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The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics

From Richard S. Lindzen: The Political Assault on Climate Skeptics – WSJ:

Research in recent years has encouraged those of us who question the popular alarm over allegedly man-made global warming. Actually, the move from “global warming” to “climate change” indicated the silliness of this issue. The climate has been changing since the Earth was formed. This normal course is now taken to be evidence of doom.

Individuals and organizations highly vested in disaster scenarios have relentlessly attacked scientists and others who do not share their beliefs. The attacks have taken a threatening turn.

[…]

Billions of dollars have been poured into studies supporting climate alarm, and trillions of dollars have been involved in overthrowing the energy economy. So it is unsurprising that great efforts have been made to ramp up hysteria, even as the case for climate alarm is disintegrating.

[…]

Mr. Grijalva’s letters convey an unstated but perfectly clear threat: Research disputing alarm over the climate should cease lest universities that employ such individuals incur massive inconvenience and expense—and scientists holding such views should not offer testimony to Congress.

So much for the myth that research by private funds is tainted by influence and corrupted, and by research paid for by politicians, non-profit groups and climate hysteria organizations is “neutral” and objective.

Facts are facts no matter who paid to research them. To quote blogger, H. Larson:

“Science requires freedom. Government intimidation has no place in science–nor does the unfounded assumption that private funding corrupts, while public funding guarantees objectivity.”

Matt Ridley: Fossil Fuels Save The World

From Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really) – WSJ:

The more energy you have, the more intricate, powerful and complex you can make a system. Just as human bodies need energy to be ordered and functional, so do societies. In that sense, fossil fuels were a unique advance because they allowed human beings to create extraordinary patterns of order and complexity—machines and buildings—with which to improve their lives.

The result of this great boost in energy is what the economic historian and philosopher Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. In the case of the U.S., there has been a roughly 9,000% increase in the value of goods and services available to the average American since 1800, almost all of which are made with, made of, powered by or propelled by fossil fuels.

Still, more than a billion people on the planet have yet to get access to electricity and to experience the leap in living standards that abundant energy brings. This is not just an inconvenience for them: Indoor air pollution from wood fires kills four million people a year. The next time that somebody at a rally against fossil fuels lectures you about her concern for the fate of her grandchildren, show her a picture of an African child dying today from inhaling the dense muck of a smoky fire.

Notice, too, the ways in which fossil fuels have contributed to preserving the planet. As the American author and fossil-fuels advocate Alex Epstein points out in a bravely unfashionable book, “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” the use of coal halted and then reversed the deforestation of Europe and North America. The turn to oil halted the slaughter of the world’s whales and seals for their blubber. Fertilizer manufactured with gas halved the amount of land needed to produce a given amount of food, thus feeding a growing population while sparing land for wild nature.

To throw away these immense economic, environmental and moral benefits, you would have to have a very good reason. The one most often invoked today is that we are wrecking the planet’s climate. But are we?

Being Gay: Born That Way?

By Michael J Hurd

Are homosexuals “born that way”?

There’s no way to answer this question for certain. In order to do so, we would have to know everything there is to know about the psycho-biological development of sexuality in general.

Answering the question, “What causes homosexuality?” presupposes an ability to answer the question, “What causes sexuality?” The study of human sexuality has not yet reached such an advanced state. At best, we are in a state of speculation—speculation which is sometimes rational, but more often irrational and confused.

Here is what we do know, thanks to discoveries in the fields of psychology and philosophy up to this point in time:

  1. Human beings are both mind and body. It’s very unlikely, if not outright impossible, that anyone’s sexuality is entirely determined by biological or genetic factors. Sexuality is too complex a mixture of physiology, emotions, deep value judgments and psychological traits to oversimplify. The most we can hypothesize is that some complex series of genetic factors predispose an individual to be homosexual rather than heterosexual; however, much more research will be required before we can claim to have established any such thing, in my view.
  1. Among people attracted to the same sex, there is typically some level of understanding about this fact from an early age—at least from adolescence and in some cases even earlier. Sexuality is not developed in any sophisticated way prior to adolescence, though I frequently encounter same-sex-attracted individuals who describe a sense from a rather early age “of being somehow different.” This occurs whether or not the child has ever even heard of such a thing as homosexuality, and whether or not he grows up in a very conservative social climate or a more liberal one (e.g., where his parents have openly gay friends).
  1. Sexual orientation cannot be changed. This is not merely a statement of political correctness, though political correctness is sometimes the motive of some individuals who make this claim. It’s also a fact. No psychological method exists that can effect a change in one’s inner sexual orientation. For decades, psychiatrists tried to “treat” homosexuality but finally gave up; less because of political pressure than because they simply saw no reason to try and force such a change, especially when it didn’t work.

