Running the numbers on smokers, migrants, cancer, and drones

Running the numbers on smokers, migrants, cancer, and drones April 26, 2015

This past week at FiveThirtyEight, I’ve been covering the grim calculus of migrant ships, the difficult data on drones, smoking laws, and cancer tests.  Read on below!


Migrants Trying To Cross The Mediterranean Are Leaving One Risk For Another

When countries confront refugees that aren’t in mortal danger, they’ve found ways to avoid allowing migrants to land and file asylum pleas. In 2013, Australia set up new patrols to intercept boats of refugees arriving from Indonesia and to tow them to Papua New Guinea so that asylum claims would be processed there, instead of in Australia. The Prime Minister at the time, Kevin Rudd, declared that people who approach Australia by sea without visas would be barred from ever settling in the country, even if they are genuine refugees.

Refugees are forced not only to navigate dangerous waters but also to strike a balance between perils. If they arrive in enough danger, they can be rescued; if they make a safer crossing, they face the danger of being turned back when intercepted.

Read more…


Cheaper Cancer Tests Carry Risks As Well As Benefits

Color Genomics’s BRCA screening test is the cheapest and least invasive to come to market, the fruits of the Supreme Court’s 2013ruling that genes could not be patented.

The company requires a doctor to formally request every screening ordered by a customer, but those doctors will frequently be acting against the recommendations of the American Academy of Family Physicians and the United States Preventive Services Task Force, both of which have specifically recommended that BRCA testing not be done for women without a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.

Read more…

Unlike Many States, Louisiana Allowed New Orleans To Ban Smoking In Bars

New Orleans’s new rules are only possible because Louisiana, when it passed the statewide smoking ban, lifted a restriction that had prevented cities from adding more restrictive laws of their own.

According to the group Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, which maintains a database of statewide and local smoking laws, 13 stateshave pre-emption laws that prevent local governments from following New Orleans’s example and imposing restrictions greater than the state’s.

Read more…


There’s Not Enough Data On Civilian Drone Casualties

Because the government keeps its statistics under wraps and independent groups must work with data that’s been through an international game of telephone — news organizations work with local freelancers, who sometimes dispatch yet another layer of proxies to speak to witnesses — the only fact we can be certain of is that whatever the true tally of civilians killed in drone strikes is, it has now gone up by two. And while it’s likely that somewhere between 156 and 960 civilians have died in U.S.-led drone strikes, the number of personal apologies by the president of the United States to the families of the deceased is considerably lower.

Read more…




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