Friday 30 July 2010

Running out of IP Addresses

v4 IP Address Exhaustion Counter

The Pimps Take 5%

From Planet Iran, concerning the "comfort women" provided by the Mosque for the use of pilgrims:
In order to elevate the spiritual atmosphere, create proper psychological conditions and tranquility of mind, the Province of the Quds’eh-Razavi of Khorassan has created centers for temporary marriage (just next door to the shrine) for those brothers who are on pilgrimage to the shrine of our eighth Imam, Imam Reza, and who are far away from their spouses.

To that end, we call on all our sisters who are virgins, who are between the ages of 12 and 35 to cooperate with us. Each of our sisters who signs up will be bound by a two year contract with the province of the Quds’eh-Razavi of Khorassan and will be required to spend at least 25 days of each month temporarily married to those brothers who are on pilgrimage. The period of the contract will be considered as a part of the employment experience of the applicant. The period of each temporary marriage can be anywhere between 5 hours to 10 days. The prices are as follows:

5 hour temporary marriage – 50,000 Tomans ($50 US)

One day temporary marriage – 75,000 Tomans ($75 US)

Two day temporary marriage – 100,000 Tomans ($100 US)

Three day temporary marriage – 150,000 Tomans ($150 US)

Between 4 and 10 day temporary marriage – 300,000 Tomans ($300 US)

Our sisters who are virgins will receive a bonus of 100,000 Tomans ($100 US) for the removal of their hymen.

An image of the original document is available on their website.

Of course it's voluntary.... except this is what happens to females who don't do what the menfolk tell them to do.

From Time :
The Taliban pounded on the door just before midnight, demanding that Aisha, 18, be punished for running away from her husband's house. Her in-laws treated her like a slave, Aisha pleaded. They beat her. If she hadn't run away, she would have died. Her judge, a local Taliban commander, was unmoved. Aisha's brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose.

This didn't happen 10 years ago, when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. It happened last year. Now hidden in a secret women's shelter in Kabul, Aisha listens obsessively to the news. Talk that the Afghan government is considering some kind of political accommodation with the Taliban frightens her. "They are the people that did this to me," she says, touching her damaged face. "How can we reconcile with them?"

Wednesday 28 July 2010

How Not To Do It

I've blogged about the decidedly flawed Ares program, and how it needed mending with a new one.

This though is not how to do it. From a friend of mine, who's just completed the last course for her second masters degree, and is going into aerospace medicine. Perhaps.

22 July
Holy sh*t!! I just got my final exam grade back... 99%!!!! Missed one question on the whole exam. Honestly I didn't think I did anywhere near that well. So thats an A+ in Spaceflight Physiology and Medicine! Now I can be a flight surgeon! Woot! Oh, and this is the last class for my 2nd Masters Degree!! I AM DONE!!!

28 July
Today is filled with tears at work. 1400 layoff notices went out today. I made it through but some of my closest friends and colleagues did not. The true death of our space program will be October 1st when they all leave us.

It may be a pardonable exaggeration to say that the US space program has ended. It has not, not by a long way.

But.. the fact remains... that after this year, there are no firm plans for NASA to put any more Americans in space, except for a short time, and except using Russian boosters.

It was 38 years ago that Americans last landed on the Moon. I don't see them coming back any time soon. My attitude though is that as long as someone does, who, while important, is less important.

As for the USA? Obama wants the US to do space stuff... in the future sometime. He has a grand vision about that, and has committed future presidents to it. Not him though. As for Congress, Rand Simberg says it best:
NASA is being asked to do too much with too little by Congress, and, once again, America's space agency is set up for failure. If this plan goes forward, it will preserve jobs in Utah, Alabama, Texas and Florida, but contribute little to actually accomplishing things in space. And we can expect to have to assemble another panel of experts a couple of years from now to tell us once again what we already know, and what Congress will continue to ignore, because pork will always reign over progress.
It won't even preserve most jobs now, it's too late for that.

Tuesday 27 July 2010

U3-X Personal Mobility Prototype

Cool. Impractical for a dozen reasons, but who cares?

Monday 26 July 2010

Death and Texas

This is a story of a woman who had a rough childhood. Born with a distressing congenital anomaly - a birth defect to be un-PC about it - when young she got into some trouble with the law, nothing serious, before she turned her life around and became a successful businesswoman. After a failed marriage that didn't last long, she met the love of her life, and married him.

One problem - he was of a different race, and her mother-in-law didn't approve. The husband had also had a failed marriage, and had two children to support. A bit of a problem, because he wanted to do an EMT and Firefighting course.

She was able to pay for this, and also pay the child maintenance too. And was the beloved step-mom of his children. Furthermore, she ran her own magazine, and even was a candidate for mayor, scoring a respectable showing, though not quite enough to win.

But trouble soon followed, in the shape of a nasty custody case. You see, the pair had hired the wrong lawyer to handle some of their business affairs. One who, despite the obvious conflict of interest, hired himself out to the ex-wife soon after, bringing with him the knowledge he was supposed to keep confidential. This put a strain on the marriage.

Worse was to come. Far worse. For on one fateful day, the husband, who was by now a fully qualified albeit volunteer firefighter, was caught in a large fire, and perished.

Not 24 hours had passed after the recovery of his body, when the ex-wife and mother-in-law, acting in cahoots, attempted to grab not just all the insurance payouts for the deceased, not just his personal estate, but all assets held by either partner. House, bank accounts, all joint property.