Contemporary psychologists who claim to have a method of “curing” homosexuality are operating on the false premise of behaviorism, which is the view that simply changing behaviors (with no reference whatsoever to consciousness: that is, thoughts, feelings, ideas) is sufficient for “change.” This would be like a very sad or suicidal person saying, “I’m going to act like I’m not feeling low. Then I will be all better.” It’s preposterous.

It is possible for a same-sex-attracted person to simply lie to himself and to change his behaviors in the heterosexual direction (at least for a limited period of time); but changing behaviors and changing one’s basic sexual attraction (which is an inner experience) are not one and the same. Any attempt to do so leads to a life of hypocrisy, pain and profound mind-body warfare. It would be just as senseless for a homosexual to pretend he is heterosexual as it would be for a heterosexual to begin pretending he is attracted to the same sex. It can’t be done.

There is no rational reason to conclude that individuals attracted to the same sex cannot lead happy, fulfilled lives just as people attracted to the opposite sex. Being abnormal—that is, outside of the mainstream—does not automatically constitute being irrational or unhealthy.

Two major psychological factors do contribute to emotional problems in individuals with same-sex orientations: (1) widespread social disapproval from others who are frightened or confused by their sexual orientation; and (2) an internalized belief along the lines of, “I am flawed and can never be happy, at least romantically”— a view which is internalized at an early age and never seriously challenged by the individual.

What about the controversial 2001 Columbia University study claiming that homosexuals can convert to heterosexuality?

Let’s identify exactly what the study found. The study found that two hundred homosexuals (143 of them men) claimed that they were able to change their behaviors from homosexual to heterosexual. This is well and good—and potentially interesting—but there are numerous problems with a study such as this one:

  1. There is no guarantee the respondents were honest. The interviews were conducted by telephone. Like a lot of psychological research, it was essentially an anecdotal study. The interviewer has to take the participant’s word for it. Consequently, you must keep in mind two things: One, it is very easy to have casual sex with other men, if you are either an openly gay man or a man struggling to be married and secretly satisfying your desires at the same time. Second, people who attempt sexual orientation change (because of its psychologically repressive nature) are often heard to slip back to the prior gay lifestyle with some regularity, even if they do marry. I encounter such individuals in my practice. Heterosexual spouses, for their own psychological reasons and issues (e.g., needing to “heal” or “fix” the partner), will often tolerate this behavior if they learn of it.
  1. The sample is very small. Even conservative estimates suggest that 3-4 percent of the population is homosexual (gay activists say it’s closer to 10 percent). Either way, 200 out of millions of gay/lesbian Americans is not a very good sample. Even within this small sample, only 66 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women had achieved what the researchers considered “good heterosexual functioning” (e.g., being married to someone of the opposite sex for a sustained period of time). These are not especially encouraging numbers for people who want there to be such a thing as sexual orientation change, particularly for the women.
  1. The sample was heavily skewed towards religious conservatives. This is significant, because religious conservatives generally believe that homosexuality is not an internal/psychological orientation, but simply a behavior. They completely separate mind and body—consciousness and action (on this issue and many other issues). If you act in a homosexual way, they assume, then you are homosexual. If you change your behaviors, then you are heterosexual. On this logic, if a man who is only attracted to women forced himself to start having sex with men instead, we would now have to consider him a homosexual. It clearly makes no sense.
  1. The skewing of the sample towards religious conservatives is significant in another respect. Members of religious groups encouraging conversion from homosexuality to heterosexuality advocate suppression of one’s personal desires in favor of “Godliness”—i.e., either celibacy or simply forcing oneself to have sex with the opposite sex whether one wants to or not. In objective psychological terms, this is nothing more than emotional repression. A truly interesting finding would be one in which individuals found a psychological method to change their mind-body-emotional response—that is, their very orientation—as opposed to mere behavioral change. (I very much doubt one exists or could exist, but that’s the only sort of finding that would be of any importance.)

Emotional repression in the name of surrendering to God’s will is hardly science. It’s simply dogmatic, religious intimidation.

