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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. [Update: Ben Finney in the comments has kindly provided a link to the full paper.]
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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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Jul 22 2014

What life (and death) is like in Gaza

gaza-map-1It is important to realize some basic facts about Gaza.

It is only 140 square miles and contains 1.8 million people, making it one of the most densely populated places on Earth. It is very small, similar in size and population density to Philadelphia, one of the biggest cities in the US. It is a narrow rectangular strip. The northern, eastern, and western borders are blockaded by Israel and the southern edge by Egypt. It is essentially a large, densely populated open-air ‘prison camp’ (as British prime minister David Cameron described it in 2010), which is why it is cynical when Israel, in its widely-publicized attempts at showing its ‘humanity’ while bombing Palestinians, urges people in northern Gaza to evacuate because they are going to bomb the region. That region alone has 200,000 people. Where are they supposed to go? Unlike the victims of violence in other countries, they cannot flee to a neighboring country. They are trapped and so must stay where they are and hope that they will not be blasted to bits. Read the rest of this entry »

Jul 21 2014

Things you never knew you needed

Stephen Colbert has some fun with an expensive new electric gadget.
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Jul 21 2014

The carnage in Gaza intensifies

Mohammed Suliman sends out a stream of tweets from Gaza that provide an insight into the kinds of surreal thoughts that flood your mind when you await what might well be your own death from a missile strike. It is poignant and tragic. It should be read in conjunction with this report (via Pharyngula) about the most recent massacre committed by Israel in which nearly ninety people died in one neighborhood.
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Jul 21 2014

Medicaid expansion rejection bites back

The expansion of Medicaid health benefits to people who were too poor to be eligible for the health insurance subsidies was supposed to be an integral part of the Affordable Care Act. But the US Supreme Court ruled that it was an option that states could choose to accept or reject. And of course two-dozen Republican-dominated states chose to reject it even though it seemed like a no-brainer since the federal government would pick up 100% of the costs in the first three years and about 95% after that, because god-forbid that poor people should get health insurance.
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Jul 21 2014

Was James Garner a good actor?

Last night, I binge-watched five episodes of The Rockford Files on Netflix in memory of James Garner who died on Saturday. It kept me way past my normal bedtime but it was my way of memorializing someone who gave me, and so many others, hours and hours of pleasure. Unfortunately, Netflix does not have episodes of Maverick or I would have watched those too.
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