Tuesday Reads

Good Morning!

I’ll be attending Rising Tide 6 at Xavier on Saturday morning and will try to live blog as many of the seminars I’ll be attending as possible. Last year, I enjoyed the politics and criminal justice panels best.  This year, there will be two session running simultaneously including some technical stuff on blogging and fun stuff on brass bands, food, and the HBO series Treme.  The conference is a way for activists and bloggers in New Orleans to continue to see that New Orleans makes some progress post-Katrina and that information gets out to the public.  Conference attendance has been growing each year.

Alright, so I choose the cute dog picture for a reason.  Turns out they are some of our best friends and diagnosticians!!  Check this headline out from Forbes:  How Dogs Beat Doctors in Identifying Early-Stage Lung Cancer.

A new study in the European Respitory Journal shows that dogs are better at sniffing out the early markers of lung cancer than the latest medical technologies at our disposal.  Lung cancer is the second most frequent form of cancer in men and women across the United States and Europe, accounting for approximately 500,000 deaths per year.

Part of the reason for the high mortality rate is that lung cancer is notoriously difficult to identify early. In many cases, the patient doesn’t show any symptoms and detection of the disease happens by chance. If someone isn’t that lucky, the cancer is likely to have already progressed by the time it is found.

The study investigated whether dogs could be trained to reliably identify specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are linked to the presence of lung cancer.  The latest medical methods for identifying lung cancer VOCs are generally unreliable because there is a high risk of interference in the results, especially from the residuals of tobacco smoke, and the results can take a long time to process.

Trained dogs were asked to sniff out a study group that included lung cancer patients, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients, and healthy volunteers.  The dogs successfully identified 71 samples of lung cancer out of a possible 100.  They also correctly detected 372 samples that did not have lung cancer out of a possible 400 –  a 93% success rate.

As impressive, the dogs were able to detect lung cancer markers independently from COPD and tobacco smoke – showing that Fido, unlike our latest technologies, can separate out lung cancer markers from the most confounding variables.

My friend Michelle swears that my late golden lab, Honey, saved her life.  Honey kept jumping on her and putting her paws up on her breast until one day, her breast implant popped.  We soon discovered it was leaking and she went to the doctor who discovered a tumor underneath the implant.  Honey had some other amazing tricks too.  She had an uncanny sense of who were criminals and cornered two of them when we lived in the quarter.  I’d frequently walk Karma and Honey down to Pirate’s Alley after my gigs to rest and have a bit of wine with friends.  Kids and tourists use to pet her, feed her, and roll all over her all the time.  She was like a big stuffed toy.  Only twice did I here her growl and found out she was nothing to be messed with.  Both times she pushed young gutter punks up against the Cathedral until the security guard came around the corner to figure out why she was barking.  Both of them were were wanted by the police.  One had been stealing tip jars from the local street entertainers and the other was wanted for grabbing plates of food from tourists dining on the street.  After that, Honey became one spoiled dog.  Every time she would walk by the galleries or restaurants all the business owners would see her, come out, and give her treats.  The restaurant in Pirate’s alley always kept a big serving of pate for her.  Honey died suddenly about 8 months after Katrina from a brain aneurysm.  She was one heckuva dog. Karma and I miss her lots!! She was blind in one eye as you can see from her picture there to the right.

Politico reports that the FCC has finally killed off the fairness doctrine.

The FCC gave the coup de grace to the fairness doctrine Monday as the commission axed more than 80 media industry rules.

Earlier this summer FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski agreed to erase the post WWII-era rule, but the action Monday puts the last nail into the coffin for the regulation that sought to ensure discussion over the airwaves of controversial issues did not exclude any particular point of view. A broadcaster that violated the rule risked losing its license.

While the commission voted in 1987 to do away with the rule — a legacy to a time when broadcasting was a much more dominant voice than it is today — the language implementing it was never removed. The move Monday, once published in the federal register, effectively erases the rule.

Monday’s move is part of the commission’s response to a White House executive order directing a “government-wide review of regulations already on the books” designed to eliminate unnecessary regulations.

Also consigned to the regulatory dustbin are the “broadcast flag” digital copy protection rule that was struck down by the courts and the cable programming service tier rate. Altogether, the agency tossed 83 rules and regs.

The NY City prosecutor has asked the court to drop all sexual assault  charges against Dominic Strauss-Kahn.

“The nature and number of the complainant’s falsehoods leave us unable to credit her version of events beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever the truth may be about the encounter between the complainant and the defendant,” the papers state. “If we do not believe her beyond a reasonable doubt, we cannot ask a jury to do so.”

At about the same time as the papers were filed, the lawyer for Nafissatou Diallo, the hotel housekeeper who accused Mr. Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault, emerged from a brief meeting with prosecutors to offer harsh criticism of Mr. Vance.

“The Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus Vance, has denied the right of a woman to get justice in a rape case,” the lawyer, Kenneth P. Thompson, said. “He has not only turned his back on this victim but he has also turned his back on the forensic, medical and other physical evidence in this case. If the Manhattan district attorney, who is elected to protect our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our wives and our loved ones, is not going to stand up for them when they’re raped or sexually assaulted, who will?”

Ms. Diallo stood by his side, but said nothing.

There’s an extremely interesting article up at VoxEU by Economist Dr. Robert Gordan of Northwestern University.  It talks in detail about our persistently jobless recovery.  One important question is how and why did our economy destroy over 10 million jobs?  Basically, we are now a nation of disposable workers.

When the economy begins to sink—like the Titanic after the iceberg struck—firms begin to cut costs any way they can; tossing employees overboard is the most direct way. For every worker tossed overboard in a sinking economy prior to 1986, about 1.5 are now tossed overboard. Why are firms so much more aggressive in cutting employment costs? My “disposable worker hypothesis” (Gordon 2010) attributes this shift of behaviour to a complementary set of factors that amounts to “workers are weak and management is strong.” The weakened bargaining position of workers is explained by the same set of four factors that underlie higher inequality among the bottom 90% of the American income distribution since the 1970s—weaker unions, a lower real minimum wage, competition from imports, and competition from low-skilled immigrants.

But the rise of inequality has also boosted the income share of the top 1% relative to the rest of the top 10%. In the 1990s corporate management values shifted toward more emphasis on shareholder value and executive compensation, with less importance placed on the welfare of workers, and a key driver of this change in attitudes was the sharply higher role of stock options in executive compensation. When stock market values plunged by 50% in 2000–02, corporate managers, seeing their compensation collapse with profits and the stock market, turned with all guns blazing to every type of costs, laying off employees in unprecedented numbers. This hypothesis was validated by Steven Oliner et al (2007), who showed using cross-sectional data that industries experiencing the steepest declines in profits in 2000–02 had the largest declines in employment and largest increases in productivity.

Why was employment cut by so much in 2008–09? Again, as in 2000–02, profits collapsed and the stock market fell by half. Beyond that was the psychological trauma of the crisis; fear was evident in risk spreads on junk bonds, and the market for many types of securities dried up. Firms naturally feared for their own survival and tossed many workers overboard.

So, that will give you some things to think about today!!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?