Their lawyer spread the story to the media that the widow, instead of subsidising her husband's education, was some kind of gold-digger, out to bilk the children from theor fair share - their legally mandated share under Texas law - of the benefits. And that the marriage was contracted as the result of fraud.

The ex-wife even opened a bank account "for the sake of the children" - but in her name only, to handle the $200,000 that this mendacity brought in from those who bought her carefully-orchestrated story, and donated. The press was kept fully informed of the widow's criminal records, the petty theft and DUI convictions when young, in a well-organised smear campaign, all less than a week after the husband's death. A series of injunctions froze the widows personal assets so she wouldn't be able to fight in court, while the two who eyed the $600,000 death benefits - plus the joint property - had a $200,000 war chest. Not a word was said in their claims about the children - because Texas Law already provided that half should go to the kids, regardless.

Now you might think that such blatant injustice would never be allowed to go to court. And in the normal course of events, you'd be right. But the rules are different for those born intersexed, and temporarily assigned the wrong gender at birth.

From a press release by TG center :
Houston, Texas – July 23, 2010 – Jeers and public threats greeted Mrs. Nikki Araguz outside the Warton County Courthouse today. The Widow of Wharton County firefighter Captain Thomas Araguz, who was killed in the line of duty, was in court for the first hearing in a suit brought by Araguz’s mother, Simona Rodriguez Longoria. The suit claims that Longoria should inherit Capt. Araguz’s widow’s benefits and all marital assets.

Longoria claims that since Mrs. Araguz was legally a male before transitioning to female, and legally changed her gender prior to her subsequent marriage to Capt. Araguz that Longoria, not Mrs. Araguz, should receive all benefits and joint property. This includes any income earned by Mrs. Araguz during the marriage. Mrs. Araguz was the principle wage earner of the couple.

Capt. Araguz’s two children from a previous marriage will receive one half of Capt. Araguz’s $600,000 firemen’s fallen hero benefit regardless of the outcome of this case. They are also entitled to free tuition at Texas State Schools, as will be their children.

Longoria today expanded her claims to the property of Mrs. Araguz, asking the court to seize funds paid by a life insurance policy to which Mrs. Araguz was the named beneficiary. Judge Clapp granted her request, adding those funds to the widow’s benefits and all marital assets currently being held in escrow.

In a victory for Mrs. Araguz, the Judge also prevented Longoria from spending any of those funds or disposing of Capt. and Mrs. Araguz’s marital assets.

Longoria said in court today that her goal was to “freeze Nikki out.” All of Mrs. Araguz’s assets are currently frozen and unavailable to her.
Note that the payment from a separate life insurance policy, one held by Ms Araguz in her own name, rather than as the wife of the deceased, has been frozen too. She had already expended some of that on funeral expenses, but may have to find some funds from future earnings to put into escrow. On the other hand, the ex-wife's $200,000 war chest "for the children" is now unavailable to her, and must be put in escrow too, not for her benefit, but the children's.

More at the Houston Chronicle. A more neutral view - one not reliant wholly on allegations by one party's lawyers - from the AP.

Two things about Texas and Federal Law that aren't mentioned. Contrary to the ex-wife's story, she stands to inherit half of the $600,000 widow's benefit (though no other property) under Federal rather than state law, as the mother of the deceased's children, married to him or not, should the actual widow be excluded. The children get the rest, regardless of the outcome of the case.
Probate Code, Chapter II,
Sec. 38. PERSONS WHO TAKE UPON INTESTACY. (a) Intestate Leaving No Husband or Wife. Where any person, having title to any estate, real, personal or mixed, shall die intestate, leaving no husband or wife, it shall descend and pass in parcenary to his kindred, male and female, in the following course:

1. To his children and their descendants.

Section 45
(b) On the intestate death of one of the spouses to a marriage, if a child or other descendant of the deceased spouse survives the deceased spouse and the child or descendant is not a child or descendant of the surviving spouse, one-half of the community estate is retained by the surviving spouse and the other one-half passes to the children or descendants of the deceased spouse.
Another issues is that after the Littleton case, Texas statutes were amended to make it clear that a change of gender certificate, or even a change of name certificate, was sufficient evidence to contract a marriage.

Under Title 1, Subtitle A. Marriage, Chapter 2, Sub-chapter A: “(8) an original or certified copy of a court order relating to the applicant’s name change or sex change;”
However, this legislation was passed after the marriage was celebrated, just to complicate matters. In any event, Littleton vs Prange was rendered invalid as a precedent.

There are many details that appear in dispute, but which will no doubt come out in the fullness of time. One is that the widow had some form of genital reconstruction - after the marriage. Another is that she's done considerable work for Transgendered rights, public work. To say that her husband didn't know of her situation under those circumstances defies credulity, as everyone else did - apart from his family. It's not clear whether the widow's birth certificate was ever formally changed. What is clear though is that the claiming parties aren't pretending to act on principle: they despise her, but are really just out for the money, and acted within less than 36 hours after their "beloved" son's tragic death. They're not even pretending to mourn for someone they think brought disgrace on the family. Except they can't say that, or they'll be admitting that no deception was involved.

From :
Nikki Araguz's parents said she suffers from rare birth defect called complete androgen insensitivity syndrome, where a person has all of the physical traits of female, but has no uterus. They acknowledge the birth certificate listed in the lawsuit is Nikki Araguz's and that she was born Justin Graham Purdue.
Probably more like PAIS-6 rather than complete AIS. Some minor genital irregularity, or no surgery would have been necessary. But as I said, the rules are different for Intersexed people.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

A bit of a worry...

