STLR Link Roundup – 2/17/2018

California Ballot Initiative a Hodgepodge of Pseudoscientific Conspiracy Theories

Ars Technica reports on a new California ballot initiative described as “a conspiracy theorist’s dream.” The initiative’s author, Cheriel Jensen, has been cleared by California’s secretary of state to begin collecting signatures, and will need to collect 365,880 by August 8, 2018 if she wants the initiative to make it onto California’s next ballot. The full text of the proposed initiative can be found here, and Ballotopedia contains a helpful summary as well.

Among other requirements, the initiative would ban the growth, development, sale, or transport of Genetically Modified Food, despite the general scientific consensus that genetically modified organisms are safe to eat. The initiative defines genetically modified organisms broadly and includes all “patented life forms;” Ms. Jensen is apparently unaware that many conventionally-bred crops, including some used in organic agriculture, are patented. The measure would reverse California’s mandatory vaccination requirements for school entry, and prohibits the vaccination of any child who previously had an adverse vaccine reaction (including “adverse gastrointestinal effects within 2 weeks of vaccination”). It also imposes many new civil and criminal penalties for environmental pollution; there is “no Statute of Limitations” on the crimes or torts of this measure”

Russian Individuals and Companies Indicted for Election Tampering

Three Russian companies and thirteen Russian individuals have been indicted as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 United States Presidential Election. Those indicted were accused, among other things, of creating fake social media accounts intended to appear as Americans, and using illegally-obtained PayPal accounts to place ads supporting Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump, and denigrating Hillary Clinton, according to Ars Technica. Shortly after the indictments were announced, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (who oversees the investigation), emphasized in a press conference that there is “no allegation in this indictment that any American was a knowing participant in this illegal activity,” although the Department of Justice did also announce the guilty plea of Richard Pinedo, an American who admitted selling the PayPal accounts to the Russians, apparently without knowing their identities.

Scientists Resort to Court to Settle Academic Disputes

Scientists frequently refer to their endeavors as a self-correcting enterprise, but sometimes, scientists feel the need to ask the courts to correct their peers. Last month, the scientific journal Molecules removed an expression of concern that had flagged a scientific paper for a year and a half. The reason for the original notice? The authors of the study were being sued in Romania by another professor, who claimed intellectual property rights in the data. Once the litigation was resolved, the notice was removed.

Scientists have also attempted to use litigation to influence the process of scientific publishing. Last Fall, a Stanford University professor filed a lawsuit against the National Academy of Sciences, alleging defamation for failing to retract a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, considered one of the worlds “top tier” scientific journals. The paper, critical of Jacobsen’s own work on renewable energy, claimed that Jacobsen made modeling errors that led to faulty conclusions. The lawsuit has drawn widespread criticism from many in the scientific community, including some who call it “obscene” for a scientist to be suing “over hurt feelings.” Others have expressed concern over this suit’s effects on the scientific process. “Getting to the bottom of the science should be done through the process of science. Not through attacks or lawsuits,” said one scientist.


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