The most notable thing about NBC’s new dark crime thriller Aquarius is how it’s being distributed. The series’ first episode debuted Thursday, May 28, but its entire first season is now streaming on the network’s website. New episodes will unspool on the network every Thursday at 9 pm Eastern, but for those who get really into the series, the whole thing will be right there waiting.
It’s part of the network’s attempt to figure out what its own future looks like by experimenting with a combination of the regular television model and something more like what Netflix or Amazon does. And the show’s content — which involves cops in late 1960s Los Angeles and the serial killer Charles Manson — is darker than your typical network fare, more like a cable show.
Aquarius, then, tries to occupy broadcast, cable, and streaming — all three regions of the current television landscape. That it’s an uneasy fit in any one of these regions and that it sometimes feels like two shows clumsily stitched together should probably come as no surprise.
A good portion of Aquarius, of which I’ve seen the entire season, is a ’60s-set cop show, complete with cases of the week and the characters facing off with the important social issues of the day. At the center of that show is Sam Hodiak, played by David Duchovny, who seems like a rough spin on Dragnet‘s ultra-square Joe Friday, if Joe Friday were slightly more sympathetic to hippies.
The Miranda ruling is new, and Hodiak can never remember to read suspects their rights. He’s occasionally, casually racist. And he believes in good old-fashioned America. But he’s also coming to realize not everything he holds dear is as infallible as he might want it to be.
In some ways, Hodiak is meant to exemplify some of the wider societal shifts of his era, when the counterculture’s dissatisfaction with the status quo began filtering up to the mainstream. Hodiak’s son goes AWOL from Vietnam, and the season’s most satisfying storyline involves how the character (a World War II veteran) slowly reconciles himself with why his son left the war.
As cop shows go, this isn’t radically amazing stuff, but it can be quite a bit of fun`
Answer by David Chan, M.D. from UCLA, Stanford oncology fellowship:
The issues surrounding early diagnosis of cancer are very complicated. The short response is that it depends on which patient and cancer.
The long version is that there are many cancers being diagnosed, including low-grade prostate cancers in older men and preinvasive breast cancers in older women, that don’t need to be diagnosed and don’t need to be treated. These low-grade cancers have a natural history way beyond average life expectancy, so the large majority of these patients will die of other causes before they have symptoms from their cancers.
This kind of analysis led to the controversial guidelines from U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the national screening task force, to eliminate PSA blood test screening in the large majority of men for prostate cancer and also to increase the time between mammograms in women to every two years and to stop mammogram screening altogether after the age of 75.
So what we have are two tests (PSA and mammograms) that have been demonstrated to diagnose cancer early, yet a U.S. government committee has recommended reducing their use, dramatically in the case of PSA, because of concerns with overtreatment, costs, and toxicity and morbidity resulting from overtreatments.
The very big problem with these guidelines is that they completely discount those aggressive cancers that are going to be diagnosed too late. Guidelines like those from the task force are population recommendations, but we all know younger men who die of prostate cancer and similarly women of all ages who die from breast cancer. Many cancer specialists and patients would prefer to know about the aggressive cancers and to make educated, informed decisions on not treating the low-grade cancers.
Within the next couple of years, there will be a large number of molecular blood tests that will develop cancer DNA or RNA. These tests are often referred to as liquid biopsies. The tests will be very accurate in finding all sorts of cancer early. Both that’s going to lead to a very major problem.
Liquid biopsy technology will often find a cancer way before, maybe many years before, it’s detectable by endoscopy, MRI, or CT scan. This will lead to a huge freakout factor for patients and their doctors who find abnormal liquid biopsy tests and multiple normal scans. Although it’s certainly possible that the liquid biopsy tests will be so accurate that they can also predict whether the cancer is aggressive or low-grade.
An additional issue is that MRI and CT or PET scans are computer-generated images with low sensitivity. The software isn’t able to detect small areas of abnormality, so the images appear normal when in fact small cancers are present. CT and PET have high levels of radiation and can’t be used for routine testing except when cancer risk is high, such as lung cancer screening in older smokers.
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Could this really happen? And can earthquakes ever be predicted, as one scientist (played by Paul Giamatti) succeeds in doing in this movie? We did some fact-checking with seismologist Lucile Jones of the U.S. Geological Survey.
On the accuracy of the film’s premise of an earthquake “swarm”
Actually, we don’t use the term “swarm.” Swarm is for when they’re all in the same location. But this idea of a triggered earthquake — that an earthquake in Nevada could set off an earthquake in Los Angeles — we’ve seen that. In 1992, a 7.3 in Southern California set off a 5.7 in Nevada. The 1906 earthquake in San Francisco set off a magnitude 6 near the Mexican border. So that distant triggering is actually a core part of the earthquake process.