Graph from The Atlantic, showing duration of unemployment in the USA.

I loved Portland, Oregon. But I couldn't help noticing that all was not well. There were far too many "To Let" signs, and far too few signs of new construction.

Oh there were signs up for new buildings to be built on vacant lots.... signs over a year old, with no hint of any work being conducted any time soon.

Meanwhile, here in Canberra... money's flooding in, new buildings going up hither, thither and yon. Where's the money coming from? I can only conjecture. I think it's coming from those seeking a perceived safe haven, security from the gathering storm.

The USA has got massive reserves of wealth, real wealth, productive capacity and human and other resources. But the problem is not so much that people are losing jobs - which they are - it's that they're unable to find new ones, as the graph shows. The perception is that bad as things are now, they're going to get a lot worse.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

A Letter to the Attorney General

Not from me. From Kathy Noble, of Changeling Aspects, which concisely deals with the issues I (and others) face in Australian Law.

Open letter, to the Australian Human Rights Commission, and the Federal Attorney-General.


Can someone please answer this conundrum?

Is the Trans community really that complicated, or is it the fact that we have to wade through nine Governments, legislation?

The thought is that it is the nine governments and their departments and agencies that have made amending documentation so complex.

Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual (GLB)

84 areas of concern were identified concerning the GLB communities in 2008
84 areas of concern were corrected in the “Same Sex Act July 2009”


Submissions called for in May 2008 as there was a six month window at AHRC
15 recommendations made in the “Sex Files Report” launched on 17-03-2009
None of these recommendations have been implemented by July 2010
What does this say about the approach to laws concerning Trans people?
How can 15 areas of concern, take longer than 84 areas of concern?
I understand that SCAG and COAG are talking about these concerns
I understand that Victoria would like to implement them.

How can 15 recommendations take longer to come into legislation, than 84 areas of concern? I believe this proves the utter complexity imposed on the Trans community by 9 Governments, their departments and agencies only goes to show the lack of understanding and empathy regarding our problems. It also highlights the total lack of consistency, but certainly highlights the amount of inconsistencies that do exist when dealing with the Trans community.

Is it understood the amount of pressure, frustration and depression this causes to Trans people, who find it hard to understand what exactly is required of them, in order to amend their documentation. Staying married after Sex Affirmation Surgery is a pain in the butt, as you cannot amend your birth certificate, but you can amend your passport. Is it understood the cost to the Health system that this incurs due to health problems

Those born off shore are in a dilemma as to what they can and can’t do, according to which jurisdiction they reside in. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) will accept amendment to residency status and Citizenship records either before or after surgery. Detail from Immigration Freedom of Information section is picked up by Citizenship to aid us to amend our citizenship. These details are also accessed by Passport Office, so it is feasible that someone born off shore can amend their passport before undergoing surgery. This leaves those born in Australia in a very different situation, as they have to undergo surgery in order to amend their passport. Inconsistency on inconsistency!

Also for those born off shore is the inconsistency surrounding “Recognition Certificates/ Recognised Details Certificates. If you live in South Australia, Western Australia, Victoria or New South Wales, then you are fortunate in being able to obtain these certificates recognising you in your new sex/gender. These are then acceptable to Countries such as the UK in order to amend your birth certificate in that Country. It also means that we do not have to send to the UK under their Case by Case Basis, in order to receive our Gender Recognition Certificate. The original intent was that we would have to return to the UK for the two inspections. So those who do not have access to the certificates from the 4 States that offer them, because they live in Tasmania, Queensland, The ACT or The Northern Territory are discriminated against. However, if they moved to any of the 4 States that do offer these certificates and reside there for 12 months; they could then apply and receive a certificate, if they meet the requirements according to those certificates. Anomalies/inconsistencies, how are we supposed to understand all of these requirements?

You have to change your name in the jurisdiction you were born in, if born in Australia, but can change your driver’s licence in the jurisdiction that you reside in. If born off shore, then you can change both documents in the jurisdiction you reside in. More anomalies!

In order for a more equitable approach, could we not start by having all laws pertaining to Trans people made by the Federal Government and implemented by the States and Territories as Agents for those laws, such as the Marriage Act 1961. However, we do not want a repeat of the current situation, where the Marriage Act 1961 can be over ruled at State and Territory Level as is the current practice.

On the one hand we have the federal Government stating that a marriage once solemnised, remains so, even if later one of the spouses becomes transsexual. This is recognised by Passport Office and they issue an amended passport. The States and Territories over ride this by requiring (Forcing) us to divorce in order to amend our birth certificate. Huge anomaly and inconsistency!

The requirement to divorce is now considered unconstitutional in many Countries.

Yours Sincerely, Kathy Anne Noble.
President, Changeling Aspects
© Changeling Aspects
My own case exemplifies a full house of these inconsistencies - plus other anomalies caused by my Intersex status.

I was born overseas - so was able to change my name in the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) where I reside, rather than having to do so interstate. Additionally, I was able to change my citizenship certificate without providing evidence of sex reassignment. A good job, as my genital reconstruction doesn't qualify, my medical records have had me as female since August 2005, long before surgery. And that's another anomaly, trans people need to have had surgery in order to get their medical records changed. As far as the government is concerned, they have no idea what medical procedures I may or may not have had, they're irrelevant.

