The truth about Alan Gross

As part of the deal to improve relations with Cuba, that government released Alan Gross from its prison and sent him back. Gross has been portrayed as a naive and innocent individual, a do-gooder trying to help ordinary Cubans and who, while engaged in perfectly innocuous activities on the island, was caught in the net of an oppressive government and unjustly held. That has been the dominant media narrative about Gross. At the State of the Union address, he was one of the president’s guests of honor and was given a shout-out during the speech.
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Revisiting the topic of science and proof on the tenth anniversary of blogging

Yesterday marked the ten-year anniversary of my beginning blogging. For the first seven years I wrote on my university’s blogging platform and then three years ago I was invited to join the FreethoughtBlog network. Initially I just felt the need to try blogging but was not at all sure what form the blog would take and what I would write about. But I settled fairly quickly into a rhythm and though there have been some minor changes over time, basically it has ended up as me writing about whatever I felt worth writing about at the moment, mainly to clarify my own ideas about those issues with the help of the commenters. I have been impressed with the knowledge and insights that many readers have provided.
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The futile attempts to change English spelling

The idiosyncratic spelling of English words is the bane of anyone trying to learn the language. Many people have come forward with ideas about how to make it more sensible, or at least remove some of the more absurd examples, but they have failed because languages tend to change from the bottom up, because some new usage emerges more or less spontaneously and then becomes the norm. Efforts to change things by fiat almost never seem to work.
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A curious twist to religious patriarchy

The three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are all patriarchal in the roles they assign to genders within the family. The husband is the head of the household and calls the shots and the wives and children follow his orders, at least in theory. Women are supposed to bear children (the more the better) and be responsible for taking care of them and for cooking, cleaning, and otherwise maintaining the household. These roles become more pronounced and extreme the more fundamentalist the believers are.
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