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Meet the New Heavyweight Champion Dinosaur: The 76-Ton, 122-feet-long Patagotitan

The Stream - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:50

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A study proclaims a newly named species the heavyweight champion of all dinosaurs, making the scary Tyrannosaurus rex look like a munchkin. At 76 tons (69 metric tons), the plant-eating behemoth was as heavy as a space shuttle.

The dinosaur’s fossils were found in southern Argentina in 2012. Researchers who examined and dated them said the long-necked creature was the biggest of a group of large dinosaurs called titanosaurs.

“There was one small part of the family that went crazy on size,” said Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio paleontology museum in Argentina, co-author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

The researchers named the dinosaur Patagotitan mayorum after the Patagonia region where it was found and the Greek word titan, which means large. The second name honors a ranch family that hosted the researchers.

Six fossils of the species were studied and dated to about 100 million years ago, based on ash found around them, Pol said. The dinosaur averaged 122 feet long (37 meters) and was nearly 20 feet high (6 meters) at the shoulder.

A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is already on display at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s so big that the dinosaur’s head sticks out into a hallway at the New York museum.

Legendary T. rex and other meat-eaters “look like dwarfs when you put them against one of these giant titanosaurs,” Pol said. “It’s like when you put an elephant by a lion.”

Scientists have known titanosaurs for a while, but this is a new species and even a new genus, which is a larger grouping, Pol said. Another titanosaur called Argentinosaurus was previously thought to be the largest.

“I don’t think they were scary at all,” Pol said. “They were probably massive big slow-moving animals.”

“Getting up. Walking around. Trying to run. It’s really challenging for large animals,” he said.

The big question is how did these dinosaurs get so big, Pol said. Researchers are still studying it, but said it probably has to do with an explosion of flowering plants at the time. Along with a forest, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for these dinosaurs and they just got bigger.

“It’s hard to argue this isn’t a big deal when it concerns the (probable) largest land animal ever discovered,” University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz, who wasn’t part of the study, said in an email.

Kristi Curry Rodgers, a paleontologist at Macalester College who wasn’t part of the study, praised the work as important. She said the fact that Patagotitan’s bones show signs that they haven’t completed their growth “means that there are even bigger dinosaurs out there to discover.”

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . His work can be found here.

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

New Pro-Regime Venezuelan Assembly Declares Itself Superior to Elected Congress

The Stream - Wed, 08/09/2017 - 00:27

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuela’s new constitutional assembly took over the halls of the endangered, opposition-controlled congress Tuesday and decreed itself superior to all other branches of government while prominently displaying images of the late President Hugo Chavez.

The order bars anti-government lawmakers in congress from taking any action that would interfere with the laws passed by the newly installed assembly, Delcy Rodriguez, the super-body’s leader, declared to unanimous approval.

“We are not threatening anyone,” said Aristobulo Isturiz, the constitutional assembly’s first vice president. “We are looking for ways to coexist.”

Embattled President Nicolas Maduro convoked the constitutional assembly in what he contends is an attempt to resolve the nation’s political standoff, but opposition leaders insist it is a power grab. Since its installation Friday, the assembly has already ousted the nation’s outspoken chief prosecutor, established a “truth commission” expected to target Maduro’s foes and passed decrees pledging “support and solidarity” with the unpopular president.

Opposition lawmakers said they were barred from entering the gold-domed legislative palace after security forces led by Rodriguez broke into congress late Monday.

“This government invades the spaces that it is not capable of legitimately winning,” Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition lawmaker, wrote on Twitter of the assembly’s takeover of the chamber the opposition has controlled since winning 2015 elections.

Before the assembly met, Venezuela’s pro-government Supreme Court sentenced a Caracas-area mayor at the center of recent protests to 15 months in prison for not following an order to remove barricades set up during anti-government demonstrations.

Ramon Muchacho is the fourth opposition mayor ordered arrested by the high court the past two weeks. The court also ordered an investigation into another prominent Caracas-area mayor, David Smolansky, for the same alleged crimes.

Muchacho’s whereabouts were not immediately known, but he denounced the ruling on Twitter, saying that “all of the weight of the revolutionary injustice has fallen on my shoulders” for merely acting to guarantee the constitutional right to protest.

The constitutional assembly’s meeting Tuesday came amid mounting criticism from foreign governments that have refused to recognize the new body.

The foreign ministers of 17 Western Hemisphere nations met in Peru to discuss how to force Maduro to back down. Peru’s president has been vocal in rejecting the new Venezuelan assembly, but the region has had trouble agreeing on collective actions. The ministers issued a statement after the meeting condemning the body and reiterating previous calls for the parties in Venezuela to negotiate on ending the political crisis.

Meanwhile, leaders from the Bolivarian Alliance, a leftist coalition of 11 Latin American nations, met in Caracas and declared the creation of Venezuela’s constitutional assembly a “sovereign act” aimed at helping the nation overcome its difficulties.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza told representatives from the ALBA nations, including Cuba and Bolivia, that longstanding U.S. aggression against Maduro and Venezuela have recently entered “a much stronger phase.”

The Trump administration announced last week it was freezing any U.S. assets Maduro might possess and barring any American from doing business with him in response to the July 30 election for delegates to the constitutional assembly.

“We reiterate the call for a constructive and respectful dialogue,” the alliance said in a statement read after the meeting.

Opposition lawmakers have vowed to hold onto their only government foothold -- the country’s single-chamber congress -- despite threats from the constitutional assembly to strip them of any authority and lock up key leaders. Lawmakers voted unanimously Monday not to recognize any of the new super-body’s decrees.

Since the disputed election, security forces have stepped up their presence. The U.N. human rights commissioner report warned of “widespread and systematic use” of excessive force, arbitrary detention and other rights violations against demonstrators.

Only a few dozen demonstrators heeded the opposition’s call to set up traffic-snarling roadblocks in Caracas Tuesday to show their opposition to the new assembly.

Protests that drew hundreds of thousands at their peak are drawing fewer and fewer as fear and resignation creep in. At least 124 people have been killed and hundreds more injured or detained during the protests.

A United Nations report released Tuesday found that Venezuela’s armed forces were responsible for 46 of the deaths since April. Another 27 people were killed by groups of armed, pro-government civilians, the report said.

Now at a crossroads, opposition parties are facing a rapidly approaching deadline to decide whether to take part in regional elections scheduled for December.

The National Electoral Council announced that the nation’s largest opposition coalition was barred from entering candidates in seven of Venezuela’s 23 states, citing ongoing court proceedings. In recent years, the government has also taken action prohibiting high-profile opposition leaders from running.

While Maduro’s popular support is estimated to be no higher than 20 percent, some opposition leaders are skeptical of running in regional elections they fear could be rigged. The official turnout count in last month’s constitutional assembly election has been questioned at home and abroad.

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Associated Press writer Christine Armario in Miami contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

What the Google Memo Says, and How the Media are Misrepresenting It

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 21:59

Google fired engineer James Damore Monday for his now-viral 10-page memo. In it he questioned the effectiveness of the company’s diversity programs. He also suggested that Google’s left-leaning bias silences opposing viewpoints. Leaked over the weekend, his memo quickly drew angry reactions on the internet.  

Many outlets dubbed Damore’s memo the “anti-diversity memo.” This is despite Damore stating that “I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.” 

What Did the Memo Say?

Damore believes the liberal bias at Google leads to the silencing of certain opinions. Ideas cannot be “honestly discussed.” One such idea is the notion that the low number of women in technology-related fields is due to sexism. 

