July 29, 2014

One hundred years ago, the Great War began

It is impossible to overestimate the effect of World War I.  This summer and for the next four years we will learn what we didn't know about the Great War and its disastrous effects on millions of lives across the world

The War That Broke a Century  Peggy Noonan

A king, a kaiser, a czar—all were undone as they realized what they had unleashed with World War I….. It was the great disaster of the 20th century, the one that summoned or forced the disasters that would follow, from Lenin and Hitler to World War II and the Cold War. It is still, a century later, almost impossible to believe that one event, even a war, could cause such destruction, such an ending of worlds.

History still isn't sure and can never be certain of the exact number of casualties. Christopher Clark, in "The Sleepwalkers" (2013), puts it at 20 million military and civilian deaths and 21 million wounded. The war unleashed Bolshevism, which brought communism, which in time would kill tens of millions more throughout the world. (In 1997, "The Black Book of Communism," written by European academics, put the total number at a staggering 94 million.)

Thrones were toppled, empires undone. Western Europe lost a generation of its most educated and patriotic, its future leaders from all classes—aristocrats and tradesmen, teachers, carpenters and poets. No nation can lose a generation of such men without effect. Their loss left Europe, among other things, dumber.

Ghosts of the First World War: Century-old photos of soldiers marching down our streets superimposed on modern-day images
The new photos by Getty Images photographer Peter Macdiarmid have been matched up with archive shots from various image banks.

 Wounded Wwisoldiers Beach
Indian soldiers who were wounded fighting at Flanders recuperate on Bournemouth beach in 1917, while modern-day visitors are also seen there

In the National Geographic, an  Interview with British historian David Reynolds on his  book  The Long Shadow
The Great War, as it came to be known, lasted four years, from 1914 to 1918. But its aftereffects haunted Europe and the rest of the world through the 20th century—and are still felt in our own times.  It helps explain today's bloodshed in the Middle East

Rapunzel-like display outside the Tower of London launched as more than 800,000 ceramic poppies will be planted over the summer to commemorate the First World War

A ceramic poppy will be planted in the Tower's moat for each allied victim.  More than 800,000 poppies will be planted before Armistice Day in November

 Poppies Londontower

In the Atlantic World War I in Photos: Introduction  by Alan Taylor

 Archduke Ferdinand+Sophie

In 1914, Austria-Hungary was a powerful and huge country, larger than Germany, with nearly as many citizens. It had been ruled by Emperor Franz Joseph I since 1848, who had been grooming his nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand as the heir to the throne. In this photo, taken in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, a visiting Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Czech Countess Sophie Chotek, are departing a reception at City Hall. Earlier that morning, on the way to the hall, their motorcade had been attacked by one of a group of Serbian nationalist assassins, whose bomb damaged one car and injured dozens of bystanders. After this photo was taken, the Archduke and his wife climbed into the open car, headed for a nearby hospital to visit the wounded. Just blocks away though, the car paused to turn around, directly in front of another assassin, who walked up to the car and fired two shots, killing both Franz Ferdinand and his wife. (AP Photo)

How the Peace Pope Almost Put an End to the First World War

Under Pope Benedict XV (1854-1922), the Vatican became a center for effective Christian peace activism. Benedict took office on September 3, 1914, a nightmare moment in European history. …..

In November 1914, he protested, “There is no limit to the measure of ruin and of slaughter; day by day the earth is drenched with newly-shed blood, and is covered with the bodies of the wounded and of the slain. Who would imagine, as we see them thus filled with hatred of one another, that they are all of one common stock, all of the same nature, all members of the same human society? Who would recognize brothers, whose Father is in Heaven?”    In 1916, he famously lamented “the suicide of civilized Europe.”
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Benedict also offered strictly practical plans for limiting the conflict…..In retrospect, though, Benedict’s ideas impress by their practicality. If his principles sound familiar, that is because they were substantially incorporated into Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points of the following year, which supplied the terms on which the defeated Germans finally accepted an Armistice. Carried out on the lines Benedict envisaged, his 1917 scheme might well have avoided the disasters of the post-1918 world, and even the Second World War.

Life on the eve of war

We’ve delved into the Telegraph’s archives and read the newspapers of 1914. They show just how unaware we were of the horrors ahead. This is the life Britain unwittingly left behind…..What is so unnerving reading the Telegraph in those days after the assassination was the way life carried on as normal. People continued to browse dress patterns, plan weekend drives, tear out recipes and queue at cinemas, quite oblivious to what was coming. This is the life they were about to leave behind forever.

….Fashion -Outfits called “ready-mades” had arrived in the West End shops and women began daring to go hatless,
…..Cars and planes -There are fewer fatalities on the roads now than there were before the First World War, despite there being eighty times more motor vehicles. Danger seemed dashing, and brakes could be a little tricky, back then.
….Food -Tinned food was all the rage, as were cookery books and new home refrigeration devices. But we still hadn’t learned to prepare vegetables properly.
….Art & Culture.  Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford reigned supreme at the cinema, Serge Diaghilev was a sensation at Drury Lane and the works of a young Pablo Picasso shocked the nation.
….Women’s Rights - The Telegraph called it “a hopeless exercise” but the suffragettes were bolder than ever in their fight for women's right to vote in 1914.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:38 PM | Permalink
Categories: Civilization - Can We Keep It? | Categories: Culture and Society

"Another day older and deeper in debt"

A stunning report in the Washington Post  1 in 3 U.S. adults have 'debt in collections'    

An estimated 1 in 3 adults with a credit history -- or 77 million people -- are so far behind on some of their debt payments that their account has been put "in collections."
That's a key finding from a new Urban Institute study.  It examined non-mortgage debt, including credit card bills, car loans, medical bills, child support payments and even parking tickets.  The debt in collections ranged from as little as $25 to a whopping $125,000. But the average amount owed was $5,200.

"It’s a stunning number," said Caroline Ratcliffe, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and author of the report. "And it threads through nearly all communities."
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Researchers relied on a random sample of 7 million people with data reported to the credit bureaus in 2013 to estimate what share of the 220 million Americans with credit files have debts in collection. About 22 million low-income adults who did not have credit files were not represented in the study.

We've never fully recovered from the financial crisis that began in 2008.  In fact, the  The Typical Household, Now Worth a Third Less

The inflation-adjusted net worth for the typical household was $87,992 in 2003. Ten years later, it was only $56,335, or a 36 percent decline, according to a study financed by the Russell Sage Foundation. Those are the figures for a household at the median point in the wealth distribution — the level at which there are an equal number of households whose worth is higher and lower. But during the same period, the net worth of wealthy households increased substantially.
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For households at the median level of net worth, much of the damage has occurred since the start of the last recession in 2007. Until then, net worth had been rising for the typical household, although at a slower pace than for households in higher wealth brackets. But much of the gain for many typical households came from the rising value of their homes. Exclude that housing wealth and the picture is worse: Median net worth began to decline even earlier.

The song 16 tons is one of the most covered songs in history, but it was Tennessee Ernie Ford who first topped the charts with it

 

But we can't blame the company store anymore, it's the government's doing as Monty Pelerin writes in  Government Is Destroying our Standard of Living

The Great Recession had a serious impact on all percentiles in the graph above. All are down from 2007. Liberals want to focus on how much better the "rich" are doing versus how poorly the "poor" are doing. The implication is that the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poor. This ideological nonsense is politically convenient and diversionary. There is no fixed pie where someone who gets a larger piece does so at the expense of someone receiving a smaller piece. That is only possible where government determines who the winners are….

The distribution at the top is not independent of government. The more government controls the economy, the more important it is to "have a friend in government." It used to be what you knew enabled you to succeed. Today, it is increasingly who you know. ….

