How labor laws spread the flu

Love this post from Ezra.  I'm just going to borrow it:

"About 40 percent of all private-sector workers do not receive paid sick days," reports
the New York Times, "and as a result many of them cannot afford to stay
home when they are ill. Even some companies that provide paid sick days
have policies that make it difficult to call in sick, like giving
demerits each time someone misses a day."

This isn't just inhumane policy. It's stupid policy. We're facing a
new strain of flu that most have zero resistance against. Workers who
fall ill but nevertheless have to ride the bus in to work and stock
shelves and talk to co-workers and ride the bus home aren't just
workers having a bad day, or workers at risk of getting really
sick. They're contagious. They're spreading the flu to other workers,
who will in turn be contagious, even to richer workers who do get sick
days.

The downside is not simply that lots of people get the flu. It's
that the flu has more opportunities to mutate into something more
lethal, or more contagious. The reason public health officials urge
people to stay home is to deny the illness opportunities to mutate, but
the warnings of public health officials are nothing compared with the
pressures of an employer that doesn't tolerate sick days. This,
incidentally, is not a problem other countries will face. As this
Center for Economic and Policy Research report explains, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that doesn't guarantee its workers paid sick days.

 

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Islamic creationism

Interesting article in Science Times today on creationism and evolution in the Muslim world.  Apparently, most Muslims except pretty much all of evolutionary theory except that humans are descended from apes.  That, they cannot take.  This was my favorite part of the article: 

For
many Muslims, even evolution and the notion that life flourished
without the intervening hand of Allah is largely compatible with their
religion. What many find unacceptable is human evolution, the idea that
humans evolved from primitive primates. The Koran states that Allah created Adam, the first man, separately out of clay.

Pervez
A. Hoodbhoy, a prominent atomic physicist at Quaid-e-Azam University in
Pakistan, said that when he gave lectures covering the sweep of
cosmological history from the Big Bang to the evolution of life on
Earth, the audience listened without objection to most of it.
“Everything is O.K. until the apes stand up,” Dr. Hoodbhoy said.

Mentioning
human evolution led to near riots, and he had to be escorted out.
“That’s the one thing that will never be possible to bridge,” he said.
“Your lineage is what determines your worth.”

I'll leave aside for the moment the fact that in Pakistan the response to an academic speaker you disagree with is apparently to riot. I'd have to wear body armor to class.

Abortion and health care reform

I am actually quite sympathetic to pro-life Democrats, but their latest efforts to try and sabotage health care reform are rather infuriating:

While House leaders are moving toward a vote on health-care legislation
by the end of the week, enough Democrats are threatening to oppose the
measure over the issue of abortion to create a question about its
passage.

House leaders were still negotiating Monday with the bloc of
Democrats concerned about abortion provisions in the legislation,
saying that they could lead to public funding of the procedure. After
an evening meeting of top House Democrats,  Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) said, "We are making progress," but added that they had not reached an agreement.

The outcome of those talks could be crucial in deciding the fate of the
health-care bill. Democrats need the vast majority of their caucus to
back the bill, since nearly all congressional Republicans have said
they will oppose the legislation.

"I will continue whipping my colleagues to oppose bringing the bill
to the floor for a vote until a clean vote against public funding for
abortion is allowed,"  Rep. Bart Stupak
(D-Mich.) said Monday in a statement. He said last week that 40
Democrats could vote with him to oppose the legislation — enough to
derail the bill.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, cast Stupak as
"attempting to ban abortion coverage in the private insurance market." 

In this case, Keenan is exactly right.  This is not pro-choice hyperbole.  A major aspect of reform is getting private plans to compete in health exchanges.  Low-income Americans will be able to buy insurance through these exchanges with finanical help from the government to afford a health plan.  Stupak and the like are basically demanding that either: 1) these private insurance companies selling on the exchange not be allowed to offer abortion, or, 2) we don't subsidize citizens in paying for insurance.  It's all well and good to oppose abortion, but it is a legal medical procedure and there does not seem much justification for telling a private insurance company they cannot cover it.  As for #2, that's pretty much the biggest point of health reform– expanding coverage. 

Preserve your battery life

Very helpful article from Farhad Manjoo about preserving battery life in modern electronic devices.  It starts out somewhat depressing though:

Buchman also runs Battery University,
a very helpful Web site for battery enthusiasts and engineers. I asked
Buchmann how we can make sure that our batteries last a long time.
"There is not too much to discuss," he began, and then launched into a
conversation exploring the numerous frailties of batteries. The upshot
is this happy factoid: No matter what you do, your battery will become
a useless piece of junk—one day it will reach a point where it can no
longer be charged, and then you'll have to recycle it. It will die if
you use it often. It will die if you hardly ever use it. It will die if
you charge it too much. It will die if you charge it too little. You
can pull the battery out of your camera, stuff it under your mattress,
and come back for it in five years. Guess what? Your battery will be
dead. And when I say dead, I mean dead—not that it's run out of juice, but that it can no longer hold a charge.

That said, the great sin of battery life is over-charging.  Don't do it.  I've been guilty and I'm going to stop.

Ideally, Buchmann says, you should try to keep your battery charged
from 20 percent to 80 percent. Keep in mind that these are guidelines
for ideal use—it's generally inconvenient to unplug your machine before
it goes all the way to 100. But even if you're not on constant guard,
be mindful of charging your machine constantly, well past when you know
it's full. You also should be conscious of letting your battery run all
the way to zero.

Try to keep your laptop as cool
as possible. The best technique here is to charge up your battery when
the computer is turned off.

Pretty handy.  The basic rule seems to be the 20-80 and keep things from getting hot.  Words to live by in our gadget-filled age.

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