Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

November 2, 2008

Why do people have abortions?

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:01 am

This post is still drawing comments, almost three years later… .

September 3, 2008

Liberals claim ANOTHER faked pregnancy!

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:26 pm

You will be pleased to know that the liberals at DailyKos and elsewhere who broke the rumor that Gov. Palin faked a pregnancy to cover up the “fact” that her youngest child is “really” her daughter Bristol’s, are not taking the announcement that Bristol is currently pregnant lying down.

They’re now claiming that Bristol’s current pregnancy is a fake, to cover up the “fact” that the Governor faked an earlier pregnancy to cover up Bristol’s real pregnancy!

Can you believe it? Here’s DailyKos:

This is a complete cover up from the McCain campaign because the blogosphere is actually making headway in exposing Ms. Palin’s fake pregnancy. I made this deduction by how fast they’re willing to tell us about what we didn’t really ask them about.

Bristol is not currently pregnant; this press release is a head fake.
Bristol’s tummy is still big from the birth of Trig
Gov. Palin is using the ultimate cover up to cover her fake pregnancy.

Bristol is the real mother of Trig. And Trig is the grandson of Sarah.

This admission is all the proof we need; this admission of pregnancy is the red-flag.

Again congratulation folks for an outstanding “grassroots oppo job”

Congratulations indeed…..

I have always been impressed by the ability of liberals to believe mutually contradictory facts (as in this list which is portrayed as humor but is basically true).

But this really takes the cake.

Ironically, if Bristol were not actually pregnant now, there would have been NO WAY to refute the “fake pregnancy” charge — a DNA test can’t reliably distinguish which of a mother-daughter pair is the real mother of a child, since mitochondrial DNA is passed unchanged from mother to daughter (or son). And of course, if a DNA test showed that Todd Palin was the father, they’d just add incest to the list of allegtions.

And of course, they couldn’t use medical records from Trig’s birth, since the whole claim is that those records were faked.

September 2, 2008

Sex, Hypocrisy, Bill Clinton, and Sarah Palin

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

It seems that everyone on the left — from bloggers to CNN — are going on and on about the “hypocrisy” of Sarah Palin expressing pro-life values while her daughter was, um, … making a pro-life decision. And, advocating pre-marital abstinence, while her daughter was, likely without her knowledge, not acting according to that standard.

These people do not seem to understand the meaning of the word “hypocrisy.”

It is not hypocritical to “go on and on” about pro-life values and then make a pro-life decision. That is called, acting in accordance with your principles. It is called being consistent. It is the opposite of hypocrisy. It would have been hypocritical to do the opposite.

As for abstinence and hypocrisy: Have YOU ever done anything your parents disagreed with? Does that make your parents hypocrites? Or does that just mean you didn’t do what they wanted you to do?

Seriously.

Now, here’s some real hypocrisy:

  1. Liberals claiming that Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds were irrelevant to his qualifications, but Sarah Palin’s daughter’s sexual misdeeds — not even hers, but her daughter’s! — are relevant to her qualifications.
  2. Liberals claiming that Bristol Palin’s misdeeds are the public’s business, but that Al Gore III’s drug and drunk driving convictions are his own private business.
  3. The New York Times‘ long record of ignoring John Edwards’ affair and out-of-wedlock child, but running three front-page stories on the same day about Sarah Palin’s daughter’s out-of-wedlock child. So apparently the NYT’s view is that a candidate’s affair is irrelevant to his qualifications for public office, but the candidate’s child’s affair is relevant. Do they really expect us to believe that? Are they discriminating against women, or against Republicans?
  4. Liberals respecting the privacy of Chelsea Clinton, including her dating habits, but plastering the private life of Bristol Palin all over the front pages.
  5. Liberals claiming women should be able to work outside the home when they have small children, that Sarah Palin shouldn’t be VP because she has young children. And of course, they seem to have missed that from the time her first child was born, Mrs. Palin never had a full-time job outside the home until she was elected governor. Which, they are happy to point out when discussing “experience,” was not all that long ago!
  6. Liberals claiming to be against sexism, yet saying that Sarah Palin shouldn’t be VP because she has young children — but it’s OK for Barack Obama to be President even though he has small children. What do that think, that Michelle Obama should be home with the kids? She’s always had a full-time job before, even with young kids.
  7. … And ignoring the fact that when Joe Biden first became a U.S. Senator, Biden was a single father of two children both under age 4.

Note that when the Republicans are involved, the rules get reversed. Who are the hypocrites now?