Were the economy and its components growing at a real rate of 2 - 3%, then median net worth presumably would be growing at a similar rate….American's median net worth has been reduced by 60% to 70% from what might have been expected. How is this possible?

There are several reasons. I would argue that most of the blame goes to government:

Government is taking a much bigger share of the economy.
Government understates inflation which results in an overstatement of real GDP.
Taxes are higher, especially on capital gains which are unadjusted for inflation and taxed as if they were true gains.
Government interventions have destroyed the economy's ability to grow.
Government transfer payments have reduced the workforce, spreading a reduced output over more people.
Government's encouragement of the use of debt has created behavior not in the best interests of unsophisticated citizens.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink
Categories: Economy | Categories: Financial Planning, Wealth

July 26, 2014

"The cumulative deconstruction has cheapened everything we fought for and everything we might fight for"

From one of the best essayists of our time, Richard Fernandez at the Belmont Club writes When God Goes Fishing

There are some subjects that are almost too large for literature, even for Tolstoy, who tried to answer the question “how should one live a moral life in an ethically imperfect world?” by following  the fortunes of  characters in his novel War and Peace.

Some characters seek fame, others  sensual gratification, a few — like Napoleon — pursue an egotistical sense of power. But altogether too many of the rest are content to gnaw their way through the world like insects, not only incapable of answering Tolstoy’s question but unable to even ask it.

Some even want to meet God,  a few glimpse the answer fleetingly and are content. One suspects the present time, like 1812 is a special era, one when more people than usual ask: ‘where is God in this amoral world?’ The answer may be that  ’God is away on one of His customary disappearances’.  For one of the hallmarks of historical discontinuity is that God vanishes temporarily, during a time when old loyalties, ideologies and beliefs lose their power to bind.

The last 70 years have been spent dismantling the mental world of our fathers;  in teaching us about the corruption of America, the emptiness of patriotism and the hypocrisy of organized religion.  But along the way it has had to admit to the brutality of Communism, the fatuousness of manufactured causes, and the perversity of Hollywood.

That cumulative deconstruction has cheapened everything we fought for and everything we might fight for. Like Tolstoy’s characters in 1812, it  has left us with nowhere simple to turn; with no easy way to live a moral life in an ethically imperfect world.
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Today, as Russian troops mass on the border of Ukraine, move rockets to the frontier; as the Middle East goes up in flames and Central Americans flood the southern border the question is not only what is there left to defend but why it should be.  What for?

For the sake of a land grabbed from the Indians?

For the salvation of a nation founded on slavery?

In the name of a God that doesn’t exist?

To preserve a constitution authored by old white men that is a hundred years old and nobody reads any more?

Which leaves us almost where Prince Andrei was on the fields of Borodino……
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 AM | Permalink
Categories: Civilization - Can We Keep It?

July 23, 2014

Advice from Andrei Tarkovsky, one of the greatest film-makers of all time

From Brainpickings, Tarkovsky’s Advice to the Young: Learn to Enjoy Your Own Company

 Andrei Tarkovsky  What would you like to tell people?

I don’t know… I think I’d like to say only that they should learn to be alone and try to spend as much time as possible by themselves. I think one of the faults of young people today is that they try to come together around events that are noisy, almost aggressive at times. This desire to be together in order to not feel alone is an unfortunate symptom, in my opinion. Every person needs to learn from childhood how to be spend time with oneself. That doesn’t mean he should be lonely, but that he shouldn’t grow bored with himself because people who grow bored in their own company seem to me in danger, from a self-esteem point of view.

From Wikipedia Andrei  Tarkovsky, a Russian film-maker is widely regarded as one of the greatest film-makers of all time.

His films include Ivan's Childhood, Andrei Rublev, Solaris, The Mirror, and Stalker. He directed the first five of his seven feature films in the Soviet Union; his last two films, Nostalgia and The Sacrifice, were produced in Italy and Sweden, respectively. ….Tarkovsky's films are characterized by metaphysical themes, extremely long takes, and memorable images of exceptional beauty….

Ingmar Bergman said,  "Tarkovsky for me is the greatest (director), the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream."

The only film of his I've seen is Andrei Rublev, about the famous Russian icon painter and it was an extraordinary experience.  The Guardian calls it  The best arthouse film of all time

Viewers and critics always have their personal favourites, but some films achieve a masterpiece status that becomes unanimously agreed upon – something that's undoubtedly true of Andrei Rublev, even though it's a film that people often feel they don't, or won't get. It is 205 minutes long (in its fullest version), in Russian, and in black and white. Few characters are clearly identified, little actually happens, and what does happen isn't necessarily in chronological order. Its subject is a 15th-century icon painter and national hero, yet we never see him paint, nor does he do anything heroic. In many of the film's episodes, he is not present at all, and in the latter stages, he takes a vow of silence. But in a sense, there is nothing to "get" about Andrei Rublev. It is not a film that needs to be processed or even understood, only experienced and wondered at.

From the first scene, following the flight of a rudimentary hot air balloon, we're whisked away by silken camera moves and stark compositions to a time and place where we're no less confused, amazed or terrified than Rublev himself. For the next three hours, we're down in the muck and chaos of medieval Russia, carried along on the tide of history through gruesome Tartar raids, bizarre pagan rituals, famine, torture and physical hardship. We experience life on every scale, from raindrops falling on a river to armies ransacking a town, often within the same, unbroken shot.

Despite its apparent formlessness, Andrei Rublev is precisely structured and entirely aesthetically coherent. Acts of creation are mirrored by acts of destruction, there are themes of flight, of vision, of presence and absence; the more you look, the more you see. And then there are the horses, Tarkovsky's perennial favourite: horses rolling over, horses charging into battle, swimming in the river, falling down stairs, dragging men out of churches. At times the screen resembles a vast Brueghel painting come to life, or a medieval tapestry unrolling. We're always conscious of life spilling out beyond the frame, and never conscious of the fact that this was made in 60s USSR…..

We don't necessarily know, or need to know, how Andrei Rublev works or what it's telling us, but by the end we're in no doubt it's succeeded. When in the final minutes, the film pulls off its most famous flourish: the screen bursts into colour and we're finally ready to see Rublev's paintings in extreme close-up – coming at the end of this epic journey, they can reduce a viewer to tears. As the camera pores over the details, the tiny jewels on the hem of a robe, the lines forming a pitiful expression on the face of an angel, the tarnished gilding of a halo, we feel like we understand everything that's gone into every brushstroke. We're reminded of what beauty is. It is as close to transcendence as cinema gets.

 Andrey Rublev Movie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink
Categories: Movies, Videos | Categories: Rules of Life/Lessons Learned

Strange things: white holes, electric bacteria and what tree rings sound like when played on a turntable

A few of the  strangest things

White holes. Black holes explode when they die and become white holes at the end of their life spewing out all the matter it sucked in as a black hole

A new theory suggests that black holes might die by transforming into a 'white hole,'
which theoretically behave in the exact opposite manner as a black hole - rather than sucking all matter in, a 'white hole' spews it out.  The theory, as first reported by Nature.com, is based on the speculative quantum theory of gravity. Scientists believe it may help determine the great debate over black holes about whether they destroy the things they consume.  According to the theory, a 'white hole' would explosively expel all the material consumed by a black hole.
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It's long been suspected that gigantic black holes lurking in the heart of galaxies rotate faster and grow larger as they feast on gas, dust, stars and matter. But there hasn't been a reliable measurement of the spin rate of a black hole until last year. While black holes are difficult to detect, the region around them gives off telltale X-rays.

Using NASA's newly launched NuStar telescope and the European Space Agency's workhorse XMM-Newton, an international team observed high-energy X-rays released by a supermassive black hole in the middle of a nearby galaxy.
They calculated its spin at close to the speed of light — 670 million mph.
It was the first 'unambiguous measurement of the spin rate' of a supermassive black hole, University of Maryland astronomer Christopher Reynolds, who had no role in the research, wrote in an accompanying editorial.

