Video of the day

Okay, this is probably the coolest time lapse I’ve ever posted.  Watch it big and in HD.  More on it here.

Photo of the day

Looks like the New Yorker finally figured out how to present a visually compelling photo gallery on-line.  Hooray!  From a gallery of photos from an Arctic Russian outpost:


Vyacheslav Korotki walks out under a full moon to an abandoned lighthouse that used to serve the Northern Sea Route, to gather firewood to help heat his home.  


Modern medicine

If you listened to doctors, you’d think that unlike the rest of humans, they are immune to financial incentives.  Evidence strongly suggests otherwise.  Of course, it is consumers and taxpayers (though funding Medicare) who suffer, to wit:

When the drug maker Genentech introduced a major product in 2006, it found itself in an awkward position: persuading eye doctors to start using its new more expensive drug instead of a popular cheaper version that the company already sold.

Ophthalmologists had been enthusiastically using the company’scancer drug Avastin, which cost about $50 a dose, to treat a common eye disease in the elderly, wet macular degeneration. Then Genentech introduced Lucentis, a nearly equivalent drug that cost $2,000 a dose and was approved specifically to treat the disease.

Use of Lucentis took off, and it has become one of Medicare’s most expensive treatments — costing the federal government about $1 billion a year — even though several studies have concluded Lucentis has no significant advantage over its cheaper alternative.

Now, a new federal database shows that many of the doctors who were the top billers for Lucentis were also among the highest-paid consultants for Genentech, earning thousands of dollars to help promote the drug. [emphasis mine] The data raises questions about whether financial relationships between doctors and drug companies influence treatment decisions, even though physicians maintain they cannot be swayed.

I love the wonderfully euphemistic “raises questions.”  Yes it does, yes it does.

When it comes to rape (or anything) two wrongs do not make a right

Great and thorough piece from Emily Yoffe on how the pendulum to protect rape victims on college campuses has swung too far and in many cases the accused are denied basic elements of due process.  Now, of course rape is horrible and of course rape on campus (like elsewhere) is under-reported, but the solution is not to deny basic principles of fairness and due process to those accused of rape.  Yoffe details some fairly harrowing accounts that sound more like a Stalin-esque show trial (to be fair, these are college judicial proceedings– not our actual legal system) than anything we would expect in America.  The vast majority of women who report rapes are telling the truth.  But not every last one.  And every accused person–regardless of the crime– deserves due process.  This is America, damn it.

So much worth pasting and discussing further, but this part in regards to accused suing due to violations of due process especially grabbed me:

Assertions of injustice by young men are infuriating to some. Caroline Heldman, an associate professor of politics at Occidental College and co-founder of End Rape on Campus, said of the men who are turning to the courts, “These lawsuits are an incredible display of entitlement, the same entitlement that drove them to rape.”

Got that?  Nobody accused of rape is ever not guilty or deserving of due process.  They’ve been accused of rape.  That’s it.  End of story.  How entitled they must be to think they are deserving of due process.  And this is coming from a college professor.  Ugh.  With sentiments like that, its no wonder many accused to not get a fair hearing.

Because this is a sensitive subject, let’s be clear– many of these men may in fact be rapists.  But again, in America we generally try not to ruin people’s lives– even accused murderers or child molesters– without due process.

Another big and very important article looks at the scary statistics we always hear about rape on campus and finds them to essentially be a complete fraud.  These statistics take legitimate social science studies of sexual violence and then extrapolate in unsupportable in fundamentally dishonest ways that suggest rape on campus is far more prevalent than the actuality.  Again, any rape is too much, but let’s not pretend it’s 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 when there is simply no rational basis for that conclusion:

Take the National Crime Victimization Survey, the nationally representative sample conducted by the federal government to find rates of reported and unreported crime. For the years 1995 to 2011, as the University of Colorado Denver’s Rennison explained to me, it found that an estimated 0.8 percent of noncollege females age 18-24 revealed that they were victims of threatened, attempted, or completed rape/sexual assault. Of the college females that age during that same time period, approximately 0.6 percent reported they experienced such attempted or completed crime.

That finding diverges wildly from the notion that one in five women college women will be sexually assaulted by the time they graduate.  That’s the number most often used to suggest there is overwhelming sexual violence on America’s college campuses. It comes from a 2007 study funded by the National Institute of Justice, called the Campus Sexual Assault Study, or CSA. (I cited it last year in a story on campus drinking and sexual assault.) The study asked 5,466 female college students at two public universities, one in the Midwest and one in the South, to answer an online survey about their experiences with sexual assault. The survey defined sexual assault as everything from nonconsensual sexual intercourse to such unwanted activities as “forced kissing,” “fondling,” and “rubbing up against you in a sexual way, even if it is over your clothes.”

There are approximately 12 million female college students in the U.S. (There are about 9 million males.) I asked the lead author of the study, Christopher Krebs, whether the CSA represents the experience of those millions of female students. His answer was unequivocal: “We don’t think one in five is a nationally representative statistic.” It couldn’t be, he said, because his team sampled only two schools. “In no way does that make our results nationally representative,” Krebs said.

Look, nobody wants to have a man rub against them in an inappropriate way, but based on the wild extrapolations this becomes part of the “1 in 5 college women will be raped” statistic.  1 in 5 will be the victim of unwanted kissing, touching, or rubbing sounds much less dramatic and scary (not to say that that’s acceptable).  You know me, I just hate it when people are dishonest with social science data for an ideological cause and this is really a pretty extreme example of that.  And I also hate it when we scare groups of people needlessly.

Yoffe has also been labeled a “rape denier” for suggesting that perhaps college females should not let themselves get super inebriated at fraternity parties, etc., as that greatly increases their likelihood of being a victim of sexual violence.  It is crazy to suggest that to simply suggest courses of conduct that reduce one’s likelihood of becoming a victim means you are “blaming the victim.”  There’s certain parts of major cities you should not walk through alone late at night.  Does that mean it’s your fault if you get mugged?  Of course not– it just means you certainly do face a greater likelihood.   Or, as Yoffe puts it:

It is simply misleading to tell young women they have as great a chance of being sexually assaulted while in their dorm studying at 1 p.m. as they do at a drunken frat party at 1 a.m. There are patterns to victimization. The Campus Sexual Assault Study found the majority of victims were freshmen and sophomores, the most common time of year to be assaulted is when school begins in the fall, the most common days were Friday and Saturday, the most common time was after midnight. People who had been previously assaulted were at far greater risk of revictimization. Alcohol was overwhelmingly an element. The United Educators study of insurance payouts for sexual assault found that “Alcohol was a significant factor in nearly all of the claims studied.”

Giving women this knowledge so they can make safer choices in no way means it’s the “fault” of women who get drunk at a party late on Friday night, just that–until campus sexual assault is reduced to zero– they place themselves at greater risk.  Data don’t lie (well, people lie with data all the time, but…).

Anyway, given all the focus on campus rape of late, I think this is a really important piece.  And there’s absolutely no reason we cannot work both to decrease sexual violence on campus and to treat with proper due process those accused of sexual assault.  And, to be honest about the scope of the problem while we’re at it.

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