March 26, 2015

Roundup of Alzheimer's news

Unconscionable. Most Alzheimer's patients not given diagnosis by their doctors say 55% of patients and their caregivers.

The reasons doctors give range from diagnostic uncertainty and fear of causing emotional distress to time constraints, lack of support, and stigma…

Alzheimer's advocates stress the importance of giving a patient all the facts, as early as possible, so they can work with their family to organize legal and health directives and have time to fulfill life-long desires. It's just as important for the caregiver…. "Right now, the big studies that are underway in prevention are really looking at people in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so by waiting, they can lose out on clinical trials as well."

 Alzheimer's

A large Mayo Clinic study has found that when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s disease, researchers may have been barking up the wrong tree.

Every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s, and it remains an elusive, incurable disease for now. However, a new breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research may make the path clearer for diagnosing and even preventing the disease one day. 

Amyloid – a sticky, toxic protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — has been the focus of research and diagnosis for decades. But a new Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Brain shows that another toxic protein, called tau, may be a bigger culprit in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s over the lifetime of the disease.  Researchers say the discovery could lead to better diagnosis, treatments, and prevention tools.

Biogen's Alzheimer's drug slows mental decline in early study

An experimental drug from Biogen Idec Inc became the first Alzheimer's treatment to significantly slow cognitive decline and reduce what is believed to be brain-destroying plaque in patients with early and mild forms of the disease, according to a small study likely to reignite hopes of a treatment…..
…"It's a bigger treatment effect than we had hoped for,"  said Alfred Sandrock, Biogen's chief medical officer
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The Biogen treatment led to reductions in brain amyloid and the plaque reduction was more pronounced as the dose of the drug increased and over time.

Biogen will begin enrolling patients later this year for a large Phase III trial, whose results could be used to seek approval of its drug.  The Biogen drug faces years of testing and would not reach the market much before 2020, even if all goes well, analysts said.

More on that new treatment - New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function Of the mice that received the treatment, 75 percent got their memories back.

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue.  By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours.

The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink
Categories: Health

March 24, 2015

“The worst prison break in American history.”

That/s what Congressman Lamar Smith said as reported by Judicial Watch:

New Documents Show Homeland Security Released 165,900 Convicted Criminal Aliens throughout U.S. as of April 26, 2014

Judicial Watch today released 76 pages of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents revealing that as of April 26, 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had released 165,900 convicted criminal aliens throughout the United States, including many convicted of such violent crimes as homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. (Reports recently detailed that ICE released another 30,000 in the most recent fiscal year, which brings the grand total of known criminals released by the Obama administration to 195,900.)
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“It’s appalling that we’ve had to sue in federal court to get key information about the Obama administration’s release of 165,950 convicted criminal aliens,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents show the Obama administration is lying when it says that its ‘enforcement priorities’ include deporting illegal aliens who have committed heinous crimes. And lawless localities that help protect illegal alien rapists and other criminals show that politicians at all levels put politics above the rule of law and the public safety.  Where do the innocent victims of the illegal alien criminals this president’s appointees have set free go for justice?”

Appalling indeed. It brought to mind an article I read last night in Imprimis, a monthly speech digest of Hillsdale College.

Heather MacDonald's  February  speech  - Practical Thoughts on Immigration -

The lesson from the last 20 years of immigration policy is that lawlessness breeds more lawlessness. Once a people or a government decides to normalize one form of lawbreaking, other forms of lawlessness will follow until finally the rule of law itself is in profound jeopardy.
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Obama’s executive amnesty is the most public and egregious example of immigration lawlessness to date. But beneath the radar screen has been an equally telling saga of cascading lawlessness that is arguably as consequential: an ongoing attack on the Secure Communities program and on deportation more generally. Because of this attack, the rallying cry of so many conservatives that we must “secure the borders” is a naïve and meaningless delusion.
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The Secure Communities program is a commonsensical response to illegal alien criminality. Whenever an illegal alien is booked into a local jail on suspicion of a crime, an alert is automatically sent to federal authorities in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE agents can then ask that the jail or prison briefly hold the illegal alien after he has served his time rather than releasing him, so that ICE can pick him up and start deportation proceedings. This is known as a detainer……..

Yet Secure Communities has been the target of incessant protest from illegal alien advocates since its inception. Those advocates make the astonishing claim that it is unfair to remove an illegal alien who commits other crimes.

Even more astonishing, nearly 300 jurisdictions agree, including New York State, California, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They have openly refused to honor ICE’s requests for detainers, but instead have released tens of thousands of criminals back on to the streets where they easily evade detection. Not that ICE would be likely to try to pick them up! Indeed, the irony regarding the agitation against Secure Communities is that ICE rarely uses its power under the program. In 2012—the last year for which we have complete figures—the agency was notified of over 400,000 illegal jail detainees, but removed only 19 percent of them. And about 50 percent of the criminal illegal aliens whom ICE chooses not to deport reoffend upon release.