 Black-Hole-To-White

Black holes: According to a new theory, a 'white hole' would explosively expel all the material consumed by a black hole

 White Hole Spewing Out

While a black hole sucks matter in, a white hole expels matter at an explosive rate

Electric bacteria Meet the electric life forms that live on pure energy

Unlike any other life on Earth, these extraordinary bacteria use energy in its purest form – they eat and breathe electrons – and they are everywhere.

STICK an electrode in the ground, pump electrons down it, and they will come: living cells that eat electricity. We have known bacteria to survive on a variety of energy sources, but none as weird as this. Think of Frankenstein's monster, brought to life by galvanic energy, except these "electric bacteria" are very real and are popping up all over the place.

Unlike any other living thing on Earth, electric bacteria use energy in its purest form – naked electricity in the shape of electrons harvested from rocks and metals. We already knew about two types, Shewanella and Geobacter. Now, biologists are showing that they can entice many more out of rocks and marine mud by tempting them with a bit of electrical juice. Experiments growing bacteria on battery electrodes demonstrate that these novel, mind-boggling forms of life are essentially eating and excreting electricity.

 Geobacter Geobacter

The discovery of electric bacteria shows that some very basic forms of life can do away with sugary middlemen and handle the energy in its purest form – electrons, harvested from the surface of minerals. "It is truly foreign, you know," says Nealson. "In a sense, alien."

What tree rings sound like when played on a turntable.

 Playing Tree Rings  Listen on Youtube here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:59 AM | Permalink
Categories: Science/ wonders

"The Generational Swindle"

Quote of the day.

Christina Sommers: Author of Who Stole Feminism

The Millennials have been cheated out of a serious education by their Baby Boomer teachers. Call it a generational swindle. Even the best and brightest among the 20-somethings have been shortchanged. Instead of great books, they wasted a lot of time with third-rate political tracts and courses with titles like "Women Writers of the Oklahoma Panhandle." Instead of spending their college years debating and challenging received ideas, they had to cope with speech codes and identity politics. College educated young women in the U.S. are arguably the most fortunate people in history; yet many of them have drunk deeply from the gender feminist Kool-Aid. Girls at Yale, Haverford and Swarthmore see themselves as oppressed. That is madness. And madness can only last so long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink
Categories: Wise Words and Quotations

Too good not to pass on

The Plague of Passwords. Senior trying to set a password

WINDOWS: Please enter your new password.

USER: cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must be more than 8 characters.

USER: boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain 1 numerical character.

USER: 1 boiled cabbage

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot have blank spaces.

USER: 50bloodyboiled cabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password must contain at least one upper case character.

USER: 50BLOODYboiledcabbages

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot use more than one upper case character consecutively.

USER: 50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDon’tGiveMeAccessNow!

WINDOWS: Sorry, the password cannot contain punctuation.

USER: ReallyPissedOff50BloodyBoiledCabbagesShovedUpYourAssIfYouDontGiveMeAccessNow

WINDOWS: Sorry, that password is already in use.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 AM | Permalink
Categories: Identity and Security | Categories: Just for Fun

Widespread animal mutation

Widespread Animal Mutation: Legacy of the Pill

News report from Trenton Times : ‘Intersex’ fish found in Delaware, other rivers a result of hormone-disrupting chemicals……The fish’s endocrine system, which regulates hormones and reproductive systems, is being thrown off by the estrogen and estrogen-like chemicals being dumped into the water through both agricultural and human waste, such as manure and human waste water, along with synthetic chemicals coming from plastics and pharmaceutical chemicals that act like estrogens, such as the ones found in birth control pills.
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So, in addition to reduced libido and increased risk of venous thrombosis, depression, and breast, cervix, and liver cancer, women taking oral contraceptives are also radically altering the environment. But, c’mon, y’know: sex!

If any other chemical was causing widespread and proven mutations in wildlife, the environmentalists would be going ballistic. But from them, not a peep because: seriously, guys: sex! It’s totally worth it!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:04 AM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society | Categories: Environment

Health Roundup: Drugs repurposed, dogs, discoveries and warnings

The asthma drug that is being used to beat paralysis: How one patient went from using a wheelchair to walk unaided

A type of medication that  is normally used by asthma sufferers has been proving stunningly effective in treating a form or paralysis – and has even allowed a wheelchair-bound teenager to walk unaided for the first time in seven years.  Jimmy Webster, 18, took salbutamol to treat congenital myasthenia. He had been so disabled he sometimes needed an oxygen-mask to breathe.  But he says: ‘Within three days I could stand and within a week I could walk.’ Now he is about to go camping and adds: ‘I wouldn’t have contemplated this last year.’
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Salbutamol is prescribed to asthmatics in inhaler form under the brand name Ventolin. It is now proving a remarkable treatment for myasthenia….Myasthenia is either congenital – due to a genetic mutation – or caused by the immune system turning inward and attacking the body, developing later in life…..Studies had shown widespread benefits, with another teenage patient going from needing crutches to walk, to jogging and doing sit-ups.

Do Parkinson's drugs make people more CREATIVE? Pills that increase dopamine levels may improve artistic abilities

Parkinson's experts have been noticing a remarkable phenomenon – some of their patients have developed impressive creative talents.
The link between Parkinson’s and artistic abilities was brought to the attention of the world two years ago by Professor Rivka Inzelberg of Tel Aviv University in Israel.  Now she has completed the first empirical study to verify a link between Parkinson’s disease and creativity, which the study suggests may be down to drugs used to treat the disease.

Professor Inzelberg first noticed the trend in her own Sheba Medical Centre clinic when the usual holiday presents from patients - typically chocolates or similar gifts took a surprising turn.  ‘Instead, patients starting bringing us art they had made themselves,’ she said.  Bringing together case studies from around the world, Professor Inzelberg examined the details of each patient to uncover a common underlying factor – all were being treated by similar drugs.

Arthritis drug could also halt Alzheimer's: Treatment found to stop progression of memory loss and poor mood

A safe and widely-used arthritis drug stops Alzheimer’s in its tracks, a British study has found.  The 20 men and women who were given Etanercept did not descend further into the disease – unlike those who were given a dummy treatment. Memory, mood and the ability to carry out vital everyday tasks such as washing and dressing were all, on average, stopped from getting worse.  The results, revealed at a major Alzheimer’s conference and dubbed ‘quite amazing’, are comparable with those for Aricept, one of the few existing Alzheimer’s treatments.
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Professor Holmes cautioned that only a small number of patients were treated – but described the results as ‘quite amazing’.He said: ‘Our results are better than we expected. ‘It is the first drug in a long time that has shown such promise.’

The easy way to feel ten years younger…get a dog: Pets not only keep you active they also make you mentally fitter

Dog owners act ten years younger than their age, a study found.  The St Andrews University research showed that they not only more active, they are also mentally fitter.  Researcher Dr Zhiqiang Feng said: ‘It is well known that pet ownership may help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression in older people, but one area that has received little attention is the effect of dog ownership on the physical activity levels of the elderly.

The rate of Alzheimer's disease is DECLINING in the U.S. as people take better care of their health - but it continues to grow in poorer countries

The rate of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias is falling in the United States and some other rich countries, new  research shows.
An American over age 60 today has a 44 percent lower chance of developing dementia than a similar-aged person did roughly 30 years ago, the longest study of these trends in the U.S. concluded.  Dementia rates also are down in Germany, a study there found.  However, the epidemic is still growing simply because more people are living to an old age.

