Monday, September 10, 2007

Things you intuitively know to be true

I had another new travel experience last night, enjoying some English country charm. I called my guest house at 11 PM, letting them know that my bus from Heathrow would be rolling into town at 2:30 AM or a little later, and I'd be over directly. After an hour of ringing their bell for 4 seconds every minute (I'm susceptible to repetitive tasks) I found a payphone, and called them every so often. At 4:30, after two hours, a woman walked out and asked if I were her cab.

She was checking out! She hadn't slept in her second bed! She let me use her room for the remainder of the night! So, that was unusual. I guess all that work on my charisma is paying off.

This wasn't a huge risk for her, and was essentially no expense. But, it was very useful for me, and another thing that hadn't happened to me before. It's no wonder I'm not jaded -- I keep having these new experiences.

So, I eventually got ensconced in my assigned room. The same room I had when I stayed here in January. And there was a Maxim in the bed side table. I vaguely remembered leaving some soft porn for the next guest last time I was here, so I checked the date -- it was October 2007, so I hadn't left it, and either
  1. Some other guest had this same impulse, or
  2. The guest house remembered me, and is attempting to meet my needs. Which it could better do by having someone here when I've arranged to arrive.
In paging through, I found a 'wire item:'
A study by scientists has revealed that staring at women's boobs is actually good for a man's health -- and it cuts the risk of a heart attack by approximately half! Doctors recommend at least 20 minutes of female-chest ogling a day. Hooray for boob science!
Now, of course you feel younger and more relaxed when looking at a woman's naked bosom. It's better than seeing them in photos or video, but not as good as feeling them. This is probably what drove the practice of drawing nudes in medieval Europe when there were no photographic machines and viewing the opposite sex's naked body could be rare, depending on your location and station.

So, it seems like a waste of public resources to validate something we all already know. However! It's an effect which could really use some quantification. How much breast-gazing would it take to negate the effect of a cigarette, for instance? Not that I'm thinking of taking smoking back up, I just need a unit.

Unfortunately, my point was a little undercut when I tried to locate the study itself. Maxim's Fact Checkers are apparently just as good as you'd think they'd be. From

If the story seems to smack of tabloid journalism, it's because that's precisely what it is. It began circulating via email in March or April 2000, not long after a similar article appeared in the consistently misinformative Weekly World News
If you click on the WWN link, you'll see some bad news. The Weekly World News is over. The September 10 issue of the World's Only Reliable Newspaper is the last one. Now, that I would check their site as they published their last issue seems like quite a coincidence, and they are big liars, so this might not be true. But, we can reminisce a little.

My friend Spliff and I were taking a week's ski vacation in the Poconos around the time True Stories came out. And we went into a convenience store in a quiet mountain town, and started chuckling at the tabloids. And the clerk agreed with us that the Star, and the Globe and the Enquirer were all trash, but insisted quite heatedly "everything in the Weekly World News is based on fact."

That's quite a level for a news organization to rise to. Which sort of brings us to the point, as it's not a level Fox News rises to.

In 1997 [Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson] began work on a story about bovine growth hormone (BGH), a controversial substance manufactured by Monsanto Corporation. ... Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired....

[T]he Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation." ... [T]he Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news ... was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.
How to validate that the news reported is true does seem to open us up for government censorship. However, in a case like this where it can be shown that particular executives were fomenting falsehood and retributing against whistleblowers, we should be protected. We have to acknowledge there's a real danger to democracy in punishing media outlets for lying, but this seems to fall within any reasonable guidelines.

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