Over the last couple of days, you might have heard about the "duon" — a "second" genetic code that's being hyped as a radical new "breakthrough" in science.
Based solely on the number of words I've put in quotations here, you can probably guess that the actual news doesn't really match the hype.
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Two days ago, a truck carrying a container of radioactive cobalt-60 (enough to make a dirty bomb) was stolen by carjackers off a highway near Tijuana. Today, authorities found the truck. The thieves probably aren't terrorists
, just some guys who wanted a truck with a crane attached to it. But, at some point, they opened the container of cobalt-60 and will now almost certainly die from radiation exposure. — Maggie
Last week, I linked you to a piece pointing out that three New York Times
op-ed pieces linking bacterial exposure (or lack thereof) to autism, celiac disease, and allergies were all written by the same guy
, Moises Velasquez-Manoff. His ideas are interesting, but there's also good reason to be skeptical. If you want to get a better idea of the arguments for and against Velasquez-Manoff's thesis, I'd recommend checking out this post at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker
, which links to several critical stories and to Velasquez-Manoff's response to them. — Maggie
A Greenland shark found beached on Nov. 16. (CBC/Derrick Chaulk)
A tragedy was averted in Newfoundland when two men rescued an 8-foot-long Greenland shark that had managed to both partially beach itself and get a 2-foot-long hunk of moose lodged in its mouth. The men pulled the moose bits free and then towed the shark back into deeper water. The shark survived and, hopefully, learned some valuable lessons about hubris.
After stumping her doctors, a sick Taiwanese woman turned out to be infected with a strain of bird flu never before seen in humans
. She survived, and nobody else appears to be infected, but you might want to get used to thinking about H6N1. — Maggie
i09's Annalee Newitz has a theory about why some stories get shared around the Internet
more than others — and, not coincidentally, why nuanced stories about science tend to get shared less than, say, the average LOLcat. If she's right, the real trick with science reporting on the Internet is to write accurate stories that aren't all reported from deep in the Valley of Ambiguity. — Maggie
The website banner for shahamat-english.com, an English-language website of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
A Daily Beast story about Taliban’s ruling council meeting for peace talks in Pakistan “violates the basic principles of journalism” and is "nonsense," according to the Afghan Taliban. That's not as bad as having your news organization banned on Reddit, but it's still gotta hurt.
The Taliban's critique, below, in full:
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Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix , the eldest of seven brothers of the Tijuana cartel.
Francisco Rafael Arellano Félix, the eldest brother in Mexico's once-dominant Tijuana drug cartel, was shot to death by gunmen disguised as clowns at a children's party on Friday.
The 63-year-old drug lord was also known by the nicknames "El Pelón" (the baldie) or Menso, ("stupid/crazy"). He was assassinated by a man in a clown suit during a family gathering at an upscale resort in Cabo San Lucas, a popular tourist destination on the Baja California peninsula, state special investigations prosecutor Isai Arias told Associated Press on Saturday:
An official of the Baja California Sur state prosecutor's office told the AP that the costumes included a wig and a round red nose.
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"A federal appeals court will not reconsider a decision compelling a journalist to identify a source who disclosed details of a secret CIA operation," reports the AP:
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A rep for Omidyar replies to the early Washington Post scoop I blogged yesterday
, and corrects the record: "The new venture will be backed by Pierre Omidyar, personally, not Omidyar Network. Here is a blog post by Pierre on the topic today
. Additionally, Honolulu Civil Beat is not funded by Omidyar Network, it is a separate entity." — Xeni
BBC current affairs shows have long been about their own adversarial tone, and there's something to be thankful in that: Britain's media culture forces politicians to subject themselves to grillings in a way that just doesn't happen much in America. But the fearless, no-nonsense style is often so affected that it relies upon the anxiety and obedience of interview subjects. When one comes along who knows what the deal is, the hosts are left to "yes, but" their way through trivial and poorly-prepared interview scripts.
A perfect example unfolded on BBC Newsnight yesterday, where The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald faced off against an interviewer, Kirsty Wark, so hopeless that she didn't even know the good questions to attack him with.
On the Today Show this morning, a psychologist said "postpartum depression has led mothers to kill their children." This is not true.
Yesterday, Miriam Carey died after being shot by police following a car chase between the White House and the US Capitol building. Carey is reported to have tried to ram through barricades at the White House, hitting at least one officer as well as a squad car. She then drove her vehicle into barriers in front of the Hart Senate Building before being fatally shot by law enforcement officers. She was unarmed. A child identified as her daughter — a little more than one year old — was in the car the whole time.
Today, news outlets are reporting that Carey had a history of traumatic brain injury and postpartum depression, the latter of which may have been severe enough to send her to the hospital at some point in the past year. Nobody knows what, if any, effect this may have had on what happened yesterday. But it's led to plenty of speculation, and the spread of bad information that stigmatizes women suffering from an incredibly common mental illness.
For instance, on NBC's Today Show this morning, psychologist Jennifer Hartstein declared that "postpartum depression has led mothers to kill their children" — a statement that conflates PPD with a different disorder AND overstates the risk that other disorder poses to kids.
Over the next few days, we're all likely to hear a lot of discussion about postpartum depression. As you absorb that news, keep the following facts in mind:
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The FBI released surveillance video of Aaron Alexis who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on September 16. According to an FBI spokesperson, Alexis was under the "delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by electro-magnetic waves." (CNN)
The rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student last December drew worldwide attention to India's struggles with tradition, women's rights, and street harassment. In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Krishna Pokharel and Aditi Malhotra add another layer to that onion, following the story of Punita Devi, the wife of one of the convicted rapists
. She, too, is suffering from the fallout of her husband's choices — and in ways that come back to those issues of tradition and equality. Living in a rural area where widows lose both their honor and any viable means of financial support, Devi is facing a future where she expects to be turned out of her in-laws' home, cannot return to her parents, and is judged and punished ... not for being the wife of a rapist, but for being nobody's wife. — Maggie
Part of the problem with the Chelsea Manning situation is that it's spawned a lot of not-terribly-well-informed discussion about the roles and experiences of transgendered people in the military. There's a risk of this one big anecdote coming to represent the whole. Enter the Kinsey Institute — America's favorite source of sexuality science — which just got a grant to do actual research on the lives of transgender service members. — Maggie