…deportation has basically disappeared from the interior of the country. The removal rate in 2014 for illegal aliens who were not explicit ICE priorities was one-half of one percent. If aliens cannot be removed for illegal entry, then there is no more immigration law. Deportation is the only remedy for illegal entry that corrects and deters the original lawbreaking. That is why Mexico, along with virtually every other country, practices it unapologetically. Lose deportation, as we are doing, and the U.S. will have formally ceded control of its immigration policy to people living outside its borders. National sovereignty will have become meaningless.

The erosion of the rule of law is bad enough. But the social consequences of mass illegal immigration are equally troubling. We are importing poverty and educational failure. If you want to see America’s future, look no further than my home state of California, which is a generation ahead of the rest of the country in experiencing the effects of unchecked low-skilled immigration.
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Immigration policy should be forged with one consideration in mind: America’s economic self-interest. Immigration is not a service we provide to the rest of the world. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants and will continue to be one. No other country welcomes as many newcomers. But rewarding illegal immigration does an injustice to the many legal immigrants who played by the rules to get here. We owe it to them and to ourselves to adhere to the law.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink
Categories: Government

March 21, 2015

Miscellany

How to Become Gluten Intolerant  A wise and very funny guide to this year's food fad fascism.

The Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Terminal
9. Grand Central houses a hidden bar. The Campbell Apartment, in Grand Central, serves as a testament to the grandiosity of another era. If appropriately attired, you can enter the room and sip on cocktails from the fin de siècle in this virtual museum to the opulence of New York’s high society of the past. ….

 Grand-Central-The-Campbell-Apartment-Untapped-New-York1

PBS How not to raise a narcissist    Children whose parents told them they were “special” and “superior” grew more narcissistic over time…..in short, jerks.

Entire Neighborhood Secretly Learns Sign Language To Surprise Deaf Neighbor
Muharrem, a deaf man living in Istanbul, just received a huge surprise when, one morning, everyone he bumped into in his neighborhood responded to him with sign language!
A team of people from Samsung and the Leo Burnett ad agency spent a month setting up cameras and teaching people throughout his neighborhood sign language. On the appointed day, Ozlem went for a walk with her deaf brother, who was stunned to meet so many signing people in a world where those who can communicate in sign are often few and far between.
The ad was designed to raise awareness about Samsung’s new call center for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Turkey.

In Fortune, How Ikea took over the world
With €3.3 billion ($4.5 billion) in net income, up 31% in the past five years, the chain is more profitable than behemoths Target and Lowe’s. And it has gotten that way by mastering one of the hardest challenges in the retail universe: selling high volumes of inventory at a consistently low price in vastly different marketplaces, languages, and cultures. Ikea is a model for retail regeneration—though, ahem, some assembly is required.....Ikea printed 217 million copies of its most recent annual tome—which the company claims is the biggest run of any publication of its kind in the world
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There’s an internal nickname for products that take too long to put together. “Sometimes,” Dickner says, “we call it a ‘husband killer.’ ”

33 Hilariously Vandalized Signs

 Vandalized-Sign Bacon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:52 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2015

On demand passwords

Yahoo announces on demand passwords so users 'never have to remember a password again'

Yahoo has introduced a new "on demand" password system that allows you to log into your account anytime using an individually generated unique code that the company will text to your phone.

It's essentially two factor authentication without the first step.

The feature is an inevitable move towards making user accounts more secure. Google and Apple have both dealt with high-profile security flaws and consumers are notoriously bad at practicing good password hygiene. Despite warnings, many still rely on easy to remember personal information or family names rather than unique codes generated by a password manager.

Yahoo explains this new simple way to log-in

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink
Categories: Identity and Security

Americans are different

How do Americans stand out from the rest of the world?

Americans’ emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out in surveys of people around the world. When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38%.
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Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off. When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a “10” or “very important,” compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.

Americans also stand out for their religiosity and optimism, especially when compared with other relatively wealthy countries.

 Pew-Us-Religiousgdpscatter

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society | Categories: Spirituality and Religion

March 19, 2015

Cheap, mobile and drug-free way to treat Alzheimer's in the works

Let's hope this works.  Hope for Alzheimer's sufferers with scientists developing a treatment to RESTORE memory loss

Australian scientists have made a major breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's with a new drug-free method that can restore memory loss.  Researchers at the University of Queensland's Brain Institute hope to be able to trial their new 'cheap and mobile' ultrasound device within two years on humans.

The treatment attacks the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that cause memory loss and cognitive failure with ultrasound waves.

Research director Professor Jürgen Götz hopes the new method will revolutionize Alzheimer's treatment by restoring memory for sufferers.

