Archive for The New York Times

science under attack [it only gets worse #1074]

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 6, 2020 by xi'an

A chilling overview by the New York Times on the permanent and concerted attacks by the Trump administration on science and the scientific duties of the U.S. Government. [This post was written a week ago, before a much scarier and literal as well as extra-judicial attack took place.]

“Political appointees have shut down government studies, reduced the influence of scientists over regulatory decisions and in some cases pressured researchers not to speak publicly. The administration has particularly challenged scientific findings related to the environment and public health opposed by industries such as oil drilling and coal mining. It has also impeded research around human-caused climate change, which President Trump has dismissed despite a global scientific consensus.”

“The administration’s efforts to cut certain research projects also reflect a longstanding conservative position that some scientific work can be performed cost-effectively by the private sector, and taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to foot the bill.”

“…some of the Trump administration’s moves, like a policy to restrict certain academics from the E.P.A.’s Science Advisory Board or the proposal to limit the types of research that can be considered by environmental regulators, “mark a sharp departure with the past.” Rather than isolated battles between political officials and career experts, these moves are an attempt to legally constrain how federal agencies use science in the first place.”

“In addition to shutting down some programs, there have been notable instances where the administration has challenged established scientific research. Early on, as it started rolling back regulations on industry, administration officials began questioning research findings underpinning those regulations (…) Many top government positions, including at the E.P.A. and the Interior Department, are now occupied by former lobbyists connected to the industries that those agencies oversee.”

garbage in the air

Posted in pictures, Travel, Wines with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2019 by xi'an

As I am flying today to Seoul, for the Fall meeting of the Korean Statistical Society, a somewhat interesting paper in the New York Times about switching to alternatives for airline catering (if not air travel), starting with the figure that a passenger generates on average 1.5kg of waste per flight. And pointing out the conflicting issues in recycling food waste in most countries as they see it as imported waste and potential imported pathogens.and biohazards… While getting rids of plastic items is a tiny step in the right direction, especially because airlines do not sort between different kinds of garbage, a major step would be to avoid replacing them by another disposable item, especially heavier ones. From getting rid of providing food and drink (except water) on short and medium-haul flights to aim at healthy foods that do not require packaging or utensils. Like fruits. And asking passengers to carry their own garbage when leaving the plane could also enhance the realisation of the amount of garbage they thus produced. (On a recent early morning flight between Paris and Birmingham, the plane supposedly could not leave until the late delivery truck had brought croissants and drinks, as if passengers could not have abstained for the 55mn the flight lasted, especially when most of them were sleeping…) Nowadays. I usually travel with a water bottle that I fill before boarding after security and often skip meals on flights, but it invariably proves difficult to ask flight attendants to use my own reusable cup rather than a single-use plastic cup.

zombie ants

Posted in Books, Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2019 by xi'an

subway commute distribution [nice graphics]

Posted in Books, pictures, Statistics with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2019 by xi'an

An infographics entry in the New York Times about the distribution of a commute between two arbitrary subway stations in New York City, including a comparison of the distribution of a similar (?) commute by Tube in London. Showing that in most cases, the tail is thinner in London than in New York City. (Warning: the comparison may switch scales.)

Here is a bit of an outlier:

given that the two distributions hardly overlap and still share a similar median commute time!

The Long, Cruel History of the Anti-Abortion Crusade [reposted]

Posted in Books, Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , on July 14, 2019 by xi'an

[Excerpts from an editorial in the NYT of John Irving, American author of the Cider House Rules novel we enjoyed reading 30 years ago]

“(…) I respect your personal reasons not to have an abortion — no one is forcing you to have one. I respect your choice. I’m pro-choice — often called pro-abortion by the anti-abortion crusaders, although no one is pro-abortion. What’s unequal about the argument is the choice; the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is the choice. Pro-life proponents have no qualms about forcing women to go through childbirth — they give women no choice (…)

I must remind the Roman Catholic Church of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” In other words, we are free to practice the religion of our choice, and we are protected from having someone else’s religion practiced on us. Freedom of religion in the United States also means freedom from religion (…)

The prevailing impetus to oppose abortion is to punish the woman who doesn’t want the child. The sacralizing of the fetus is a ploy. How can “life” be sacred (and begin at six weeks, or at conception), if a child’s life isn’t sacred after it’s born? Clearly, a woman’s life is never sacred; as clearly, a woman has no reproductive rights (…)