Protein discovery that could reverse the damage of diabetes: Breakthrough could lead to cheap drug that would halt disease

Scientists have discovered a treatment for type 2 diabetes which could reverse the disease. The researchers found that a protein which is already naturally produced in the body cured the disease in mice and they are confident that it could be easily replicated in humans.  The breakthrough raises hope of a cheap drug which could effectively halt one of the world’s fastest growing diseases.

The protein, called FGF1, already plays a natural role in human cell growth and tissue repair - but it never usually enters the blood stream.  Diabetes experts found that when the protein was injected into a muscle and interacted with the blood, it dramatically reduced blood sugar levels.  Crucially, the protein also seems to reverse the root cause of type 2 diabetes - making the metabolic system react to insulin when it had been failing to do so.
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Professor Ronald Evans, of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, said: ‘This is a big deal - this treatment is very simple to make. We are at a very early stage but we know all about this protein already so we have a head start.

Cancer cells may guide treatment

A Boston-based team published proof Thursday that one of the most alluring ideas in cancer care can work: Exceedingly rare tumor cells can be filtered from a patient’s blood sample and used to noninvasively monitor the evolution of cancer and identify the most promising treatments.

The scientists drew blood from women with one type of breast cancer, isolated the rare cancer cells, and then experimented with those cells in a laboratory dish to find drugs that might effectively halt the spreading cancer.

The work demonstrates a powerful way to track and personalize cancer treatment with a simple blood draw. The technique, described in the journal Science, could enable doctors to frequently check for genetic changes that allow tumors to develop resistance to medications and to fine-tune therapy.

Arsenic warning over rice milk: Parents warned not to give drink to children because it can contain harmful levels of the chemical

Niacin – Also Known As Vitamin B3 — Supplements Can Be Deadly

Niacin, or vitamin B3, is too dangerous and should not be used routinely by people looking to control their cholesterol levels or prevent heart disease, doctors say.
The warning comes following recent evidence showing the vitamin does not reduce heart attacks or strokes, and instead is linked to an increased risk of bleeding, diabetes and death.

Niacin has long been used to increase people's levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or the "good" cholesterol, and has been a major focus of research into heart disease prevention for several decades. However, clinical trials have not shown that taking niacin in any form actually prevents heart problems. Considering the alarming side effects of niacin, researchers now say the vitamin shouldn't even be prescribed anymore.

"There might be one excess death for every 200 people we put on niacin," said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist and chair of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "With that kind of signal, this is an unacceptable therapy for the vast majority of patients."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink
Categories: Health

Peaceful Greens

UK Government Minister : I Had More Death Threats from the Greens than from IRA Terrorists

Former UK Environment Secretary Owen Paterson - recently sacked in Prime Minister David Cameron's reshuffle - said today that he received more death threats from green activists than ever he did from Republican and Loyalist terrorists during his stint as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland posting is considered one of the more dangerous jobs in British politics, which is why the incumbent - unlike with most cabinet positions - is automatically given 24-hour armed protection. But according to Paterson, his stint as Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was much more perilous.

I soon realized that the greens and their industrial and bureaucratic allies are used to getting things their own way. I received more death threats in a few months at Defra than I ever did as secretary of state for Northern Ireland. My home address was circulated worldwide with an incitement to trash it; I was burnt in effigy by Greenpeace as I was recovering from an operation to save my eyesight. But I did not set out to be popular with lobbyists and I never forgot that they were not the people I was elected to serve.

Paterson claimed that his address was circulated amongst Green groups with an "incitement to trash it". He also claimed to have been "burnt in effigy by Greenpeace as I was recovering from an operation to save my eyesight". Actions that would have led to arrests had he still been Northern Ireland Secretary.
The former Environment Secretary's central claim was that Green lobby had attacked him for supporting growth in the rural economy. He said that groups like Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace existed merely "to enhance their own income streams and influence by myth making and lobbying".
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink
Categories: Environment

July 21, 2014

Brandoli's law

Brandolini’s law

 Brandoli's Law

Attributed to Alberto Brandolini, an Italian independent software development consultant who tweeted on January 11, 2013

"The bullshit asymmetry: the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it."

— ziobrando (@ziobrando)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink
Categories: Rules of Life/Lessons Learned

Yankees will freeze in the dark

William Tucker says  GET READY FOR THE NEW ENGLAND POWER SHORTAGE

In the next few years New England will be facing a full-scale power shortage.  Last week the governors of the six New England states met in an emergency session at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss what to do about the pending crisis.
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In a hell-bent campaign to rid itself of any form of dirty, messy “non-renewable” energy, New England has been closing down coal and oil plants for the last decade. In 2000, 18 percent of New England’s electricity came from coal and 22 percent from oil. Today it’s 3 percent coal and 1 percent oil. Meanwhile, natural gas — the fuel that everybody loves until you have to drill for it — has risen from 15 percent to a starkly vulnerable 52 percent, just behind California.

There’s only one problem. New England doesn’t have the pipelines to bring in the gas. Nor is anyone going to allowed to build it, either.
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It’s not as if it’s not needed. Last winter, when record low temperatures hit, there just wasn’t enough gas to go around. Utilities that service home heating have long-term contracts and get first dibs. You can’t stockpile gas the way you stockpile coal, so power plant operators were left bidding against each other for what was left. Prices skyrocketed from $4 per mBTU to an unbelievable $79 per mBTU and electricity prices spiked to ten times their normal level.
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New England is now limping along with 33,000 megawatts of electrical capacity, which barely meets its needs. At one auction last winter, the New England Independent Systems Operator, which manages the grid, came up 145 megawatts short — an almost unheard of occurrence. Yet in the next two years the region will be closing down 1/10th of its capacity in a bid to rid itself of anything that does not win favor with environmentalists. First to go will be the last of four coal plants at Salem Harbor, which can no longer meet the EPA’s new regulatory requirements. Next Brayton Point, the largest remaining coal plant, will be retired for the same reason. Finally, a continual barrage of protests and legislative attacks has persuaded Mississippi-based Entergy to close the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Station and “let the Yankees freeze in the dark,” as they used to say in Texas and Louisiana. The reactor provided 75 percent of Vermont’s electricity and 4 percent of the power for the region, carbon-free.

“It’s going to be very tricky for New England over the next three to four years,” says Gordon van Welie, CEO of the Independent Systems Operator of New England, which run the grid.
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So the only “clean energy” left in New England these days is hydroelectricity — generated in Canada. The Canadians are indeed developing huge dams in James Bay and are eager to sell to Americans. But that means building transmission lines down from the north and everyone is opposed to that as well. Northeast Utilities, which services much of New England, has been trying to build a Northern Pass transmission corridor since 2009 but environmental groups insist the lines be buried underground. …….Meanwhile, environmentalists have become so ambitious and well funded that they have bought up land and property rights in northern New Hampshire just to block its path. Plans to bury just eight miles of the 187-mile route have ballooned costs from $200 million to $1.4 billion and the project is years from completion — if ever.

Another cold winter is certain to bring skyrocketing prices and possible brownouts. New Englanders already pay 45 percent higher electric bills than the rest of the country and that figure can only grow. The first region of the country to industrialize is about the drive away the last of its blue-collar workshops.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 AM | Permalink
Categories: Environment | Categories: Government

July 20, 2014

ISIS to Christians in Mosul: 24 hours to leave or be beheaded

The "final solution" underway in Iraq for all Christians and few care.

Christian Holocaust Underway in Iraq.  USA and World Look Away  by Sebastian Gorka

When U.S. troops invaded Iraq in 2003, there were at least 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Over the last ten years, significantly in the last few months with the emergence of ISIS, that figure has dropped to about 400,000.

