Notes and Comment Blog

To seek alternatives to chemotherapy

Nov 29th, 2013 12:27 pm | By

This seems unlikely to end well.

10-year-old Amish girl with leukemia and her parents have left the country to seek alternatives to chemotherapy, according to the family’s attorney.

Sarah Hershberger and her parents oppose chemotherapy, and have been fighting the Akron Children’s Hospital in court after the family stopped Sarah’s treatment. Her parents said the treatments have caused their daughter a great deal of pain, and they’d rather focus on herbal and natural remedies.

It’s odd to make the girl the chief agent by mentioning her first in the first two sentences, as if she left the country and her parents went with her. They took her out of the country. She’s ten.

The Hershbergers left their home in northeast Ohio days before a state appeals court appointed a guardian in October to take over medical decisions from Sarah’s parents. The family members won’t say where they are now, but they have no plans to return to their home anytime soon, according to Thompson.

“Sarah’s condition has gotten a lot better since the family has been pursuing the alternative treatment,” Thompson said.

Sarah had tumors on her neck, chest and kidneys when her parents initially agreed to chemotherapy at Akron Children’s Hospital earlier this year. Her parents said the side effects were terrible, and they wanted to treat Sarah’s leukemia with alternative treatments.

So not straightforward faith healing, but maybe the faith makes the abandonment of arduous treatment seem more reasonable.

“We’ve seen how sick it makes her,” Andy Hershberger, Sarah’s father, told ABC News in August. “Our belief is the natural stuff will do just as much as that stuff if it’s God’s will.”

Yes see that’s where the problem is – it’s not about belief, and it’s not about god’s will. It’s about comparative prognoses, and the hospital clearly thinks the prognosis is better with chemo.

Maybe when she gets worse the parents will think better of it and bring her back.

Update: post on the subject from last August.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

UUK has made an idiot of itself

Nov 29th, 2013 11:55 am | By

Now 99 comments on the Universities UK blog. One of the news ones is a very valuable one from the always-valuable David Colquhoun.

I notice that Nicola Dandridge starts by describing Universities UK as being “the representative organisation for the UK’s universities”.  It is nothing of the sort,  It is the representative organisation for (mostly male) vice-chancellors.  That was obvious from its much more honest previous name “The committee of vice-chancellors and principals”,   That’s the same group that supported high tuition fees.

It isn’t fair to blame Nicola Dandridge,  She’s paid to say whatever words are put in her mouth by her bosses.

The outcry against this iniquitous policy document appears to be just about universal. UUK has made an idiot of itself.  The only way UUK can save any sort of credibility is to retract it at once.  But it is not in the nature of powerful organisations to apologise for mistakes.

Fair point about Dandridge. Still…it is a blog post, with her name on it. That’s not quite the same kind of thing as a press release.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

When a woman goes swimming

Nov 29th, 2013 8:53 am | By

The subhead of an article in India Today:

“When a woman goes swimming, as the word for sea is masculine, when “the water touches the woman’s private parts, she becomes an ‘adulteress’ and should be punished.”
- Summary of a report titled “The misguided Fatwas of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis”, as published in the Al Masry Al Youm.

That item is reported in other places, all apparently from the same source. Even Counterpunch reports it.

One currently ascendant Salafist group in Syria, among more than 1000 others competing for weapons and fighters, is “Daash”. The word is an acronym with its letters standing for “the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.”  Daash appeared on the scene here recently, about a year ago and some local observers believe it arrived via Iraq with large amounts of funding from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey…

Some recently reported Salisfist practices spreading in Syria include, but are not limited to the following:

*Females in Daash controlled areas of Aleppo and elsewhere are being prevented from wearing jeans and sweaters and must wear only the Islamic dress Abaya and Barkaa while forbidden from putting on any make-up or now, as of two weeks ago, to even leave their homes without a male escort. Some women in parts of Aleppo and Raqaa now refer to their neighborhoods as Tora Bora, Afghanistan, given the similarities of repression  between Taliban and Salafist treatment of women…

*No women’s clothing can be displayed in shop windows. Tailors shops must shut to men in the event of the women’s presence in the shop until she leaves.The Daash militia has long prevented women from seeking medical attention from male Doctors. Recently Daash has put into place prohibitions against women visiting doctors of either sex and it is not permissible for a woman to wear orthodontic devices such as teeth braces because straight teeth might attract men and in any case their bodies are under the stewardship of their husbands or fathers only.

