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A Real Humedinger

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Bringing Humean reasoning into the modern age, the discoveries of quantum mechanics and the ideas inherent in superposition (even if that is poor name for the true concept) only strengthen Hume’s case that there is no way to demonstrate causality — that causality is not a thing we can reasonably discuss.

Yes, the problem of induction is not new, and I am not breaking any new ground here. However, it is striking that we base all of science and much of the modern world on something with such shaky foundations.

Yes, it works, but there are more questions than answers.

Or, to quote Kate Miller-Heidke:

I climbed a Jacob’s Ladder
I fell down holy stairs
I found Siddartha’s temple
No answer anywhere

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sarcozona
9 hours ago
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Preserving Government Information

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Spotlight on Digital Government Information Preservation: Examining the Context, Outcomes, Limitations, and Successes of the DataRefuge Movement  by and examines the issues around preserving access to government information through the lens of the DataRefuge movement. Below the fold, some commentary.

What the authors write is generally accurate as regards the process of ingesting government information, especially via the Data Rescue process. But they pretty much ignore the issue of preserving the ingested content, and I have problems with their sketchy treatment of dissemination.

I've written many times about the importance of basing preservation on a realistic threat model. The motivation for the Data Refuge movement, and its predecessor in Canada, was the threat that a government would use its power to destroy information in its custody. Clearly, Data Refuge's ingest goal of getting a copy into non-governmental hands is an essential first step. But it does not address the threats to preservation that are unique to government information, namely their legal powers over these non-governmental hands. The history of US information on paper in the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) shows that the federal government is very willing to use their powers:
The important property of the FDLP is that in order to suppress or edit the record of government documents, the administration of the day has to write letters, or send US Marshals, to a large number of libraries around the country. It is hard to do this without attracting attention ... Attracting attention to the fact that you are attempting to suppress or re-write history is self-defeating. This deters most attempts to do it, and raises the bar of desperation needed to try. It also ensures that, without really extraordinary precautions, even if an attempt succeeds it will not do so without trace.
I wrote that more than a decade ago.  The FDLP shows the importance of not just geographic diversity but also administrative diversity in the preservation of government administration. But, especially in the era of National Security Letters, it isn't enough. This is why the LOCKSS Program's effort with Canadian librarians to rescue government information from the depredations of the Harper administration implemented jurisdictional diversity by ensuring that some nodes of the LOCKSS network preserving the at-risk information were outside the Harper administration's jurisdiction.

The authors understand that funding for efforts to preserve government information is massively inadequate even when it exists:
There is a need for more institutional support through organized, well-funded programs and tasking the GPO with perpetual archiving and access to all public government data and websites. With this in mind, there is also a need for advocating for adequate funding for GPO to do this work.
But they don't seem to realize that the whole point of the efforts they describe was that government, and thus the GPO, is not trusted to "do this work"!

They understand that the lack of funding for current ingest efforts means that:
Furthermore, only a fraction of government data was harvested. EDGI reported 63,076 pages were seeded during DataRescue events to the Internet Archive using their Chrome extension and workflow, with 21,798 of these pages containing datasets or other dynamic content. While this is positive at a surface level, over 194 million unique URLs were captured for the EOT 2012 through human-contributed URLs and web crawlers that automatically snapshot the pages. It would be nearly impossible for humans to go through every agency webpage looking for dynamic content or datasets that need to be specially harvested for preservation.
But, like Kalev Leetaru, they respond to the inadequacy of ingest by advocating massively increasing the cost of ingest by requiring much better metadata and documentation:
The most glaring downside of the DataRefuge initiative and DataRescue events was the questionability of the accomplishment of long term preservation of government data. The main goal of DataRescue was to save government data for the future if it ever disappears. However, viewing the datasets indexed and archived in the DataRefuge repository through a lens of data curation for reuse and long term usability finds the metadata and documentation generally lacking for preservation purposes.
It isn't like the original content on agency websites had high-quality metadata and documentation making it easy to find and re-use. In the rare case where it did, the Web crawls probably got it. These incessant demands for expensive metadata are making the perfect be the enemy of the good, and are extraordinarily unhelpful. Increasing ingest cost will mean less content is ingested, which might be a good thing as there would then be less content for the almost completely lacking funds for preservation to cover.

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sarcozona
17 hours ago
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acdha
9 days ago
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Washington, DC
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Bill proposes lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of U.S. airlines: Travel Weekly

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A Virginia congressman has introduced a bill that would do away with the prohibition on foreign ownership of a U.S. airline.

The Free to Fly Act, introduced by Rep. Dave Brat (R.-Virginia) on Tuesday, would allow foreign carriers to establish U.S.-based subsidiaries that are incorporated and regulated under U.S. law. Those subsidiaries could then fly domestic U.S. routes.

"Think Wow America or EasyJet U.S.," Jay Kronzer, a legislative assistant to Brat, wrote in an email.

The law would not change the existing prohibition on foreign airlines flying domestic routes.