August 21, 2008

A Secular Israeli Encounters China

Filed under: — Different River @ 1:52 pm

Anyone who is aware of, and interested in, the divide between secular and religious Jews in Israel, should find this worth reading:

Thank God we’re Jewish

Adi Dvir says her time in China changed her perception regarding Israel’s Jewish identity

Adi Dvir

As I have never been religious, and have always supported the separation of religion and state, I always wondered what it would be like to live in a land with no religious tendencies whatsoever. In my mind, such land had all the makings of a utopia: There would be no religious fanatics dressed in 19th century garb, no holy wars, and gender equality would reign supreme.

This utopian dream was shattered, however, after I recently had the opportunity to live in such country: China. I soon found myself thanking God we have religion in Israel.

Click here to read the rest!

May 14, 2008

The “Missing Child” Poster Experiment

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:00 am

Do those “missing child” posters actually work? I’ve heard some stories about kids with pictures on milk cartons and the like being found (or not), but the question in my mind has always been, what is the chance that someone who sees the child will actually see the poster — within enough time to make the connection between the two?

It turns out, most people don’t notice the child — even if the child is sitting right next to the poster.

Local 6 printed missing posters of Britney — a paid 8-year-old actress — and posted them at the entrance of the Fashion Square Mall in Orlando.

Britney sat alone on a mall seat near a missing poster as her father watched from a distance inside a nearby Panera restaurant.

The experiment was to determine how many people would notice or help the girl posing as a missing child.

Local 6 videotaped person after person entering the mall without even noticing the missing child signs.

Others who did see the posters on the doors were videotaped walking by the missing child.

So, people aren’t really that observant, right? OK, so they are busy and thinking about their own things, not looking around, right?

Well, no — it’s worse than that. They stopped a bunch of people who claimed to have noticed the child, but decided to do nothing.

“I saw her but didn’t know what to think,” shopper Megan Reed said.

“I didn’t even see her,” shopper Priseilla Landerer said. “I didn’t notice her.”

The majority of people at the mall who did see a missing person sign also saw the young girl but just kept walking, Local 6′s Donald Forbes reported.

“I took a good look at the poster,” shopper Tony Roush said. “I’m a photographer, so I’m good with faces and I walked in and I was like, ‘That’s the girl. What do I do?’”

Some people said they were fearful of getting involved.

And, some people were afraid of being mistaken for the kidnapper:

“That’s what I was thinking,” a shopper said. “I was scared the mom would pop out of nowhere and be like, ‘Why are you talking to my child?’”

“We don’t want to get really close because some people don’t like it when you bother their child,” shopper Linda Turner said.

Then again, two people did stop and talk to the child and tried to figure out what was going on. In real life, maybe that’s all it takes.

Still, it’s disturbing that people were willing to admit that they noticed and did nothing. I find this more disturbing than if they’d claimed not to have noticed. Why? Because the fact that they admit it means that they think — or think most people would think — that it’s OK to notice and do nothing. And THAT is what’s most disturbing of all.

February 13, 2008

Another Good Reason…

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 pm

… Not to live in New York City. Especially — and I really mean this — if you have a child who is over the age of 5, likes to read everything, and is inquisitive. At least, if you intend to ride the subway or drive or walk on the streets with said child.

New Yorkers Encouraged to Get Busy with Free Condoms
Health Department Unveils Ad Campaign, New Condom Design

Your tax dollars at work!

December 12, 2006

Stem Cells from Live Babies in Ukraine

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:12 pm

As predicted, now researchers are reportedly using stem cells not (just) from embryos, but from born-alive infants killed for their stem cells. This according to the BBC, which (understatement alert!) is not exactly a right-wing news source. (Boldface in the original.)

Ukraine babies in stem cell probe

By Matthew Hill
BBC Health Correspondent
Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 09:34 GMT

Healthy new-born babies may have been killed in Ukraine to feed a flourishing international trade in stem cells, evidence obtained by the BBC suggests.

Disturbing video footage of post-mortem examinations on dismembered tiny bodies raises serious questions about what happened to them.

Ukraine has become the self-styled stem cell capital of the world.

There is a trade in stem cells from aborted foetuses, amid unproven claims they can help fight many diseases.

But now there are claims that stem cells are also being harvested from live babies.

Wall of silence

The BBC has spoken to mothers from the city of Kharkiv who say they gave birth to healthy babies, only to have them taken by maternity staff.

In 2003 the authorities agreed to exhume around 30 bodies of foetuses and full-term babies from a cemetery used by maternity hospital number six.

One campaigner was allowed into the autopsy to gather video evidence. She has given that footage to the BBC and Council of Europe.

In its report, the Council describes a general culture of trafficking of children snatched at birth, and a wall of silence from hospital staff upwards over their fate.

The pictures show organs, including brains, have been stripped – and some bodies dismembered.

A senior British forensic pathologist says he is very concerned to see bodies in pieces – as that is not standard post-mortem practice.

It could possibly be a result of harvesting stem cells from bone marrow.

Hospital number six denies the allegations.

