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kfcA federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a doctor who accused KFC of not telling customers that it used trans fats to fry its chicken.

In an occasionally sarcastic opinion, U.S. District Judge James Robertson said Dr. Arthur Hoyte could not show that he was harmed by the fast food chain's use of the artery-clogging fats.

That was enough to doom the lawsuit, but Robertson also noted other flaws in the case.

"While it might be appropriate for this court to find, as a matter of law, that the consumption of fat — including trans fat — is indeed within the reasonable expectations of the consumers of fried chicken and french fries prepared in fast food kitchens, it is not necessary for me to reach that question," Robertson wrote.

And in response to Hoyte's claim that customers have a growing understanding of the dangers of trans fats, Robertson wrote: "If consumers are increasingly aware of trans fat, where do they expect to find it if not in fast food restaurants?"
This story was widely reported yesterday, ostensibly as a "laugh of the day" kind of article. But wait! This could set a dangerous precedent and deal a body-blow to similar lawsuits everywhere in the U.S.

Imagine how many lawsuits could be dismissed if personal responsibility and (un)common sense comes into play? Might consumers actually have -- gasp! -- culpability for what they do to themselves? Will judgements such as "If consumers are increasingly aware of nicotine and tar, where do they expect to find it if not in cigarettes?" be coming to a court near you?

Another nice quote I came across only recently:

"All of life is the management of risk, not its elimination."
Walter Wriston, former chairman of Citicorp

The New York Sun: "I shouldn't be doing this. I'll be going up for tenure soon." It was with those words of self admonishment that an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago, Daniel Drezner, inaugurated his Web log in September 2002.

As thousands of his online readers know, Mr. Drezner didn't heed his own advice. Instead, he rose to blogosphere prominence. His site is perhaps the most widely read blog focusing on the international political economy, turning scholarly research on issues like outsourcing, the politics of trade, and monetary policy into bite-size pieces of analysis for a wider audience.

On Friday, Mr. Drezner's first blog entry came back to haunt him: He was informed by his department that he was denied tenure and would have to look elsewhere for a job.Click here to read the whole story.


{Roy Glauber}

Don't miss the hilarious interview with Theodor Hänsch.

1) Government is generally incompetent.
  • the mayor invites people into an auditorium, then realizes they have no ability to care for these people, then starts swearing like a sailor about the Bush dropping the ball (see here).
  • the efficient Red Cross were denied access (see here) to New Orlean because the federal government was afraid this would discourage emigration from the city.
  • the department of Homeland Security is a bureaucratic nightmare, and has taken over FEMA. Surprisingly, to some, it was not up to the task.
2) Law and Order are the first priorities of government
  • John Locke was a seminal influence on the Constitution of the US. He noted that securing the life and property of its citizens is paramount.
  • see this classic video, which shows citizens and police looting a WalMart during the crisis.
  • New Orleans has historically been a lawless place. Earlier this year police fired 700 rounds of blanks (see here) and no one called the cops--they did not figure it worth reporting, either because it was not uncommon or they just did not care.
3) Some communities within the US--the wealthiest and most powerful country on earth--are as dangerous as any place on earth.
  • Looting and violence did not happen nearly as much in other equally devastated areas like Biloxi Missippippi, or in post-earthquake Kobe Japan, or in post-tsunami Sri Lanka. Many international observers were surprised, but the US is a big country, and many parts of it are one power-outage away from Hobbes' state of nature.
4) Risk is a part of life.
  • No amount of money can prevent 1-in-100 year storms from disrupting communities and causing loss of life. It is impractical to have a standing army ready to jump into the fray when such improbable occurences happen. Those who get most upset by the inability of federal government to instantly ameliorate these situations (see here) just show their childlike naivite, as if the government, especially the federal government in Washington DC, has an efficient plan to protect every enclave from its particular risks. It doesn't, and it can't.

LA Times: For hire: more than 1,000 U.S.-trained former soldiers and police officers from Colombia. Combat-hardened, experienced in fighting insurgents and ready for duty in Iraq.

This eye-popping advertisement recently appeared on an Iraq jobs website, posted by an American entrepreneur who hopes to supply security forces for U.S. contractors in Iraq and elsewhere.

If hired, the Colombians would join a swelling population of heavily armed private military forces working in Iraq and other global hot spots. They also would join a growing corps of workers from the developing world who are seeking higher wages in dangerous jobs, what some critics say is a troubling result of efforts by the U.S. to "outsource" its operations in Iraq and other countries.

In a telephone interview from Colombia, the entrepreneur, Jeffrey Shippy, said he saw a booming global demand for his "private army," and a lucrative business opportunity in recruiting Colombians. Shippy, who formerly worked for DynCorp International, a major U.S. security contractor, said the Colombians were willing to work for $2,500 to $5,000 a month, compared with perhaps $10,000 or more for Americans. Click here to read the whole story.

senOn Night Waves this evening Robert Hanks talks to Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen about his new book, the Argumentative Indian, which proposes that there is an India far more diverse and accommodating than many descriptions from outsiders suggest.

Sen argues that this atmosphere of tolerance and secularism supports a healthy argumentative tradition and climate for debate which, in turn, has much to offer the current debate around democracy.

via 3 Quarks Daily


Your code:

via The Presurfer

WSJ: A major survey of U.S. researchers has found that unethical practices are more common and widespread in science than previously believed.

The study (n = 3000, funded by the National Institutes of Health) found that 33% of scientists admit to engaging in at least one of 10 behaviors considered unethical by university officials, such as "cooking" research data, changing results, or ignoring rules designed to protect human volunteers.

The study asked questions about 33 behaviors ranging from outright fraud to whether a scientist had ever signed a letter without fully reading it. <> According to the survey results, outright fraud is rare. Only 0.3% of scientists polled admitted they had falsified research data in the last three years; 1.4% admitted to plagiarism.

Other problems were far more common. Nearly 8% said they had ignored some rules designed to protect human volunteers, and nearly one in three said they failed to keep adequate records of their research projects. About half the respondents admitted engaging in careless behaviors, such as cutting corners. |Source, $|

see also Rent-Seeking Behavior Is Undermining Research, Mark Thoma (Economist's View)

Fact of the Day:
Jonathan Swift is credited with affixing the label "bubble" to a stock price that far exceeded its economic value in a poem written in December 1720, just after the stock price of the South Sea Co. tumbled. The last stanza read: "The Nation too, too late will find/ Computing all their Cost and Trouble/ Directors Promises but Wind/ South Sea at best a mighty Bubble." ]Source[