Ode To Libraries

We have a stereotype of the spinsterish librarian and of the austere domain she (for it’s always a she) rules. Yet libraries are hubs of activities as the new Frederick Wiseman’s film “Ex-Libris: The New York Public Library” illustrates.  Even more recently a NYT article by sociologist Eric Klineberg “To restore Civil Society, Start with the Library,” reminds us how much we owe libraries and how much they contribute.  He says that libraries are valued and necessary but often influential Continue reading “Ode To Libraries”

The Free Speech of Prisoners

Incarcerated people are usually American citizens—with the exception of the many immigrants detained for lack of visas or other papers—and as American citizens one would expect that they would be subject to the provisions of the Bill of Rights which includes freedom of speech. But that may not necessarily be so. The issue came up when a weekly debate club in Statesville Correctional Center in Crest Hills, Illinois, was suspended without explanation. They had been debating the pros and cons of Continue reading “The Free Speech of Prisoners”

On Selling Kidneys

Shashank Bengali is the Los Angeles Times South Indian correspondent.  Some time ago he had written a story about a hospital in Mumbai that was busted because it was doing illegal kidney transplants, which he says was a sort of cautionary tale because a young man has been lured to sell a kidney. Months later Bengali received an email. Someone thought he was in the business of selling kidneys. He did not pay Continue reading “On Selling Kidneys”

DNA Testing and Errors

A recent NYT op-ed strongly alerted readers to a study that found errors in DNA testing. The National Institute of Standards and Technology gave the same sample of DNA mixtures to 105 US crime labs and 3 Canadian ones and asked them to compare it to the DNA of 3 suspects from a mock robbery. A DNA mixture is a biological sample of 2 or more individuals from which a DNA profile could be drawn. Today’s DNA testing is advanced enough that an analysis can be done even if someone has lightly touched an object. The labs correctly identified 2 of the suspects, but 74 got Continue reading “DNA Testing and Errors”