In short, the study doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. It simply shows us that a number of individuals claim they can change their sexual orientation, based upon what they say in a phone interview and based primarily on religion and repression. No new insights have been gained into what causes homosexuality—or indeed, sexuality in general. Neither left-wing activists, nor right-wing social conservatives, seem to recognize that the burden of proof for any assertion rests on the person making the assertion. All either side seems to want to do is to find facts to fit his politically desired conclusion. Neither dares to indulge in an “I don’t know what causes this,” because to do so would threaten their respective political agendas. Rational people, in contrast, would claim certainty when certainty was earned, but not when so much still needed to be understood.

I can’t help but wonder if the Columbia University study was funded by government dollars. Note that the study took place at an Ivy League school in the humanities field, making federal funding likely. If so, it’s a good example of chickens coming home to roost. For years, left-wing activists have indignantly demanded government research dollars as a moral right—when the research suited their purposes, of course. Sooner or later, the right-wing social conservatives would no doubt make the same demand. Maybe now, with enough bad or mediocre studies in our midst, the two can cancel each other out and we’ll eventually shut down the politicized research industry altogether.

Instead of trying to please the latest political pressure group, researchers might instead seek after the truth. Imagine that!

The above was published several years ago in my booklet, Human Relationships in Plain English. Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)” and “Grow Up America!” Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

Why Children Died From Measles: “Jesus was my doctor”

From What Would Jesus Do About Measles? – NYTimes.com:

Two fundamentalist Christian churches — Faith Tabernacle Congregation and First Century Gospel Church — were at the heart of the outbreak. Children had not been vaccinated, and when they became ill, their parents prayed instead of taking them to the hospital to receive the intravenous fluids or oxygen that could have saved their lives of those with the worst cases. “If I go to God and ask him to heal my body,” said a church member, Gordon Korn, “I can’t go to a doctor for medicine. You either trust God or you trust man.”

Public health officials turned to the courts to intervene. First, they got a court order to examine the churches’ children in their homes, then to admit children to the hospital for medical care. Finally, they did something that had never been done before or since: They got a court order to vaccinate children against their parents’ will. Children were briefly made wards of the state, vaccinated and returned to their parents. At the time, a religious exemption to vaccination had been on the books in Pennsylvania for about a decade.

To prevent doctors from violating his church’s beliefs against vaccination, the pastor of the Faith Tabernacle Church asked the American Civil Liberties Union to represent him. It refused. “There is certainly a free exercise of religion claim by the parents,” said Deborah Levy, of the Philadelphia chapter of the A.C.L.U., “but there is also a competing claim that parents don’t have the right to martyr their children.

When spring came and the epidemic faded, C.D.C. officials published the results of their investigation. Over a third of those infected — 486 of 1,424 — belonged to one of those two churches, as did six of the nine dead children.

At the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, we saw more than 200 children in our emergency department and admitted about 40. Children would come in, covered in rashes, squinting in the bright light (a side effect caused by eye irritation), struggling to breathe and often extremely dehydrated. It was like being in a war zone. When I asked their parents why they had done what they had done, they all had the same answer: “Jesus was my doctor.”

Wanderers – Narrated by Carl Sagan

From Wanderers – a short film by Erik Wernquist on Vimeo:

For more information and stills gallery, please turn to: erikwernquist.com/wanderers

Wanderers is a vision of humanity’s expansion into the Solar System, based on scientific ideas and concepts of what our future in space might look like, if it ever happens. The locations depicted in the film are digital recreations of actual places in the Solar System, built from real photos and map data where available. Without any apparent story, other than what you may fill in by yourself, the idea of the film is primarily to show a glimpse of the fantastic and beautiful nature that surrounds us on our neighboring worlds – and above all, how it might appear to us if we were there.

THIS FILM WAS MADE WITH USE OF PHOTOS AND TEXTURES FROM: NASA/JPL, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio, ESA, John Van Vliet, Björn Jonsson (and many others, of which I unfortunately do not know the names)

Progressive War on Science

From The progressive war on science – The Globe and Mail:

Hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate. Most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence. Environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest.

Some of my dearest friends harbour irrational fears about nuclear power, agricultural chemicals and anything genetically modified. They consider themselves enlightened, and since enlightened people are against these things, they are too. These beliefs are an expression of identity, just as a belief in creationism is part of the identity of a Southern Baptist.

