A 2001 survey
of U.S. American adults
says that 14% of men and 34% of women believe that the sun goes around the
earth and not v.v.; and that 34% of men and 58% of women do not know that
it takes one year for the earth to go around the sun.
Is this reliable? It was done for the National Science Foundation, so one hopes so.
The method was random-digit dialing by telephone, which sounds good. But
the response rate was only 39% with the highly educated overrepresented.
See footnote 1
for this. It is not stated whether any corrections to the
data were done to compensate. The
"Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?"
"How long does it take for the Earth to go around the Sun: one day, one
month, or one year?"
Actual quote: "We want to increase the value of academic excellence people
are paying for," said Neil Theobald, vice chancellor for budget and
administration at Indiana University, concerning the new $1000 fee for
undergraduates. (See Indiana Daily Student, p. 1, Sep. 4, 2002, also at
On 12 Aug. 2005, there were many stories about the haze in Malaysia. Since
1997, the actual air quality figures have been a state secret for fear of
keeping away tourists.
There have been many stories about bird flu recently. In The
Washington Post on 20 Oct. 2005 in an article entitled "Indonesia
Neglected Bird Flu Until Too Late, Experts Say", we read that "In an
interview with The Washington Post this spring, Tri Satya Putri Naipospos,
Indonesia's national director of animal health, first disclosed that
officials had known chickens were dying from bird flu since the middle of
2003 but kept this secret until last year because of lobbying by the
poultry industry. ... the owners of major poultry companies, who have
personal ties to senior Agriculture Ministry officials, insisted that any
containment efforts be done secretly, Naipospos recalled. These eight
farming conglomerates, which handle 60 percent of the country's poultry,
feared that publicity would harm sales of chicken and eggs."
A recent survey
of US adults found that 42% believe that "living things have existed
in their present form since the beginning of time".
The question was asked after questions on religious belief. The wording was
"Some people think that humans and other living things [have evolved over
time]. Others think that humans and other living things [have existed in
their present form since the beginning of time]. Which of these comes
closest to your view?", with the two possibilities in brackets given in
each order to half the respondents.
The margin of error was 2.5% and the polling was done in July 2005.
Scott Hensley and Barbara Martinez of the Wall Street Journal
reported on 15 July 2005 that
"In 2004, 237,000 meetings and talks sponsored by pharmaceutical companies
featured doctors as speakers, compared with 134,000 meetings led by company
sales representatives, according to market researcher Verispan LLC of
Yardley, Pa." Also, "[t]he industry [has] nearly 100,000 salespeople in the
A copy of the article can be found here.
U.S. military trainers at Guantánamo Bay
based an entire interrogation class in December 2002 on a chart from a
1957 article entitled "Communist
Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War".
The trainers did not disclose their source and may not have known it.
The New York
Times, 2 July 2008.
For more information on how these techniques came to be used by the CIA
without knowing their origin, see The New
York Times, 22 April 2009.
"Determining how often, if ever, blood supplied by the Red Cross has been
responsible for serious health problems is difficult. F.D.A. documents
rarely spell out the consequences of the failures they catalogue, a
reflection, to some degree, of the agency's concern about alarming the
public. But often they simply do not know. 'Patients who get blood
transfusions tend to be pretty sick,' Dr. Healy said. 'If they spike a fever
post-transfusion, no one is likely to suspect that the blood caused it.'"
The New York
Times, 17 July 2008.
On 31 July 2008, a prominent New York Times columnist wrote,
"My hunch is that in a century or two, our descendants will look back on
our factory farms with uncomprehending revulsion. But in the meantime, I
love a good burger. ... To this day, when tucking into a pork chop, I
always feel as if it is my intellectual equal."
When Christopher Columbus landed in the Bahama Islands, the native Arawak
people came to greet him and his sailors. Columbus wrote (somewhat
contradictorily): "They ... brought us parrots and balls of cotton and
spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and
hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned .... They were
well-built, with good bodies and handsome features .... They do not bear
arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the
edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears
are made of cane .... They would make fine servants .... With fifty men we
could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want." This is quoted
at the beginning of Howard Zinn's book, "A People's History of the United
States", but I don't know the source or the translator of Columbus' log.
At the top of the page of a
UN report, it says
"The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most
significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems,
at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report
suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with
problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water
shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Livestock's
contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale and its
potential contribution to their solution is equally large. The impact
is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency."
What amazes me is that the UN wrote this. It does not amaze me that it is
pretty much ignored.
