Saturday, March 25, 2017

Notes from the Trump Kakocracy: Ivanka edition

Even as the white working class languishes and dies, white trash kleptocrats prosper:
There’s one less mystery surrounding the Trump family: the identity of the landlord who rents to first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, top White House adviser Jared Kusher, has finally been revealed.
And the rent check goes to … a Chilean billionaire. And not just your run-of-the-mill Latin American magnate, but one who is mired in a legal battle with the U.S. government, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The identity of the owner of the Kalorama mansion that the Trump-Kushner family moved into this year had been obscured through a company, “Tracy D.C. Real Estate Inc.,” listed on the deed for the sale in December, according to Washington property records. But the Journal was able to locate the man behind the company: Andrónico Luksic belongs to one of Chile’s wealthiest families, the newspaper reports, and the U.S. branch of his company is suing the government for blocking its plan to run a copper-and-nickel mining operation adjacent to a Minnesota wilderness area.
A Luksic rep tells the Journal that the couple is paying “absolute market value” for the mansion,
Does this count as a foreign emolument, or just good old fashioned bribery to obtain a favorable outcome in the ongoing litigation?
Meanwhile, the invasion of the Trump/Kushner crew is driving neighbors nuts:
Residents of a posh Washington neighborhood say the Trump clan doesn't make for very good neighbors, hogging parking on an already crowded street and leaving trash bags rotting on the curb. A big part of the complaint: a huge security presence, with even a trip to the playground requiring three vans.
Neighbors of Trump, her husband Jared Kushner and their three children have groused that sidewalks have been closed, public parking overrun and that the family and their staff can't even be bothered to learn the trash pickup schedule outside their $5.5-million home.
"It has been a three-ring circus from the day that they've moved in," said Marietta Robinson, who lives across the street, speaking with The Associated Press. "They've completely ruined the neighborhood."
The house in the Kalorama neighborhood was bought in December by a company with ties to a Chilean billionaire. The company is renting it to Kushner and Trump, who moved in just after the inauguration of her father, President Donald Trump. Both work in the White House as advisers to the president.
And the Chilean billionaire who is undoubtedly* collecting a fair market rate from his tenants didn't manage to file the necessary paperwork:
Some in the neighborhood have also complained about the family's rental arrangement. The company that owns the house didn't obtain a rental license for two months, securing one just this week after it was warned by city regulators.
*insert sarcasm indicator 

The dying of the white working class

 “Ultimately, we see our story as about the collapse of the white, high school educated, working class after its heyday in the 1970s, and the pathologies that accompany that decline,” they write.
This is from a new study  by Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton which reaffirms the findings of their 2015 research: the working class white people are dying younger. This time, the researchers see a connection between these deaths and the disappearance of a socio-economic role of a working class.
The alarming fact isn't just that middle-aged whites are dying faster, but also that mortality rates have been dramatically declining in nearly every other rich country. The United States is getting left behind.
In the last 15 years, a chasm opened up between middle aged whites in America and citizens of European countries like France, Germany and the United Kingdom. While white death rates in America rose slightly, death rates in those other countries continued to plummet. In comparison to what happened in Europe, the situation for American whites starts looks much more dire — and it's a bigger problem than opioids or suicides can explain. It's not just about what went wrong in America, but what stopped going right.
Fifteen years ago, middle-aged whites in the United States were neck and neck with their German counterparts. Now, middle-aged white Americans are 45 percent more likely to die than middle-aged Germans.
As Case and Deaton show, the gap in mortality between white middle-aged Americans and middle-aged Germans is about 125 deaths per 100,000 people now. Every year, of 100,000 Germans between the ages of 45 and 54, about 285 die. In the United States, it's more than 410.
Out of those 125 additional American deaths, only about 40 might be explained by the spike in deadly drug use, drinking and suicides. And the rest? It’s hard to say. In their latest paper, Case and Deaton say that heart disease is part of the problem. While other countries have cut down heart disease deaths by over 40 percent in the past 15 years, heart disease remains a significant killer for white middle-aged Americans.
There’s still much left unexplained, but the latest data tell a larger — and more troubling — story. Most of the increase in white deaths is concentrated among those who never finished college. These are the same people who have been pummeled by the economy in recent decades. It’s gotten more difficult for them to find jobs, and what jobs they do come across nowadays don’t pay as well.
Yet, it's not entirely a matter of income either. Some of these same economic trends — driven by globalization and automation — afflicted countries like the U.K. and Germany, where the death rate has been dropping. Besides, according to a Washington Post analysis of recent Census Bureau data, white American men without a college degree still earn 36 percent more than their black counterparts. But the death rate among less-educated black Americans has actually been decreasing. In recent years, the two groups have converged — they are dying at about the same rate — even though white Americans still earn more