'We're extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer's without using drug therapeutics,' Professor Götz said, according to The Australian. 'The word 'breakthrough' is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink
Categories: Health

March 18, 2015

Chores and Life Skills

For several days running, the most emailed article from the Wall Street Journal has been Why Children Need Chores  which has several tips on how to get your children properly motivated.

“Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success—and that’s household chores,” says Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and co-author of the forthcoming book “Raising Can-Do Kids.” Decades of studies show the benefits of chores—academically, emotionally and even professionally.

Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance, according to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota…..

Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs, notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  ….. 

And why not bring Home Economics up-to-date and  back home economics to schools and colleges?  Maybe you have to rename it as well and call it "Life Skills."   

 Old-Fashioned-Home-Economics

Jennifer Doverspike writes  Five Elements Of An Excellent Home Economics Class

Unlike Betty Crocker-inspired quick meals, though, this class would be an overall life skills class, and would need five basic units.

1. The Pinterest Unit: Cooking, Sewing, and Shop

2. Household Management, Cleaning, and Maintenance

3. Nutritional, Financial, and Sexual Literacy

4. Child Development, Education, and Health

5. Etiquette, Dress, and Habit
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink
Categories: Parenting | Categories: Personal Development

"Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears"

Post-Communist Traumas East and West  Recovering from Soviet Terror Is Not Easy

During an international conference on political theory several of us were sitting in a restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia. Among us was a participant from Bucharest, Romania, a young woman, who listened as some from the West poked fun at the evident inefficiency of the Russians who still have a significant presence in the Baltic countries and who happened to be running this establishment. We noted the drabness of the decor, the ineptness of the help, the slowness of the service, and reminisced about the even worse olden days when the gray-looking Russians who dominated the Communist culture would run roughshod over everyone in sight.

Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears. She was apologizing but unable to keep herself from sobbing.  We were stunned—we didn’t know what we did to upset her. We all searched our minds for what we might have said but could not come up with a sensible answer. In a while she calmed down a bit and told us.

All of this amusing banter called to our friend’s mind not only what she had been living with for all of her life but what in her country is still largely the case, namely, the complete control of the Soviet-type bureaucracy over the society.  She then went on to recount, in halting English and tearfully, how the daily lives of her family and friends had been utterly trapped in the abyss that so many in the West championed as the promising wave of the future. She gave example after example of how people suffered, from moment to moment how every ounce of some modicum of joy and pleasure, never mind genuine happiness, was rendered utterly impossible and inconceivable for them. She noted that people simply lost the will to live, that they could not even smile, not to mention laugh heartily, and how the most minute matters, such as the way in which parents played and talked with their children, suffered from this totalitarian impact.

It is often only when one finds oneself facing the facts directly, inescapably, that one can appreciate their meaning.
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People are not simply changing from one game to another when they finally are able to leave the Soviet system behind. They are undergoing recovery from massive and prolonged injury to their whole beings. They and everyone they know and love had been beaten and derided and terrorized by thugs for decades on end. When finally they are left alone, they are expected to, as the song says, just pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and start all over again with cheer in their hearts.

We are seeing some extremely painful recovery as well as relapses in the lives of those who had been the victims of the Soviet experiment that so many of our comfortable intellectuals watched with vile neglect. We will see normal imperfect human beings undergo a slow convalescence or stand around hesitatingly coping with new problems and nearly forgotten ones as well.

For the many people who have given their support to socialism and Communism over the years—if only by not being brutally honest about them on such grounds as that, well, these systems were motivated by compassion for the poor and downtrodden, the failure to see all this is a blatant confession of hypocrisy. The victims of the Soviet vision of human life deserve compassion and caring and yet all they seem to be getting is the callous disregard for their plight and the quick judgment that they are, after all, unable to handle freedom, aren’t they? What the yearning for self-justification will not permit some people to do in the face of the gravest of human tragedies!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink
Categories: Government | Categories: Personal Development

Hope in The Dropbox

‘The Drop Box,’ Where Disabled Babies Go to Live  A new documentary tells the story of ‘The Drop Box,’ where image-conscious South Koreans leave disabled babies to a welcoming pastor and his family.

Life can change in a moment. In June 2011, while eating cereal, Brian Ivie, a film student at the University of California, came across a front-page profile of Lee in the Los Angeles Times. Inspired by the story of the South Korean pastor tending an “unwanted flock” and mindful of how fleeting news can be, Ivie determined to bring Pastor Lee’s story to a broader audience. He contacted Lee and asked if he could make a documentary about his work. Lee responded that although he did not know what a documentary was, Ivie could come to his home in Seoul for a visit.

Lee responded that although he did not know what a documentary was, Ivie could come to his home in Seoul for a visit.  Ivie raised funding for his project on Kickstarter, and six months later, he and a small film crew headed to South Korea.

