Weekly Meanderings, 21 July 2018

Hello from Denmark!

More to worry about before one needs to worry about it? Yes.

Last year, Katie Burns got a phone call that shows what can happen in medicine when information runs ahead of knowledge.

Burns learned that a genetic test of her fetus had turned up an abnormality. It appeared in a gene that, when it fails to work properly, causes heart defects, mental disability and other problems. But nobody knew whether the specific abnormality detected by the test would cause trouble.

“I was pretty distraught,” says Burns, a photographer in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I had a baby who was kicking. I could feel him moving inside of me. But at the same time I had this ache in my chest. What was his life going to be for him?”

It took two months to get more reliable information, and Burns says she wasn’t really sure of the answer until after she gave birth in October to a healthy boy.

Her experience is a glimpse into a surprising paradox of modern-day genetics: Scientists have made huge leaps in rapidly decoding people’s DNA, but they sometimes don’t know what their findings mean. They can even get fooled.

That can come to a head when medical professionals have people tested for genetic variants that cause or promote a disease, usually because they show symptoms or an illness runs in their family. The testing often focuses on relatively rare disorders, caused by a single gene.

Medicine is getting into genetic testing in a big way. One recent estimate found nearly 75,000 health-related DNA tests being marketed by American labs to health care providers, mostly for single-gene disorders, with the total growing rapidly. And this year, the Pennsylvania-based Geisinger health system began offering free genetic testing to its patients as a standard part of its disease prevention efforts, along with things like mammograms and cholesterol checks.

Do you have math anxiety? Remember when it began?

Do you remember the day you decided you were no good at math?

Or maybe you had the less common, opposite experience: a moment of math excitement that hooked you for good?

Thousands of studies have been published that touch on the topic of “math anxiety.” Overwhelming fear of math, regardless of one’s actual aptitude, affects students of all ages, from kindergarten to grad school….

At Evergreen State College’s Tacoma Program in Washington state, faculty member Paul McCreary assigns students to write a “mini-memoir” of their experiences with math.

He estimates that, on average, 23 students out of a class of 25 enter not liking math. (That’s 92 percent, if you’re keeping track at home. In other words: a lot.)

“In the memoirs, I find: ‘I loved it until sixth grade and after that Mr. Hanrickhan made it impossible,’ ” says McCreary. “So they remember the name of the individual, and sometimes they describe the day that it happened.”

A turning point, that is, where “their interest and love of math fell away.”

Writing it all down helps students put their bad experiences in the past. It also demonstrates, to their instructor and to themselves, that the students have other skills.

Who knows about the chaos in Nigeria?

Genocide is not my word. It’s the word being used by Christian leaders within the country of Nigeria.

Writing for the Christian Post on July 3, Stoyan Zaimov noted that, “Church leaders in Nigeria have said that Christians are experiencing ‘pure genocide’ as 6,000 people, mostly women and children, have been murdered by Fulani radicals since January.” (The Fulani are Muslim herdsmen, many of whom have become radicalized.)

Nigerian Genocide

As stated by the Christian Association of Nigeria and church denominational heads in Plateau State, “What is happening in Plateau state and other select states in Nigeria is pure genocide and must be stopped immediately.”

But does anyone care? As reported by Raymond Ibrahim for the Gatestone Institute, International Policy Council, “International Community Ignores Genocide of Christians in Nigeria.”

Ibrahim writes, “That 6,000 Christians, ‘mostly children, women and the aged,’ have been butchered in just the first six months of this year is a reminder of how violence only escalates when left unchecked. That is the story of the Muslim persecution of Christians in Nigeria.”

Can’t have it both ways [HT: JS]:

You’ve mentioned that education and public libraries are the necessary supplements to search engines.

Absolutely. I think it’s interesting to see Congress invite Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to come in and talk about the influence and power of social media in our cultural landscape, and to call for regulation and requirements around Silicon Valley’s tech practices. But, at the same time, Congress and the White House are defunding education, defunding public libraries, defunding public media, defunding public research. You can’t have all of the alternatives to proliferation of evidence-based research and knowledge shut down, or severely hamstrung, while you call for regulation of the private sphere.

You have to have a strong and robust public sphere as a counterweight to what private industry will do. And one of the things that people, including Congress, don’t understand, is that Facebook, Google, and properties like YouTube and Twitter are all interested in making money, and their advertising model is about profiting from those who are willing to pay the most for content. And, of course, we know that the most popular things are not necessarily the most true things.

I think it’s disingenuous to ask advertisers to change their business practices and to expect them to operate like public interest information spheres or portals, because that’s not what they’re designed to do. What we need is greater investment by taxpayers in public-interest alternatives, which can be part of the broader information landscape. Doing so would help us understand digital advertising platforms like Google, Facebook, and others, for what they are, rather than thinking of them as the public library, which they are not.

Paul Davidson on “ghosting“:

At Carports & More, based in El Dorado Hills, California, nearly half of the 65 job candidates scheduled for interviews the past month didn’t show up.

At VoiceNation, an Atlanta area call center, a similar share of the 10 hires the company was making each month never came in to work.

In the hottest job market in decades, workers are holding all the cards. And they’re starting to play dirty.

A growing number are “ghosting” their jobs: blowing off scheduled job interviews, accepting offers but not showing up the first day and even vanishing from existing positions – all without giving notice.

While skipping out on appointments and work has always happened on occasion, the behavior is “starting to feel like a commonplace” occurrence, says Chip Cutter, editor-at-large at LinkedIn, the job and social networking site, who has studied hiring practices.

While no one formally tracks such antics, many businesses report that 20  to 50 percent of job applicants and workers are pulling no-shows in some form, forcing many firms to modify their hiring practices.

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