Fifty years ago, enlightened people campaigned to ban the bomb. Today, they campaign to ban GMOs and modern agriculture. Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, hand-delivered an anti-GMO petition to the British government earlier this month. Asked about people who can’t afford expensive organic food, she declared that they should “eat less.” She believes one of the problems with non-organic mass food is that it’s too cheap.

But in most parts of the world, food is not too cheap. And the fear-mongering campaign against genetically modified food by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has been a serious setback for global food security, depriving millions of people of more nutritious, affordable and sustainable food sources. “The actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine,says Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who reversed his position on GMOs and now campaigns for them. “They were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism.”

The kind of doomsayers who warn that oil sands and pipelines will wreak environmental devastation are often the same people who warn that modern agriculture will prove catastrophic. These people are not harmless. As Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, observed, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

Progressive War on Science

From The progressive war on science – The Globe and Mail:

Hardly anybody knows basic science and technology these days. Few of us are going to wade through the National Academy of Sciences report. We depend on intermediaries to tell us what to think, and a lot of them are also scientifically illiterate. Most journalists are generally more interested in controversy than in evidence. Environmental activists are in the business of opposing, and have no interest in solving real-world problems like providing heat and light at a reasonable cost. The people who actually know how things work – engineers and technology types – tend to be uninterested in politics and are poor communicators. Meantime, some of the most deeply anti-science activists (like the artfully named Union of Concerned Scientists) are quoted as if they were neutral actors for the public interest.

Some of my dearest friends harbour irrational fears about nuclear power, agricultural chemicals and anything genetically modified. They consider themselves enlightened, and since enlightened people are against these things, they are too. These beliefs are an expression of identity, just as a belief in creationism is part of the identity of a Southern Baptist.

Fifty years ago, enlightened people campaigned to ban the bomb. Today, they campaign to ban GMOs and modern agriculture. Vivienne Westwood, the famous British fashion designer, hand-delivered an anti-GMO petition to the British government earlier this month. Asked about people who can’t afford expensive organic food, she declared that they should “eat less.” She believes one of the problems with non-organic mass food is that it’s too cheap.

But in most parts of the world, food is not too cheap. And the fear-mongering campaign against genetically modified food by the likes of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth has been a serious setback for global food security, depriving millions of people of more nutritious, affordable and sustainable food sources. “The actions of Greenpeace in forestalling the use of golden rice to address micronutrient deficiencies in children makes them the moral and indeed practical equivalent of the Nigerian mullahs who preached against the polio vaccine,says Mark Lynas, an environmental activist who reversed his position on GMOs and now campaigns for them. “They were stopping a lifesaving technology solely to flatter their own fanaticism.”

The kind of doomsayers who warn that oil sands and pipelines will wreak environmental devastation are often the same people who warn that modern agriculture will prove catastrophic. These people are not harmless. As Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, observed, “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”

Cost to Develop and Win Marketing Approval for a New Drug Is $2.6 Billion

  • R&D costs of 106 new drugs were obtained from a survey of 10 biopharmaceutical firms.
  • Costs for compounds that were abandoned were linked to costs of approved compounds.
  • Pre-tax out-of-pocket per approval is $1395 million (2013 dollars).
  • Pre-tax capitalized per approval is $2558 million (2013 dollars).
  • Total capitalized costs were found to have increased at a real annual rate of 8.5%.
  • With post-approval R&D costs the estimate increases to $2870 million (2013 dollars).

From the press release:

BOSTON – Nov. 18, 2014 – Developing a new prescription medicine that gains marketing approval, a process often lasting longer than a decade, is estimated to cost $2,558 million, according to a new study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. The $2,558 million figure per approved compound is based on estimated:

  • Average out-of-pocket cost of $1,395 million
  • Time costs (expected returns that investors forego while a drug is in development) of $1,163 million
  • Estimated average cost of post-approval R&D—studies to test new indications, new formulations, new dosage strengths and regimens, and to monitor safety and long-term side effects in patients required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a condition of approval—of $312 million boosts the full product lifecycle cost per approved drug to $2,870 million.

All figures are expressed in 2013 dollars.

The new analysis, which updates similar Tufts CSDD analyses, was developed from information provided by 10 pharmaceutical companies on 106 randomly selected drugs that were first tested in human subjects anywhere in the world from 1995 to 2007.