Damore explains his view that biological “personality differences,” not sexism, account for the disparity. Damore suggests women are “on average” interested in people over things. He also says they express “extraversion” through gregariousness instead of assertiveness. Finally, he writes that many women have a lower stress tolerance. He cites one scientific study and neurologist Simon Baron-Cohen, who has advanced theories about sex-based cognitive differences.

These differences could be why women are less likely to advance in tech and leadership roles, Damore writes. He adds that they are more likely to value a work-life balance. To help more women advance at Google, Damore offers solutions like “allowing and truly endorsing … part time work.” He also supports creating more opportunities for collaboration.

Damore goes on to critique Google’s approach to creating racial diversity. He says the result is more discrimination. As an example, he cites programs that are exclusive to one gender or race.

“I hope it's clear that I'm not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair,” Damore writes. “I'm also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles.”

“I'm advocating for quite the opposite,” he continues. “Treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”

He ends the memo with suggestions for how to promote thought diversity and create a fairer work environment. For more on Damore’s arguments, see these Stream articles by Dr. John Doe and William Briggs.

The Media’s Response 

A New York Times headline said Damore was fired for “Questioning Women in Tech.” CNN tweeted that Damore said “women aren’t biologically fit for tech jobs.” The Washington Post said Damore “wrote that women may be unsuited for tech jobs.” An alternate headline to the Post article, which appeared in a Google search, said Damore’s memo “bemoaned racial diversity.”

 Time Magazine joined multiple outlets in falsely calling the memo “anti-diversity.” The Atlantic acknowledged this after correcting a similar headline. 

“He is not against pursuing greater gender diversity at Google,” Conor Friedersdorf writes. Only “against the current means Google is using to pursue that end.”

Damore links to several sources throughout his memo to back his claims. But Gizmodo posted a version that removes all hyperlinks, as well as charts from the original. (Here’s the original.)

A Google engineer argued that women aren't biologically fit for tech jobs. Was it protected under the 1st Amendment? https://t.co/ex7E9cdZSn pic.twitter.com/iVOGN29FlL

— CNN (@CNN) August 8, 2017

Google’s Response

Google’s Vice President of Diversity Danielle Brown responded to Damore Monday night. Brown said he “advanced incorrect assumptions about gender.” But Brown acknowledged the need to allow employees with “alternative views” to express themselves. 

Google CEO Sundar Pichai ended a family vacation early to travel home amid the controversy. In an email shared by The Verge, he said “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct.” Pichai repeated the media’s popular narrative: that Damore thinks women are “less biologically suited” to work in tech. Pichai said some employees “are hurting and feel judged based on their gender.”

The CEO admitted that Damore raised “important topics.” He even said “people must feel free to express dissent,” and that Damore “had a right to express their views.” But neither Brown’s nor Pichai’s lip service to free expression stopped Damore from getting fired.

Trump Threatens NKorea with ‘Fire and Fury’ After New Report About Its Nuclear Weapons

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 21:24

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump warned North Korea that it could face “fire and fury” after a new report Tuesday said U.S. intelligence believes Pyongyang has successfully produced a nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.

Washington’s alarm over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s pursuit of a nuclear capability has intensified after the North conducted two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles last month.

The latest report that it has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead would mean North Korea has passed a key threshold in becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

“North Korea had best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” Trump said during a briefing on opioid addiction at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

Japan’s Defense Ministry concluded in an annual white paper released Tuesday that “it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads.” Japan, a key U.S. ally, is also a potential target of North Korean aggression.

A report in The Washington Post on Tuesday went further. The newspaper said U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that a decade after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion, Pyongyang has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles -- the type capable of reaching the continental U.S.

The Post story, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, said the confidential analysis was completed last month by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The U.S. also calculated last month that North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons, the Post said, more than double most assessments by independent experts.

Officials at the agency would not comment Tuesday on the report. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not commented.

The U.N. Security Council this weekend slapped its toughest sanctions yet on North Korea over its latest test of a ballistic missile that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon. Despite the rapid tempo of these tests, uncertainty has lingered over the isolated nation’s ability to couple such a missile with a nuclear device.

Those uncertainties appear to be receding.

 

 

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Singer Glen Campbell Has Passed Away

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 21:13

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Glen Campbell, the grinning, high-pitched entertainer who had such hits as “Rhinestone Cowboy” and spanned country, pop, television and movies, has died. He was 81.

Campbell’s publicist Sandy Brokaw says the singer died Tuesday morning in Nashville. No cause was immediately given. Campbell announced in June 2011 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and that it was in its early stages at that time.

Campbell was one of the biggest stars of the late 1960s and 1970s. He sold more than 45 million records, had 12 gold albums and 75 chart hits. He co-starred with John Wayne in the 1969 movie True Grit and had a weekly audience of some 50 million people for the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS from 1969 to 1972.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

School: Honors Classes Will be Decided by Skin Color, Not Intelligence

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 20:31

A Virginia high school sent a disturbing letter to parents and students announcing they would be selecting students for Advanced Placement and honors classes based on skin color -- instead of intelligence.

Martin Luther King, Jr. must be turning over in his grave.

A parent forwarded me a copy of the letter sent from John Handley High School in Winchester. "Through our collective work, advanced classes such as AP and Honors will have proportional representation," read the letter. "Proportional representation is 40% White, 35% Hispanic, 12% African American, 10% mixed race."

The letter went on to explain that public schools across the country "continue to see outcomes that are disproportionate by race and social class." "American demographic trends indicate that America will be a majority minority nation in the next 25 years," the letter read. "Therefore, the new work of American public schools is to develop systems to address disparate outcomes."

Interesting -- I thought the work of American public schools was to teach kids how to read, write, multiply and divide.

Among those who received the letter was Eric Sitton -- the father of a rising sophomore honors student at the high school. "I was taken aback. I couldn't believe someone would put words like that in print to send around to the homes of students," he told me.

He said he was especially distressed when his teenage son read the rules governing honors classes. "I felt powerless to help my child," he said. "Seeing the look on his face when he realized that he was being judged by the color of his skin was agonizing."

So how does a public school district explain judging children based on their pigmentation? I reached out to the school district multiple times over the past two days but so far -- they have not responded to my questions regarding the policy.

"My son asked me, 'Am I not going to be able to be in an AP class because I'm white?' And I didn't know what to tell him," Mr. Sitton said.

Clearly, the school is playing identity politics. And it won't be long before they require students to take white privilege classes.

Last year, he said one of his son's teachers told students she could not believe anyone would vote for Donald Trump. She attempted to influence students with her political ideology.

"It is honestly like trying to run a marathon in mud -- trying to deal with the school system," Mr. Sitton told me.

Hopefully, Mr. Sitton's son will be among the 40 percent of white people permitted to enroll in honors classes. "I told my son to just do the best you can do, show your aptitude and hopefully you will get the classes you want," he said.

 

 

Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.

Originally published on ToddStarnes.com. Reprinted with permission.

Must Christians Reject America? Some Think So.

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 19:31

In my last piece, I worried that some Catholics reject the American heritage of religious freedom out of a misplaced concern for consistency. Yes, the Church once (speaking fallibly, and starting not with the Apostles but only in the 4th century) rejected religious liberty. So they feel driven to "prove" that she still does. To this end, they look for loopholes in the text of Vatican II. Hence Thomas Pink's theory that the state can't violently persecute "heretics," but the church still can. So there's no inconsistency, folks!