I'm also married. So even if I lived in a state that provided recognition certificates, I couldn't get one. Our relationship has not irretrievably broken down, so we couldn't divorce even if we wanted to!

By the way... Kathy is another case of feminisation from natural causes - in her case, from massive over-production of prolactin, caused by a damaged pituitary gland. And, like me, the change was most welcome. Unlike me, the cause is well-understood, and took years rather than weeks.

There's more of us than most people realise.

And now we face a possible change of government, and perhaps back to square one. *SIGH*

No Comment Necessary

From the Gender Identity Empowerment Coalition
A Trans woman (name obfuscated) and her partner (name obfuscated) had been inhumanely dehumanized, mistreated and disrespected while making a visit to the emergency center of Ball Memorial Hospital located at 2401 University Ave. Muncie, IN 47303.

The above individual was taken in by her life partner on July 18th, while coughing up a large volume of blood. The intake personnel of the emergency center were shown her Indiana state ID which had her Female name and Female marker in clear print, despite this, they still entered her into their system as a Male. The staff then proceeded to ridicule her, while loudly referring to her as "IT". Her life partner was asked by individual staff members with raised voices, if she was a "He-She".

The patient was then quizzed about her length of time as a "Transvestite" when she clearly identified herself as a Transgender Female prior to that.

The patient is suspected to have an inactive or active tumor within her lungs that may be the cause of mass bleeding and oral expulsion of it; Yet, according to the patient, Ball Memorial has refused to provide treatment of her with the accompanying statement to the effect of: "we do not know how to treat someone like her".
Unfortunately, this kind of thing is not uncommon.

They had to destroy marriage in order to save it

From the Houston Chronicle:
The family of a Wharton firefighter who died battling a massive egg farm blaze is fighting to keep his widow from receiving death benefits, arguing that the 37-year-old had found out his bride of two years was born a man.
It's an open-and-shut case. By Littleton vs Prange (1999), in the Appellant Court of Texas, this woman is actually a man, and her marriage void.

Marriage Licences, Birth Certificates and legalities mean nothing when the victim is trans or intersexed.

A press release from the Transgender Foundation of America
Houston, Texas – July 19, 2010 – The Transgender Foundation of America (TFA) is sad to learn of the untimely death of Thomas Araguz III, a heroic firefighter who was killed in the line of duty. Additionally, we are saddened to learn of a second tragedy unfolding in Wharton County involving Araguz’s grieving widow and her in-laws.

Immediately after the death of Araguz, the in-laws came out of the woodwork in an effort to defame the marriage of a fallen hero. The in-laws have claimed that Mrs. Araguz is a post-operative male-to-female transgender woman and as such, they claim the marriage is invalid and that they are entitled to the married couple’s home, belongings and financial assets.

“It is an affront to common decency that Mrs. Araguz’s in-laws have turned this tragedy into a money-grab” said Cristan Williams, the Executive Director of TFA . “I have spoken with Nikki and I find the actions of her in-laws repugnant. I call upon common sense and decency to prevail in this case. Mrs. Araguz should be left alone to grieve the death of her heroic husband with the support of her friends and of her church.”

At the heart of this attempt to swipe the property and money of a grieving widow lies the assumption that the chromosomes of Nikki Araguz must be XY and that chromosomes equal sex, a long debunked test that virtually all medical experts and sports authorities have abandoned. In 1999, the Olympic Committee along with many other federations dropped chromosome testing as a viable sex test all together.

The flawed ideology Mrs. Araguz’s in-laws wish to use in their bid for the couple’s belongings is based on a 1999 San Antonio ruling that declares that the position of the court is that women like Mrs. Araguz may only marry other women, which would also deny the right of marriage to all intersexed citizens of the State of Texas.

“TFA hopes that the Texas judicial system will quickly dismiss this frivolous attempt to rob Mrs. Araguz of her rightful possessions” said Williams. “I cannot imagine the tremendous pain that she must be going through, being attacked by her own family during her time of mourning.”

Friday 16 July 2010

How Big?

I'm publishing this so I can refer people to it, when they ask how big Australia is.

This, and many other interesting cartographical miscellanea at StrangeMaps.

Thursday 15 July 2010

Ninth Birthday

Today is Andrew Brain's ninth birthday.

Now how many of my readers - regardless of gender - would have liked a Nerf Vulcan EBF-25 that fires 180 rounds/minute for their ninth birthday?

Happy Birthday Scampasaurus. Thanks for being my son.
Signed - your peculiar Daddy, Zoe

Sunday 11 July 2010

Mount Hood

It's not been all work... not quite. I've managed to see a few friends here that I've only known via the Internet. One, Camille, took this photo of me, with Mount Hood in the background. A dormant volcano some 80 km away. Still rather close for something that size if it decides to misbehave.

Now my next session is in 28 minutes time, and I have 300 e-mails to go through, so better be quick about it. I've been absolutely stoked with this conference, the next few decades are going to be really, really interesting. More on this later when I have time.

Thursday 8 July 2010

A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret : NPR

A Neuroscientist Uncovers A Dark Secret : NPR

Published in haste without comment as I'm really, really REALLY too busy at GECCO in Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Animation of all nuclear explosions from 1945 - 1998.

Posted in haste because I'm too busy at GECCO 2010 in Portland, Oregon

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Barron Knights Under New Management

Posted in haste because I'm too busy at GECCO 2010 in Portland

Portland Hangover

I don't have one, technically - but I think a lot in Portland must after the long weekend.

