Supreme Court slaps back insane corporate overreach.
Washington Post: The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that human genes cannot be patented, a decision that could shape the future of medical and genetic research and have profound effects on pharmaceuticals and agriculture.
The ruling was a split decision for Myriad Genetics Inc., which holds patents on genes that have been linked to breast and ovarian cancer.
Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the court, said that merely isolating those specific genes — called BRCA1 and BRCA2 — was not worthy of a patent.
“Myriad found the location of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but that discovery, by itself, does not render the BRCA genes … patent eligible,” Thomas wrote.
On the other hand, Thomas wrote, Myriad’s creation of a synthetic form of DNA — called cDNA — based on its discovery does deserve patent protection.
That you can just go out and find something that already exists and patent it is crazy. How about I take out a patent on iron ore — and then whenever someone makes so much as a tiny steel cotter pin, I get a little something?
But the claim was actually worse than that and would’ve given the company a practical monopoly on work involving these genes, slowing medical research tremendously.
“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said the ACLU, which represented the challenegers to Myriad’s claims . “Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing, and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”
Suicidal: Ice thaw leads to Arctic drilling rush.
Brian Merchant: Today, federal scientists confirmed that for the first time in millions of years, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had reached 400 parts per million. The pre-industrial level was 280 ppm, and the amount that top climatologists say is advisable for maintaining a stable environment is 350 ppm. The new carbon concentration signals that planetary warming will continue to accelerate—and that the rapidly melting Arctic will continue to thaw.
“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” Pieter P. Tans, who runs the chief carbon-monitoring program for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The New York Times, in a front-page story headlined “Carbon Dioxide Level Is at Highest in Human History.”
At about the same time that NOAA released its numbers, the White House—which has thus far not commented on the carbon milestone—published a press release called “Protecting Our Interests in the Arctic.” The release heralds the administration’s newly forged National Strategy for the Arctic Region, a document that contains the recommendations of military advisers, scientists, and policy analysts on how to cope with and exploit a slushier Arctic.
The strategy document notes that “dense, multi-year ice is giving way to thin layers of seasonal ice, making more of the region navigable year-round. Scientific estimates of technically recoverable conventional oil and gas resources north of the Arctic Circle total approximately 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered gas deposits, as well as vast quantities of mineral resources, including rare earth elements, iron ore, and nickel. These estimates have inspired fresh ideas for commercial initiatives and infrastructure development in the region.”
Sometimes I worry we’re too stupid not to go extinct.
GOP Rep. “Smoky Joe” Barton: climate change isn’t real, because the Bible.
Buzzfeed: A Republican Congressman cited the biblical flood as an example of climate change that had not been caused by humans. Texas Rep. Joe Barton made those remarks Wednesday at the Subcommittee on Energy and Power hearing on H.R. 3, the Northern Route Approval Act, a bill that would give Congress the authority approve the Keystone pipeline.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m a proponent and supporter of the Keystone pipeline,” Barton said.
Barton continued to say he didn’t deny the climate was changing, but argued that the change was due to natural causes, as he has in the past.
“I would point out that if you’re a believer in in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”
First off, no. The Great Flood would not be climate change, it would be a flood (an impossible flood, by the way, since there isn’t enough water on Earth to submerge all land). That’s why it’s called “the Great Flood.” Second, what “natural causes” are you talking about? You actually have to be specific about this stuff, because the continued existence of the human species is kind of important. It’s a real crappy time to be vague.
The fact is that Joe Barton has earned the nickname “Smoky Joe” by being a trained monkey for polluters — the oil industry in particular. You might remember him as the guy who apologized to BP’s Tony Hayward after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Seems that turning the Gulf of Mexico into a toxic waste dump is no reason to be unpleasant to hapless oil execs.
Who keeps voting for these obvious clowns?
Conservatives resort to junk science in marriage equality debate.
Nelson Lund, Wall Street Journal:
The Supreme Court is hearing two cases this week that represent a challenge to one of the oldest and most fundamental institutions of our civilization. In Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, the court is being asked to rule that constitutional equal protection requires the government to open marriage to same-sex couples.