Still other Catholics scoff at American liberty for different reasons. They seem to envy the truculence of Islamists. They are tired of accepting the limits to Catholic political power accepted at Vatican II. Muslims who call for sharia seem to be getting away with it. Why should we ask for just half a loaf? Especially when professors writing at First Things tell us that doing so leads straight to abortion and transgender bathrooms. (More on that below.)

It is senseless to cherry pick,even misquote, the words of our founding fathers to prove that Anthony Kennedy was right about America.

I don't have space to lay out the whole argument here on why Christians have no right to use violent force to suppress the beliefs of other Christians. I've written about it elsewhere. Much better to read the Church Fathers. Or St. John Paul II's eloquent apology for the sins of Catholics in past centuries. Or Vatican II's decree on Human Dignity.

Was the U.S. Founded by the ACLU?

But the problem is broader than a few angry young men. More and more Christians of several churches reject religious liberty for more creditable reasons. They see it as part of "liberalism," in the Anglo-American sense. And indeed it is. But they think that this worldview leads inevitably to legal abortion. And same sex marriage. And the expulsion of Christianity from the public square. (Weirdly, the same things happened in countries where American liberty was never dreamt of, but never mind.)

Some Christians seem to envy the truculence of Islamists.

In other words, these Christians agree with Justice Anthony Kennedy: The core of American liberty is solipsistic nihilism. They just think it's a bad thing, while Kennedy thinks it's fabulous. Some (such as Rod Dreher does in The Benedict Option) cite Catholic professors like Patrick Deneen and Michael Hanby as having somehow proved this from the writing of our Founders.

But they're deeply mistaken. The late, great Michael Novak wrote on this subject for The Stream on the subject. It was one of the last pieces he ever published.

Was America Founded on a Lie?

In a devastating critique that just appeared, Catholic scholar Robert Reilly shows the profound flaws in the arguments of these anti-Constitutionalists, if not quite anti-Americans. The article is behind a paywall, but let me unpack Reilly’s argument for those who sadly don’t subscribe to The Claremont Review of Books. With his permission, let me quote a few of his choicest observations:

Where do Deneen and Hanby locate the presence of this radical autonomy in the American Founding? Their evidence for it is negligible. Deneen has asserted online that the founding was based on "a relativistic philosophy." …

This indictment leads Deneen to question the very basis of American republicanism: "To have allegiance even to this mixed Constitutional founding is ultimately to declare allegiance to the trajectory of radical autonomy and individualism." ... Therefore, says Deneen, "I increasingly fear that Americans will have to break with America, and seek to re-found the nation on better truths--ones that have perhaps never been self-evident, but rather hard-won, and which are far better than our philosophy and increasingly better than ourselves."

In his new book, Conserving America?: Essays on Present Discontents, he states that these better truths must be "explicitly in departure from the philosophic principles that animated its liberal founding...to build a new civilization worthy of preservation." Is there not anything worth saving in the American Founding? Deneen conveys how comprehensively he scorns America by proffering this parallel: "[Vaclav] Havel did not appeal to the better version of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia or seek to reform it from within, but to 'expose its unstable foundations' by refusing to pretend that its lies were true."

Wow. So the American regime is comparable to the foreign-imposed Communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia. Its foundations are unstable, because they are based on "lies."

Some Christians agree with Justice Anthony Kennedy: The core of American liberty is solipsistic nihilism. They just think it's a bad thing, while Kennedy thinks it's fabulous.

James Madison, Diversity Activist

But is Deneen's reading of our founding documents accurate? Reilly raises the question:

Where in the founding itself can Deneen locate the malign principles that render it unworthy of preservation? Deneen repeatedly cites James Madison in Federalist No. 10 as evidence that the American regime is based upon a notion of radical individual autonomy. Conserving America? states, "'The first object of government,' writes Madison in Federalist 10, 'is the protection of the diversity in the faculties of men.'" Deneen concludes:

"The political order exists to permit, even positively encourage, humans to differentiate themselves by their choices with near infinite variety, unfettered by limitations of family circumstance, geographic accident, undesired citizenship, unwanted religious identity, and increasingly -- as we now see -- even gender or any other form of identity that would suggest some form of external limitation on our shaping of selfhood."

In other words, James Madison himself, in one of America's crucial documents, tipped his hand. At root, the Constitution and Declaration point exactly where Justice Kennedy, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood insist: toward gay marriage, legal abortion, and transgender ideology. If that were true, then we ought indeed to reject the country's political philosophy.

Deneen suggests that the American regime is somehow comparable with the foreign-imposed Communist dictatorship of Czechoslovakia. Its foundations are unstable, because they are based on "lies."

Mangling Madison

But wait a minute. Did Deneen get Madison right? Reilly shows that Deneen butchers the text:

Deneen relies heavily on his Madison quotation for a definitive expression of "the ends prescribed by our regime." The only problem is that Madison did not say what Deneen says he said. Deneen cobbles together parts of two sentences and creates a new one that supports his own critique, creating a Madisonian strawman to indict the founding.

A harsh thing to say about a fellow scholar. Can Reilly back it up? Here he does:

In Federalist 10, Madison is talking about minimizing the problems of faction, especially majority factions, in order to preserve the United States. Just after saying that one insuperable problem leading to faction is the connection between man's "reason and his self-love" he states, "The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests." In other words, "diversity," a simple fact of nature in men's diverse talents, is in the first place a problem, not a solution. [emphasis added] Madison never says diversity is something government should positively encourage, as Deneen suggests. …

It is Madison's next sentence that declares, "The protection of these faculties is the first object of government." It is the protection of the faculties themselves, not of diversity, that is the government's object. By this, Madison means that government protects the free exercise of an individual's abilities. …

Madison never uses the phrase "the protection of the diversity in the faculties of men." Deneen creates this phrase and then attributes it to Madison so he can read back into Federalist 10 Justice Kennedy's views of radical individual autonomy -- thus implying a straight line from the founding to today's LGBT "rights."

Deneen has used this fabricated sentence frequently to prove his position.

For instance:

In 2012 he employed it against the idea that the founding was in any way a continuation of premodern natural law thinking. As proof, he promised "the founders' explicit statements." After all, Deneen wrote: "We need only look at their words, most obviously the Lockean basis of the Declaration ... but so too to the justifications they offered for the Constitution. In the course of Federalist10, Madison makes the matter plain: 'the [protection of the] diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate ... is the first object of government.'

Here again he mauls what Madison actually said. It is very hard to "look at their words," if you get their words wrong. (As we have seen, Deneen eventually dropped the brackets, so there remained not even a hint that he had elided two sentences to make a new one.)

There is much, much more in Reilly's long and detailed piece. He debunks the fashionable idea that the whole American founding can be reduced to the thinking of John Locke. And the even trendier claim (which he attributes to Michael Hanby) that Locke is fundamentally no different than Hobbes.

It’s senseless to cherry pick, and even misquote, the words of our founding fathers to prove that Anthony Kennedy and the (LBGT) Human Rights Campaign are right about America, while Ronald Reagan and the Religious Right were wrong. Especially if (like Deneen, Hanby, and their disciple in this, Rod Dreher) you refuse to lay out what kind of society you want to establish on the rubble of our Constitution and Declaration. To mix metaphors, it's to trade a bird in the hand for an unseen pig in a poke.

NJ sex ed teacher loses license after hands-on lessons with teen student

EAGnews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:32
HACKENSACK, N.J. – A former New Jersey sex education instructor lost his teaching license last month – a year after he was sentenced to prison for taking a hands-on approach with a 16-year-old female student. Donald DeWitt, 66, taught biology and human sexuality at Bergen County Academies until he was arrested in April 2015, shortly […]

About That Google Memo: Was it Really Sexist?

