For me the creepiest thing about James Watson is not his views on race, but that this egotistical asshole has any shred of credibility at all for a career based on the theft of the ideas and work of others.
This is not uncommon in Elite Academia where Senior Professors rarely teach and routinely steal the results of their Assistants to publish under their own name but Watson deserves a special place in hell for using unpublished data from Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling, co-researchers at the Medical Research Council, without her consent, using Maurice Wilkins (who worked in the same lab) as a spy.
More than that in his book The Double Helix, published after Franklin’s death, Watson slanders her and denigrates her work, making it appear that she was nothing more than Wilkins’ assistant and too dumb to interpret her own results when the double helical nature of the DNA molecule was in fact her original suggestion, simply because she was a woman and “intimidated” him (meaning probably she turned down his sexual advances).
So it’s no surprise at all that this sexist pig turns out to also be an unreconstructed racist of the Charles Murray type and after he revealed himself in 2007 started to lose the luster and lucrative Board positions and speaking fees he had enjoyed, and is practically reduced to pauperhood having (as he does) to subsist on his meagre high 6 figure tenured Professor’s salary.
So what is a poor undeserving Nobel Prize winner to do when they’re strapped for cash like that and really, really want a David Hockney which would be just perfect over the living room couch?
Why pawn it of course. They’re made of real gold you know, but like Super Bowl Rings are more valuable than the materials because of the rarity. Unlike Super Bowl Rings they are seldom sold before the death of the recipient so this one is expected to fetch between $2.5 and $3.5 million which will be just about enough for that Hockney behind the divan. But be of good cheer, munificently he’s pledged that any excess will go to his alma mater, that factory of greedy fascists and patently and transparently false theories to justify the prejudices of Plutocrats, the University of Chicago.
He may have unravelled DNA, but James Watson deserves to be shunned
Adam Rutherford, The Guardian
Monday 1 December 2014 05.41 EST
Watson has said that he is “not a racist in a conventional way”. But he told the Sunday Times in 2007 that while people may like to think that all races are born with equal intelligence, those “who have to deal with black employees find this not true”. Call me old-fashioned, but that sounds like bog-standard, run-of-the-mill racism to me.
And this current whinge bemoans a new poverty born of his pariah status. Apart “from my academic income”, he says, Watson is condemned to a miserly wage that prevents him from buying a David Hockney painting.
His comments reveal a pernicious character entirely unrelated to his scientific greatness, but that is longstanding and not new. Watson is rightly venerated for being half of the pair, along with Francis Crick, who discovered the structure of DNA, and for leading the Human Genome Project. The story of the unveiling of the double helix is messy and complex, just like all biology. It has been pored over and studied and embellished and mythologised. But simply, the race was won by Crick and Watson, and in April 1953 they revealed to the world the iconic double helix. The key evidence, however, Photo 51, was produced by Rosalind Franklin and Ray Gosling, at King’s College London. Franklin’s skill at the technique known as X-ray crystallography was profound, and was indubitably essential to the discovery. Crick and Watson acquired the photo without her knowledge.
The first account of the story of DNA was by Watson himself, and reveals his character. Honest Jim is what he wanted to call the book that was published as The Double Helix in 1968. It is a classic of nonfiction writing, and deservedly so. It is brilliant and racy and gossipy, and full of questionable truths.
He patronisingly refers to Franklin as “Rosy” throughout, despite there being no evidence that anyone else ever did. Here’s a sample of how he described her in the first few pages: “Though her features were strong, she was not unattractive, and might have been quite stunning had she taken even a mild interest in clothes. This she did not.”
James Watson’s sense of entitlement, and misunderstandings of science that need to be countered.
By Janet D. Stemwedel, Scientific American
December 1, 2014
Positioning James Watson as a very special scientist who deserves special treatment above and beyond the recognition of the Nobel committee feeds the problematic narrative of scientific knowledge as an achievement of great men (and yes, in this narrative, it is usually great men who are recognized). This narrative ignores the fundamentally social nature of scientific knowledge-building and the fact that objectivity is the result of teamwork.
