Better not talk to kids!

Via the (awesome) Free Range Kids blog.  As the parent of a very friendly child with special needs who will be an adult with special needs, I find this so upsetting:

A Philadelphia area man with autism is being held on $100,000 bail for talking to some children.

The man, Daniel Lee, 26, of Wayne, PA,  spoke to a group of three siblings, 8, 9 and 10 on Wednesday, asking them about their school and telling them he was on his way to a cabin in the woods. It’s unclear if he told the kids he wanted them to join him or not. (News accounts differ: See this and this.)

He walked off then found and talked to the kids again 20 minutes later near Wayne Elementary School, whereupon the children’s mom saw him and called the police. The police found the man in just two minutes.

Why so fast? My guess is because he was not a crafty creep trying to elude the authorities. He is a man with a disability that makes it hard for him to interact like a “normal” man around kids, which is apparently to never interact with them at all, but run in the opposite screaming, “Get away! I hate kids! I am not a predator!”

Now, WPVI “Action News” reports,  Lee is in jail, “charged with Attempting to Lure Children into a structure, which is in reference to his statements about a cabin, corruption of the morals of a minor, and harassment.”

Corruption of morals? Really? How, exactly? He doesn’t seem to have said anything salacious. And police say that at no time did Lee make any physical contact or even attempt to make physical contact with the children. Yet here’s how the news anchor played up the story:

“The big story on Action News tonight is word of an attempted luring at a Radnor Township school and police have a suspect in custody.”

My God, they make it sound as if the kids just barely escaped a depraved menace. As the “suspect’s” mom explained to the reporter — and police — Daniel has autism, and sometimes likes to talk to kids.

But, WPVI reports, “The police say…they can’t take any chances.” After all, here’s a grown man, living at home, with a part time job at a movie theater. That’s the big time! Why cut him any slack?  [emphases mine]

A psychiatric evaluation will be performed and I guess if it’s determined that Daniel’s parents are not making up their son’s diagnosis, perhaps the charges will be dropped.

But shouldn’t the charges be dropped for anyone facing such an accusation? Is it really a crime to talk to kids about a cabin in the woods if you never touch or attempt to touch or grab them? Wouldn’t that make it a crime to read “Little Red Riding Hood” to a kid who isn’t your own?

Daniel’s mom said that she will teach Daniel that what he did was wrong. Who will teach the police that it’s wrong to throw a man in jail as if he’s a rapist when he clearly has special needs and hasn’t done anything more than talk to some neighborhood kids? – L

Arghh!  This is just as stupid as the moronic zero tolerance(/intelligence) policies in schools.  Just look at the damn context!  I can well imagine my son when he’s an adult enjoying telling some kids that he’s going to look for a cabin in the woods, just as now he will happily tell any stranger that he enjoys going to Grandma’s house or that he really likes opening the garage.  Not taking any chances is doing a very simple investigation, figuring out this is a well-meaning adult with autism, and then spending time and resources on things that would actually keep the community safe.  I’m so sick of this “abundance of caution” crap as if any utterly stupid and inane action can be justified by “caution.”  And to imagine this poor guy with autism stuck in prison when all he did was think he was being friendly with some kids.

You’re going to die

Recently came across a cool infographic putting various causes of death into perspective (newsflash: cardiovascular disease and cancer).  Also, cool, though, was an accompanying infographic on known risk factors:

UK risks of death infographic - atlas of risk

Quick hits (part I)

Lots of good stuff this week.  Let’s go!

1) The Economist on how libertarians hijacked liberal economics.

2) Daniel Craig on Hollywood’s sexist double-standard on aging.  And, he’s a great Bond.

3) Vox puts the shocking arrest of a SC student into the larger context of the policy of police in schools.  And some good Amy Davidson commentary on the matter.  And a good take on the racial component from Jamelle Bouie.

4) Nice NYT Editorial on the concealed carry fantasy.

5) This article about Jeb’s flailing campaign was even before his poor debate performance.  There’s just no way this guy is going to be president.

They didn’t have to look far for an explanation. All they had to do was listen to Jeb on Saturday in South Carolina.

“If this election is about how we’re going to fight to get nothing done, then I don’t want any part of it,” the candidate said. “. . . I’ve got a lot of really cool things that I could do other than sit around, being miserable, listening to people demonize me and me feeling compelled to demonize them. That is a joke. Elect Trump if you want that.”

I don’t want any part of it? I’ve got a lot of really cool things I could do? Elect Trump if you want? The self-described “joyful tortoise” may have just delivered the most petulant political speech since the future 37th president said “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”

Bush is correct that Trump’s campaign of insults has made the 2016 GOP primary race an ugly affair. But his response — suggesting he’d take his ball and go home rather than sully himself — is precisely what has sunk Bush’s candidacy so far. Angry voters want a fighter, and Bush, justifiably dubbed “low-energy” by Trump, doesn’t seem to have it in him. The way to combat Trump’s demagoguery and race-baiting is not to look down your nose at him and say “Tut-tut.” It’s to hit Trump back with as much force as he delivers.

