Calls for the closer integration of science in political decision-making have been commonplace for decades. However, there are serious problems in the application of science to policy — from energy to health and environment to education.
One suggestion to improve matters is to encourage more scientists to get involved in politics. Although laudable, it is unrealistic to expect substantially increased political involvement from scientists. Another proposal is to expand the role of chief scientific advisers1, increasing their number, availability and participation in political processes. Neither approach deals with the core problem of scientific ignorance among many who vote in parliaments.
Perhaps we could teach science to politicians? It is an attractive idea, but which busy politician has sufficient time? In practice, policy-makers almost never read scientific papers or books. The research relevant to the topic of the day — for example, mitochondrial replacement, bovine tuberculosis or nuclear-waste disposal — is interpreted for them by advisers or external advocates. And there is rarely, if ever, a beautifully designed double-blind, randomized, replicated, controlled experiment with a large sample size and unambiguous conclusion that tackles the exact policy issue.
In this context, we suggest that the immediate priority is to improve policy-makers’ understanding of the imperfect nature of science. The essential skills are to be able to intelligently interrogate experts and advisers, and to understand the quality, limitations and biases of evidence. We term these interpretive scientific skills. These skills are more accessible than those required to understand the fundamental science itself, and can form part of the broad skill set of most politicians.
Sylvester J. Schieber
Sylvester J. SchieberFmr. chair of the Social Security Advisory Board
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Ignoring Sexual Assaults Can Be Deadly
Posted: 12/10/2013 12:38 pm
Inside DC, Metropolitan Police Department, Dc Council, Rape, DC News
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On May 7, 1998, my daughter, Shannon, a 23-year-old student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, was raped and killed by a man who broke into her apartment at 2 a.m. Her killer previously had raped at least four other women before Shannon, all students living alone within a six-block radius of Shannon’s apartment, and all in early morning attacks.
However, the police failed to realize they had a serial rapist on their hands because detectives had classified two of the cases as “non-criminal offenses” and failed to investigate. According to the police statements, they did not believe the victims or found the victim’s memory of events unclear.
A report about the Metropolitan Police Department’s response to sexual assault cases in the District of Columbia identified similar issues. On December 12, the public will have its first chance to voice its opinions on proposed legislation to improve the MPD’s response to sexual assaults at a hearing of the DC Council.
The proposed DC legislation was prompted by a January Human Rights Watch investigation that concluded that the MPD failed to properly investigate scores of sexual abuse cases between 2008 and 2011 and often mistreated survivors who sought police assistance. A June report, conducted at the Council’s request by attorneys at Crowell & Moring, disputed Human Rights Watch’s methodology but echoed their recommendations for transparency and external oversight.
Initially, the Police Commissioner, John Timoney, downplayed the misclassification of cases, chalking the lapses up to bad training or occasional “sloppiness.” Fortunately, the Philadelphia City Council, rather than letting the matter drop, pressured Timoney to review cases going back five years. Ultimately, 2,000 sexual assault cases classified as non-crimes were audited. As a result, 700 of the cases were reclassified as rapes and another 500 as alternative forms of felony assault. In other words, there was sufficient evidence in the police files to suggest a serious crime had been committed in fully 60 percent of the cases.
Federal authorities are seeking to expand their jail misconduct investigation by convincing sheriff’s deputies to provide evidence against colleagues and higher-level officials in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, according to interviews.
Some sheriff’s officials are already cooperating with federal investigators, including at least one who agreed to become a confidential informant earlier in the inquiry. Legal experts who reviewed the indictments unsealed this week said some deputies mentioned but not identified by name are also likely to be cooperating.
Many of the 18 former and current deputies charged in the jail scandal face potentially lengthy prison sentences if they are convicted of crimes that include conspiracy to obstruct justice, lying to federal agents and beating inmates and writing false reports to cover up the assaults. The prospect of tough punishment gives deputies an incentive to help with the investigation in exchange for a deal, legal experts said.
Two groups that push so-called “reparative therapy” for gay people in the United States and abroad have teamed up to make a documentary explaining their junk science in an attempt to counter efforts to ban the practice for minors.
Family Watch International - a group affiliated with the World Congress of Families that supports the criminalization of homosexuality abroad and retains Uganda anti-gay crusader Martin Ssempa as a “volunteer” staff member - teamed up last month with leaders of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) to produce the half-hour documentary, “Understanding Same-Sex Attraction.”
