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Labor Day Linkdump

“Mark” decries Glen Beck and his irrational anti-intellectual rants:

Beck is not demystifying art, he is attacking it. He is assigning false intentions to the artists and their work. He is denigrating these long-respected icons of free expression and celebrations of American prosperity and spirit. And worst of all, Beck is virtually inviting his disciples to do harm to these works, or any others in which they imagine horrors lurking. He is no better than the Taliban mullahs who destroyed the Buddhas of Bamyan, giant statues in Afghanistan that were over 1,500 years old.

If Mullah Omar had a show on the Taliban Fox Network he would have been making the same sort of claims about the Buddhas that Beck is making about this art. Hopefully Americans are more tolerant than the Afghans that allowed Omar to blow up the Buddhas. And hopefully they are smarter than Beck and his congregation of glassy-eyed followers who wouldn’t know art if it was right in front of them everyday – like the over 100 works commissioned for Rockefeller Center.

Lori Robertson at Factcheck does a good piece about whether better cancer survival rates in US means better coverage. The evidence seems mixed.

Mark Shrope reports about the dire conditions of the world’s coral reefs.

Top 25 Censored Stories of 2009. (BTW, these stories come from 2007). See also the 2008 list and 2007 list.

Someone has a listing of TED talks.

Gail the Actuary asks about how Hawaii would far after the decline of fossil fuels.  To summarize: tourism would decline (already airline prices are expensive), but Hawaii knows how to get along without oil and coal.

Here’s a fascinating optical illusion.

Here’s a great piece of Moveon health care propaganda.  Individual stories about why we need health care reform.

Dan Zegart’s great 2004 article on why medical malpractice reform is unlikely to reduce insurance rates:

More specifically, malpractice filings declined nationally by about 4 percent between 1995 and 2000. And while a recent analysis of the Medicare population estimated that medical errors kill 131,000 people annually, making it the fourth leading cause of death, medical suits are only 5 percent of personal-injury filings, with product liability cases another 5 percent. Plaintiffs lose 60 percent of product cases and 70 percent of malpractice suits.

Not only are socially significant lawsuits like malpractice and product liability a small fraction of the legal picture but numerous studies show that capping damages doesn’t affect insuance premiums. One survey examined insurance rates between 1985 and 1998, then ranked the states according to the severity of their restrictions on lawsuits. Increased severity did not produce lower rates. In Texas, where malpractice filings dropped 20 percent in the nine years before Proposition 12, the liability picture has been little improved by its passage. About a third of doctors will see a decrease of 12 percent—after cumulative increases of 147 percent. The rest will either get no relief or double-digit increases.

According to J. Robert Hunter, Federal Insurance Administrator under Presidents Ford and Carter, caps don’t work because liability rates reflect not litigation costs but the insurance industry’s own practices. During good times, insurers write policies even for the worst risks to generate cash for investment. When the stock market tanks, rates climb steeply to cover losses. The current liability crisis, Hunter notes, coincided with the market downturn that began in the summer of 2001. And since the insurance cycle is international, the “hard market” also drove up premiums in Canada, Australia and France. “And those countries have totally different legal systems,” Hunter says.

World Internet Statistics.  42% of Internet users are from Asia,  15% are from North America, 24% are from Europe, 10% are from Latin America. Delving deeper, it seems that China has only 25% of its population online, and India has 7%. (The U.S. has 75% of its population online).  So when these two countries have penetration rates approaching Western levels, the Internet is going to change radically. 

Think about how the rapidly growing number of Asian users will change the Internet (and indeed our civilization).

  • What is the effect on the proliferation of malware?
  • What is the effect on piracy?
  • What is the effect on the number of people who do identity theft?
  • What effect will this have on outsourcing and the use of distance learning?
  • What effect will this have on news media?
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