Friday, March 24, 2017

wtf philosophy: Searle edition

Another major figure in philosophy shames himself, and the discipline (from IHE)
a former research assistant is suing the University of California for failing to properly address her report of misconduct against a star philosopher on the Berkeley campus.
The lawsuit, filed this week in a county court, alleges that John R. Searle, Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, forced himself on and groped the assistant, then continued to harass her until she was summarily terminated. The assistant allegedly reported the initial incident and other behaviors to the director of the John Searle Center for Social Ontology, where she was working, but says that employees sought to protect Searle instead.
Searle and an employee named in the complaint and have not responded to the allegations, either to Inside Higher Ed or local reporters covering the story. The university said in a statement late Thursday that while it can't comment on individual ongoing cases, "we want to be certain that the campus community is aware of the care we take in handling such cases."
Inside Higher Ed does not typically name alleged victims of sexual misconduct, but the plaintiff, Joanna Ong, has been public about her case. Ong, a 2014 graduate of Berkeley, began working at the center after taking a class with Searle during her undergraduate studies and establishing a mentor-style relationship with Searle’s graduate student instructor at the time. More precisely, Ong wanted experience working in academe before entering graduate school, and her mentor, who had since been named director of Searle’s center, allegedly offered her a $1,000-per-month position as a research associate. Searle himself offered Ong an additional $3,000 per month to cover her living expenses, according to the complaint.
Ong says the job -- mostly clerical work but always in close quarters with Searle -- went well for a week. Searle in that time talked with her about her interest in philosophy and reassured her that her living costs and other needs during graduate school (which she plans to begin this fall) would be taken care of, urging that they have a relationship based on -- in his words -- "total trust," according to the complaint.
After a week, in July 2016, Searle allegedly assaulted Ong in his office, locking his door and groping her. He slid his hands down her back to her buttocks and told Ong that they would be “lovers,” that he had an “emotional commitment to making her a public intellectual,” and that he was “going to love her for a long time,” the lawsuit says.
Ong says she was shocked and immediately rejected his advances by saying that her interest in him was intellectual and that she would not be his lover. Searle allegedly apologized and told her to “forget it.”
The professor paid Ong $3,000 for her first month of work, as agreed, according to the complaint, and allegedly told her to keep working while he went on vacation. After he left, Ong says she reported the assault to the Searle Center director, Jennifer Hudin; Hudin allegedly told her that she’d protect her from Searle’s advances, and that he was known to have sexual relationships with students and others “in exchange for academic, financial or other benefits.” She didn’t tell Ong to report her concerns to university officials, however, according to the complaint.
Ong’s work environment became increasingly “hostile and awkward” when Searle returned from vacation, she says, as Searle allegedly acted like nothing had happened between them and cut her pay essentially in half by beginning to pay her an hourly rate of $15 with no notice or stated reason.
Searle also behaved inappropriately around Ong, she says, asking her to log on to a website called Sugar Baby, Sugar Daddy, watching internet pornography in front of her, and responding to a comment about American imperialism like this: “Oh boy, that sounds great, honey! Let’s go to bed and do that right now.” (Ong, who is a Asian-American, believes that was a reference to her race.)
In early September, Ong reported to Hudin what was happening, and complained about her pay cut. Hudin allegedly said she’d talk to Searle, but later said she couldn’t address the issues with “upper management” out of respect and loyalty for Searle, and a need to "protect" him.
Later that month, Hudin alleged told Ong her services were no longer needed at the center, even though she’d allegedly left a higher-paying job in San Francisco to work at Berkeley.
Ong’s accusing the university system’s Board of Regents and Searle of quid pro quo sexual harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation and wrongful termination. She’s suing Searle individually for assault, seeking a trial by jury and unspecified damages.
BuzzFeed originally reported Ong’s story, writing that Searle abruptly stopped teaching undergraduates earlier this month with the university citing “personal reasons.” A university spokesperson declined to provide any additional information Thursday, including whether he is still in contact with graduate students.
This case may remind you, as it does me, of the Pogge  allegations, and the McGinn  mess. Now please excuse me while I take a shower. Maybe two.

