August 2009 Archives

Earlier this week the coroner decided that Michael Jackson was the victim of a homicide. Here's what that means:

It's important to note that homicide indicates that Jackson was killed; it does not, necessarily, mean he was murdered (homicide with intent to kill); many previous medical homicide cases have involved euthanasia. The Los Angeles County DA has not yet announced murder or manslaughter charges against Jackson's physician,Conrad Murray, who admits to giving Jackson the drugs. ...

NEWSWEEK's Sarah Kliff spoke with Dr. Vincent DiMaio, editor of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology and former chief medical examiner in Baxter County, Texas about what constitutes medical homicide, what doesn’t and why it’s actually not too difficult to tell the difference. Excerpts:

By classifying this death as a homicide, what is the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office saying about the actions of Jackson’s doctor?

What they’re alleging is that [Michael Jackson’s doctor] gave [Jackson] a medication for a non-medical reason and that caused the death…The reason they can classify this as a homicide is that there is simply no medical reason for this drug to have been administered. Suppose he was in surgery, and the doctor had given him too much medication. That’s a different situation which would probably be signed off on as an accident. But in this situation, it’s clearly a homicide.

In general, how do you define a medical homicide? What makes it different from medical malpractice?

There are five ways that forensic pathologists categorize deaths: natural, accidental, homicide, suicide or undetermined. Essentially, homicide means that somebody has caused the death of another person…In terms of medical homicide specifically, I think the simplest way to say it is that it’s a medical decision that’s outrageous, that you could not justify your actions medically. Or you just go to extremes, like deciding to do an operative procedure for which you don’t have the support, doing an operation on your kitchen table. That’s essentially the way to say it: if you have a medical situation, where you’re using things inappropriately and have no medical justification, that’s homicide.

It seems then that a medical homicide will likely be manslaughter or murder.

Ted Kennedy has died, and I will say a prayer for his family that they will be comforted in their grief.

I'm sorry that Ted Kennedy is dead; I'm glad that Ted Kennedy is no longer in the Senate. He spent his life fighting to remake America into a liberal, socialist welfare state, and insofar as he accomplished his goals he was detrimental to America. One of his passions during his tenure in the Senate was the elimination of our (mostly) free market health care system, and it is supremely ironic that near the end of his life he chose private health care for himself rather than the government-run medical care that was available to him as a veteran from the Veterans' Administration.

Ted Kennedy was also a strong proponent of abortion-on-demand and received a 100% rating from NARAL. As such, he was instrumental in causing and allowing the deaths of millions of unborn children. While the nation mourns the death of Ted Kennedy after 77 years of wealth, power, and privilege, who sheds a tear for these tiny souls?

The cries of these murdered children must even now be haunting Ted Kennedy in his afterlife.

Canada's former top doctor is ripping Canada's socialized health care system.

Bill O'Reilly: Dr. Day what is the biggest problem with your health care system?

Dr. Brian Day: Well, the biggest problem is access. By access we have, in the Canadian system the first line of defense for a sick patient is the family doctor. And, in a population of 33 million Canadians 5 million Canadians do not have a family doctor.

Bill O'Reilly: Is it because the doctors don't get paid as well as doctors get paid as well in the United States? We have 30% more doctors per 100,000. Is it because they are not getting paid as well?

Dr. Brian Day: No, we rank 26 out of 28 in the developed countries as far as doctors to population. It's part of the mechanism of rationing that has to happen when you promise to deliver everything and don't have enough resources.

Bill O'Reilly: Is that a major problem rationing in Canada? Are people suffering because they cannot get in to see a doctor?

Dr. Brian Day: Oh yes. We have over a million people waiting for surgery and probably another million waiting to see their specialist before they get to wait for the surgery.

Bill O'Reilly: Obama says if we pass this trillion dollar bill over 10 years that costs will go down in the United States. You're saying that in Canada they have skyrocketed. So, I'm just saying, this is what we're hearing we don't know. Does it seem plausible to you that if Obamacare gets passed our costs are going to come down?

Dr. Brian Day: I don't think so.

(HT: Jim Hoft.)

Ok, this is hilarious and brilliant: who will take care of your pets after you've been raptured?

You've committed your life to Jesus. You know you're saved. But when the Rapture comes what's to become of your loving pets who are left behind? Eternal Earth-Bound Pets takes that burden off your mind.

We are a group of dedicated animal lovers, and atheists. Each
Eternal Earth-Bound Pet representative is a confirmed atheist, and as such will still be here on Earth after you've received your reward. Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus. ...