Recently, however, to my surprise, Sweden has begun to pay attention: see The
New York Times, To Cut Global Warming, Swedes Study Their
Plates, 23 Oct. 2009. For a more recent estimate of greenhouse gases
attributable to livestock (at least 51%---a rather amazing figure), see Livestock
and Climate Change by the Worldwatch Institute, written by Goodland and
Anhang. Who are they? "Robert Goodland retired as lead environmental
adviser at the World Bank Group after serving there for 23 years. In 2008 he
was awarded the first Coolidge Memorial Medal by the IUCN for outstanding
contributions to environmental conservation. Jeff Anhang is a research
officer and environmental specialist at the World Bank Group's International
Finance Corporation, which provides private-sector financing and advice in
It is also amazing that this latter study was cited by
A 2014 peer-reviewed
article comes to similar conclusions.
A more recent UN
report estimates "14.5 percent of all anthropogenic GHG emissions" are
due to livestock.
Fresh water will soon run out in the country of Yemen.
It turns out that
"[a]t least two-thirds of Yemen's water consumption" is for growing khat,
a mild narcotic.
In addition, the population growth rate is
4.5% a year and
"[t]he government subsidizes the exploitation of water for khat and other
"The country's first water minister was removed a couple of years ago from
his post for trying to outlaw wildcatters drilling for water wherever they
The Los Angeles Times, 3 August 2008.
More on the sad history is at The
New York Times, 1 Nov. 2009, where one of the causes of the problem is
identified as "cheap foreign grain" in the 1960s.
"The F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, in his first public comments
since the presentation of the evidence against Dr. Ivins on Wednesday, said
Friday that he was proud of the inquiry [about the anthrax mailings].
'I do not apologize for any aspect of the investigation,' he told
reporters. It is erroneous, he added, 'to say there were mistakes.'"
New York Times, 10 Aug. 2008.
It turns out that manufacturers of seeds that produce genetically modified
crops require purchasers to agree not to perform any research on those
seeds without prior permission. For example, according to The New York
Times, 19 Feb. 2009, "The growers' agreement from Syngenta not only
prohibits research in general but specifically says a seed buyer cannot
compare Syngenta's product with any rival crop." Such problems led 26
corn-insect specialists to complain
to the EPA that "no truly independent research can be legally
conducted on many critical questions".
At the same time, some
believe that genetically modified crop production has actually caused
an increase in pesticide use (see also the UCS
report, "Failure to Yield").
In 2008, 96% of Indiana's soybeans were genetically modified.
Most genetically-modified soybeans are resistant to the herbicide
glyphosate, marketed as Roundup by Monsanto. If a farmer uses
Monsanto's seeds, he is required to use Monsanto's glyphosate, not a
generic version of it (see p. 14 of
the Bean by the Cornucopia
For an update on the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds, see U.S.
Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds in The New York
Times, 4 May 2010.
The EPA and the Ad Council created an
"award winning public service announcement (PSA), `I Feel Like a Fish With
They covered the country with billboards, print ads, and radio and TV ads.
You can see a print version at noattacks.org and the
video at youtube.com
Other formats are available at noattaccks.org under the menu "Media
The PSA had some success: "What does an
asthma attack feel like? After doing a lot research and finding explanation
after explanation I finally heard the perfect description. Asthma feels
like a fish out of water. Now use your imagination a little and you'll be
able to identify with both the terror and physical pain associated with
according to the creators,
"No fish were
harmed during the making of this public service announcement. Fish handlers
were present at all times during the shoot to manage the care and well
being of the fish on hand."
I wonder what they had for dinner.
"The Federal Aviation Administration is proposing to keep secret from
travelers its vast records on where and how often commercial planes are
damaged by hitting flying birds.
The government agency argued that some carriers and airports would stop
reporting incidents for fear the public would misinterpret the data and
hold it against them. The reporting is voluntary because the FAA rejected a
National Transportation Safety Board recommendation 10 years ago to make it
mandatory." This is from an AP
story of 28 March 2009.
In May 2008,
JAMA published a study in which the authors failed to disclose all
conflicts of financial interest. When an outsider, Dr. Leo,
told JAMA about it, he heard
nothing for 5 months, whereupon he published a letter
about it (as well as other statistical problems with the study and its
media coverage) online at the British Medical Journal. This upset JAMA greatly,
who called Leo to inform
"that, if his actions represented his apparent lack of confidence in and
regard for JAMA, he certainly should not plan to submit future manuscripts
or letters for publication." JAMA even "felt an obligation to
notify the dean of his institution about our concerns of
how Leo's actions were potentially damaging to JAMA's
reputation." According to
this dean, the JAMA editor said "she would 'ruin the reputation of our
medical school' if he didn't force Dr. Leo to retract the BMJ letter and
stop talking to the media."
