South Park has to be one of the worst shows on television. It comes across as a cartoon written by a kid who just read Ayn Rand for the first time. If it isn’t fart jokes or Cartman speaking in an ever higher pitched voice, then it’s preachy libertarianism written for the sort of person who actively dislikes philosophy; Matt Stone and Trey Parker are little more than toddler philosophers.
From narrowing the application of the Fifth Amendment to allowing police to take DNA without due process, the Supreme Court hasn’t exactly been friendly about our civil rights. Today, however, we saw a rare victory for those rights in a 9-0 decision:
The Supreme Court unequivocally ruled Wednesday that privacy rights are not sacrificed to 21st- century technology, saying unanimously that police generally must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphone of someone they arrest.
While the specific protection may not affect the average American, the court made a bold statement that the same concern about government prying that animated the nation’s birth applies to the abundance of digital information about an individual in the modern world.
Modern cellphones “hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a court united behind the opinion’s expansive language. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.”
Most cell phones on the market today essentially double as a computer we’re able to take with us everywhere we go. And for most of us we’re constantly logged into a number of essential and private applications, from email to texts to Facebook to whatever the latest trend happens to be. Allowing free wheeling access to these things is hardly different from giving over our mail, bank account information, and phone conversations. (Not that the illegal arm of the government, the NSA, doesn’t already have most or all of this stuff on file.)
This case was one of those rare no brainers where the only people against the inevitable decision were those with an interest in actively disregarding and violating individual rights.
I’ve lost track of how many states have gained more freedom over the past year. Idaho is one of the latest:
A federal judge who struck down Idaho’s ban on gay marriage as unconstitutional denied a bid by the conservative state’s governor on Wednesday for a stay of the decision while Idaho pursues an appeal of the case.
The governor, Republican C.L. “Butch” Otter, called the ruling “regrettable” and vowed to petition a higher court to keep the state’s gay marriage prohibition intact until the case has run its course through the judicial system.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale overturned Idaho’s ban on same-sex matrimony on Tuesday, saying it relegated gay and lesbian couples to second-class status in violation of constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law.
Her decision was the latest in a recent flurry of opinions by federal judges striking down restrictions on same-sex marriage in states across the country – from Utah to Virginia.
It’s only a matter of time.
It looks like Monica Lewinsky is back in the news for some reason. I can only be thankful that the worst offender when it comes to bad Clinton-sex jokes – Jay Leno – has retired.
(By the way, there are no good Clinton-sex jokes. They stopped being funny after about a month. So now that we’re 15 years after the fact, can we please stop?)
One of the most important things I heard while in college came from one of my favorite biology professors. It happened in an early intro class half-filled with bio majors, half-filled with people looking for a course with a lab. He was covering the basics of science itself, speaking to the value of repetition:
Science is all about reproducibility. If you can’t reproduce your data, it’s all a load of horseshit.
That isn’t to say a person can automatically discredit some new piece of research simply because it’s new and has therefore not yet been reproduced. What it means is that when scientists do attempt to reproduce previously found results, they need to be successful in order for the results to be accepted. An unfortunate side effect of human nature means that we don’t see negative results published as often as we should – unless, of course, they disprove what someone else has already published – but these results do still happen every single day. That’s just science.
This all brings me to a recent piece of news:
Scientists have managed to repeat one of the biggest medical breakthroughs of the last few years.
Almost exactly one year ago, Johns Hopkins researchers made national headlines when they announced that they’ve vanquished the AIDS-causing virus from a child born to an HIV-positive mother in Mississippi. They began antiretroival treatment before the baby was 30 hours old. She’s now 3.5 years old and still virus-free, even without treatment in the last two years. Researchers have puzzled over how it happened, and many remain skeptical. The child was only the second person ever to be “cured” of HIV; the first was an adult through a stem-cell transplant. Since it’s difficult to prove that the body has been completely cleared of HIV, Nature explains, being “functionally cured” means the virus is effectively controlled and the immune system stays healthy without treatment.
Just yesterday, doctors announced that they have cleared the virus from a second baby infected with HIV. This girl was born in Los Angeles last April to a mother with advanced AIDS who had not been taking her medication. With aggressive treatment beginning just four hours after her birth, the virus was undetectable within 11 days, the New York Times reports.
A sample size of 2 does not scientific fact make (though there are upwards of 8 other unconfirmed cases around the world), but it cannot be understated how much this bolsters the legitimacy of attacking HIV in infants this way. It could turn out that the virus is still living somewhere in the bodies of these children – adults who have been functionally cured have had the virus return shortly after certain surgeries such as bone marrow transplants – so this remains a game of wait-and-see. However, if this proves to be an effect method for curing HIV, then not only will there be immediate benefits to HIV-positive newborns, but some insight may be spread into how we can better detect the hidden HIV in adults patients who are functionally cured.