March 31, 2008

Reversing cirrhosis

The advances in medical research are becoming astonishingly strange and small.

Man-made molecules reverse liver cirrhosis in rats.

Scientists in Japan have designed artificial molecules that when used with rats successfully reversed liver cirrhosis, a serious chronic disease in humans that until now can only be cured by transplants.
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In the journal Nature Biotechnology, the researchers said they designed molecules that can block collagen production by liver "stellate cells", which are also known to absorb vitamin A.

The scientists then loaded the molecules into carriers that were coated with vitamin A, which tricked the stellate cells into absorbing the molecules.

"By packaging the (molecules) in carriers coated with vitamin A, they tricked the stellate cells into letting in the inhibitor, which shut down collagen secretion," the researchers wrote.

Drugs to reverse in humans may be available in just a few years.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 AM | Permalink

What's Right about the West

George Weigel writes in The West and the Rest

What's right about the West, about this unique civilizational enterprise formed by the fruitful interaction of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome — biblical religion, rationality, and the idea of a law-governed polity?
1. Openness
2. Freedom
3. Knowledge
4. Generosity
5. Beauty
6. Humor
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In addition to ending the slave trade, abolishing slavery, and enfranchising women, the West has produced virtually every major humanitarian initiative in modern history, from the Red Cross to Doctors Without Borders, from the green revolution to the eradication of river blindness, from care for the mentally and physically handicapped to the abrogation of forced marriage.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:17 AM | Permalink

It came from outer space

Amazing work by scholars who have deciphered an ancient clay tablet that gives an eyewitness account of the asteroid suspected of destroying Sodom and Gomorrah reported in the London Times.

The asteroid was described as "white stone bowl approaching."

Mark Hempsell, one of the researchers from Bristol University who cracked the tablet’s code, said: “It’s a wonderful piece of observation, an absolutely perfect piece of science.”

He said the size and route of the asteroid meant that it was likely to have crashed into the Austrian Alps at Köfels. As it travelled close to the ground it would have left a trail of destruction from supersonic shock waves and then slammed into the Earth with a cataclysmic impact.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 AM | Permalink

He tastes words

Synesthesia, is a most interesting neurological condition that "mixes up the senses".  People with synesthesia can have strong color sensations with certain words,  associate numbers with sounds or music with colors.  James Wannerton has an unusual form of the unusual condition, he tastes words.

Whenever I see a picture of Tony Blair I instantly get the taste of desiccated coconut.

Gordon Brown leaves me with a very strong taste of dirt and Marmite, so he shouldn't count on getting my vote.

George Bush gives me a taste similar to the crusty potato bit on top of a cottage pie.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 AM | Permalink

March 28, 2008

Wal-Mart's feats of heroism

A new study says Wal-Mart did the most to help the victims of Katrina In Wal-Mart We Trust.

Shortly before Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast on the morning of Aug. 29, 2005, the chief executive officer of Wal-Mart, Lee Scott, gathered his subordinates and ordered a memorandum sent to every single regional and store manager in the imperiled area. His words were not especially exalted, but they ought to be mounted and framed on the wall of every chain retailer -- and remembered as American business's answer to the pre-battle oratory of George S. Patton or Henry V.

"A lot of you are going to have to make decisions above your level," was Scott's message to his people. "Make the best decision that you can with the information that's available to you at the time, and above all, do the right thing."

This extraordinary delegation of authority -- essentially promising unlimited support for the decision-making of employees who were earning, in many cases, less than $100,000 a year -- saved countless lives in the ensuing chaos. The results are recounted in a new paper on the disaster written by Steven Horwitz, an Austrian-school economist at St. Lawrence University in New York. While the Federal Emergency Management Agency fumbled about, doing almost as much to prevent essential supplies from reaching Louisiana and Mississippi as it could to facilitate it, Wal-Mart managers performed feats of heroism

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

Do-It-Yourself Paternity Kits

Now at your local drug store for only $29.99

Who's your daddy?

At the very least, the kits have the potential to complicate the lives of the people who use them, legal experts cautioned.

“We all need to take a step back and realize that this is different than many tests that you take,” said R. Alta Charo, a professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. “This is a life-changing moment
.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

Changing the world, one soul at a time UPDATED

Raymond Ibrahim writes Islam's 'Public Enemy #1' is a Coptic priest Zakaria Botros who appears
frequently on the Arabic channel al-Hayat (i.e., “Life TV”). There, he addresses controversial topics of theological significance — free from the censorship imposed by Islamic authorities or self-imposed through fear of the zealous mobs who fulminated against the infamous cartoons of Mohammed. Botros’s excurses on little-known but embarrassing aspects of Islamic law and tradition have become a thorn in the side of Islamic leaders throughout the Middle East.

Botros has famously made 10 demands of Islam that serve to highlight the radical demands Islam makes of non-Muslims. The result: mass conversions to Christianity, albeit many clandestine ones. One Islamic cleric on Al Jazeera estimated that 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity annually.  This is an extraordinary number considering that each convert faces ostracism, persecution and even death for apostasy.

The ultimate reason for Botros’s success is that — unlike his Western counterparts who criticize Islam from a political standpoint — his primary interest is the salvation of souls. He often begins and concludes his programs by stating that he loves all Muslims as fellow humans and wants to steer them away from falsehood to Truth. To that end, he doesn’t just expose troubling aspects of Islam. Before concluding every program, he quotes pertinent biblical verses and invites all his viewers to come to Christ.

Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.

Another writer on the big untold story in the Middle East, looks at country by country to say  Muslims converting to Christianity in record numbers .
The Egyptian Bible Society told me they used to sell about 3,000 copies of the Jesus film a year in the early 1990s. But in 2005 they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape (in Arabic) and about a half million copies of the Arabic New Testament.

Spengler, brilliant as always writes on The mustard seed in global strategy
A self-described revolution in world affairs has begun in the heart of one man. He is the Italian journalist and author Magdi Cristiano Allam
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Magdi Allam tells us that he has found the true God and forsaken an Islam that he regards as inherently violent. Magdi Allam has a powerful voice as deputy editor of Italy's newspaper of record, Corriere della Sera, and a bestselling author. For years he was the exemplar of "moderate Islam" in Europe, and now he has decided that Islam cannot be "moderate".
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Magdi Allam presents an existential threat to Muslim life, whereas other prominent dissidents, for example Ayaan Hirsi Ali, offer only an annoyance.

Allam hails Benedict XVI as the leader of the West.
The West is not fighting individual criminals, as the left insists; it is not fighting a Soviet-style state, as the Iraqi disaster makes clear; nor is it fighting a political movement. It is fighting a religion, specifically a religion that arose in enraged reaction to the West. None of the political leaders of the West, and few of the West's opinion leaders, comprehends this. We are left with the anomaly that the only effective leader of the West is a man wholly averse to war, a pope who took his name from the Benedict who interceded for peace during World War I. Benedict XVI, alone among the leaders of the Christian world, challenges Islam as a religion, as he did in his September 2006 Regensburg address.

The way out Spengler wrote after the Pope's Regensberg address, the way out is conversion.
"Now that everyone is talking about Europe's demographic death, it is time to point out that there exists a way out: convert European Muslims to Christianity." Today's Europeans stem from the melting-pot of the barbarian invasions that replaced the vanishing population of the Roman Empire. The genius of the Catholic Church was to absorb them. If Benedict XVI can convert this new wave of invaders from North Africa and the Middle East, history will place him on a par with his great namesake, the founder of the monastic order the bears his name
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The global agenda has changed, not through the machinations of statesmen or the word-mincing of public intellectuals, but through the soul of a single man. Benedict's Regensburg challenge to Islam now demarcates the encounter between the West and the Muslim world, and nothing will be the same.