For a time, JAMA required future whistle blowers "not [to]
reveal this information to third parties
or the media while the investigation is under way", but they mollified this
in response to criticism and removed all traces of
their original editorial, some of which can still be found here. For Leo's story, see the
WSJ or Leo's
later article. JAMA maintains that it "did not threaten Leo or anyone at the
"Having a family had been an elusive goal for Jeff and Kerry Mastera, a
blur of more than two years, dozens of doctor visits and four tries with a
procedure called intrauterine insemination, all failures. In one year, the
Masteras spent 23 percent of their income on fertility treatments.
"The couple had nearly given up, but last year they decided to try once
more, this time through in-vitro fertilization. Pregnancy quickly followed,
as did the Mastera boys, who arrived at the Swedish Medical Center in
Denver on Feb. 16 at 3 pounds, 1 ounce apiece. Kept alive in a neonatal
intensive care unit, Max remained in the hospital 43 days; Wes came home in
"By the time it was over, medical bills for the boys exceeded $1.2 million.
"Eight months later, the extraordinary effort seems worth it to the
Masteras, who live in Aurora, Colo."
The Masteras are a middle-class family. This story is from The New
York Times, 11 Oct. 2009.
The US "intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic
charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004." The charity
sued, but the US said that "the charity's lawsuit should be dismissed
without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could
reveal state secrets." The charity knew of the illegal surveillance because
"the government inadvertently disclosed a classified document that made
clear that the charity had been subjected to surveillance without
"Although the plaintiffs in the Haramain case were not allowed to use the
document to prove that they had standing, Mr. Eisenberg and six other
lawyers working on the case were able to use public information ...
to prove it had been wiretapped." The judge ruled in favor of the charity.
See The New York
Times, 1 April 2010.
On the other hand, on 8 Sep. 2010, "A federal appeals court ... ruled that
former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in
overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government
information." The plaintiffs had sued "Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing
subsidiary" for "arranging flights for the Central Intelligence Agency
to transfer prisoners to other countries for imprisonment and
interrogation." See The
New York Times, 9 Sep. 2010 for this.
The judges cited precedent going back to an 1876 Supreme
Court case, Totten v. United States, "where the
estate of a Civil War spy sued the United States for breaching
an alleged agreement to compensate the spy for his wartime
espionage services. ... [T]he Court held that the action was barred
because it was premised on the existence of a 'contract for
secret services with the government,' which was 'a fact not
to be disclosed'." See
this for the ruling.
People "harvest" a lot of shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico. In order to avoid
catching and drowning a lot of sea turtles (critically endangered in part
because of this industry), the federal government passed laws requiring
nets to have devices that allow turtles to escape. "The devices are so
contentious that Louisiana law has long forbidden its wildlife and
fisheries agents to enforce federal regulations on the devices," according
New York Times, 15 July 2010. "By contrast, Mississippi officials
strengthened turtle protections by decreasing the allowable tow time for
skimmers, posting observers on boats, and sending out pamphlets on turtle
- In 2009, the Pew Research Center conducted a poll in the US asking
adults, "Do you believe in astrology, or that the position of the stars and
planets can affect people's lives?" The percent of Republicans who answered
yes was 14, of Independents was 26, and of Democrats was 31. The margin of
error was not reported for these subgroups of the sample, but seems to be
- As the U.S. government prepares for shutting down, The New
York Times reports on 6 April 2011:
"The chairman of the Committee on House Administration,
Representative Dan Lungren, Republican of California, sent detailed
guidance on Tuesday to all House members and offices on what they could and
could not do during a government shutdown.
"A sample letter he provided warned: `Working in any way during a period of
furlough, even as a volunteer, is grounds for disciplinary action, up to
and including termination of employment. To avoid violating this
prohibition, we strongly recommend that you turn your BlackBerries off for
the duration of the furlough.'"
- The American Society of Hypertension, Inc. (ASH) does not want to
disclose the financial ties its board members have to industry. If you want
to find out, you must be a current member of the Society and a request is
subject to these rules:
"(a) a representation in writing is made that any such
requests are in good faith and not made for a purpose which is in the
interest of a business or object other than the business or object of the
Society, or for any purpose to harm the Society or the person(s) whose
disclosure(s) are requested, and (b) submission of a signed confidentiality
disclosure form (the object of such a request)
asks the respondent to agree or disagree
with various statements, such as "Activity content, including presentation of therapeutic options, will be well balanced,
evidence-based and unbiased" and "The recommendations that I provide involving clinical medicine will be
based on evidence that is accepted within the profession of medicine as
adequate justification for their indications and contraindications in the
care of patients."