*Daash has proclaimed that women who swim in the sea are in fact committing “adultery” — even if they wear a hijab because as with many other languages, Arabic nouns are gender specific, and “sea” is masculine and when the water touches the woman’s vaginal area she becomes an ‘adulteress’ and must be punished. Daash militias also forbid women from eating certain vegetables or even touching cucumbers, carrots or bananas, due to their phallic imagery, which may tempt women to deviate and it is also unacceptable for women to turn the air conditioning on at home during the absence of their husbands as this could be used as a sign to indicate to neighbors that the woman is at home alone and any of them could commit adultery with her.

You would think they’d have better things to do, wouldn’t you…But for some people there really is nothing better to do than devote your energies and attention and time to thinking up new ways to chivvy and bully and harass a person or set of people.

The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm in its 11/15/13 edition reported that Daash variety Fatwas regard women as strange creatures created solely for sex. Daash considers the voices of women, their looks and presence outside of their homes an ‘offense” with some Salafists regarding women in general ‘offensive.’”

In other words women are basically just throbbing dripping vaginas that somehow can also walk and talk. What was Allah thinking?


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Remember this?

Nov 28th, 2013 4:59 pm | By

Maryam has a perfect graphic.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Secular liberals and Islamists swap views

Nov 28th, 2013 4:48 pm | By

There’s a very good conversation going on the Facebook page for the event Protest Against Universities UK! No to gender apartheid! It’s a conversation between secular liberals and Islamists.

In any case you should know about the event if you’re going to be in or near London on December 10.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Time 5:00pm in UTC
On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day we oppose the legitimisation of forced gender segregation by Universities UK, the body representing the leadership of UK universities.

Universities UK has issued a guidance on external speakers saying that the segregation of the sexes at universities is not discriminatory as long as “both men and women are being treated equally, as they are both being segregated in the same way.” Outrageously, the document has been supported by the National Union of Students.

We will meet at 5pm to start the protest at 5.30pm.

A list of speakers to follow soon!

Read the call to action here.

A detailed analysis of the document can be found here.

This post by Chris Moos, in particular, has a lot of back and forth.

I have some valuable new friends now thanks to that page.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A fruitless attempt at dialogue

Nov 28th, 2013 3:34 pm | By

Peter Boghossian said something interesting on Facebook (via Twitter, I take it).

I was just called a radical feminist for opposing gender segregation at universities.

I’d just been talking about someone going by the name Abdullah Ali who commented on the Universities UK blog and blamed “EDL white surpemacists and radical feminists” for their knee-jerk responses to gender segregation, so I was interested, so I commented. But I should have known better, because I got called “cupcake” for my pains. It’s radical feminist of me to take exception to that.

While I was typing that comment he edited the one I was replying to, to say “Antifeminists?” instead of “You’ll figure it out”.


And this is why I’m a radical feminist. (Not in the sense of being a TERF. The older meaning: a feminist who wants to change the culture, not just the laws.) Because I get sick of being unable to have a conversation of that kind without being called “cupcake” or similar. I get sick of being casually automatically insulted just for being a woman by an ill-mannered man.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices

Nov 28th, 2013 12:10 pm | By

The iERA, the Islamic Education and Research Academy, has issued a press release agreeing (surprise surprise!) with UUK’s guidelines on girl cooties gender segregation. Tl; dr: it’s religious freedom, it’s great.

The debate about separation came to the fore earlier this year at an iERA event entitled: “Islam or Atheism: Which Makes More Sense?” between Hamza Tzortzis and Professor Lawrence Krauss at the University College of London (UCL) on 9th March 2013. UCL subsequently refused to take any further bookings from iERA, accusing them of “forced segregation”.

iERA later released its own findings of an externally supervised investigation into the accusation of forced gender segregation at the debate. The investigation concluded that there was no such policy or evidence that it occurred on the night. Rather, in line with its duties under the Equality Act 2010, iERA had attempted to provide for the needs of all attendees by providing separate areas of seating for men and women (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs) as well as a mixed seating area.

