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Weekend Reads 2/28/15

Does Anyone Really Know What a Healthy Diet Is Anymore?

Randomized trials are the gold standard of dietary studies, but as I said above, they're really, really hard to conduct properly. You have to find a stable population of people. You have to pick half of them randomly and get them to change their diets. You have to trust them to actually do it. You have to follow them for years, not months. Virtually no trial can ever truly meet this standard.

 

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In Defense of Burdensome Government Regulations

The year has just begun, but 2015 is shaping up to be a good one for those who worry about the burdens placed on businesses by government regulations.

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ISIS: What's in a Name?

President Obama has gotten a lot of criticism from Congressional Republicans over his rhetoric about the terrorist group ISIS. According to Ted Cruz, the president is "an apologist for radical Islamic terrorists" due to his refusal to refer to ISIS as an Islamic organization.

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A Pragmatic Faith

In my first post for this blog I talked about pragmatism in politics. Research suggests that pragmatism is better than ideology at producing the mindset needed to make good decisions. Can we apply the same principle to religious faith?

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On Discrimination and "Protected Classes"

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback can't seem to stay away from controversy these days. Following a contentious reelection campaign, and in the midst of a polarizing budget battle, Brownback has issued an executive order allowing discrimination against state employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The order rescinds a 2007 order by Brownback's predecessor, Kathleen Sebelius.

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"I'm Not a Scientist"

Five years ago this week a massive snowstorm shut down Washington, D.C. for several days. The family of Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe built an igloo on the National Mall and labeled it "Al Gore's new home" in a mocking tribute to Gore's efforts to publicize the seriousness of global warming. Inhofe told reporters he thought the igloo was "really humorous".

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Olbers' Paradox

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble,” Mark Twain once said. “It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

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Carrying the Lady

A retelling of a Buddhist parable

Two monks were on the road from their monastery to town. At a certain place a river crossed the road, and a recent storm had washed away the bridge. As the monks approached the river they saw a lady in a long gown standing on the bank. "I must get to my sister's wedding," she said, "but if I step into the river I'll ruin this gown. Can you help me, please?"

The younger monk declined, for theirs was a strict sect that forbade its members from having any physical contact with the opposite sex.

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Can We Find a Middle Ground on Measles Vaccination?

One side says mandatory vaccination is the best way to protect children from deadly diseases. The other side says vaccinations often cause the diseases they are supposed to prevent, and can sometimes even trigger autism. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, has tried to strike a middle ground by calling for balance between public health concerns and parental choice. But is a middle ground even possible?

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A Brief History of Vaccination

The practice of inoculation--exposing a person to a mild case of an illness to build up an immunity--is possibly a thousand years old. Some evidence exists that 11th century Chinese physicians may have prevented the spread of smallpox by exposing people to pus from the sores of smallpox victims. There was a slight risk of actually giving a person smallpox through this form of inoculation, but it was a smaller risk than the much greater exposure they could get during an epidemic.

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