- "I never dreamed that my discovery four decades ago would lead to
such a profit-driven public health disaster." So wrote the discoverer of
prostate-specific antigen (basis of the P.S.A. test).
- Marion Nestle, the editor of The Surgeon General's Report
on Nutrition and Health (1998), wrote in her book Food
Politics that "My first day on the job, I was
given the rules: No matter what the research indicated, the report could
not recommend `eat less meat' as a way to reduce intake of saturated fat,
nor could it suggest restrictions on intake of any other category of food.
In the industry-friendly climate of the Reagan administration, the
producers of foods that might be affected by such advice would complain to
their beneficiaries in Congress, and the report would never be published."
- "At least 15 drug and medical-device companies have paid $6.5
billion since 2008 to settle accusations of marketing fraud or kickbacks.
However, none of the more than 75 doctors named as participants were
sanctioned, despite allegations of fraud or of conduct that put patients at
risk", according to Pro
Publica, 16 Sep. 2011.
- It is hard to shock me now with accounts of misdeeds among doctors,
or medical journals, but the tales of Peter
Wilmshurst have so many shocking aspects that I won't even summarize
them here. Fortunately, he won an award for his efforts. See also this
article for even more sordid details, and this
account of being sued.
- On 13 Jan. 2012, the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed some
resolutions. One commends Israel, stating, e.g., "Israel has been granted
her lands under and through the oldest recorded deed as reported in the Old
Testament, a tome of scripture held sacred and reverenced by Jew and
Christian, alike, as the acts and words of God" and "God has never
rescinded his grant of said lands". Another resolution "exposed" United
Nations Agenda 21, a non-binding plan for "sustainable development" signed
by Pres. George H.W. Bush in 1992. Now, the RNC says that it is "a
comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and
global political control" which "views the American way of life of private
property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership and
individual travel choices, and privately owned farms; all as destructive to
- On 2 Oct. 2011, France
required that all school meals be based on animal products. It defined
the protein component of a meal as one based on
meat, fish, eggs, offal, or cheese ("plat
principal à base de viandes, poissons, oeufs, abats ou fromages"),
requiring a certain number of meals to be based on meat or fish.
is to support French agriculture against the likes of Paul McCartney, who
called for one day a week without meat.
The following 3 paragraphs come from the
29 Oct. 2012 New York Times:
"It's about sustainability, and I've been a vegetarian for three
years, but I'm excited to eat Bill and Lou," said Lisa Wilson, a senior. "I
eat meat when I know where it comes from."
Andrew Kohler, a senior, took a course in which he learned how to drive the
"They start listening to you, and they become your friend," Mr. Kohler
said. "I feel honored to eat them."
"State and federal authorities decided against indicting HSBC in a
money-laundering case over concerns that criminal charges could jeopardize
one of the world's largest banks and ultimately destabilize the global
financial system." For details, see the 10
Dec. 2012 New York Times.
Dairy farmers are compelled
to pay for federal advertising of milk and milk products. This fee is known
as the "dairy checkoff". As the dairy checkoff
organization says, the purpose is to "drive increased sales of and
demand for dairy products and ingredients." Among the ways they do this is
to work "to unite the industry in communicating about
dairy-related topics that may affect consumer confidence in U.S. dairy:
animal care, environmental stewardship, innovation, food safety, value to
the community, and health and wellness."
In order to "protect and
promote the image of dairy products, producers and the industry[, ...]
develop and deploy crisis communications planning, including regional
crisis drills that engage many sectors of the dairy industry."
farmers objected to the fee, but they
lost their lawsuit. There are many other checkoffs; the one for beef
"A single cigarette butt in a liter of water containing minnows is toxic
enough to kill half of the fish within 96 hours, a standard toxicity test",
according to a summary in the
New York Times on 9 April 2013 concerning cigarette-butt litter.
"A Malaysian court ruled on [14 Oct. 2013] that non-Muslims may not use the
word `Allah' to refer to God", reported the New
"Only the United States and Gabon allow biomedical experiments on
and the United States is working to phase them out."
3 Dec. 2013 New York Times.
a teacher named Keith Allison posted on Facebook the following: "...
these are crates
to house baby dairy cows who are separated from their mothers usually
within a day of birth. As someone who grew up feeling parental love and
support and now as a parent who gives parental love and support, I reject
the claim that separating babies from loving mothers to raise them isolated
in boxes can ever be considered humane. --Keith
"The cruelty of separation, loneliness, and infant slaughter lingers inside
each glass of cow's milk. Your voice can help change the system. You don't
have to support this. Plant-based milks are everywhere and are delicious."