Of course, it’s even more galling to have James Watson portrayed (including by himself) as an exceptional hero of science rather than as part of a knowledge-building community given the role of Rosalind Franklin’s work in determining the structure of DNA – and given Watson’s apparent contempt for Franklin, rather than regard for her as a member of the knowledge-building team, in The Double Helix.
Indeed, part of the danger of the hero narrative is that scientists themselves may start to believe it. They can come to see themselves as individuals possessing more powers of objectivity than other humans (thus fundamentally misunderstanding where objectivity comes from), with privileged access to truth, with insights that don’t need to be rigorously tested or supported with empirical evidence. (Watson’s 2007 claims about race fit in this territory.)
Scientists making authoritative claims beyond what science can support is a bigger problem. To the extent that the public also buys into the hero narrative of science, that public is likely to take what Nobel Prize winners say as authoritative, even in the absence of good empirical evidence. Here Watson keeps company with William Shockley and his claims on race, Kary Mullis and his claims on HIV, and Linus Pauling and his advocacy of mega-doses of vitamin C. Some may argue that non-scientists need to be more careful consumers of scientific claims, but it would surely help if scientists themselves would recognize the limits of their own expertise and refrain from overselling either their claims or their individual knowledge-building power.
Where Watson’s claims about race are concerned, the harm of positioning him as an exceptional scientist goes further than reinforcing a common misunderstanding of where scientific knowledge comes from. These views, asserted authoritatively by a Nobel Prize winner, give cover to people who want to believe that their racist views are justified by scientific knowledge.
However, especially for people in the groups that James Watson has claimed are genetically inferior, asserting that Watson’s massive scientific achievement trumps his problematic claims about race can be alienating. His scientific achievement doesn’t magically remove the malign effects of the statements he has made from a very large soapbox, using his authority as a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Ignoring those malign effects, or urging people to ignore them because of the scientific achievement which gave him that big soapbox, sounds an awful lot like saying that including the whole James Watson package in science is more important than including black people as scientific practitioners or science fans.
The hero narrative gives James Watson’s claims more power than they deserve. The hero narrative also makes urgent the need to deem James Watson’s “foibles” forgivable so we can appreciate his contribution to knowledge. None of this is helpful to the practice of science. None of it helps non-scientists engage more responsibly with scientific claims or scientific practitioners.
Holding James Watson to account for his claims, holding him responsible for scientific standards of evidence, doesn’t render him an unperson. Indeed, it amounts to treating him as a person engaged in the scientific knowledge-building project, as well as a person sharing a world with the rest of us.
The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.
–Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, The Nature of the Physical World (1927)
Science and Tech News and Blogs
- Orion, Dragons and Dream Chasers: What’s behind modern spaceship design?, By Irene Klotz, Reuters
- The “Potsdam Gravity Potato” Shows Variations in Earth’s Gravity, by Matt Williams, Universe Today
- Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind, By Rory Cellan-Jones, BBC
- Apple accused of deleting songs from iPods without users’ knowledge, By Mikey Campbell, Apple Insider
- University of Texas Says It Can Account for Missing Brain Specimens, By TAMAR LEWIN, The New York Times
- Shovels Untouched, Archaeologists Survey a Medieval Town in Britain, By STEVEN ERLANGER, The New York Times
- Affair may have broken British royal bloodline, DNA test shows, By Sarah Knapton, Gulf News
- Scientific papers take a step outside Nature’s paywall, by Stephen Shankland, CNet
- The US Intelligence Community Is Building A Powerful New Super-Computer, by Doina Chiacu, Reuters
- This West Antarctic region sheds a Mount Everest-sized amount of ice every two years, study says, By Terrence McCoy, Washington Post
Science Oriented Video!