Our service is plain and simple; our fee structure is reasonable. For $110.00 we will guarantee that should the Rapture occur within ten (10) years of receipt of payment, one pet per residence will be saved. Each additional pet at your residence will be saved for an additional $15.00 fee. A small price to pay for your peace of mind and the health and safety of your four legged friends.

Despite being the butt of the joke, it's still pretty funny. However, I'm not sure I trust that their service is actually making the preparations required to fulfill their end of the contract.

Following in the footsteps of great community organizers like Barack Obama, thousands of St. Louis citizens turned out on Saturday to tell our elected officials what they think of the shenanigans in Washington, D.C. Here are more pictures, courtesy of Mark Polege.

Gosh, what could have gotten these neanderthals so riled up? (I met Maxine Waters and shook her hand when I lived in her district, and she's not that bright herself.)

Mark Steyn observes that the global recession has ended in countries that didn't spend trillions of dollars on "stimulus".

Meanwhile, in Brazil, India, China, Japan and much of Continental Europe the recession has ended. In the second quarter this year, both the French and German economies grew by 0.3 percent, while the U.S. economy shrank by 1 percent. How can that be? Unlike America, France and Germany had no government stimulus worth speaking of, the Germans declining to go the Obama route on the quaint grounds that they couldn't afford it. They did not invest in the critical signage-in-front-of-holes-in-the-road sector. And yet their recession has gone away. Of the world's biggest economies, only the U.S., Britain and Italy are still contracting. All three are big stimulators, though Gordon Brown and Silvio Berlusconi can't compete with Obama's $800 billion porkapalooza. The president has borrowed more money to spend to less effect than anybody on the planet.

Actually, when I say "to less effect," that's not strictly true: Due to Obama, one of the least-indebted developed nations is now one of the most indebted – and getting ever more so. We've become the third most debt-ridden country, after Japan and Italy. According to last month's IMF report, general government debt as a percentage of GDP will rise from 63 percent in 2007 to 88.8 percent this year and to 99.8 percent of GDP next year.

This will be a tough hole to dig ourselves out of. Hope and change!

I'm neither Catholic nor a nun, but ever since Sister Act I've believed that the Vatican needs to rein in American nuns.

The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition.

Nuns were the often-unsung workers who helped build the Roman Catholic Church in this country, planting schools and hospitals and keeping parishes humming. But for the last three decades, their numbers have been declining — to 60,000 today from 180,000 in 1965.

While some nuns say they are grateful that the Vatican is finally paying attention to their dwindling communities, many fear that the real motivation is to reel in American nuns who have reinterpreted their calling for the modern world.

In the last four decades since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, many American nuns stopped wearing religious habits, left convents to live independently and went into new lines of work: academia and other professions, social and political advocacy and grass-roots organizations that serve the poor or promote spirituality. A few nuns have also been active in organizations that advocate changes in the church like ordaining women and married men as priests.

Could there be any connection between the dramatic reduction in the number of nuns and their "reinterpretation" of their calling? Is it spiritually honest to take a vow of "chastity, poverty, and obedience" and to then stir up dissension and rebellion under the name of "advocating changes"? How can these questions be answered without an investigation?

Here's a fun urban legend about a self-employed parking lot attendant at the Bristol Zoo in England.

Outside the Bristol Zoo, in England , there is a parking lot for 150 cars and 8 coaches, or buses.

It was manned by a very pleasant attendant with a ticket machine charging cars £1 (about $1.40) and coaches £5 (about $7).

This parking attendant worked there solid for all of 25 years. Then, one day, he just didn't turn up for work.

Read the end. Too good to be true, of course.

(HT: RB.)

CCP, the makers of EVE Online (which I've been sucked into recently) are going to be releasing a console-based FPS/RTS companion game called DUST 514 that sits in the same world as EVE. This is the first time anyone has attempted to integrate a desktop MMO with a console game, and I'm extremely excited to see how it develops.

EVE is the first MMO I've played since EverQuest over a decade ago. I have always been intrigued by World of Warcraft, but never jumped in. EVE's market-based economic and industrial components were compelling to me, though, so I'm giving it a shot. So far it is extremely engrossing.

(HT: RC.)

Here's a nifty animated population distribution chart that illustrates why our health care system is going to come crashing down in the coming decades. In short: the present elderly cohort belongs to the "baby bust" that preceded the "baby boom" generation. There are fewer old people per capita now than there were a couple of decades ago, but a couple of decades from now there will be hugely more.

Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that DNA evidence can be fabricated relatively easily.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

I'm actually happy that DNA evidence is getting more scrutiny. I've long been uneasy with the growing dependency on DNA evidence for criminal convictions... maybe a decline in DNA credibility will lead to a resurgence of a broader range of investigatory techniques.