August 24, 2006

“Home-Based Day Care is Much Better”

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:49 pm

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that one. Better than what, I’m not sure. Some say better than a “day-care center” and some say better than at-home care from a mother who doesn’t have a master’s degree in early childhood education.

Anyway, the AP is reporting this story:

John Mark Karr, the man accused of killing of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, kept children at a home day-care center he operated in northwest Alabama, the state welfare agency said Thursday.

The Marion County Department of Human Resources issued a license for Karr to begin operating a day-care out of his rural home in June 1997, said John Bradford, a spokesman with the Alabama Department of Human Resources.

He said the sheriff’s department conducted a background check before the license was issued and no problems were found.

Well of course no problems were found — he hadn’t confessed yet!

(By the way: I’m still not sure he did it. He’s the fifth person to confess. For some reason, lots of people who had no connection to this girl seem to want to confess to murdering her. I am always skeptical when I hear it said that someone, usually a misbehaving child, did something “just to get attention,” but that might be the case here. This wouldn’t mean he’s suitable to be a day-care worker — someone who confesses to murdering a child is clearly unsuitable even if he didn’t actually commit the murder.)

August 21, 2006

The Banality of Evil

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:22 pm

With apologies to Hannah Arendt, here’s this telling quote from a panel discussion on antisemitism:

Ella Ringens-Reiner:“Those who actively approved of the mass murder — were people who conformed to the common picture of the SS men. They were sadists, the brutal criminals, organized, legalized, and dressed in uniform.”

“Worse, because more dangerous, were the people in their everyday life, and frequently, in their dealings with prisoners, were quite kindly, looked normal, and behaved like any other average citizen — and who were pleased with the mass murder, without any deeper emotion, simply because it was an opportunity for getting a pigskin bag or gold watch which they could never have afforded to buy. Among them were people little concerned with National Socialism … and yet belonging to it heart and soul — indeed, with fanaticism — out of their joy at the annihilation of the Jews.

“They were drab little people who would never have been conspicuous if no occasion for extraordinary behavior had not offered to them. … In normal living conditions they would have had their coating of civilization, and their coating would not even have been so very thin. Under the impact of steadily repeated slogans … they shook off their coating as if with a jerk, with a certain violence. And then part of their being was unleashed and began to rage.”

“Months after leaving the concentration camp I talked with a young National Socialist woman who, in the official classification, had not been a ‘bad’ Nazi, had never been in a position of power or personal profit, and in private life was a quiet, modest, friendly person. I hoped to move her by my story of Auschwitz camp, and finished by saying that no people had ever inflicted so much evil on another group as the German nation on the Jews. In reply she asked me blithely, ‘Why? Is gassing such a disagreeable death?’”

As it turns out the Muslims esteem the Europeans for the very accomplishment the Europeans would rather not boast about in broad daylight, that is, the Holocaust. When the Malaysian prime minister spoke to the Muslim heads of state last year he drew a standing ovation when he proclaimed that the Europeans murdered six million Jews and you too can achieve success if you improve your education standards.

This is another nugget of data for my theory: In most situations, most people just “go with the flow.” Some people are independent thinkers, and a few people are leaders — but most people will just go along with the crowd, doing great good, or great evil, or in between, depending on what’s going on around them.

Which is one reason why it’s very important to pick good leaders, and to establish and support a culture that makes good behavior fashionable.

August 9, 2006

When a Friend has an Illness

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:36 am

Read this for future reference.

July 14, 2006

Intolerance in Provincetown

Filed under: — Different River @ 5:09 pm

Adrienne P. Samuels of the Boston Globe reports:

Police say they logged numerous complaints of straight people being called “breeders” by gays over the July Fourth holiday weekend. Jamaican workers reported being the target of racial slurs. And a woman was verbally accosted after signing a petition that opposed same-sex marriage, they said.

The town, which prizes its reputation for openness and tolerance, is taking the concerns seriously, though police say they do not consider the incidents hate crimes.

(… as they no doubt would if the roles were reversed.)

Winsome Karr, 45, originally from Jamaica, has worked in town since 2002. Lately, she said, the off-color comments stem from gay visitors who mistakenly believe that all Jamaicans share the views of an island religious sect that disagrees with homosexuality.

A group that supports gay marriage, knowthyneighbor, has created a website displaying the names of more than 100,000 signers of a petition that calls for the state Constitution to be amended to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Knowthyneighbor’s tactics are controversial, with critics alleging that knowthyneighbor is making the names of same-sex marriage opponents public in an effort to expose or intimidate them. The group’s founders say they are simply promoting civic discourse.

The names of 43 Provincetown residents are listed on the website. Most of the petition signers attend St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, which serves the Portuguese community and others in town.