“We need stories like this one…to assert truth, that there are miracles, that heroes exist, and that love endures even amid daily tragedy,” he told his funders.
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“The Drop Box” chronicles Lee’s life and work. Lee, the pastor of Jusarang Community Church in a working-class neighborhood of Seoul, has been taking in unwanted infants since 2009. Lee built his “baby box” after getting a call early one chilly autumn morning. “In front of the door,” said the voice on the other line. When he and his wife went to their front door, they found a baby, cold to the touch, in a cardboard box. Lee worried about what would have happened had they not found her until later.

So he got out his tools and built a heated box on the side of his church, lining it with blankets, rigging it with a bell, and affixing to it a sign that reads, “This is a facility for the protection of life. If you can’t take care of your disabled babies, don’t throw them away or leave them on the street. Bring them here.”
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Since 2009, Lee’s baby box has saved 600 children, some of them deposited there only hours after birth. Lee and his staff generally have up to 20 children in their care, and he and his wife have adopted ten (the maximum number of children South Koreans can adopt). They receive a new child through the box every few days, provide initial care for the child, then hand him over to the police, who help place the child in an orphanage.
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The Drop Box” reminds us that out of the deepest places of hurt come hope, that every life has dignity, and that it is what we make of the life-changing moments that determines how they shape our lives. As the father of a severely disabled child, Lee could have become resentful and isolated. Instead, Eun-man’s life catalyzed him to serve and love other disabled children in South Korea. His story reminds us, as Ivie said, that there are miracles, there are heroes, and love endures. Someday, perhaps we will live in a world where baby boxes are not needed. Until then, we need stories—and examples—like Pastor Lee’s.

The film opened March 16

You can see the trailer at  thedropboxfilm.com

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink
Categories: Meaning, Passion and Purpose | Categories: Movies, Videos | Categories: Personal Development

March 17, 2015

Happy St Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick’s Day: origin, history, quotes, poetry, videos, and how to make your own green beer

Don't miss the Guinness video -  a sheepdog trained to round up Irishmen and herd them to a bar.

St Patrick: the sinner who turned the world green

Patrick himself: the slave and shepherd who so successfully evangelized Ireland, and wrote an autobiography known as St Patrick’s Confession, which begins:
“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.” Humility, gratitude, fortitude, trust in the Lord – and sometimes, moments of depression, too – mark his self-told story. He says nothing of his powers of persuasion, but they must have been remarkable to convert kings, nobles, druids and the populace so effectively.

A Saint Patrick’s Day Message from President Reagan in his surprise visit to Pat Troy’s Irish pub in Alexandria, Va.

From A Real Saint Patrick’s Day Seisiún at the National Review where several friends and colleagues share  their thoughts on the day and on their favorite aspects of Irish history and culture. 

Quin Hillyer:  But what lingers most, in memories of Ireland, is the sense that in every nook and cranny, every vale and hillock ….  is that there’s a wonderfully infectious sense of magic throughout. This isn’t magic in the sense of sprightly leprechauns; it’s more the magic of surpassingly good will from a people responding to the almost supernaturally lush greenness around them. I’ve never in my life, anywhere else, met people so universally friendly to visitors.

Tom Hoopes:  My mother’s favorite Daniel Patrick Moynihan quote was: “I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.” That gets the Irish perfectly: A friend once remarked that for the Irish, Easter Sunday is a letdown after the big thrill of Good Friday. I always feel that way a little, too…..The Irish so often seem to be filled with the kind of disappointment that only lovers of beauty can feel.

I even love the irony of an ascetic saint’s life being celebrated by Shamrock Shakes and streams of beer. It fills me with melancholy. And that feels right.

Michael Walsh:  The word that comes to mind about Ireland and the Irish on this Saint Patrick’s Day is indomitability. Since the arrival of the English Normans under Strongbow in the 12th century, the island has undergone a constant series of invasions and occupations by its neighbor to the east, resulting in mass murder, deprivation, starvation, coerced emigration and penal transportation, the harsh restrictions of faith and language, enforced ignorance, and the loss of all civil rights including property. England’s first and last colony is still partitioned, despite Catholic majorities in four of the six counties that make up “Northern Ireland,” although Catholics will soon be a majority in all of rump Ulster, and eventual reunification with the Republic is a foregone conclusion.

In other words, we’re still here. Proving that there’s an upside to almost everything, the Irish Diaspora — the Diaspóra na nGael — has had a significant effect on countries such as the United States (to which my own family emigrated in the late 19th century), France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even Britain itself, with significant Irish presences in Liverpool (Lennon and McCartney, anybody?) and in Edinburgh (birthplace of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). The rural Irish took to urban living and quickly made the major American cities their own. They built the Erie Canal, most of the railroads, the New York City subways. They fought for the Union Army in the Civil War (“Little Phil” Sheridan), and died with Custer at the Little Bighorn. They became cops, judges, politicians, presidents; writers, actors, directors. One of them even grew up to be the founder of National Review.