6) Great interview with Anne-Marie Slaughter about her new book.  Short version: our society really needs to start truly valuing giving care to others.

7) It is interesting to learn that Florida and Texas are doing surprisingly well in teaching their students.  But damn it, it would be a lot more interesting if we actually knew why.

8) Leadership mistakes of the Galactic Empire from Star Wars.  Awesomeness.

9) Are we becoming inured to TV shows killing off main characters?

10) Really good piece from Fareed Zakaria admitting his mistake of supporting the Iraq War.  Definitely a good one to read the whole thing (it’s pretty short, too):

Consider this: The United States replaced the regime in Iraq and gave the new one massive assistance for a decade. The result? Chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington toppled Moammar Gadhafi’s regime in Libya but chose not to attempt nation-building in that country. The result has been chaos and humanitarian tragedy. Washington supported a negotiated removal of Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime in Yemen and the election that followed, but generally took a back seat. The result again was chaos and humanitarian tragedy.

The reality in that part of the world is that many of its regimes are fragile, presiding over weak institutions, little civil society, and often no sense of nationhood itself. In that situation, outside interventions, however well-meaning, might not make things better. Sometimes they can even make things worse.

11) Yes, LARC’s are awesome, but they are way under-used.

12) How the disappearance of large animals, and their poop can disrupt ecosystems.

13) Why is academic writing so bad?

14) I love candy corn.  And since Sarah does too, we even eat at not just at Halloween.  Really enjoyed this National Geographic story on the history of it.

15) The Memory Palace is one of my favorite podcasts and it definitely deserves more popularity.  This episode on lead and the wrongness of America may have been my favorite so far.

16) Enough with turning things pink and thinking you are actually doing something about women’s health.

17) REI is closing its stores on Black Friday and encouraging it’s employees and customers to get outside instead.  Not that I shop at REI, but I totally plan on taking them up on it (hope to do some hiking in the NC mountains that day).

18) Happy Halloween.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Jeb had brought his brother and 9/11 back into the news.  Just to be clear, GWB was president for almost 9 months before 9/11 happened and he certainly could have done more to prevent it.

2) More evidence for quantum entanglement.  It is a crazy universe we live in.  And if that’s not cool enough, how about this.  Birds may use quantum entanglement for navigation!.

3) Polarization in action.  Used to be pretty small differences in how Democrats and Republicans viewed Planned Parenthood.  Not any more.

4) It’s a small but absurd injustice what we make inmates (and, really, their families) play for phone calls.  Fortunately, that’s about to change.

5) Canada’s new PM is promising larger deficits.  We should be doing this, too:

Given the state of the world economy, it is absolutely insane that more rich countries aren’t running larger deficits.

How come? Because this is an incredibly inexpensive moment for governments to borrow money. In fact, it may be the best time in recorded history for sovereigns to load up on debt. Interest rates have been hovering around zero more or less since central banks cut rates during the recession, and given the many economic headwinds before us, it may be a long while before they rise much higher. At points this year, countries have issued bonds with negative interest rates—meaning investors are literally paying governments to hold their money because they can’t think of anything safer to do with it. In circumstances like that, when the global bond markets are basically shouting “treat yo’self” at just about every finance minister in the developed world, the only reasonable move for a government is to borrow and use the free or nearly free money to make investments that might help the economy grow long-term, like building or fixing up roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

6) Restaurant tipping is stupid and profoundly unfair.  Hopefully, more restaurants will follow the path of this prominent restaurant group.

7) A Republican takes Ben Carson to task for his absurd use of Nazi analogies.

8) We really, really, should be having our kids moving more in school.  Good to see some places are figuring this out.

9) Interesting piece on how friendships change in adulthood.  I liked this simple definition of what we really want in a friend.

“I’ve listened to someone as young as 14 and someone as old as 100 talk about their close friends, and [there are] three expectations of a close friend that I hear people describing and valuing across the entire life course,” says William Rawlins, the Stocker Professor of Interpersonal Communication at Ohio University. “Somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy. These expectations remain the same, but the circumstances under which they’re accomplished change.”

10) Interesting interview with our local TV meteorologist about how he finally got past his Rush Limbaugh love and accept the science of global warming.

11) Really interesting piece in the Economist on the difficulties of recruiting for the US armed forces.

12) Yes, “Back to the Future” is a damn near perfect movie.

13) Political Science research on angry Republicans.

14) The general awesomeness of breast milk is pretty well known.  What’s really sad is in developing nations with high infant mortality that don’t seem to know it.  Kristof.

