Science Finds a “Stupid” Gene. What Should We Do With That Information?

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Linguist/philosopher and Philly native son Noam Chomsky once postulated that the current era of human history might “provide an answer to the question of whether it is better to be smart than stupid.” We got closer to that answer last week, when researchers from Cardiff University in Wales announced an intriguing new find: a gene for stupidity. Specifically, they showed that kids born with two copies of the common gene known as Thr92Ala who also have low levels of thyroid hormone are four times more likely to have a low IQ than children with only one copy of the gene, or with two copies but normal hormone levels.

How low an IQ? Between 70 and 85, the researchers say. Anything below 70 is classified as an intellectual disability; the 70-to-85 range is considered “mild intellectual disability.”

So, let’s all rush out to have tests on our unborn babies, right? Read more »

Nation’s Largest Rape-Victim Advocacy Group: It’s Not “Rape Culture”

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

At long last, there’s been a heartening development in the escalating war between anti-”rape culture” activists and due-process advocates.

In case you haven’t been following along, college students have been filing Title IX complaints with the Department of Education at a furious rate, claiming their schools have been lax in prosecuting what Vice President Joe Biden once termed an “epidemic of rape” on campuses; others have been shouting that the Department of Education’s rules for investigating sexual assaults trample the rights of the accused to fair treatment and hearings; and for the first time, a male student’s claim that his school’s judiciary board violated his Title IX rights by expelling him and using him as a scapegoat to appease the feds has been allowed to proceed in a federal court.

Now into the fray comes the strangest player of all: RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, which just announced that it has sent a 16-page letter to the task force appointed by the President to address the campus-sexual-assault problem, outlining its recommendations on what should be done. And RAINN — the “nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization,” according to its website, says “rape culture” has nothing to do with it.

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Trigger Warning: This Article Will Offend Those Who Like Trigger Warnings

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A few days back, a student at Temple filed a grievance against the university with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office on Civil Rights. The student claims officials at the school discriminated against him regarding his request that special accommodations be made for him because he has bipolar disorder. The student, David Harris, wanted extra time to work on a paper “so he could take it to the writing center,” according to Temple’s student paper.

Harris’s beef is that Temple’s “unofficial policy” regarding “accommodations letters” is that they must be hand-delivered to a faculty member. Harris, who is studying social work, claims that disabled students are frequently “abused” by faculty members who are presented with such letters. How? “[O]ftentimes professors take the opportunity to question the student as to why they need this accommodation and what the nature of their disability is,” he explained.

When I read about Mr. Harris, I was reminded of a newspaper story I saw last year about Grand Valley State University in Michigan, which paid a $40,000 settlement to a student who kept an “assistance animal” guinea pig in her dorm room. The school was perfectly fine with letting Kendra Velzen keep the critter in her dorm room, seeing as, as her attorney explained, it “provides her with emotional support and attachment.” (She suffers, the article said, from depression.) Where GVSU dug in was in refusing to allow her to take her support guinea pig to class and to food service areas. So she threatened to sue. And the school paid out. Read more »

I Don’t Believe in Bitcoins

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I’d just managed to complete my first-ever PayPal purchase when I started hearing about Bitcoins everywhere I turned. I don’t know if it’s the whole Magic: The Gathering thing or what, but I picture Bitcoins like the pile of gold Smaug sleeps on in The Hobbit. Imaginary world, imaginary currency.

But I do try to keep up, so I kept reading up on Bitcoins: on the Vinklevoss twins’ plans for a Bitcoin investment fund, on the surprisingly sober Senate hearings on the cryptocurrency last November, on the Mt. Gox mess, allegations of corruption, and on some old Japanese guy living in California who is either the mastermind behind Bitcoins or a befuddled dopplegänger. It would be a lie to say I understand Bitcoins better now. In fact, the more I read, the more confused I become.

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Are My Savesies Chairs Nice Enough?

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I’m not going to name the town where I live. Go ahead and feel superior if you like — if you and all your kumbaya neighbors never mark your shoveled-out parking spaces with personal items when it snows — but here where I live, we do.

I don’t know if we’re less courteous than y’all, or more suspicious, or just exhausted from our position here at the crossroads of what forecasters refer to as “the northern and western suburbs.” Suffice it to say we’ve been walloped this winter. We’re sick and tired of it. And we know our own limitations, which is to say we know what we’re capable of should some day-tripper parallel-park himself or herself into the barely-bumper-to-bumper spaces we’ve painstakingly carved out of the snowdrifts that surround us. So we mark our spaces. Trust me; it’s safer this way.
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Mom’s Tylenol Use, Dad’s Age Are Latest Suspects on ADHD Front

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Shutterstock

A pair of recently concluded long-term studies may shine some light on the causes of ADHD as well as other mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, autism and psychosis.

In the first, published online by JAMA Pediatrics, researchers at UCLA linked the use by pregnant women of over-the-counter acetaminophen—the pain reliever in Tylenol—with a heightened risk of both attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and hyperkinetic disorder, an especially severe form of ADHD. The researchers reviewed the health histories of some 64,000 children and mothers in the Danish National Birth Cohort between the years 1996 to 2002—histories that included phone interviews during pregnancy, six months after childbirth, and when children turned seven. Birth Cohort moms had taken a standard behavioral screening questionnaire while pregnant; researchers also checked with the national health registries for diagnoses of hyperkinetic disorder and use of ADHD meds. Read more »

Are Millennials Doomed to Repeat History?

Learning Lessons from the past.

Illustration by Jesse Lenz

LAST NOVEMBER, less than a week after the Red Sox defeated the Cardinals in the 2013 World Series, my son and husband and I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. The place was absolutely deserted. On a Sunday afternoon, we counted fewer than a dozen other visitors. Footsteps ringing on the floors, we made the circuit of empty, echoing displays of memorabilia, and finally sat in a nigh-deserted theater to watch a film honoring the All-American Game. At its conclusion, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” played, much too loudly, while the single usher on hand sang lustily along. The three of us were profoundly embarrassed for him.
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Sorry, Parents: That “Make Your Baby a Genius,” Early-Learning Product You Bought Doesn’t Do Jack

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We know, we know: Your baby is the smartest baby ever. You made sure of that when you shelled out big bucks for a program to teach her to read even before she could walk. You know the one—DVDs, flashcards, flip books, all guaranteed, if used on a daily basis, to get your special snowflake into the best preschool, the best prep school, and then Harvard here we come!

Um. Not.

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Kazakhstan Panties Are Really in a Bunch

This photo taken on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, shows women during a protest against the ban of lace underwear  in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A trade ban on synthetic underwear has Russia and her economic allies with their knickers in a twist. Post-Soviet consumers reacted with dismay to news that synthetic underwear will be banned within the Eurasian Economic Commission, which regulates a customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, from July 1. Consumer outcry against the restrictions reached a fever pitch after a Sunday protest in the capital of Kazakhstan, where thirty women wore lace underwear on their heads and shouted “Freedom to panties!” as they were shoved into police vehicles. (AP Photo/Vladimir Tretyakov)

On Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, women protest the ban of lace underwear in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

You know how sometimes there’s just something in the ether, so that everywhere you turn, a subject comes up over and over again? Yesterday, on Presidents Day, that subject was underwear. In one of those news stories that make you scratch your head and go “Huh,” the Moscow Times reported that women in the streets of Kazakhstan were marching with underwear on their heads to protest a new law that’s set to go into effect on July 1st. (You should check out the link, if only for the photo of the demure young Kazakh male averting his gaze from the lascivious lace display.) Read more »

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