Who is not vaccinating, why, and who is suffering because of it

At the risk of sounding like broken record, I want to return to a topic that I feel very strongly about, and that is this issue of people not vaccinating their children. In the US at least, the opposition to vaccinations of children seems to be something affecting the affluent. These are the people who seem to have latched onto scary tales on the internet and the media that are warning about the dangers of the vaccines, though those claims have been thoroughly debunked.
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A hilarious sendup of the Iowa presidential cattle call

The Daily Show had a field day making fun of the Iowa ‘summit’ hosted by congressman Steve King (R-Crazy) and the Koch brothers, finding much that was eminently mockable in those proceedings. Jon Stewart also alluded obliquely to something that I have been wondering about but hesitated to say out loud, and that is whether Sarah Palin’s greater than usual incoherence (a high bar that she easily surpassed on this occasion) was due possibly to her having been drinking before her speech.
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Fear is the key to belief in god

As someone who was a very religious (but not fundamentalist) Christian before becoming an atheist, I am drawn to other similar conversion stories. Daniel C. Maguire, a professor of theology at the Jesuit Marquette University has written a book Christianity without God: Moving beyond the Dogmas and Retrieving the Epic Moral Narrative describing his own similar journey.
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The strange and strong US-Saudi Arabia alliance

On the surface, there is something quite mystifying about the relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia. That nation acts like it can do anything at all and the US will not say a word against it. Their human rights record along practically any axis you choose (gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, freedom of speech, you name it) can only be described as appalling, with harsh punishments routinely meted out for people exercising what we would consider to be the most basic of rights. There is not even a pretense of democracy, with an autocratic monarchic system ruling the country. Even the fact that 15 of the 19 people who carried out the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia did nothing to shake this relationship and instead the US attacked Iraq on wholly trumped up charges.
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Le Petit Journal has more fun with Fox News

The claims by so-called ‘terrorism experts’ on Fox News that there were no-go zones for non-Muslims in Paris provoked both amusement and anger. Amusement took the form of a French satirical news show Le Petit Journal poking fun at Fox News while the anger took the form of the mayor of Paris threatening to sue the TV channel. I am not sure how serious she was. Such a suit would be unlikely to win in the US but I am not sure of French laws.
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The many ways in which we can all die

There seems to be a subset of the population that easily succumbs to the idea that some major disaster is going to befall us at any time. The fear of an apocalyptic event that wipes out large chunks of humanity seems to act like oxygen for such people, and as a result we are regaled with the possibility of one imminent catastrophe after another, with diseases (Ebola, swine flu, bird flu), meteors or asteroids hitting the Earth, weather (a big snowfall in winter), and so on.
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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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