More deaths because of anti-vax crowd

Good job, assholes:

Europe, especially France, has been hit by a major outbreak of measles, which the U.N. health agency is blaming on the failure to vaccinate all children.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March — compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations…

WHO has found that young people between 10 and 19 have not been getting immunized as they should, she said.

To prevent measles outbreaks, officials need to vaccinate about 90 percent of the population. But vaccination rates across Europe have been patchy in recent years and have never fully recovered from a discredited 1998 British study linking the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella to autism. Parents abandoned the vaccine in droves and vaccination rates for parts of the U.K. dropped to about 50 percent.

That discredited 1998 study comes from fraud Andrew Wakefield. His honesty in science is at about the level of a global warming denier and creationists. Yet despite that – and despite all the deaths he has caused – he is still viewed as some great savior.

Of course, we can’t blame him 100%. Maybe 97.4%, but not 100%. The media has a hand in all this, too. Whenever any outlet talks about vaccines, they almost always allow kooks to have a place at the table. It’s outrageous. These kooks present highly selective statistics, distort tiny, inconclusive studies, and scaremonger. I’ve seen it locally and nationally. In fact, the only news organization of note that I ever see take these liars to task is CNN, and even then not always. Anderson Cooper seems to be the only person around who has any balls on the matter.

Maine: Most peaceful state

In a recent ranking by the Institute for Economics and Peace – an organization that inanely thinks a nearly all-flash website is a good idea – has placed Maine as the number one most peaceful state:

The United States Peace Index defines “peace” as the “absence of violence.”

To determine the rankings, the index looked at factors including homicide rates, violent crimes, percentage of the population in jail, number of police officers and availability of small arms.

The Index also estimates the “total cost of violence” for each state which reflects the cost of correctional and policing services, judicial system and medical costs associated with violent crime and homicide, and lost productivity and wages. In Maine, that total cost per person is $656; in Louisiana it is $2,458.

Not surprisingly, 5 out of 6 New England states rank in the top 10, with the 6th (Connecticut) coming in at number 15. For the full list, and to avoid that terrible flash crap, check out this .pdf.

Top 10 most peaceful states:

1. Maine
2. New Hampshire
3. Vermont
4. Minnesota
5. North Dakota
6. Utah
7. Massachusetts
8. Rhode Island
9. Iowa
10. Washington

Top 10 least peaceful states:

1, Louisiana
2. Tennessee
3. Nevada
4. Florida
5. Alabama
6. Texas
7. Arkansas
8. Oklahoma
8. South Carolina
10. Maryland

Maine bill to legalize it

You know what “it” is:

A bill unveiled Wednesday would legalize the personal use and private and commercial cultivation of marijuana and tax consumer purchases at 7 percent. Democratic Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, who is sponsoring the bill, said it’s time to stop turning otherwise law-abiding citizens who use marijuana into criminals…

Russell’s bill would allow Mainers 21 and older to possess up to 1 pound of marijuana and legally smoke or ingest it in nonpublic places, including private residences. People could grow pot within 75 square feet of space for personal consumption and within 2,000 square feet of space for commercial cultivation.

I say do it. Telling people they can’t do something only makes them want to do it more. Besides, the war on drugs is a dismal failure. Time to move on.

To kill a mocking…bat

I would say I have at least a cursory interest in every animal I’ve ever read about or seen in a documentary. Life is life. It’s all interesting. (Read Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor Tale.) But for the past 3 years (as of this July), I’ve had a special interest in bats. You see, I deal with an invasion in my ceiling of the little things every summer. I’m not sure if it’s really beautiful or just creepy hearing them scamper about, but I do enjoy laying awake listening to them. At least, I enjoy them until they manage to get inside. At that point it’s a matter of catching them with a blanket before the cats catch them with a set of claws and teeth. It wouldn’t be so bad if 1) I didn’t have to get my indoor cats preventative shots I otherwise wouldn’t have bought and 2) there wasn’t the ongoing white nose syndrome epidemic going on with bats. The disease so far appears to be limited to bats – decimating huge colonies – but since it isn’t very well understood at all yet, I don’t like the idea of exposing my animals to it (or myself).