The claimed right to same-sex marriage is not in the Constitution or in the court’s precedents, so the court must decide whether to impose a new law making marriage into a new and different institution. The justices are unlikely to take so momentous a step unless they are persuaded that granting this new right to same-sex couples will not harm children or ultimately undermine the health of our society.
A significant number of organizations representing social and behavioral scientists have filed briefs promising the court that there is nothing to worry about. These assurances have no scientific foundation. Same-sex marriage is brand new, and child rearing by same-sex couples remains rare. Even if both phenomena were far more common, large amounts of data collected over decades would be required before any responsible researcher could make meaningful scientific estimates of the long-term effects of redefining marriage.
First off, what would Lund’s argument be if science showed that same-sex parents did a better job of raising children than mixed gender parents? Would he be advocating that mixed gender marriage be abolished? I kind of think he wouldn’t, for the same reason that he’s not advocating that marriage rights be reserved only for the very rich — obviously, children in that circumstance have all the advantages, which means everyone else’s kid is at a disadvantage. So the argument that the Supreme Court needs to consider social science is pretty much dead right there. If they were to decide who was allowed to marry based on outcomes, very few people would be allowed the privilege.
But he’s not content to leave it at sloppy logic. He goes on to cite a controversial study that showed that same-sex relationships were bad for children:
There has been only one study using a large randomized sample, objective measures of well-being, and reports of grown children rather than their parents. This research, by Mark Regnerus, a sociologist at the University of Texas Austin, found that children raised in a household where a parent was involved in a same-sex romantic relationship were at a significant disadvantage with respect to a number of indicators of well being—such as depression, educational attainment and criminal behavior—compared with children of intact biological families.
One might expect this work at least to raise a caution flag, but it has been vociferously attacked on methodological grounds by the same organizations that tout the value of politically congenial research that suffers from more severe methodological shortcomings. This is what one expects from activists, not scientists.
To say it’s been “attacked” isn’t quite right. The Regnerus study has been thoroughly debunked. Even the author of the study admits it’s flawed — although it would be more accurate to say it was rigged. It basically compared all sorts of different households to stable married families. It doesn’t actually study the parenting of same-sex couples at all.
“He doesn’t have an actual category of gay parents in the project that you can isolate and say the most important thing in this kid’s childhood is that they were raised by gay parents,” Judith Stacey, a sociologist at New York University, said of the study. “These are kids whose parents, maybe they divorced, maybe they separated, maybe they had a scandalous affair, we just don’t know.”
Of course, Lund’s “science” is burning up the rightwing blogosphere, because it’s so much more comforting to hate when it’s justified somehow — even if that justification is bullshit.
Report: fracking causes earthquakes.
A study published Tuesday in the scientific journal Geology links the magnitude 5.6 earthquake that hit Oklahoma in November 2011 to natural gas drilling operations nearby that were using an extraction technique called fracking, which requires massive quantities of wastewater be injected into underground reservoirs.
The quake struck between Tulsa and Oklahoma City just before 11 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, 2011, causing serious damage to homes and even buckling a highway. Tremors were reportedly felt in 17 states — as far away as Illinois — and dozens of subsequent aftershocks kept Oklahomans up all night.
Researchers at the University of Oklahoma and Columbia University noticed that the quake was one of five greater than magnitude 5.0 that occurred in the continental interior of the U.S. in 2011. Studying the aftershocks of the Oklahoma quake, they discovered that the rupture plane of the quake, or the site where the tension built up and then violently shifted, was within 200 meters of fracking injection sites and nearly one meter from the surface.
Interestingly, the study’s findings show that while most seismic activity linked to newly installed fracking wells is minor, tension between fault planes can build for years, resulting in unexpected interactions with wastewater sites.
In this case, researchers said 18 years worth of fluid injection in sealed oil wells “lowered effective stress on reservoir-bounding faults,” causing several fault planes to give way in sequence after the initial quake hit, which is why the quake was so substantial.
