Pennsylvania is in love with fracking, and they don’t care who knows it. Their legislature passed a bill last month that makes it a secret what awful chemicals that energy companies are injecting into the ground in order to extract natural gas. It’s such a secret, in fact, that if somebody is poisoned by some of these concoctions, he’s not allowed to be told what substance, exactly, has brought him to death’s doorstep. His doctor must sign a confidentiality agreement in order to even know what the poison is, and he’s prohibited from telling the patient what chemical he’s been poisoned with. This is part of a strange new trend that holds that the rights of corporations are more important than the rights of humans. If a corporation is offended by birth control, it gets to prohibit their employees from using it. If a corporation poisons somebody, it gets to prohibit that person from knowing what they’ve been poisoned with. It’s all about protecting people’s freedoms, dontchaknow? →
Let’s say your cousin needs a kidney. You agree to provide one. But you’re not a match. No problem: an organ registry finds somebody who is a match for you, and somebody who’s already agreed to provide a kidney to that person is a match for your cousin. So you swap kidneys, and both people get new kidneys. It’s rare that something so simple can happen, and sometimes they get a bit more complex. But the National Kidney Registry just pulled off a truly momentous feat, coordinating sixty people over the course of four months in seventeen hospitals in eleven states to provide thirty people with kidneys. For the New York Times, Kevin Sack provides a remarkable profile of 59 of the 60 people involved, explaining how each person fit to weave a tapestry of lifesaving. →
I’m impressed by Drugcite, a non-governmental website that presents data on prescription drugs using open data sources, displaying it in a simple, easy-to-understand fashion. Today I really needed to research Coumadin, and Drugcite provided one-stop-shopping for that. It’s an open data site in the style of Richmond Sunlight, but rather than focusing on government (as so many such sites do), it simply applies the same concept to something quite different. →
- Double-Tongued Dictionary: hoghouse
"Connotating legislation that has been stripped of its original provisions and amended to accomplish a different purpose." This is a useful word.
- Office of Government Ethics: Executive Agency Ethics Pledge Waivers
These are the presidential appointees who were given waivers to exempt them from one or more ethics regulations, along with copies of the relevant documents that explain the circumstances warranting their exemption from ethics standards.
- Bulk Homeopathy
Save money by buying in bulk. They ought to dehydrate it, to save on shipping. Just add water!
- Bloomberg: Obama Lawyers Signal Likely Supreme Court Appeal on Health Care
The White House wants to end the federal appeals court rulings on the president's health care reform, and for the Supreme Court to take up the case. That's likely to bring a decision in June, in the middle of the presidential campaign. "President Barack Obama is trying to resolve the legal issues on his watch, said Alex Castellanos, Republican consultant. 'This is not politics,' he said. 'This is governing.'" Damned straight.
- NPR: Silence From Rep. Bachmann As Vaccine Challenge Expires
Remember the bioethicist's $10,000 challenge to Michele Bachmann if she would simply identify a single person who was rendered mentally retarded by the HPV vaccine? The money would have gone to Bachmann's charity of choice. That's an easy $10k, right? Apparently not—Bachmann couldn't do it. And of course not: her repeated claim that middle school girls have received the shot and promptly been rendered retarded is ridiculous on its face. It's important that dangerous lies like this be responded to like this, because the alternative is for people to come to believe that it's true.
- Wikipedia: Tontine
A tontine is an investment system by which a bunch of people pay into a pot and take their proportional share of the interest on a regular basis. As more participants die, the remaining participants all get a greater share of income with each payment. The last person alive gets a lump payment of all the remaining money. It was popular in the 1700s and 1800s, but they've both fallen out of favor and made illegal in many places.
- ThinkProgress: The Conservative Recovery Teeters Into Recession
17,000 new jobs were created by the private sector last month. 17,000 jobs were eliminated by the public sector last month. Bummed by last month's flatlining of job growth? Thank a congressman.
- New York Times: Rep. Shelley Berkley’s Cause Is Often Her Husband’s Gain
She's a strong supporter of (admittedly much-needed) better funding of kidney-care facilities. He's making a fortune on it as a nephrologist. If you ask her, it's just the darnedest coincidence. If you ask an ethicist, it's just plain wrong.
- List of Virginia Caves
The most extensive cave system in Virginia is Butler-Sinking Creek, in Bath County, at seventeen miles of total passages. The deepest is 786 feet—that's measured from the highest point to the lowest point—at Burns Cave, in Highland County. That's more than half again as deep as Virginia's tallest building is tall, the 38-story Westin Virginia Beach Town Center
- Guardian: Honeybees ‘entomb’ hives to protect against pesticides, say scientists
Bees are awesome.
- New York Times: More Physicians Say No to Endless Workdays
I'm glad to see that more doctors are ditching the habit of working endless hours. Though I appreciate that a small-town doctor or a specialist has an obligation to always be available, it's great that doctors who have a choice are working 40-hour weeks. The inventor of the residency program wrote of a doctor's obligations: "What about the wife and babies if you have them? Leave them." Enough of that.
- Good: Scientist Beloved by Climate Deniers Pulls Rug Out from Their Argument
A climate change doubter funded by the Koch brothers presented a report to Congress on climate change the other day. He intended to expose existing global temperature data as inaccurate. And, after a bunch of research he discovered that…climatologists are absolutely correct. AWK-ward.
A doctor and a physicist have put up a £10,000 for anybody who can demonstrate that homeopathic medicine works better than a placebo. Homeopathy is at best a placebo, at worst it’s something closer to medicalized superstition. “Homeopaths,” writes New Scientist dryly, “seem in no hurry to take up the offer.” Somebody will win that 10k quid about the time a psychic wins the lottery.