(Update): More distressing details here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fake academic journals fall for Prof. Fraud

In Nature, researchers report on a sting operation against fake academic journals:
We conceived a sting operation and submitted a fake application for an editor position to 360 journals, a mix of legitimate titles and suspected predators. Forty-eight titles accepted. Many revealed themselves to be even more mercenary than we had expected.

We study human behaviour, and conceived of this sting when working together at the University of Wrocław in Poland. Although our research rarely focuses on scholarly publishing, we became increasingly disturbed at the number of invitations we received to become editors or to review for journals completely outside our field. We learnt that some of our colleagues, mainly early-career researchers, were unaware of predatory practices and had fallen for these traps. It became clear that the problem was huge, yet had not been empirically examined.
So, in 2015, we created a profile of a fictitious scientist named Anna O. Szust and applied on her behalf to the editorial boards of 360 journals. Oszust is the Polish word for 'a fraud'. We gave her fake scientific degrees and credited her with spoof book chapters. Her academic interests included, among others, the theory of science and sport, cognitive sciences and methodological bases of social sciences. We also created accounts for Szust on, Google+ and Twitter, and made a faculty webpage at the Institute of Philosophy at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. The page could be accessed only through a link we provided on her CV.
The profile was dismally inadequate for a role as editor. Szust's 'work' had never been indexed in the Web of Science or Scopus databases, nor did she have a single citation in any literature database. Her CV listed no articles in academic journals or any experience as a reviewer, much less an editor. The books and chapters on her CV did not exist and could not be found through any search engine. Even the publishing houses were fake.
We sent Szust's application to 360 journals, 120 from each of three well-known directories: the JCR (journals with an official impact factor as indexed on Journal Citation Reports), the DOAJ (journals included on the Directory of Open Access Journals) and 'Beall's list' (potential, possible or probable predatory open-access publishers and journals, compiled by University of Colorado librarian Jeffrey Beall; Beall took down his list in January this year for unknown reasons, after we had completed our study).
To be indexed by either the JCR or the DOAJ, journals must meet certain standards of quality, including ethical publishing practices. Journals listed on the DOAJ must also be fully open access. By contrast, Beall's controversial yet widely used blacklist identified potential predatory journals. It consisted of journals that, in his opinion, exploited researchers and failed to meet basic standards of scholarly publishing.
(Sigh---the disappearance of Beall's list continues to be a painful absence)

But what happened with the unsolicited applications? 
In many cases, we received a positive response within days of application, and often within hours. Four titles immediately appointed Szust editor-in-chief. No JCR journal accepted Szust. By comparison, 40 predatory and 8 DOAJ journals appointed her as an editor.
Szust was almost never questioned about her experience. No one made any attempt to contact her university or institute. One journal spotted that Szust's cover letter stated that becoming an editor would allow her to obtain a degree that she had listed as already having obtained. That journal nonetheless appointed Szust as editor.
Fifteen journals on Beall's list, 45 DOAJ journals and 48 JCR journals replied to Szust's application but did not make her an offer. These journals sent three broad types of responses: a short message acknowledging receipt; a condescending or discourteous rejection; or a longer, kinder explanation of how one actually becomes an editor (first you publish papers, then you become a reviewer, and so on).
At least a dozen journals appointed Szust as editor conditional on, or strongly encouraging, some form of payment or profit (see ‘Spot the predator’). In some cases, this was a direct payment, such as a subscription fee requested by one journal of US$750 (later reduced to “ONLY $650”), or a donation of $50 (although Szust was accepted without paying).
Others asked Szust to organize a conference after which the presenters' papers would be published (for a fee) in a special proceedings issue. One publisher suggested that the profits be split (“60% us 40% You”). Twice, Szust was offered the opportunity to start a new journal as lead editor. One e-mail proposed “30% of the revenue earned thru you” for launching a new journal, but 20% for joining an existing journal as editor.
Once appointed editor, the researchers found that the honor was difficult to withdraw in some cases.
Although journals that accepted our fraud were informed that Szust “kindly withdraws her application”, her name still appears on the editorial boards listed by at least 11 journals' websites. In fact, she is listed as an editor of at least one journal to which we did not apply. She is also listed as management staff, a member of conference organizing committees, and ironically, a member of the Advisory Board of the Journals Open Access Indexing Agency whose mission it is to “increase the visibility and ease of use of open access scientific and scholarly journals”. 
The authors are declining to name the offending journals. But the International Journal of Current Research and Review lists Szust on its editorial board, and Botimekonferenca lists her as Executive Editor of IGoAR under its heading: Management stuff of IGoAR---these results after a quick google search.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