UPDATE: Intentional Disciples questions the 6 million figure cited above and calls it an urban legend, but she does point to the work of Independent  Christianity which I had never heard of, yet composes 20% of all Christians in the world.  She calls it an explosive global movement that most Catholics don't know exists.

It is these evangelizers - almost all of whom are lay - living in Muslim communities, loving their neighbors, teaching school, healing the sick, founding and running businesses, planting thousands of evangelizing small Christian communities in hundreds of different language groups and situations, writing books, making radio broadcasts, building relationships, trust, and credibility with Muslims they actually know personally - who have been used by God to turn the tide. Fr. Zacahrias is one rather loud horn in a vast symphony orchestra - and he isn't even first chair.

Remember that study that Dudley Woodbury did about why Muslims become Christian? Of the 5 primary reasons that 750 MBBs gave - the central theme was love. God's love reflected consistently in the lives of Christians they knew. Being exposed to the love of Christ through the gospels.

Not media, Not TV. Not apologetics. Love. From tens of thousands of expat missionaries and hundreds of thousands of national Christians who are "Great commission" Christians.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

Mind your belly

With the big health news being that a big belly can greatly increase a person's chance for Alzheimer's, I went searching around to see what was being offered on the Internet to reduce belly fat. 

Forget the chinese herbs, the costly special supplements, the diet pills, the biggest fat burners seem to be ...apples and other fruit.

You can't get away from the simple truth.  Avoid fast foods, eat a variety of foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables and exercise.  Do that and all the odds are, you'll be fine and healthy.

Even Samuel Johnson knew that, “I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly, will hardly mind anything else.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 AM | Permalink

March 27, 2008

Why Muslims convert

Since I'm still gobsmacked with the idea that 6 million Muslims in the Middle East convert to Christianity each year, I decided to do a little research to find out why.

Intentional Disciplines has done a splendid post on why Muslims convert based on a study that used an extensive questionnaire with respondents from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups that gives us a more informed picture then mere anecdotes as to what's going on.

There's a lot more discussion for each of the following five most frequently mentioned reasons and, if you are as interested as I am, you'll want to read the whole thing.

1) The lifestyle of Christians. Former Muslims cited the love that Christians exhibited in their relationships with non-Christians and their treatment of women as equals.

2) The power of God in answered prayers and healing. Experiences of God's supernatural work—especially important to folk Muslims who have a characteristic concern for power and blessings—increased after their conversions, according to the survey. Often dreams about Jesus were reported.

3) Dissatisfaction with the type of Islam they had experienced. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the Qur'an, emphasizing God's punishment over his love. Others cited Islamic militancy and the failure of Islamic law to transform society.

4) The spiritual truth in the Bible. Muslims are generally taught that the Torah, Psalms, and the Gospels are from God, but that they became corrupted. These Christian converts said, however, that the truth of God found in Scripture became compelling for them and key to their understanding of God's character.

5) Biblical teachings about the love of God. In the Qur'an, God's love is conditional, but God's love for all people was especially eye-opening for Muslims. These converts were moved by the love expressed through the life and teachings of Jesus. The next step for many Muslims was to become part of a fellowship of loving Christians.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 PM | Permalink

The Better Questions for Graduates

The season for graduates has begun.  My niece Jessica is now a proud college graduate of Western Washington University.  Congratulations Jessie!

Because so many cross the threshold to adult life at the same time, it's hard to resist offering a few words of advice. The Few Words, Much Wisdom Siggy found are a good start for any parent.

Stop asking children what they want to do, and start asking them who they want to be.

The first question speaks to occupation. The second speaks to character.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:46 PM | Permalink

March 26, 2008

"Only a third of men feel they can speak freely"

The results of a recent study of 2000 men and women reveals that modern men feel emasculated.

Many men believe the world is now dominated by women and that they have lost their role in society, fuelling feelings of depression and being undervalued

What they appear to want is a return to manliness.  They feel handcuffed by political correctness with
only a third of men surveyed feel they can speak freely and say what they think.  Two-thirds find it safer to conceal their opinions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

March 25, 2008

Give and be happy

A study confirms what we already know: it's better to give than receive.

Money can buy happiness but only if you spend it on others say researchers.

Give and Be Happy

most people seemed unaware of this hidden key to happiness, the researchers said.

From Science magazine, The Secret to Happiness? Giving.
Dunn says the results "confirmed our hypothesis more strongly than we dared to dream." The effects of altruistic spending are probably akin to those of exercise, she notes, which can have immediate and long-term effects. Giving once might make a person happy for a day, but "if it becomes a way of living, then it could make a lasting difference," she says

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2008

Dispatches from the Country of the Sick

Those of us, like me, who have always enjoyed good health still read accounts of those who are and who have been ill as messages from another country we never want to go to much as we wish the inhabitants well.

Cardiologist Dr. Thomas Graboys writes what it's like to be trapped in your own body with Parkinson's disease and betrayed by your own mind with an Alzheimer's-like dementia at 62.  My Daily Battle. proves to be much easier with the support of a loving wife.

A riveting account of a brain scientist who suffered a stroke offers far more reports Tara Parker-Pope.

After you watch Jill Bolte Taylor give her 18 minute address to the TED conference last month, you will never think of the right and left hemispheres of the brain in the same way.  She calls it her Stroke of Insight.  I call it a must-watch.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

March 23, 2008

On Easter, The Muslim and me

"Having been condemned to death, I have reflected a long time on the value of life" wrote Magdi Allam, a Muslim and deputy director of Corriere della Sera, Italy's leading newspaper, when he wrote about threats to his life after he condemned Palestinian suicide bombers in 2003.

                   Magdi Christian Allam

On the vigil of Easter, Magdi Allam was baptised by Pope Benedict XVI himself and took a new baptismal name Christian on what he later called, "the most beautiful day of my life." 

           Pope Baptises Allam

He wrote in an article appeared in the Corriere della Sera that
the witness of Catholics, who “gradually became a point of reference in regard to the certainty of truth and the solidity of values,” played an important role in his conversion.

His most decisive influence he said was Benedict XVI
“who I admired and, as a Muslim, defended for his mastery in setting down the indissoluble link between faith and reason as a basis for authentic religion and human civilization, and to whom I fully adhere as a Christian to inspire me with new light in the fulfillment of the mission God has reserved for me.”

I had always admired Pope John Paul II as a great and holy man,  I marveled at his courage and later at his visit to prison to forgive his assassin, but from a certain distance.    When Cardinal Ratzinger spoke to the Sacred College of Cardinals assembled in Rome for the funeral of John Paul II, I was electrified.

Let us dwell on only two points. The first is the journey towards “the maturity of Christ” as it is said in the Italian text, simplifying it a bit. More precisely, according to the Greek text, we should speak of the “measure of the fullness of Christ”, to which we are called to reach in order to be true adults in the faith. We should not remain infants in faith, in a state of minority. And what does it mean to be an infant in faith? Saint Paul answers: it means “tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery” (Eph 4, 14). This description is very relevant today!

How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. .... Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labeled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude (acceptable) to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.

I was that small boat of thought, tossed around 'by every wind of teaching' , motivated mainly by my ego and desires  until inspired by Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict XVI , I began my journey towards an 'adult and mature faith'.  The whole journey is too long to be recounted here and now, except its conclusion; I have come home to the Catholic faith and the Mother Church: I have I felt so whole. 