Repealing the prohibition on foreign air carrier ownership, Brat's office said, would increase competition and consumer choice, create jobs and improve the financial stability of U.S. airlines by giving them more access to capital. 

The law would require that all foreign-owned carriers that obtain a certificate to fly domestic routes hire only American citizens, U.S. nationals or permanent legal residents. Such carriers would be prohibited from hiring temporary visa holders, a provision that Kronzer said would make sure they aren't shipping in cheap labor.

As a nod to national-security concerns, the law would give the president veto power over any Department of Transportation approval of a domestic air transportation certificate for foreign-owned carriers. 

Supporters of the bill include the consumer advocacy groups FlyersRights, Travelers United and the Air Travel Fairness Coalition, according to Brat's office.

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sarcozona
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satadru
2 days ago
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New York, NY
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1 public comment
ProbablyWrong
1502 days ago
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So this paper has an infuriating title. Imagine a paper whose thesis is that institutional racism is bad, titled "The Case for Institutional Racism".

As we age, cancer rates go up as immune system winds down | Ars Technica

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The dominant idea about how cancer gets started is called the "two-hit hypothesis." First proposed by Alfred Knudson in 1971, it holds that a cancer starts when one cell gets a mutation in both of its copies of a gene that normally blocks cancer formation (two hits). These two mutations disable the tumor-suppressing function in that cell, which then becomes cancerous. Eventually, the idea was expanded to include two hits not necessarily in the same gene but, rather, in genes controlling the same tumor-suppressing pathway.

But a new idea is challenging the two-hit hypothesis, shifting the focus to the role of the immune system in suppressing cancers. It's an idea that could have big implications for treatments.

Taking a hit

Getting two hits in one cell was considered to be a random and unlucky event. Since mutations occur each time a cell divides, the more times each cell divides, the greater the chances that it would happen. This was why, it was thought, cancer incidence increases with age; the longer a cell has been around, and the more times it has divided, the more opportunities it has had to accrue the two requisite mutations in the same tumor-suppressor pathway.

Evidence for the two-hit hypothesis came primarily from children with retinoblastoma, who have a germline mutation in the RB1 gene (named for the disease it causes) and are therefore born with one hit in every cell already. These kids usually end up with tumors in their eyes by the time they turn five.

Personalized medicine has been focused on the two-hit model. The idea is to identify the key mutations in a given cancer, then target and nullify them. It has been touted as the wave of the future for a while, but its successes have been mixed. Not every cancer has an obvious target gene, and many tumors can evolve resistance to targeted drugs.

Immunotherapy, by contrast, has achieved some striking successes. Much of it relies on engineered T cells designed and synthesized to kill specific tumor cells. But it also involves awakening the body's existing T cells, which would go on to help fight the tumor. Tumors generally have proteins on their surface that can activate T cells, but they also have mechanisms to suppress the immune system. Cancer immunotherapy relieves this suppression, freeing the T cells to fight the tumor.

Immunity

A new analysis suggests that the relationship between the immune system and tumor cells provides not only the basis for this new therapeutic approach but also the explanation for increased cancer incidence as we age.

T cells arise in the thymus (that’s why they’re called T cells), but the thymus starts to atrophy around the time we turn one and the number of viable T cells it churns out drops continually over time. Mathematical modeling suggests that cancers do not primarily arise because getting two hits in one cell becomes more likely as we age. Instead, cancer-causing mutations seem to occur at roughly the same rate over the course of our lives, but our T cells wipe out these proto-cancer cells before they become clinically problematic.

It is only as our reservoir of T cells declines as we age that one of these continuously produced cancer cells can overcome immune surveillance and blossom into disease. The same immune system decline would explain the rising incidence of infectious diseases with age.

The authors cite a couple of observations supporting their model. One is that women get fewer cancers than men, since they have more circulating T cells and their T cell levels drop at lower rates. Another is that sharks, which have notoriously low cancer rates, do not experience this thymic atrophy as they age.

They also make a few practical recommendations. Nine out of ten of the cancers that best fit this new model have rates that spike in the late fifties, so they suggest that this might be a good age for more stringent cancer screening. And especially given the success that immunotherapies have already had in fighting some types of cancers, they suggest that more therapies that shore up T cell production or alleviate T cell exhaustion might be a better bet than trying to counteract or even prevent specific cancer-causing mutations.

It's important to emphasize that the two models aren't completely exclusive—mutations are still important for a cancer's development and progression, and they can still be targeted with treatments. The new proposal just drives home that, even if a cell picks up damaging mutations, it won't go on to form a cancer if the immune system kills it.

PNAS, 2018. DOI: 10.1073.pnas.1714478115 (About DOIs).

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sarcozona
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satadru
8 days ago
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New York, NY
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Sheer

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Why does Ed Sheeran exist?

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sarcozona
1 day ago
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It's that moment when you realize this isn't The Good Place
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Proportional Representation

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British Columbia split into three areas of equal population:

By way of Michael Mortensen





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sarcozona
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