As a consequence, the Superintendent, Robinson, of the local school
district told Keith Allison that the county "had a large number of dairy
farmers, and that teachers needed to be careful not to offend the local
agricultural industry. Defendant Robinson instructed Allison that he was
free to believe whatever he wished, but that if he wished to continue to
engage in vegan advocacy outside of work, he should reconsider being a
teacher." (This quote is from the lawsuit,
which was settled.)
In April 2015, I received email solicitations
from the presidential campaigns of Ted Cruz and Scott Walker.
Cruz's email had a picture of him with a gun over his shoulder, included
twice, boasting that "in 2013 -- after Barack Obama and Harry Reid pledged
to pass gun control in the U.S. Senate -- I fought back, ready to shut down
the Senate to stop any legislation undermining the 2nd Amendment right to
keep and bear arms."
Walker's email began, "Let's talk about guns.
"Along with riding my Harley, hunting is one of my favorite things.
Gun owners don't just love hunting, shooting, and collecting. We love
The email ended,
"Never in my life have I backed down from a fight and I
never will. ..."
The American Association for the Advancement of Science, whose main journal
"has a team of about 40 people who work to drive
traffic to articles in its publications through the social media",
according to The
New York Times of 1 June 2015.
"He ... [was] drawn shortly after his arrival in the United States by
reports from other refugees about good jobs killing chickens", according to
New York Times of 2 Nov. 2017.
In a discussion of a gender-pay gap in the UK,
The New York Times (13 May 2018) thought
that the following parenthetical information would be useful to its
readers: "a median pay gap of 17.4 percent, meaning that women earned
around 83 pounds for every 100 pounds earned by men (100 pounds is about
The US Senate has a building named after Richard B. Russell, Jr., who tried
to prevent passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As quoted by
The New York Times (28 August 2018), he said, "We will resist to
the bitter end any measure or any movement
which would have a tendency to bring about social equality and
intermingling and amalgamation of the races in our states."
He also wrote, "As one who was born and reared in the atmosphere of the Old
South with six generations of my forebears now resting beneath Southern
soil, I am willing to go as far and make as great a
sacrifice to preserve and insure white supremacy in the social, economic
and political life of our state as any man who lives within her borders."
The highest number of citations of scientific articles are often of papers
that were first rejected. A study was done for
papers submitted to three leading medical journals; one of their figures
is shown at the right.
As it happens, my own experience resembles this: currently (2018), my
papers that were rejected by the first journal I submitted to include those
with the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 8th and 14th most citations. In fact, my
5th-most cited paper (and most when divided by number of years since
publication) was rejected so many times that rejection eventually became
part of the paper itself.
(Moreover, my rejected papers are almost exclusively among my most cited
Russia "decriminalized some forms of domestic violence in 2017", which was
in the news when two women were acquitted on appeal of killing their husbands.
The New York Times (9 September 2018), Yelena Mizulina, the
lawmaker who led the effort for decriminalization, said that
"A man beating his wife is less offensive than when a man is humiliated."
The paper also paraphrased her saying that "it was 'mandatory' for a woman
to respect her husband as the 'authority' in the marriage."
The NYT explained the change in law:
"Whereas abusers had previously faced up to two years in jail, under the
new statute they risked only 15 days, or a maximum fine of about $440, or
60 to 120 hours of community service. That was for any act against a spouse
or child that causes bruising or bleeding but not a broken bone, as long as
it did not happen more than once a year."
One of the women acquitted was Galina Katorova. In her
trial, "corroborating testimony unexpectedly came from her mother-in-law,
who was seeking financial compensation for her son's death. Of course her
son beat his wife, she testified, but Ms. Katorova deserved it because she
was excessively jealous of his contacts with other women after he had at
least one affair."
Every year, about 7-8% of high school students in the US attempt suicide:
In 2015, about 32% of Americans believed "animals should be given the same
rights as people" and 26% were "very concerned" about the way animals
raised for food are treated. See this
In June 2015, North Carolina passed a short law, only slightly longer than its
title, which was "AN ACT TO PROVIDE THAT STATE WILDLIFE LAWS DO NOT APPLY
TO OPOSSUMS BETWEEN THE DATES OF DECEMBER 29 AND JANUARY 2." See
the full text and the
American adults were asked
in May 1999 and in April 2010 how likely they
thought it was that Jesus Christ would return to earth in the next 40
years. The answers were about the same both times: about 22% said
"definitely will", 20% said "probably will", 28% said "probably not", 17%
said "definitely not", and 13% did not know or did not answer. The sampling
method was random-digit dialing with weights. The margin of error is
reported to be 4.5%.