No where near as brave as Christian Allam, I am humbled by his journey to conversion that he recounts here.
my mind was freed from the obscurantism of an ideology that legitimates lies and deception, violent death that leads to murder and suicide, the blind submission to tyranny, I was able to adhere to the authentic religion of truth, of life and of freedom.
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My conversion to Catholicism is the touching down of a gradual and profound interior meditation from which I could not pull myself away, given that for five years I have been confined to a life under guard, with permanent surveillance at home and a police escort for my every movement, because of death threats and death sentences from Islamic extremists and terrorists, both those in and outside of Italy.
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It is thanks to members of Catholic religious orders that I acquired a profoundly and essentially an ethical conception of life, in which the person created in the image and likeness of God is called to undertake a mission that inserts itself in the framework of a universal and eternal design directed toward the interior resurrection of individuals on this earth and the whole of humanity on the day of judgment, which is founded on faith in God and the primacy of values, which is based on the sense of individual responsibility and on the sense of duty toward the collective. It is in virtue of a Christian education and of the sharing of the experience of life with Catholic religious that I cultivated a profound faith in the transcendent dimension and also sought the certainty of truth in absolute and universal values.

I too want to fight against the dictatorship of relativism and its softer cousin, the culture of whatever - wherever  and whenever I can.  I too want to stand behind the Pope who offers the only strong and muscular defense of faith and reason as the basis for authentic religion and the culture of life as the basis of civilization.  I too want to uphold reason and the sacredness of life against the tide of nihilism and extremism that threatens to engulf us.  So, in my small way, I will do so.

These past three days of the Triduum, I have been drenched in music and beauty with friends and fellow worshipers and filled with gratitude  and immense joy.  I feel reborn, even  Exultent and can only point to the beautiful Easter chant I found via the Anchoress.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

March 21, 2008

Insulin for a longer life

I have no idea what to make of this, but I'll pass it along anyway.

Insulin could hold the key to long life, say scientists.

Insulin may help us live longer and healthier lives, say scientists.
The drug used to treat diabetes slows the ageing process, according to their findings.

Researchers believe the insulin inhibits a gene which plays a part in ageing.
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"The major implication is that we have found something new that affects lifespan and ageing," said researcher Dr Keith Blackwell at the Joslin Diabetes Centre in Boston, Massachusetts who later added
"The implications go far beyond diabetes."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

March 20, 2008

Be Nice

In the long run, it pays to be nice says a new Harvard study.

Common game theory has held that punishment makes two equals cooperate. But when people compete in repeated games, punishment fails to deliver, said study author Martin Nowak. He is director of the evolutionary dynamics lab at Harvard where the study was conducted.

"On the individual level, we find that those who use punishments are the losers," Nowak said his experiments found.

Those who escalate the conflict very often wound up doomed.

"It's a very positive message," said study co-author David Rand, a Harvard biology graduate student researcher. "In general, the thing that is most, sort of, rational and best for your own self-interest is to be nice."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:06 PM | Permalink

'Spare parts for the rich'

The debate continues on whether desperate people should be allowed to pay people for their organs rather than depend on family members, the unfortunate death of someone unknown or the kindness of strangers, consider the traffic in organs in those countries where transplants are not regulated.

Organ business in Egypt 'worse than slavery'.

"It's the worst kind of business in Egypt. It's worse than slavery," said Queita, who had no comprehensive statistics but said that one Cairo clinic had a waiting list of 1,500 people willing to sell their organs.

"I don't want the poor turned into spare parts for the rich. ... People are coming from all over to buy organs in Egypt. They're mainly Gulf Arabs. If you're a rich man from the Gulf, you go to a private Egyptian hospital that has contacts with organ brokers. Serious cases of poverty in this country are causing an increase in the theft and sale of organs."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink

Stainless Steel Wallets

Stainless steel wallets are in your future.  Either that or aluminum foil.

Radio-frequency IDs or RFIDs are tags that include both an integrated circuit for storing and processing information and an antenna for receiving and transmitting a signal.  They are tiny little objects you can apply to any product, animal or person.  They are most often used in inventory tracking and management.

You probably are already familiar with the transponders many have on their windshields allowing them to speed through toll booths without stopping even as the information is captured and the charge for the toll will appear on your credit card statement.

Since 2006 RFID tags have been included in all new passports issued by the United States government.  After a demonstration that showed that passports could be read with special equipment from 33 feet away, various  barriers and encryption methods have been incorporated.  The Wikipedia entry explains more than I ever could.

Boing Boing video shows how anyone can swipe your credit card information and other personal data that is on any card employing RFID  by using a reader that cost on $8 on Ebay, just by getting "close to your ass."

The biggest threat to having your identity stolen remains the theft of many thousands of credit card numbers from websites.  Hacker Pablos Holman told TechRadar

“I don’t expect this to be a major threat for a while. People are stealing credit card numbers from websites and that’s still pretty easy,” he says, before adding, somewhat more ominously “with a bigger antenna hooked up to this I can go into Starbucks and get the name of everyone in there.

That's why I say stainless steel wallets are in your future.  Keep an eye out for them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:48 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2008

Living longer may have its downside

One of my favorite says is "All blessings are mixed."   

Now that we're living longer with fewer dying from heart disease and stroke, breast and prostate cancer than ever before, something else is going to kill us. 

The Alzheimer's Association projects that 10 million baby boomers will suffer from Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's to Hit 1 in 8 Boomers

One aspect of the report says that, if they live to age 55, women are nearly twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's as men. The report's authors say that's also age-related. When researchers measure the risk of developing Alzheimer's at any particular age, men and women show no real difference, Senay notes. But to the extent that they outlive men, women are considered more likely to develop the Alzheimer's.

The good news is that the BigPharma is racing to develop cures.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:53 PM | Permalink

Haunting Specter Unexplained

On December 1, 2006, one of the eeriest autopsies in the annals of crime was conducted at the Royal London Hospital. Three British pathologists, covered from head to toe in white protective suits, stood around a radioactive corpse that had been sealed in plastic for nearly a week. The victim was Alexander Litvinenko, a 44-year-old ex-KGB officer who had defected from Russia to England in November 2000 and had drawn on his experience to denounce the government of the newly installed President Putin. What the pathologists found is still a state secret.

The Specter That Haunts the Death of Litvinenko by Edward Jay Epstein.

Litvinvenko was not poisoned with thallium as originally thought but by polonium-210, one of the world's rarest and most tightly controlled radioactive isotopes.  Polonium-210 is a critical component in early-stage nuclear bombs.

Most likely Litvinenko came into contact with a polonium-210 smuggling operation.

What it obscured is the elephant-in-the-room that haunts the case: the fact that a crucial component for building an early-stage nuke was smuggled into London in 2006. Was it brought in merely as a murder weapon or as part of a transaction on the international arms market?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 PM | Permalink

Clever people are easier to con

Clever people 'are easier to con' says a report carried out by Ultrascan, an IT fraud agency based in the Netherlands.

Other people who are particularly vulnerable are those who have suffered a bereavement or a recent or life-changing trauma.

The agency said that poorly educated or financially inexperienced people were not so desirable to scammers because they did not trust their own judgment and soon realised that they had been duped.