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:30

Note from the editors: The author of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous. He is a professor whose academic unit contains computer science faculty, and he wishes to avoid trouble with and for his superiors.

Google is being investigated by the Department of Labor for extreme gender pay discrimination against women. Against that backdrop, a 10-page memo written by an unnamed Google employee has everyone talking. (He’s since been identified and fired.)

The author's main point is that: "differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don't have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business." Many find this offensive: Is the author suggesting that the women at Google are less competent? Or that their gender is why they were hired? But if you read his piece, you'll see that's not what he's saying.

Gender Differences?

The author believes that men and women, on average, have personality differences. He thinks these differences lead to different preferences. And these different preferences-- at least in part -- explain the lack of female representation in tech firms. He claims that women tend to be more into people than things, so they may be less likely to pursue certain types of programming jobs. He claims that women tend to be less assertive, so they may be less likely to negotiate on salary. He claims that women tend to have less stress tolerance, and a greater desire for work-life balance. So they may be less likely to want demanding, high-profile positions, like management at a tech firm. He points to an internal survey which found that female Google employees reported higher stress levels. 

We want to be treated as individuals. We don't want to be lumped in and treated as merely the member of some tribe.

He's careful to note these are “averages.” Many women are more assertive than many men, and so on. Using gender stereotypes runs the risk of painting with too broad a brush. But the ideas are similar to ones conservatives have appealed to in response to the myth of the gender wage gap.          

Respect Free Choices

The author believes that we live in an increasingly wealthy, free, and fair society, where overt sexism is on the decline. As a result, women and men are able to do what they want with their lives -- regardless of what stereotypes may exist in the minds of some. Still, fields like computer science tilt male. The author doesn't say it, but other fields, like nursing and elementary education, tilt female. The author's point is that we should "stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism." Instead, we should "treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group."

This rings true for many of us, particularly women and minorities. We want to be treated as individuals. We don't want to be lumped in and treated as merely the member of some tribe. Treating people as members of groups actually reinforces stereotypes and encourages friction, not unity.  

For example, the perception that women are hired or promoted because they are female can result in a backlash of disrespect from others, and a self-esteem problem among the women themselves. That doesn't serve anyone. It's arguably more strategic to make promotion decisions on merit alone, regardless of how that impacts female representation. That's the kind of question this author is raising. And for doing so, he's apparently been fired.

An Inclusive Workplace

The author made clear that he wants an inclusive workplace. Part of his memo is devoted to suggested ways to increase female representation in tech without discriminating against men. One thing he suggests is to "make tech and leadership less stressful." While he doesn't say exactly how to do this, it's worth noting that his intentions seem to be the same as Google's: More women in leadership.

The author is also pressing for another kind of inclusiveness: viewpoint diversity. He claims that conservatives are alienated at Google -- a topic that also came up at a Google shareholder meeting in June. As a result, the author claims, certain perspectives can't be shared without the (left-leaning) majority resorting to name-calling. The open hostility he's received, and the fact that he's been fired, actually supports his point.

If we assume women have the exact same interests as men, we can't even have this discussion.

The author writes that "allowing and truly endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work ... can keep more women in tech." If we assume women have the exact same interests as men, we can't even have this discussion. Remember the ridicule Mitt Romney received for his talk of "binders full of women" in a Presidential debate? Romney noted that he had an inclusive Cabinet as Governor -- the most inclusive according to a survey from the University of New York in Albany. Why? Because of the flexibility he gave his workers, including a female Chief of Staff who wanted to be home for dinner with her children. It's not sexist to observe that women spend more time with their children then men, even when they command high earnings potential

The now jobless man raises concerns that Google should consider. As a leading evangelical wrote, "This is what would happen if we could have adult conversations, making arguments and welcoming counter-arguments." How sad that so many are dismissing his memo out of hand. Reply with facts and reason. Where he's sloppy, offer pointed correction. But shutting down dialogue with name-calling and shaming doesn't help anyone.

 

Dr. John Doe is a professor in a technical discipline. Previously, he held positions as an engineer in several technology companies.

Pomona College mandatory fee funds free rides for illegals, ‘non-traditional’ students

EAGnews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 17:26
CLAREMONT, Calif. – Student leaders at Pomona College are launching a new ride share service for incoming students, but only illegal immigrants and other minority students will benefit. “The Associated Students of Pomona College is launching our Airport Rideshare system by providing domestic incoming first-year and transfer students free-of-charge transportation from LAX (Los Angeles International) […]

8-Year-Old Sues Private School Over Gender Identity

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 13:20

An 8-year-old transgender student and his parents are suing an Orange Country private school for failing to let him express his identity as a girl.

The lawsuit, filed Aug. 2, alleges that Heritage Oak Private School violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act which outlaws discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation because it wouldn't allow Nikki Brar to wear the girls' uniform, use the girls' bathroom, or be called a "she." His lawyers said he is determined to fight for "education without discrimination," the Los Angles Times reported Monday. The suit is particularly noteworthy because it is "the first [transgender rights] case to use a state anti-discrimination law as one of the grounds for relief," Mark Rosenbaum, director of the pro bono Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, told the LA Times.

The boy's parents filed the suit against Heritage Oak, its executive director Phyllis Cygan, and school's parent group, Nobel Learning Communities. They are seeking damages for "emotional distress and discrimination," as well as more than $10,000 for school tuition and fees. They also asked Heritage Oak to write an additional nondiscrimination policy specifically for transgender students, and demanded that the school teach lessons on transgender identity in the classroom.

"It honors our child's commitment to being who she is despite adversity," Brar's mother, Priya Shah, wrote in an email. "It is our small contribution toward ensuring that other transgender and gender expansive children do not go through the same hardship and trauma."

Nobel Learning Communities released a statement following the lawsuit, saying, "We believed it was extremely important to respond, not hastily, but with deliberate care, to decide when and how to inform and educate our entire elementary school community of students, staff and parents about the mid-year change of gender identity expression of a young child ... Unfortunately, these accommodations were rejected and the parents withdrew their child."

"They have to create a private school environment that's safe and supportive for all students," said Asaf Orr, an attorney for the National Center for Lesbian Rights' transgender youth project.

An appeals court found in 2009 that a private, nonprofit school can't be sued under the Unruh Act, but Heritage Oak is a for-profit, therefore making it unlikely that the judge will rule the same way with this case.

Brar will start at a public school in Orange County in the fall.

Follow Grace on Twitter.

  Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

Chicago Sues Over Sanctuary City Threat; Sessions Fires Back

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 13:14

CHICAGO (AP) -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken his fight against President Donald Trump’s immigration policies to court, with Chicago becoming one of the first cities Monday to sue over what many U.S. cities argue are illegal bids to withhold public safety grants from so-called sanctuary cities.

Hours later, Attorney General Jeff Sessions hit back at Chicago, saying the Trump administration “will not simply give away grant dollars to city governments that proudly violate the rule of law and protect criminal aliens at the expense of public safety.”

“So it’s this simple: Comply with the law or forego taxpayer dollars,” he said in a toughly worded statement.

A 46-page lawsuit, which names Sessions, was filed earlier Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago a day after Emanuel announced the litigation and said the city won’t “be blackmailed” into changing its values as a city welcoming of immigrants.

It’s the latest round in a battle pitting several U.S. cities against the Trump administration. The cities have opted to limit cooperation with government enforcement of immigration law while federal officials threaten to withhold funding if those cities don’t comply.