Does this remind anyone of that list of abortionists somebody once posted? That led to a federal investigation. Anyone see that happening here?

The Constitution is Constitional (#3)

Filed under: — Different River @ 4:55 pm

Clayton Cramer has an extensive analysis of the decision of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which “ruled that Nebraska’s constitutional amendment, approved by 70% of the voters in November 2000, is not a violation of equal protection.” This overrules a federal district court decision, which I reviewed here.

This is not quite is ridiculous as the Colorado decision or the Georgia decision (overruled), since those decisions held that a state constitutional amendment violated the state constitution, which is clearly preposterous. In the Nebraska case, the ruling was that the state constitutional amendment violated the federal constitution, which is at least possible in theory, though it was a real stretch in this particular case — if the logic of the district court was accepted, it was unconstitutional to prohibit slavery (as I wrote) or to prohibit establishment of religion (as Clayton wrote).

There seems to be a spate of new respect for the right of voters to vote on things. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow a vote, and even the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that they don’t have the right to declare constitutional amendments unconstitutional.

However, this ruling was not unanimous, and Eugene Volokh did a pretty good job of skewering the dissenters. The dissenters wrote:

If the initiative is approved by the Legislature and ultimately adopted, there will be time enough, if an appropriate lawsuit is brought, for this court to resolve the question whether our Constitution can be home to provisions that are apparently mutually inconsistent and irreconcilable. We may then give careful consideration, in view of what has been said above, to the legal tenability and implications of embodying a provision into our Constitution that would look so starkly out of place in the Adams Constitution, when compared with the document’s elegantly stated, and constitutionally defined, protections of liberty, equality, tolerance, and the access of all citizens to equal rights and benefits.

Professor Volokh — who would probably oppose the amendment, given his past statements, said:

This strikes me as deeply wrong: The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is saying that its judgments about equality and fairness under the Massachusetts Constitution trump not only the judgment of the legislature, but the judgment of the people amending the constitution itself.

And this, it seems to me, goes to the heart of sovereignty. Judicial review has pluses and minuses, but its premise (which I believe generally justifies it) is that the people have ordained a Constitution as the supreme law of the land. Judges must therefore enforce this supreme law as against any legislative enactments, or even the enactments of the people voting as ordinary legislators. The judges are thus acting as servants of the sovereign people, carrying out the people’s instructions. …

But here the two judges are suggesting that the ultimate decisions are to be made by judges, and the people have no right to the final say on the subject. Under this theory, the judges end up being the ones who are sovereign, with the legal principles that they set forth being immune from control by the people. That, I think, would be a very bad result. Even if one thinks that sometimes judges may use this sovereign power in fairer ways than the people do, the same can be said about dictatorship or monarchy (or even dictatorship or monarchy limited to particular topics). The premise of democracy, including of constitutional liberal democracy, is that the best — not the perfect, and often not even very good (consider Churchill’s famous line about democracy), but the best — place to repose sovereign power is in the people, not in Philosopher-Kings.

June 30, 2006

Shark Abortions

Filed under: — Different River @ 3:04 pm

Are Abortions Sad? Well, if they are accidental abortions of sharks:

SARASTOA, Fla. (AP) — The likely world-record hammerhead shark caught in May weighed 1,280 pounds because it was pregnant with 55 pups — the most scientists have ever seen.

“Although we are thankful that the fisherman gave this unique specimen to Mote, and we are learning a lot about this species from this large female shark, we were saddened to see so many unborn pups inside her so close to birth,” said Dr. Robert Hueter, director of Mote’s Center for Shark Research.

Would a director of human (e.g., medical) research say the same thing about unborn humans? In public, if he wanted to keep his job?

Recall also my previous post about the pro-life movement for dolphins.

“We ask fishermen not to kill sharks for sport and to remember that shark populations have been severely depleted by overfishing. Very large sharks like this hammerhead are often pregnant females that help maintain the status of the species’ population into the future. We advocate release of these large sharks and the tagging of them whenever possible.”

Is there similar concern for maintaining the human population?

If you ask the folks in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, the concern is precisely the opposite! (Their motto: “May we live long and die out.” I am not making this up.)

June 28, 2006

Would You Donate Your Virginity to Science?

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:07 am

It seem like the old concept of “donating your body to science” for medical research has taken a whole new turn.

The New England Journal of Medicine just published a paper by a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle studying whether condom use affected the probability of infection with Human Papillomavirus Infection (HPV), in which the researchers essentially asked female virgins to lose their virginity and report on their condom use at the big event, and for the subsequent 2-4 years. Furthermore, they failed to inform participants of all the risks of participating in the study — and in fact never even attempted to obtain consent of any kind, let alone informed consent, from more than half the subjects whose behavior was studied.