Of an unmarried woman or girl who got pregnant, people of my grandparents’ generation used to say: “She is paying the piper.” Meaning, she deserves what she gets — namely, to give birth to a child. That cruelty is the abiding impetus behind the dishonestly named right-to-life movement. Pro-life always was (and remains) a marketing term. Whatever the anti-abortion crusaders call themselves, they don’t care what happens to an unwanted child — not after the child is born — and they’ve never cared about the mother.”

and it only gets worse…

Posted in Kids, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2019 by xi'an

. ” The Texas state legislature is debating a provision that wouldn’t just outlaw abortion, but legally qualify it as homicide(…) This, incidentally, is exactly what pro-choice advocates warned about when they said that a law passed in the George W Bush era, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, as well as the related state laws, could eventually be used to criminalize abortion(…) All of these laws are in violation of Roe v Wade, but it seems one goal is to take advantage of an increasingly conservative US supreme court and see if Roe could be overturned, or at least rendered meaningless.” The Guardian,  11 April, 2019

““At a rally in Ohio last month, Mr. Trump suggested that wind power was too unreliable to be useful. “Let’s put up some windmills,” he said. “When the wind doesn’t blow, just turn off the television darling, please. There’s no wind. Please turn off the television quickly!” The New York Times, April 3, 2019

“The US is threatening to veto a United Nations resolution on combatting the use of rape as a weapon of war, the Guardian’s Julian Borger reports. The US is objecting to language that says survivors of sexual violence should have access to comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health. It’s part of a hard line taken by the Trump administration in recent months, refusing to agree to any UN documents that refer to sexual or reproductive health, on grounds that such language implies support for abortions (…) In recent months, the Trump administration has taken a hard line, refusing to agree to any UN documents that refer to sexual or reproductive health, on grounds that such language implies support for abortions. It has also opposed the use of the word “gender”, seeking it as a cover for liberal promotion of transgender rights.” The Guardian, 22 April, 2019

“A U.S. threat to veto U.N. Security Council action on sexual violence in conflict was averted on Tuesday after a long-agreed phrase was removed because President Donald Trump’s administration sees it as code for abortion, diplomats said. The U.S. veto threat was the latest in a string of policy reversals that some U.N. diplomats say has been driven by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a conservative Christian who staunchly opposes abortion rights. The language promoting sexual and reproductive health is long-agreed internationally, including in resolutions adopted by the Security Council in 2009 and 2013 and several resolutions adopted annually by the 193-member General Assembly.” The New York Time, April 24, 2019

“We believe in freedom and liberty and the right to keep and bear arms. We know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy are the centre of American life… In America we don’t worship government; we worship God.” The Guardian, April 26, 2019

and it only gets worse…

Posted in Kids, pictures, Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2019 by xi'an

” A recent survey by found that just 40% of US households have enough money to cover a $1,000 in emergency expenses.” The Guardian, Feb 2, 2019

““Until we heard those cheers coming from Albany, we thought states were moving beyond such barbaric practices.” Mr. Pence offered his argument as a litmus test of morality; he described the new abortion legislation as a “shameless embrace of a culture of death.” But among conservatives, the White House’s outrage was also greeted as a clear and shrewd political strategy” The New York Times, Feb 1, 2019

“When Senator Elizabeth Warren formally announced her 2020 presidential bid this weekend, President Trump responded with a familiar line of attack. He mocked Ms. Warren for her claims to Native American ancestry, again calling her by the slur “Pocahontas.” Mr. Trump then appeared to refer to the Trail of Tears, the infamously cruel forced relocation of Native Americans in the 19th century that caused thousands of deaths.” The New York Times, Feb 10, 2019

“The United States is suspending one of the last major nuclear arms control treaties with Russia after heated conversations between the two powers recently failed to resolve a long-running accusation that Moscow is violating the Reagan-era treaty. Mr. Pompeo acknowledged a risk of a new arms race if the treaty is ultimately scrapped after the six-month window.” The New York Times, Feb 1, 2019

“In some states, lawmakers have sought to pass laws that would ban or severely restrict abortion in the event that Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned or effectively gutted (…) The court is likely to confront other abortion cases, too, as several state legislatures have recently enacted laws that seem calculated to try to force the Supreme Court to consider overruling Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.” The New York Times, Feb 8, 2019

“Mr. Trump’s willingness to invoke emergency powers to circumvent Congress is likely to go down as an extraordinary violation of constitutional norms — setting a precedent that future presidents of both parties may emulate to unilaterally achieve their own policy goals.” The New York Times, Feb 15, 2019