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Spurious emails, amusing satire

Nichole Sprinkle on the truth about the relationship between ADHD and TV watching:

As reported in the journal Pediatrics in April 2004, researchers at Children’s Hospital in Seattle found that the more television a child watches between the ages of 1 and 3, the greater his or her likelihood of developing attention problems by age 7. More specifically, for each extra hour per day of TV time, the risk of concentration difficulties increases by 10 percent, compared with that of a child who views no TV at all. Excessive viewing was associated with a 28 percent increase in attention problems.

The lead researcher, Dimitri Christakis, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and co-director of the school’s Institute for Child Health, admits that his study was limited. He based his research on a previous survey of about 1,300 mothers who recalled the television habits of their children in early childhood. Such after-the-fact reporting is considered highly fallible because parents often over- or underreport the amount of TV watched.

What’s more, the study linked TV viewing to general attention problems, rather than to diagnosed ADD. Study participants were never asked whether their children had Attention Deficit Disorder. Instead, the study looked at five kinds of attention difficulties, including "obsessive concerns" and "confusion," neither of which are core ADD symptoms.

Nor did the study consider the kinds of programs children watched. Educational programs, such as Blue’s Clues or Mr. Rogers, which have a slower pace, rely on storytelling, and avoid rapid zooms, abrupt cuts, and jarring noises, weren’t differentiated from more aggressive programming. Neither did the researchers consider whether TV viewing and attention difficulties presented a chicken-or-egg situation. Some critics suggest that younger children with pre-existing attention deficits may be drawn to watching TV, while solving simple puzzles or concentrating on games would be an uphill battle. They add that parents of these children might turn to the TV for relief more frequently than parents of kids who have less trouble staying focused.

The bottom line: Cancel the guilt trip. Plenty of kids who watch little or no TV are diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, and an abundance of evidence points to a genetic connection. The researchers themselves stated that, based on their findings, TV does not cause ADD.

A commenter on a Paul Krugman column talks about how US engineering students already suffer the effects of globalization:

As an old engineering professor, I’m on the front lines of this horrific debacle— my field has been eviscerated with particular ferocity. I teach a young American generation condemned to dismal indentured servitude- outsourcing and the H1B have decimated engineering in North America, since foreign grads, as in India, finish schooling with little debt and much lower cost-of-living.

My students by contrast, are inevitably saddled with staggering debt in their grueling years of training. Those drowning in student loans are “lucky”— if they also suffer injury, auto accident or crime (as victims, not perpetrators), then the vultures in our corrupt financial, health care and legal systems prey upon them relentlessly, reducing them to virtual serfdom (aggravating our recession by draining capital away from consumers and true producers). The brightest graduates suffer the most, and if they slip at any point, rather than being helped, they’re kicked harder and harder while down— apparently the highest “virtue” in our plutocratic Potemkin economy. As a further insult, they are confronted with usurious interest rates and then denied employment due to their credit ratings and unavoidable debt just to be trained— practices so outrageous, they are harshly punished as felonies elsewhere in the world.

In response to the highly controversial article by Michael Lynch disputing peak oil, Nate Hagens writes a rebuttal (more here). So does Joe Romm and (more entertainingly) so does Man-Bunny Matrix:

Later, Lynch addresses the claim that oil is becoming more difficult to extract, dismissing this argument as “vague and irrelevant”. His assertion is based solely on the grounds that oil explorers operating mule-drawn rigs in 19th Century Persia, “certainly didn’t consider their work easy.” Advances in technology, Mr. Lynch says, have made oil easier to extract, not more difficult.

“This is a complete anachronism,” Sheplin said.

“Look at it this way,” Sheplin went on. “With access to modern mining equipment, at the push of a button, I could sit in a control room in California and pull hundreds of pounds of gold from the Sierra Nevada right this minute, much more than I could have recovered 150 years ago sitting on a streambed with a steel pan. Does this mean gold hasn’t grown more scarce in California? I guess so. Hey, everybody: Gold! Gold on the American River!”

Another satirical piece by Man-Bunny Matrix about the attempt to use natural gas to power trucks:

And while Natalia Raquette, senior scientist with the Sierra Club, concedes that emissions from natural gas combustion are lower than those of every other fossil fuel, according to her the benefits end there. "Natural gas production causes terrible environmental damage. At every stage of production you poison the land, you poison the air, and it’s especially tough on fresh water supplies."

Geoffrey Vanderschpul agrees. He’s a physician by training, who for the last ten years has headed up the mining research group at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange. His team has been studying some of the hundreds of chemicals involved in natural gas mining and processing, and they are as dangerous as they are numerous.“The list is as long as your leg,” Dr. Vanderschpul says. “And they are some of the nastiest and most reactive compounds known to man. They’re injected deep into the earth and mixed right into the water table.”

Is there any alternative?

“Sure,” Dr. Vanderschpul says. “Burn coal.”

Is he serious?

“Not really, but at least taking it out of the ground is straightforward. You send a guy into a hole and he comes back up later carrying a bucket.”

It took me a while to figure out that Man-Bunny Matrix is making up names of people and quotations, but in fact, (as best as I can tell), the statements and arguments have some basis in fact. It’s subtle humor that tries to make a serious argument. Those names are hilarious!

Here’s a long-winded economic analysis doing a cost-benefit analysis of a high school rail from Houston to Dallas. Several economist types weigh in.

100 Things I learned at the HTC (a local entrepreurial group). My fave:  Ideas are worthless, execution is everything.

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