Leaving aside the fact that it wasn’t just “providing,” it was enforcing, that is still a worthless attempt at justification. As many of us have pointed out ad nauseam in the last few days, you could just as easily talk of providing separate areas of seating for whites and blacks (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs), or for Jews and Gentiles (for those that wished to adhere to their deeply-held religious beliefs), or for straights and gays, or for those with university degrees and those without. You could, and it would be wrong in all cases. Citing “deeply-held religious beliefs” as an excuse is beside the point, and an unsubtle form of theocratic bullying.

Abdurraheem Green, Chairman of iERA, stated: “With a growing number of Muslims countries seeing a revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices, the idea of being forced to sit with people of the opposite sex and observing the adoption of anti-Islamic policies by British Universities might well lead many to avoid choosing this country to further their education. Such behaviour is not in the economic interests of universities or indeed the country as a whole. iERA as an organisation is known and respected throughout the Muslim world for its work in inviting people to Islam. Hearing of iERA being banned from UCL and other universities certainly does not send a positive message about how welcome they will be to study in this country.”

Ah yes, there you have it – a growing number of Muslim countries seeing a revival in adherence to normative Islamic practices, and a growing number of fans of that revival doing everything they can to foster and impose it everywhere else in the world.

No thank you. No normative theistic practices of any kind, thank you, not in the public sphere. Revive in your living rooms and your mosques or churches all you want, but not in the shared public space.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Distracted by the shapely bottom

Nov 28th, 2013 11:52 am | By

There are now 81 comments on the Universities UK blog post “explaining” UUK’s policy on gender segregation. There is at last one that agrees with and praises the policy.

Abdullah Ali


I see theres been a quite severe knee-jerk response form the white, Islam-ignorant reactionaries here. Men and women sitting in two equal groups isn’t in any way, shape or form comparable to apartheid in Soth-africa, and as a Muslim I find the comparison insulting and, quite frankly, racist. This may make some of you’re liberal feminist heads explode, but the separation is actually mosstly for the benefit and protection of women! Bet you didnt see THAT coming! :)  It allows women to feel more safe, it keeps them from having to interact with potential abuser’s, and it keeps a mea from being distracted by the shapely bottom sat in front of him :) 

I think its great universities are finally allowing freedom of religion! :)  I support this 100% and I condemn the knee-jerk responses from EDL white surpemacists and radical feminists!

That seems to be UUK’s view, too – that it’s only “radical feminists” who object to gender segregation at public debates, and “normal” people are fine with it. (UUK didn’t say “radical” but it treated the view as radical and marginal.)

Still no response from Nicola Dandridge. There’s no law that says people have to respond to comments on their blogs, but for a public official defending a public policy on a blog, it seems high-handed to ignore the responses.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The perp sit

Nov 28th, 2013 11:28 am | By

Just for the hell of it, because I happened to see it…some pet-shaming signs.

petshame 2


petshame 3


petshame 6


petshame 10


petshame 17


There are a lot more.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A profane creation

Nov 28th, 2013 10:56 am | By

Another thing to have GMO-panic about – an apple that doesn’t turn brown when it’s cut.

In test fields in New York and Washington state stand about 100 trees bearing the Canadian-designed Holy Grail of fruit science: an apple that cannot brown.

But as the Arctic Apple wends its way toward final approval in both the United States and Canada, genetic-engineering alarmists and entrenched apple interests alike are increasingly framing the new fruit as a profane creation of perverted science.

Because if god had meant apples to stay pale when sliced then god would have made them that way. On the other hand it’s the opposite with penises – god doesn’t like the way god made them, so humans have to slice off a bit at the top.

On Nov. 14, the B.C. Fruit Growers Association joined the fray, calling on Ottawa to ban the Arctic Apple before it could even reach final market approval, arguing that even considering the apple was inalterably damaging its business.

“The public thinks of apples as a pure, natural, healthy and nutritional fruit,” said association president Jeet Dukhia in a statement. “GM apples are a risk to our market image.”

