Archive for May, 2018

In praise of math, logic, and Latin … say, what?

May 31, 2018

Classical educators argued that these disciplines are the building blocks of reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking.

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The courses that I teach contain a heavy dose of problem-solving skills.

Early on, I assert my belief that that problem-solving skills can be taught – and, more importantly, learned – and set about to prove the point.

 

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I’ve been doing some summer reading on the topic of reasoning & problem-solving and learned:

“For twenty-six hundred years many philosophers and educators have been confident that reasoning could be taught.”

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Mastering math … or anything else.

May 30, 2018

Some insights on the science & practice of learning.

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Interesting article buried in a weekend edition of the WSJ: “How a Polymath Mastered Math—and So Can You”

The subject polymath (a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning) is Prof. Barbara Oakley.

To make her long story short, she was a self-proclaimed horrible math student in high school, dove back into math in her mid-20s, and is now an engineering professor..

“Her progression from desultory student to respected scholar led her to a sideline in the study of learning itself.”

She is the author of ‘A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra)’ and ‘Mindshift: Break Through Obstacles to Learning and Discover Your Hidden Potential’.

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Here are a few snippets from the article …

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Yes, the flight attendant really is checking you out …

May 29, 2018

Not for dating eligibility … for other good reasons.
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A couple of  Flight Secrets Revealed caught my eye…

The first is obvious once it’s stated:

When you walk onto the plane you’re greeted by a flight attendant, right?

Usually,  it’s with an obligatory warm smile and an equally obligatory  “welcome aboard”.

Did you ever sense that the flight attendant was checking you out?

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News flash, he or she was checking you out, but not because you’re hot …

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On this Memorial Day …

May 28, 2018

 Remember all who gave their lives on our behalf
   … and thank those who are serving us now. 

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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In praise of hard copies and writing things down …

May 25, 2018

Ran across an article by Eric McNulty —  the CEO of LinkedIn:  Journaling Can Boost Your Leadership Skills .

As the title suggests, he was advising busy managers to to take some time each day  to record their deep thoughts in a journal.

Seems like a reasonable idea … but that’s not what caught my attention.

 

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As a teacher, I’ve had to adapt approaches to leverage the ways that students process information … especially as the world goes all-digital.

One of my conclusions: digital provides many benefits, but also seems to restrict our capability “go deep”, to “connect the dots” and to draw insights.

Why might that be true?

 

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Cognitive biases: Falling for false expertise …

May 24, 2018

People don’t naturally know who they should listen to.
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Worse yet, in a majority of instances when a reliable expert is identified, people end up following somebody else’s advice.

That’s what Univ. of Utah’s management professor Bryan Bonner concludes.

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Bonner observes that rather than identifying advisers with actual competence, people habitually fall for spurious “proxies of expertise”.

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Life in the digital age …

May 23, 2018

Quick: Name the last book you read.

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That’s the simple question Jimmy Kimmel asked people on the street.

The results are predictable … most choked on the question.

You can view the 2-minute clip below … or just take my word for it.

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What  the heck is going on?

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Starbucks “open door” policy …

May 22, 2018

Street people win the latte lotto.
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Yep, the Starbucks cafe manager made a big mistake calling the cops on the 2 non-customers who were hanging out … an especially big mistake since the guys were African American.

Immediately, Starbucks launched an internal program to re-sensitize its employees.  That’s good.

But, in a stunning over-reaction, the company announced a new policy:

No purchase necessary to hang out or use the restrooms.

 

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Post-announcement, the intuitively obvious unintended consequences became quickly evident …

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Was an “informant” tasked to probe Clinton campaigners, too?

May 21, 2018

That’s one of two questions that I have about “spygate”

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I’ve gotten great amusement from the evolution of the spying-on-Trump story …

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First, the FBI/CIA denied that that they planted a spy on the Trump campaign … “no way, Trump is crazy”.

