A Poisoned Oklahoma Town Says Scott Pruitt Should Know about Lead

January 18, 2017 Featured, In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 333

At his hearing today, Scott Pruitt (Donald Trump’s nominee to head the EPA) said he could not testify as to the impact of lead poisoning in children because he hasn’t read the science.

Okay.

It will be safe to move back into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone before it is safe to move back into Picher.

Scott Pruitt’s has been Attorney General of Oklahoma since 2011. Prior to that, he unsuccessfully ran for an Oklahoma Congressional seat (in 2001) and Oklahoma Lieutenant Governor (in 2006).Something else happened in Oklahoma during those years. A town, Picher, was ordered evacuated and abandoned because the history of industrial mining for lead and zinc had left levels of those heavy metals so high that 1/3 of the town’s children had lead poisoning. The order to permanently close the town came in 2006, while Pruitt was running for Lieutenant Governor.

Today, Picher Oklahoma is a ghost town, called “America’s most toxic town,” and one of the worst cases of industrial pollution in the history of the world. Where once there was a population of more than 2,000 residents, now there is an uninhabitable husk. It will be safe for humans to move back into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone before it is safe to move back into Picher.

How can a man who was Attorney General of that state, who ran for Congress and the office of Lieutenant Governor, NOT be familiar with the science of lead poisoning?

Better question: How can such a man be on record as opposing most EPA regulation?

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This is my beef with the anti-GMO folks

October 24, 2015 In The News Comments (0) 542

11960022_894806107272775_6139544909224918685_n

A friend shared this on Facebook this morning. It’s a compelling image, right? On the left, sepia-toned Americana: The classic farmer, in the field with his felt hat and his overalls. On the right, the modern farmer, his bright yellow hazmat suit protecting him from the dangers of his monster crops.

But of course, it’s pure deception. Continue Reading

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The Myth of the Brown Recluse Spider Bite

March 2, 2014 Animals, In The News Comments (2) 1827

Few things stick in my craw more than perpetuating bad information, particularly when it comes from a respected community of medical professionals and major media outlets. This weekend, the story broke of Ron Reese, a Tampa-area man who died of a necrotic wound on the back of his neck. Reese’s doctor diagnosed him with a bite from a brown recluse spider, and the media reported as much: “Man Dies From Brown Recluse Bite.”

My sympathies go to Mr. Reese and his family, of course, but the reason I’m posting is because Ron Reese was almost certainly NOT killed by a brown recluse spider. How can I say this? Because there are no brown recluse spiders in the Tampa area.

Rick Vetter is an entomologist at the University of California Riverside who has dedicated himself to fighting the myth of the brown recluse spider bite. See, each year multiple thousands of brown recluse spider bites are reported by medical authorities across the United States–but the vast majority of these diagnoses are almost certainly wrong, because they happen in places brown recluse spiders don’t exist. Continue Reading

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Creationism and the misunderstanding of science

February 6, 2014 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (3) 341

Lucy, AustalopithecusIn the wake of Bill Nye’s “Evolution vs Creation” debate with whats-his-name, Buzzfeed published a photo essay, 22 photos of creationists sending hand-written responses to Bill Nye. A few express philosophical or religious objection (“Where do you derive meaning,” for instance) a number are based on a frightening lack of education or understanding of science. A few examples:

“How did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?

“The only [in-between] found has been Lucy” / “Why have we only found one Lucy?”

“If evolution is a theory (like Creationism or the Bible) why [is it] taught as fact?”

“Does metamorphosis support evolution?”

I find this, frankly, upsetting. I feel bad for these individuals. Personally, I have nothing against people choosing to subscribe to Creationism, or any other religious or philosophical position. As I’ve said before, when one accepts as premise the existence of an omnipotent creator-deity, most religious beliefs make total sense as conclusion. That’s not a dig; it’s sound logic based on premises that are different from mine.

What upsets me is not the positions these people arrive at, but the lack of good information that goes into their thought process. To me these photos are evidence of nothing more clearly than the failure of the American education system. Continue Reading

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Study: Politics Make Brain Not Work Good

September 17, 2013 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 155

Yeah, okay, so this is a low blow...