US health care costs cystic fibrosis patients a decade of life

This is what the current system of US health care insurance buys---ten years less of life for cystic fibrosis patients than their Canadian counterparts:
A Canadian born with the fatal lung disease cystic fibrosis can expect to live a decade longer than an American, according to a new study, a stark disparity that is likely to add fuel to the debate over the quality and cost of U.S. health care.
The median life expectancy for Canadians with the disease is 50.9 years, compared with 40.6 years for Americans, according to the study, published on Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Relatively few cystic-fibrosis patients in either country receive lung transplants, however, suggesting the differences in the countries’ health care and social-welfare systems have been bigger factors, said Patrick A. Flume, a cystic fibrosis specialist at the Medical University of South Carolina, who co-wrote an editorial published alongside the study.
The study evaluated clinical data for about 51,400 patients in the two countries from 1990 to 2013.
To estimate median expected survival, the researchers analyzed patients over a five-year period ending in 2013. After adjusting their analysis for factors including age and disease severity, the researchers found Canadians had a 34% lower risk of death over the five years than American patients.
Of patients who died over the five-year period, the median age at death was 31.9 for Canadians and 26.9 for Americans, a five-year difference that was statistically significant. The researchers discovered the 10-year difference in life expectancy by looking at both patients who died during the period and those who lived.
The differences between the two countries varied significantly based on insurance coverage, with U.S. patients covered by government programs faring worse than those with private insurance. The risk of death over the five-year period was 44% lower for Canadians compared with U.S. patients continuously covered by Medicaid or Medicare, government programs that insure the poor, disabled and elderly. But Americans with other insurance, primarily employer-sponsored, were no more likely to die than Canadians, the study said.
Why do Medicaid patients fare so poorly? Possibly because of the lack of money for non-covered expenses such as diet and ability to go to medical appointments (lack of transportation, perhaps, and inability to miss work?)
Christopher Goss, a co-author of the study, said Medicaid often provides cheaper and more comprehensive coverage for cystic fibrosis than private insurance does. Medicaid and Medicare patients likely fared worse in the study because of factors linked to poverty, rather than insurance, he said.
Low-income patients have less help from family members in getting to doctors’ appointments, and are less able to afford the high-calorie and high-fat diets that help patients maintain a healthy weight, said Dr. Goss, a cystic fibrosis specialist at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle.
“If you’re scraping by to make ends meet, it’s very hard to take care of a child with cystic fibrosis,” he said.
The GOP demand that we cut back on Medicaid and social spending for low income families, and deny workers of the right to go to medical appointments without losing their jobs or pay comes with a hidden bill---years of life for people with chronic illness. We don't need the death panels of paranoid conspiracy mongers to snuff people---the very real republican agenda does that quite efficiently.

Friday, March 10, 2017

more fake academic journal email: IJAIST edition

Just heard from another fake academic journal, this time  IJAIST---you know, the International Journal of Advanced Information Science and Technology, (surely you've gotten one of these emails as well) inviting me to submit a paper on, well, just about anything. It advertises itself as a Scopus Journal, which just means it gets indexed by Scopus, and has a button on its home page saying it is registered in Thompson Reuters, though when you click that button you get the 404 not found page.

The 'about us' description is a triumph, at least over the English language, and worth sharing:
The aim of IJAIST is to subsidize onrushing knowledge in various research fields with erudition, hence to elevate high trait research.The IJAIST is progressively vital journal for the development of Information Science and Technology. The core addressees of this publication comprises academics, research scholars, graduate students, practitioners and all others interested in Information Science and Technology research. The journal welcomes and encourages articles from both practitioners and academics.
IJAIST is an entrenched and prominent venue for publishing research papers as recognized by various universities and international professional bodies. IJAIST is an arbitrated open for publishing scientific papers in all areas of information science and technology research. The objective of IJAIST is to impart succor in the development of science and technology. Most importantly, IJAIST aspire at progressive conventional journals by the pioneer to explore in their respective research areas.
IJAIST is a Double Blind Peer Reviewed and Scopus Journal. Reviewing is an essential building block in the development of a coherent and respected network of knowledge. It reflects the quality of research carried out by a researcher. The success of Scientific publishing relies on the review process and IJAIST provides one such review process to publish a research article.

o        VISION
We will nurture universal gen to set with merit, which exemplify IJAIST as one of the leading global source for scientific research organization.

o         MISSION
We consign to
§  Endorse fineness for journal publications of the member bodies
§  Serve as a medium for broadcast and converse of scientific knowledge
§  Triumph technical eminence in our programs, Publications and other activities.
§  Integrity in the practice of our profession.
§  Concede achievements of individuals and institutions for their research and publications.
§  The progression of the Technology and Engineering disciplines.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

American Horror

And another bit of horror, this time from the US:
Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement were forced to work for $1 day, or for nothing at all — a violation of federal anti-slavery laws — a lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit, filed in 2014 against one of the largest private prison companies in the country, reached class-action status this week after a federal judge’s ruling. That means the case could involve as many as 60,000 immigrants who were detained  detainees.
It’s the first time a class-action lawsuit accusing a private U.S. prison company of forced labor has been allowed to move forward.
“That’s obviously a big deal; it’s recognizing the possibility that a government contractor could be engaging in forced labor,” said Nina DiSalvo, executive director of Towards Justice, a Colorado-based nonprofit group that represents low-wage workers, including undocumented immigrants. “Certification of the class is perhaps the only mechanism by which these vulnerable individuals who were dispersed across the country and across the world would ever be able to vindicate their rights.”
At the heart of the dispute is the Denver Contract Detention Facility, a 1,500-bed center in Aurora, Colo., owned and operated by GEO Group under a contract with ICE. The Florida-based corporation runs facilities to house undocumented immigrants who are awaiting their turn in court.
What is the GEO group? Wikipedia tells us:
The GEO Group, Inc. (GEO) is a Florida-based company specializing in corrections, detention and mental health treatment. It maintains facilities in North America, Australia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. In 2015 the GEO Group's federal contracts with the United States government for operating prisons generated about 45% of its revenues.
Oh dear god, mental health treatment, which interestingly is also in the news, involving a lawsuit alleging medicaid fraud. Synergistic with their prison business, I guess. Also with Jeff Sessions, who rescinded an Obama era pull-back from private prisons and two of whose former Senate aides are now lobbyists for GEO.

Saudi Horror

Unspeakable. Unthinkable. But it seems all too real...

Two transgender persons, both natives of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), died on Tuesday after being subjected to torture allegedly by Saudi police in Riyadh for dressing up as women in public. Thirty-five transgender people were arrested by a law enforcement agency for cross-dressing, which is a punishable offence in the kingdom.
A rest house was raided where a ‘Guru Chela Chalan’ gathering, a formal meeting of Khuwaja Sara in which they choose their Guru (leader) and Chelas (Students), was taking place.
Amna, 35, who belonged to the Mingora area of Swat and Meeno, 26, who was from Peshawar died in police custody. The police allegedly packed them in sacks and thrashed them with sticks in prison.
Colonel Fawaz bin Jameel alMaiman, the police’s media spokesperson in Riyadh, told a local news agency that the field-control management had the site under constant surveillance. Women’s clothing and jewellery were also recovered from the rest house.

He added that the 35 people inside had been apprehended.
“Majority of the arrested, belong to K-P and the others from other cities of Pakistan. Torturing humans after throwing them into bags and beating them with sticks is inhumane,” said Qamar Naseem, a transgender rights activist.
While 11 were released later after paying a fine of 150,000 riyals, 22 are still in police custody, Naseem added.
The suffering ended for these two after being physically tortured, however, the rest are still languishing in Saudi jails, he added.
”No one is there to save them as the life of a transgender is not of any value to anyone, not even for our own government,” he lamented.
Naseem said that the National Commission for Human Rights had been contacted and they are awaiting their response.