Then there were a flurry of stories indicating that a spy was indeed engaged … “but don’t release his name”

Then the positioning: “that would be a good thing” … “done to protect Trump” … from what?

Finally, the name of the spy-who-wasn’t was leaked … some professor with a long history working with the FBI & CIA.

But, he wasn’t a “spy”, he was a “tasked informant”.

OK, that parsing should make everybody feel better, right?

Let’s dig a little deeper…

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‘Laurel’or ‘Yanny’? ‘MS-13’ or ‘All’?

May 18, 2018

There’s an interesting parallel, and a lesson for all.
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This week, the internet (and most news shows) were ablaze with the question “Do you hear ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’?”

In a nutshell, a 1-word audio loop is played … some folks hear the word ‘Yanny’, some hear ‘Laurel’.

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Click here if you haven’t heard the audio clip.
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What’s up with that?

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NYT: “Liberals, You’re Not as Smart as You Think”

May 17, 2018

… and even “Comedians are beginning to catch on”
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Yesterday, we posted results of a study that calibrated the lean-to-left at U.S. colleges.

The summary conclusion: 90% of faculty that self-declare a political affiliation are Democrat and almost 40% of liberal arts colleges are, for all practical purposes, Republican-free.

See Shocker: Vast majority of faculty at elite colleges are Democrats…

And, it’s commonly accepted that (I think) that Trump hating dominates the media and entertainment.

Nonetheless, Trump’s base of supporters remains loyal … and recently, the Democrats lead on the so-called “generic ballot” has shrunk by almost two-third to low single digits on average … and equal within the margin of error on some surveys.

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How can that be?

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Shocker: Vast majority of faculty at elite colleges are Democrats…

May 16, 2018

Just how “vast” may surprise you. … there are even “clean sweeps” at some colleges
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Everybody knows that college faculties lean left.

To calibrate the incidence and intensity of the lean-to-the-left, Prof. Mitchell Langbert of Brooklyn College conducted a study and recently posted his findings with the National Association of Scholars.

Prof. Langbert surveyed  8,688 tenure track, Ph.D.–holding professors from 51 of U.S. News’ 66 top ranked liberal arts colleges.

Langbert’s top line findings: 40% of faculty self-report to be independents … the 60% who identify with a party are split 90% Democratic,10% Republican.

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Yep, about what you might expect.

But, things get more interesting when you drill down on the data …

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Stop right there, professor … proof of citizenship, please !

May 15, 2018

Yep, it happened again.

Unfortunately, this has become an annual event.  A summer initiation of sorts.

Once again, I was detained for questioning by government officials.

No, it wasn’t by rogue TSA agents targeting an alleged conservative blogger.

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Once again. I was suspected of crossing the border to illegally access government-provided services.

Here’s the story …

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Quiz time: How’s your Mideast knowledge?

May 14, 2018

The Middle East is always in the news, right?

You know, the chemical weapons in Syria, the Iran nuclear “deal”, the U.S. embassy moving to Jerusalem.

Over the weekend, one of the TV pundits argued that Americans favored staying in the Iran deal by a margin of 2 to 1.

Hmmm, I thought,

Wonder how many of those pro-deal Americans could headline what’s in the Iranian deal that makes it so attractive?

Or, on a more basic level, how many could even pick out Iran on a Mideast map?

Which leads us to today’s quiz.

Below is a map of the Mideast with countries tagged A to O.

Take out a piece of paper, write down the letters and the county names.

Don’t just “imagine” the names … write them down.

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Here are the answers ….

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#14 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change …

May 11, 2018

Reason #14 – Climate change zealots are piss-poor marketers
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
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Below is a post recapping  my prior 13 Reasons Why I’m Lukewarm to Climate Change

Let’s move on …
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Reason #14 – Climate change zealots are piss-poor marketers

Politicians, bureaucrats, activists, scientists and the media have warned Americans for decades that the Earth is headed toward climate catastrophe.

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But, as a recent WSJ opinion piece observed:

But, surveys consistently show that less than half of U.S. adults are “deeply concerned” or “very worried” about climate issues.

