Free Raif Badawi- How You Can Help

A post I wrote on my other blog for Durango Skeptics and Atheists.
I encourage everyone to do at least one of the five things Amnesty International suggests to help get Raif out of jail and reunited with his wife and children.

Durango Skeptics and Atheists

raif-badawi

While Saudi Arabia’s ruling family condemns the Charlie Hebdo attacks from one side of their mouth, the other side keeps silent on the imprisonment and barbaric punishment by flogging of free speech Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi.

Raif was sentenced to 10 years in prison and exactly 1,000 lashes for the crime of insulting Islam via writings found on his website a website he established to encourage free thought and the exchange of ideas.  Raif is scheduled to receive 50 lashes every Friday for the next 20 weeks. His second round of lashings was due to the fact that his wounds from the previous first round were not adequately healed.

Meanwhile, Raif’s wife and three small children, now living in Quebec, hope for good news.

It’s difficult to believe that something as archaic and cruel as this is still happening in the 21st century. Human progress requires all of us.

Here is how…

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Belief, Non-Belief and Common Ground

Belief, Non-Belief and Common Ground.

LAS POZAS, MEXICO AND THE ETERNAL NOW

This was something I wrote a while back after taking an amazing caving trip to Xilitla in San Luis Potosi. Original post appears here.

ko 233 My traveling companions and I take our first steps onto a mossy, grey cobblestoned pathway in the midst of an impossibly green rainforest. Flashy red, yellow and orange tropical flowers demand our attention amid the sea of green surrounding us. Straight ahead is a ring-shaped entranceway and just beyond that, I catch a glimpse of massive concrete structures, standing strong against the pervasive jungle determined to overtake them. For now they seem to be holding their ground. I breathe in the warm heavy air and can’t help but smile. In a few brief moments, I’ll pass through the “Queen’s Ring” (as the entranceway is called) and enter Las Pozas: a dream-like world created by a wealthy British gentleman artist who followed the beat of a different drum and found inspiration in the middle of a Mexican jungle.

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Vaccines don’t cause autism. Because science.

Much thanks to Vaxplanations for this list.

vaxplanations

vaxnoautism Next time somebody says that vaccines cause autism, or that the link has not been studied extensively, hit them with this list of 109 scientific papers (including studies and reviews) showing no link between vaccines, vaccine ingredients and autism. Compiled by Nathan Boonstra, Allison Hagood, Luci Baldwin and myself.
  1. Albizzati, A., Moré, L., Di Candia, D., Saccani, M., Lenti, C. Normal concentrations of heavy metals in autistic spectrum disorders. Minerva Pediatrica. 2012.Feb;64(1):27-31 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22350041
  2. Abu Kuwaik, G., Roberts, W., Zwaigenbaum, L., Bryson, S., Smith, IM., Szatmari, P., Modi, BM., Tanel, N., Brian, J. Immunization uptake in younger siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism. 2014 Feb;18(2):148-55. doi: 10.1177/1362361312459111. Epub 2012 Oct 8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23045216
  3. Afzal, MA., Ozoemena, LC., O’Hare, A., Kidger, KA., Bentley, ML., Minor, PD.Absence of detectable measles virus genome sequence in blood of autistic children who have had their MMR vaccination during the routine childhood immunization schedule of UK.   Journal…

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“You Will Never Change My Decision.”

Those were the words I read from a “thinking MOM’s”  blog who has decided that she will not be vaccinating her five children. Ever.

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I always knew there was an “anti-vaccination” presence out there on the “Internets”. I honestly never bothered with them. That is, until a link showed up on my Facebook page, placed there by a friend. I was curious. I checked it out. I read from some of her links and several of her pages. I read some of the articles she recommended by other Moms that, like her, have decided not to vaccinate their children.

And then I got depressed.

The misinformation presented on these websites is voluminous. It would be somewhat humorous if it wasn’t also so dangerous. Statements are made as “fact” without any corroborating data to back them up.  Assertions are presented that are just plain false.

Here’s just one example from an anti-vaccine Mom, found on the Gianelloni Family blog:

“Did you know 28 studies from around the world support Dr. Wakefield’s controversial findings?” 

Well…..If you follow the link provided, from which I’m assuming this assertion came from, you are lead to an article about Dr. Wakefield on Mercola.com. There you will find  links to the “28 studies” that supposedly support Dr. Wakefield’s “controversial” findings. I randomly clicked on six of these. Not one of them even discussed vaccines, specifically MMR, as a cause of autism or any other disorders.

But what about these studies?

And these?

Oh yeah. Those are all flawed.

Vaxvshomeopathy_zps46137e5c

And here’s another quote found from the same blog attributed to the World Health Organization:

“…the odds are about 15 times greater that measles will strike those who are vaccinated against the disease than those who are left alone.”