Because GMO=impure and unnatural. That of course is despite thousands of years of cultivation and manipulation, which doesn’t count as GMO because people hadn’t heard of genes then. It’s all in the attitude, you see.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“A standard surgical procedure”

Nov 28th, 2013 10:33 am | By

The National Post gives more detail on the Israeli woman fined by a rabbinical court for refusing to allow her infant son to be circumcised.

The mother, whose name was given only as Elinor, said her son had been born with a medical problem that prevented him undergoing ritual circumcision on the eighth day after birth, as is customary in Jewish law.

“As time went on, I started reading about what actually happens in circumcision, and I realised that I couldn’t do that to my son.

“He’s perfect just as he is,” Haaretz newspaper quoted her as saying. In their ruling, the three rabbis wrote: “Circumcision is a standard surgical procedure that is performed on every Jewish baby boy, so when one of the parents demands it, the other cannot delay it except where it is proven to be medically dangerous.”

What? That “so” is bogus – what comes after it doesn’t follow from what came before.

One, “standard surgical procedure” is meaningless and deceptive. “Standard” how, in what sense, according to whom, and above all for what medical reason? In other words, no it’s not. Yes it’s “surgical” in the literal sense, and “standard” in the sense that a lot of people do it, but “standard surgical procedure” implies that it’s medically required or at least beneficial, and it’s neither. Two, given the emptiness and deception of that clause, the claim that “the other cannot delay it” is arbitrary and ridiculous. That’s why rabbis as rabbis should have nothing whatsoever to do with ordering people to have their infants cut up.

To put it another way, religious law should never ever be enforced on people who don’t want to be bound by it. That’s because it has no legitimacy derived from this-world principles of representation and universality.

“Fulfilling the command of circumcision is not a [mere] surgical medical act … Brit milah [the rite of circumcision] is exactly what it says: a covenant that God made with His chosen people, the nation of Israel.”

And that is precisely why it can’t be binding on anyone who doesn’t accept it, including believers who don’t accept specific “laws” and “covenants.”

The judgment was upheld by a higher rabbinical court after the mother appealed against the decision. The appeal ruling warned that a verdict in her favour could trigger “a flood of [similar] cases,” giving a “terrifying dimension” to divorce proceedings.

“This trend must be stopped immediately for the common good, which takes precedence over that of the individual,” the judges concluded.

So all the boy infants must have their penises cut “for the common good.” Even though the actual “common good” is very hard to discern.

They added: “Removal of the foreskin prepares the soul [of the baby] to accept the yoke of Heaven and study God’s Torah and commandments.”

All the more reason to refuse! Keep your fucking yoke of heaven and your fucking god’s commandments.

Rabbinical courts are part of Israel’s judicial system and are overseen by the ministry of religious services. In addition to holding exclusive jurisdiction over the marriage and divorce of Jews, they have the power to rule on matters of personal status, alimony, child support, custody and inheritance.

That is terrifying. There is no secular marriage for Jews in Israel, so that means all married Jews in Israel are subject to the power and arbitrary decision-making of rabbis on things like alimony and child custody. All of them! Including the atheists!

Their rulings are enforced by the police and other legal agencies in the same way as those of civil courts.


The rulings were made against a backdrop of rising concern in Israel over recent attempts in Europe and elsewhere to prohibit ritual circumcision on humanitarian grounds. Israeli officials and rabbis claim the trend is prompted by anti-Semitism.

Israel’s foreign ministry condemned the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe last month after it adopted a resolution calling for regulation of religious circumcision, which is also carried out on Muslim boys shortly after birth.

The foreign ministry demanded that the resolution be annulled, saying it “casts a moral stain on the Council of Europe and fosters hate and racist trends in Europe.”

No, actually, it’s the other way around. Accusing a humanitarian prohibition on cutting infants’ genitalia of fostering hate and racist trends casts “a moral stain” on Israel’s foreign ministry.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Dayna Morales may have made it up

Nov 27th, 2013 3:40 pm | By

Yes, that New Jersey server may have faked the note and the refusal to tip, many news outlets are reporting. Salon reported this morning:

…earlier this week, Morales’ story took a twist — when the family she said stiffed her contacted NBC News to dispute her claim. The husband and wife produced their copy of the receipt, which showed an $18 tip, and what they say is their Visa statement, which likewise reflects the larger total. They also say the alleged snarking on Morales’ appearance went down differently – they say they’d been told their server would be “Dan,” and when Morales appeared, they said, “Whoa, you’re not Dan.” The husband told NBC he didn’t even vote for Chris Christie because Christie doesn’t support marriage equality. “Never would a message like that come from us,” he says.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

For someone from New Jersey

Nov 27th, 2013 3:06 pm | By

The Los Angeles Times spots an opportunity to bash atheists, and seizes it with both paws.