From 30 great quotes about Ireland and the Irish

'Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.' William Butler Yeats

'This [The Irish] is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.' -
Sigmund Freud

'When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.”
Edna O'Brien

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:31 PM | Permalink

"Black grace"

"Nowadays, chastity is the ultimate rebellion"  Dawn Eden

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen described a state of disillusioned satedness that he called “black grace” a kind of fed-upness that could open the way for the “white grace” of conversion.  Many who have bought into the lies of the sexual revolution find themselves confronted by the darkness of this black grace. If the truth about chastity is presented to them, they can attain transformation in Christ. I know, because that is what happened to me.
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Pope Francis gets this. That is why, when he speaks about chastity, he uses the language of rebellion. Addressing young people on the theme of the diocesan World Youth Day 2015 – “Blessed are the pure in heart” ­– he urged them to “rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone … [Rebel] against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”

… Francis encourages us to have faith that our Tannhäusers, too, can reach that point of black grace: the searing recognition that the no-strings-attached “love” that they expected to fulfill  them was, in fact, only an impoverishment of what love is supposed to be.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink
Categories: Integrating Mind, Body, Spirit | Categories: Love, Marriage and Weddings | Categories: Personal Development

Slouching Toward Mecca

Slouching Toward Mecca is Mark Lilla's review of Michel Houellebecq's book Soumission, translated from the French by Frank Wynne.

The best-selling novel in Europe today, Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France.

Michel Houellebecq has created a new genre—the dystopian conversion tale. Soumission is not the story some expected of a coup d’état, and no one in it expresses hatred or even contempt of Muslims. It is about a man and a country who through indifference and exhaustion find themselves slouching toward Mecca. There is not even drama here—no clash of spiritual armies, no martyrdom, no final conflagration. Stuff just happens, as in all Houellebecq’s fiction. All one hears at the end is a bone-chilling sigh of collective relief. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Whatever.
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The qualities that Houellebecq projects onto Islam are no different from those that the religious right ever since the French Revolution has attributed to premodern Christendom—strong families, moral education, social order, a sense of place, a meaningful death, and, above all, the will to persist as a culture.
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For all Houellebecq’s knowingness about contemporary culture—the way we love, the way we work, the way we die—the focus in his novels is always on the historical longue durée. He appears genuinely to believe that France has, regrettably and irretrievably, lost its sense of self, but not because of immigration or the European Union or globalization. Those are just symptoms of a crisis that was set off two centuries ago when Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. For him, that wager has been lost. And so the continent is adrift and susceptible to a much older temptation, to submit to those claiming to speak for God. Who remains as remote and as silent as ever.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink
Categories: Civilization - Can We Keep It?

March 16, 2015

"I can't go one. I'll go on"

Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time

Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.

Yet one thing cannot be robbed of her futurity: my daughter, Cady. I hope I’ll live long enough that she has some memory of me. Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave her a series of letters — but what would they really say? ….There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past.

That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

 Paul Kalathani+Daughter

The author, Paul Kalanithi, died last week at 37.  His obituary here

“Yesterday my brother Paul passed away about two years after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He did so with customary bravery and poise, and died in peace on his own terms with his family around him. My brother achieved more in his short life than what most people do in twice that time. He was a good doctor, a good husband, a good father and a good man.
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"We talked about how being the doctor is all about having control and wielding power, while being a patient is all about loss of control and feeling vulnerable,” said Periyakoil, a clinical associate professor of medicine. His ‘dual citizenship’ as a doctor and as a seriously ill patient had taught him that respectful communication is the bedrock of all medicine."
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His essays tapped an outpouring of gratitude from readers — from young people who had lost parents to seniors facing their own mortality, to teachers desiring to share his essay with students. “It completely surprised me that it resonated with so many people,  Kalanithi wrote of the response to the Times piece in a 2014 San Francisco Magazine essay. “I still get an email nearly every day from someone with heart disease or depression or another medical illness, saying that it helped clarify his or her own situation. The second, and really pleasing, development was the number of doctors who emailed to say that they planned to give the article to their patients or incorporate it into medical school curricula to help students understand the human impact of disease. That was really touching.”

In the New York Times a year ago  the essay that sparked so much gratitude: How Long Have I Got Left?

Faced with mortality, scientific knowledge can provide only an ounce of certainty: Yes, you will die. But one wants a full pound of certainty, and that is not on offer.  What patients seek is not scientific knowledge doctors hide, but existential authenticity each must find on her own. Getting too deep into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.