There was a Blues Festival just outside the hotel, on the waterfront. In a partly successful attempt to stay awake to readjust my body clock, I went there. The hard cranberryade was only about 3% alcohol by volume, but one cup was enough so that by 8pm I had to hit the hay. And went out like the proverbial light.

I did score some lovely silver rings (in my size!) for $25 though. I wish I had more time - and more money - the handcrafted jewelry, the pottery, the fabrics... there's a lot to be said for being in a place where Weird is what they do best. Not techno-weird as I'm used to, more tree-hugging weird. I think that for either to be successful in the future, we'll need to form a synthesis of both.

A return to the Good Old Days (sic) of low planetary population, kept in check by starvation, disease, child mortality, ignorance, etc is not in our future - because some smart-alec will always come up with a high-tech solution to prey on the low-tech "sustainable development" types and take their carefully husbanded resources by force. But I'm not sure just how many people at the festival realised just how different it was from the Third World it superficially resembled.

The water was clean; there were few beggars or indigents. People were well-fed, well-clothed, and the prices were low. Much of the transport was people-powered, despite the hilly topography: but many of the cycles were hi-tech mag alloy or titanium, not heavy mild steel. I doubt that the energy saved by their use came remotely close to the energy needed to produce them.

The combination of something like 60 hours with only 2 hours sleep, a cup of hard cranberryade, being in a place that was alternately familiar and different - definitely substituted for a more conventional means of attaining an altered state of consciousness.

I was acutely aware of the industry, the factories and power plants, the transportation infrastructure, and the means of allocating and distributing the fruits of applied knowledge and effort that we all depend on. Just the fact that there are no water restrictions here was jarring, we've lived with those in Canberra for many years. No constant reminders, the illuminated signs by the side of each major road giving water usage targets, current consumption, and dam storage (now nearly 60% at last, after many years).

It takes a high-tech civilisation to support a low-tech society in the manner to which it's become accustomed. We can't afford though some of the excesses of the past. Excesses caused because distortions of the market have made the price of many things completely different from the costs.

From the number of TO LET signs in downtown Portland, I think the US, and the World, Economy is in for one heck of a shakeup in the next six months, and will be suffering the effects for at least a decade. Many of the Financial Movers and Shakers have partied like there's no tomorrow - or possibly getting theirs while they can and salting it away somewhere safe in expectation of the economic storm about to hit. In the USA, bipartisan porkbarreling and funneling of billions to the "well connected" (not to mention sheer cluelessness) has led to some real disasters, and the chickens are coming home to roost. Don't get me started on the new head of NASA, and it's new missions which have nothing to do with aeronautics or space.

I have friends in the US military (no names, no pack drill) engaged in nation-building in failed states. Trying to help others get their society healthy. One problem they've always had is ridding such places of the corruption and peculation that such places cannot afford. But their efforts have recently been stymied by what's going on back home. When the guy in charge of the IRS doesn't pay his taxes - and gets away with it, without even an investigation - when the politicians don't even bother to hide their corruption any more - when obvious voter intimidation happens at polling places, with records on film, and the investigation is quashed through political pressure - then the Americans trying to persuade others to act in their long-term best interests, rather than short-term gain, no longer have the high ground. Worst of all, left-leaning media ignores peculation by "their team", just as right-leaning commentators ignored peculation by theirs during the previous administration.

The USA is rich enough, in resources, in infrastructure, and most of all in human capital, that it has been able to afford the luxury of such leeching on the body politick. I think a hangover's coming though.

Rather than seeing inexorable Doom coming towards us, I see just how vast the US's reserves of wealth are. Such "corrections" will be most painful to many, but the basics of clean water, food, information, shelter and power are still there, and there's enough for everyone. This isn't like the 1930's. It will seem as painful - but only because our expectations have grown so very much higher. It won't last as long either, a decade at most.

We have a lot more to fear than fear itself though. Incompetence, and corruption that is endemic in systems that encourage pork-barrelling.

Monday 5 July 2010

Intersex Infant-Surgical Abuse

A Reprise of a previous post - the video is now more accessible, on YouTube. (Posted earlier, scheduled for when I'm mid-Pacific so don't have Net access)

Sunday 4 July 2010

Happy Birthday, USA

I learnt much about US history from this record in 1966, at age 8. A present from my Uncle Ted in California, IIRC.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Friday 2 July 2010


As a follow-up to a previous post in March concerning CAH - congenital adrenal hyperplasia.

From TIME :
Langford and her husband learned they were silent carriers of the genetic variation that causes CAH when their son was diagnosed with the condition after birth. Their son — like the 1 in 16,000 babies born with CAH each year in the U.S. — faces a lifetime of taking powerful steroid medications to compensate for his faulty adrenal glands. When Langford contacted New about her second pregnancy, New, who was not Langford's regular doctor, called a local pediatric endocrinologist. That doctor prescribed Langford a commonly used medication for CAH. "Dr. New told me I had to start taking dexamethasone immediately," says Langford, 30, who lives in Tampa. "We felt very confident in someone of her stature and that what she was telling us was the right thing to do."
The early prenatal use of dexamethasone, or dex, has been shown to prevent some of the symptoms of CAH in girls, namely ambiguous genitalia. Because the condition causes overproduction of male hormones in the womb, girls who are affected tend to have genitals that look more male than female, though internal sex organs are normal.
Langford says also that neither New nor her prescribing physician mentioned that prenatal dexamethasone treatment is an off-label use of the drug (an application for which it was not specifically approved by the government) or that the medical community is sharply divided over whether dexamethasone should be used during pregnancy at all.
And now a series of articles from Bioethics. First, Preventing Homosexuality (and Uppity Women) in the Womb?:
The majority of researchers and clinicians interested in the use of prenatal “dex” focus on preventing development of ambiguous genitalia in girls with CAH. CAH results in an excess of androgens prenatally, and this can lead to a “masculinizing” of a female fetus’s genitals. One group of researchers, however, seems to be suggesting that prenatal dex also might prevent affected girls from turning out to be homosexual or bisexual.

