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Comment Percentages? (Score 5, Informative) 381

A recent Childline poll found nearly 10% of 12-13-year-olds were worried they were addicted to pornography and 18% had seen shocking or upsetting image

Years ago (mid 80s or something) there was a "video nasty" frenzy in the UK based on figures that purported to show what percentage of kids and watched "video nasties". The data was gathered by asking kids which of a list of films they had seen. Turned out to be totally bogus, a later study got the same results when the list had a mix of real and invented titles. Not suprising really. Are these figures any better?

Comment Re:Not the best summary... (Score 1) 195

Unfortunately it's against that law to just leave you to die for your own stupidity in such cases and society invariably ends up bearing the costs. It's far less expensive to vaccinate people than it is to deal with the fallout from not doing so. Up until we can agree that you can contractually permit society ignoring any consequences for your poor decision, the pragmatic solution is to require it.

I don't know the situation in the US, but in the UK, the figures show that unvaccinated kids visit the doctor a *lot* less than vaccinated kids (there is even research that uses this fact to explain vaccination/allergy correlation in the raw data), so maybe the non-vacinnating parents should demand a rebate from you.

One could also take a position that not vaccinating your children is tantamount to neglect as they are incapable of making such a choice at that age and you're merely forcing your own beliefs on the child whether they would objectively want to make that decision in later life or not. Again, were there a system by which society could be absolved of having to deal with the consequences of an individual's poor decisions, this wouldn't be an issue, but we do not live in that world.

One could also take the reverse position, you are forcing something on them that they might not choose later in life. It's not morally justifiable, but the laws that are in place make coercion necessary from a financial point of view. If the government is going to force me to pay for something, I'd like to pay as little as possible and that means vaccinating the population to the greatest extend possible.

Comment Re:Not the best summary... (Score 1) 195

Vaccinations are effectively voluntary today (since anybody can opt out) and we still only have around 200 cases per year and no deaths

Which are still the results of mass vaccinations of previous generations, and nothing else.

No, because as the parent post points out, the death rate was about 500 in 500,000 *before* the vaccine was introduced. In the UK it was even lower, the death rate averaged about 75/year over the decade before the single measles vaccine was introduced (1958-68) with a similar birth rate (and hence incidence rate). So, unless you can make an argument that measles has become much more serious over the last 50 years, or there has been some significant societal change, thise figures are upper bounds on what we might expect today.

Comment Maybe, maybe not (Score 1) 529

There is a real problem with studies related to things like this. A few people claim to have some problem - electrosensitivity in this case - which they may or may not have. Then a whole load of other people hear about it, and all claim to have it as well, most simply because they have had some minor random problem, and latch onto it as a reason. In effect the whole thing snowballs. Now, there may actually be a very few people who do genuinely have the problem, but when you come to do the studies, you sample a large number of people. You do the statistics. You do not conclude that there is no link - studies like these cannot show that there is *no* link. You conclude - correctly - that there is no statistically significant link. But there still might (or might not) be a real problem for a very few people.

Comment Re:hrm (Score 1) 730

FWIW, I'm British and I support the monarchy for two special reasons (whether in practice they'd be any use can of course be debated): First, pretty well all the Bristish armed forces swear allegiance to the monarch (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oath_of_Allegiance_(United_Kingdom)#Armed_forces), so in theory if the government tried to use them against the population then the monarch could order them back to barracks, and the generals and whatnot would have a cast iron reason to tell the government where to go. Second, the monarch can dissolve parliament which triggers a general election. I'd guess this means that, in the event of a knife edge like the one that got Bush in as president, so none of the parties can form a government, rather then wrangling in court, the monarch can effectively force another vote.

Comment Death Rates (Score 1) 106

"Back in 2002, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS killed about 10 per cent of the 8,000 people it infected in southern China and Hong Kong" I asked the following question about H5N1, it seems to be just as relevent to SARS: When H5N1 was doing the rounds in the UK, I, and my wife, and a lot of other people I knew, had long running and/or recurrent chest infections over a couple of months or so. None of us was ill enough to bother to go to the doctor, and there were enough people about with the same symptoms that we were still working, so we didn't need a medical report to miss work. So, we never got on any statistics for having something. My feeling (and my wife's, who is a biologist) is that its quite likely that a lot of people got H5N1 but were never diagnosed nor counted. This makes the claimed "H5N1 killed n% of people it infected" (whatever n% was) totally specious. And I'd bet that the same is true of SARS. Unless there is random testing then nobody knows what the death rate is, and all these death rates are scare mongering by governments and the drugs industry,

Comment Re:Write your own! (Score 1) 227

There can be a lot going for this. I work on a quite large web application written in Python, used by medium-to-large companies. It uses a custom MVC framework which I started 4-5 years ago. Like AC, we understand it, there are no hidden corners, and when we need to modify it to do something we need, we do so. Downsides are documentation (you can't rely on others to do it), and maybe recruitment.

Comment Re:sockatume has problems understanding (Score 1) 668

No, they are not. The WSJ figures are quoted for the whole of the outbreak (by July it was essentially over); likely there were cases elsewhere in Wales, but there was no significant other outbreak so (unless we think there will be another outbreak) we can assume that the 1219 figure is broadly correct. They are not figures for the early stages (do you mean disease or outbreak?). Now, I don't have the over-diagnosis figures to hand for last year, but unless you can show me that they were around 50%, then you order-of-magnitude increase claim is pure speculation. If you check out http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/page.cfm?orgId=457&pid=25444 (NHS site for Wales) you can find "Reported notifications of measles usually far exceed the actual numbers of confirmed cases. Other rashes are often mistaken for measles". Unfortunately, they don't say by how much, which is a shame because there are some claims of 3000% overdiagnosis, which seems pretty wacky.

Comment Re:sockatume has problems understanding (Score 1) 668

Because I strongly suspect there is a tendency to increasing over-diagnosis as outbreak size grows. Most doctors will have seen few if any cases of measles, so if someone presents with a measles-like rash during an outbreak, then it is more likely to be diagnosed as measles than when there is no outbreak. I also know of one case where a child with a rash was taken to the doctor, who said, no, definitely not measles ... then noticed on the records that the child had not been noticed, and instantly changed the diagnosis (and declined to take a sample to test). As it turned out, it was not measles. I'd not argue with over-reporting being uncontroversial in general, but I question whether it is independent of outbreak size.

Comment Re:sockatume has problems understanding (Score 1) 668

Indeed, it is the change that matters, in which case, why quote a figure which is known to be incorrect, rather than the best known figure (laboratory confirmations). However, since this year laboratory tests were suspended because the public health labs. could not keep up (nor were the untested samples kept for later analysis), we don't actually know what the change is.

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