If, as zealots insist, climate change is the “most urgent threat facing our entire species,” why do a large percentage of Americans not share his fear?

Climate crusaders tend to lay fault with nonbelievers’ intransigence.

But this is its own form of denial and masks the real reason: poor salesmanship.

I agree.

In fact, as early as June 2017 we were dishing advice to climate change advocates.

Our advice back in 2017:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to “fighting pollution” — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

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Comparably, the WSJ opinionator builds upon these themes.

His central premise: “The promotional efforts of the climate catastrophists have lacked the cornerstones of effective persuasion: clarity, credibility, and empathy.”

More specifically, here are a few snippets;

On branding:

Successful advocacy campaigns use lucid names to frame and sell their issues—“living wage,” “welfare queen” or “death tax.”

Climate can be confounding;

And, swapping between “climate change” and “global warming” confuses the public.

They’re both a far cry from “Remember the Alamo!”

On credible spokespeople:

Bold statements about complex systems are always more plausible when they are made by people with impeccable credentials.

According to Pew, only 39% of Americans believe climate scientists can be trusted a lot to give full and accurate information on causes of climate change.

As a Harvard sophomore, Al Gore received a D in a natural-sciences course.

Leonardo DiCaprio dropped out of high school in 11th grade.

Tom Steyer’s  hedge fund invested hundreds of millions of dollars in coal mining.

More generally, “climategate” and questions about the integrity of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate data have all fueled public suspicion.

According to Pew, only 39% of Americans believe climate scientists can be trusted a lot to give full and accurate information on causes of climate change.

On dissenters:

While the prosecution may feel it has a winning case, the jury’s verdict is what counts.

Labeling dissenting jurors “deniers”— an insidious association with Holocaust denial — is a losing courtroom strategy.

Most people are naturally disinclined to obsess daily about a phenomenon that started long before they were born and won’t reach fruition until long after they die.

Calling skeptics “anti-science” is counterproductive, especially since skepticism is the essence of the scientific method.

The WSJ author advises climate activists that they will attract more supporters to their cause if  they …

  1. Pick a name (that resonates) and stick with it
  2. Create a clear call to action
  3. Enlist a convincing spokesman with a small carbon footprint
  4. Tone down the alarmism
  5. Fix your computer models
  6. Listen to the doubters, don’t lambaste them.

Hmmm ….

The advice sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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Recap: 13 Reasons why I’m lukewarm on climate change …

May 11, 2018

I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

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For the record, here are the 13 reasons that I’m a lukewarmer … with links to the prior posts:

1.   Unsettling science   From “Ice Age” to  “Global Warming”  to “18-year Pause” to“Climate Change”.

2.   Expired doomsday predictions   By 2016, NYC would be swamped, Polar bears would be extinct, etc.

3.  The “97% of scientists” baloney   Oft-repeated doesn’t make it true – here’s the real story

4.  Dinking with the data   Temperature data “adjusted” by the NOAA eliminated the 18-year pause and bolstered the global warming case

5.  Temperature readings – plus or minus   Bottom line: thermometers weren’t very precise in the old days … and still have wide variances

6.  What’s the earth’s temperature?   It depends on the mix of reporting locations and an array of factors at each of them

7.  The Climategate Emails   Climate scientists were exposed hiding exculpatory data for political purposes

8.  Low on American’s worry list   Folks will nod that it’s probably getting warmer, but have more urgent matters to worry about (like keeping their jobs or getting healthcare)

9.  Seen a Volt recently?   Obama vowed a million EVs by now – where are the “believers”?

10. Letting the perps walk   For all practical purposes, the Paris Accords gave the world’s worst polluters – India & China – a free pass.

11. Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”   In the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, you can count on celebrities coming forth to bellow “I told you so”  …. even if the facts and the science say otherwise.  You see, science – and its relevance – is always malleable to the cause..