The Obligatories, News, and Blogs below.
Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when
we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED)the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.
I would never make fun of LaEscapee or blame PhilJD. And I am highly organized.
This Day in History
U.S. and Iran Both Attack ISIS, but Try Not to Look Like Allies
By TIM ARANGO and THOMAS ERDBRINK, The New York Times
DEC. 3, 2014
Iranian and Pentagon officials acknowledged that Iran had stepped up its military operations in Iraq last week, using 1970s-era fighter jets to bomb targets in a buffer zone that extends 25 miles into Iraq.
The new military approach highlights an unusual confluence of interests in both Iraq and Syria, where Tehran and Washington find themselves fighting the same enemy in an increasingly public fashion. While there is no direct coordination between Iran and the United States, there is a de facto nonaggression pact that neither side is eager to acknowledge.
In Syria, Hezbollah, the Iranian-supported Shiite militant movement, and the Iranian paramilitary Al Quds force, have kept President Bashar al-Assad in power. And in Iraq, Iran’s once-elusive spymaster, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the commander of the Quds force who has spent a career in the shadows orchestrating terrorist attacks – including some that killed American soldiers in Iraq – has emerged as a public figure, with pictures of him on Iraq’s battlefields popping up on social media.
The apparent shift in Iran’s strategy has been most noticeable in Iraq, where even American officials acknowledge the decisive role of Iranian-backed militias, particularly in protecting Baghdad from an assault by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, but also working with the American-led air campaign.
My Great-Great-Aunt Discovered Francium. And It Killed Her.
By VERONIQUE GREENWOOD, The New York Times
DEC. 3, 2014
Just after Christmas of 1938, a young woman named Marguerite Perey – then 29, with a plain, open face, her eyes intent upon her work – sat at a bench in the Radium Institute of Paris, a brick mansion near the Jardin du Luxembourg. In a glass vessel, she examined fluid containing metal salts. She carefully dosed it with lead and hydrogen sulfide, then with barium, causing the solution to separate into different substances. She was in the final stages of purifying actinium, one of the rarest and most dangerous elements yet discovered, from uranium ore. Ten tons of ore yielded just one or two milligrams of actinium; Perey, who joined the institute as a teenager to be the personal technician for Marie Curie, was an expert in its isolation.
The Curie laboratory hired researchers from across Europe, but Perey was a local girl, the youngest of five children of a flour-mill owner in Villemomble, just east of the city. The death of her father had left the family in financial straits. Her mother gave piano lessons to fill the gap, but Perey had to abandon the idea of going to medical school in favor of a vocational college for chemistry technicians. The Curies often hired the top student from the school as an assistant, and Perey, at 19, was called in for an interview. She later described her first impression of Marie Curie: “Without a sound, someone entered like a shadow. It was a woman dressed entirely in black. She had gray hair, taken up in a bun, and wore thick glasses. She conveyed an impression of extreme frailty and paleness.” A secretary, Perey thought – then realized she was in the presence of Curie herself.
There is a common narrative in science of the tragic genius who suffers for a great reward, and the tale of Curie, who died from exposure to radiation as a result of her pioneering work, is one of the most famous. There is a sense of grandeur in the idea that paying heavily is a means of advancing knowledge. But in truth, you can’t control what it is that you find – whether you’ve sacrificed your health for it, or simply years of your time.
The real problem in Ferguson, New York and all of America is institutional racism
Vincent Warren, The Guardian
Thursday 4 December 2014 07.15 EST
Our political leaders should not begin to offer solutions for a problem if they won’t even name it: systemic, institutional racism exists in police forces throughout our country.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” Frederick Douglass famously said. “Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground.”