I remember the moment when my overwhelming uneasiness yielded. Seven words from Samuel Beckett, a writer I’ve not even read that well, learned long ago as an undergraduate, began to repeat in my head, and the seemingly impassable sea of uncertainty parted: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” I took a step forward, repeating the phrase over and over: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” And then, at some point, I was through.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink
Categories: Death and Dying | Categories: Love, Marriage and Weddings | Categories: Meaning, Passion and Purpose

What saved the whales, stopped deforestation and increased the productivity of the land?

What saved the whales, stopped deforestation and increased the productivity of the land?  Fossil fuels. 

Matt Ridley makes the case that Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really)There are problems with oil, gas and coal, but their benefits for people—and the planet—are beyond dispute

Wind power, for all the public money spent on its expansion, has inched up to—wait for it—1% of world energy consumption in 2013. Solar, for all the hype, has not even managed that: If we round to the nearest whole number, it accounts for 0% of world energy consumption….Both wind and solar are entirely reliant on subsidies for such economic viability as they have.
--
The two fundamental problems that renewables face are that they take up too much space and produce too little energy…..To run the U.S. economy entirely on wind would require a wind farm the size of Texas, California and New Mexico combined—backed up by gas on windless days. To power it on wood would require a forest covering two-thirds of the U.S., heavily and continually harvested.
--
the trickle of energy that human beings managed to extract from wind, water and wood before the Industrial Revolution placed a great limit on development and progress…..fossil fuels were a unique advance because they allowed human beings to create extraordinary patterns of order and complexity—machines and buildings—with which to improve their lives.

The result of this great boost in energy is what the economic historian and philosopher Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. In the case of the U.S., there has been a roughly 9,000% increase in the value of goods and services available to the average American since 1800, almost all of which are made with, made of, powered by or propelled by fossil fuels.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink
Categories: Environment

Health roundup: Double chins, classical music, IGT, the Pill+Crohn's, brain cancer+tetanus, HIV+cellular scissors

New drug that gets rid of double chins WITHOUT surgery receives unanimous recommendation for FDA approval
ATX-101 is a noninvasive, in-office procedure that takes five minutes and patients heal in 2-3 days and can walk out without wearing a bandage.  The  drug is injected in grid of tiny dots where 'max amount of fat' under chin is
destroying membranes of fat cells, causing them to burst and permanently disappear. Side effects include short-term swelling, bruising and numbness. The drug now just needs final FDA approval 

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients
Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia, new research has found.  Scientists discovered that patients who listened to experts of Mozart had enhanced gene activity in the brain in areas including memory and learning. The music also affected the activity of a risk gene connected to Parkinson's disease.

The Finnish researchers found the changed activity was only present in 'musically-experienced' patients, who listened to music regularly, suggesting the importance of familiarity with music.

A new class of drugs will dramatically slow the aging process
The new medicines, known as senolytics, have been shown to alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve heart function and extend a healthy life. …Senior author and Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland:  "It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time."

The problem they faced was how to identify these cells without harming other healthy cells.  They discovered that like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of "pro-survival networks" that help them resist apoptosis or programmed cell death. So they used a cancer drug dasatanib and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory known as quercetin to target senescent cells.The combination wiped out these cells, leaving the healthy ones untouched.

High cholesterol LOWERS the risk of diabetes: New study reveals why taking statins may be harmful
A study of 25,000 found that patients with hypercholesterolemia were half as likely to have diabetes.

New York Times: Protection Without a Vaccine

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections.  But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis.

….The first human trial based on this strategy — called immunoprophylaxis by gene transfer, or I.G.T. — is underway, and several new ones are planned. I.G.T. is altogether different from traditional vaccination. It is instead a form of gene therapy. Scientists isolate the genes that produce powerful antibodies against certain diseases and then synthesize artificial versions. The genes are placed into viruses and injected into human tissue, usually muscles…..The viruses invade human cells with their DNA payloads, and the synthetic gene is incorporated into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin manufacturing powerful antibodies.

Women on the Pill face increased risk of Crohn's disease
New study of 230,000 women suggests women may be three times as likely to develop the bowel condition if they are on the Pill and have high-risk genetics

Woman with brain cancer who was given just two months to live has survived for NINE years and seen five grandchildren born after being given experimental vaccine      Sandra Hillburn, 68, was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in April 2006.  She was offered to be in a experimental 12-patient study at Duke University

The patients were treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and tetanus-diphtheria shot 
Study found that patients who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn't

Scientists find a way to cut out the HIV virus from infected areas with ‘cellular scissors’
Scientists claim they are one step closer to creating a drug that can cure HIV. A team of researchers has been customizing a defense system used by bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.  In their tests, they found that the technique could completely remove up to 72 per cent of cells that had been infected with HIV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink
Categories: Health

March 15, 2015

Attention is a resource

In the NYT, The Cost of Paying Attention by Matthew Crawford

Attention is a resource; a person has only so much of it. And yet we’ve auctioned off more and more of our public space to private commercial interests, with their constant demands on us to look at the products on display or simply absorb some bit of corporate messaging. Lately, our self-appointed disrupters have opened up a new frontier of capitalism, complete with its own frontier ethic: to boldly dig up and monetize every bit of private head space by appropriating our collective attention. In the process, we’ve sacrificed silence — the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think.
----
Silence is now offered as a luxury good. In the business-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I heard only the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. I saw no advertisements on the walls. This silence, more than any other feature, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious. When you step inside and the automatic doors whoosh shut behind you, the difference is nearly tactile, like slipping out of haircloth into satin. Your brow unfurrows, your neck muscles relax; after 20 minutes you no longer feel exhausted.