While estimates vary, there are thought to be about 300 jurisdictions -- including cities and counties -- with sanctuary-like policies. Among the other bigger U.S. cities with such policies are New York and Philadelphia.

A first order of business now that Chicago’s suit has been filed will be to ask a judge to put a freeze on the policy as the civil case plays out, said Edward Siskel, the head of City Hall’s legal department. That request for a preliminary injunction could be made within days.

Chicago has received the grant funds at the heart of the lawsuit since 2005. It spent $33 million in grants to buy nearly 1,000 police cars in that 12-year period; it got $2.3 million last year. In addition to cars, funds were also used for radios and SWAT equipment.

While the grant money amounts to a fraction of Chicago’s public safety budget, Emanuel has said fighting the government now could help prevent the withholding of more money later. He described the Trump measures so far as just “the camel’s nose under the tent.”

In his Monday statement, Sessions said Chicago stood out in its “open hostility” to enforcing immigration laws.

“To a degree perhaps unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction, the political leadership of Chicago has chosen deliberately and intentionally to adopt a policy that obstructs this country’s lawful immigration system,” he said.

Chicago’s suit focuses on new conditions set by Sessions for cities to qualify for grant money. They include the sharing immigration-status records with federal agencies, providing 48-hours notice of a detainee’s release if immigration violations are suspected and giving federal agents unfettered access to jails.

“The government,” the lawsuit says, can’t “unilaterally” set new conditions that weren’t approved by Congress “and that would federalize local jails and police stations, mandate warrantless detentions in order to investigate for federal civil infractions, sow fear in local immigrant communities, and ultimately make the people of Chicago less safe.”

Chicago’s sanctuary policies date back to the mid-1980s and successive city councils have confirmed or expanded the protections.

The city prohibits police from providing federal Immigration and Customs officials access to people in police custody, unless they are wanted on a criminal warrant or have serious criminal convictions. Local police are also barred from allowing ICE agents to use their facilities for interviews or investigations and from responding to ICE inquiries or talking to ICE officials about a person’s custody status or release date.

City authorities say the policies help encourage residents of the immigrant community to inform police when they are victims of crimes.

“If Chicago submits to the Department’s demands, it will forfeit decades’ worth of trust and goodwill that its police force has built in the communities it serves,” the new lawsuit argues. “And as those decades of experience show, that kind of trust, once lost, is lost forever.”

Sessions alluded to arguments also made by Trump that enforcing immigration laws can reduce crime. He calls Chicago’s “hostility” to such laws especially “astounding” given that numbers of homicides in the city in 2016 outpaced the numbers in New York and Los Angeles.

“The city’s leaders cannot follow some laws and ignore others and reasonably expect this horrific situation to improve,” Sessions said.

He also characterized Emanuel as complaining it would have to reorder longstanding policies to conform.

“But that’s just what Chicago needs: a recommitment to the rule of law and to policies that rollback the culture of lawlessness that has beset the city,” Sessions said.

The city’s lawsuit says the Trump administration’s contention that more lenient immigration policies contribute to crime “is divorced from reality.”

In March, the Justice Department sent letters to officials in California and major cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and New Orleans, all places the Justice Department’s inspector general has identified as limiting the information local law enforcement can provide to federal immigration authorities about those in their custody.

The department warned that the administration will punish communities that refuse to cooperate with efforts to find and deport immigrants in the country illegally. But some of the localities remained defiant, despite risking the loss of funds that police agencies use to pay for everything from body cameras to bulletproof vests.

___

Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at http://twitter.com/mtarm. Follow Sophia Tareen on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Is One of EPA’s Most Successful Clean Air Rules Based on Fabricated Data?

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 13:08

One of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) longest and most successful air pollution standards is based on a taxpayer-funded study plagued by "data fabrication and falsification," according to a veteran toxicologist.

Toxicologist Albert Donnay says he's found evidence a 1989 study commissioned by EPA on the health effects of carbon monoxide, which, if true, could call into question 25 years of regulations and billions of dollars on catalytic converters for automobiles.

"They claimed to find an effect when there wasn't one," Donnay told The Daily Caller News Foundation. "They even fabricated the methods they used to get their results."

"They were spinning this to give EPA what they wanted and commissioned," Donnay said. "They reported results that could not have come from human beings."

EPA gave "primary consideration" to 1989 study put together by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) to replace a previous 1981 study that relied on fabricated data.

In 2011, EPA did what it's done since 1971 and left the carbon monoxide standard unchanged at 9 parts per million measured over an 8-hour time period and 35 parts per million over 1 hour.

And why not? EPA's been wildly successful in reducing carbon monoxide over the years. Levels were 85 percent below EPA standards in 2016, making it the second-most reduced air pollutant, according to agency data.

"Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas emitted from combustion processes" that can cause serious health effects and even death at extremely high levels, according to EPA.

Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning kills between 400 and 500 people a year, according to government data.

Here's a poster of the research Donnay presented at the 2015 Society of Toxicology meeting:

Credit: Albert Donnay

Dr. Aronow

But Donnay said his research shows the HEI study is full of "scientific fraud" that should be investigated by EPA and HEI.

"If you commission someone to replicate a fraud, you have to commit fraud to do it," Donnay told The DCNF when discussing the results of his reanalysis.

In 1983, EPA realized its carbon monoxide standard was based on "questionable, perhaps falsified, research" conducted by Dr. Wilbert Aronow in the 1970s, The New York Times reported at the time.

The Federal Drug Administration found Aronow had been falsifying drug trial evidence for patients at a Veterans Affairs hospital in the Los Angeles area. EPA also used Aronow's research.

The agency acted quickly to replace Aronow's fraudulent data, funding a massive human exposure study with HEI -- a research group funded funded by EPA and the auto industry.

HEI put together a study to test human carbon monoxide on men with coronary artery disease, observing how long they could exercise before they succumbed to angina after being exposed to the gas. HEI hired three teams from different universities to help with the research.

The HEI study was published in 1989 and cost $2.5 million to finish. The New England Journal of Medicine also published the study in 1989, and medical journal Environmental Health Perspectives published the study two years later.

Environmental Health Perspectives declined to further comment on Donnay's request. Neither HEI nor the New England Journal of Medicine responded to The DCNF's request for comment.

HEI researchers, unsurprisingly, found that "low levels of carboxyhemoglobin [carbon monoxide] exacerbate [angina] during graded exercise in subjects with coronary artery disease."

EPA heralded the HEI study, and relied on it to promulgate its 1994 carbon monoxide standard.

EPA has leaned on it to keep its outdoor carbon monoxide in place ever since. The agency gave the HEI study "primary consideration" in its 2011 review of carbon monoxide regulations.

Donnay joined a lawsuit brought by environmentalists to challenge EPA's carbon monoxide decision. The courts ruled against activists, so, in 2014, Donnay decided to reanalyze the landmark study EPA had relied on all these years.

"I was eager to challenge that ruling," he said.

'Extensive Evidence Of Data Fabrication'

First Donnay would need the raw data HEI researchers used in their study, but that proved more difficult than expected.

HEI president Daniel Greenbaum told Donnay raw data for the HEI study was "discarded" in 2008 since neither EPA nor any other researchers questioned its results.

So, he pulled together raw data from the three journals where the HEI study was published, and relied on some raw data featured in a HEI annual report from 1985.

In 2014, Donnay was finally ready to present his re-analysis. He "found extensive evidence of data fabrication and falsification," he wrote in a draft abstract presented to his University of Maryland advisors.

