Political Agendas in the Anti-Vaccination Discourse

by Jalees Rehman Vaccines exemplify the success of modern medicine: Scientific insights into the inner workings of the immune system were leveraged to develop vaccines which have been administered to billions of humans world-wide and resulted in the eradication or near-eradication of many life-threatening diseases. Most vaccinations have minimal side effects, are cost-effective and there…

Help Citizens with Disabilities Participate in the Political Process

by Jalees Rehman The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over a billion people live with some form of disability, expressed as impairments, activity limitations and participation restrictions.  Disabilities are often manifestations of health conditions and as such, people suffering from disabilities not only require general medical care such as immunizations and preventive screenings but also…

Does Reading Hateful Comments Increase Prejudice and Hatred?

by Jalees Rehman How should social media platforms address hate speech and abusive comments while also maintaining a commitment to freedom of expression? The platform Twitter, for example, evaluates whether posts by individual users constitute abusive behavior, which it defines as “an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice”. Twitter’s rationale is that…

In Search of Lost Ambiguity

by Jalees Rehman Probably. Possible. Perhaps. Indicative. Researchers routinely use such suggestives in scientific manuscripts, because they acknowledge the limitations of the inferences and conclusions one can make when analyzing scientific data. The results of individual experiments are often open to multiple interpretations and therefore do not lend themselves to making definitive pronouncements. Cell biologists,…

“Hype” or Uncertainty: The Reporting of Initial Scientific Findings in Newspapers

by Jalees Rehman One of the cornerstones of scientific research is the reproducibility of findings. Novel scientific observations need to be validated by subsequent studies in order to be considered robust. This has proven to be somewhat of a challenge for many biomedical research areas, including high impact studies in cancer research and stem cell…

Neuroprediction: Using Neuroscience to Predict Violent Criminal Behavior

by Jalees Rehman Can neuroscience help identify individuals who are most prone to engage in violent criminal behavior? Will it help the legal system make decisions about sentencing, probation, parole or even court-mandated treatments? A panel of researchers lead by Dr. Russell Poldrack from Stanford University recently reviewed the current state of research and outlined…

Let Them Make My Cake: Exporting Burden, Importing Convenience in the Externalization Society

by Jalees Rehman On 5 November 2015, an iron ore tailings dam burst in Bento Rodrigues near the Brazilian city of Mariana, releasing 60 million cubic meters of a reddish-brown mud-flood. This toxic flood buried neighboring villages and flowed into the Rio Doce, contaminating the river with several hazardous metals including mercury, arsenic and chromium…

Politics Trump Healthcare Information: News Coverage of the Affordable Care Act

by Jalees Rehman The Affordable Care Act, also known as the "Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act", "Obamacare" or the ACA, is a comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in March 2010 which profoundly changed healthcare in the United States. This reform allowed millions of previously uninsured Americans to gain health insurance by establishing several new…

Plastic Words are Hollow Shells for Rigid Ideas: The Ever-Expanding Language of Tyranny

by Jalees Rehman Words are routinely abused by those in power to manipulate us but we should be most vigilant when we encounter a new class of "plastic words". What are these plastic words? In 1988, the German linguist Uwe Pörksen published his landmark book "Plastikwörter:Die Sprache einer internationalen Diktatur" (literal translation into English: "Plastic…