Pediatric endocrinologist Maria New, of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Florida International University, and her long-time collaborator, psychologist Heino F. L. Meyer-Bahlburg, of Columbia University, have been tracing evidence for the influence of prenatal androgens in sexual orientation. In a paper entitled “Sexual Orientation in Women with Classical or Non-Classical Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia as a Function of Degree of Prenatal Androgen Excess” published in 2008 in Archives of Sexual Behavior, Meyer-Bahlburg and New (with two others) gather evidence of “a dose-response relationship of androgens with sexual orientation” through a study of women with various forms of CAH.

They specifically point to reasons to believe that it is prenatal androgens that have an impact on the development of sexual orientation. The authors write,
"Most women were heterosexual, but the rates of bisexual and homosexual orientation were increased above controls . . . and correlated with the degree of prenatal androgenization.”

They go on to suggest that the work might offer some insight into the influence of prenatal hormones on the development of sexual orientation in general. “That this may apply also to sexual orientation in at least a subgroup of women is suggested by the fact that earlier research has repeatedly shown that about one-third of homosexual women have (modestly) increased levels of androgens.” They “conclude that the findings support a sexual-differentiation perspective involving prenatal androgens on the development of sexual orientation.”

And it isn’t just that many women with CAH have a lower interest, compared to other women, in having sex with men. In another paper entitled “What Causes Low Rates of Child-Bearing in Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia?” Meyer-Bahlburg writes that “CAH women as a group have a lower interest than controls in getting married and performing the traditional child-care/housewife role. As children, they show an unusually low interest in engaging in maternal play with baby dolls, and their interest in caring for infants, the frequency of daydreams or fantasies of pregnancy and motherhood, or the expressed wish of experiencing pregnancy and having children of their own appear to be relatively low in all age groups.”

In the same article, Meyer-Bahlburg suggests that treatments with prenatal dexamethasone might cause these girls’ behavior to be closer to the expectation of heterosexual norms: “Long term follow-up studies of the behavioral outcome will show whether dexamethasone treatment also prevents the effects of prenatal androgens on brain and behavior.”

In a paper published just this year in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New and her colleague, pediatric endocrinologist Saroj Nimkarn of Weill Cornell Medical College, go further, constructing low interest in babies and men – and even interest in what they consider to be men’s occupations and games – as “abnormal,” and potentially preventable with prenatal dex:

“Gender-related behaviors, namely childhood play, peer association, career and leisure time preferences in adolescence and adulthood, maternalism, aggression, and sexual orientation become masculinized in 46,XX girls and women with 21OHD deficiency [CAH]. These abnormalities have been attributed to the effects of excessive prenatal androgen levels on the sexual differentiation of the brain and later on behavior.” Nimkarn and New continue: “We anticipate that prenatal dexamethasone therapy will reduce the well-documented behavioral masculinization . . .”
Now, from Prenatal Dex: Update and Omnibus Reply :
It appears that in the vast majority of cases, New did not enroll these women in an IRB-approved treatment trial of prenatal dex. Indeed, in spite of many admonitions from colleagues to undertake this risky, experimental treatment only under IRB oversight (if at all), New seems for many years to have promoted the off-label use of this Class C drug to pregnant women as safe and effective, and to have simultaneously sought and obtained NIH funding to study these women and children after birth to see if the drug was, in fact, safe and effective. (The follow-up studies have had IRB approval, but those overseeing the follow-up studies should have been asking where all these exposed subjects were coming from.) The American Academy of Pediatrics, the European Society for Pediatric Endocrinology, and the Lawson Wilkins Pediatrics Endocrine Society have been among those specifically arguing that this powerful steroid should not be employed for this use outside IRB-approved prospective studies.

In February, 32 researchers in bioethics and allied disciplines signed letters of concern to New’s institutions, to the FDA Office of Pediatric Therapeutics, and to the HHS Office for Human Research Protections.
Studies of prenatal dexamethasone give us substantial reason for concern for these mothers' and children's physical and mental well-being, particularly given that this usage is aimed at preventing a cosmetic issue (one not shown to increase psychosocial risk) and that 87.5% of the mothers started on prenatal dexamethasone will not even be carrying a fetus that is 46,XX 21-hydroxylase deficient. Studies have already shown some adverse effects on exposed children.[5,24,25] In addition, some researchers have raised concerns about possible epigenetic effects that might even impact these children's children's well-being.[25]

We do not find evidence that animal studies have shown that prenatal dexamethasone is likely to be safe in humans; on the contrary, studies showing harm to animals exposed prenatally to dexamethasone have been used by the teams associated with New to try to figure out what defects they might find in the exposed children.[9] This certainly looks to us like an improper move to human experimentation on pregnant women of a Class C steroid without satisfactory establishment of safety in animal studies. That this human experimentation may even be done without IRB oversight astonishes us.