What??

Of course, there was no link provided to verify this quote so I looked for it on the WHO website. I didn’t find that quote but I did find these:

  • Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2012, there were 122,000 measles deaths globally- about 330 deaths very day or 14 deaths per hour. Most of these were children under the age of five years old.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.

As a “thinking MOM” myself, I find these statistics very compelling.  Yet, if we listen to some of these anti-vaccine blogs, we should believe that measles is just not that big a deal and herd immunity is a myth.

I disagree. And so does science.

ThirdWorld_zps9ab0f1a8

I think the study blogged about here was probably the most depressing of all. I’m guessing most anti-vaccine moms agree. Even in the light of ample evidence to the contrary, they will never change their minds.


matrix

 

And that’s the problem, isn’t it?  These are cognitive biases run amuck.

Personally, I don’t want to return to a world where deadly, communicable diseases are making a comeback. Perhaps part of the problem is that we don’t know or remember what that’s like. My father-in-law does. He saw what it was like to suffer from polio. That was before the development of a vaccine to combat it.

polio-vaccine

 

Yep.  I do support vaccinations in light of the overwhelming amount of evidence that speaks to their efficacy. Would I ever change my mind about it? I sure would.  All I would need is to see the verifiable evidence to the contrary (and by evidence, I mean sound, repeatable, statistically significant evidence). Where is this evidence that herd immunity is a myth (this one is particularly ridiculous)? Where is the evidence that vaccines causes autism or a variety of other illnesses in children? Please-show me these studies.

I can relate to wanting to do best by your children. I’m a mom who wants my child healthy, safe and protected, too. I’m starting in the same place as these moms. We just land on completely opposite ends.

Thanks, but I think  I’ll stick with vaccines.

 

babyvaccinated_zps2bb64042

 

 

Raising a Toddler……Part Deux

Raising a Toddler....Part Deux

Yep, it’s a challenge. But so much fun, too.

A Scare Is In The Air…

October has arrived!

And with it comes my annual giddiness over the approaching holiday that holds my heart in its hands.

I’m speaking of Halloween, of course.

So many things to love about this time of the year- that first chill in the air after a hot month of August, the autumnal color show of reds, yellows and oranges, the smell of pumpkin guts as you carve the first jack-o-lantern, that sweet, synergistic scent of hundreds of freshly stocked candy bags greeting you as you turn on to the Halloween aisle at the local grocery store. The ghouls, the skeletons, the witches, the monsters! I absolutely love it all. As a tween and then later a teen, I loved the horror flicks (much to my dream life’s chagrin).  I remember many a Friday night at my best friend’s house, eating pizza and watching obscure 80’s scary movies on cable.  “Sleepaway Camp” (now, that was just weird), “The Dorm that Dripped Blood”, “Prom Night”– we loved them all. What is it about slasher movies that is so appealing? I don’t much care for them now. But I do still love me some Halloween fright. We have been gradually taking our Halloween decorum up a notch every year. The street we lived on last year almost demanded it.ImageImage

Everyone there gets into the Halloween spooky spirit. On Halloween night, we all place portable fire pits in the driveways. This is where many would hand out their candy to the menagerie of ghosts, goblins and superheroes passing by. Inside the houses are food and drink prepared especially for the night. Parents trick or treating with their kids stop by for a quick bite and drink. Then off to the next house! Great times. Now that we are in a new house on the other side of town, I’m not sure what to expect. I’m hoping this side of town loves Halloween as much as the former.

In the spirit of my favorite holiday, I’m leaving you with a couple of stories. One is a spook-worthy story about a painting. But not just any painting. A HAUNTED painting (insert maniacal laugh here).

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At least that’s what the owner says. Of course, I’m skeptical but that’s ok.  Sometimes you just gotta go with it for the sake of all that is awesome about Halloween.  I can do that. The story is about a painting titled “The Anguished Man.” Supposedly, it was painted with the blood of the artist. Ewwww. I first heard of this story from one of my favorite websites, Who Forted. Find this creepy story here.

Also, if you’re interested, here is an update on the story.

My next creepy as hell story is about a cave. But not just any cave. A HAUNTED cave (insert more maniacal laughter here). Take my word for it: haunted caves are the worst kinds of caves. This story is long but soo worth it. Make sure you read it during a rainy October night, when you are alone in the house and maybe a little drunk. Do you remember that movie “The Ring”?  That’s all I’m gonna say………

Scary Cave Story. (sorry the site has so many freakin ads!)

