The bruised and battered elephant in the emergency room.

There is a new study in Pediatrics by Dr. John Leventhal of Yale University on child abuse in the U.S.; it’s not a comprehensive study of all abused children, only the cases that end up requiring hospitalization due to severity of injuries. Cassie Murdoch at Jezebel rounds up coverage of the study, and shares with us that such injuries include, but are not limited to:

For the most part, children arrived with abusive head trauma, fractures, burns, abdominal injuries and bruises. Their hospitalizations cost the U.S. about $73.8 million and lasted almost twice as long compared to children who were hospitalized with other kinds of injuries.

Dr. Leventhal offers us further insight into the context of abuse:

Based on data from the 2006 Kids’ Inpatient Database, the last such numbers available, Leventhal’s team found that six out of every 100,000 children under 18 were hospitalized with injuries ranging from burns to wounds to brain injuries and bone fractures.

The children spent an average of one week in the hospital; 300 of them died.

The rate of abuse was highest among children under one, particularly if they were covered by Medicaid, the government’s health insurance for the poor. One out of every 752 of those infants landed in the hospital due to maltreatment.

“Medicaid is just a marker of poverty, and poverty leads to stress,” said Leventhal, who is the medical director of the Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Program.

Last year, a study from four U.S. states showed a clear spike in abusive brain injuries following the financial crash in late 2007, a finding researchers chalked up to the added pressure on parents.

In that study, too, toddlers appeared to be at higher risk. That led researchers to suggest the maltreatment might have been triggered by crying.

Brain injuries in children do not spike following a financial crash for no reason. One may conclude from Dr. Leventhal’s data that child abuse is for the most part not a matter of parents being horrible inhuman monsters, but of parents being overwhelmed. What might be done about this?

So Dr. Leventhal proposes we act to stop abuse in the same way we’ve worked to stop SIDS: “We need a national campaign related to child abuse where every parent is reminded that kids can get injured.” Another probably even more effective option would be to send public health workers to do home visits with new parents to offer support and advice, a practice that is already common in a lot of European countries.

I don’t disagree with either of those ideas, but I have something else to suggest.

It makes me really angry to know that there are so many parents who are so unprepared and stressed out that they can’t deal with a crying infant without pummeling the poor baby, and yet we still have to fight so hard for our right to control our fertility. There is something seriously fucked up about a widespread cultural movement that says our nation really needs more babies born to people who aren’t ready for babies but has nothing to offer in how to take better care of the kids we have.

Want to prevent child abuse? There’s no substitute for family planning.

Breaking news: Abortion STILL does not cause breast cancer.

I am still not 100% healthy and snark-ready, but since I am alert enough to troll Facebook, I will make a little addition to this post here, from way back.

Via Facebook, Defund the Komen Foundation gives us this tidbit, from a retired cancer researcher:

“Recently at a conference I spoke with the person who discovered BRCA1, and she laughed and said that it [the abortion/breast cancer link] was indeed bullshit, because he hadn’t corrected for age. In the study that the guy cited, the women who had abortions had the procedures done when they were young but then had children later in their lives. The comparison population was women who had children when they were young, and there is a degree of protection against breast cancer afforded from having children at a young age (believed due to hormonal changes that accompany lactation). When one corrects for the age of childbirth in the guys data, the difference disappears. So abortion had no effect on breast cancer at all; it was the effect of when the women had children.”

Yet that initial, incorrect story persists, because it fits the meme.”

Yeah, the meme is that being in control of your fertility is associated with a somewhat higher lifetime risk of certain cancers. And yet, women continue to use birth control, as if we have priorities in life aside from placating the Booby Spirits. Those fickle demons are unreliable, and their rewards are no substitute for having ownership over our lives.

Monday Moron: Protect My Delicate Upper-Crust Frailness from Those Unwashed Brutes!

Via Pharyngula, some other delicate flower, this time a student at NYU, has really laid a steaming deuce in her bed. As much as I could complain about my Albanian high school kids who would have rather done just about anything except learn English, at least they kept their sense of entitlement to a level whose topography they understood. If that just came out as Greek, think of it like this: if you want to climb trees on someone else’s property, at least keep to a level from which you can safely climb down again on your own power. And then we have Sara Ackerman, who didn’t agree with Prof. Zaloom’s assignment of an ethnographic study of Occupy Wall Street protesters, and concluded with an ultimatum:

Lastly, I have over 1,000 friends on facebook, and if Professor Zaloom does not resign, or is not fired by 9 am tomorrow morning, I will publish every single email exchange we have had, on my facebook account.