A New Jersey-based atheist organization is castigating the work of Pope Francis  and others who respond to natural disasters with prayer, Bibles and rosaries.

That’s a remarkably snotty way to describe American Atheists. Why not just say American Atheists? What’s with the “New Jersey-based”? Are we supposed to think it’s just a pathetic little local startup that will be gone in a few minutes? One of many fly-bitten atheist organizations based in somebody’s borrowed garage?

Anyway. To the substance, such as it is.

American Atheists announced Monday that it was unveiling digital billboards  in the central part of that state that carry just such a message. The  designs, seen here, are variations on the following: “Disaster  victims need prayer… real help.”

The billboards then encourage people to go to for more information, including a list of  secular agencies that American Atheists endorse for disaster relief efforts.

The organization accuses religion in general, and Pope Francis in particular,  of exploiting natural disasters to bring more people into the fold. Pope  Francis, the organization noted, used Twitter to ask followers to pray for typhoon victims, and was  retweeted more than 35,000 times.

“Imagine if the pope had asked for people to send money to victims or to send  needed supplies. How much more useful would that have been to the people of the  Philippines?” American Atheists President David Silverman said in a statement,  going on to say the pope’s actions were “repugnant.”

“Natural disasters should not be viewed as opportunities for  proselytization.”

We called the organization to find out why they thought it was their place to call out people who wanted to pray, or send Bibles or rosaries to affected  areas.

Well why does the Los Angeles Times think it’s their place to call out American Atheists? And notice that that’s not accurate anyway; Dave didn’t mention people who wanted to pray, he mentioned the pope asking people to pray.

Dave Muscato answered the question by saying that helping requires actually doing something.

Could that same criticism apply to the American Atheists? Their billboards  are being use to drive people to their website.

Is that a form of exploitation?

The difference between asking people to pray and urging them to do something real instead of praying remains a real difference.

The billboards are being carried by Clear  Channel Outdoors. A representative for Clear Channel told the Los Angeles  Times that four billboards are up and running.

And the public’s reaction so far?


What kind of insect does Rene Lynch (the reporter) expect in response to a billboard?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

And still no response from UUK

Nov 27th, 2013 12:20 pm | By

The Universities UK blog continues to get strongly critical comments on Nicola Dandridge’s post defending its position on gender segregation. It also continues not to reply to any of them.

The latest is by Chris Moos, summing up the state of play.

43 comments, each and every one of them negative. And still no response from UUK.. Who is charge of PR again? or is everyone too busy writing reports that figure out how to [defend?] other kinds of segregation practices?

There’s also one from a University of Manchester physicist.

UUK: Perhaps you might like to take a look at the top of this page where you say:

“We are the representative organisation for the UK’s universities”

No you are not. You have just abdicated any right to be regarded as a respected organisation as a result of your astonishing Kristallnacht against women in UK, in 2013. Unbelievable!

So take away that header please, and stop insulting us.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Figures of speech

Nov 27th, 2013 11:43 am | By

Figures of speech are interesting. Sometimes they illuminate, sometimes they amuse, and sometimes they lead us astray. Far far astray – up the creek, down the steep mountainside, into the brambles.

If you do a bad thing, and you never take it back or apologize for it, and it does spreading harm for a period of years…and then someone asks you about it, the correct answer is not “that’s water under the bridge.” It’s not water under the bridge. There are reasons for that.

“Water under the bridge” is the right expression for something that’s over. It’s not the right expression for something that did damage that was never repaired; it’s even less the right expression for something that did damage that was never repaired and that is still happening. Like, if you make and sell a toxic food product, and that product is still on the market and still toxic, and someone asks you about it, you don’t get to say it’s water under the bridge.

