This Week in WTF, July 10, 2015

(NOTE: I’m still catching up on my backlog, so some of these may not be especially timely.)

Det regnar män. Halleluja!: Sweden came up with a fun way to address Russia’s recent spate of “no homo” legislation that is totally not trying to throw us off of anything. Okay, look, Russia and Belarus have known each other a long time, but they’re just bros, okay? Can we drop this now?

Oh, anyway, Sweden is trolling Russian submarines (which, I should mention, are long, hard, and full of seamen):

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) is to deal with encroaching Russian submarines in Swedish waters with a device emitting anti-homophobia Morse code.

The device – officially titled The Singing Sailor Underwater Defence System, but nicknamed the “gay sailor” – is a “subsurface sonar system”, which sends out the message: “This way if you are gay” in an attempt to deter apparently homophobic Russians.

(h/t Marcus) Continue reading


This Week in WTF, May 29, 2015

– I think of all the education that I missed…: A teacher in Texas is facing criminal charges in connection with allegedly giving a 15-year-old student a “full contact lap dance” in class. For his birthday, authorities claim:

The teen told investigators that he sat in a chair next to Smith’s desk as she moved back and forth on his crotch and touched him all over his body. Near the end of the dance, the student said Smith sank to her knees and put her head between his legs. The incident reportedly happened in front of the other students during class.

The student admitted that he spanked Smith’s buttocks a couple of times, according to KHOU.

Because of course he did.

– Just tell me this—is there a Klondike Bar in it for me?: What would you do to achieve “internet fame”? Would you light yourself on fire while being recorded, and post the video online? No? Well, the you’re smarter than these kids (h/t Jack).

– It’s just a drink. It’s just a drink. It’s just…: It took a jury in Florida fifteen minutes to convict two people of having sex on the beach. Not the drink, the sex (h/t Amy): Continue reading


Is an Attack of Newly-Evolved Winged Wolves Likely to Occur Before the Weekend?

Read this Storify to learn the utterly mundane truth!!!


A Few Readings on the Ebola Outbreak

Greg Laden, writing at ScienceBlogs, addresses the argument that diseases like malaria still pose a greater threat in Africa than the Ebola virus, and whether Ebola is taking attention away from other diseases (at least one person went so far as to call Ebola the “Kardashian of diseases”). Africa is a big place, and while it’s easy to say that malaria is a bigger danger than Ebola in places that have few or no Ebola cases, the same cannot be said in the countries that are directly being affected right now. Laden looked at the annual death rate due to malaria in Liberia, Guniea, and Sierra Leone, divided those numbers by twelve to get an estimated monthly rate, then compared those numbers to the average number of deaths per month in the 3-6 months of the Ebola outbreak:

  • Liberia: 142 malaria, 92 Ebola
  • Guinea: 49 malaria, 67 Ebola
  • Sierra Leone: 145 malaria, 144 Ebola

It’s not the most scientific survey, but it does indicate that while of course malaria is a huge problem, Ebola is a crisis in those countries right this second.

Laden also addresses the question of resource allocation:

[C]onsider the thought experiment where you have $10,000,000 that you want to give to either developing an Ebola vaccine, or a Malaria vaccine. Since billions have been spent on developing a Malaria vaccine and there still isn’t one, your donation would be a drop in the bucket. Retrospectively, it would be equivalent to something like the combined costs of couriers and mail by researchers working on a Malaria vaccine over the last few decades. Or the cost of coffee and donuts in the break room. Or conference travel fees. Or something like that. The point is, a bunch of millions of dollars might actually produce an Ebola vaccine given the starting point we have now, or at least, move us a good deal in that direction.

At Quartz, Gregg Gonsalves writes about people’s tendency, when faced with something unfamiliar and scary, to focus on the personal: Continue reading


Ebola Quarantine in Dallas

You should not panic over the first reported case of Ebola in the United States, specifically right here in Texas (albeit in Dallas, but that’s still Texas.)

State health officials have reportedly enacted quarantine procedures for members of the person’s family. This could lead to our other favorite subject for freak-outs, some sort of shadowy government takeover under the guise of a communicable disease quarantine, or total government incompetence, or some inexplicable combination of the two. I did a Storify to explain why you shouldn’t worry about that, either.


What I’m Reading, September 8, 2014

The long and ugly tradition of treating Africa as a dirty, diseased place, Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne, Washington Post, August 25, 2014

This week’s Newsweek magazine cover features an image of a chimpanzee behind the words, “A Back Door for Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a U.S. Epidemic.” This cover story is problematic for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that there is virtually no chance that “bushmeat” smuggling could bring Ebola to America. (The term is a catchall for non-domesticated animals consumed as a protein source; anyone who hunts deer and then consumes their catch as venison in the United States is eating bushmeat without calling it that.) While eating bushmeat is fairly common in the Ebola zone, the vast majority of those who do consume it are not eating chimpanzees. Moreover, the current Ebola outbreak likely had nothing to do with bushmeat consumption.

Far from presenting a legitimate public health concern, the authors of the piece and the editorial decision to use chimpanzee imagery on the cover have placed Newsweek squarely in the center of a long and ugly tradition of treating Africans as savage animals and the African continent as a dirty, diseased place to be feared.

Bob McDonnell Showed Us The Meaning of Conservative Family Values Depends On The Circumstances, Adalia Woodbury, PoliticusUSA, September 6, 2014 Continue reading


Thanks Be to Doctors

It has become something of a cliché to note when a person of faith, after making a recovery from a horrific disease, thanks their deity of choice but fails to mention the doctors, nurses, scientists, and countless others1 who undoubtedly played a part. In the case of the doctor who has essentially been cured of Ebola after receiving treatment at Emory University in Atlanta, the sentiment that God saved his life strikes me as….well, adjectives honestly fail me.

First of all, if it was God’s doing, why did he have to leave Liberia and come to Atlanta, and why did he need an experimental serum?2 It’s possible that God played a part in this, but the serum definitely did. Second, the same observation3 always comes up in these scenarios, via Ed Brayton this time: Continue reading