You read that right. She wanted the professor to be out of a job, or else she would publish the professor’s emails to her Facebook feed.

The practical upshot is that Prof. Zaloom looks like an honest, reasonable educator who is still safely employed and Sara Ackerman looks like a caricature of rarefied, constantly threatened privilege. She sounds like she grew up in a household in which “delicate constitution” was a part of the daily vocabulary. She spent a few months as a thorn in her professor’s side, disrupting her classmates’ lessons, and now she has succeeded in embarrassing herself in front of a lot more than those 1,000 Facebook friends.

The British Journal of Psychiatry should be embarrassed.

PZ Myers shows us the fiasco of a putative meta-analysis of mental health risks of abortion, published by the British Journal of Psychiatry and torn apart by Jim Coyne at Psychology Today. The problems with the analysis are briefly summarized as follows:

1. The author has a conflict of interest on the subject, as she is an anti-abortion advocate, and failed to disclose this in her submission to the journal.

2. The analysis used 22 studies, half of which were conducted by the author herself. She did not disclose which studies were excluded and why.

3. Her own studies used in the analysis range from unreliable to meaningless.

Since when did scientific rigor ever get in the way of a good scare tactic? Coyne helpfully quotes National Right to Life News as summarizing conclusions such as:

“Women who aborted have a 55 percent higher risk of mental health problems compared to women with an ‘unplanned’ pregnancy who gave birth.

Yeah, I just love the scare quotes around “unplanned.”

NRtLN’s summary conflates the comparison between women who have aborted vs. not aborted, with those who have aborted vs. given birth. It confuses an outcome for a given pregnancy with lifetime experience. IOW: it is possible for a woman to have at least one abortion AND have at least one live birth. The majority of women having a first abortion are already mothers, and many others have children later.

If what they mean by “aborted vs. given birth” is the comparison of women who’ve had at least one abortion with those who’ve had at least one live birth and no abortions, then they should freaking well say so, and furthermore, they need to limit the comparison to women who became pregnant when they didn’t want to. Since this is an organization that uses scare quotes around unplanned pregnancy, such respect for confounding factors is probably too much to ask.

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I’ll take the Robusta, because tea doesn’t cut it.

Via Sullivan, GOOD brings us very bad news:

A luxury drink, that is. “Coffee as cheap fuel for the masses is a historical anomaly,” says Peter Giuliano, director of coffee at the North Carolina-based roaster Counter Culture. “There’s no nutritive value. It’s drunk just for the pleasure of it. It’s a total miracle of global agriculture, a feat that spans cultures and countries.”

Mother Nature might be on the side of Giuliano and his cohorts. At the exact moment that rare beans are becoming all the rage, all beans are becoming rarer. The price of a cup of coffee—whether it be a $6 pour-over, a $2.50 dark roast at Starbucks, or a $1.50 mug of diner swill—is being driven up by a complex combination of weather events, pest and fungus outbreaks, speculation on commodities exchanges, an unstable labor market in the developing world, and an unprecedented thirst for good coffee among a growing global middle class. The problem, in simple economic terms, is that supply has gone down and demand has gone up.

“We’re going back to where coffee began,” Giuliano says, “as an exotic, beloved culinary experience.”

*beats fists on floor* “NOOOOOOOOO!”

No nutritive value, my ass. It’s an excellent vehicle for cream and sugar, now don’t you fucking tell me I should be all pleased to hear that coffee’s about to get really expensive.

I am the masses, and I want my cheap fuel.

Of course I want coffee growers to earn a decent living, but if that means I’m effectively priced out of the high-end Arabica market, then I’ll just take the cut-rate Brazilian beans and the Robusta, thanks. One must get up at 6:30 AM and stay awake through 9 hours of data entry and paper-pushing. I’ll be having none of this “pay a Queen’s ransom for my cup of morning Joe” bullshit.


Water is dry, rock is soft, the fetus is separate.

Via the Charlotte Observer via Robin Marty, the Law of Life Project is bringing us expert witnesses who use language like this:

Seeking to intervene in the case are Dr. John Thorp, an obstetrics and gynecology professor at UNC-Chapel Hill who contends in a declaration that the requirements in the new law represent the standard of care in the field; Dr. Gregory J. Brannon, an obstetrician who says a woman can’t be considered informed about abortion without being told that the “tissue to be removed is a separate, unique living human being who is genetically different from the mother”; and Dr. Martin J. McCaffrey, a UNC-CH professor of pediatrics who counsels women about high-risk pregnancies.

Their treating pregnant women like oblivious morons would be a lot more palatable if they didn’t do it by lying through their fetoscopes.

