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Jul 23 2014

Shutting down the debate

Jon Stewart discovers what it is like when you try to talk about Israel and Palestine.

(This clip aired on July 21, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)

Jul 23 2014

Heading for a showdown

In order to maintain their non-profit status, the IRS has rules that say that such institutions have to refrain from outright partisan politics such as supporting political parties and candidates. Some churches have chafed under this restriction, think it an unconstitutional infringement on their free speech rights, and have sought to directly challenge that rule by organizing ‘Pulpit Freedom Sundays’ where they explicitly endorsed candidates and even sent the tapes to the IRS, daring them to come after them.
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Jul 23 2014

Report from a Gazan hospital

NBC News correspondent Richard Engel reports from a hospital in Gaza that is overwhelmed with dead and injured children. As one doctor says while examining a ten-year old whose mother and two sisters died in the blast that left her paralyzed, “This is a Palestinian child, guilty of the most horrible crime: to be born Palestinian in Gaza”.
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Jul 23 2014

And the 2014 award for chutzpah goes to …

… Israel’s ambassador to the US Ron Dormer for saying that the Israeli Defense Forces deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for their “unimaginable restraint” in Gaza.

You can see images as a result of this “unimaginable restraint” here, here, and here.

I will show just one from the first link that was from the assault on Shejaiya on July 20.

shejaiya

Jul 23 2014

Request to readers

Some readers of this blog very kindly send me links to items that they think may be of interest. I appreciate them and often use them in subsequent posts. I do have a request, though, that is triggered by the fact that there are many spam messages out there that use links and attachments as ways of transmitting various kinds of malware.

As a result, I never click on links or open attachments that I am not sure are genuinely meant for me, even if they are from people I know well. I only do so if the link or attachment is accompanied by a message that is highly unlikely to have been generated by a bot, which means that it includes something that is not generic but is specific to me and goes beyond just an opening greeting that has my name. It does not have to be a long treatise, just something that tells me that the message actually was targeted to me personally.

This is a practice that I recommend to everyone as a safety precaution.

Thanks.

Jul 23 2014

The effect of early exposure to religion on magical thinking

I briefly mentioned before a study that said that children brought up in a religious environment had a harder time distinguishing whether stories that had fantastical elements were real or fictional. Unfortunately, I did not have access to the full paper but reader Raven did have access and he kindly sent me a copy and I have now had a chance to look at it.
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Jul 22 2014

Film review: Cowboy del Amor (2005)

This is a documentary that by all rights should be offensive and yet it was likable. It tells the story of Ivan Thompson, a 60-year old cowboy from New Mexico who acts as a matchmaker between American men and Mexican women. He stumbled into this business after his own divorce when he placed an ad for a wife in Mexican newspapers and received about 80 responses. He realized that if there were that many Mexican women who were seeking American husbands, then he might be able to match them up, so he advertised his services to American men. The takers are usually older divorced men who seek more submissive women and think that Mexican women make better candidates.
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Jul 22 2014

Secular invocation in Greece

In May of this year, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Greece v. Galloway that governments can open meetings with prayers provided that there was no consistent pattern of discrimination in favor of or against one sect.
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Jul 22 2014

Two major conflicting rulings on Obamacare

In April, I wrote about a legal challenge to Obamacare in which opponents had argued that the text of the ACA law only allowed state health exchanges to provide subsidies for the health insurance premiums and that the federal government should not have been allowed to provide subsidies through its own exchanges in those states that decided against setting up their own exchanges.
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Jul 22 2014

The Streisand Effect and Obamacare

Despite the debacle of the Obamacare website at its unveiling and the earnest efforts of the Republican party to derail it (anti-Obamacare groups outspent those in favor by a ratio of 15 to 1), the New England Journal of Medicine reports that 20 million people have enrolled in the plan. (The full report can be seen here.) This graphic from the NEJM report shows the different ways that people can sign up.
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