“Drug development remains a costly undertaking despite ongoing efforts across the full spectrum of pharmaceutical and biotech companies to rein in growing R&D costs,” said Joseph A. DiMasi, director of economic analysis at Tufts CSDD and principal investigator for the study. He added, “Because the R&D process is marked by substantial technical risks, with expenditures incurred for many development projects that fail to result in a marketed product, our estimate links the costs of unsuccessful projects to those that are successful in obtaining marketing approval from regulatory authorities.”

In a study published in 2003, Tufts CSDD estimated the cost per approved new drug to be $802 million (in 2000 dollars) for drugs first tested in human subjects from 1983 to 1994, based on average out-of-pocket costs of $403 million and capital costs of $401 million. The $802 million, equal to $1,044 million in 2013 dollars, indicates that the cost to develop and win marketing approval for a new drug has increased by 145% between the two study periods, or at a compound annual growth rate of 8.5%. According to DiMasi, rising drug development costs have been driven mainly by increases in out-of-pocket costs for individual drugs and higher failure rates for drugs tested in human subjects.

Factors that likely have boosted out-of-pocket clinical costs include increased clinical trial complexity, larger clinical trial sizes, higher cost of inputs from the medical sector used for development, greater focus on targeting chronic and degenerative diseases, changes in protocol design to include efforts to gather health technology assessment information, and testing on comparator drugs to accommodate payer demands for comparative effectiveness data. Lengthening development and approval times were not responsible for driving up development costs, according to DiMasi. “In fact,” DiMasi said, “changes in the overall time profile for development and regulatory approval phases had a modest moderating effect on the increase in R&D costs. As a result, the time cost share of total cost declined from approximately 50% in previous studies to 45% for this study.”

The study was authored by DiMasi, Henry G. Grabowski of the Duke University Department of Economics, and Ronald W. Hansen at the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester.

 

From the abstract:

The research and development costs of 106 randomly selected new drugs were obtained from a survey of 10 pharmaceutical firms. These data were used to estimate the average pre-tax cost of new drug and biologics development. The costs of compounds abandoned during testing were linked to the costs of compounds that obtained marketing approval. The estimated average out-of-pocket cost per approved new compound is $1395 million (2013 dollars). Capitalizing out-of-pocket costs to the point of marketing approval at a real discount rate of 10.5% yields a total pre-approval cost estimate of $2558 million (2013 dollars). When compared to the results of the previous study in this series, total capitalized costs were shown to have increased at an annual rate of 8.5% above general price inflation. Adding an estimate of post-approval R&D costs increases the cost estimate to $2870 million (2013 dollars).

 

Aristotle: Father of Biology

“In the 4th century BC the Greek philosopher Aristotle traveled to Lesvos, an island in the Aegean teeming, then as now, with wildlife. His fascination with what he found there, and his painstaking study of it, led to the birth of a new science — biology. Professor Armand Leroi follows in Aristotle’s footsteps to discover the creatures, places and ideas that inspired the philosopher in his pioneering work.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QesWw3Zz0Ms

 

Comments Nick Romeo on Aristotle in an article in The Daily Beast:

Shortly before his death in 1882, Charles Darwin received a letter from a physician and classicist named William Ogle. It contained Ogle’s recent translation of Aristotle’s The Parts of Animals and a brief letter in which he confessed to feeling “some self-importance in thus being a kind of formal introducer of the father of naturalists to his great modern successor.”

Aristotle is not typically remembered as the father of naturalists, but Darwin acknowledged a line of intellectual descent. “I had not the most remote notion of what a wonderful man he was,” Darwin wrote of Aristotle in his reply to Ogle. “Linnaeus and Cuvier have been my two gods, though in very different ways, but they were mere school-boys to old Aristotle.”

A fascinating new book by the evolutionary biologist and science writer Armand Marie Leroi claims that Aristotle fully deserves Darwin’s high praise. In The Lagoon: How Aristotle Invented Science, Leroi argues that Aristotle developed many of the empirical and analytical methods that still define scientific inquiry.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Defends GMOs

Fox

Back in late August a brief clip was posted on Dr Tyson’s off the cuff response to claims against GMO foods. On the science aspects of GMOs he is pretty good.

Comments Tyson:

“Practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food…There are no wild, seedless watermelons. There’s no wild cows…You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself, is there a wild counterpart to this? If there is, it’s not as large, it’s not as sweet, it’s not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it. We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It’s called artificial selection.”