One of the world’s leading experts on asymmetric warfare, Dr. Sebastian Gorka, “in the last 48 hours, ISIS, which is now called the Islamic State in Mosul, has painted the letter “N” for Nazarene on the houses of all the surviving Christians in the city. ISIS has basically given an ultimatum to all the Christians left: You can either flee or convert to Islam, or we will kill you.”

Gorka points out that, over the last 20 years, America has stood up around the world to save Muslims. “Whether it was to save the Muslims in Bosnia or the Albanians, Kosovars, and Muslims in Serbia, it is now time for a humanitarian operation to save the remaining Christians in Iraq,” he said. “It is time for the American people and our representatives to do something for our co-religionists remaining in the Middle East.”

Marlow observed that the blatant religious cleansing is horrifying and asked Gorka: “Why is it that the mainstream press is not interested in the story?” Gorka first responded by saying "Let's face it, this is a Christian version of the Holocaust and nothing less.” ….. the media is “post-modernist, sophisticated, and secularist. So when it comes to the idea of religious persecution, they say, ‘Well who really cares because I don’t believe in God. If you are not sophisticated enough to be a post-modernist secularist… tough on you!


Christians Given Ultimatum in Mosul: Convert, Leave or Die

Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Saad Sirop of Baghdad has confirmed a troubling report from Mosul that the Islamic State is now presenting Christians in that city with a final ultimatum of conversion, subservience or death.

Christians have until  tomorrow (Saturday, July 19)  to leave, or face execution.  "In the last hours, the jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have forced the few remaining Christians in Iraq's second city to leave their homes. Desperate, Christians immediately fled but were stopped at checkpoints by militias who have looted cars and all their belongings and then summoned them to continue on foot. Most of the families are headed to the North, in the city of Dahuk."
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It may be the end game Christians have feared for some time, especially since ISIS took over Mosul in early June. Since then, things have gotten progressively worse for Christians. The Associated Press has also reported that the Islamic State has begun seizing the houses of Christian and Shiite families who fled Mosul and giving some of them to Sunni families uprooted from areas like Tikrit and Diyala. "They mark these houses with signs reading Islamic State Properties,"

As Christians are massacred in Iraq, laid-back Obama maintains his shameful silence notes Damian Thompson.

Thousands of Iraqi Christians pour out of Mosul after ISIS jihadis give them deadline to convert, pay or face death

Thousands of Iraqi Christians today poured out of Mosul after ISIS jihadis gave them an ultimatum - convert, pay or face death.
The Islamic State terror group declared that Christians must either convert to Islam, pay a special tax or leave the city, around 250 miles north-west of Baghdad.
If they did not do so by noon (9am GMT) today, there would be 'nothing for them but the sword', it said.
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Chaldean patriarch Louis Sako, who heads Iraq's largest Christian community, said the terrifying ultimatum had been relayed by mosques in ISIS-controlled Mosul.
He told AFP: 'Christian families are on their way to Dohuk and Arbil [in Kurdistan]. For the first time in the history of Iraq, Mosul is now empty of Christians.'

News from Ninevah by David Warren

It would seem that, this morning, for the first time in more than eighteen centuries, there are no Christians in Mosul, Iraq….

By tradition, the tombs of several Old Testament patriarchs and prophets are to be found within the large area now under Mosul’s modern urban sprawl. (It is the largest city in Iraq, except Baghdad.) This includes the shrine associated with the tomb of Jonah, itself of extraordinary antiquity, which was torched and demolished earlier in the week. All physical evidence that Christians ever lived in Mosul will soon be erased, if it has not been erased already. (Shia Islamic shrines have also been demolished by the Sunni jihadis; and I gather that the museum, one of several sites around Mosul under nominal protection of UNESCO as “world heritage,” has also been trashed by these iconoclasts.)
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The “final solution” for Mosul’s Christians was blared from loudspeakers in the minarets of the city’s Sunni mosques after Friday prayers. They would have twenty-four hours to flee, taking nothing but the clothes they were wearing. Those found still in the city, after noon yesterday, would be put to the sword. A third option, conversion to Islam, was mentioned only for the record. Any intending to do that would surely have done it by now. The possessions of all Christians had been “nationalized,” according to the announcement — everything they owned now belonged to the Islamic Caliphate of Iraq and the Levant.
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The Christians have fled, by necessity many on foot under the killing sun of the Mesopotamian summer, mostly towards Kurdistan: the one part of northern Iraq the jihadis have not yet attempted to subjugate. That is also where Western refugee aid is most likely to be available. At this point, we cannot guess how many will make it alive. Certainly the number of dead will vastly exceed those tallied in the airliner that was shot down in eastern Ukraine — the story now at the top of Western media headlines, for the plane was full of Europeans.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:47 PM | Permalink
Categories: Civilization - Can We Keep It? | Categories: Spirituality and Religion

The Myth that Religion is the #1 Cause of War

The Myth that Religion is the #1 Cause of War

Atheists and secular humanists consistently make the claim that religion is the #1 cause of violence and war throughout the history of mankind. One of atheism's key cheerleaders, Sam Harris, says in his book The End of Faith that faith and religion are “the most prolific source of violence in our history.”1
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An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature  which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.

 Wars-Pie-Chart

The truth is, non-religious motivations and naturalistic philosophies bear the blame for nearly all of humankind’s wars. Lives lost during religious conflict pales in comparison to those experienced during the regimes who wanted nothing to do with the idea of God – something showcased in R. J. Rummel’s work Lethal Politics and Death by Government:

Non-Religious Dictator Lives Lost
  • Joseph Stalin - 42,672,000
  • Mao Zedong - 37,828,000
  • Adolf Hitler - 20,946,000
  • Chiang Kai-shek - 10,214,000
  • Vladimir Lenin - 4,017,000
  • Hideki Tojo - 3,990,000
  • Pol Pot - 2,397,0003
Rummel says: “Almost 170 million men, women and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed or killed in any other of a myriad of ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners. The dead could conceivably be nearly 360 million people. It is though our species has been devastated by a modern Black Plague. And indeed it has, but a plague of Power, not germs.”

The historical evidence is quite clear: Religion is not the #1 cause of war.  via Tea at Trianon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink
Categories: Civilization - Can We Keep It? | Categories: Culture and Society | Categories: Spirituality and Religion

Why are we arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?

Megan McArdle goes off on the Mommy Police With Real Handcuffs

A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

I’m not interested in defending mothers who are under stress or are low-wage workers without a lot of great child-care options. I mean, fine, but these defenses should be unnecessary because what the heck are we doing arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?
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Leaving an infant in a car is extremely dangerous, and parents should take great care not to do so…. Leaving an 11-year-old alone in the car is no more dangerous than letting her go to the ladies' room by herself.
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Nor is there any reason that a normally intelligent 9-year-old cannot be allowed to play in a busy, safe park by herself. Could something bad happen? Yes, though the risks of accident in a crowded park are pretty limited. But something bad can happen anywhere. The rate of stranger abductions is very low, and it has been very low for a long time. Yet when I ask parents why they can’t let their kid out of their sight, stranger abductions generally top the list.

You know what’s really dangerous to your child? Getting in a car. It’s the leading cause of death among kids ages 5 to 14, followed by cancer and drowning. Stranger abductions are way, way, way down on the list. Yet at the same time we’ve been tethering our children to our knees in an effort to make sure nothing bad ever happens, we’ve actually slightly increased the number of vehicle miles they travel. Why aren’t the cops on that?
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As Jessica Grose says, if this had been illegal in 1972, every single mother in America would have been in jail. Yet millions upon millions of us lived to tell the tale.

Illinois warns parents: You are replaceable  Deborah Teixeira is in danger of literally being fired by the state of Illinois from her job as Juliet's mother.