12. When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?   The short answer: hot spells are “climate”; cold spells are just dismissed as “weather”.

13. The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets.  A rationale for the classic “do as I say, not as I do”

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And, my advice to climate change advocates:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to fighting pollution — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

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Follow on Twitter @KenHoma

>> Latest Posts

#HomaFiles

#13 – Why I’m lukewarm to climate change…

May 10, 2018

Reason #13 – The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets
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For the record: I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.
========
Below is a post recapping  my prior 12 Reasons Why I’m Lukewarm to Climate Change

Let’s move on …
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Reason #13 – The “moral license” that “believers” carry in their wallets

It’s oft-noted that most climate change celebrities dart around in private jets and gas guzzling SUVs … … and Al Gore’s mega-mansion(s) consume more energy than most suburban neighborhoods.

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Guess what:  climate change hypocrisy is prevalent … and there’s a scientific reason why “believers’ don’t walk the talk.

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Recap: 12 reasons why I’m lukewarm to climate change … and some advice to “believers”

May 10, 2018

I’m neither a denier nor a zealot …  so, according to British writer (& phrase-coiner) Matt Ridley, I’m a “lukewarmer”.

==========

For the record, here are the 12 reasons that I’m a lukewarmer … with links to the prior posts:

1.   Unsettling science   From “Ice Age” to  “Global Warming”  to “18-year Pause” to“Climate Change”.

2.   Expired doomsday predictions   By 2016, NYC would be swamped, Polar bears would be extinct, etc.

3.  The “97% of scientists” baloney   Oft-repeated doesn’t make it true – here’s the real story

4.  Dinking with the data   Temperature data “adjusted” by the NOAA eliminated the 18-year pause and bolstered the global warming case

5.  Temperature readings – plus or minus   Bottom line: thermometers weren’t very precise in the old days … and still have wide variances

6.  What’s the earth’s temperature?   It depends on the mix of reporting locations and an array of factors at each of them

7.  The Climategate Emails   Climate scientists were exposed hiding exculpatory data for political purposes

8.  Low on American’s worry list   Folks will nod that it’s probably getting warmer, but have more urgent matters to worry about (like keeping their jobs or getting healthcare)

9.  Seen a Volt recently?   Obama vowed a million EVs by now – where are the “believers”?

10. Letting the perps walk   For all practical purposes, the Paris Accords gave the world’s worst polluters – India & China – a free pass.

11. Celebs who “Never let a serious crisis go to waste.”   In the aftermath of a flood or hurricane, you can count on celebrities coming forth to bellow “I told you so”  …. even if the facts and the science say otherwise.  You see, science – and its relevance – is always malleable to the cause..

12. When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”?   The short answer: hot spells are “climate”; cold spells are just dismissed as “weather”.

=============

And, my advice to climate change advocates:

(1) “Re-brand” the cause to fighting pollution — people can relate to that and it gets to the same end-point

(2)  Stop the incredible (i.e. not credible) scare tactics

(3)  Walk-the-talk … dampen the hypocrisy

(4)  Keep an open mind … sorry guys, the science isn’t really settled yet

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#HomaFiles

Follow on Twitter @KenHoma            >> Latest Posts

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“Moral License”, “Relative Behavior” … and the New York AG.

May 9, 2018

Beware of wolves that doth protesteth too much
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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was a very public face of the #MeToo movement.

He lambasted Harvey Weinstein for his “despicable” abusive behavior against women..

He encouraged victims to come forward and vowed to prosecute any and all men who abuse women women … especially those leveraging the power of their high positions.

Apparently, “any and all” didn’t include one Eric Schneiderman.

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After his warp-speed resignation, the airwaves were filled with shocked supporters and pundits asking: “How could he?”

The answer is simple and predictable …  his behavior was rooted in 2 cognitive biases: “moral license” and “relative behavior”.

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Great moments in Global Warming …

May 8, 2018

MLB reports record number of April postponements due to snow and brutal cold.

