Alcohol is deadlier than heroin & prescription drugs combined

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Alcohol is killing Americans at a rate not seen in at least 35 years, according to new federal data. Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, which is primarily caused by alcohol use.

In 2014, there were 9.6 deaths from these alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, an increase of 37 percent since 2002.

This tally of alcohol-induced fatalities excludes deaths from drunk driving, other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence of alcohol. If those numbers were included the annual toll of deaths directly or indirectly caused by alcohol would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent years, public health experts have focused extensively on overdose deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers, which have risen rapidly since the early 2000s. But in 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647), according to the CDC. [link]

Amrik Singh Bal, age 68, hate crime victim in Fresno CA

The Fresno Bee writes about hate crime victim Amrik Singh Bal:

This is what a hate crime looks like.

You’re 68 years old and waiting in a Fresno neighborhood west of Highway 99 at 7 o’clock on a cold, foggy morning for a friend to give you a lift to work. Your job, despite your age, is working in the fields.

Two young men – fueled by ignorance, cowardice and cruelty – see you, stop their car and beat you up. They get back in the car, do a U-turn and smash into you with the car’s front bumper. You fall to the ground and break your collarbone. [link]

Christmas shopping and Underground Railroad bake sales

See, the true spirit of Christmas is in commerce:

Underground Railroad bake sales, as improbable as these may sound, became common fund-raisers in Northern towns and cities, and bazaars with the slogan “Buy for the sake of the slave” offered donated luxury goods and handmade knickknacks before the winter holidays. “Indeed,” Foner writes, “abolitionists helped to establish the practice of a Christmas ‘shopping season’ when people exchanged presents bought at commercial venues.” For thousands of women, such events also turned ordinary, “feminine” chores like baking, shopping, and sewing into thrilling acts of moral commitment and political defiance.[link]


Should governments prioritize 100% digital access at low speeds over higher speed connections for the few?

Steve Song argues in favor of free low-speed access to the internet for everybody:

I’ve asked you to imagine a world where mobile phones connect to the Internet in the same way that they simply connect to the mobile phone network, where there are no data charges for very low data speeds.  On the surface at least it would seem that the benefits to both the public and private sector would dramatically outweigh the costs of doing this.  If we accept that the value of access is not directly proportional to speed of access and that there is huge value in even small amounts of data access, then perhaps a national strategy ought to focus on getting everyone connected at a modest, free rate as opposed to say 80% of the people at say 2Mbps? [link]


Evangelicals are between 6% and 33% of the US population

If you use self-identification, there are a lot of evangelicals in America, roughly 1/3rd of the population and half of all Christians. However, if you quiz Americans on their theological beliefs, only 6% of them would qualify. And then there’s race, the huge differences between black and white evangelicals. All of this discussion is from an excellent NPR post on the subject which I have summarized rather than quoting..

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The Nazi War on Christmas

Jesus had been taken care of, but Santa Claus was not so easily forgotten. Tracing his roots to St. Nicholas of Myra, a fourth-century Greek Christian bishop from Turkey, Santa was both explicitly Christian and very definitely not Aryan. Even so, Santa was so beloved that not even the Nazis felt that they could wage a war against him. Instead, they changed his name. Nazis argued that the white-robed and gray-bearded figure who came to people’s houses and gave them gifts on Christmas Day was really the pagan god Odin. Christians had merely stolen him, but now he had been reclaimed. [link]