The mere fact that something started a long time ago does not mean it’s now water under the bridge. The mere fact that you, the initiator of the something, are tired of it, does not mean that it’s water under the bridge.

Now if you have a quarrel with a friend, and then the two of you talk and it gets resolved, that becomes water under the bridge. If a third party asks about it you can say it’s water under the bridge. That’s fine. It’s resolved, it’s over, it’s in the past. But if the step with talking and resolving never happened, then it’s not water under the god damn bridge. It’s still dirty smelly water right there in everyone’s face.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Self-interviewing and “followers”

Nov 27th, 2013 11:24 am | By

Ok this is funny. Edwina Rogers is the new Executive Director of the RDF, and the RDF interviewed her for its Secular VIP of Week. So who made that decision? Was it the exec – oh wait. Couldn’t have been.

What if you allied the biggest secular groups in the United States and placed their political goals in the hands of someone who’s worked in the White House? And again in the White House, and for four US senators? This week we interview our very own Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, in her other role as head of the Secular Coalition for America.

Good idea! Then next week you can interview Richard Dawkins in his other role as head of All the Atheism. Then the week after that Edwina Rogers and Richard Dawkins can have a dialogue about what it’s like to be the head of everything.

RDF: You run both the Richard Dawkins Foundation and the Secular Coalition for America. Where do you get your energy?

Edwina Rogers: Well, I’m happy to do it.  At the Secular Coalition for America our mission is to facilitate coordination for all secular groups, to unify the movement.   We are perfectly placed to provide back-up office support for any of the non-theist groups.

Bwahahahahahahahahaha – fabulous hard-hitting question there. Let’s continue.

Why are you so fabulous?

Just born that way I guess.

What made you so glorious?

I can’t explain it.

Where is anyone as fine as you?

I’ve looked everywhere and I still don’t know.

No no, for real now:

RDF: I heard you brought Richard Dawkins to Congress.  How did that go?

Edwina Rogers: We were very fortunate to have Richard Dawkins and Stephen Pinker offer a briefing for the House Staff and for the Senate Staff.  Richard did meetings with several members of the Science and Technology Committee, and answered any questions they had about science and gave advice.  It went very well.  A lot of the members knew who Richard was, or their children were big fans.  Some of them brought in books to be signed.

Hahahahahahaha – “I heard you brought Richard Dawkins to Congress” – heard where? On the grapevine? It’s RDF who asks, yet RDF heard Rogers “brought Richard Dawkins to Congress” as if it were gossip or a rumor?

The Secular Coalition for America has a newsletter, Twitter, and Facebook, and a list of 50 state chapters.

Want your secular group or leader to be picked as Secular VIP of the Week and featured to Richard’s 1.7 million followers? Email

Ok seriously now – “Richard’s 1.7 million followers”? Followers? What the hell do they mean “followers”?

It’s gone to his head. Badly.

Update: the fan boys react.


Update 2: Oops another fan boy.


Dawkins sure does have classy fan boys.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

It’s a matter of priorities, Barmaid

Nov 27th, 2013 10:16 am | By

Jesus and Mo stand up for gender segregation and the religious freedom of people who demand gender segregation.

J and M Author tweeted this one twice.

Gentlemen, there’s a new J&M up on the internet: …

Ladies, there’s a new J&M up on the internet: …



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Reckless anti-science alarmism

Nov 26th, 2013 6:08 pm | By

Simon Davis wrote a great article on the main Greek opposition party’s bad move in attempting to block legislation that would bring down generic drug prices, and using alarmist anti-science rhetoric to do it.

The main reason why their handling of this issue is so misguided is because they are relying on reckless anti-science alarmism. Leading the charge is SYRIZA party leader Alexis Tsipras, whose statements today about “cheap and dubious [generic] drugs” have absolutely no demonstrable scientific basis.

In addition, there is no logical basis nor has anyone articulated any convincing rationale about how SYRIZA’s position is even remotely related to their stated left-wing party principles. The proposed legislation sets a price ceiling of 50% of the innovator drug price or the average of the lowest prices in three other EU countries, whichever is less. It also mandates that all generic drugs are priced at a maximum of 65% of their off-patent equivalents. In other words, when an innovator drug’s patent expires, patients will have access to generic alternatives that are priced at a maximum of 32.5% of the price. The only reason why off-patent medication is available today in Greece at relatively high prices despite a lack of patent protection is because of the manufacturers’ name recognition. So when SYRIZA decides to oppose sensible legislation that limits the price of off-patent medication, the result is that they [are] siding with large drug companies’ profits.