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I know, weather isn’t climate … unless it’s a hot spell … in which case, it’s evidence of climatic global warming.

(see When is weather “climate”… and when is it just “weather”

So, I haven’t referenced articles like “Canada experiences coldest, extended winter”.

And, I haven’t whined about how my boat mechanic hasn’t been able to de-winterize my boat yet.

 

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But, I can’t ignore the way COLD weather has shambled the start of the 2018 baseball season.

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Two judges issue rulings against Team Mueller …

May 7, 2018

Here’s the ruling that might be the most problematic.
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There was some hoopla last Friday when a Federal judge admonished Mueller’s prosecutors in one of the Manafort cases … and ordered the delivery of some here-to-fore withheld documents.

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With regards to the admonition:  Judge T,S.Ellis opined the obvious: that  the case had nothing to do with Russian collusion … and that special counsel’s office wanted merely to pressure Mr. Manafort to provide information about Mr. Trump that might be the basis for prosecution or impeachment proceedings … and that the special counsel was acting in an “unfettered” way, far outside the boundaries of his charge. CNN

Judge Ellis then ordered the Mueller prosecutors to produce the original unredacted DOJ documents that established the special prosecutor’s scope of investigation.

The prosecutors said “no can do” because there’s sensitive (classified) information in the documents.

The judge’s reply:”C/mon guys, I decide that, not you” …  and he insinuated that he would dismiss the case if he didn’t get unredacted copies, pronto.

The implication: If the special counsel refuses to produce the documents … and if the judge follows through on his threat … then, there will be a precedent on the books of a court action based on the ruling that the special counsel is exceeding his legal scope of inquiry and failing to comply with court directives.

That could be a relief for Trump “satellites” who are charged with crimes that seem unrelated to Russian collusion,

But, in my opinion, the Manafort rulings are the least of Mueller’s potential worries …

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Should Elizabeth Warren take a DNA test?

May 4, 2018

Let’s end our DNA series on a statistical note…

As I’m sure you know, President Trump often calls Senator Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” … a reference to her claim of Native American ancestry.

Nobody seems to deny the fact that she self-classified herself as a Native American and “person of color” on her academics records.

Skeptics say that was to secure minority preferences.

Supporters say “so what?” … she might be and there’s no evidence of preferential treatment.

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So, how to resolve this thorny issue?

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Miranda 2018: Your DNA can and will be used against you.

May 3, 2018

You know the drill …

CSI techs find some DNA at the crime scene … they run it through the criminal database … and BAM … they got a match and the perp is arrested.

Only problem: the police database of DNA profiles is relatively limited to criminals.

What about bad guys who don’t have a criminal record?

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Well, it seems the police have come up with a clever way to to expand their DNA files … by a lot.

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Gotcha: Using your own genes against you …

May 2, 2018

 NPR says …

“Getting the results of a genetic test can be a bit like opening Pandora’s box … you might learn that you’re likely to develop an incurable disease later on in life.”

There’s a federal law that’s supposed to protect people from having their own genes used against them, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.

Under GINA, it’s illegal for health insurers to raise rates or to deny coverage because of someone’s genetic code.

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But the law has a loophole: It only applies to health insurance.

Some insurance can be denied or priced high because of a person’s DNA.

Here’s an example … and a prediction.

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Another swig of ‘tussin from Chris Rock …

May 1, 2018

Another cut at privacy and intellectual property rights
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 Yesterday, we reprised It takes more than a swig of ‘tussin…

The punch line to the post was that Chris Rock — a very funny guy — takes his craft very seriously and toils long and hard to test and fine-tune his material.

His routine on the many uses of Robitussin (‘tussin, for short) is a comedy classic.

If you haven’t seen the ‘tussin riff– or want a refresher — click to view it now.

 

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Chris Rock homes his skits standing up in comedy clubs … for example, he said he worked the Comedy Cellar for a week prior his recent guest spot on SNL.

In a recent interview, Rock talked about an emerging threat to his practiced work routine…

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