Five at 8 – May 5, 2009

  • A video just posted on TED: Sean Gourley, a physicist, organized a team of scientists to get data from newspapers and cable TV to analyze war, and found that there is mathematical order in the chaos of war. Here is war’s formula:


  • Continuing with the math theme: How much is the $100 million that President Obama wants to cut out of the budget? Not much, of course. But this visualization of how much it isn’t is pretty interesting.

  • Have you ever noticed how much of the news consists of demands for someone to apologize? In the last 24 hours: Italy’s premier is demanding an apology from his wife, politicians in Arizona are demanding an apology from a sheriff for saying 40 percent of a school’s students are in the country illegally, a congressman has filed legislation providing an official apology to Native Americans, a Canadian politician has refused to apologize for blowing up beaver dams, and Massachusetts physicians are lobbying for protections against the damage caused by apologies.

    With so much apologizing, you’d think we’d be better at it:

    The Daily Show With Jon Stewart M – Th 11p / 10c
    Harry Truman Was Not a War Criminal
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Economic Crisis First 100 Days
  • Who’s responsible for alerting the world about the flu-that-must-not-be-named? A couple of newspaper reporters, according to the LA Times. In other flu news, it turns out the flu is just the flu. By the way, tomorrow marks one week since the first case was diagnosed in Minnesota and the state’s total still stands at one. By comparison, in the great flu outbreak of 1918, a week after the first diagnosed case, there were 1,000 cases. Wisconsin already has 105.

    The NY Times blog has a couple of very funny viral photos from Mexico.

  • You may have to register to view the page on the Bemidji Pioneer Web site but it’s worth it. The “e-cigarette.” Seriously.


    Midmorning (9-11) – Kate Smith hosts. In the first hour, is college really worth the cost? Second hour: You know those pangs you occasionally have about dropping out of the rat race and returning to your simple, rural ways? Michael Perry tried that. Tune in and hear how that went.

    Midday (11-1) – Maybe we should’ve combined Midmorning’s and Midday’s first hour. University of Minnesota president Robert Bruininks is in the studio.

    Talk of the Nation (1-3) – The Supreme Court will decide if Barack Obama’s election means that the 1965 Voting Rights Act is no longer needed. Second hour: A discussion about a study that says the fear of predators stalking children online is overblown. If that sounds familiar to you — or even if it doesn’t — I told you about this story a month ago.

    All Things Considered (3-6:30) – Does a recession propel purloining? MPR’s Marty Moylan will answer the question. Find the story online late this afternoon, too. NPR’s Elizabeth Blair finds out why stealth marketing is all the advertising rage (answer: it’s cheap). Stealth marketing is when you’re being marketed to, but you don’t know it.

    • Back in February, I had this comment about “e-cigarettes” in a Star Tribune article:

      “The American Lung Association of Minnesota advises smokers to save the $60 to $120 they’d spend on an e-cigarette starter kit and quit altogether.

      “This is a fairly ridiculous apparatus — a gimmick,” spokesman Bob Moffitt said. “It would be like somebody going around puffing on a piece of chalk. Nobody in the medical community approves of these.”

      Who wants to be the first to inhale an untested, unregulated product made in China? Not this former smoker…

    • Joshua

      The “e-cigarette”! I read about this a while back in an web article which said pretty much – The FDA says no. Personally i think it has got to be better then smoking. Yeah, nicotine isn’t as safe as caffeine (FTA), but smokers are going to get their nicotine one way or another…

    • There are plenty of tried and true (and tested) nicotine replacement therapies available today, unlike when I quit smoking years ago. The gum, the patch, the lozenges, etc…

      Some of the makers and peddlers of these pricey faux cancer sticks are claiming they are “smoking cessation devices.” Truth is, we don’t know if these things help people stop smoking or not, or if they are safe for people to use.

      Before any pro-smoke wacko (you know who you are) jumps on to claim I and my organization are “in the pocket” of “Big Pharma,” that’s a bigger joke than the e-cigarette. I WISH we had some big donors right now–like many charities, we are struggling with our finances.