I’m sure you don’t believe me — no reasonable person would — so I’m going to quote directly from the article. (Italics in the original, boldface added.)

By the way, I don’t like the mainstream media’s practice of quoting anonymous “researchers” or claiming a study was done by a “university” rather than faculty, staff, or students acting on their own initiative, which is almost always what it is. The researchers have names, so I’m going to name them so they can take credit or blame. They are: Rachel L. Winer, Ph.D., James P. Hughes, Ph.D., Qinghua Feng, Ph.D., Sandra O’Reilly, B.S., Nancy B. Kiviat, M.D., King K. Holmes, M.D., Ph.D., and Laura A. Koutsky, Ph.D. All are from the Departments of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, or Pathology, or the Center for AIDS and STD, University of Washington, Seattle. And the authors state that the works was “Supported in part by grants (RO1-A138383 and T32-AI007140-24) from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.” Which means if you pay taxes in the United States, you paid for this study. The title of the article is “Condom Use and the Risk of Genital Human Papillomavirus Infection in Young Women” and it appears in the June 22, 2006 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 354, No. 25, pp. 2645-2654.

Now fasten your seatbelts, this is going to be um, an interesting ride:

ABSTRACT

Background To evaluate whether the use of male condoms reduces the risk of male-to-female transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, longitudinal studies explicitly designed to evaluate the temporal relationship between condom use and HPV infection are needed.

Methods We followed 82 female university students who reported their first intercourse with a male partner either during the study period or within two weeks before enrollment. Cervical and vulvovaginal samples for HPV DNA testing and Papanicolaou testing were collected at gynecologic examinations every four months. Every two weeks, women used electronic diaries to record information about their daily sexual behavior. Cox proportional-hazards models were used to evaluate risk factors for HPV infection.

Study Design

We restricted eligibility to female University of Washington undergraduates who were 18 to 22 years old and who had never had vaginal intercourse or had first had intercourse with one male partner within the previous three months.

Now pay attention — they are later going to change that “within the previous three months” to within the previous two weeks.

In addition, the women had to have a cervix, could not be pregnant, had to be in good general health, and had to be able to provide written informed consent. Since the goal of the study was to enroll a population of healthy women (rather than women presenting to the student health clinic with gynecological problems), between December 2000 and June 2005, we mailed invitational letters to 24,201 women who met the age criterion and who released their names to the registrar.

Let’s restate that: These researchers mailed letters to more than 24,000 female college students asking if they’ve ever had sex, and if not would they like to for a medical study. (And if they’d just started very recently, it wasn’t too late.)

Questions for the peanut gallery: (1) If you were a female college student between the ages of 18 and 22, how would you feel about getting a letter like that. (2) If you had a daughter who was a female college student between the ages of 18 and 22, how would you feel about her university’s registrar releasing her name so she could get a letter like that from her university’s faculty?

Given the restrictive eligibility criteria, we assumed that the number of participants would be low in relation to the number of letters mailed.

Translation: We don’t think much of the morality of our university’s female students.

Well, that might be the translation if the researchers thought that morality and sex were related. I’d bet it never occurred to them to consider that possibility, so they did not actually intend that to be a smear on the female student (er,) body. I don’t know if that makes the claim more or less insensitive.

We also provided informational flyers to contraceptive counselors at the student health clinic. Of the 243 eligible women who responded, 210 agreed to participate (86.4 percent). The protocol was approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington.

One might conclude from this sentence that what they “assumed” in the previous sentence was in fact correct — that there were only 243 female students out of 24,201 who met the “restrictive eligibility criteria” (never had sex, or at least not until two weeks ago). In other words, that 99% of University of Washington female undergraduates were sexually active more than two weeks ago.

However, we could also give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that some significant percentage of the students either didn’t want to start having sex, even for the sake of “science,” or just had better taste than the researchers. In fact, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any statement that’s true of 99% of any large group of undergraduates.

Later in the report we find this little gem — students were excluded from the study if they didn’t cooperate by losing their virginity:

Excluded from the study were 65 women who reported having had no vaginal intercourse, 3 women who did not record any information in their diaries regarding sexual behavior, and 60 women who reported having first had intercourse more than two weeks before enrollment.

They even have a neat little chart explaining all this.

Normally human research subjects are paid a small stipend for their trouble. I wonder if those enrollees who didn’t have sex still got paid. (If not, the researchers were arguably violating laws against prostitution — they were paying women to have sex.)

