Professor Stephen Hawking. Photograph: Karwai Tang/Getty Images Tuesday 18 April 2017 07.27EDT Last modified on Tuesday 18 April 2017 07.29EDT In an interview in last Sundays Observer , comedian Rob Newman passed judgement on the scientific community. Scientists think were all stupid, he claimed. Worse still, we appear to him to be consumed by the view that the nastier you can be about people then the more rigorous and critical your thinking must be. In the court of Judge Newman, Stephen Hawking is guilty of calling human beings scum; Brian Cox stands accused of equating brains to computers; and Francis Crick (whos not alive to answer back) is to be censured for reducing the joys and sorrows of human existence to the product of molecular and cellular machinations. These are serious charges, but do they really stand up? Maybe it was just a bit of puckish blather to promote his new book, but if Newmans going to take digs, he needs to dig in. Hes not stupid and Im guessing hes read enough to know that science isnt simply a slow accretion of facts; that its also about having arguments about those facts, and about asking how reliable they are and what they mean. So lets have that argument. Or, better yet, lets try to find some common ground. The crux seems to be Newmans assertion that scientists are pessimistic about people and have made vast and belittling claims about human life.
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Senator Susan Collins, Republican from Maine, has introduced legislation aimed at improving the reporting of fraud and teaching seniors to recognize the signs of exploitation. Ms. Collins, who heads the Senate Special Committee on Aging, called financial fraud against older Americans a growing epidemic that costs seniors an estimated $2.9 billion annually. In recent years, the Justice Department has trained prosecutors to handle cases of abuse of older people and offered online training to law enforcement officials nationwide. Since most older people still visit banks, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has compiled a list of tips for bank tellers on how to identify and thwart suspicious financial transactions. Still, it can be an uphill climb to get legislators to declare such financial exploitation a serious crime. Washington state lawmakers had been trying since 2015 to strengthen legal protections, but their efforts had failed. Two months ago, Ms. Lecoq kicked off her advocacy campaign at Washingtons State Capitol in Olympia, recounting what had happened to her grandmother. Working with the AARPs state chapter, she helped distribute 8,000 citizen petitions to legislators.
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