Outside, in the peon section, is the usual airport cacophony.  Because we have allowed our attention to be monetized, if you want yours back you’re going to have to pay for it.
---
I think we need to sharpen the conceptually murky right to privacy by supplementing it with a right not to be addressed. This would apply not, of course, to those who address me face to face as individuals, but to those who never show their faces, and treat my mind as a resource to be harvested.

Hear, Hear.

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls,"  Mother Theresa

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 PM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society | Categories: Environment | Categories: Wise Words and Quotations

March 13, 2015

"They grab and grub. They never leave. They never go home."

Peggy Noonan Politics in the Modest Age

We live in a time when politicians relentlessly enrich themselves. We are awed and horrified by the wealth they accumulate, by their use of connections, of money lines built on past and future power. It's an operation to them. They are worth hundreds of millions. They have houses so fancy the houses have names. They make speeches to banks and universities for a quarter-million dollars and call their fees contributions to their foundations. They are their foundations.

They grab and grub. They never leave. They never go home. They don't have a "home": They were born in a place, found a launching pad, and shot themselves into glamour and wealth. They are operators—entitled, assuming. They "stand for the people." They stand for themselves.

Ir's a palate cleanser to read what she writes of Harry Truman

Truman would go back to being "just anybody again." But there was something people didn't know. He was—amazingly, this wasn't a lie—pretty much dead broke….He didn't know how he would make a living. His great concern was not to do anything that might exploit or "commercialize" the office he'd just left…His name was not for sale. He would take no fees for commercial endorsements or for lobbying or writing letters or making phone calls. He would accept no 'consulting fees.'" ….   

His transition was hard….But he worked it out….The former president had to relearn things—how and whom to tip in restaurants, how to call a cab—that presidents don't have to do. For this unassuming man there were humbling moments……

Truman wasn't financially secure until five years after he left the White House, when he sold family farmland whose fields he had worked as a boy. It made him sad: He liked thinking of himself as a farmer. But if he hadn't sold, he said, "I would practically be on relief."

He died the day after Christmas 1972, age 88, and his death was not only marked but mourned. A friend had described to the New York Times magazine how he had achieved happiness: "Harry feels that he's square with the world, that he gave it his best, and got its best in return."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society

Mind your manners

In the New York Times, A Manners Manifesto and a recipe for egg drop soup.

For 4,000 years, humans have implored one another to mind their manners. I am personally invested in the crusade for two reasons. First, my brother and I were raised by a man who, as a child, was sent from the table hungry if he so much as slouched. At my own table growing up, when we small savages a) failed to put our napkins in our laps; b) ate before everyone was served; c) served ourselves first; d) opened our mouths while chewing; e) moved our forks from the left to the right hand; f) ate with our hands; g) failed to say please, thank you or excuse me; h) put our elbows on the table; i) did not ask permission to stand; or j) failed to eat soup properly (a nearly impossible task, requiring always spooning away, sipping noiselessly while sitting bolt upright, obtaining any final spoonfuls by a discreet tip of the bowl), we were ordered to push back from the table and contemplate our philistinism for several monstrous minutes before we could return, rehabilitated, to try again.
---
In the democratic present, perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good. Serving others first is plainly charitable. Filling companions’ glasses, waiting to eat, giving another the last of the stew, chewing with a closed mouth — each is a basic acknowledgment of togetherness. Perhaps the consequential lesson in the matter of holding your fork, etc., is that customs differ at different tables in different lands, and that there is a certain intelligence in doing as is done. In other words, whatever unites merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.
---
True courtesy will instinctively check faddish manners at the door in the interest of kindness — which is the root from which the entire family tree of courteous behavior, from the noble Egyptian’s papyrus on, has sprung.

A few  quotes from Miss Manners

"The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet."

"The lack of agreement about manners results in an anger-ridden, chaotic society, where each trivial act is interpreted as a revelation of the moral philosophy of the individual actor…"

"Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness."