Schmidt’s Nobel Prize Investigated By the TSA

From What It’s Like to Carry Your Nobel Prize through Airport Security | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network:

Among the many changes the Nobel Prize brought to Schmidt’s life: travel hassles. Here’s what he said it’s like to carry a Nobel medal aboard an airplane:

“There are a couple of bizarre things that happen. One of the things you get when you win a Nobel Prize is, well, a Nobel Prize. It’s about that big, that thick [he mimes a disk roughly the size of an Olympic medal], weighs a half a pound, and it’s made of gold.

“When I won this, my grandma, who lives in Fargo, North Dakota, wanted to see it. I was coming around so I decided I’d bring my Nobel Prize. You would think that carrying around a Nobel Prize would be uneventful, and it was uneventful, until I tried to leave Fargo with it, and went through the X-ray machine. I could see they were puzzled. It was in my laptop bag. It’s made of gold, so it absorbs all the X-rays—it’s completely black. And they had never seen anything completely black.

“They’re like, ‘Sir, there’s something in your bag.’

I said, ‘Yes, I think it’s this box.’

They said, ‘What’s in the box?’

I said, ‘a large gold medal,’ as one does.

So they opened it up and they said, ‘What’s it made out of?’

I said, ‘gold.’

And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’

‘The King of Sweden.’

‘Why did he give this to you?’

‘Because I helped discover the expansion rate of the universe was accelerating.’

At which point, they were beginning to lose their sense of humor. I explained to them it was a Nobel Prize, and their main question was, ‘Why were you in Fargo?’”

Lunar Eclipse Time-Lapse Video – December 2010

A time lapse video of a December 20, 2010 total lunar eclipse beginning at about 12:30am EST — the eclipse coincided with the arrival of the winter solstice for the first time in 372 years.

According to NPR, if you missed the total eclipse of the moon in April, you might have another chance: On Wednesday morning, the second of four lunar eclipses this year and next will occur.

 

 

CROSS: Blassio’s War on Poor Asian Children

From To make elite schools ‘fair,’ city will punish poor Asians | New York Post:

New York’s specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant and the equally storied Bronx High School of Science, along with Brooklyn Technical High School and five smaller schools, have produced 14 Nobel laureates — more than most countries.

For more than 70 years, admission to these schools has been based upon a competitive examination of math, verbal and logical reasoning skills. In 1971, the state legislature, heading off city efforts to scrap the merit selection test as culturally biased against minorities, reaffirmed that admission to the schools be based on the competitive exam.

But now, troubled by declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the schools, opponents of the exam have resurfaced. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has filed a civil-rights complaint challenging the admissions process. A bill in Albany to eliminate the test requirement has garnered the support of Sheldon Silver, the powerful Assembly speaker.

And new Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose son, Dante, attends Brooklyn Tech, has called for changing the admissions criteria. The mayor argues that relying solely on the test creates a “rich-get-richer” dynamic that benefits the wealthy, who can afford expensive test preparation.

As Ting’s story illustrates, however, the reality is just the opposite. It’s not affluent whites, but rather the city’s burgeoning population of Asian-American immigrants — a group that, despite its successes, remains disproportionately poor and working-class — whose children have aced the exam in overwhelming numbers.

And, ironically, the more “holistic” and subjective admissions criteria that de Blasio and the NAACP favor would be much more likely to benefit children of the city’s professional elite than African-American and Latino applicants — while penalizing lower-middle-class Asian-American kids like Ting. The result would not be a specialized high school student body that “looks like New York,” but rather one that looks more like Bill de Blasio’s upscale Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Ironic?

To modern “progressive” elites, though, the story is intolerable, starting with the hard work. These liberal elites seem particularly troubled by the Asian-American work ethic and the difficult questions that it raises about the role of culture in group success.

While the advancement of Asian students has come overwhelmingly at the expense of more affluent whites, it has also had an undeniable impact on black and Latino students, whose foothold at these schools, small to begin with, has all but vanished.

[…]

Subjective selection criteria also inevitably favor the affluent and connected — as a comptroller’s audit of the screened-school admissions process revealed. The study found that most of the schools examined did not follow their stated selection criteria and could not explain the criteria that they actually did use.

[…]

Critics of the SHSAT will reply that something must be done about declining black and Hispanic enrollment at the specialized high schools. The answer, however, can never be to lower objective standards.

Adopting this cynical approach would do no favors for black and Latino children, while opening the door to discrimination against Asian kids like Ting. It is not the specialized schools’ emphasis on merit, but rather the advocates’ defeatist worldview that is truly — and tragically — wrongheaded.