Of course, this all sounds very “scientific”:

Marginal Cox proportional-hazards models were used to determine risk factors for HPV infection. Data from diaries were summarized into risk-factor variables during the eight months before HPV testing, since most infections associated with a first partner (before the report of a second partner) occurred within eight months after a woman first had intercourse. Data recorded less than 20 days before a given visit were excluded, because 20 days was the shortest observed interval between the time a woman first had intercourse and the detection of an incident HPV infection in this study. The time to an event was measured from the time a woman first had intercourse to the report of infection with each type of HPV or the last clinic visit, with each woman contributing at-risk time for each of 37 HPV types. Analyses were stratified according to the type of HPV, assuming common relative hazards across HPV types while allowing the baseline hazards to vary. Robust variance estimates were used to account for correlation within subjects. Analyses were restricted to intervals in which intercourse was reported.

Yes, they use fancy terms like “time to an event” and “measured” and — my favorite — “Marginal Cox proportional-hazards models.” (Get your mind out of the gutter — “Cox” refers to the world-famous British statistician, Sir David Cox of Oxford University. And yes, it is a real type of statistical model.)

What sort of data did they collect?

Potential risk factors included the total number of instances of vaginal intercourse (continuous variable), the number of new partners (0, 1, or >1), the frequency of condom use by partners (<5 percent, 5 to 49 percent, 50 to 99 percent, or 100 percent), the partner’s circumcision status (circumcised, uncircumcised, or unknown), and the partner’s number of previous partners (0, .1, or unknown). The frequency of condom use was calculated by dividing the number of condoms used for vaginal intercourse by the number of instances of vaginal intercourse during the eight-month study period. If multiple new partners were reported during an eight-month period, the circumcision status and previous number of partners were summarized.

Now hold that thought for a minute and go back to a statement made earlier:

The protocol was approved by the institutional review board at the University of Washington.

Now this is kind of interesting. It happens to be a federal law (actually a regulation issued by the Department of Health and Human Services) that every institution that does any federally-supported research, and does any research on “human subjects” — that is, any research involving people in any capacity other than as researchers — have an institutional review board (IRB), and that all research projects involving human subjects be submitted to the IRB for approval. The IRB is supposed to make sure that, in the words of the Department of Health and Human Services, “Human Subjects Research Must be Guided by Ethical Principles.”

But whose ethics are they supposed to use?

By the ethics of most religions practiced in the United States, people aren’t supposed to have sex outside of marriage, most 18-22-year-olds aren’t married, and of course they are want data on the number of partners, which has to be greater than one for some significant fraction of of the women to produce statistically valid results. So the researchers are clearly aiming for behavior that a significant fraction of people regard as unethical.

Obviously, then, then don’t mean those ethics.

Perhaps then, they mean more “modern” ethics, by which it’s OK for anyone to have sex with anyone who agrees, as long as they use “protection.” But the whole point is to see if the “protection” works, by seeing the the effects are different for those who use it than for those who don’t. To do this, the researchers depend on some fraction of their subjects having unprotected sex. And it has to be a large enough fraction to generate statistically significant results.

Obviously, they can’t be encouraging condom use any more than they could be encouraging abstinence — either one would ruin their research!

What they mean is, “(a) The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles and Guidelines for the Protection of Human Subjects of Research of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, or (b) other appropriate ethical standards recognized by federal departments and agencies that have adopted the Federal Policy for the Protection of Human Subjects, known as the Common Rule.”

The Belmont Report was written in 1979 by government-appointed commission made up of three medical doctors, two lawyers, two non-physician scientists, a professor of bioethics, a professor of Christian ethics (is that constitutional?), and the then-president of the National Council of Negro Women. The report described three “Basic Ethical Principles”: Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice. And it described three “Applications” of these principles: (1) Informed Consent, (2) Assessment of Risk and Benefits, and (3) Selection of Subjects.

In the section on Informed Consent, the commission stated:

Most codes of research establish specific items for disclosure intended to assure that subjects are given sufficient information. These items generally include: the research procedure, their purposes, risks and anticipated benefits, alternative procedures (where therapy is involved), and a statement offering the subject the opportunity to ask questions and to withdraw at any time from the research. …

Voluntariness. An agreement to participate in research constitutes a valid consent only if voluntarily given. This element of informed consent requires conditions free of coercion and undue influence. Coercion occurs when an overt threat of harm is intentionally presented by one person to another in order to obtain compliance. Undue influence, by contrast, occurs through an offer of an excessive, unwarranted, inappropriate or improper reward or other overture in order to obtain compliance. Also, inducements that would ordinarily be acceptable may become undue influences if the subject is especially vulnerable.

Now one interesting question is to what extent the consent given by the young women involved truly met the requirements above. I’m sure the staff was able to explain their purposes unambiguously. And they probably explained the “research procedure” quite well, if by that one means the procedure for filling out the electronic diaries — if not the procedure for, um, generating the information to put in the electronic diaries. This latter procedure was, by the nature of the requirements for the study, something with which the subjects were, um, necessarily unfamiliar. In fact, some of the “risks and anticipated benefits” were also something with which the subjects were necessarily unfamiliar. Obviously, the risk of HPV infection was there — that was the whole point of the study — and I’m sure the researchers could explain what that entailed, as well as the risks of other sexually transmitted diseases.