The Peoria resident has been warned that if there are more infractions, the state will send a replacement into her home to take care of her daughter instead.
Teixeira is not alone. Across the state, mothers like her and other people taking care of their family members have been told via threatening official phone calls and letters that they could be replaced if they don’t shape up.

Her predicament comes from the fact that she takes care of an adult daughter with brain damage. She provides Juliet with round-the-clock care at her home thanks to subsidies from Illinois’ Home Services Program. That’s common: Most of HSP’s estimated 20,000 “caregivers” are just people like Teixeira watching over severely disabled family members.

The program also comes with strings attached, including a new billing system that requires caregivers to call a phone number twice daily to literally clock in and clock out.  Forget to clock out and you are technically overbilling the state. Repeat offenders can be replaced as caregiver — even if they are taking care of their own children in their home. 

Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Resources. “It’s just like any other job. You go there, you clock in. You leave, you clock out. It’s a way of proving you were there.”  The program’s intent, she says, is to root out fraud, not punish families.
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Teixeira started getting phone calls this month from a state official pointing to problems with her timesheets. “Clocking out late is unacceptable regardless of intent, the official told me.”  If this persisted then “my employment would be terminated and I would be replaced by an agency personal assistant.”

It didn’t make any sense, Teixeira thought. Her daughter’s problems would require at least a very experienced certified nursing assistant. How would that save the state money?
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It is not clear how many of HSP’s estimated 20,000 caregivers were given warnings. Illinois DHS spokeswoman Smith could not cite a figure. But it was enough that the state created a form letter for it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:17 PM | Permalink
Categories: Government | Categories: Parenting

Miscellany

It's a French advertisement and the most charming video of the week.

I always wondered how so many articles got written.  This Robot Has Written More Wikipedia Articles Than Anyone Alive

You might think writing 10,000 articles per day would be impossible. But not for a Swede named Sverker Johansson. He created a computer program that has written a total of 2.7 million articles, making Johansson the most prolific author, by far, on the "internet's encyclopedia." His contributions account for 8.5 percent of the articles on Wikipedia, the Wall Street Journal reports.

A Dollar Saved in Your 20s is Equal to Ten Dollars Saved in Your 50s

Restaurant Watches Old Surveillance And Shares Shocking Results On Craigslist

We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike. Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was 10 years ago, the service just seems super slow even though we added more staff and cut back on the menu items.


Fantasy and the Buffered Self
  in The New Atlantis

"Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers. Fantasy, in most of its recent forms, may best be understood as a technologically enabled, and therefore safe, simulacrum of the pre-modern porous self, "  Charles Taylor
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the achievement of a safely buffered personhood — closed off from both the divine and the demonic — is soon enough accompanied by a deeply felt change in the very cosmos. As C. S. Lewis notes in The Discarded Image (1964), the medieval person who found himself “looking up at a world lighted, warmed, and resonant with music” gives way to the modern person who perceives only emptiness and silence.
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Might it not be possible to experience the benefits, while avoiding the costs, of both the porous and the buffered self? I want to argue here that it is precisely this desire that accounts for the rise to cultural prominence, in late modernity, of the artistic genre of fantasy. Fantasy — in books, films, television shows, and indeed in all imaginable media — is an instrument by which the late modern self strives to avail itself of the unpredictable excitements of the porous self while retaining its protective buffers.

The Truth About Shaving Cream  "Shaving cream is a racket"

10 Items You Should Always Buy Generic

In National Geographic:  Who Were the Ancient Bog Mummies? Surprising New Clues

 Tollund Man

Tollund Man, who was hanged with a leather cord and cast into a Danish bog, is housed at Denmark's Silkeborg Museum.  Radiocarbon dating of Tollund Man indicated that he died in approximately 375-210 BCE

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:59 AM | Permalink

July 19, 2014

Remote control female contraceptive and the business of IVF

Remote control contraceptive funded by Bill and Melinda Gates.  Once implanted, contraceptive microchips  can be remotely controlled to release abortifacients into a woman's body for up to 16 years.

So who controls the switch of the device?  It opens up new pathways to eugenics that never could be imagined before.  Certainly,  governments will fund the costs of the contraceptive microchip under the guise of population control and may require certain classes of women to be implanted with the chip.  It could be women who already have two children, women are poor or on welfare or women who oppose the government.  Who's to say and who's to know when national health care systems decide that they know better than the women involved and turn the chip on.

Talk about a war on women and a war on women's bodies.  Potentially anyone with sufficient computer hacking skills could render women infertile against their wishes. 

The technology was originally intended, and tested, to release osteoporosis medication in elderly women, but Dr. Robert Langer of MIT changed his focus to contraception after a personal discussion with Bill Gates. …..The announcement comes as the Gates Foundation is spearheading an international, multi-billion-dollar push for expanding birth control in the developing world.
…. a remote-controlled computer chip that potentially leaves the patient's health at the mercy of anyone with sufficient computer skills presents its own issues…..

Dr. Robert Farra of MIT said the subcutaneous computer chip must be given “secure encryption” so that “someone across the room cannot re-program your implant.” To date, that security has not been developed.

Civil libertarians worry about how hackers – and rogue government agencies – could exploit that technology. “Whatever that chip transmits will go into a government file,” John Whitehead, a constitutional attorney and founder of The Rutherford Institute, told LifeSiteNews. “The chip may actually know when you're having sex. So, there will be no privacy, no.”……“I'm afraid the chip could be activated in some harmful way,” such as a future eugenics program, Whitehead said. “It could basically bar certain people from having children.”
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Pre-clinical testing of the new microchip begins next year. Langer's development team at MicroCHIPS Inc., based in Lexington, Massachusetts, hopes to introduce the product by 2018, pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“People can voluntarily do it,” Whitehead said, “but they need to know what the dangers are.”

Apart from severe health risks, years on contraceptives and abortifacients can render women infertile even after they stop taking them.  That's the major reason why the IVF industry has grown so rapidly.  Making babies with IVF  is already a big business.

The market for eggs and sperm is a lucrative enterprise, estimated to be worth over $3 billion in the United States alone. IVF, sperm donation, and egg donation are, of course, intrinsically linked to surrogacy, and these same business incentives are driving the push for a greater legalization of commercial surrogacy throughout the United States and abroad.
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Dr. Itai Levitan, who served as chairman for the 2nd IVF Worldwide Live Congress held last year in Berlin. His enthusiasm following the conference was hardly containable: “I feel like I should give up medicine and focus on marketing!”

Among the tips he offers: “Increase your IVF Clinic’s investment in marketing, and seriously treat the activity as a profit center rather than a cost center.” And “Understand your exact business logic behind your online marketing activity. Start with understanding your fundamental business case.” Have a read through of the full post. You’ll see IVF cycles referred to as “sales” and patients referred to as “clients.”

With IVF, no longer is medicine the healing profession. It is a business enterprise

THE IVF INDUSTRY - "HUMAN MANUFACTURING ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE"  complete with tracking and quality control

Looking for Dad on the Internet: Are you XYTEX DONOR 2035?   Inside the  Brave New World of Gestation Surrogacy

COMMODIFYING HUMAN LIFE: DESIGNER BABIES, BROOD MOTHERS, BABY FLESH PILLS AND DONOR DADDIES

THE RETURN OF EUGENICS

A THOUSAND SIBLINGS

HE KEEPS TRACK OF ALL HIS KIDS ON AN EXCEL SPREADSHEET
 

Sperm donor's 24 kids never told about his fatal, genetic illness


MORE GENETIC BEWILDERMENT

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 PM | Permalink
Categories: Brave New World

July 18, 2014

When people simply forgot how to build things

In Aeon Farming the apocalypse by Keith Farrell

"When my life came crashing down I took shelter on my farm, surviving with 11th-century tools like the sickle and scythe"
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Only gradually did I realize that I had far more in common with a post-apocalypse survivor – and chronic illness, not to mention financial challenges, are apocalyptic in their way – than with an 11th-century farmer. Those farmers, after all, knew what they were doing; their whole lives would have been spent doing it. They were far more prepared for a post-apocalypse life on the land than me or almost anyone I knew

Rod Dreher comments in Livin' The Medieval Dream,

When you have to preserve skills and methods from generation to generation simply to survive, traditions develop, and they become critically important, even after people may have forgotten why they came about. Then along comes technology to free you from traditions, and you discard them. Eventually you come to believe that anything you will is possible. And you forget that we all live on a soap bubble.