Dr. Brannon apparently thinks,

a woman can’t be considered informed about abortion without being told

He thinks women seeking abortions are so unfathomably ignorant that they’re not aware that the critter growing inside the uterus is a human fetus. Look, Dr. Brannon: we all know what pregnancy means. We all know that there is an organism growing inside which could, if uninterrupted, eventually emerge as a baby. That’s the point: these women are getting abortions because they don’t want the babies.

So he wants them to be told that,

the “tissue to be removed is a separate, unique living human being

What is it with the pro-quantity movement and their love of this transparently dishonest talking point of the “separate, unique living human being”?

Sure, it’s living, and it’s human. I don’t dispute that. My left kidney is also living and human, and it’s a lot more useful to me than an unwanted fetus would be.

But in what parallel universe is a fetus a “separate” human being from its mother?

Again, we seem to be missing the point of why an abortion takes place. If the fetus were separate, there would be no pregnancy. Mammalian reproduction would be radically different if fetuses were not absolutely dependent on staying firmly attached to their mothers’ uterine walls and living on a steady stream of maternal blood. If that fetus is so “separate,” then it can just go its own way and take care of itself, rather than putting its mother’s health at risk by leeching her nutrients and playing havoc with her hormones.

Indeed, if the fetus is “separate,” then what exactly does the word “separate” even mean?

And then there’s this last talking point:

who is genetically different from the mother”

Translation: “That fetus isn’t just a part of your body because there was also a man who put sperm in your vadge, so that baby is also his, and it wouldn’t be fair to kill his baby just because you couldn’t keep your legs shut.”


Americans still working visceral racism out of their systems

UPI shows us the results of a Gallup poll on interracial marriage:

Ninety-six percent of African-Americans, who have always been more approving of marriage between blacks whites, approve of such unions, while 84 percent of whites approve.

The aggregate from the poll sample is 86% approval. In other non-news, they admit:
Approval of black-white marriages is slightly lower among Southerners, Republicans, conservatives and those in lower education levels. The elderly are the least approving group at 66 percent.
If “the elderly” (that impenetrable monolith) are at 66% approval, then it follows that the younger generations are much higher, and that the Millenials are nearly 100%.
Now I want more information. When we examine approval of interracial marriages in various combinations (i.e., there are more than two racial groups in this country which may intermarry), we find that all interracial relationships are not accepted equally. It’s still no surprise that blacks are more accepting than whites, but I want to see the numbers on other racial groups, because the picture is not complete without them. Last I heard, white folks were still the most racist bunch in our country (where “racist” is defined as objecting to people of their own race marrying “outside” the group, so to speak), which doesn’t benefit us, but since we are still the majority it doesn’t limit us to the same extent as it would do to a group with smaller numbers. It would be interesting to see how Latinos, Asians and Native Americans (those categories being still oversimplified) approve of interracial marriages, though in a sample size of only 1319, there might not be enough of some groups to provide usable results.
It isn’t only numbers that would explain the difference, though. That’s not even getting into racist anxieties about America becoming a majority-minority nation in the foreseeable future, and it doesn’t even touch the phenomenon of whites occupying the place of default, or non-race. Minority groups have to think about race in ways the majority doesn’t. Disparities in acceptance are a reflection of how the majority is allowed to insulate itself from diversity.

Sperm from stem cells! The sky is falling!

I am telling you, this story is just…asking for the fertility-controls-you crowd to start losing their shit. More than usual, I mean.

Caroline Parkinson at BBC reports that Japanese scientists have successfully bred mice using sperm made from embryonic stem cells:

Japanese researchers successfully implanted early sperm cells, made from the stem cells, into infertile mice.

The working sperm which they made was then used to father healthy, and crucially fertile, pups, Cell journal reports.

A UK expert said it was a significant step forward in infertility research.

If you’re now thinking, “this is just begging for jumping to conclusions,” you’d be right.

But he said the Kyoto paper was “quite a large step forward” in developing a process by which sperm could be made for infertile men, perhaps by taking as a starting point a cell from their skin or from something like bone marrow.

He added: “Clearly more work needs to be done to refine this process, but it’s hugely exciting.”

That much is fine, but somehow, the comments on the Jezebel story are all about how this means men are about to become obsolete.

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Fuck my immune system.

Anyone who believes in “Intelligent Design” hasn’t taken a good look at seasonal allergies. If someone designed me to have to deal with nasal passages that are both blocked and dripping at the same time, when I am perfectly healthy and there are no harmful substances around, that someone is a fucking moron who shouldn’t even design butt-plugs, much less bodies.

Our bodies were designed by Russell’s Teapot to be inefficient and ridiculous.