In a 1995 interview by Virginia Shea, Miss Manners said,

“You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life.  But if you behave in a way that offends the people you're trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you…There are plenty of people who say, 'We don't care about etiquette, but we can't stand the way so-and-so behaves, and we don't want him around!' Etiquette doesn't have the great sanctions that the law has.  But the main sanction we do have is in not dealing with these people and isolating them because their behavior is unbearable.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society | Categories: Personal Development | Categories: Rules of Life/Lessons Learned | Categories: Wise Words and Quotations

March 12, 2015

The #1 problem

Beating out the economy, unemployment, immigration, healthcare, terrorism, education, moral decline, federal debt and deficit, ISIS and the situation in Iraq, national security, foreign policy and race relations, Americans Name Government as No. 1 U.S. Problem

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink
Categories: Government

"Rebellion for grown-ups"

In the NYT,  Arthur C. Brooks writes Lent: It’s Not Just for Catholics

[M]ost people spend their lives trying to avoid physical and psychological suffering. That is how we are wired. …Fear — arguably, the most unpleasant emotion — is learned as a way to avoid all types of pain. …

We don’t want to suffer — we hate it, in fact. Yet it is suffering that often brings personal improvement. Not all pain is beneficial, obviously. But researchers have consistently found that most survivors of illness and loss experience “post-traumatic growth.” Not only do many people find a greater emotional maturity after suffering; they are even better prepared to help others deal with their pain. That is why after a loss we turn for comfort to those who have endured a similar loss.
--
in this season of Lent, hundreds of millions of Catholics are pondering their own inadequacies and inviting discomfort through abstinence and fasting. In a postmodern era, where death is taboo, pain is pointless, and sin is a cultural anachronism, what could be more rebellious?

But the spirit of these practices is open to everyone, religious or not. Think of it as a personal declaration of independence. The objective is not to cause yourself damage, but to accept the pain and fear that are a natural part of life, and to embrace them as a valuable source of lessons to learn and tests to pass….

To say, “I am dust, and to dust I shall return”: Now that’s rebellion for grown-ups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:16 PM | Permalink
Categories: Personal Development

"What happens when a favored lobby group inserts itself between the news coverage and reality"

After reading Pitiless Pity in which The Thinking Housewife quotes Bonald

Our age has not so much increased human sympathy as weaponized it.  Empathy is directed exclusively to recognized victim groups (Jews, blacks, perverts), and it is meant to inspire not works of mercy toward these victims themselves but attacks on their supposed oppressors.  Pity is no longer a check on aggression, but a spur to it.

I read Mark Steyn's Shepard and Sheep which gives a perfect example:

 The Book Of Matt

By rights, Stephen Jimenez ought to be a famous author and his book a bestseller - and taught in journalism schools, law school, and police academy to boot. Because his subject - the murder of Matthew Shepard 17 years ago - is the clearest example of what happens when a favored lobby group inserts itself between the news coverage and reality. The official version - gay martyrdom in the heartland of a bigoted rural America - is still being peddled…The fact that it is completely false makes no difference to the Big Gay enforcers, as Mr Jimenez, who is himself gay, discovered when he set out to tell the truth about what happened.
--
The official version of Matthew Shepard's death is an outright lie that has led, I would argue, to a miscarriage of justice for one of his two convicted killers……Shepard didn't die "because he was gay"; he died because he was a meth addict and dealer. He was not a tragic gay; he was a tragic meth head who happened to be gay.
---
Upscale urban liberals (if Mr Jimenez will forgive me descending to labels) decided to make the death of Matthew Shepard a "teachable moment". Unfortunately, what they wanted to teach was completely false - a fairy tale about a populace of drooling hicks itching to gay-bash. Yet Shepard's death and what led to it should have been a teachable moment. Sixteen years ago, I think I was vaguely aware of meth addiction. Since then, I've seen it march ever closer to home - hollowing out (along with heroin) decrepit mill towns and rusting farming communities across my part of northern New Hampshire and Vermont. Matthew Shepard's descent into that world led to his death, but look at it from Frank Rich's point of view: Rural meth heads are far too déclassé to ever gain any purchase on the progressive imagination. Meth is banal and sordid and irredeemably provincial, totally lacking in the glamor of sexual-identity politics. So Matthew Shepard died twice: first murdered, and then supplanted in his own life story and replaced by a de-sexed, detoxed tragic cipher.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:11 PM | Permalink
Categories: Culture and Society

Johnny Cash as an Icon for Lent

From The Catholic Gentleman - A Johnny Cash Lent
If I could go back eleven years ago and talk to my younger self I’d give a lot of advice; “See a therapist, don’t stop taking your medication, and try to go for a walk once-in-a-while.”  However, I think I’d more likely tell my young, idiot self, the wisdom of The Man in Black, “It takes a real man to live for God—a lot more man than to live for the devil.”

 Johnnie Cash
"I have tried drugs and a little of everything else, and there is nothing in the world more soul-satisfying
than having the kingdom of God building inside you and growing,"  Johnny Cash

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink
Categories: Rules of Life/Lessons Learned
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