From the prosecutor and the grand juries in Ferguson and Staten Island to the halls of Congress – where reform ideas like the End Racial Profiling Act or the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act have hit a dead end – and a thousand places in between, our government institutions have been largely unresponsive to demands for real structural reform. Much like the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, grassroots protests in Missouri and New York and across the country – including the hundreds of actions of civil disobedience, bridge and highway shutdowns, and walkouts – are the engines of change, and communities and grassroots organizers are the ones providing the concrete solutions to the problem.
Officer who fatally shot Tamir Rice judged unfit for duty by police in 2012
Tom McCarthy, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 15.05 EST
A police officer who shot a 12-year-old dead in a Cleveland park late last month had been judged unfit for police service two years earlier by a small suburban force where he worked for six months, according to records released on Wednesday.
Officer Timothy Loehmann, who killed Tamir Rice on 22 November, was specifically faulted for breaking down emotionally while handling a live gun. During a training episode at a firing range, Loehmann was reported to be “distracted and weepy” and incommunicative. “His handgun performance was dismal,” deputy chief Jim Polak of the Independence, Ohio, police department wrote in an internal memo.
On a Saturday afternoon last month, Loehmann and a partner, Frank Garmack, were dispatched to Cleveland’s Cudell Commons Park after a 911 caller reported “a guy” in the park was pointing a “probably fake” gun at people. Surveillance video recovered after the incident showed Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old, handling a pistol-sized pellet gun.
Loehmann shot the boy dead within two seconds of a police car driven by Garmack arriving to the park and pulling to a stop within feet of the child. In the video, released by Cleveland police a week ago, Loehmann appears to fire his gun as he opens the door to leave the police car.
Loehmann has been taken off patrol duties in Cleveland and the shooting is under internal review.
What the St Louis Rams know about Ferguson is a righteous glimpse of the way forward
Roxane Gay, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 07.30 EST
Before their Sunday NFL game against the Oakland Raiders, five players from the St Louis Rams walked onto the field, their hands raised in a now-familiar gesture of support – “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” – for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was killed by by the police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, and whose grieving family was denied justice last week when a grand jury declined to prosecute Wilson.
Later that same evening, the St Louis Police Officers Association issued a statement denouncing the nonviolent act of protest as “tasteless” and “inflammatory”. The cops called for the players involved to be disciplined, they demanded an apology, and they seemingly took particular offense to the players’ unwillingness to accept that the grand jury’s decision not to indict Brown means that justice was somehow served.
The next day, conservative pundits framed the players’ act as political – and the very word, political, was an accusation. Greta Van Susteren of Fox News asked, “Why ruin football with politics? It’s just a game.” That accusation – political – carried a taint, suggesting that those football players should just do what they’re paid for, nothing more. Like gladiators in Roman times, the football players were apparently expected to keep us entertained with their muscular bodies, to issue apologies they had no intent to offer, not to make statements. Bill O’Reilly went so far as to plainly state that the football players were not “smart enough to know what they’re doing“. That accusation – political – also implored those players to forget that, when they aren’t wearing their football uniforms, they must move through the world as black men whose lives are endangered.
But protesting the death of Michael Brown was not a political act – at least, not in the way it is being framed by political pundits. It was the act of black men who are or may someday parent black children. They are men with significant others and parents and siblings who also know the challenges of living and breathing while black. They are men who don’t want to die for being black. They don’t want their children to die for being black. I cannot think of a more personal act.
The Eric Garner decision confirms a holiday of horrors. ‘Tis the season for more protest, not less
Steven W Thrasher, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 17.05 EST
On Wednesday evening in New York City, as dusk fell into night, another grand jury failed to indict another police officer for killing another unarmed black man in America – this one a bona-fide homicide caught on camera. On Wednesday night in New York City, we protest. And then they planned in this same town – on this, the same night in America when the law continued to allow cops to kill black men – to light the most famous Christmas tree in the country.
Some will say protesters need to be peaceful, to be respectful. They will say this after Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death with a forbidden chokehold, walks free – news that is not any more surprising than the news that Darren Wilson was not indicted for the shooting death of Mike Brown.