      Maybe these things will turn out to be safe and cause no problem for bar & restaurant owners to enforce the law (could you tell the difference between real or fake cigs across a room?) in their places. If that’s the case, then I have no beef with people puffing on one of these silly e-cigarette.

      I might still smile a bit, though.

    • Does the e-cigarette really surprise anyone?

      1. Take a powerful, pleasurable, addictive drug.

      2. Ban a delivery mechanism (but not the drug itself) from public spaces.

      3. Surprise! someone invented a new delivery mechanism

      Also, I think that this will be a big rhetorical test for smoking ban advocates. The smoking ban was backed up with the claims that 2nd-hand smoke is harmful, especially to restaurant employees. If you can “smoke” without harming those employees, do you still want to ban it? If so, was public safety your real reason for banning it, or do you just think that it’s yucky?

    • Look again. I didn’t suggest banning e-cigarettes. I spoke of testing/regulation.

      The health risks of exposure to secondhand smoke have been well documented, no need to rehash that now. BTW, The risk extends to bar and club employees exposed to secondhand smoke, not just restaurant staff. In the process, visiting patrons are protected as well. Another plus: more Minnesotans decided to quit smoking after the law passed.


    • brian

      Mr. Moffitt claims that “Nobody in the medical community approves of these.” Let’s let the truth out for a minute, here are a few Doctors on the e-cig:

      “This is about as idiotic and irrational an approach as I have ever seen in my 22 years in tobacco control and public health. A public policy maker who touts himself as being a champion of the public’s health as well as some of the leading national health advocacy organizations is demanding that we ban what is clearly a much safer cigarette than those on the market, but that we allow, protect, approve and institutionalize the really toxic ones.”

      Michael Siegel, a physician, researcher and professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, in response to Senator Frank Lautenburg’s letter to the FDA suggesting the ban of electronic cigarettes.

      “We have every reason to believe the hazard posed by electronic cigarettes would be much lower than 1% of that posed by (tobacco) cigarettes. The testing guidelines in the current tobacco act (circulating through Congress) would represent a ban on electronic cigarettes, (yet) if we get all tobacco smokers to switch from regular cigarettes (to electronic cigarettes), we would eventually reduce the US death toll from more than 400,000 a year to less than 4,000, maybe as low as 400.”

      Joel Niztkin, MD, MPH, DPA, FACPM, Chair, Tobacco Control Task Force, American

      Association of Public Health Physicians

      Then there is this by a major anti-smoking ogranization:

      “Smokefree Pennsylvania strongly urges the FDA to consider the enormous public health disaster the agency would create by banning electronic cigarettes. Denying 45 million (tobacco) cigarette smokers access to this exponentially less hazardous alternative would result in millions of preventable deaths among smokers and millions of nonsmokers continuing to be exposed to tobacco smoke pollution. It is absurd to even contemplate protecting the deadliest nicotine products (tobacco cigarettes) from market competition by these less hazardous nicotine products.”

      William T. Godshall, MPH, Executive Director, Smokefree Pennsylvania

      This info can be seen here:

      On Chantix being available as a quit smoking option, all I have to say is based on the 4 people that I personally know that have tried it, all 4 still smoke. One has permantly lost the smell of taste and another is now suffering from depression that did not exist prior to usage.

    • Sweet Jesus, the Electronic Cigarette Association?!?

      Re; Chantix, anecdotal information does not = data, folks.

    • brian

      That’s a powerful argument there Mr. Moffitt, take the Lord’s name in vain and then whine that there is a group that keeps our options open and available to the masses.

      True, my knowing 0% success of people I know who have used chantix and a 50% significant side effect chance is not full evidence of how horrible the fda does on approving things. But all you would have to do is go to google and look up chantix and side effects or chantix and lawsuit and you will see all the horrors and tragedies that this drug has wrought. And when you do know people who have suffered greatly it will give you a different view of items like this.

      As a 20-year smoker who has tried everything he could find to quit (short of chantix, who even my doctor thought was a terrible idea), the e-cigarette has kept me tobacco free for over a month. I would suggest trying it to anyone who is unable to quit with any other means.