15) On free markets and human weakness:

Just as free markets can serve the public good “by an invisible hand” (asAdam Smith saw more than two centuries ago, and is the foundation of the field of economics), free markets will do something else. As long as there is a profit to be made, they will also deceive us, manipulate us and prey on our weaknesses, tempting us into purchases that are bad for us. That is also a fundamental feature of market equilibrium, in which supply and demand balance each other out.

My fellow economists, while they recognize such behavior in individual instances, fail to see this as a general principle. And thus a lot of bad things happen, such as the candy at the checkout counter.

Just as free markets can serve the public good “by an invisible hand” (asAdam Smith saw more than two centuries ago, and is the foundation of the field of economics), free markets will do something else. As long as there is a profit to be made, they will also deceive us, manipulate us and prey on our weaknesses, tempting us into purchases that are bad for us. That is also a fundamental feature of market equilibrium, in which supply and demand balance each other out.

My fellow economists, while they recognize such behavior in individual instances, fail to see this as a general principle. And thus a lot of bad things happen, such as the candy at the checkout counter.

16) Apparently overt racism is alive and well at NC State.  This was written by one of my students.

17) People don’t actually want equality.  They want fairness.  I’ll buy that.

18) Good to know that Obama, etc., are catching on to the fact that our kids take way too many standardized tests.  This desperately needs to change.

19) Drum on IRS and email “scandals.”

Kadzik said that their investigation found evidence of mismanagement and institutional inertia, “But poor management is not a crime.” I guess that’s what they call this kind of organized oppression in Obama’s America.

Anyway, I urge everyone to consider this outcome when thinking about Hillary Clinton’s email server. Both are “scandals” pushed relentlessly by a right wing that’s infuriated over everything related to the Obama administration. Both had some surface plausibility. And both were kind of sexy.

But as usual with these kinds of things—Solyndra, Fast & Furious, Benghazi, Sharyl Attkisson’s computer, etc. etc.—there’s really nothing there. Sometimes some bad judgment, sometimes not even that. The fact that Republicans are outraged and have large megaphones to spread that outrage doesn’t change this and doesn’t justify 24/7 news coverage. So maybe a more temperate approach to these endless manufactured right-wing outrages would be appropriate. Just a thought.

20) Great piece from Yglesias on how success in presidential elections and helpful demographic trends are letting Democrats ignore the deep structural problems the party faces.  (I put this here so DJC would actually read it).

Old people are more everything

I’m not quite sure what this Pew comparison of generations actually tells us about different generations.  Here’s the chart:

Generation Gaps: Silents, Boomers See Themselves in a More Positive Light

To be sure, some of these differences may be related more to age and life stage than to the unique characteristics of today’s generations. Responsibilities tend to increase with age. As a result, it is possible that, in any era, older people would be more likely than younger people to view their generation as “responsible.” In addition, differences between old and young in such realms as patriotism, religiosity and political activism have been evident for many years. (See this explainer report for more on our approach to studying generations.)

On several measures – including hard work, responsibility, willingness to sacrifice, and self-reliance – the share in each generation expressing positive views declines step-wise across age cohorts, from the oldest to the youngest.

Actually, older people aren’t more everything.  They also seem to think they are less of everything bad:

Millennials Most Likely to Attribute Negative Traits to Their Generation

Oh come on, you just know older people are more rigid and less tolerant.  As for me, I’m feeling in the middle.  But I suppose that’s just because I’m Generation X.

Eat more apples!

So loved this latest research (via NYT’s The Well) on the weight loss benefits of eating fruits, especially my favorite– apples.

Eating more fruits and vegetables can help control weight, but a new study suggests that it depends on which fruits and vegetables you eat.

Researchers recorded diet information for 117,918 men and women in their 30s and 40s at the start of a study and followed them for 24 years, with interviews at four-year intervals.

An overall increase in a daily serving of vegetable or fruit over a four-year period led to less weight gained — 0.25 pounds less for vegetables, and 0.53 pounds for fruit.

Increased intake of berries was linked to a 1.11-pound lower weight gain, and of citrus fruits a 0.27-pound lower gain. Adding a daily serving of tofu or soy was tied to 2.47 pounds less weight gained, and of apples or pears 1.24 pounds less. Carrots and peppers were also linked to smaller gains, but potatoes, peas and corn were not.

Given that there are certain diets that actually vilify fruit as little better than candy, I found this especially edifying.  I love both apples and berries and have multiple servings of each per day.  I’ve often said that the biggest difference in my life if I were truly rich is that I would pony up the money to have fresh berries year round.  Fortunately, you can get tasty “fresh” apples all year round.  And now is the perfect time and I’ve been eating 3 a day instead of 2, because of all the great apples at the NC Farmers market.  And it’s the only place I can get the best apple ever– the Suncrisp.

Maps of the day

Love this.  And biscuits.  Who could want a muffin over a biscuit? And if anyone doubted whether Virginia and Florida were “real” Southern states, I guess here’s your answre.



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