And, yes, the protesters should be peaceful – but we need to be disruptive. Because the same structural racism exists in New York City that does in Ferguson, as it does everywhere in the United States. As President Obama said on Wednesday night: “This is an American problem.” And no holiday lights should be lit while the light of justice is snuffed out for so many.
Keystone XL opponent Bill McKibben steps down as head of 350.org
Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 11.43 EST
“I’m stepping down as chair of the board at 350.org to become what we’re calling a ‘senior sdvisor’,” McKibben wrote. “I will stay on as an active member of the board, and 90% of my daily work will stay the same, since it’s always involved the external work of campaigning, not the internal work of budgets and flow charts. I’m not standing down from that work, or stepping back, or walking away.”
In an email to The Guardian, McKibben added: “I’ve had enough years of reviewing budgets etc, which is really not my forte, and I’d rather be causing more trouble more directly, as well as doing some writing. So 350 is still my home, just in an easier chair.”
McKibben founded 350.org at a time when the mainstream environmental groups in the US – known collectively as Big Green – were convinced that the route to getting governments and businesses to act on climate change was through corporate boardrooms and professional lobbying campaigns.
McKibben believed those leaders would not act unless they were pushed by a grassroots movement. The group takes its names for the upper limits for the safe levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – 350 parts per million. It started with just seven paid staff. The group now operates in 14 countries, Henn said.
Under McKibben, 350.org turned the Keystone XL pipeline project, seen by the industry as a sure thing, into a potent symbol of the climate threats of unlocking tar sands fuel.
Zoe Quinn: ‘All Gamergate has done is ruin people’s lives’
Keith Stuart, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 09.00 EST
Quinn is in the UK to talk about her work as a games designer, but most people at the event have come to know her as patient zero of Gamergate, the vociferous video game “protest movement” that exploded across the internet in August. Leaderless and chaotic, this ragtag community of self-identifying “hardcore” gamers sees its culture under threat from insidious outsiders – usually feminists and academics – who are challenging the industry on its sometimes questionable representation of violence, minorities and gender. Gamergate wants video games to be left alone.
But proponents of this movement say their key target is games journalism. Gamergate complains about cronyism between certain writers and developers and has taken exception to the progressive sociopolitical leanings of news sources such as Polygon and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. It has even organised mass email campaigns asking major corporations to pull adverts from targeted sites.
The undercurrent, however, has always been darkly misogynistic. The victims of Gamergate’s ire have mostly been female developers, academics and writers. It was an alleged relationship between Zoe Quinn and a prominent games journalist that kickstarted the whole furore this summer. Quinn and several other women have since had to flee their homes after death and rape threats – mostly for pointing out that the games industry has a problem with representing women.
Gamergate continued to suck in more people – some trying to reinvent its origins to make the campaign seem more credible, and some clinging to it as a way of expressing concerns about games journalism, seemingly without comprehending Gamergate’s roots in abuse and harassment. The size and demographic of the group is hard to measure as its members are anonymous and its organisation decentralised. However, the focus on the US games industry suggests that most active supporters are in North America, while the age of active members seems to range from the stereotypical teenagers hiding away in their bedrooms, to mature gamers with wives and families.
I ask Quinn, what about those people who have found Gamergate to be a supportive community, who genuinely do see it as about journalistic ethics?
“No!” she says. “I have 16 gigabytes of evidence, I’ve got massive amounts of screen grabs. But proof doesn’t matter, logic doesn’t matter – the fact that the review they’re propping up as the excuse for their crusade doesn’t exist and has never existed, that does not matter – it still gets thrown at me constantly.
“People can just make shit up and you can’t debunk it, they’ll just replay it. This is used to terrorise my family and go after my boyfriend, to ruin his life too for the crime of being associated with me. Now tell me it’s about ethics in games journalism.”