Historian Brian Ward-Perkins says that the retreat of material culture after the Western Roman Empire fell was catastrophic; people simply forgot how to build things — and that with the disappearance of the relatively complex economic networks under imperial Rome, intellectual life also shriveled. I interviewed Ward-Perkins about this once in his Oxford University office, but I don’t know that I understood so intimately what he meant by that until I read Ferrell’s essay.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:48 AM | Permalink
Categories: Civilization - Can We Keep It? | Categories: Culture and Society

Good and bad marriages

From Science Daily, Marriage and healthy hearts: Correlation between unhappy marital interactions, cardiovascular disease risk

The affairs of the heart may actually affect the affairs of the heart in ways previously not understood.”Growing evidence suggests that the quality and patterns of one’s social relationships may be linked with a variety of health outcomes, including heart disease,” says Thomas Kamarck, professor of psychology and Biological and Health Program Chair in the University of Pittsburgh Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences.

He is an author of a new study that correlates unhappy marital interaction with thicker carotid arteries and a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. “The contribution of this study is in showing that these sorts of links may be observed even during the earliest stages of plaque development [in the carotid artery],” Kamarck continues, “and that these observations may be rooted not just in the way that we evaluate our relationships in general but in the quality of specific social interactions with our partners as they unfold during our daily lives.” Nataria Joseph, who recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship under Kamarck, is the lead author of the paper, published this month in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Given the size of the effect in the study and the relationship between carotid artery plaque and disease, Joseph’s findings, made at Pitt, indicate that those with marital interactions light on the positive may have an 8.5 percent greater risk of suffering heart attack or stroke than those with a surfeit of good feelings. 

Dr Greg comments in   Can A Bad Marriage Kill You? Study Says, “Yes, and A Good Marriage May Heal.”

More and more, research is showing that the quality of our relationships has tremendous impact on our physical and emotional health.  I think this is another area where there is increasing agreement between psychology and theology.  For instance, Dr. Dan Siegel– a founder of the developing field of Interpersonal Neurobiology which looks at how relationships affect health and neurological functioning–argues that it is foolish to think of an individual as apart from his relationships.

He argues that, in a sense, there is a flow of energy within the relationships between people that interacts with and impacts the functioning of the mind and body of each individual in the relationship on an atomic level.  The effects of this interaction can be observed–if not the process itself–in the way different relational and environmental states have been shown to impact gene expression and the development of new neural connections throughout the brain and nervous system.  When I read his work, I am often reminded of Pope St. John Paul the Great’s argument in his Theology of the Body that just as the Trinity is a communion of three distinct but united persons, the human beings made in the image and likeness of that Communion are also, at their most basic level, best understood to be inseparable from the communion of persons in which they participate. The Takeaway I realize that’s all rather thick language and if I lost you, it doesn’t really matter because the larger point is still clear enough.  Namely, that the well-being of each human person is intimately tied to the quality of his or her relationship with others and that is exactly as God intended it to be. The takeaway is that taking care of your relationships may be just as important as diet and exercise for longevity and health.   Even if you don’t feel like working on your marriage for the sake of your partner, for instance, you may want to work on it out of a commitment to your own well-being because avoiding the work isn’t punishing your partner as much as it may be punishing yourself. If you fail to do the work that your intimate relationships require, you may literally be breaking your own heart.

As Charles Murray said in Advice for a Happy Life

A good marriage is the best thing that can ever happen to you. Above all else, realize that this cliché is true. The downside risks of marrying—and they are real—are nothing compared with what you will gain from a good one.

Consider Marrying Young.  You've got to wait until the right person comes along. I'm just pointing out that you shouldn't exclude the possibility. If you wait until your 30s, your marriage is likely to be a merger. If you get married in your 20s, it is likely to be a startup.  …What are the advantages of a startup marriage? For one thing, you will both have memories of your life together when it was all still up in the air. You'll have fun remembering the years when you went from being scared newcomers to the point at which you realized you were going to make it.

Even more important, you and your spouse will have made your way together. Whatever happens, you will have shared the experience. And each of you will know that you wouldn't have become the person you are without the other.

Many merger marriages are happy, but a certain kind of symbiosis, where two people become more than the sum of the individuals, is perhaps more common in startups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 AM | Permalink
Categories: Family | Categories: Health | Categories: Love, Marriage and Weddings | Categories: Spirituality and Religion

The cancer death-panel app

Wesley Smith writes Obamacare Opens Door to Death Panel App

Obamacare’s emphasis on cost-benefit has apparently granted permission for the medical technocrats to conjure all kinds of healthcare rationing schemes.  And the Medical Establishment is apparently playing along.

From, “The Cancer Death-Panel App,” by Robert Goldberg in the NY Post:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives. That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks.

That’s no coincidence. At ASCO’s national conference, Dr. Lee Newcomer, United Healthcare’s medical director, said the “motives [of insurers] are viewed with suspicion when it comes to deciding whether a treatment is cost-effective. So having ASCO play a key role in establishing such guidelines would be crucial to their implementation.”

Translation: Patients are more likely to accept rationing if it comes with a “medical seal of approval.”

Dr. Lowell Schnipper, who heads ASCO’s Value in Cancer Care Task Force, which is building the app, parrots the claim made by Karen Ignagni, president of AHIP (the health-insurance lobby), that new cancer drugs are bankrupting the health system.

That’s not true. Yes, spending on cancer treatments has climbed from $24 billion in 2004 to about $37 billion today. But that’s less than a half a percent of total US health-care spending.

More important: While expensive, since 2004 such innovations were largely responsible for a 40 percent increase in living cancer survivors, from 9.8 million to 13.6 million. The new therapies also saved $188 billion on hospitalizations.

In fact, a new study by Dr. Newcomer himself confirms this result: United Healthcare’s cancer costs dropped as spending on new cancer drugs increased.

Finally, new drugs help people go back to work. The value of the increase in ability to work is 2.5 times what we spend on new therapies.

The app’s biggest problem, though, is that it’s one-size-fits-all: It treats all patients as the same, ignoring the genetic variation in patient response that a new class of “targeted” cancer drugs will soon address.
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Dig a bit deeper, and it’s clear that Schnipper and his allies have a more ideological motivation. He talks of limiting spending on new treatments as a way to make “the health-care system, not just the cancer system, more rational and just.”

And this line of thinking does away with the Hippocratic Oath. No longer is the doctor’s first obligation “to apply for the benefit of the sick, all measures that are required.” Instead, Schnipper believes three months of added life “is not a large enough benefit to trump the greater benefits to many that would have to be foregone to provide it.”

In fact, he regards the premium that Americans place on life as a character defect, observing, “Other cultures do not seem to view the postponement of death by a few months” the same way we do…….
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:21 AM | Permalink
Categories: Brave New World | Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Health

The Unhappiest Worker

Psychology Today offers a profile of the unhappiest workers in America today.  She is female, in her forties, unmarried with no children, earning less than $100k a year and in a professional position such as doctor or lawyer.    --

A more comprehensive analysis of trends in subjective well-being across several decades came to similar conclusions regarding female happiness. In The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness published by the American Economic Journal, researchers Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers found that although women's life circumstances have improved greatly over the past few decades by most objective measures, their happiness has declined—both in absolute terms and relative to men's.

