page, ridiculed by the so-called professionals.

A good rule of thumb might go like this:  if you would be embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid of what people might think if the person whose information you posted found out what you did, you are probably committing a crime.

In 1999 the California HealthCare Foundation issued a report titled “The Future of the Internet in Health Care: Five-Year Forecast,” by Robert Mittman and Mary Cain of the Institute for the Future… overall, the forecast proved remarkably prescient. Its conclusions about online privacy foreshadow the equilibrium most contemporary patients and providers have reached: “[T]here will inevitably be several well-publicized incidents of people being harmed by public releases of their health care information—those exceptional cases will shape the debate,” the report predicts. “[I]n the end, people and organizations will have to learn to live with a less-than-perfect combination of technologies and policies.”

There’s “less than perfect”, and then there’s just professionals who aren’t behaving according to professional standards.