On whether earthquakes can be predicted
When I started my career 30 years ago, I would have [said], “Yeah, that’s what we’re trying for!” But everything we looked at, none of it worked. So now we can recognize that an earthquake’s begun so quickly that we get the information to you before the shaking gets to you. That doesn’t give you a lot of warning. Unfortunately, what they’re doing in the movie has really been shown to not work.
On the movie’s portrayal of earthquake safety
That in-the-doorway mythology has been floating around for a really long time. [Standing in] doorways began, actually, from a Red Cross volunteer inthe 1952 earthquake that saw a collapsed adobe house with the lintel still standing. And said, “Wow, the door must be a good place to be,” and they started teaching that. And it’s true — if you’re in a 200-year-old adobe house. In any modern construction, the doorway’s no stronger than anywhere else and it usually has a door and that door is gonna be flopping back and forth during the earthquake. And we’ve seen a bunch of injuries, people being hit by the door.
So what you’re trying to do in an earthquake is you’re trying to protect yourself from flying objects. That’s why going under a table is a good idea. We used to just say, “Duck and cover.” Now we say, “Drop, cover, hold on,” because in strong shaking, the table may be trying to go somewhere else.
There’s nothing new about cannabis, of course. It’s been around humankind pretty much forever.
In Siberia charred seeds have been found inside burial mounds dating back to 3000 B.C. The Chinese were using cannabis as a medicine thousands of years ago. Marijuana is deeply American too—as American as George Washington, who grew hemp at Mount Vernon. For most of the country’s history, cannabis was legal, commonly found in tinctures and extracts.
Then came Reefer Madness. Marijuana, the Assassin of Youth. The Killer Weed. The Gateway Drug. For nearly 70 years the plant went into hiding, and medical research largely stopped. In 1970 the federal government made it even harder to study marijuana, classifying it as a Schedule I drug—a dangerous substance with no valid medical purpose and a high potential for abuse, in the same category as heroin. In America most people expanding knowledge about cannabis were by definition criminals.
But now, as more and more people are turning to the drug to treat ailments, the science of cannabis is experiencing a rebirth. We’re finding surprises, and possibly miracles, concealed inside this once forbidden plant. Although marijuana is still classified as a Schedule I drug, Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, recently expressed interest in what science will learn about marijuana, noting that preliminary data show that “for certain medical conditions and symptoms” it can be “helpful.”
Hours before the Senate’s PATRIOT Act standoff hit its peak this month, Republican leaders thought they had Rand Paul figured out. He would object, rail on the matter on the Senate floor — and then let at least a temporary extension through.
“I don’t agree with Sen. Paul on this issue, but I think he’s been a constructive guy,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said just before the week-long recess.
A day later with the clock past midnight and the Senate in a standstill largely because of Paul’s objections, Cornyn wasn’t nearly as generous.
“I’m a little surprised,” a perplexed Cornyn said. “Sen. Paul is asking for something that nobody will agree to.”
Paul’s handling of the PATRIOT Act issue has caught many of his GOP colleagues by surprise — and he now plans to drag the fight days past a midnight Sunday deadline, forcing the sweeping surveillance law to expire. Despite repeated cajoling by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over the Memorial Day recess, Paul plans to block his fellow Kentuckian’s efforts to expedite debate, he told POLITICO Saturday.
“Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies,” Paul said in a statement. “But we do not need to give up who we are to defeat them. In fact, we must not. There has to be another way. We must find it together. So tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program.”
Three decades after Carolus Linnaeus’s death, Charles Darwin was born in Shropshire, England, the fifth child of a prosperous physician. It was 1809; the intermittently mad George III ruled Britain, in spells; Jean-Baptiste Lamarck had just published the “Zoological Philosophy,” James Hutton’s uniformity was slowly enfolding Bishop Ussher’s young earth, and Georges Cuvier was hard at work drafting his alternative theory of catastrophes.
“I was a born naturalist,” Darwin later remarked; his childhood was devoted to collecting, fishing, tracking, and reading natural history. But his father sent him first to the University of Edinburgh to study medicine, and then to Cambridge, hoping to launch him into the church. Neither field interested him (“my time was wasted,” he wrote, “I was . . . sickened with lectures”) and he did more riding than studying, more bird-watching than Greek. “No pursuit at Cambridge,” he recollected, “gave me so much pleasure as collecting beetles.”
Darwin finished school in 1831 with a decent degree, an encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, and absolutely no interest in either healing or preaching. But he had impressed several of his Cambridge professors with his extracurricular studies. One of them, the botanist John Henslow, recommended him to another acquaintance, naval officer Robert Fitzroy, as the perfect addition to Fitzroy’s upcoming expedition—a two-year sea voyage that would take a complete geographic survey of the South American coast.
Darwin accepted at once. The planned Christmas departure of Fitzroy’s ship, the HMS Beagle, was delayed when the entire crew got sloshed: “A beautiful day,” Darwin recorded in his diary on December 26, “& an excellent one for sailing—the opportunity has been lost owing to the drunkedness & absence of nearly the whole crew.” Finally, the Beagle set off from Plymouth Sound on December 27, 1831.
The two-year journey extended to five, and the Beagle continued from the South American coast to the GalaÅLpagos Islands, then to Tahiti and Australia, circling the globe before returning home. Darwin kept copious notes on his observations. Again and again, these notes describe his struggle with the problem of species.
To start with, the whole concept of a species was still poorly defined. “No one definition has satisfied all naturalists,” Darwin wrote, a quarter of a century later, “yet every naturalist knows vaguely what he means when he speaks of a species.” And the fixity and permanence of species (whatever they were) required multiple acts of divine creation. So why were European ground beetles, Alpine cave beetles, and American cave fish all sightless? Had each of these species been created, separately, without sight? Turnips, rutabagas, and various gourds all had enlarged stems; should this be chalked up to “three separated yet closely related acts of creation”? Or perhaps these were not separate species, just varieties? But in that case, the present definitions of species were all drastically inadequate.
Darwin’s questions were only deepened by the vast variations of living creatures that he now saw. Each island of the GalaÅLpagos had its own mockingbird; they did not interbreed, and they differed in vital ways, so each might be considered a different species; yet they were also, essentially, alike. How should they be classified? What accounted for their differences, and (even more) their similarities?
“When I was on board the Beagle,” Charles Darwin later wrote, “I believed in the permanence of species, but, as far as I can remember, vague doubts occasionally flitted across my mind. On my return home in the autumn of 1836 I immediately began to prepare my journal for publication” (the account would be published in 1839 as “Journal and Remarks,” although it is usually now known as “The Voyage of the Beagle”) “and then saw how many facts indicated the common descent of species, so that in July, 1837, I opened a note-book to record any facts which might bear on the question; but I did not become convinced that species were mutable until, I think, two or three years had elapsed.”
That notebook was only the first of a series; and all of them were filled with problems. In the notebook that Darwin created between July 1837 and February 1838, he wrote, in part,
Species are constant over whole country?
Every animal has tendency to change.—This difficult to prove. . . .
No answer because time short & no great change has happened.
Unknown causes of change. . . .
Each species changes. Does it progress?
Changes not result of will of animal, but law of adaptation.
There is nothing stranger in death of species than individuals.
Difficult for man to be unprejudiced about self.
For most of modern U.S. political history, Republicans in general have cast themselves as the party of fiscally responsible governance, adhering to a simple equation: low government spending plus tax cuts – the bigger, and broader, the better – equals all-but-guaranteed economic growth and full government coffers.
Look at states governed by Republicans, however, and it seems that the GOP might need a collective refresher course in economics, if not general math.
Five years after the economic recession wreaked havoc on their budgets, at least a dozen red states are awash in red ink, facing nine- and ten-figure deficits heading into the new fiscal year. That’s led GOP governors who won office by pledging fiscal responsibility, and bans on new taxes, to slash spending on everything from education to the environment while simultaneously increasing the financial burdens for the poor, along with the use of accounting sleight-of-hand to make the books look better.
Though it’s clearly a bipartisan issue – Maryland’s new Republican governor, Larry Hogan, inherited a $1.2 billion budget deficit from former governor (and future Democratic presidential candidate) Martin O’Malley – the rising red tide could wash away the so-called “Laffer Curve,” a key element of Republicans’ long-held fiscal orthodoxy that asserts tax cuts pay for themselves by stimulating economic growth.
In Kansas, two-term Republican Gov. Sam Brownback famously declared his state was a real-world “experiment” for the GOP’s fiscal ideas devised by Arthur Laffer, an influential conservative economist and one of Brownback’s key advisers. Despite Laffer’s presence on his policy team, Brownback’s state’s budget is nearly $1 billion in the red, forcing the governor to make deep cuts in education, social programs and some services.
The deficits could also sweep into the dustbin the presidential ambitions of at least three Republican governors who are struggling to balance the books in their home states even as they try to make names for themselves on the national political stage.