Link(s): Thu, Mar 18th, 11am

[In case it needs to be said: I don't agree with every word of everything I link to. --L.]

WordPress Theme Releases for 03/18
Earthly incorporates a color scheme designed for sites that require an eco-friendly or earthy theme.
Please Do Mess With Texas
By now, it may be old news to you that the Texas State Board of Education is gearing up to re-write history with a decidedly conservative bent. In January, the board obtained approval for an amendment requiring high school U.S. history students to know more about Phyllis Schlafly than Thomas Jefferson. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Last Friday, the Board approved right-wing alterations to what most students in the state will be studying in history, social-studies and economics classes. It’s all being done, they say, to counter “leftist influences” in history texts. What they are doing is expunging progressive leaders and erasing the contributions of minorities. [...]

Heavy emphasis is to be placed on the founding fathers having been (allegedly) guided by strict Christian beliefs. Thomas Jefferson, a deist who helped pioneer the legal theory of the separation of church and state, is to be dropped from the list of writers influencing the country’s intellectual origins. Catholic philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas and Puritan theologian John Calvin will replace him. [...]

It’s easy to say, oh, it’s Texas; what do you expect? But the revised Texas standards have implications for students all across the country. The print run for Texas textbooks is so large that most districts in other states adopt the same course materials. Effectively, the Texas School Board spells out requirements for the majority of the nation’s textbook market. [...]

After a period for public comment, the board will vote on final recommendations in May. Please let your voice be heard. This decision must be fought for the sake of the students and the nation’s future.

Notes on the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Here is the simplest version of Henrietta’s story. She was an African American tobacco farmer, who was diagnosed, at 30, with cervical cancer in February 1951, and dead by October that same year. She was treated at Johns Hopkins, in Baltimore, in an era in which hospital wards were still segregated. As doctors customarily did at the time, during her treatment – with radium therapy, in which small vials of radioactive material were sewn to her cervix – without her knowledge and consent, Henrietta’s cancerous tissue was harvested, and handed off to researchers. In the lab, the researcher discovered that Henrietta’s cells were extraordinarily good at replicating themselves, often aggressively climbing up the sides of test tubes. Because of that property – the ability to regenerate so robustly – the cells, dubbed “HeLa cells,” have been invaluable to medical research as a source of human cells on which to test vaccines (including the polio vaccine) and drugs. Henrietta’s cells are called the first “immortal cell line,” in that they lived on long after her death.

That’s the good part. The tragedy is this: Henrietta was married, and had five children, the eldest of which, Elsie, was deaf and mute. After Henrietta died, Elsie was placed into an institution, in the sort of horrific conditions one associates with Hollywood movies, where she later died. The other children were raised in poverty by their father, who had a third grade education. No one in the family received any compensation for Henrietta’s cells. The horrific irony is that in general, the Lacks family is too poor to afford health insurance, and so has largely been unable to benefit from medical advances Henrietta’s cells have occasioned, or if they have, only at great cost.

No one in the family was even aware that her cells were being used in this way until the 1970s, when they were told by chance. [...]

The Lackses have never sued anyone, partly because of their suspicion of outsiders – apparently at least one ambulance chaser con artist has been around them – and partly because it’s not clear that anyone, at any point, did anything illegal at the time.

[...] legally, no one “owns” their own medical waste – and that in the end very few people, and apparently not even the Lackses, want this research to stop. The need for consent to be truly informed – in that fine print shouldn’t be the end-all and be-all of the obligation of scientists to make sure that people understand what is happening to them. (Skloot noted that every person she’s ever talked to who had their cells harvested without their consent, and later tried to take legal action, have always said, “If they had just asked me, I would have said yes.”)

But what struck me most was the fact that in a country with a more functional social safety net – universal health care, social assistance, half-decent public schools – the disparities between the Lackses’s situation, and the incredible wealth generated by the medical knowledge it occasioned, wouldn’t be so stark. They would have actively benefited from this research just like everyone else. Everyone at the talk last night seemed outraged that the Lacks family had little legal recourse – but the truth is, in complicated, qualified cases like this one, the courts make for extremely poor substitutes for social safety nets.

Lt. Dan Choi Arrested
The whole story is here at Towleroad. (Refresh the page at the link, as the story is still being updated.)

The long and the short of it is Lt. Choi and Captain Jim Pietrangelo chained themselves to the White House fence today in protest of DADT and were, after a time, arrested by the Secret Service.

Oh Dear. Foot-In-The-Mouth Stupak
[Stupak doesn't listen to the nuns. This is hilarious. --L.]
Ohmygod! Doctors Will Quit Under Obamacare!
But I couldn't find the questionnaire, though I was invited to contact them for full results. Would those include the questions? I guess the only way to find out is to try them.
The Race-And-Gender Wealth Gap
You may have seen references to a study which found the average net worth of African-American single women to be about five bucks. That net worth refers to wealth, not income, and it is found by calculating the value of all assets a person has and then by deducting the value of all the debt the person has.
My Green Screen Set Up
This Simple Vlogging Podcast 23 is a behind the scenes look at my green screen studio.
Nuns to Bishops: STFU
A group of Catholic nuns is urging Congress to pass health care reform, breaking ranks with bishops who say the current bill does not do enough to block federal money from being used to fund abortions.
Today in Post-Racial America
Sunday evening at a suburban Wal-mart in New Jersey, someone took control of the store's PA and calmly announced "Attention Wal-Mart customers: All black people leave the store now."

Wal-Mart officials said they're reviewing security tapes to find out who made the announcement. Washington Township police, with the assistance of the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office, are investigating the episode as a possible hate crime.

QuickPress: Wheelchair Figure Skating
Watch it on YouTube!
Spamjazzling (18th March, 2010)
# The ch!cktionary brings us The Five Types Of Haters Female Bloggers Encounter (And What To Do About Them) (warning: anti-women and other hateful comments are quoted extensively in the post)
# China selects women Astronauts: “China has selected two military air transport pilots as its first female astronauts, the country’s state media reported Wednesday. The only hitch? The women had to be hitched – as in married – to make the cut.”
# Remember when we had fun with “where are all the men bloggers?” In a similar vein, go and enjoy Lauredhel’s coverage of daddy blogger brand building.
Task Coach – Your friendly task manager
Task Coach is a simple open source todo manager to keep track of personal tasks and todo lists. It grew out of a frustration that most task managers do not provide facilities for composite tasks. Often, tasks and other things todo consist of several activities. Task Coach is designed to deal with composite tasks. In addition, it offers effort tracking, categories, and notes. Task Coach is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and iPhone and iPod Touch.
Ambiance Theme for Google chrome/chromium
A theme to integrate Chrome/Chromium to the new Ubuntu-Theme “Ambiance” for the Gnome Desktop, which will be shipped with Ubuntu 10.04.
You-in-Ubuntu: When will Ubuntu 10.10 get a name?
I went looking around the wiki's to see what I could find out about how each release gets it's name. I found a greatDevelopment Code Names wiki. Here's what I found out.