His conclusion, in Mooney’s words: partisanship “can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills…. [People] who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.”

– From Marty Kaplan’s article at Salon.

A new study out of Yale Law shows not only that people cling to political beliefs even harder when confronted with evidence to the contrary, as prior studies have indicated, but also that such clinging harms the brain’s ability to perform basic reasoning, like simple math problems.

This is not a “nyea-nyea, everyone who disagrees with me has brain damage” post. It’s me sharing real concern for my own brain, and reinforcing my belief [oh no!] that we all must keep open minds and go where the evidence leads us–not an easy task for humans in general, but especially Americans.

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Video: Gene Patenting and Public Education

June 18, 2013 ACLU, In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 114

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-KLx4N7lqKI

While you’re at it, why not subscribe to my YouTube channel?

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The Purpose of Pendulous Boobies

March 18, 2013 Animals, In The News, Naked People Comments (0) 294

Bonobo female - photo by © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0Speaking of articles that drive me nuts, it’s pretty safe to assume that any time scientists make a “discovery” about human reproductive evolution, I’m going to get annoyed. Like this recent article about the purpose of enlarged female breasts.

“Larry Young, a professor of psychiatry at Emory University who studies the neurological basis of complex social behaviors, thinks human evolution has harnessed an ancient neural circuit that originally evolved to strengthen the mother-infant bond during breast-feeding, and now uses this brain circuitry to strengthen the bond between couples as well. The result? Men, like babies, love breasts.”

Now, the best explanation I’ve heard, summarized rather bluntly, is that breasts resemble buttocks. In many primates, you see, females signal reproductive readiness through a swelling of the buttocks. This works great for quadrupedal animals, but when humans moved to bipedalism, that swelling became both inconvenient for locomotion, and relegated to a position well below eye level. Sure, plenty of men still like butts, but maybe there was an evolutionary advantage in having a second “butt” in, let’s say, a more ‘prominent’ position. This theory is supported, says author Christopher Ryan, by the fact that bonobos, which also show an inclination toward bipedalism, are the only other ape to feature human-like breasts.

So why does Larry Young think his theory is a better one?

“Young thinks it’s because we form monogamous relationships,* whereas 97 percent of mammals do not. “Secondly, it might have to do with the fact that we are upright and have face-to-face sex, which provides more opportunity for nipple stimulation during sex.”

See, there’s a problem here. You may not know it (because science textbooks, and apparently many scientists, still cling to this patriarchal notion) but human monogamy only arrived around 18,000 years ago, when agriculture and the idea of property ownership arrived and human men decided human women were part of the “property” they were going to own. Homo sapiens arrived in our current form closer to 200,000 years ago, and our ladies have been swinging pendulous breasts since the start–as, likely, did many of our bipedal ancestors and cousins.

It’s about time we stopped teaching children the mythology around the “monogamous human,” where women stay home and mind the children, men go out and hunt wild beasts, and pair-bonded women have to hold the attention of their instinctively promiscuous men. It’s bullshit, perpetuated by churches and others with a vested interest, and the result of feeding it to our children (aside from constant stress and ruined relationships when people feel they aren’t living up to the myth) is scientists who draw false conclusions based on wrong information.

If you want an accessible explanation of the reality behind human reproductive evolution, I highly recommend Sex at Dawn, co-written by Ryan and Cacilda Jethá, MD. It’s a fun read, with some mind-blowing revelations around human behavior, and it’s quite accesible to the layperson [puns may be intended]. I will warn you, though, if you’re one of those people clinging to the one-man-one-woman model of human reproduction, this book (like reality–sorry!) is likely to upset you.

* [emphasis mine]

Bonobo photo © Hans Hillewaert / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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Alton Brown on Mythbusters

December 19, 2012 In The News, Pop Culture Comments (0) 106

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmEWWszWeCQ

I kinda wish this were a pilot, and not just a special episode.

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