This is so sad.  I know many women who fit this profile. They ignored their biological nature, postponed marriage and swallowed the feminist ideal of being a self-sufficient super achiever, unburdened with children.  So, they have no one to love, no one to care for, no one to give them emotional support.  Except for cats.

By contrast, the profile of the happiest worker is a married male, with a young child, in a senior management position, earning between $150k - $200k and a wife who works part-time. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 AM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society | Categories: The Sexes

July 17, 2014

Self control is personal power and so is grit

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. — Lao-tzu -

What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it, that’s another matter. — Peter F. Drucker -

An Indulgent Life Isn’t Necessarily a Happy Life

Recent research, which will be published in next month's Journal of Personality shows that People with higher self-control also tend to lead happier lives.
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In all three studies, the researchers found a link between self-control and happiness. The findings may be correlational and self-reported (which can always mean people may exaggerate the good stuff and minimize the bad), but the results still feel very true to life. “For me, I’ve actually found it to be quite an eye-opener,” Vohs said. “Because the lesson that should be taken away from this paper is that the best way for people to live healthy and happy lives is to avoid temptations in the first place.” Happiness is about more than living in the moment; it's important to keep the future in mind, too.

Only people who discipline themselves -  be it saving money, losing weight, learning tennis or writing a book - can reach their goals

Stuart Schneiderman comments

It turns out that if you make plans for the future and keep yourself focused on whatever it is you need to do to bring them to fruition, you cannot at the same time yield to every temptation.

It’s like being in training for a race or a competition or a recital. You need to follow a strict regimen to be capable of performing at your best. And you need to follow it consistently and regularly—you need to make it a habit.  You do not practice self-control for its own sake. You do it with a goal and a purpose in mind.

Daniel Goldman says Grit and emotional intelligence, not IQ or academic performance is the best predictor of personal and business success.

Studies at the University of Pennsylvania have found that students who don't have the highest IQs in their class but get high grades share an attitude called grit.” They keep plugging away despite any setbacks or failures.

And a 30-year longitudinal study of more than a thousand kids – the gold standard for uncovering relationships between behavioral variables – found that those children with the best cognitive control had the greatest financial success in their 30s
--
Cognitive control refers to the abilities to delay gratification in pursuit of your goals, maintaining impulse control, managing upsetting emotions well, holding focus, and possessing a readiness to learn. Grit requires good cognitive control. No wonder this results in financial and personal success….

Both grit and cognitive control exemplify self-management, a key part of emotional intelligence. IQ and technical skills matter, of course: they are crucial threshold abilities, what you need to get the job done….

It’s the distinguishing competencies that are the crucial factor in workplace success: the variables that you find only in the star performers – and those are largely due to emotional intelligence.

These human skills include, for instance, confidence, striving for goals despite setbacks, staying cool under pressure, harmony and collaboration, persuasion and influence.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink
Categories: Virtue

July 16, 2014

Networks are not communities. We live in a global network, not a global community

An important article from The Art of Manliness: Communities Vs. Networks: To Which Do You Belong?

In making his newest documentary, Korengal, author and filmmaker Sebastian Junger wanted to explore the answer to the question of why — despite its dangers and deprivations — men actually miss war when their tour of duty is over. A large part of the answer is the intense camaraderie created in combat — a brotherhood that they lack when they return home. In a recent interview, Junger posits that this absence of camaraderie is often at the root of why soldiers sometimes struggle so acutely to adjust to life after deployment. They come home, Junger says, and realize for the first time what an “alienated society” they truly live in. What they need, he argues, is a country that “operates in more of a community way.” He then adds: “But frankly, that’s what we need.”

Unfortunately, true community in our modern world is hard to find for soldiers and civilians alike. Instead, we increasingly live out our lives as members of networks. This transition from community to network life is truly at the heart of the increasing feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and anomie that many people experience in the modern age. We’ve never been so “connected” — and yet so isolated at the same time.

Networks Are Large and Anonymous; Communities Are Small and Intimate
Because networks are so large, anonymity reigns. Members do not meet face-to-face, do not know if the people they interact with digitally are even who they say they are, and may have no idea who also belongs to the network. Because of the lack of physical intimacy, a culture of honor and shame cannot function, necessitating the erection of numerous rules and regulations to check and control members’ behavior.

In contrast, communities have inherent limits on size. Unlike networks, if communities don’t stop growing, they’ll die. According to Dunbar’s Number, most humans can’t maintain more than around 150 meaningful relationships. Anthropologists have found that hunter-gatherer societies hover around 150 members before they split. In Western military history, the size of a military company — the smallest autonomous and fully functioning unit — has been around 150 members.

Networks Are Artificial, Top-Down; Communities Are Organic, Bottom-Up
Networks are typically artificial; they rarely form organically. And they’re invariably created, and then governed, in a top-down fashion. Policies and regulations are decreed from on high with little or no input from the majority of the people who make up the network. Because those at the top are so removed physically and psychologically from those at the bottom, the solutions ultimately proffered are often out of touch and highly ineffective.

Communities, on the other hand, are organic and autonomous. They’re made up of a collection of real families that are bound together by geography and shared values. When facing a problem, individuals within a community band together to come up with a solution that will work for them. Because the people trying to address problems within the community — including its leaders — are familiar with the group’s unique needs, the solutions that are generated are typically more effective.

Networks Encourage Passivity and Consumption; Communities Require Action and Contribution
Because there are so many people in a network, members assume someone else will take care of problems that arise. But because that’s what everyone else is thinking, nothing gets done. People will step around someone in distress on the street in a big city, or pass the collection plate at a giant church, figuring other people will help. The anonymity of the crowd allows the passive bystander to escape shame.

Networks not only breed passivity, but encourage consumption. They’re all about what you can get, rather than what you must give.

Networks Can Be Location Independent; Communities Are Attached to a Place….

Networks Divide a Person Into Parts; Communities Nurture the Whole Person……

Is This Group I’m Part of a Network or a Community?
….In our modern age, intimate, face-to-face communities are hard to come by; while exceptions exist, networks have almost completely taken over how Americans socially organize themselves. So in evaluating the groups you belong to, it’s perhaps better to ask if they are more like a network, or more like a community. The following questions can help you think through where your group falls on the spectrum:

Do the rules, regulations, and culture of my group come from top leaders that I have never met personally, or do they originate from the group itself?
Do I know the names of every person in my group and interact with them face-to-face?
Does my group have a physical meeting place?
If I left the group, would anyone know I was gone? Would there be any repercussions for doing so?
If I got sick, or needed a favor, how many members of my group could I count on for visits and assistance?
Am I required to contribute to the communal pot, or can I utilize the benefits of the group without making any contributions beyond dues/fees/taxes?

Beware of Networks Wearing Community’s Clothing
But networks can never be a fully satisfying replacement for communities. They’re not designed for social intimacy and fulfillment — they’re designed for efficiency and growth.

the idea of a “global community” has been much ballyhooed in our time (see The World Is Flat), but running it through the above requirements quickly reveals the idea to be an utter farce. If your only obligation to helping other members involves texting a $10 donation to aid tsunami victims every now and again, what you’re part of is a network, not a community.

Another perfect example of networks masquerading as communities is when giant corporations claim that they consider their employees and customers to be “family.” Except in the corporate version of “family,” members are charged for basic services and can be fired if another “brother” or “sister” will work more cheaply from India.

The façade of community quickly disappears when emergency strikes in your life and you really need somebody. Is the Apple community going to rally behind you and help you out? Of course not

Learning How to Live in a Community Again
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 AM | Permalink
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