Last but not least, I leave you with a hauntingly beautiful song about three butchers who like to steal little children who don’t listen to their mothers. I’ve already started playing this one for my almost three year old. Is that wrong? He’s tough. He can handle it. Plus, he’s already started exhibiting a propensity towards a love for the “scare”.

Must be in the DNA.

Wishing you a spooky October!

Enlightenment at the KOA

Recently, I discovered something about myself:

KOA

I’m a bit of a camping snob.

This epiphany hit me as soon as my hubby suggested we spend a couple of our precious vacation days at the KOA Kampgrounds in Gunnison, CO. Two of our very good friends whom are currently “RV-living” it would be there for about a month and this would be our perfect opportunity to hang out with them for a bit. I could feel my nose crinkling up in vainglorious  superiority as the words “KOA campgrounds” fell from his mouth. The manicured camping conveniences of  a KOA were not my idea of getting back to Nature. But that was ok. We were seeing our friends we hadn’t seen in a good while and that’s what mattered the most. So we packed up the Westfalia and headed towards Gunnison.

The Vanagon.
The Vanagon.

We arrived amidst the summer afternoon heat with our cranky toddler in tow. After discovering our space was right next to two deep ponds, we asked the attendant at the front desk if it would be possible to get a space farther away from the ponds. Water  to our son is like what porch lights are to moths. And since, like moths to a flame,  toddlers seem to have a natural propensity for self-destruction, we thought it best to put as much space between him and the ponds as possible. The attendant was in complete understanding and placed us in a space right next to our friend’s RV.  Perfect! Only catch: we would have to move to another space tomorrow just across from where we would be staying the first night. No problem!  We appreciated the friendly disposition and willingness to work with us. “I have a grandson about the same age as your son, so I completely understand”, she told us with a smile.

KOA Kampgrounds
KOA Kampgrounds in Gunnison, CO.

The majority of the people staying at the KOA  were those in RV’s. And most of them were some of the nicest, friendliest people I’ve encountered. The place began to remind me a little of a  micro-community or maybe a summer camp. My favorite RV was one that had set up bird feeders right outside their vehicle.

Bird Lovers at the KOA.
Bird Lovers at the KOA.

By far the nicest surprise was the Owner and Operating Manager, Dave Taylor. It soon became clear that Mr. Taylor loves what he does. Dave always had a sincere smile and an interesting story to tell. We thoroughly enjoyed his joyful demeanor and gift for gab.

Dave with his much-loved cows.
Dave with his much-loved cows.

He also happens to love animals. Roaming the grounds were Deiter and Guenther- two uninhibited goats with collars like the family dogs and each bearing a tag with his name inscripted upon it. Adjacent to the property was pastureland filled with an assortment of other animals belonging to Dave including llamas, alpacas, horses, a donkey and two cows, all of which live, as Dave puts it, “in a kill-free zone. ”  On weekends, Dave gathers his menagerie together for all the kids to enjoy up close. Unfortunately, we were not there for that but we did get to spend some time with Fancy and Norman, the two resident cows. “He’s just like a big dog”, Dave said about his Holstein, Norman. He’s had him since Norman was a baby and you could see the mutual love between them. It made me happy to know that these were two cows that would never see a slaughterhouse. And I’m glad my son got to see these animals up close.

Norman and Fancy love each other.
Norman and Fancy love each other.

All in all, the visit to the KOA in Gunnison turned out to be a very pleasant and enlightening experience.  I think I learned a valuable lesson-don’t judge an experience until you have it. I’m reminded of advice given by Bokonon in  Kurt Vonnegut’s book, “Cat’s Cradle”:  “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God”.  Well, I’m an atheist but I get the meaning.

If you happen to make it out to the KOA in Gunnison, tell Deiter and Guenther “hi” for me.

Deiter. Or maybe Geunther.
Deiter. Or maybe Geunther?

Raising a Toddler

Some days with a toddler are freakin challenging.

Vegan Challenge Complete

Well, I made it.

My 30-Day Vegan Challenge has officially reached its conclusion. As I continue to educate myself on food choices, I see myself leaning towards the vegan lifestyle but I don’t think I can ever call myself a “vegan”. I prefer the term “vegan-ish”. We’ll see what happens as my education progresses.

In the meantime, I have to admit that I was already dreaming about the cheesy spinach artichoke dip I would eat after the challenge ended. Well, last night was the night. And it was delicious.

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Now that I got that out of my system, my plan is to still avoid dairy as much as possible. Everything in moderation. For me, that does not include meat. Frankly, I have no craving for it whatsoever.

I can’t say that I definitely felt a big difference physically, although my energy level seemed a bit higher. Mentally, it felt great except for that hiccup in the third week.

All in all, I’m very glad I did it and look forward to further exploring the world of food and nutrition.