"The most obvious evidence of deliberate scientific fraud in the HEI study is that Allred et. al. printed two different sets of summary results in their HEI report and a third in their New England Journal of Medicine article that came out the same week," Donnay told The DCNF.

"In neither of these versions do they explain how they ended up with different sets of results, or even acknowledge that they did," he said.

"Looking at what they chose to include and exclude tells you they are hiding something," he said.

Donnay's University of Maryland academic advisors, however, told him he could not use his affiliation with the university if he published his findings. The school's research integrity officer even said his work could "put UMB at risk," according to emails obtained by The DCNF.

"There was a lot of resistance to the fact this could be fraud," Donnay said. "I realized it might be hard to get these findings published."

But Donnay persisted and in May 2014 sent a letter to all three academic journals where the study was published, asking them to issue a retraction. Donnay also notified EPA's science integrity office and the inspector general.

All three journals rejected his request. EPA's inspector general found Donnay's accusations didn't rise to levels of criminal charges, and EPA Scientific Integrity Official Francesca Grifo declined to review Donnay's work since the HEI study was written before 2012 -- before the agency's scientific integrity policy went into place. EPA's science integrity office did not respond to The DCNF.

"Given the extraordinary care with which this study was conducted and independently reviewed, they have recommended, and we agree, that there is no reason to retract this study," HEI's chairman of the board Richard Celeste wrote in a response letter to Donnay.

Donnay held onto his result, and sought input from Roger McClellan, the former chairman of the EPA science committee that relied on HEI's study to set the 1992 carbon monoxide standard. McClellan also served on the HEI oversight committee for the carbon monoxide study.

McClellan told Donnay that while the HEI study had some "warts and blemishes," the "core findings of the study remain sound," he wrote in a 2015 letter.

McClellan wrote the "only serious finding you reported that is disappointing to me is my learning that the original study records were destroyed by the HEI in 2008."

Donnay presented his research in the form of a poster at the 2015 Society of Toxicology meeting and received some "perfunctory replies," he said, but "nobody was willing to address my specifics."

McClellan did not respond to The DCNF's request for comment.

Below are links to Donnay's evidence:

Research Poster

Roger McClellan's Letter -- Feb 23, 2015

Summary Of Responses To Donnay's Work

Donnay's disclosure statement:

Mr. Donnay earns income as a consulting toxicologist specializing in carbon monoxide poisoning and also has patents-pending related to CO testing and treatment from which he does not yet earn income. The review of the HEI MultiCenter Study on CO that he conducted as part of his dissertation research was self-funded.  

Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter

Copyright 2017 The Daily Caller News Foundation

The tech policy case for repealing Obamacare - The tech policy case for repealing Obamacare

American Enterprise Institute - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:55

There are many ways technology and tech policy can improve health care, particularly through telemedicine, free health care videos for the poor, and empowering the homeless with connected devices. AEI scholars offer actionable policy solutions to the current situation, notably with the injection of market discipline. Unleashing the technology of health care is another salient argument for repealing Obamacare. In The Patient Will See You Now, Eric Topol (also interviewed in this compelling EconTalk podcast by Russ Roberts) describes the revolutionary changes in health care driven by the democratization of data, a veritable “Gutenberg Moment” in which people are empowered with information through their smartphones just as they were with books from the printing press. Presently the government is in the center of health care, but it should be the individual consumer instead.

Increased medical innovation will improve health care outcomes and lower costs. Image via Twenty20.

The democratization of data

Whereas the typical wait for a primary care appointment today is 2.6 weeks, consumer-centered care is available immediately. The smartphone can drastically lower the cost of diagnostic information, speed its delivery directly to patients, and empower patients to make decisions. With the rise of the smartphone as a medical sensor and the proliferation of mobile networks, cloud computing, and diagnostic software, nearly anyone can have access to their medical information anywhere on earth. Software- and sensor-enabled smartphones can generate high-grade medical data on a multitude of physiological factors, act as a lab on the go, and summon a doctor if need be. Examples of these capabilities include the ability to diagnose an infection by taking a picture of the ear or to detect the status of one’s asthma through mobile indicators. Related trends include the explosion of low-cost online diagnostics for cancer and genomics.

With the democratization of data, patients are in the driver’s seat, not doctors, insurers, or bureaucrats. Who controls the current system is exemplified by how the medical establishment owns the patient’s personal data, not the patient herself. Topol cites studies in which 90% of survey respondents want to own their personal medical data.

This is not say that there are no legal questions about the democratization of data, threats of abuse, and questions of how to care for people who are limited in their ability to make health care decisions (children, the unconscious, etc.). However, these situations can be overcome. The greater concern is that the drive for the democratization of data conflicts with a larger medical and regulatory establishment and has thus systematically delayed, if not prevented, the emergence of valuable and sometimes economically disruptive health services and technologies such as 23andMe and LabMD.

Pathologies of Obamacare

The federal government’s takeover of health care is predicated on obsolete assumptions of a passive acceptance that health is a matter of luck rather than choice and that the government is a better expert on your body than you yourself. The system after the takeover has created a perverse financial incentive weighted toward treatment instead of wellness and prevention and a grotesque requirement that taxpayers should subsidize profitable health insurers, providers, and pharmaceutical companies (regardless of whether the individual uses their products and services). It also forces people to be part of a system against their will. Fundamentally, Obamacare is about enshrining a system of political control: patronage of health care providers (some of the largest employers in the country, which are largely engaged in promoting expensive medication and tests rather than health and wellness) and tethering of people to the state by fiat.

A consumer-centered model, on the other hand, recognizes that individuals are their own primary care providers and that they are the expert on their own lives and bodies who have a vested interest in promoting their own health. This model empowers people  through technology to create health through good behaviors, work in an informed and open partnership with doctors to develop the best path of care unique to them, and exercise freedom of choice in health care decisions.

How and why the paradigm of government health care and insurance needs to change

Newt Gingrich’s new book “Understanding Trump” devotes a chapter to fixing health care, which he describes as a moral, life-and-death issue which needs to be resolved. He argues that the government’s responsibility vis-à-vis health care in the 21st century is to: improve people’s quality of life through better, personalized health care at lower cost; facilitate access to the best match of treatment for the person and the particular condition; foster innovation and competition; provide access to new technologies and breakthroughs; increase speed to market for life-saving drugs and therapies; diversify health care financing; eliminate the third parties and bureaucrats who seek to abuse the medical system; and assure that all Americans, including veterans, seniors, and children under government care, get the same quality as those in the private sector.

According to the book, America’s health care system wastes about $1 trillion through fraudulent, excessive administration, and Obamacare consigns its hapless members to navigate a Kafkaesque medical bureaucracy. A patient-centered system, on the other hand, is compassionate, smart, and efficient, caring for preexisting conditions, catastrophic events, and major medical challenges, but leaving day-to-day issues to be managed by the individual empowered with smart technology. This frees health care professionals to focus on higher order activities, such as surgeries, emergencies, and patient-partnerships.

Health care innovations create wealth and health by extending longevity, preventing disease, and minimizing cost, and the democratization of data empowers people to care for themselves so that they don’t have to depend on the government. Repealing Obamacare will put people in charge of their health, not the government.

Learn more:

Trump Backs ‘Right to Try’ Experimental Drugs, Already Law in 37 States

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:42

Laura McLinn's son Jordan was diagnosed at age 4 with muscular dystrophy, a terminal illness with no cure. But, McLinn says, matters could be much worse.

