Friday Links

The exact format of these sessions is not revealed, but it does sound like 368 people had to sit down at a desk on their own and have a list of rude words read out to them over the course of five days by someone with a clipboard. While a case could certainly be made for the importance of conducting such research, pity the poor statistician questioning their life choices as they ask their fourth person of the day "What about 'knob'? What do you think about 'knob'?"*

The "Non-English words" section contains a handy translation table for those who do not speak the relevant languages. Some of these are very offensive indeed and should probably not be wielded by anyone who lacks the suitable linguistic and cultural context, or possibly anyone at all. But the "mild" South Asian pan-linguistic term Uloo Ka Patha – which literally translates as "son of an owl" and reportedly means "idiot", "imbecile" or "moron" – definitely deserves wider use.

Cricket was at the forefront of the sporting boycott of apartheid, albeit accidentally so. The MCC initially did not select the South African born “cape coloured” player Basil d’Oliviera for the 1969 tour of South Africa, probably for political reasons. The consequent pressure on them, and the ‘injury’ to selected player Tom Cartwright (who, it is rumoured, withdrew in order to increase the pressure to select d’Oliviera), resulted, eventually, in the cancellation of the tour which, in turn, resulted in the widespread boycott. I supported the boycott almost without reservations and certainly without regret.

As things stand it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Afghanistan will face a cricketing boycott which, I suspect, is the only sporting boycott that matters in this case. In the past decade or so cricket as conquered Afghanistan, and Afghanistan, frankly, has conquered cricket, rising from an unknown participant in the third or fourth rank of cricketing nations, to becoming one of only 11 Test playing countries, with some of the best and most sought-after short from players in the world; no other sport comes close to it.

I am far more regretful about this one than about the South African boycott. Here are some thoughts.

About 5,600 people gave birth outside a hospital in California in 2020, up from about 4,600 in 2019 and 3,500 in 2010. The shift took place during a widespread “baby bust,” so the proportion of births outside hospitals rose from 0.68% in 2010 to 1.34% in 2020, according to a KHN analysis of provisional data from the California Department of Public Health. The proportion of births outside hospitals stayed relatively high — 1.28% — from January through July 2021.

Tuskegee was no secret; many researchers just didn’t see the problem with it. Holding up universities as “the guardians of voluntary participation” since 1947 is an absurd fantasy. Rules have been developed around medical research exactly because of egregious harms, particularly against vulnerable minority populations. We have to keep talking about informed consent because of the looming specter of research misconduct in this arena.

What’s more, the fact is that mandatory vaccination policies are not medical experiments at all, so seeing this through the lens of IRB and Nuremberg is wrongheaded; such policies are not the sort of human-subjects research governed by the infrastructure Walsh discusses. Our home university, Virginia Tech, requires students, faculty and staff to submit their vaccine documentation or file for a medical or religious exemption (for which weekly testing is then required). The FDA has now approved the Pfizer vaccine in full, so students should have no reason to refuse vaccination based on how "new" or "untested" it is.

About Me

Developer at Brown University Library specializing in instructional design and technology, Python-based data science, and XML-driven web development.

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