In the film, NARTH psychologists and self-proclaimed “ex-gays” - some of them with their faces blurred out for privacy - push any number of anti-gay myths, including that homosexuality is caused by sexual abuse, absent fathers, and overbearing mothers.
We’ve put together a short highlight reel:
Of course, one of the pioneers of “reparative therapy,” Exodus International, renounced their work last year, and last summer, a California law that makes reparative therapy illegal was upheld by a Federal Appeals Court, but why let a few inconvenient facts and the rule of law get in the way of good old American grifting?
Grifting that damages young people.
I hope that one day, karma gives Family Watch International a swift kick in the ass.
Nearly 40 news outlets sent a letter to the White House in November complaining about what they see as an unprecedented lack of access for photographers. At the White House press briefing Thursday journalists angrily confronted press secretary Jay Carney over the issue.
Judging by Carneys response, the white house agrees substantially with what the press corps has claimed. His explanation for why there was an issue? The internet. Or something. In any case the good news is this will be addressed, and changed for the better.
According to Counterpoint’s Monthly Market Pulse report for October 2013, Apple’s iPhone 5s continued to be the bestselling phone globally during October. Apple’s iPhone 5s sales saw an upward sales momentum as Apple continued expansive roll-out for its flagship model thus further widening the gap with its arch rival’s flagship model Samsung’s Galaxy S4. Apple’s iPhone 5s topped the best-seller’s list despite the component shortages causing long waiting periods in several channels and without Mobile China that is expected to launch iPhones in the coming days ahead.
he women’s health organization Planned Parenthood has found itself under assault in recent years. Laws passed in states like Texas, which recently became one of 13 states to ban abortion after 20 weeks, will now shutter many local Planned Parenthood clinics. But as the nearly 100-year-old organization struggles to keep its doors open, it has found a newly invigorated source of support. Black women have begun to emerge as some of the organization’s key spokespeople, decision-makers and leaders.
On Wednesday, media personality Star Jones joined Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards for an off-the-record discussion of reproductive health and Planned Parenthood’s future with a room full of African-American female influencers, including BET President Debra Lee, producer Crystal McCrary and CBS medical expert Dr. Holly Phillips, among others from the worlds of business, media and entertainment. The event was hosted in the home of Alexis McGill Johnson, a former political adviser to Sean “Diddy” Combs and Russell Simmons, who is now chairwoman of the Planned Parenthood board of directors.
Of her participation, Jones told The Root, “Women’s health is one of my primary issues. I work so hard to make sure women are aware of ownership of our own bodies, and I see everything Planned Parenthood does as connected to women’s health.” She continued, “I know the nation thinks of Planned Parenthood in a very myopic way.” She said that too many people see Planned Parenthood through the lens of providing abortion, which accounts for less than 10 percent of the organization’s services. “When it comes to women’s health, they are the first line of defense for most lower-income women in America,” she said.
GREAT FALLS, Mont. — A teenager who pleaded guilty to raping an 11-year-old girl as she walked home from school last year was sentenced to 75 years in the Montana State Prison.
Ten years of Kaleb Kuebler’s sentence was suspended, but the 16-year-old also must register as a sex offender and complete treatment before he is eligible for parole, Judge Greg Pinski of Cascade County District Court said Wednesday.
According to court documents, Kuebler approached the girl as she walked home from school in October 2012. He stole her hat, lured her into an alley, assaulted and raped her. The girl went to her grandparents’ house and reported the assault, spurring a daylong police manhunt for a suspect. Kuebler was apprehended after officers matched him to the description the victim provided.
Fifteen at the time of the crime, Kuebler would have been tried as an adult because of the serious nature of the charges against him if he had not pleaded guilty.
Esther Inglis-Aakell over at over at Io9 takes a look at some of the strangest bible passages and their meaning.
The Bible has been called an historical document, a guidebook for moral living, and a work of fiction. No matter how you view it, there is no question that certain parts are confusing. We’ll take a look at the possible meanings of the nine strangest passages in the Bible.
An Orange County Lamborghini dealership, which already prided itself on selling more cars than any other in the country, may now have hit the car sales jackpot.
This week, the dealership shipped its first-ever vehicle purchased using a digital currency known as bitcoin. A second sale to a bitcoin user was being processed Wednesday, the Daily Pilot reported.