“Massive earthquake” is a tad bit hyperbolic, but “dangerous” would definitely have fit. Global warming, flammable tapwater, earthquakes… Are we really this desperate for natural gas? After all, there isn’t actually a shortage. Basically, the reason that the fracking industry exists is so that the fracking industry can exist. It’s not something we actually need to do. It’s just a form of specialized drilling to avoid competition with the standard method.
I say we just knock it off altogether. Seriously, when you’re causing earthquakes, it’s just a stupid thing to do.
Putting Bigotry Before Healthy Families.
Same-sex relationships make for good families. It’s science.
With the Supreme Court poised to hear arguments on same-sex marriage next week, a top pediatricians’ group has issued a statement supporting marriage equality for all consenting couples, as well as full adoption and foster-care rights for parents regardless of sexual orientation.
“There is a lot of research to back up this policy,” said Dr. Ellen C. Perrin, a professor of pediatrics at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and one of the lead authors. “If a child has two parents that are dedicated and willing to provide a permanent, secure family, why would we not support that family? It’s clearly in the best interest of children.”
This is not the first time the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, has publicly addressed same-sex parenting. In 2002, the organization, which represents more than 60,000 pediatricians, issued a policy statement supporting second-parent adoption by partners of the same sex — a stance it reaffirmed in 2010. In 2006, the group also published an article exploring the legal, financial and “psychosocial” ramifications of civil marriage. It concluded that more than 25 years of research have found no link between parents’ sexual orientation, and their children’s emotional well being.
Marriage confers many benefits that a more informal relationship does not. There are insurance issues, legal issues, issues at school, issues about emergency medical decisions, etc. Legally speaking, an unmarried parent is an only parent, with any support from a same-sex partner being limited by law. While single parents are more than capable of raising healthy families, laws barring marriage equality ban parents who want them from these extra benefits and privileges from access to them. as a result, children suffer.
“Many factors confer risk to children’s healthy development and adult outcomes, such as poverty, parental depression, parental substance abuse, divorce, and domestic violence,” the AAP said in an accompanying technical report on the science behind their decision. “But the sexual orientation of their parents is not among them.”
[I]n one large national study of adolescent health, researchers looked at information from 44 teens who reported being raised by two women in a “marriage-like” family arrangement, and compared them with a random sample of 44 adolescents raised by heterosexual parents. Researchers found no differences in measures of self-esteem, depression, anxiety and school success, according to the report.
Another study called the National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study includes 154 lesbian mothers (70 couples and 14 single mothers), and has tracked the children’s health since 1986. At age 17, the children of the lesbian mothers were highly competent socially and academically, and had fewer social problems and aggressive behavior, according to the report.
Other recent studies show that families of gay men resemble closely those of lesbians, although fewer data are available because the numbers of gay men who are parenting have been small until recently, the report said.
Yet over at Politico, we find Republicans and conservative Democrats digging in their heels against the idea of marriage equality, even as polling shows public support skyrocketing. And looking over which congress critters we’re talking about here, the problem becomes immediately obvious — these aren’t the right demographic. These are the “behind the times” generation.
A new Washington Post poll found support for same-sex marriage at historic highs, with 58 percent of Americans backing the right to marry for gays and lesbians, compared with 36 percent who believe it should be banned, a complete reversal from a decade ago. Among younger voters, the poll found a resounding 81 percent supporting same-sex marriage.
But while there’s been an uptick in support among older Americans, only 44 percent of those older than 65 back gay marriage, the poll said. The average age of senators is 61, while House members on average are 57, according to the Congressional Research Service.
So it’s a doomed fight these people are waging. They will lose eventually. And all they’re managing to do in the meantime is hurt families needlessly by delaying the inevitable. Seriously, that’s it. That’s the big, super-important result of their continuing bigotry. They’re standing against a wave of healthy, well-adjusted children flooding our nation with their filthy ideas of love and equality.
But I suppose it wouldn’t be bigotry if it served a constructive purpose.
[original photo by NeitherFanboy]