Links for March 31st

Measles Outbreak Triggered by Unvaccinated Child

What began as a family trip to Switzerland in 2008 ended up as a public health nightmare in California.

The family's 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

The pope is not above the law

One of those accused in the Verona deaf-school case is the late archbishop of the city, Giuseppe Carraro. Next up, if our courts can find time, will be the Rev. Donald McGuire, a serial offender against boys who was also the confessor and "spiritual director" for Mother Teresa. (He, too, found the confessional to be a fine and private place and made extensive use of it.)

This is what makes the scandal an institutional one and not a matter of delinquency here and there. The church needs and wants control of the very young and asks their parents to entrust their children to certain "confessors," who until recently enjoyed enormous prestige and immunity. It cannot afford to admit that many of these confessors, and their superiors, are calcified sadists who cannot believe their luck. Nor can it afford to admit that the church regularly abandoned the children and did its best to protect and sometimes even promote their tormentors.

An open letter to conservatives

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you.  I grew up in a profoundly Republican home so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You’ve lost me and you’ve lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I’d like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You’re going to have to come up with a platform that isn’t built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from yours; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Sunday Sacrilege: The greatest blasphemy of them all

We are so tired of being told that we can't be moral without an objective external source of goodness…yet here we have a group of people who most loudly claim as their professional calling a direct insight into the mind and will of the cosmic lawgiver, and what do we find? Violations of basic human decency at every level.

Stand up to Murdoch, Armando Iannucci tells BBC

In language worthy of his most famous creation, Malcolm Tucker, The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci today called on the BBC to do more to defend itself from its critics – and "find someone to articulately tell James Murdoch to fuck off".

Iannucci was speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild awards, where his political satire won a hat-trick of awards. These included a first acting prize for the show for its star, Peter Capaldi, who plays Tucker.

The creator, writer, director and producer of the Thick Of It, Iannucci thanked the BBC for "holding its nerve over the series, especially when they have been under a lot of pressure over taste and decency and all sorts of things".

"I love the BBC dearly and would fight for it to the death," he said. "My only wish is that whenever it is accused of something, even if it's something it hadn't done, I wish it wouldn't go to the first police station and hand itself in.

It’s True: Hot Water Really Can Freeze Faster Than Cold Water

Hot water really can freeze faster than cold water, a new study finds. Sometimes. Under extremely specific conditions. With carefully chosen samples of water.

Ministry of Justice announces move on libel reform

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has announced that the government believes the case for libel reform has been made, and that the Ministry of Justice will now move to make reforms to England’s defamation laws, potentially with a Libel Reform Bill.

Commenting on the findings of the Ministry of Justice libel working group, Straw said the government would seek to address the issues of single publication, the strengthening of a public interest defence, and procedural changes to address issues such as early definitions of meaning and libel tourism.

Is the music industry trying to write the digital economy bill?

Two weeks is a lifetime in politics – especially in the political life of the backwards digital economy bill, Labour's gift to the incumbent entertainment industries that government is bent on ramming into law before the election.

In my last column, I bore the bizarre news that the LibDem front-bench Lords had introduced an amendment to the bill that would create a Great Firewall of Britain. This would be a national censorwall to which the record industry could add its least favourite sites, rendering them invisible to Britons (except for those with the nous of a 13-year-old evading her school's censorware). Over the following days, the story got weirder: the LibDem amendment got amended, to add a figleaf of due process to the untenable proposal.

And then it got weirder still: a leaked memo from the BPI (the UK record industry lobby) showed that the "LibDem amendment" had in fact been written – with minor variances – by the BPI.

The pope’s entire career has the stench of evil about it.

On March 10, the chief exorcist of the Vatican, the Rev. Gabriele Amorth (who has held this demanding post for 25 years), was quoted as saying that "the Devil is at work inside the Vatican," and that "when one speaks of 'the smoke of Satan' in the holy rooms, it is all true—including these latest stories of violence and pedophilia." This can perhaps be taken as confirmation that something horrible has indeed been going on in the holy precincts, though most inquiries show it to have a perfectly good material explanation.

Concerning the most recent revelations about the steady complicity of the Vatican in the ongoing scandal of child rape, a few days later a spokesman for the Holy See made a concession in the guise of a denial. It was clear, said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, that an attempt was being made "to find elements to involve the Holy Father personally in issues of abuse." He stupidly went on to say that "those efforts have failed."

Brits: ask your MP to demand a debate on new copyright law before voting

Last week's extraordinary leaked UK record industry memo on the Digital Economy Bill candidly asserted that the only reason Britain's retrograde, extremist new copyright law would pass Parliament is because MPs were "resigned" that they wouldn't have a chance to debate it properly.

For context: Labour cancelled its anti-fox-hunt legislation because there wasn't time for proper debate, but they're ramming through this copyright bill even though it's far more important and far-reaching — for one thing, a broken UK Internet will make it harder for people who care about fox hunts one way or the other to organise and lobby on the issue.

Now, 38 Degrees is asking Britons to write to their MPs and ask them to call for a full debate on this law before they vote on it. […] No matter what side you come down on for the Digital Economy Bill, is there anyone who wants law to be made without debate?