Frank Engelsman, Ultrascan’s specialist in advance-fee fraud, said that doctors were especially vulnerable to scams that encouraged them to do good. “They very often fall for a scam that starts with a request to help the less fortunate in the world through good causes,” he said. “To do the bigger scams you need the victims to trust their own capabilities and experience.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink

March 18, 2008

What's wrong with liberation theology

Doctor Bob elucidates

liberation theology, in which Christianity is defined (redefined, actually) primarily as a means of identifying with and liberating the oppressed. It has deep roots in atheistic Marxism, especially in the concept of class struggle and the centrality of violence in overcoming oppression. Liberation theology sprouted from Catholic and Marxist syncretism in Latin America, and has subsequently spread to many liberal Protestant denominations as well. Its core premise — the centrality of class warfare in human relationships — is inherently incompatible with the unity of Christians in Christ, and this distortion of Christian doctrine was gently but devastatingly rebutted by former Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in his doctrinal instruction on the topic.
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That social justice, concern for the poor and the underprivileged, and the mitigation of hatred and racism are — and have always been — emphatic teachings and priorities for Christianity is indisputable. But Christian opposition to injustice and oppression is not its sole and central doctrine, but rather a manifestation of the personal deliverance of the individual from the slavery and oppression of sin which Christianity offers.
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Churches which abandon historical Christian orthodoxy in favor of Christianized political and socialistic substitutes may indeed accomplish some good (even Hamas feeds the poor) and often seem to operate from the very best of motives. But they exsanguinate the faith of its life-blood — its historical orthodoxy, hammered out through centuries in creeds and scripture, through persecution endured and heresy rebutted — leaving but a mummified corpse of ritual and religious talk and self-righteousness. Like some ancient Aztec sacrifice, they carve out the heart of a historic faith, and thrust it triumphantly upward to heaven. But the gods they propitiate are those of politics and power, division and deviancy — not the God of the cross and the empty tomb, nor the Lord of the martyrs and the life-blood of saints.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:26 PM | Permalink

March 17, 2008

St. Patrick in his own words

St. Patrick in his own words.  From his confessions.

St. Patrick, born in Britain, captured and made a slave for 6 years until he had a vision and found the courage to escape and eventually return to his family.  A few years later, another vision appeared to him

I saw a man coming, as it were from Ireland. His name was Victoricus, and he carried many letters, and he gave me one of them. I read the heading: "The Voice of the Irish". As I began the letter, I imagined in that moment that I heard the voice of those very people who were near the wood of Foclut, which is beside the western sea—and they cried out, as with one voice: "We appeal to you, holy servant boy, to come and walk among us.[12]

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:41 PM | Permalink

March 15, 2008

"The entanglement of the Human Mind with the Mind of God"

"Science gives  us Knowledge, and religion gives us Meaning.  Both are prerequisites of the decent existence"

wrote Professor Michael Heller in his statement when he won the  2008 Templeton Prize valued at more than $1.6 million. Heller is a Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest who
developed sharply focused and strikingly original concepts on the origin and cause of the universe, often under intense governmental repression,...
Heller, 72, Professor in the Faculty of Philosophy at the Pontifical Academy of Theology in Cracow, toiled for years beneath the stifling strictures of the Soviet era. He has become a compelling figure in the realms of physics and cosmology, theology, and philosophy with his cogent and provocative concepts on issues that all of these disciplines pursue, albeit from often vastly different perspectives. With an academic and religious background that enables him to comfortably and credibly move within each of these domains, Heller’s extensive writings have evoked new and important consideration of some of humankind's most profound concepts.


Here is more Heller from his statement

Einstein was not far from Leibniz's idea when he was saying that the only goal of science is to  decode the Mind of God present in the structure of the universe.   

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Within the all-comprising Mind of God what we call chance and random events  is well composed into the symphony of creation.

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Various  processes in the universe can be displayed as a succession of states in such a way that the  preceding state is a cause of the succeeding one.  If we look deeper at such processes, we see that  there is always a dynamical law prescribing how one state should generate another state.  But  dynamical laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations, and if we ask about the  cause of the universe we should ask about a cause of mathematical laws.  By doing so we are back  in the Great Blueprint of God’s thinking the universe.  The question on ultimate causality is  translated into another of Leibniz’s questions: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

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Science is but a collective effort of the  Human Mind to read the Mind of God from question marks out of which we and the world around  us seem to be made.  To place ourselves in this double entanglement is to experience that we are a  part of the Great Mystery.  Another name for this Mystery is the Humble Approach to reality – the  motto of all John Templeton Foundation activities.  The true humility does not consist in  pretending that we are feeble and insignificant, but in the audacious acknowledgement that we are  an essential part of the Greatest Mystery of all – of the entanglement of the Human Mind with the  Mind of God.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

More evidence of cellular memory

These stories always attract me.

My personality changed after my kidney transplant - and I started to read Jane Austen and Dostoesky instead of celebrity trash.

Examples cited as proof of cellular memory include a U.S. woman terrified of heights who became a climber and a seven-year-old girl who had nightmares about being killed after being given the heart of a murdered child.

The only case recognised by the scientific community is a 15-year-old Australian girl whose blood type changed following a liver transplant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

"I think the whole world should know about it

After the dispiriting post earlier, it's a pleasure to point you to The Irish Moves of the Bronx School Dancers.

With a student body that is 71 percent Hispanic and 27 percent black, Public School 59 does not seem an obvious home for a thriving Irish dance troupe. And when Caroline Duggan first arrived from Dublin at age 23 to try her hand as a New York City public school music teacher, it wasn’t. Many of her students had never heard of Ireland. Why, they wanted to know, did she talk funny?

Then, to stave off homesickness, Ms. Duggan hung a “Riverdance” poster in her fifth-floor classroom, and one thing led to another. The children pointed to a long-haired dancer on the poster and asked if it was her. No, she laughed, but I could show you a few steps. The impromptu lesson grew into a wildly popular after-school program and, for the first time last year, a trip to Ireland that still inspires dreamy looks among those lucky enough to go.

After watching the video Keltic Dreams that accompanies the article (and you should to) , it seemed self-evident that Irish dancing is perfect for young kids, a joyous, infectious dance of syncopated rhythm that each can practice on their own but better together.

Students like Jesely, who have embraced Irish dancing as though the culture were their own. Which, in a sense, it now is.

“As I get older I’ll even show my kids, so that way they, like, can spread it around,” Jesely said. “Cause I think like the whole world should know about it.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:51 AM | Permalink

Brighter future for Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes usually starts during childhood or adolescence unlike Type 2 diabetes which is an adult-onset disease often linked to obesity.

Those children and adolescents afflicted with Type 1 diabetes suddenly have a much brighter future thanks to some terminally ill mice who were returned to health after injection of BCG vaccine.

Human trials to begin at MGH on 'diabetes cure'

The first step in the human study is to determine whether the same strategy using BCG vaccination can be used to modify the abnormal autoimmune cells present in type 1 diabetes, sometimes called “juvenile-onset” diabetes.
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“One of the beauties of this is that BCG is a drug that has been tried and tested for 80 years, “ said Dr Faustman.

“There is no multi- million-dollar drug approval pipeline. It is a generic drug and will be cheap to administer if it works for humans.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 AM | Permalink

1 in 4 teen girls have STD

By now pretty much everyone has heard that on 1 in 4 teen girls have STD.  About half of them have had sex and half of those are infected with a sexually transmitted disease.  Sadly, nearly half of the black girls studied have at least one STD while the rates among whites and Mexican-Americans was about 20%.