But what about the other “risks and anticipated benefits”? Prior to obtaining consent, did the researchers fully inform the subjects as to the emotional risks of engaging in sexual intercourse (a) for the purpose of a study, (b) if not for that purpose alone, then with the study in mind, ( c) with or without a committed relationship, (d) with the commitment level of the relationship formalized or not formalized in any particular way (e.g., marriage), (e) with more than one partner within the time frame of the study? What about the risks of increased emotional trauma when a relationship breaks up, if that relationship involved sexual intercourse? Did they fully inform the subjects of all this? I kind of doubt it.

And what about the “anticipated benefits”? Prior to obtaining consent, did the researchers fully inform their virgin subjects of the physical pleasures of sexual intercourse? What about the emotional pleasures that come from that form of intimacy? (Which, one might argue, turn negative without the appropriate level of commitment.) What about the benefits of parenthood, as opposed to the risks of pregnancy?

An even more interesting question is, did they get informed consent from the “male partners”? The study doesn’t mention that at all. They have copious detail about how the female subjects were recruited and screened, but the “male partners” are only mentioned when they (and their previous partners) are counted, and when it is asked whether they were circumcised. As far as we know, they were not informed of anything by the researchers — the researchers may not have even asked who they were. They female subjects were simply set loose in Seattle to involve unknowing males in a “research study.”

You might laugh, but this is precisely the sort of think the Belmont Commission was meant to address. One of the motivations for appointing the Belmont Commission was the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which 600 black men, 399 of whom had syphilis, were “studied” by being given medical care that, unbeknownst to them, did NOT include treatment for their disease. Neither they, nor their wives were informed the had syphilis, and they were “studied” until they died — in part to see how long it would take.

In this case, they aren’t even telling the male partners that they are part of a study. They are collecting personal information about them — such as whether the are circumcised, and the number of previous sexual partners they’ve had — and they are studying them in an environment in which the researchers know they are at risk at least for HPV, not to mention other things, and the are not informed of the risks, they are not informed they are being used for a study, and no consent of any kind, informed or not, has been obtained.

In short, this study is not only unethical from a “traditional values” point of view; it is also unethical from a “secular bioethics” point of view.

The fact that the University of Washington’s IRB was willing to approve this study calls into question whether the entire IRB system is just a bureaucratic rubber stamp for whatever some voyeuristic researchers want to do.

June 15, 2006

Population and the “Mommy Wars”

Filed under: — Different River @ 10:00 am

I don’t have time to pull out quotes at the moment, but here are several angles on the dual debates of (1) whether we are headed for overpopulation or underpopulation, and (2) whether motherhood is beneficial/good/enlightened or oppressive/evil/neanderthal.

OK, I’ll pull one quote. Emily Yoffe cites the main benefit claimed for the “childfree lifestyle” and why it’s bogus:

As one woman wrote: “My husband and I are childless by choice and I heartily encourage all younger friends to consider it. It is the most wonderful lifestyle, free of whining and sniveling and mini-vans.”

What is going on when there is so much scorn for parenthood—the way a society perpetuates itself? Fertility rates are much in the news these days. The United States is rare among developed nations in that it is still producing children at a replacement rate. But many countries collectively agree with the people who wrote to me—that children are a tantrum wrapped in a diaper and not worth the trouble. So, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, among others, are going down the demographic tubes, with shrinking pools of young workers to support growing masses of seemingly immortal retirees.

I noticed something else in the letters from nonparents that I had experienced myself: They have an unrealistic sense of the passage of time—or at least the passage of parental time. They seem stuck on the notion that being a parent means forever climbing a Mt. Everest of diapers (and what happens to these punctilious couples if a spouse ends up needing diapers?). Diapers pass in a snap. It all goes so fast. When our daughter turned 6, my husband and I realized with a pang that we were already one-third of the way through the time she would live with us. And I worry that the writers have an unrealistic sense of their own passage through time—believing they’ll forever feel that nothing is more important than building their career or taking that next trip.

I’ll go you one better. Before we had kids, Different Wife was hoping she’d have triplets or quadruplets — an entire family, without having to go through pregnancy more than once! Apparently, she thought pregnancy was the hard part. I tried, based on my “experience” as the oldest of five children, to explain that pregnancy was the least of it both in time and impact, but what did I know, I was male, how should be be so arrogant…. Pregnancy is, mainly, the only part of parenting that doesn’t have many benefits offsetting the costs, but that’s not what she meant…

May 23, 2006

Canada Kills

Filed under: — Different River @ 6:32 pm

David E. Williams writes on the Health Care Business Blog:

A friend in Canada felt so sick that when she went to the hospital on Thursday she told the staff that she felt even worse than she had immediately after her two surgeries. They sent her home with instructions to follow up next Tuesday (tomorrow). By Saturday she felt even worse. Ambulance dispatch told a friend who called to expect an ambulance in 3 hours –the timing based on the perceived severity of the symptoms. The friend took her to the ER instead, where she was promptly taken into the ICU. But it was too late; she is in a coma and will almost certainly succumb to pneumococcal meningitis.