That's because after the family tried for years, Jordan, now 8, qualifies for clinical trials for an experimental drug manufactured by NS Pharma.

However, that uncertainty led Jordan's mom to become a public advocate for others with a terminal illness who are unable to try experimental drugs that haven't won final approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

McLinn is among activists who support so-called "right to try" laws at the state and federal levels.

"Both the president and vice president have expressed their support for 'right to try,'" @VPPressSec says.

"Jordan is one of the lucky ones," McLinn told The Daily Signal. "At one point he was too young for the clinical trials. Now we have friends who have children that are too old for the clinical trials. Without 'right to try,' for some there is no hope."

So far, 37 states -- red and blue -- have passed some form of a "right to try" law, four of those just this year.

Still, McLinn and other advocates believe the FDA could step in to prevent states from implementing the laws and allowing sick patients to have access to drugs. So, she said, a federal law is needed to be proactive should the FDA seek to supercede state laws.

Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would make it easier for terminally ill patients to obtain experimental drugs, but still has some restrictions.

Existing state laws would apply only to drugs that successfully completed Phase 1 of the FDA's approval process, but await final approval.

States that do not have right-to-try laws are Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has bipartisan support, with Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Joe Manchin, D-W.V.; Angus King, I-Maine; and 40 Republicans signed on as co-sponsors.

Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., and Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., sponsored a companion bill in the House.

However, representatives of drug manufacturers and patient and physician advocacy groups say they have concerns about the state laws, according to a July report from the Government Accountability Office. The GAO report says:

Some contended that the laws would not help patients gain access to investigational drugs because they do not compel manufacturers to give access. As we previously noted, manufacturers have cited various reasons why they may not give a patient access to their investigational drug, and it is unclear to what extent these laws would address these concerns.

Others raised concerns that the laws might give patients false hope that experimental drugs will cure them. Thus, patients may not fully consider the risks associated with these drugs, which may not be effective and which could potentially be more harmful than no treatment.

Still, the Senate's top health care priority remains deciding on repealing and replacing Obamacare, so it's unlikely the right-to-try bill will move quickly at this point. But it does have the backing of the Trump administration.

Vice President Mike Pence, when he was Indiana's governor, signed that state's right-to-try legislation into law in 2015.

"Vice President Pence was proud to sign into law right-to-try legislation as governor of Indiana," Pence spokesman Marc Lotter told The Daily Signal in an email. "Both the president and vice president have expressed their support for 'right to try' and are encouraged by current congressional efforts to help terminally ill patients try [to] access new medications."

Pence met with the McLinn family in February.

"He restated his commitment to right to try and said President Trump is very supportive and told us, 'Hope to see you at the signing [of the federal bill],'" McLinn said.

During his confirmation hearing, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told senators his approach would be to balance patients' need to access drugs with the goal of thoroughly testing drugs to protect public safety. (Gottlieb grew up in New York, which is not a right-to-try state.)

In 2017 so far, four states have adopted right-to-try laws -- MarylandIowaWashington, and Kentucky.

In previous years, 33 other states adopted similar laws: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

McLinn stresses that "right to try" should be a last resort when other options to obtain a drug or treatment aren't available, such as clinical trials or a special FDA program.

According to the Goldwater Institute, many of the sickest individuals don't qualify for clinical trials, with only 3 percent of cancer patients enrolled today.

The FDA already can grant permission through a "compassion use" waiver for some terminally ill patients who lack access to approved medicines.

However, right-to-try advocates say the FDA's waiver program is time consuming for doctors and patients because the federal agency has a month to review and grant or deny the request. Additional questions can restart the monthlong process, the Goldwater Institute notes.

Under the state laws, a patient with a terminal illness is eligible to use experimental drugs only when conventional treatment options are exhausted and the doctor has advised use of such drugs that already passed the first phase of FDA's approval process. The drug manufacturer also must approve the patient's use of the experimental drug.

The matter isn't as simple as right-to-try advocates contend, said Jonathan Agin, executive director for Max Cure Foundation, a nonprofit charity advancing research for pediatric cancers.

Agin's daughter Alexis died from DIPG, an inoperable brain tumor, two weeks before her fifth birthday in 2011. So, he says, he identifies with other parents' painful experiences but questions whether this proposal is the right path.

"As a parent that desperately searched for something, anything to save my child, I truly believe that there is a middle ground that stops short of the right-to-try legislation, that stokes the fires of drug development rather than contracting it," Agin told The Daily Signal in a statement.

Agin said he is concerned that right-to-try laws give parents the incorrect notion that open access to drugs will cure their child:

Of course, certain changes to the clinical trial system are necessary for pediatric cancer and other rare diseases and working on that component may in fact obviate some of the negative impacts of right-to-try laws, in my opinion. There are multiple spokes on the wheel that can and should be addressed.

The FDA doesn't have a position on state right-to-try laws, agency spokeswoman Sandy Walsh said. However, Walsh defended the agency's existing program for terminally ill patients.

"For over 20 years, the FDA has been committed to ensuring that the expanded access (often called 'compassionate use') program works well for patients and we have recently made significant improvements to its functioning and efficiency," Walsh told The Daily Signal in a prepared statement, adding:

The FDA has authorized more than 99 percent of expanded access requests received in fiscal years 2010-2015. Emergency requests are usually granted immediately over the phone and non-emergencies are processed in a median of four days.

Access to investigational products requires the active cooperation of the treating physician, industry, and the FDA in order to be successful. In particular, the company developing the investigational product must be willing to provide it -- the FDA cannot force a company to manufacture a product or to make a product available. Companies might have their own reasons to turn down requests for their investigational products, including their desire to maintain their clinical development program or simply because they have not produced enough of the product.

The Goldwater Institute contends that only about 1,000 people make it through the FDA's "compassionate use" application process each year.

It notes that even then, a separate, unaffiliated committee called the Institutional Review Board must give final approval.

"And ultimately, it's still an application to the government to ask permission to try to save your own life," the Goldwater Institute argues on its website. "If you have a terminal illness, you don't have time for a multistep government process. If your child is dying and you know there's an investigational medication that is already helping other children survive, a shorter form isn't good enough."

"We need to remove barriers that limit doctors from providing the care they are trained to give -- and this is exactly what 'right to try' does."

 

Fred Lucas is the White House correspondent for The Daily Signal. Send an email to Fred@FredLucasWH

Copyright 2017 The Daily Signal

Powerful Venezuela Assembly Meets Again as Pressure Mounts

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 12:09

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Foreign ministers from 14 nations are meeting in Peru on Tuesday in hopes of finding consensus on a regional response to Venezuela’s growing political crisis, while President Nicolas Maduro’s all-powerful constitutional assembly is forging ahead on promises to punish the embattled leader’s foes.

The assembly was expected to gather at the stately legislative palace in Caracas for the first time since voting Saturday to remove the nation’s outspoken chief prosecutor, a move that drew condemnation from many of the same regional governments that are sending representatives to the meeting in Peru’s capital.

Peru’s president has been vocal in rejecting the new assembly, but the region has found that agreeing on any collective actions has proved tricky. Still, Venezuela is facing mounting pressure and threats of deepening sanctions from trade partners, including a recent suspension from South America’s Mercosur.

Despite growing international criticism, Maduro has remained firm in pressing the constitutional assembly forward in executing his priorities. He called for a special meeting Tuesday in Caracas of the Bolivarian Alliance, a leftist coalition of 11 Latin American nations.

The new constitutional assembly has signaled it will act swiftly in following through with Maduro’s commands, voting Saturday to replace chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz with a government loyalist and create a “truth commission” that will wield unusual power to prosecute and levy sentences.