Protests over no indictment in NYPD chokehold death remain peaceful
by Amel Ahmed, Al Jazeera
December 4, 2014 2:45AM ET
Immediately after the announcement of the grand jury’s decision, protesters gathered at the site in Tompkinsville, Staten Island, where Garner was killed – where they expressed dismay over what they alleged was a lack of justice.
“I think the justice system keeps protecting white people,” Robert Copeland, 32, of Brooklyn told Al Jazeera. “I need our American justice system to indict killers, especially if they’re sworn to uphold the law and they instead kill people just like the same people they lock up.”
“This is the most blatant racism I’ve ever seen since I’ve been alive,” Copeland said. “Several black people have been killed this year and each of their killers got away scot-free. That sends a loud message to black people.”
In nearby Manhattan, activists organized a silent die-in protest action at Grand Central Terminal to draw attention to the victims of police brutality and express their outrage over the grand jury’s decision to not indict Pantaleo.
In Times Square, a crowd of at least 200 people chanted, “No indictment is denial. We want a public trial.” Meredith Reitman, a 40-year-old white woman from Queens, held a sign that said, “White silence = white consent.” Despite the lack of indictment in the Ferguson case, she said the decision not to indict in New York shocked her.
About 400 protesters marched through midtown Manhattan, tying up traffic as they headed from Times Square to Rockefeller Center, where they tried, and failed, to disrupt the annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, where they held a “die-in.”
Other protesters blocked traffic on the West Side Highway, delayed motorists at the Lincoln Tunnel and held a sit-in at Columbus Circle.
Eric Garner: protests erupt in New York after officer is spared prosecution
Paul Lewis, The Guardian
Thursday 4 December 2014 09.00 EST
Thousands of demonstrators disrupted New York City traffic into the early hours of Thursday after the grand jury verdict. Mostly peaceful protests had sprung up on Wednesday evening at locations throughout Manhattan, including Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and near Rockefeller Center, after the panel returned no indictment.
The New York protests were civil, with about 30 arrests by mid-evening. Police were showing restraint and allowing demonstrators to block traffic briefly before coaxing them to move on.
Marchers snaked through the streets for hours, chanting and bumping up against throngs of tourists in New York for the holiday season. Disparate clusters of protesters crossed through Times Square a number of times, and one group brought traffic to a standstill on the West Side Highway along the Hudson River.
Later, after marching from Central Park to lower Manhattan, some protesters crossed a bridge into the borough of Brooklyn.
Keiha Souley, 35, was driving his taxi cab on Broadway when protesters blocked traffic. As he chanted along with demonstrators, he said he did not mind the delay.
“You’ve got to stand up sometime,” he said.
In one of several “die-ins”, demonstrators lay in silence on a pavement about a block from where the Christmas tree lighting ceremony was under way at Rockefeller Center. Police blockaded the street, preventing marchers from interrupting the nationally televised event.
About 1,000 people packed into the ornate main hall of Grand Central Terminal for a noisy but peaceful protest.
On Staten Island, near the site where Garner was apprehended, Daniel Skelton, a black 40-year-old banker, spoke loudly as he voiced his outrage: “A black man’s life just don’t matter in this country”.
Mentally ill Texas inmate’s execution stayed by federal appeals court
Tom Dart, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 12.14 EST
After discovering through a media report at the end of October that an execution date had been set, the 56-year-old’s attorneys launched a series of petitions asking state and federal courts to remove him from death row or at the least to afford them more time and allocate funds to hold a fresh competency hearing. They said that his mental health had deteriorated since his previous competency hearing in 2007.
The Wisconsin-born US navy veteran had been admitted to hospitals more than a dozen times for a variety of mental health problems since first being diagnosed with schizophrenia aged 20 in 1978. In 1986 his first wife sought to have him committed to hospital after he tried to “exorcise the devil” from their house by burying furniture in the back yard and nailing the curtains closed.