She died the next day.

She died because by Canadian standards, she was not sick enough to deserve a place in the hospital.

And lots of people here in the U.S. want us to adopt the Canadian system.

By the way, they are supposed to transplant her kidneys and liver. Someone is going to get some sort of brownie points for acquiring those organs. Would I be too cynical if I said the incentives to save a patient’s life are reduced when one benefits from that patient’s death?

April 7, 2006

TV and Society

Filed under: — Different River @ 12:08 pm

Does the behavior and culture depcited on television reflect reality, or is it the other way around? This study shows that it’s probably one or the other, and more likely TV affects reality:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Sexually charged music, magazines, TV and movies push youngsters into intercourse at an earlier age, perhaps by acting as kind of virtual peer that tells them everyone else is doing it, a study said Monday.

“This is the first time we’ve shown that the more kids are exposed to sex in media the earlier they have sex,” said Jane Brown of the University of North Carolina, chief author of the report.

Previous research had been limited to television, said the study which looked at 1,017 adolescents when they were aged 12 to 14 and again two years later. They were checked on their exposure during the two years to 264 items — movies, TV shows, music and magazines — which were analyzed for their sexual content.

In general it found that the highest exposure levels led to more sexual activity, with white teens in the group 2.2 times more likely to have had intercourse at ages 14 to 16 than similar youngsters who had the least exposure.

Most people who produce violent/sexual/offensive TV like to claim that there is no evidence that TV affects behavior. Now, there is.

Still, however, I like Michael Medved‘s argument against that claim: That is, if TV doesn’t affect behavior, then TV networks and stations owe their advertisers a 100% refund for every commercial ever run on TV.

March 29, 2006

Hollywood Ethics

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:31 pm

Sharon Stone discourses on the “need” to go behind mothers’ backs to teach their daughters (how) to submit to sexually aggressive males.

Unreal.

(Link from Drudge.)

March 5, 2006

“A Shining Example”

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:00 pm

Mark in Mexico reports:

This is an unbelievable story. Shoeshiner Albert Lexie, in 24 years, has donated $100,000 to the Free Care Fund at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh – from his tips. The man only makes about $10,000 a year and donates another $10,000 to the hospital. What’s more, he’s got his own website.

Think about that for a moment. He makes $20,000 a year and gives half of it to the hospital, every year, year-in and year-out. Kind of makes Bill and Melinda Gates look like a couple of pikers, doesn’t it?

Not to mention you and I.

From the news story:

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ — Shoeshiner Albert Lexie has achieved a remarkable milestone, raising more than $100,000 for the Free Care Fund at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh by donating tips from his business over the last two dozen years.

Children’s held a ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2006, to recognize Lexie’s commitment to the patients of Children’s. …

Lexie, a 64-year-old Monessen, Pa., resident, has been shining shoes at Children’s since 1982 and accepting tips from customers on behalf of “his kids,” as Lexie refers to the patients at Children’s. Charging $3 per shine, Lexie donates all tips to Children’s Free Care Fund, which ensures that all children receive medical care, regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

At age 15, Lexie built a shoeshine box in high school shop class. He now uses that same box to shine shoes at Children’s every Tuesday and Thursday. On those days he makes the trip by bus from his hometown to Oakland, leaving home at 5:50 a.m. and arriving at the hospital at 7:25 a.m. In addition to shining shoes at Children’s, Lexie travels to Salomon Smith Barney in Pittsburgh and the business districts of Charleroi, Donora, Monessen and Monongahela to offer his services. His yearly income is only about $10,000, and he donates roughly $10,000 a year to the Free Care Fund.

Lexie was recognized in 2001, receiving an Association of Fundraising Professionals Outstanding Philanthropist Award from the organization’s Western Pennsylvania Chapter. In 1997, he received a Jefferson Medal for Outstanding Citizen. He also has been recognized by several Rotary organizations in the Monongahela Valley.

To read more about Albert or to make an online donation to his fund- raising effort, please visit Children’s Web site at www.chp.edu, or call 412- 586-6310 or 877-CHP-GIVE. Visit Albert’s personal Web site at www.kevweb.com/albert/index.htm.

February 21, 2006

People for the Ethical Rights of Vegetables (PERV)

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:03 pm

Hilarious. Just read it.

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