It looks like all those hours spent playing video games have finally paid off: the USAF is training more UAV pilots than real pilots.

There was once a great Far Side cartoon that had ‘hopeful parents’ imagining a newspaper full of Help Wanted ads for skilled video game players. Well, it looks like Gary Larson might have been more prescient than he imagined. The US Air Force has just revealed that, this year, it will train more ‘pilots’ to remotely operate unmanned aircraft than pilots to fly fighters and bombers. ...

Lt. Gen. David Deptula revealed at the briefing on July 23 that high- and medium-altitude UAV overseas combat missions have increased more than 600 percent during the past six years. At present, the Air Force has 35 Predator and Reaper UAVs over Iraq and Afghanistan, each of which is a combat mission that keeps an aircraft aloft 24 hours a day.

That, of course, is what has so enamored the military to UAVs – they permit long missions, over huge areas, without being limited by the needs of human cargo. Instead, there’s always fresh crew available to pursue a mission relentlessly. The Air Force has a thousand personnel flying these missions, and none of them is at risk of anything greater than RSI. At the moment, the Air Force uses one pilot per Predator but, by 2013, they believe each one will be able to fly three or four simultaneously.

I think the F-35 is the last fighter the USAF will procure that carries a sack of meat around with it. The advantages to going unmanned are just too great to ignore.

  1. Save weight by ditching all the life support systems, ejection seat, visual readouts, etc.
  2. Lower cost by drastically reducing survivability.
  3. More aggressive rules of engagement because no USAF pilots are at risk.
  4. Better morale for troops because they get to live in the United States with their families instead of being deployed. Plus all the cost savings associated with this.

(HT: RB.)

As I wrote earlier, health care "reform" is dead.

WASHINGTON – Bowing to Republican pressure and an uneasy public, President Barack Obama's administration signaled Sunday it is ready to abandon the idea of giving Americans the option of government-run insurance as part of a new health care system.

Facing mounting opposition to the overhaul, administration officials left open the chance for a compromise with Republicans that would include health insurance cooperatives instead of a government-run plan. Such a concession probably would enrage Obama's liberal supporters but could deliver a much-needed victory on a top domestic priority opposed by GOP lawmakers.

The holy grail is portable insurance that isn't tied to a job. If the "co-ops" achieve that without burdensome government involvement that might actually be a win!

Somewhat strained, but still funny.

(HT: RB.)

(HT: SW.)

Someone painted a swastika on a sign in front of Congressman David Scott's office (D-GA). But everything may not be as it seems.

A swastika was found Tuesday painted on a sign outside Rep. David Scott's district office, an act the Georgia Democrat said reflects an increasingly hateful and racist debate over health care and should serve as a reminder for people to tone down their rhetoric.

Scott's staff arrived at his Smyrna, Ga., office Tuesday morning to find the Nazi graffiti emblazoned on a sign bearing the lawmaker's name. The vandalism occurred roughly a week after Scott was involved in a contentious argument over health care at a community meeting.

Scott, who is black, said he also has received mail in recent days that used N-word references to him, and that characterized President Barack Obama as a Marxist.

Take a closer look at that swastika: it was drawn with two S-shaped strokes that cross in the middle, using spray paint. I've seen people draw swastikas in school, and someone unfamiliar with the shape will generally use four strokes, one for each spoke. It's an awkward shape, especially when using a tool like spray paint, and those two S-curves were painted with a lot of confidence.

My inference is that this swastika was not the vandal's first; this swastika was applied by an experienced racist. And what kind of people have the most experience drawing swastikas? Left-wing loony protestors!

I haven't posted much about health care reform in the past several days because I think it's dead. As soon as the bills were pushed back past the August recess I became almost certain that no bill would get passed until after the 2010 elections. At this point, people are so angry that even a stripped-down version of the bill will be politically unfeasible.

I think this is all to the good. America has the best health care system in the world, and we shouldn't mess with success. Until some other country demonstrates a better system, I think we should pretty much stand pat.

Here are five futuristic interfaces from SIGGRAPH. My favorite by far is the Augmented Reality Toys.

I'm a huge fan of augmented reality technology, and the idea of tying the VR to items rather than locations will be extremely powerful.

(HT: RC.)

The economics of Somali piracy, with a fun flash game at the end to let you try your hand as the captain of a pirate ship.

Pictures from an abandoned Russian tank base. Watch out for toxic waste!

(HT: RB.)

Christians are being tortured and killed in Eritrea:

Another Christian imprisoned for his faith in Eritrea has died from authorities denying him medical treatment, according to a Christian support organization.