I can only infer that the toxic rap culture and the absence of fathers has done more to damage the lives of young women than I had imagined.  We are all the poorer for it.   

Education is not the answer if schools like those in Deerfield, Illinois, require students as young as 14, to read "Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes" with its graphic sexuality, profanity and racism. Gay literature in high schools.

Matt Barber, director of cultural issues with Concerned Women for America, said his jaw dropped when he read the book.

"This isn't a First Amendment issue. This is about school officials betraying the community trust. Heads need to roll here. Assigning this racist, pornographic smut to high school kids is nothing short of child abuse," Barber said.

Lora Sue Hauser, executive director of NSSA, complained that the book is replete with profanity, overt racism, an explicit description of a sex act involving Mother Teresa and vivid depictions of sodomy.

"After almost 15 years of school advocacy and reviewing many objectionable books and curricula, I have never seen anything this vulgar and harmful to students," Hauser said.

Juan Williams wrote in Banish the Bling

Have we taken our eyes off the prize? The civil rights movement continues, but the struggle today is not so much in the streets as in the home -- and with our children. ... there is also a far more sinister obstacle facing African American young people today: a culture steeped in bitterness and nihilism, a culture that is a virtual blueprint for failure.
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With 50 percent of Hispanic children and nearly 70 percent of black children born to single women today these young people too often come from fractured families where there is little time for parenting. Their search for identity and a sense of direction is undermined by a twisted popular culture that focuses on the "bling-bling" of fast money associated with famous basketball players, rap artists, drug dealers and the idea that women are at their best when flaunting their sexuality and having babies.
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Cosby asked the chilling question: "What good is Brown " and all the victories of the civil rights era if nobody wants them? A generation after those major civil rights victories, black America is experiencing alarming dropout rates, shocking numbers of children born to single mothers and a frightening acceptance of criminal behavior that has too many black people filling up the jails. Where is the focus on taking advantage of new opportunities to advance and to close the racial gap in educational and economic achievement?

Having grown up in the civil rights era and bought the dream, my greatest disappointment since has been the failure of black leadership who have kept grievance, not hope, alive and expedient.  I kept alive the hope that the strong culture of the black churches would present to young men and women an alternative way of life.    But I have been shocked and shaken after watching clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons, filled as they are with hate towards whites, 'God damn America' and loopy conspiracy theories of the government starting the AIDS virus and inviting the attack on September 11.  What has he done for the children?

For all who saw in Barack Obama, the candidate with the promise of finally transcending race, the revelations of the hate-filled sermons of his pastor and spiritual advisor Jeremiah Wright, must come as a blow.  It has for me.

So long as political discussion is reduced to identity politics and biological markers of sex and race, the ability to deal with the truly important issues of creating a society where children are encouraged to develop individual responsibility, self-control and concern for others is severely compromised.

So long as the educational establishment teaches every imaginable biological variation of sex and not the emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of having sex at too young an age, we will children who don't know there is more to sex than the physical act unless their parents or churches tell them about love.  They will certainly not find it in the popular culture.  Sad. Dispiriting. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 AM | Permalink

March 12, 2008

We're like cats chasing after a laser

Lee Gomes on Why we're powerless to resist grazing on endless web data

New and richly interpretable information triggers a chemical reaction that makes us feel good, which in turn causes us to seek out even more of it. The reverse is true as well: We want to avoid not getting those hits because, for one, we are so averse to boredom.

It is something we seem hard-wired to do, says Dr. Biederman. When you find new information, you get an opioid hit, and we are junkies for those. You might call us 'infovores.' "

For most of human history, there was little chance of overdosing on information, because any one day in the Olduvai Gorge was a lot like any other. Today, though, we can find in the course of a few hours online more information than our ancient ancestors could in their whole lives.

Just like the laser and the cat, technology is playing a trick on us. We are programmed for scarcity and can't dial back when something is abundant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:47 PM | Permalink

Deliberate paralysis

Johann Hari: Botox is destroying Hollywood stars' ability to act

For a decade now, Hollywood acting has been slowly, steadily poisoned by a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. This week, I was watching the hypnotically horrible new Coen brothers movie, No Country For Old Men, and I couldn't shake off the sense there was something different, something thrilling and vivid, about the performances of all the lead actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin. It was only after half an hour of awe that I realised what it was. They can all move their faces.

Today, most actors in most movies have deliberately paralysed faces, incapable of registering anything.
--
This is, I'm sure, one reason why British actresses have been doing so well at the Oscars for the past 10 years: they haven't been facially paralysed. Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and – this year, in the achingly sad Away From Her – Julie Christie have accepted the potential richness that comes from worry-lines and crows' feet. They use them. They know they suggest depth and richness and life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

"That America in which I choose to live"

The playwright David Mamet in the Village Voice

I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.

As a child of the '60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.
--
I wondered, how could I have spent decades thinking that I thought everything was always wrong at the same time that I thought I thought that people were basically good at heart? Which was it? I began to question what I actually thought and found that I do not think that people are basically good at heart; indeed, that view of human nature has both prompted and informed my writing for the last 40 years. I think that people, in circumstances of stress, can behave like swine, and that this, indeed, is not only a fit subject, but the only subject, of drama.

I'd observed that lust, greed, envy, sloth, and their pals are giving the world a good run for its money, but that nonetheless, people in general seem to get from day to day; and that we in the United States get from day to day under rather wonderful and privileged circumstances—that we are not and never have been the villains that some of the world and some of our citizens make us out to be, but that we are a confection of normal (greedy, lustful, duplicitous, corrupt, inspired—in short, human) individuals living under a spectacularly effective compact called the Constitution, and lucky to get it.
--
I recognized that I held those two views of America (politics, government, corporations, the military). One was of a state where everything was magically wrong and must be immediately corrected at any cost; and the other—the world in which I actually functioned day to day—was made up of people, most of whom were reasonably trying to maximize their comfort by getting along with each other (in the workplace, the marketplace, the jury room, on the freeway, even at the school-board meeting).

And I realized that the time had come for me to avow my participation in that America in which I chose to live.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 AM | Permalink

Demonic Possession

In the New Oxford Review, a board-certified psychiatrist and professor, Richard  Gallagher documents a real Case of Demonic Possession.   

Even those who doubt such a phenomenon exists may find the following example rather persuasive. For clergy, or indeed anyone involved in the spiritual or psychological care of others, it is equally critical, however, to recognize the many and infinitely more common "counterfeits" (i.e., false assignations) of demonic influence or attack as well.
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We made a number of phone calls to arrange gathering together to help Julia. Julia herself was not in on these phone discussions; she was far from the area at the time. Astonishingly, Julia's "other" voice -- again sometimes deep, sometimes high pitched -- would actually interrupt the telephone conversations and somehow come in over the phone line! The voice(s) would espouse the same messages: "Leave her alone," "Leave, you idiots," "Get away from her," "She's ours." Julia, again, said later that she was unaware of any such conversation. And yet this speech was heard distinctly by several of the team on a number of occasions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

March 11, 2008

The Office Phone Call

I can’t imagine how a young employee learning the ropes can acquire what she needs to know, as speedily, without the advantage of eavesdropping on her boss’s phone conversations.

How can anyone get a grasp of an industry’s pertinent relationships or decision-making time frames, let alone the fragility of a particular office’s egos, if there are so few chances to hear these people talking to the outside world? The office phone call, properly overheard, is really the cheapest, easiest way to transmit institutional knowledge.
--

That brings up another reason the office phone call is worth preserving: there’s no ready substitute for practicing the necessary summoning of courage for potentially fraught encounters. Advancing in business is often a matter of gaining capacity for confrontation; to the best of my knowledge, no one has ever had to steel herself before sitting down to type a tough e-mail message.

