CharonY

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CharonY last won the day on August 17

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1773 Glorious Leader

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About CharonY

  • Rank
    Biology Expert

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  • Gender
    Not Telling
  • Location
    somewhere in the Americas.
  • Interests
    Breathing. I enjoy it a lot, when I can.
  • College Major/Degree
    PhD
  • Favorite Area of Science
    Biology/ (post-)genome research
  • Biography
    Labrat turned grantrat.

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  1. If (illicit) drugs were legal.

    It is not about accounting, but about efficacy. Addiction is a different beast from merely "feel good" as any addiction can tell you. Actual kleptomania does not go away with punishment. Yet therapy can at least assist in controlling impulse disorders. Punishment may make society feel better. In those cases it just does nothing to improve outcome. While John already clearly expressed it, I just want to reiterate that there is no scientifically consistent classification of hard vs soft drugs. Moreover public perception of harm is quite different to actual biological and medical effects.
  2. If (illicit) drugs were legal.

    Off the top of my head there were two with Vandrey as first author, which had a very small cohort. A larger group was queried in a follow up. I will have to search a bit to find the precise references, though. Let's put it the other way round. Assume that we just punish any drug use severely. Does this drive down addiction rates? Empirical evidence shows that it is not the case. Rather, addicts just end up in jail, become poorer and once leaving institutions have massive relapse rates. In other words, punishing drug use does not reduce drug users, but in fact adds harm to a harmful situation. So what would change if we treat it as a medical rather than a legal problem? The focus here is to reduce drug related damages. Key is that possession for personal does not carry a criminal penalty in itself. For example, drug addicts would be targeted with rehabilitation rather than with criminal penalties. Trafficking and production could still be illegal (which probably would be considered decriminalization rather than legalization? not sure about the legal implications). Providing needle exchange and dispensaries have shown to limit deaths and spread of diseases. In Germany, for example it has been ruled that drug addiction or possession for personal use is not considered a crime and drug injection rooms were established. Likewise, treatment of addicts are covered by health insurance. Portugal has taken broader steps for decriminalization and at least for certain risk groups saw health benefits in terms of reduced HIV infections and drug-related deaths.
  3. If (illicit) drugs were legal.

    Well, in comparison it may very well be relatively irrelevant. But it is a difference to having no effect. Even (relatively) mild symptoms can hamper efforts to get rid of an addiction, for example. From limited studies cannabis withdrawal mimics the symptoms of tobacco withdrawal.
  4. If (illicit) drugs were legal.

    As I mentioned earlier, I do not think that a punishment scheme will help to resolve the issue. The justification of hard vs soft drugs (and associated punishment) is more of a distraction than anything else in my mind. It should be treated as any other public health issue and legislature should reflect that. Withdrawal symptoms or anything related to that only provides the illusion of objectivity. This only provides law makers with the possibility to take a hard stance against X, without actually resolving the issue itself. These are indeed withdrawal symptoms and as you mentioned are transient and the inconvenience is fairly minor. Nonetheless, they can be traced and are considered clinically relevant. IIRC these tests (while quite often in use already) tend to give out false positives. Though to be fair, roadside alcohol tests are not that accurate, either.
  5. If (illicit) drugs were legal.

    The issue is of course that it is a) only looking at a part of the equation and b) it is highly dependent on the individual and as such c) there is no objective way to measure. For example, where do you draw the line of lethality of withdrawal. Do suicide attempts count? What about if death only occurs in patients with heart conditions? Or if death only occurs due to the type of detox treatments? What if the actual symptoms are only lethal when not managed properly? In that regard one could classify alcohol as hard drug, as withdrawals has a higher rate of death (ca. 6%), whereas with opiate withdrawal death is extremely rare. Some may think that opiate withdrawal is deadly, but whilst extremely uncomfortable deaths typically are caused by mistreatment (there reports, but no hard numbers that overdosing on replacement drugs may have caused complications) or not taking care of symptoms (e.g. not drinking enough). Thus merely based on withdrawal symptoms opiate should be considered soft or at least softer than alcohol. In fact, death due to withdrawal are often caused by secondary effects as e.g choking or water loss (due to vomiting and diarrhea, for example). And if you add things like devastation or harm to society things get even more complicated. Then the issue of hard vs soft has to take prevalence into account, impairment during use (e.g. drunk driving) etc. Especially social aspects are a horrible measure. Crack is such an example, where it is considered a worse drug than cocaine (which is virtually the same psychoactive substance). However, since it was judged that the former has a worse impact on the population it carried a higher punishment (and according to some studies, the fact that in the US it was mostly aimed at African Americans, also played a more or less covert role). So again, what is the measurable value that you would like to use to classify the substances? Activity per mg? Addictive properties? Prevalence in use? How to quantify these values? How to quantify something as vague as social impact? While things may seem trivial, they are clearly not. Too often societal impact appears fairly straightforward for issues and certain policies seem to make intuitive sense. Only way later, when we collect data do we realize that the assumptions were too simple and/or biased resulting in failures such as the war on drugs.
  6. If (illicit) drugs were legal.

    Perhaps it helps to recognize that these terms mean different things in different contexts and as John pointed out, the one used here is mostly a legal-political distinction. If you look into scientific literature you will find that these distinction are also blurry there. For example, in some studies "hardness" is defined as likelihood of addiction, in which case nicotine, and alcohol would rank among the hard drugs and LSD and ecstasy among the soft drugs. Often, you won't even find a definition, rather the direct use of the legal terms. If you want to add cheeseburgers to the mix, you'd have to show me the type and amount of involved psychoactive substances. The point however, is that it is not a good way to decide on legalization, especially as the legal definitions are often vague and based on historic reasons (e.g. classifying drugs associated with certain ethnicity as hard, whereas categorizing more familiar ones as soft). To OP: the fact that criminalizing drugs has not help to curb their abuse and puts users into legal jeopardy on top of health issues does seem to indicate that legal actions are useless to address this issue. Revamping drug abuse as health problem is more likely to save lives by the fact that drug users can actually try to get help without facing the risk of legal challenge, for example.
  7. solutions to overpopulation

    I think the issue in your reasoning (or at least the way you convey your reasoning) is that you keep elaborating on a singular element out of several contributing factors. While you acknowledge it yourself, you then revert focus to the singular element again. From a broader viewpoint the question you would have ask yourself is what the relative contribution of these elements (including women's right, access to family planning, access to food and housing, socio-economic development, religion etc.). What you keep pulling out is that religion explains the high birth right in a number of Muslim countries, then when confronted with deviation, you handwave it away due to "other factors" and thereby ignore that these other factors may actually play the bigger role. It is pretty much acknowledged that in many (typically patriarchal) religions, reproductive rights of women are restricted. Likewise, there is an overlap with conservative world views, who tend also to be more religious. As such it does not come as a surprise that e.g. devout Catholics and Muslims have higher birth rates on average. Yet, it clearly is not the major driver as, again, if it was, the other factors (such as socio-economic development) should have less or no effect on birth rates in Muslim countries. Yet in a number of countries social policies had a massive effect in a short amount of time, while religiosity did not change appreciatively. Also, I just realized that I should not waste my time in repeating arguments and actually get some work done.
  8. Is this really that bad?

    Just out of curiosity, it seems that in the USA between 2014-2016 there were ~1,300 road rage incidences in the USA involving guns, resulting in 354 people wounded and 136 killed. Also according to UK Highway Code, the only item that are specifically named with respect to distracted driving are electronics (phones, natsav etc.). However the a) the rules explicitly apply even when queuing or waiting at a stop (i.e. anytime other than being fully parked) and b) the police can decide whether they think you have been distracted. I.e. even if not explicitly stated police could in theory pull you over for anything that they suspect that you are distracted by, even if it is not regular enforced such as the use electronics.
  9. 60,000 Nazis Marched in Poland this weekend

    I am open to the idea that the current administration has not resulted in a significant change in white nationalist/supremacist activities, especially as it will take a while longer to have data on that. A few years down the road we will know more. I was referring specifically to the the way the White House has expressed their policies. There are legal restrictions that would forbid them to specifically target folks based on ethnicity. However, certain aspects, such as the forced separation of children does disproportionately affect Hispanic folks. Based on what the administration has said (including contrasting shit hole countries with Norwegian immigrants, calling travel restrictions Muslim bans etc.), it is hard to imagine that it was not by design. Knowing that certain powerful factions in the White House are clearly racist makes it hard to imagine that it will go unnoticed in the population. The question, as I mentioned is whether it will result in a meaningful net change in openly classifiable extremist actions and group memberships. After all, aside from personal ideologies, these openly enacted policies (during the Obama administration deportations were for example not openly celebrated) are clearly a signal for the Republican base. Even if those views are prevalent and they find themselves vindicated, it may not result in any quantifiable change. Unless, of course, white nationalist ideologies are actually on their way out (which could be questionable). This then shows that it is going to stick around for a while longer. I suspect we are looking at slightly different segments of the population. I am including the otherwise "normal", perhaps conservative part who feel uneasy about the increasing amount of diversity in the neighbourhood, which is even more difficult to quantify than outright hate groups. In this context looking at the Obama administration is quite interesting. As you mentioned several hate groups seemed to have peaked during his presidency. In fact, it appears that having a (half-) black president mobilized resistance on that fringe. One could argue that the same is happening with regard to black nationalist groups. One difference one could see is that Obama triggered outrage by virtue of his skin colour. Trump by his rhetoric and inner circle.
  10. Is this really that bad?

    Eh, I disagree that this a new thing. Road rage was always prevalent, for example. What has increased are cases where firearm use gets involved.
  11. Kits for gene storage at home?

    If your buffers are clean DNA should be stable for at least a year at -20.
  12. There is little, if anything that does not evolve during sufficiently long time frames.
  13. Is this really that bad?

    I think it is dependent on whether you are holding something for an extended time like during eating, vs. picking up a mug, sip and put it back. If the latter was forbidden, half the folks in Arizona or similar dry areas would die of dehydration during their commute. If you really only have one hand free for the drive I think it could be considered distracted driving.
  14. 60,000 Nazis Marched in Poland this weekend

    Well, for that there are a couple of indicators. First, is the increase in political clout. There are folks in the White House that are close (or actual) white nationalists who actually enact policies aimed at limiting influx of non-whites. Plus the lack of condemnation of white supremacists when they actually killed someone or the way the President reacted when he got endorsed by the KKK. These factors do not necessarily increase the numbers of white nationalists, but it certainly mainstreams their ideas. An additional indicator is that there a handful of GOP candidates that are openly supremacists or of similar ilk. While they generally do not have much support, the fact that they are in the mix can be seen as a signal. Now, the issue of actual rise in white nationalism on the population side is more difficult to assess. It is one thing of having organization with declared goals, but there are also the diffuse groups and individuals who knowingly or not sympathize with the same ideologies. Finding good data set for a baseline and finding evidence for significant change is going to be difficult no matter what, due to the diffuse characters of associated ideologies and the short time frame of the current administration. At the same time, belonging to a hate group sends an open signal of ones ideology and while certain folks sympathize with certain aspects of white nationalism (or just good old xenophobia) actively joining a group may be a bridge too far. Likely, many of the same folk would agree that racism is a bad thing and joining such groups unless they manage to polish their sheen of respectability would be an issue. But you mentioned social media. Here, it is important to note that social media are not only used to propagate the rise of hate groups, but it is also becoming the major platform to recruit and perpetuate these ideologies. Similar, in fact, to Islamic radicalism, which increasingly uses these platforms to radicalize folks. If you look at current lit, you will find that researchers struggle to get a grips on e.g. the "alt-right" movement (a term, which incidentally was coined by white supremacists to normalize their stance it kind of worked). But since much of it is internet-based, it is difficult to assess the scope. More work has been done in terms of their tactics, but some studies indicate an increase in reach. But since it is a relatively new movement, but also bleeds over from fringe conservatives, it is difficult to establish a quantitative trend. That being said, according to various polls starting 2017 only ca. 5-10% of respondents share all core values including a strong sense of white identity and white solidarity coupled with a sense of white victimization (as expressed in slogans of concerning white genocide/ fear of replacement) with these white nationalist/identity movements. My suspicion is simply that a part of the population always had ideologies that at least partially align with white nationalist ideals. A certain amount of xenophobia is present in virtually all societies. What I think has changed (and again, it is pure speculation) are two things. On the one hand the normalization of certain rhetoric emboldens some to be more open with regards to certain attitudes as they may not be seen as racist as they used to be. This increase in open hostility is not new and happens periodically, especially when there is a crisis (or perceived crisis) of sorts. Typically these worries are masked as economic worries, but when e.g. politicians are openly using a certain verbiage (in congress folks like Steve King come to mind) and face no blowback, the racial elements tend to become more apparent. On the other hand, there are counter movements that expose or try to expose (with different levels of aptitude) some hitherto accepted norms as racist or at least controversial. For example, while controversial in some areas the conclusions offered in The Bell Curve was still often mentioned or taught in class with little skepticism as facts some 20 years ago. The pushback nowadays is not exclusively due to newer findings but also because of an increased sense that the original studies used biased selection and ignored confounding factors to build a narrative. Or because nowadays there is a sense that folks are not only in poverty and/or crime because of poor personal choices, but because they were in an environment where good choices were harder to come by. I.e. instead of punishment, social and economic policies and interventions were found to have a deeper impact on crime rates. The latter serves as a threat of the former worldview and at least seemingly leads to more conflict, amplified by social media, which can lead to a general impression of an increase of extremism. Another interesting element is that extremists, even on different sides tend to have similar interests. I remember reports where there was a weird level of support from neo-nazis to black separationist, for example. The reason being that both groups eventually want segregation.
  15. Is this really that bad?

    I think unless you pose a risk (i.e. driving erratically) taking a sip from from a mug or similar would not be punished anywhere in the EU, including Germany (though correct me if I am wrong). If you try to pull out a charcuterie board, it may be different, though. Edit: crossposted, yes, if you get into an accident and they find out that you were having a coffee/snack , it can count against you. If you drive normally but sip on a cup they won't pull you over like they would if you were texting.