Doesn’t sound like a brilliant way to get votes, does it.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Swimming in Tukwila

Nov 26th, 2013 5:20 pm | By

Jeez, even here in Seattle. Although this time it’s about women-only (and sometimes also men-only) times at municipal swimming pools. That’s a bit of a special case, in a way, since it requires being sparsely dressed. But…it’s also the thin end of the slippery nose under the tent. Wait, that’s not quite right…

Earlier this month, a resident filed a gender-discrimination complaint with the state Human Rights Commission (HRC), challenging not the women’s swim time at the Tukwila pool but the men-only component, after she said she was unable to accompany and supervise her 11-year-old son there.

Last Thursday, the HRC closed the complaint, saying that since the pool offers swim times for both women and men, no gender discrimination exists under state law. The pool also offers swim times for families.

Although the ruling clears Tukwila, it raises a legal question for other cities and programs that offer women-only swims without a male-only option.

Laura Lindstrand, policy analyst for the Human Rights Commission, said it’s possible such a facility  could be in violation of state law. “We would need to closely look at the facility’s reasoning for having such a policy,” she said.

Because god, comes the reply.

But such legal matters were far from the minds of the more than two dozen women — many dressed in the Islamic hijab — and a handful of men as they spoke emotionally to commissioners in Tukwila about how they and their families use the pool.

“This isn’t just something I’m doing,” Farole said. “ It’s a commandment from God; men and women are not to mix together. That’s my religious belief.”

Ah. Well in that case you’ll have to do your swimming at the mosque, because city governments don’t take commandments from God.

Councilmember Dennis Robertson said while he understood the need for the single-gender swim times, city officials needed to be careful not to contribute to gender inequality. “It’s not what this country is about,” he said.

The arguments being used to support single-gender swim times were used to justify racial segregation in the South, he said. “We are walking on dangerous grounds here,” he said.

Carroll, who also spoke, echoed that position.

Their comments worried Farole and the other women who at last week’s meeting submitted petitions bearing 132 signatures defending the program.

“For the first time as a resident I felt unwelcome,” Farole said.

But after listening to the women, Robertson appeared to be walking back his earlier position on the women-only swim times.

While he pointed out that many business deals historically have been made in settings where women have been denied access, Robertson said it’s clear this is not one of those settings.

“It’s easy to jump to conclusions, and I jumped to the conclusion about what this might mean,” he said.

Carroll said her main concern is that young Muslim women feel they cannot be safe around men in a community where she lives.

“If I was convinced we were initiating women-only swims to empower women, I would be very happy about it,” she said. “But I fear that we are just introducing the 21st-century version of more marginalization.”

In the end, there appeared  to be reason for optimism, from all sides.

Commissioners announced the single-gender swims would continue at the pool, and Carroll and some of the women and men discussed their differences.

I dunno. I’m not crazy about it, but I don’t feel anything like as strongly as I do about gender segregation of public debates and other public functions at universities, as if women are so fragile they can’t ever be around men at all.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The gender segregation stipulated by Islam is not implemented

Nov 26th, 2013 4:49 pm | By

This is an interesting example, from Germany in January 2012.

A German man has created a new website to arrange shared car trips with a twist – it’s targeted toward Muslims, and drivers can only offer transport to members of the same sex.

Called, the site is based on the same principle as other popular websites like , which lets cost-conscious Germans arrange shared car rides.

Those interested in offering rides specify their gender, asking price and how many passengers they can accommodate. Potential passengers contact the driver directly.

In operation since late last year, the website has attracted its share of criticism. People have accused Reid of trying to create a parallel society and supporting immigrants who don’t want to integrate in German culture.

But Reid says the response from thousands of grateful riders has showed him he’s filling a niche.

“Many Muslim brothers and sisters complained that they can’t use conventional offers because the gender segregation stipulated by Islam is not implemented,” he added.

I do like to see the niches created by stupid bigotry filled by enterprising go-getters like that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)