Category Archives: In the News

Inoculating your brain against misinformation

Bayes theorem

If more people had been “mentally inoculated” somewhere during their education with a simple logical “vaccine” called a “Bayesian prior” we perhaps would not be in this current state of political craziness with elections and vaccine hesitancy. Here is an “In the News” example: When thousands of signatures on mail-in ballots appear, to the untrained eye, to be different from… Read more »

Worth a read: Life’s Edge by Carl Zimmer

An interesting tidbit from a recent DNA study documented by researchers in the Netherlands, translated for a general audience in Science News: Overall, as many as 12% of human pregnancies may start as multiple pregnancies, but under 2% carry to term, resulting in a vanishing twin. To think that a new science book can contribute positively to the hot-again issue… Read more »

Drug pricing and game theory

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Drug bottle

The “battle of the commercials” has been going on for some time now. The AARP wants Congress to step in against high prescription prices, especially for “old staples” like insulin. In response, a near-tears diabetic says on my TV that Medicare is going to take her drugs away if Congress limits drug prices (no surprise, the commercial sponsored by PhRMA,… Read more »

Governance via unamusing anecdote

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Readers Digest Condensed Books

The monthly Readers’ Digest magazine and the related hardcover “condensed books” were the bulk of the bathroom library at my house where I grew up during the 1950s. It is from there that I learned of this word “anecdote” at an early age. Reader’s Digest told me every month that if I had an “amusing anecdote,” I could make big… Read more »

One last Trump financial con

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Trump & Barrett

I first wrote about the fragility of the Trump fortune in April of 2018, and that theme has been followed by several more related posts in the years since. I sometimes feel that the financial chroniclers of the Trump Organization like myself and the far more knowledgeable David Farenthold of the Washington Post and Adam Davidson, co-founder of NPR’s Planet… Read more »

When we become inured to death

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Petrarch's Triumph of Death.

In 2017 and 2018, when all eyes were on several horrific incidents of mass gun violence, the United States was averaging just under one incident of mass gun violence per day (defined by the excellent Gun Violence Archive as four or more people killed or injured in one reported incident). During the pandemic year of 2020, that number rose to… Read more »

The self-destructive bravado of the Covid snake-handlers

Snake handler

“And these signs will accompany those who believe…they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them.” — Mark 16:17-18, NRSV During my years living in Cincinnati, across the Ohio River from Kentucky, we would regularly see a news story from south of the river with a headline like this:… Read more »

The Covid math of “us” versus “me”

Smallpox vaccination

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the Covid crisis has exacerbated the need for America to move from a very self-centered “me” culture into the more compassionate and action-oriented “us” culture required to combat the virus. Listening to the voices raised in protest to such collective action as mandated vaccinations and masking, I have noted that there are… Read more »

Afghanistan and aggressive dependence

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The moral conversation

I first heard the term “aggressive dependence” from a friend who spent over forty years creating community self-help cooperatives in mostly-rural locations in a dozen developing countries. Haiti was the one country where, in recent years, he expressed resignation rather than his typical ebullient hope. In his expression, aggressive dependence characterizes a society that defeats all attempts at practical outside… Read more »

The capricious God of Covid

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Dice icon

“At the first glance, the only ‘law’ … seems to be that of Caprice — caprice in inheriting, caprice in transmitting, caprice everywhere, in turn.” — Philosopher William James (1842– 1910) One of the classic examples in an introductory statistics class is the drawing of billiard balls from an opaque sack containing an unknown mix of various colored balls, and… Read more »