Sources told Netherlands-based Open Doors that Yemane Kahasay Andom, 43, died Thursday (July 23) at Mitire Military Confinement Center.

A member of the Kale-Hiwot church in Mendefera, Andom was said to be secretly buried in the camp.

Weakened by continuous torture, Andom was suffering from a severe case of malaria, Open Doors reported in a statement today.

“He was allegedly further weakened by continuous physical torture and solitary confinement in an underground cell the two weeks prior to his death for his refusal to sign a recantation form,” the organization said. “It is not clear what the contents of the recantation form were, but most Christians interpret the signing of such a form as the denouncement of their faith in Christ.”

Pray for the believers and unbelievers in Eritrea!

New research indicates that the spleen may not be a useless "vestigial" organ after all.

Scientists have discovered that the spleen, long consigned to the B-list of abdominal organs and known as much for its metaphoric as its physiological value, plays a more important role in the body’s defense system than anyone suspected.

Reporting in the current issue of the journal Science, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School describe studies showing that the spleen is a reservoir for huge numbers of immune cells called monocytes, and that in the event of a serious trauma to the body like a heart attack, gashing wound or microbial invasion, the spleen will disgorge those monocyte multitudes into the bloodstream to tackle the crisis.

Wait a minute... we don't know everything yet?

That researchers are only now discovering a major feature of a rather large organ they have been studying for at least 2,000 years demonstrates yet again that there is nothing so foreign as the place we call home.

“Often, if you come across something in the body that seems like a big deal, you think, ‘Why didn’t anybody check this before?’ ” Dr. Nahrendorf said. “But the more you learn, the more you realize that we’re just scratching on the surface of life. We don’t know the whole story about anything.”

But if there's one thing we know without a shadow of a doubt it's that our magnificent bodies are the product of evolution.

Researchers cite other cases in which organs were presumed to be so dispensable that they could be removed “prophylactically” — often with unfortunate outcomes. In recent years, for example, many older women undergoing hysterectomies have been advised to have their healthy ovaries removed at the same time, the rationale being: if you are past your childbearing years, why hang on to reproductive organs that might turn cancerous and kill you? Yet follow-up surveys have shown that women who underwent elective ovariectomy had a heightened risk of dying during a given study period, were more susceptible to heart disease and lung cancer and were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease compared with women who had kept their ovaries. “Evolution has an edge on us,” Dr. Nahrendorf said. “I would be very careful about saying, ‘You don’t need this organ, get rid of it.’ ”

Yes, our Creator -- the blind, random process of evolution -- has got us all beat.

(HT: Instapundit.)

This article is a couple of years old, but it's the best explanation I've seen yet of the evidence that reducing lead exposure reduces crime.

Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani's tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.

Bonus question: what does this say about morality and free will?

(HT: RB.)

As has been obvious for years to anyone with a brain cell, President Obama will try to raise taxes on the middle class.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers both sidestepped questions on Obama's intentions about taxes. Geithner said the White House was not ready to rule out a tax hike to lower the federal deficit; Summers said Obama's proposed health care overhaul needs funding from somewhere.

"There is a lot that can happen over time," Summers said, adding that the administration believes "it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what."

During his presidential campaign, Obama repeatedly vowed "you will not see any of your taxes increase one single dime." But the simple reality remains that his ambitious overhaul of how Americans receive health care -- promised without increasing the federal deficit -- must be paid for.

The simple reality is that Obama had all these grand health care and cap-and-trade plans while he was running for office and knew at the time that he would raise taxes. He just lied!

Who could have thought that a married man dating three mistresses could run into trouble?

After finding out that the same Casanova had been courting them all simultaneously, Michelle Belliveau, Wendy Sewell and Therese Ziemann allegedly lured the man to a local motel room to seek revenge.

Police say Ziemann kicked off the plan, convincing the man to voluntarily agree to be bound and blindfolded with the promise of a massage.

But instead, police say, she cut off his underwear and sent a text message to the other women to enter the room.

District Attorney: Women Conspired to Allegedly Attack

"This wasn't a spur of the moment type of event in that all of the participants in the complaint and in the information provided were part and parcel of this plan," said Ken Krantz, the district attorney of Calumet County, Wis.

When the women came into the room, they allegedly attacked him and applied Krazy Glue to sensitive body parts.

Reports show that they asked the victim which woman he loved more, which one he wanted to grow old with, slapped him in the face and then said, "Can you handle that?"

The man was finally released after he started screaming, and police say the women fled with his cell phone, wallet and car.

Unfortunately for me, I know at least one man who could handle that.

(HT: RD.)

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