[5]Trautman PD, Meyer-Bahlburg HF, Postelnek J, New MI. Effects of early prenatal dexamethasone on the cognitive and behavioral development of young children: results of a pilot study. Psychoneuroendocrinology 1995;20:439-49.
[9]Meyer-Bahlburg HF, Dolezal C, Baker SW, Carlson AD, Obeid JS, New MI. Cognitive and motor development of children with and without congenital adrenal hyperplasia after early-prenatal dexamethasone. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2004;89:610-4.
[24]Hirvikoski T, Nordenstrom A, Lindholm T, et al. Cognitive functions in children at risk for congenital adrenal hyperplasia treated prenatally with dexamethasone. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 2007;92:542-8.
[25]Lajic S NA, Hirvikoski T. Long-term outcome of prenatal treatment of Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. In: WL FCaM, ed. Disorders of the Human Adrenal Cortex. Endocrine Development ed. Basel: Karger; 2008:82-98.
From the letter to Lawson Wilson Pediatric Endocrine Society mentioned above:
By 1999, through the Cornell-affiliated group lead by Dr. New, it appears there were at least 403 instances of diagnosis and treatment by 2001, at least 532 by 2003, at least 600.
Treatment to prevent physical Intersex symptoms which can cause serious problems such as vaginal fistulae is, absent any side-effects, a worthy goal. From BigThink :
An enlarged clitoris is one common feature of masculinization. However, the effects can be far more serious and affect not merely the girl's appearance, or even her gender presentation, but the health and functionality of her entire genitourinary tract.

In severe cases, the vagina and the urethra may open into a common sinus, instead of being separate tubes. Surgery may be required to create separate vaginal and urethral openings. Otherwise, urine can flow into the vagina, which creates an indirect kind of incontinence when it dribbles out again. Urine in the vagina can also cause chronic irritation and increase the risk of vaginal infections.

Sometimes the vaginal canal isn't wide enough to carry menstrual blood out of the body, in which case, surgery is required. Unfortunately, reconstructed vaginas tend to narrow over time. So, the patient may have to undergo still more surgery and/or months of painful training with dilators to stretch her vagina enough to have intercourse.
Treatment to "normalise" functional genitalia is more controversial, but I think most would approve of it, again absent any side effects. Some Intersexed people may differ on that, just the way many hearing-impaired people might not see congenital deafness as an undesirable defect, but a mere variation, a difference. I think though that this is a distinctly minority view, and that informed parental choice should have a role here, rather than a directive from those not personally involved. There is an argument against such therapy, and even if I personally think it's weak, I see no great harm in not having treatment should Society be moderately sane about it.

Treatment to prevent Transsexuality, again if it had no side effects, is something I would consider even more strongly justified though. Even if Society was sane. Because there could be a substantial mismatch between body-image and somatic form, which can cause immense suffering.

Treatment to make girls bidable, demure, maternal, and above all straight on the other hand... now we're getting into ethically dubious territory. We have to look at the rights of the parent. Are they unfettered? Do we have a right to prevent a parent from having a gay child? Or educating them to be racist, bigoted, even sadistic and sociopathic?

I don't think the rights of a parent should be unfettered. But I also see a distinction between the two cases above. In the second, there is harm not (just) to the child, but to those who they will interact with in their lives. In the first, as medical technology improves and society hopefully gets saner, they will have the same reproductive abilities regardless of whether gay or straight. Choosing sexual orientation for a child is no worse - and no better - than choosing eye colour, or handedness.

Of course the GLB advocacy groups who have remained silent when only Intersexed and Trans kids were experimented on this way, are now having a large economy-sized cow over the subject. Human Nature of course, but still Ironic.

The ethical issues are moot though. Because all of the above is predicated on there being no adverse consequences. And that is something that we are not only not sure of, we have reason to believe is not true.

From a comment by Faith over at Joe.My.God:
The risks are common risks of corticosteroid therapy, and, in some cases the benefits outweigh the risks, such as in the case of underdeveloped lungs -- however, if the risk is that the child will be less likely to play with dolls or want to make babies the risk/benefit ratio does not pan out. No IRB in their right mind would approve this study and she is not doing it under the purview of an IRB. Incredible.

Otero L, Conlon C, Reynolds P, Duval-Arnould B, Golden SM. Neonatal leukocytosis associated with prenatal administration of dexamethasone. Pediatrics 1981;68:77880.

Avery ME. The argument for prenatal administration of dexamethasone to prevent respiratory distress syndrome. J Pediatr 1984;104:240.

Carmichael SL, Shaw GM. Maternal corticosteroid use and risk of selected congenital anomalies. Am J Med Genet 1999;86:2424.
And from Kirstin:
So I found and read the list of side effects. And, while reading them I kept in mind that this drug was being or going to be delivered to developing fetuses... These side effects have been reported and are happening to already born humans. Can you imagine submitting a developing fetus to something that can and has caused anything off the list below?

Dexamethasone Side Effects - for the Professional:
The following adverse reactions have been reported with Dexamethasone or other corticosteroids:

Bradycardia, cardiac arrest, cardiac arrhythmias, cardiac enlargement, circulatory collapse, congestive heart failure, fat embolism, hypertension, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in premature infants, myocardial rupture following recent myocardial infarction, edema, pulmonary edema, syncope, tachycardia, thromboembolism, thrombophlebitis, vasculitis.