“It should be clear: We arrived there to help President Nicolas Maduro, but also to create strong bases for the construction of Bolivarian and Chavista socialism,” Diosdado Cabello, a leader of the ruling socialist party and member of the new assembly, told a crowd of supporters Monday.

Opposition leaders, meanwhile, vowed to remain in their posts in their only government foothold -- the country’s single-chamber congress, the National Assembly.

John Magdaleno, director of the Caracas-based consulting firm POLITY, said that rather than having co-existing assemblies and chief prosecutors, it is more likely that opposition-controlled institutions will be rendered powerless as Maduro’s administration further consolidates Venezuela into an authoritarian state.

The opposition-dominated National Assembly “will be a body that in principal co-exists with the constitutional assembly but that will surely be displaced in practice,” Magdaleno said.

National Assembly president Julio Borges told fellow lawmakers Monday that they should keep an active presence in the legislative palace despite threats from the constitutional assembly to strip them of any authority and lock up key leaders. Borges called the building, with its gold cupola, the “symbol of popular sovereignty.”

“We are a testament to the fight for democracy,” he said. “It should be known this assembly was true to its mandate.”

In theory, both the National Assembly and the constitutional assembly could operate simultaneously, but the new super body created through a July 30 election has the authority to trump any other branch of government -- and Venezuela’s leaders have promised to do just that.

National Assembly members voted unanimously Monday not to recognize any of the new super body’s decrees.

“The intent is to pursue those who think differently,” lawmaker Delsa Solorzano said of the constitutional assembly’s plans.

Cabello said that the new assembly’s decisions have all aligned strictly with the 1999 constitution crafted by the late President Hugo Chavez and that the new assembly would be in power for “at least two years.”

“This is a completely legal process,” he said.

The widening political gulf comes as opposition parties face a rapidly approaching deadline to decide whether they will take part in regional elections scheduled for December. Candidates are expected to sign up to run this week. Opposition members refused to participate in the election for delegates to the constitutional assembly but have thus far been divided on taking part in the contests for governors.

While Maduro’s popular support is estimated to run at no higher than 20 percent, some opposition leaders are skeptical of running in regional elections they fear could be rigged. The official turnout count in the constitutional assembly election has been questioned at home and abroad. The CEO of voting technology company Smartmatic said last week that the results were “without a doubt” tampered with and off by at least 1 million votes.

On Sunday, a band of 20 anti-government fighters attacked an army base in an apparent attempt to foment an uprising. The men managed to reach the barracks’ weapons supply. Ten escaped, but two were killed and the remaining eight were captured after battling with soldiers for three hours, Maduro said.

Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said special units were being activated Monday to assist in the search for the escapees, who remained at large more than 24 hours after the attack.

In Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said it has unearthed “widespread and systematic use” of excessive force, arbitrary detention and other rights violations against demonstrators and detainees in Venezuela.

Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says preliminary findings suggest there are “no signs” that the situation was improving. The rights office team said Tuesday that violations included “house raids, torture and ill-treatment of those detained in connection with the protests.”

A full report on the team’s findings is expected later this month.

___

Associated Press writers Christine Armario in Miami, and Jamey Keaten in Geneva, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2017 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

POLL: More ‘strong Dems’ support affirmative action than blacks, Latinos

EAGnews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 11:45
SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco’s WPIX-TV recently conducted a news poll about affirmative action, and the results are revealing interesting insight into those who support the race-based policy. The Survey USA News Poll sponsored by the television station asked 500 California adults a series of four questions about affirmative action, and the overall results revealed […]

SUIT: Administrators ignored Miami teacher who molested 8 students at 2 schools

EAGnews - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 11:40
MIAMI – The Miami-Dade school district faces a lawsuit over allegations officials did nothing to stop a male teacher from sexually abusing numerous female students throughout his 14 years in the district. The lawsuit alleges Jason Edward Meyers, a 41-year-old creative writing teacher, was first accused of inappropriate relationships with his female students at Krop […]

Military Photo of the Day: Paratroopers Jump From a Black Hawk

The Stream - Tue, 08/08/2017 - 07:00

U.S. Army paratroopers jump from a UH-60 Black Hawk at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska on July 27, 2017.

Thanks to Staff Sgt. Daniel Love for capturing this spectacular image.

Knights to the Rescue

The Stream - Mon, 08/07/2017 - 23:22

St. LOUIS -- Maybe it was the Iraqi-born bishop praying the Lord's Prayer in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke.

Maybe it was being in the same venue here where Pope John Paul II spoke in 1999.

Maybe it was my whining about multiple silly inconveniences and humiliations earlier in the day.

Maybe it was seeing the men visibly moved by their membership in an organization that is doing real good in the world.

Maybe it was because as I was listening to the report being delivered at the Knights of Columbus annual convention, I couldn't help but think "solution." These men, many of them sitting beside their wives, some of them with children and grandchildren, are the solution, perhaps, to many problems besetting the world today. They look around and see need and then work to meet it; they're not waiting around for someone else to solve the problem.

Maybe all this is why the Knights managed to get me to open my wallet and part with $2,000. That's about the amount of money it took the country of Hungary to move a refugee family back to the town of Tel Skuf on the Nineveh Plain in Iraq. And now the Knights are following Hungary’s lead, raising money to rebuild the neighboring town of Karamdes in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Erbil in Kurdistan, which has been the temporary home to most of the Christians who fled ISIS terrorism in the area.

For $2 million, the people of Karamdes can have a future -- get assessments of the extent of the damage done to their houses and vital support for rebuilding (something most of the families will do themselves). This initiative is an extension of the Knights’ Christians at Risk relief fund, which has provided $13 million to help Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Knights of Columbus, the largest fraternal order of Catholic men in the world, also runs an insurance agency and takes no overhead -- all donations go to those in need.

One of the most piercing blows for a family is to not know how to provide for a child's future -- ensuring an education and the possibility of putting it to use in the world. What the Knights have contributed in Erbil and now Karamdes is an effort to keep hope alive and make life possible. I'm calling it the #SavetheChristians challenge -- a few Church, school and other community groups and friends getting together wouldn't be a tremendous sacrifice, but would be a significant gift to those in need.

Learning of the Karamdes plan and listening to the Knights’ address brought me back to Election Day this past year. Faced with two bad choices as far as I was concerned, and living in a state where the election outcome would be a win for Hillary Clinton, I did something I never thought I would do: I wrote in a candidate. And so, Carl Anderson, the leader of the Knights and the man who delivered the address in St. Louis, was my candidate for president. I voted for someone with executive experience and moral character who knows the world around him and works to make a constructive contribution to it using the resources at his disposal. That's all we should be looking for in our political leaders.

It's notable that in Anderson’s annual address to the Knights, the additional initiative to save 1 million lives in 10 years by placing 1,000 ultrasound machines in pregnancy care centers was almost a footnote -- not because it is not a priority, but because the good news about good works was overflowing.

There were three moments during his address where Anderson's emotions were clear: talking about the ultrasounds, Karamdes, and trust in Jesus. Which may be all you need to know about the Knights of Columbus and what's most important -- certainly most significant -- about their presence in the United States and the world today.

In talking about Iraq, Anderson quotes Winston Churchill in 1941: "Put your confidence in us … We shall not fail or falter, we shall not weaken or tire. We will give you the tools and together we will finish the job."

My $2,000 is in good hands. The lesson of the Knights is that indifference is never an appropriate option. We're never powerless to love.

 

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.

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