Here are some things I have been reading while I'm traveling (the posting schedule will be erratic):
Does the vaccine matter? Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer investigates for The Atlantic. About 100 million Americans get the flu shot each year; what benefit does it confer? This is an excellent article.
Some provocative quotes:
Flu comes and goes with the seasons, and often it does not kill people directly, but rather contributes to death by making the body more susceptible to secondary infections like pneumonia or bronchitis. For this reason, researchers studying the impact of flu vaccination typically look at deaths from all causes during flu season, and compare the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
The estimate of 50 percent mortality reduction is based on “cohort studies,” which compare death rates in large groups, or cohorts, of people who choose to be vaccinated, against death rates in groups who don’t. But people who choose to be vaccinated may differ in many important respects from people who go unvaccinated—and those differences can influence the chance of death during flu season. [Ed: people who can afford the flu shot vs. those who can't; people who are more health-conscious vs. those who aren't, etc.]
“For a vaccine to reduce mortality by 50 percent and up to 90 percent in some studies means it has to prevent deaths not just from influenza, but also from falls, fires, heart disease, strokes, and car accidents. That’s not a vaccine, that’s a miracle.”
In the flu-vaccine world, Jefferson’s call for placebo-controlled studies is considered so radical that even some of his fellow skeptics oppose it. ... “It is considered unethical to do trials in populations that are recommended to have vaccine,” a stance that is shared by everybody from the CDC’s Nancy Cox to Anthony Fauci at the NIH. They feel strongly that vaccine has been shown to be effective and that a sham vaccine would put test subjects at unnecessary risk of getting a serious case of the flu.
Yet another pie chart, Business Insider. Not on the same scale as the one above but still why?
Clean Water Act Violations, New York Times. Can we trust tap water? As usual, a set of small bars would work better than concentric circles.
How does your state compare to California? (via Pew and Mother Jones) This is a nice illustration that often it is better to plot data derived from the raw data, as opposed to the raw data itself. Since the designer decided to hide the information, let's figure out what were the cut-off points for the color categories. If the size of each category is not the same, the designer needs to explain the scale. Also, the two shades of light blue are hard to tell apart. But all in all, a good effort here.