Acne, allergic dermatitis, dry scaly skin, ecchymoses and petechiae, erythema, impaired wound healing, increased sweating, rash, striae, suppression of reactions to skin tests, thin fragile skin, thinning scalp hair, urticaria.

Decreased carbohydrate and glucose tolerance, development of cushingoid state, hyperglycemia, glycosuria, hirsutism, hypertrichosis, increased requirements for insulin or oral hypoglycemic agents in diabetes, manifestations of latent diabetes mellitus, menstrual irregularities, secondary adrenocortical and pituitary unresponsiveness (particularly in times of stress, as in trauma, surgery, or illness), suppression of growth in pediatric patients.

Fluid and Electrolyte Disturbances
Congestive heart failure in susceptible patients, fluid retention, hypokalemic alkalosis, potassium loss, sodium retention.

Abdominal distention, elevation in serum liver enzyme levels (usually reversible upon discontinuation), hepatomegaly, increased appetite, nausea, pancreatitis, peptic ulcer with possible perforation and hemorrhage, perforation of the small and large intestine (particularly in patients with inflammatory bowel disease), ulcerative esophagitis.

Negative nitrogen balance due to protein catabolism.

Aseptic necrosis of femoral and humeral heads, loss of muscle mass, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, pathologic fracture of long bones, steroid myopathy, tendon rupture, vertebral compression fractures.

Convulsions, depression, emotional instability, euphoria, headache, increased intracranial pressure with papilledema (pseudotumor cerebri) usually following discontinuation of treatment, insomnia, mood swings, neuritis, neuropathy, paresthesia, personality changes, psychic disorders, vertigo.
There's rather more, at Psychology Today, at ScienceBlogs and elsewhere. Including this comment:

Some things about me fit into stereotypical gender roles. (I'm a cisgendered, heterosexual woman.) Some don't.

I'm happily married to a man and do eventually want kids. I have good verbal and emotional skills, I prefer collaboration to argument, I like to cook and bake, I like to knit, I like kittens, and sometimes I enjoy putting on femme costume (dresses, heels, makeup, jewelry).

But: I proposed to my now-husband. I majored in physics (where I was the only woman), I have an M.S. and am working on a Ph.D in biomedical engineering (so I also have good logical/mathematical skills), and deferred kids to prioritize that education. In fact, I wasn't sure I wanted kids at all until recently. I'm very good at coding, I dislike and avoid cleaning, I like using power tools of all kinds, I like building things, I like comic books, I like lifting weights, and I usually dress in non-ornamental t-shirts and jeans without makeup -- I'd be miserable having to dress and groom super-femme all the time, though I have fun with doing it occasionally. I particularly enjoy doing coded-masculine things while dressed/groomed in a more-femme way, just to mess with people.

In short, I'm a human being, with varied skills, interests, likes and dislikes. Gender essentialism is a load of BS.
Well, sort of. One possible effect of this therapy is to make women like her extinct. Whether deliberately, a bug or a feature, I think it likely that it would.

I don't think that would be a good thing. Some do.

The worst thing from a scientific viewpoint - after doing the Mengele act, telling pregnant women - and not just a few, but hundreds - that the drug was proven safe (when we have good reason to believe that is not the case) - the follow-up on the effects has been slipshod too. So much so that it's possible the findings were not to their liking, and they concealed them to avoid lawsuits.

It's been six years since Dr New last prescribed this drug. The first patients - though it's possible that the word "victims" might be accurate, and "experimental subjects" more accurate still - will be 11 years old now. Old enough for us to see many of the effects on psychology, and virtually all on non-neurological anatomy. I hope we're lucky, and my fears groundless.

Because she's playing with fire in an explosives factory. As Alice Dreger said in her article in Psychology Today:
This drug is unequivocally experimental and risky. That's why, back in February, I organized interested members of the Bioethics community to fight to make sure every woman offered dex for CAH knows the truth about its experimental and risky nature. (You can read about our efforts in Time magazine. And you can about the medical establishment's resultant mad scampering to make sure everyone knows this is experimental here.) Make no mistake: In spite of Dr. Maria New's outrageous FDA-regulation-flaunting claims that this off-label drug use "has been found safe for mother and child," it ain't been. New is a rogue pediatrician whom medical societies have been nudging (and sometimes yelling at) for years. Because she apparently wouldn't stop experimenting on these women and children without ethics oversight, in January I got called in to help by a few freaked-out clinicians. And I called in my colleagues to call out the feds. New just looks and sounds safe for mothers and children. Which is why she's really dangerous.
It's the height of Irony that Ms Dreger is one of the greatest supporters of Michael Bailey. Someone infamous for ignoring neuro-anatomy as a factor in transsexuality, and who insists that all trans women are actually deceptive gay or sexually perverse men. And someone who thinks it just fine and dandy that "teh gay" be prevented by pre-natal intervention.

Thursday 1 July 2010

Trip Details

5 July 2010

Arrive San Francisco Intl Airport Qantas QF0073 ex Sydney 09:10 (3 hours before I depart).

Depart SF 11:45

Arrive Portland Flight AA7543 America Airlines/Alaska Air 13:30

Staying at
Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront Hotel
1401 SW Naito Parkway
Portland, Oregon 97201 USA
Phone: 1-503-226-7600

12 July 2010
Depart Portland AA7596 American Airlines/Alaska Air 17:55

Arrive SF 19:40

Depart SF Intl Qantas QF0074 23:10

Hopefully I'll be able to see some of you at some time...

Let me know - if so, there will be Tim Tams. Vegemite optional.