But even with limited understanding, an interesting question is raised. Can we help to prevent its spread? One line of thinking says we can by destroying infected bats. But others are calling on the power of evolution:

Kentucky wildlife officials acted quickly when a confirmed case of the disease was found in a bat in Trigg County recently. They euthanized 60 “highly suspect” bats that were “not expected to survive,” they said Wednesday…

Local and national experts, however, believe euthanizing infected bats may not prevent the spread of the disease and could be “counterproductive” to the effort.

Dr. Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International, said white nose syndrome has reached epidemic levels, killing more than 1 million bats since 2006. He said in cases, like this one, where a disease has a very high mortality rate, it is important to see if some infected bats are able to fight off the disease. That way, those with immunities to a disease are able to pass on that ability to their offspring, eventually re-populating the species with bats that can withstand the disease.

“If you kill every bat that gets (the disease), it’s pretty hard to see who survives,” said Tuttle, who has studied bats for more than 50 years. “Just because you get sick, it doesn’t mean you die.”

It isn’t an easy call. Bats are dying in record numbers. Something clearly must be done. Evolution may provide the doing – after all, bats have been around for 50-55 million years – but if humans can successfully intervene, then we should. The problem is that we just don’t really know how to go about it.

The Second Amendment

My recent post about the ridiculous state of Arizona was mostly about a dumb birther bill the Republicans there were using to embarrass themselves, but the article I used also mentioned a gun control issue. As a result, that topic took off more than the birther topic. Here is my take from that comment section.

The Second Amendment was clearly intended for two main purposes. First, as Nate points out, it was meant to allow citizens to have guns should the government become oppressive. Second, it was meant to secure the government against attacks from foreign nations (or insurrection). Given the specific wording of the amendment, it is clear that the latter reason was more the point than anything.

What we have from the Supreme Court over the years are a series of rulings, many of which rely upon preceding rulings. This is common enough, but it is also political enough. What’s more, we have people like Scalia who – despite all the lies claiming the constitution is a static document – will ignore the original intention of the Second Amendment. (Sticking by his beliefs would be inconvenient to his purely political style of ruling.) This debate is not well-grounded in history.

So what we have is an amendment which does not guarantee what those on the right claim it guarantees. Both of the original primary reasons for the amendment are largely irrelevant today. What’s more, if those on the right were honest and took the Second Amendment to its conclusions, then we would be living in a very different world. That is, our Bill of Rights is based upon the idea of natural rights. While we only legally apply them to Americans and those on American soil (with some exceptions), the underlying principle is that it is an inherent right for everyone to bear arms (among our other rights). If that is the case, then it is a right for North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But we stop short of taking the principle that far. Or at least the right does. (The left isn’t operating on ahistorical principles in the first place.) And the same goes for American citizens: If someone argued to the Supreme Court his right to have an atomic weapon, it would never fly. This flagrantly violates the arguments being put forth by the right.

That said, I’m not against gun ownership. As always, we have to take a pragmatic point of view. While much of Europe has overwhelmingly superior statistics to the U.S. when it comes to not dying from guns, it is unlikely America will ever achieve such a state. We have to deal with the fact that there are millions and millions of guns out there, many in the hands of criminals. We should control ridiculous weapons that serve no real purpose outside a military setting (a point, incidentally, where the right will agree with me – when we’re talking about nuclear weapons; the point goes out the window for most other weapons), but it probably isn’t going to help anything if we prevent law-abiding citizens from getting guns. Sure, let’s curb gun show purchases and force waiting periods – that will be effective in keeping guns from some criminals – but complete bans have to be questioned.

So I do favor allowing law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons. It’s just that the Second Amendment does not get us there.