The Office Phone Call Was Music to the Ears.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:14 PM | Permalink

The Art to Growing Older

Making art, whether it be singing, writing, painting or crafts seems to be the key in the art of growing older happily, still contributing, still creating. 

Studies Suggest There's An Art to Getting Older

In 2006, the preliminary findings from the federally funded Creativity and Aging Study suggest that
making art, or even listening to music or viewing paintings, supports physical, mental and emotional well-being and eases some symptoms of illness, including dementia.
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Sometimes arts participation can be powerful therapy. Susan Perlstein, the founder of the National Center for Creative Aging and New York's nonprofit Elders Share the Arts, recalls a Holocaust survivor who sat watching her peers perform theater for a year before she told them how she escaped death more than 60 years earlier. The group turned her story into a play and made her the star.

"She said to the group . . . she felt for the first time she could feel at home," Perlstein said. "This process of being able to share your stories and transform them into art is actually a deeply healing process. She went from a depressed, sick older person to a lively young person. It was phenomenal to watch this change."

Taken as a whole, the benefits to the well-being of the old who participate in creative arts are quite extraordinary:
• new growth of brain cells stimulated
• better overall physical health
• less depression and loneliness
• medication use down
• a heightened sense of control and social engagement
• increased sense of independence

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink

How to do pretty much anything

After you've worked at Google and YouTube, what do you do next?  Howcast is what.

After checking out their categories and featured videos,  it looks like a great resource, one to bookmark for those times when you wonder how to do something for the first time.

How to do pretty much anything.

Howcast is the brainchild of a trio of Google refugees who wanted to go YouTube one better by putting together professional video content that viewers can actually use. "There really isn't a lot of high-quality instructional video out there and we wanted to do it across a broad spectrum of topics," says Jason Liebman, the company's CEO. The majority of the videos are produced in-house, though some are uploaded by users. But regardless of the source, the videos are uniformly well-done.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:12 AM | Permalink

Keepers of the World

We all have too much stuff.  80% of what we own we never use.  We spend an hour a day just looking for things.    We hold on to stuff because some day 'we might need it.'  Hoarders are greatly stressed by the thought of throwing anything away.

With compulsive hoarders, all that stuff is harming their lives. Some people even die, suffocated by all their stuff, a Death by Clutter. 

How many of us are compulsive hoarders? Estimates range from 1.5 to 6 million people in the U.S.

Compulsive hoarding may be a distinctive diagnostic category now that we have brain wave images that show distinct abnormalities. 

Hoarders were found to have lower activity in a specific part of the brain that’s involved in decision-making, focused attention and the regulation of emotion.

Submerged in stuff, hoarders keep collecting

“Hoarders have a fundamental inability to keep things organized,” says Frost. “Not just their possessions, but other things, like finishing tasks. We see a lot of attention deficit problems in hoarding.”

For actress Delta Burke, it was antique furniture and porcelain dolls — enough to fill 27 climate-controlled storage units.

For Roger Gorman’s father-in-law, it was books, newspapers, plastic grocery bags and leisure magazines.

“There must have been over 2,000 magazines in his apartment,” says the 53-year-old graphic designer from Manhattan. “There were stacks and stacks of them, columns of them. It looked like the landscape of a city.”

The good news is that hoarding can be easily treated.  Pigpen started squalorsurvivors after she learned that "Being keeper for the world is too big a burden for one person to bear."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

March 10, 2008

In need of empty moments

We are still so enthralled with our iPods, blackberries, and all the paraphernalia that we can't imagine life without, we've lost the experience of boredom.  Does it matter?

The Joy of Boredom
by Carolyn Johnson

We are most human when we feel dull. Lolling around in a state of restlessness is one of life's greatest luxuries -- one not available to creatures that spend all their time pursuing mere survival. To be bored is to stop reacting to the external world, and to explore the internal one. It is in these times of reflection that people often discover something new, whether it is an epiphany about a relationship or a new theory about the way the universe works. Granted, many people emerge from boredom feeling that they have accomplished nothing. But is accomplishment really the point of life? There is a strong argument that boredom -- so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness -- is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science, and even love.
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Instead of carrying their entire social universe in a pocket, people used to walk out of their houses and into the world. Today, not picking up the phone for an hour is an act of defiance.

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"If you think of boredom as the prelude to creativity, and loneliness as the prelude to engagement of the imagination, then they are good things," said Dr. Edward Hallowell, a Sudbury psychiatrist and author of the book "CrazyBusy."
--

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 PM | Permalink

March 9, 2008

Giving not Getting

In their later years, more and more people are finding purpose and happiness in what they can give away.

With the help of a grant from the Gates foundation,  Michael Schervish who runs the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College is studying the very wealthy to see what motivates them to give away money.

Watching the Rich Give

Once they feel financially secure, the very rich turn to philanthropy.

Philanthropy, he explained, draws people into the kind of direct caring relationships they experience in family life — and extends that caring outward. “This is my basic definition of philanthropy — it’s paying attention and responding to the needs of others precisely because that person is in need,” he said. Anyone can do that, rich or poor. But when the very wealthy do it, according to Schervish, it creates not just ripples but powerful tides.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

March 8, 2008

Roundup of Good News on the Health Front

One of the biggest problems in caring for old people who live on their own is making sure they take their medicine.  One in three adults fail to take their prescribed medication.

New technology may help where nothing else does.  The Magnetrace.

Sensor necklace records when pill is swallowed and prompts patient when it is time to take another.

"Forgetfulness is a huge problem, especially among the elderly, but so is taking the medication at the wrong time, stopping too early or taking the wrong dose," said Maysam Ghovanloo, assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "Studies show that drug noncompliance costs the country billions of dollars each year as a result of re-hospitalization, complications, disease progression and even death."

There's a lot more going on in our guts than we know. 

Diabetes may be disorder of upper intestine: Surgery may correct it.

Dr. Rubino, who is a professor in the Department of Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and chief of gastrointestinal metabolic surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.... "When we bypass the duodenum and jejunum, we are bypassing what may be the source of the problem,

Those gut feelings we have?  Researchers at Leeds have reviewed the literature and say  Go with Your Gut
intuition is the result of the way our brains store, process and retrieve information on a subconscious level and so is a real psychological phenomenon which needs further study to help us harness its potential.

Researchers have found a protein in embryonic stem cells that inhibits the growth and spread of malignant melanoma, the deadly skin cancer.

And Training in the Arts Makes People Smarter.

“A life-affirming dimension is opening up in neuroscience,” said Dr. Gazzaniga, “to discover how the performance and appreciation of the arts enlarge cognitive capacities will be a long step forward in learning how better to learn and more enjoyably and productively to live."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 PM | Permalink

More men not interested in sex

In Japan where freaky-deaky equals hara-kiri, more and more men are turning to masturbation and sex toys rather than women whom they have to please. 

And in France where women have become sexual predators,
one-in-five French men aged between 18 and 24 "manifests no interest in sexuality", while abstinence rates for men under 35 was twice as high as for women.

For those men with normal urges and desires, they can get more if they do housework!

Men who do housework get more sex from their wives.
"Wives report greater feelings of sexual interest and affection for husbands who participate in housework

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:21 AM | Permalink

March 7, 2008

Age-specific treatment for addicts

Alcohol and drug addiction plague every generation.  A one-size-fits- all treatment isn't working. 

A New Generation Gap as Older Addicts Seek Help.

Ms. Ellison said. “We had a lot of guidance growing up. They don’t have that at home. Their parents — and that includes some of us — are out there drugging. But now, for however many years we have left, we can try and do the right thing.”
--

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:20 PM | Permalink

Saved by air trapped in his hat

Saved by air trapped in his plastic safety helmet, that plus Buddhist meditation techniques  saved the life of Chinese construction worker who was buried alive.

Chinese Man Buried Alive Saved by Air Trapped in His Hat

“I had my back to the wall and didn’t know it was falling until it was on top of me. It was suddenly dark and I realised what had happened and found that there was a small air pocket in front of me,” Mr Wang said. That was when the Buddhist turned to meditation to control his intake of oxygen. “I knew it would not last, so I made myself relax and concentrated on slowing down my breathing by meditation.”

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Doctors were astounded, saying that a person could normally not live longer than five minutes in a similar sealed space. One local doctor said: “It’s a miracle that he’s alive after being buried for two hours.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:32 PM | Permalink

Cheers to Buster

No wonder he's called Buster. When he was a hundred, he fought off a gang of muggers in South London.

He has 17 kids and still works as a van cleaner, returning to work at age 99 saying he was bored after 2 years of retirement.

Well, he's taken up running in his spare time and completed a half-marathon in five hours, 13 minutes last weekend.

Now he plans to run the London Marathon and celebrate after as the world's oldest marathon runner.

"I've said I'll attempt it," he told Reuters by telephone from his workplace at Pimlico Plumbers. "I haven't said I'll complete it. If I do make it, all the better. I hadn't thought of doing it before but someone asked me and the money goes to charity so why not?"
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"If I finish, I'll do what I always do and have a pint and a fag," he said. "People ask what is my secret but I haven't got one. They say fags and booze are bad for you -- but I'm still here, aren't I?"

Who do you think you are, Buster?. 

Buster's a hero of mine.

         Buster Martin 100

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:56 PM | Permalink

Pay more for your placebos

More expensive placebos bring more relief

In marketing as in medicine, perception can be everything. A higher price can create the impression of higher value, just as a placebo pill can reduce pain.

Now researchers have combined the two effects. A $2.50 placebo, they have found, works better one that costs 10 cents.
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“It’s all about expectations,” said the lead researcher, Dan Ariely,....“When you’re expecting pain relief, you’re secreting your own opioids,” Dr. Ariely added. “And when you get it on discount, you doubt it, and your body doesn’t react as well.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

You don't know the name glutamate, but you love it

As I read the New York Times, monosodium glutamate or MSG gives us the taste,  umami, that "elusive fifth taste" that rounds out the flavor of everything.

Yes, MSG, the Secret Behind the Savor

But you don't have to search out Japanese seaweed because MSG is a shortcut to that rounder flavor.  You won't necessarily under that name on the label, so look for hydrolyzed soy protein or autolyzed yeast, because it's all glutamate and perfectly safe to eat for the vast majority of people.

You can find glutamate  in Accent, canned chicken broth, hoisin, soy and fish sauces, Maggi, onion soup, Goldfish crackers, canned tuna with vegetable broth, canned soup, low-fat yoghurts and ice creams, virtually everything ranch-flavored or cheese-flavored, Pringles and bologna among others.

Nacho-cheese-flavor Doritos, which contain five separate forms of glutamate, may be even richer in umami than the finest kombu dashi (kelp stock) in Japan.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:22 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2008

Sloppy thinking leads to creeping sharia at Harvard

Ali Eteraz has the best response to Harvard's decision to ban men from a gym for several hours a week to accommodate Muslim women who can not exercise comfortably in their presence.

If the university had simply said that the gym was closed in those hours to accommodate “women that do not feel comfortable working out in front of men” — that would be OK. This new classification would include women who might have been raped, assaulted, molested, or had other emotional issues that made it difficult for them to work out in male dominated spaces.

Muslims play a dangerous and stupid game when they start demanding things based on their Islam. Even the most conservative reading of classical Sharia reveals that Eunuchs were allowed to wander freely through the harem. In other words, a known homosexual man who has never had sex with a woman and never will, can make a powerful case under Sharia that he cannot be excluded from the gym hours.

Michael Graham has the funniest
In the old days, Harvard would have laughed if some Catholic or evangelical mother urged “girls-only” campus workouts in the name of modesty. Today, Harvard happily implements Sharia swim times in the name of Mohammed.

At Harvard, that’s called progress.

Mark Steyn has the last word.
In Minneapolis last year, the airport licensing authority, faced with a mainly Muslim crew of cab drivers refusing to carry the blind, persons with six-packs of Bud, slatternly women, etc, proposed instituting two types of taxis with differently colored lights, one of which would indicate the driver was prepared to carry members of identity groups that offend Islam.  Forty years ago, advocating separate drinking fountains made you a racist.  Today, advocating separate taxi cabs or separate swimming sessions makes you a multiculturalist.

Harvard should be ashamed if only for the sloppy thinking that led to this embarrassment.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 PM | Permalink

Sloppy thinking leads to creeping sharia at Harvard

Ali Eteraz has the best response to Harvard's decision to ban men from a gym for several hours a week to accommodate Muslim women who can not exercise comfortably in their presence.

If the university had simply said that the gym was closed in those hours to accommodate “women that do not feel comfortable working out in front of men” — that would be OK. This new classification would include women who might have been raped, assaulted, molested, or had other emotional issues that made it difficult for them to work out in male dominated spaces.

Muslims play a dangerous and stupid game when they start demanding things based on their Islam. Even the most conservative reading of classical Sharia reveals that Eunuchs were allowed to wander freely through the harem. In other words, a known homosexual man who has never had sex with a woman and never will, can make a powerful case under Sharia that he cannot be excluded from the gym hours.

Michael Graham has the funniest

In the old days, Harvard would have laughed if some Catholic or evangelical mother urged “girls-only” campus workouts in the name of modesty. Today, Harvard happily implements Sharia swim times in the name of Mohammed.

At Harvard, that’s called progress.

Mark Steyn has the last word

In Minneapolis last year, the airport licensing authority, faced with a mainly Muslim crew of cab drivers refusing to carry the blind, persons with six-packs of Bud, slatternly women, etc, proposed instituting two types of taxis with differently colored lights, one of which would indicate the driver was prepared to carry members of identity groups that offend Islam.  Forty years ago, advocating separate drinking fountains made you a racist.  Today, advocating separate taxi cabs or separate swimming sessions makes you a multiculturalist.

Harvard should be ashamed if only for the sloppy thinking that led to this embarrassment .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 PM | Permalink

Our National Food is Chinese?

"Our benchmark for Americanness is apple pie," she writes.

"But ask yourself. How often do you eat apple pie? How often do you eat Chinese food?"

Are you surprised to learn that there are 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the United States, more than the number of McDonalds, Burger Kings and KFCs combined?

New York Times reporter Jennifer 8 writes "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food"

From the review in the Chicago Tribune:

The heart of "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" lies beyond the table to where people work and live: behind the menu, behind the cash register, behind the wok. Lee's writing is at its most compelling in her profiles of immigrants, legal and illegal, many of whom have "paid tens of thousands of dollars" to human smugglers so they can spend "twelve-hour days and six-day weeks . . . frying, delivering, waiting tables, stirring, busing, chopping" and, more often than not, risking their lives and livelihood in the process. Lee traces the journey of immigrants from Fuzhou, a region in China that is "the single largest exporter of Chinese restaurant workers in the world today" to New York, a major nerve center for job postings:

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:34 AM | Permalink

The Flat Lesions that Lead to Colon Cancer

With colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, an increasing number of people, having reached age 50,  are girding themselves for their first colonoscopy.   

Anyone who's had one can tell you that the worst part is the preparation when you must drink what seems like gallons of a lime-flavored drink that operates as a harsh laxative.  One in four people can't take it and don't drink it all.

Now we learn that flat or depressed lesions can't be seen if there is any waste left in the intestine.  Yet, Easily Overlooked Lesions Tied to Colon Cancer.

The study also raises doubts about whether “virtual colonoscopy,” performed by a CT scanner, will ever be able to take the place of the colonoscope inserted into the rectum, as many patients had hoped. The problem is that CT scans use X-rays to reveal shapes, and find polyps because they stick out. Flat lesions are unlikely to show up in such scans.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:13 AM | Permalink

"Who's the Redneck?"

After a set at a hotel in Washington State, I was dragged into a long, drawn-out discussion with a graying, balding New Ager who just couldn't get over my evangelical background. "You seem so smart," he kept saying. "How could you buy into that stuff?"

Here's a guy wearing a crystal around his neck to open up his chakra, who thinks that the spirit of a warrior from the lost city of Atlantis is channeled through the body of a hairdresser from Palm Springs, and who stuffs magnets in his pants to enhance his aura, and he finds evangelicalism an insult to his intelligence. I ask you: Who's the redneck?

From a review by Ed Driscoll quoting Redneck Nation by Michael Graham.

"Redneck Nation: How the South Really Won the War" (Michael Graham)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2008

When "Safe Sex" Isn't

Too many young people think that oral sex is safe.  As Doctor Bernadine Healey points out in Clueless on STDs, Throat Cancer and Oral Sex.

People seem clueless that sexually transmitted diseases such as herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and human papillomavirus can take hold in parts of the oral cavity during sex with infected partners and that the oral contact can infect the genitals, too. HPV is a particularly scurrilous threat, since it incubates silently in the back of the mouth and is now linked to a dangerous form of throat cancer in both men and women similar to the one that arises in the cervix.

There's been an unexpected increase in oropharyngeal cancer, a cancer that develops at the base of the tongue,  among young people. 

It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that this rise in oropharyngeal cancer is linked to changing sexual practices and, in particular, ones that involve bathing the throat with HPV-infected fluid. Increasingly, scientists are implicating HPV-16, and in some cases 18, the same ones that causes cervical cancer.

However good college kids are on using condoms for vaginal sex, very few use them for oral sex.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

Padding the Lampposts

Hard as it is to believe, the Daily Mail reports that one in ten Britons has suffered a "walk 'n text' injury in the past year after colliding with lampposts, garbage bins or other pedestrians.  That's 6.6 million accidents each year by people walking and texting.

Instead of telling people to pay attention, the government is now padding the lampposts.

Brick Lane made Britain's first 'Safe Text' street with padded lampposts to prevent mobile phone injuries.

Almost two thirds - 62 per cent - of Brits concentrate so hard while texting that they lose their peripheral vision, researchers found.

Given the apparent dangers of "unprotected text", over a quarter of Brits - 27 per cent - are in favour of creating a 'mobile motorway' on Britain's pavements.

Texters could follow a brightly coloured line, which which would act like a cycle lane, steering them away from obstacles.

And 44 per cent of those surveyed wanted pads placed on lampposts to protect them while texting. The study found that busy city streets were the worst for "walk 'n text" accidents.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

March 4, 2008

Priming the Pump

One in four people suffer from persistent fatigue that has nothing to do with any serious medical condition.

The Cure for Exhaustion? More Exercise.

Regular exercise can actually go a long way in increasing feelings of energy — particularly in sedentary individuals.”

Why exercise helps fatigue isn’t clear, but Dr. Puetz said his findings suggest exercise acts directly on the central nervous system to increase energy and reduce fatigue. Notably, the improvements in energy and fatigue were not related to increases in aerobic fitness.

“A lot of people are overworked and not sleeping enough,” said Patrick O’Connor, co-director of the university’s exercise psychology laboratory. “Exercise is a way for people to feel more energetic.

Think of it as priming the pump.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:36 AM | Permalink

Grumpy old dogs and young pups

When we think of older people, we think of them as getting stiffer, more close-minded in their opinions.  In short, "as rigid as their arteries" as Nicholas Danigelis, a sociologist at the University of Vermont says.

Yet the opposite is true.  People grow more liberal and tolerant as they age; their political attitudes grow more liberal and flexible. 

Danigelis in a recent study published in the October 2007 American Sociological Review,  looked at the political attitudes of 46, 520 people. 

"We found no support for the bogeyman of gerontology, which is that the older you get, the more conservative and rigid you become," he says.

Yes, older Americans are less tolerant of gays, blacks or women in certain positions of authority. But they were less likely to hold onto those prejudices.  In some areas – censorship of library books or unpopular public speakers – the group of people in the older age bracket has became more open-minded over the last 30 plus years as younger people went in the other direction, this survey found.

“Both the grumpy young people and the grumpy old people became more tolerant over the years,” said Danigelis,
in an interview. “But the grumpy old people did so at a much quicker pace.”

They may be old dogs, but they are open to new opinions, more so than the young pups. 

Ah, the benefits of living a long life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 AM | Permalink

March 3, 2008

"We are entitled brats."

Dan Zac on why a sense of entitlement can wreak havoc on happiness in me, me, it's all about ME.

Broad pronouncement of the week: We are entitled brats.

In real life, we want what we want and we want it now. No delay. No aggravation. No hassle, pain-free, our way, right away.
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Narcissism and entitlement among college students have increased steadily since 1979, according to a study to be published this year in the Journal of Personality.
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The data are clear: The ascent of narcissism and entitlement is dramatic.
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To complement her research, Twenge offers evidence from the field: "I have a 14-month-old daughter, and the clothing available to her has 'little princess,' or 'I'm the boss,' or 'spoiled rotten' written on it. This is what we're dressing our babies in."
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Feeling entitled to something you aren't getting leads to frustration, which leads to bratty behavior and confrontation. Nearly 80 percent of Americans say rudeness -- particularly behind the wheel, on cellphones and in customer service -- should be regarded as a serious national problem, according to a study by the opinion research firm Public Agenda.

Zac then explores some tried and true ways of getting over your inner brat by going to, in tried and true fashion, to a stress expert who recommends practicing relaxation techniques  to turn the frustration of waiting for someone into an opportunity to relax.

Cultivating the habit of being grateful, the attitude of gratitude, will lead to a happier life and much lower levels of entitlement.

Other habits I learned in Sunday School were "offering it up"  and blessing those who were frustrating me, which in the end is simply loving your enemy.    Not a bad way of getting through a three hour flight delay.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

Instant test for Alzheimer's coming

The Instant Test that can Spot Alzheimer's

The test uses a computer programme linked to an MRI brain scanner to look for the tell-tale signs of the disease in the brain.

In trials, it was able to accurately diagnose the condition in 96 per cent of patients.

Human experts get it right around 85 per cent of the time.

Its creators believe the test could be available in Britain in less than a year, ensuring patients are diagnosed earlier and more quickly.

It could also help to reassure the 'worried well' - those who are concerned that their memory lapses are more than just a normal sign of aging.

Another win for algorithms.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink