Raise gas prices to slim down America?

…so claims this headline. Only the story screws it up.

The article highlights this dissertation research by Charles Courtemanche at Washington University in St. Louis. Courtemanche’s thesis is that the rise in gas prices causes more people to walk, ride bikes, or take public transportation (which they’d also have to walk to), as well as eat at home instead of going out; therefore higher gasoline prices can result in a thinner population. Sounds plausible. I won’t get into all the details of his research (the .pdf is available from the above link for anyone interested), but just by reading the abstract I can see a glaring error in the report, which makes the gas price hypothesis sound a lot bigger than it is. See if you can spot it:
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World Rabies Day

September 8th was world rabies day. In the United States, this was celebrated with the news that the canine rabies strain appears to be eliminated from this country. In the U.S., rabies in both humans and domestic animals remains rare, though the virus remains endemic in several species of wildlife (especially raccoons, skunks, and bats). However, worldwide, rabies remains a significant public health problem, causing an estimated 50-60,000 deaths per year worldwide–one death every ten minutes. More after the jump…
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Life imitates art imitating life

Or something like that.

I rarely watch TV, but one of the few things I watch every now and then are reruns of the multiple incarnations of Law & Order shows when I run into them on TNT or one of those cable stations. They have all kinds of “ripped from the headlines” story plots, but this is the first time I can recall where a news story was ripped from L&O (well, except that it takes place in Danbury, Connecticut instead of Manhattan):
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Deck is stacked against “mythbusters”

Correcting misinformation can backfire.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either “true” or “false.” Among those identified as false were statements such as “The side effects are worse than the flu” and “Only older people need flu vaccine.”

When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

Oh, and it only gets worse; more after the jump.
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Ah, E. coli…is there any limit to your uses?

While E. coli typically makes the news as a food-borne pathogen, that’s only one facet of the bacterium. It can be deadly, sure, but it also helps us digest our food; it produces vitamin K for us; benign strains can even protect us from invading pathogens. It’s one of the most-studied bacterial species and a “workhorse” for research in microbiology and molecular biology. We use it as a marker of fecal contamination in water, and it can even be used to produce insulin for diabetes patients. So it may come as no surprise that it may one day be a cavity fighter as well:
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