At his 1995 trial he was allowed to represent himself and tried to call Jesus, John F Kennedy, the Pope and Anne Bancroft as witnesses. He dressed in a purple cowboy suit in court and often rambled incoherently and on irrelevant topics such as Native Americans and the death of his dog. He said the killings were perpetrated by an alter ego known as “Sarge” and mounted an insanity defence despite calling veterinarians to the stand rather than mental health experts.
Supreme court justices clash over UPS pregnancy in workplace equality case
Dan Roberts, The Guardian
Wednesday 3 December 2014 14.48 EST
The case was brought by parcel delivery worker Peggy Young against UPS, which argues she should not be treated differently from non-pregnant workers who only receive similar exemption from lifting heavy packages if they suffer injuries in the workplace.
During oral arguments on Wednesday, Justice Antonin Scalia led a number of conservatives on the bench who appeared sympathetic to the company’s view, on the grounds that ignoring its usual test of whether the impairment was caused in the workplace would unfairly elevate the status of pregnant workers over others – and would conceivably entitle them to all manner of additional benefits.
“[This is] most favoured nations treatment,” Scalia told Young’s lawyer, Samuel Bagenstos, in one of several somewhat heated exchanges between the two. “It’s a most favoured nation provision. You have to give the benefits that you give to any other class of employees, right?” he added.
But Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, two of the three female justices on the nine-person bench, were equally dismissive of the argument put forward by UPS, suggesting it was wrong to simply dismiss pregnancy as equivalent to an injury suffered outside the workplace.
“You said that Young’s position is most favoured nation. Well, yours is least favoured nation, right?” Ginsburg told the UPS lawyer Caitlin Halligan.
Obama’s plan to help young Native Americans
December 3, 2014 11:45PM ET
Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative calls for programs focused on better preparing young Native American for college and careers, and developing leadership skills through the Department of Education and the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth. Members of the president’s staff also plan to visit reservations next year.
The White House also released a report Wednesday acknowledging failures in federal policy and highlighting the need for more tribal help in the areas of economic development, health and education. Slightly more than two-thirds of Native youth graduate from high school, according to the 2014 Native Youth Report.
One of the report’s recommendations is to strengthen tribal control of the education system on reservations. Officials are working to overhaul the Bureau of Indian Education, which is responsible for educating 48,000 Indian students in 23 states, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.
CDC: Flu virus may have mutated, making flu shots less effective
December 3, 2014 7:35PM ET
A sampling of flu cases so far this season suggests the current flu vaccine may not be a good match for the seasonal flu strain currently circulating in the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.
In past seasons when the influenza A strain has mutated, the vaccine has been less effective, the CDC said in the advisory.
The CDC is stressing that doctors should be prepared to use antiviral medications when needed.
- Lawyers: Government’s Position on FBI Impersonating Repairmen to Conduct Searches a ‘Grave Threat to Privacy’ by Kevin Gostzola, Firedog Lake
- Just Like A Woman: The Weiss Nomination Pushback Has Begun, by Gaius Publius, Crooks and Liars
- Satanists Turn The Table On Hobby Lobby Decision, by Suzie Madrak, Crooks and Liars
- If Videos of Feeding Can Be Used as Propaganda, You’re Doing It Wrong, emptywheel
- The Way Out of Shutdown Shenanigans, by letsgetitdone, Corrente
- “Just imagine if Officer Wilson in Ferguson had just taken a step back”, by digby, Hullabaloo
- Congress Quietly Decides To Delete Key NSA Reform In CRomnibus Agreement, by Mike Masnick, Tech Dirt
- Banana Republic Level of Inequality Is Undermining America’s Geopolitical Power, Washington’s Blog
- In Canada, More Jobs in Green Energy than Tar Sands, by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams
- UN Calls for Israel to ‘Renounce Nuclear Weapons’, by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams
- In Wake of Mubarak’s Acquittal, Egyptian Court Issues Mass Death Sentence, by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams