Archive

June 24th, 2016

I'm a doctor in a critical-care unit. Here's what gun violence looks like to me.

    The critical care team making rounds - my team for today - stops abruptly in front of the next patient room, and I hear my co-resident present the story: The 18-year-old patient suffered a gunshot wound to the face. The circumstances of the shooting aren't clear, but we heard it had something to do with "gang violence." And we continue listening to the presentation: an update on any changes in the patient's status that happened overnight, his vital signs over the past 24 hours, the input of different specialists, and, finally, the treatment plan for the day.

    We shuffle into the room - an army of white coats - with hopeful, patient smiles. We stand in a halo around the bed as we look at the young man, wearing a cervical collar and not able to fully open his mouth. This is what gun violence leaves in its wake. Though we're trained, as doctors and nurses, not to let emotion cloud our clinical judgment as we treat devastating wounds and illnesses, it's still jarring to see the damage that can be done by a weapon so readily available in our society.

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The best-case scenario for Trump

    Donald Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, on Monday. The move followed a disastrous stretch for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee in which he's driven away his party's elites, failed to organize a proper general election campaign and fallen far behind Hillary Clinton in the polls.

    Trump trails Clinton by 7.6 percentage points in the HuffPollster estimate. Her lead is larger than any that President Barack Obama was able to establish over Mitt Romney in 2012, and Trump has to do about 4 percentage points better than Romney. Moreover, it still seems likely that Clinton has a bit more of a surge remaining as she consolidates the Democratic vote once Bernie Sanders drops out and endorses her.

    There's no reason to believe that Trump will suddenly change, and it's far more likely that the candidate, not the campaign manager, is the problem with his White House quest. Still, it's possible that the staff contributed to some of the dysfunction, or that a shake-up reflects the candidate's realization that he can't win the general election by appealing to a plurality of Republicans while angering the rest of the nation.

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Sure, Trump promotes women. That doesn't mean he respects them.

    One of the more head-scratching aspects of Trump's worldview is this: he routinely denigrates women while also promoting them within his own businesses. In a recent interview with Bill O'Reilly, he again trumpeted these efforts again, claiming he "really broke the glass ceiling" in the construction industry.

    But how can we square his record of promoting women -- and the fact that many of his female former employees have called him a "terrific mentor" -- with the fact that he routinely insults women and calls them "pigs" and "dogs"? Or that his supporters routinely refer to presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a b---? As a Washington Post reporter documented at a recent campaign stop, "At most of Trump's rallies, there is a palpable hatred of Clinton in the air, and some of Trump's strongest applause lines come when he attacks the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, calling her 'crooked' and accusing her of playing 'the woman's card.'"

    In fact, it's no contradiction at all: it's a classic example of what's known in psychology as "subtyping."

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Another Age of Discovery

    Have we been here before? I know — it feels as if the internet, virtual reality, Donald Trump, Facebook, sequencing of the human genome and machines that can reason better than people constitute a change in the pace of change without precedent. But we’ve actually been through an extraordinarily rapid transition like this before in history — a transition we can learn a lot from.

    Ian Goldin, director of the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, and Chris Kutarna, also of Oxford Martin, have just published a book — “Age of Discovery: Navigating the Risks and Rewards of Our New Renaissance” — about lessons we can draw from the period 1450 to 1550, known as the Age of Discovery. It was when the world made a series of great leaps forward, propelled by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Copernicus and Columbus, that produced the Renaissance and reshaped science, education, manufacturing, communications, politics and geopolitics.

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All Russians are tainted by Putin's regime

    The International Olympic Committee's decision to let Russian athletes compete in the Rio Olympics if they can prove that they haven't used performance-enhancing drugs won't be popular with other countries. Nonetheless, it was the right call. But it also carries some unpleasant undertones: It formally requires Russians to prove that they are not tainted by the rotten regime that runs their country.

    On Tuesday, the Olympic summit -- a meeting of the movement's top officials -- adopted a declaration that backed an earlier decison by track and field's world governing body to ban the Russian athletics federation from international competition. That decision was based on the finding by the World Anti-Doping Agency of a clear state-supported doping culture in Russian track and field; Kenya also was declared non-compliant. So the IOC said athletes from these countries wouldn't automatically be considered clean -- instead, they'd have to provide evidence of their compliance with doping regulations to the international federations that run their sports:

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Why extremely rare events keep happening all the time

    Something weird seems to be happening in the heavens. This week marks a coincidence of the full moon and the summer solstice. Some astronomers are calling this combination of maximum moonlight and the Northern Hemisphere's longest day a rare event.

    It comes close on the heels of last month's rare passage of Mercury in front of the sun, September's rare pairing of a lunar eclipse with a so-called supermoon, the rare 2014 "tetrad" of lunar eclipses, the rare 2012 transit of Venus, and a plethora of once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignments, one earlier this year, one in 2014 and one in the summer of 2013. Next year there will be a rare total eclipse of the sun.

    If these sorts of events are so rare, why do they happen so often?

    Ask a statistician. David Hand, a professor at Imperial College London makes sense of world's abundance of rare events in his 2014 book, "The Improbability Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles and Rare Events Happen Every Day."

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U.S. Muslims are terrorism's collateral victims

    Americans are still grieving the tragic murder of 49 people in a gay night club in Orlando, Florida. The deranged assassin was a Muslim.

    The attack has sparked concern about a culture of terror sweeping the nation, prompting demands for actions against Islam and its followers.

    A year ago, Dylann Roof, a neo-Nazi, slaughtered nine black congregants, including the pastor and a state senator, at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. He's referred to as a lone wolf white supremacist.

    The calls for banning Muslims, greater surveillance of mosques and even creating a new House Committee for UnAmerican Activities focusing on jihadists give rise to two questions: Do Muslim Americans present a grave threat and could much more be done to prevent such attacks? The answer to both is no; most Americans wouldn't agree.

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The government can't make you use 'zhir' or 'ze' in place of 'she' and 'he'

    The New York City Commission on Human Rights recently announced that employers, landlords and other professionals are required to use a transgender person's preferred pronoun "regardless of the individual's sex assigned at birth." The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission similarly determined that failing to use a person's preferred pronoun could violate federal anti-discrimination laws.

    Though these mandates may seem like acts of civility, they in effect impose ideas about gender identity on speakers. Requiring people to voice beliefs that they do not hold, or even understand, is a flagrant and unacceptable violation of the freedom of speech.

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New gun laws can't prevent every tragedy. But we still desperately need them.

    She died, and I lived.

    Like me, Jo Cox was just 41 when she was shot. Like me, she was doing the essential business of government, meeting with the people she represented, when a sick man attacked her.

    But Jo Cox died. My heart broke when I heard. I will think of her for the rest of my life, as I do the people who died in the Safeway parking lot where I was shot in 2011, including Christina-Taylor Green - just 9 years old, just elected to the student council at school, who had come to meet a young congresswoman. If she had lived, perhaps someday she would have followed the same path as Jo and I did and run for office herself. In continuing to campaign for a safer country, I now honor Jo's memory as I honor those lost in Tucson and Orlando and so many other places.

    Some will try to use the assassination of Jo Cox to cast doubt on meaningful gun violence prevention laws, or to try to diminish the urgency and hope the American people have - hope that's grown after the historic filibuster on the floor of the Senate last week.

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Lady Liberty vs. The Fear Merchants

    Texas didn’t need a federal court to know it couldn’t do this. Neither did Indiana, Arizona, Florida or any states seeking to excuse themselves from what America has always done.

    We welcome refugees in life-or-death straits.

    “Oh, no, we don’t,” said those states. “Not if they’re Muslim.”

    Oh, yes, you do, if the president orders it.

    U.S. District Judge David Godbey is the latest federal judge to say so in rejecting Texas’ attempt to keep out Syrian refugees arriving under a 2015 Obama administration directive.

    The ruling comes in the midst of political appeals to fear that are starting to make Sen. Joe McCarthy look like Mr. Rogers.

    Judge Godbey pointed out the obvious: Immigration is a federal responsibility. What President Obama ordered not only is legal but almost too modest, considering the dire situation.

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