April 30, 2008

Gen Y broke

Are 20 and 30 somethings in a financial mess?

Emma Johnson writes "Is it because we're dumb, arrogant or simply uneducated?"

Why Gen Y is broke

[S]tats indicate our generation's financial literacy is abysmal, with personal finances to match. Only 52% of high school seniors passed a recent national financial literacy test, meaning adults entering the work force do not know enough about basic budgeting, interest rates or taxes to make sound decisions for their own lives.
--

Bob Manning, author of "Credit Card Nation" and professor of consumer financial services at Rochester Institute of Technology, says these problems are compounded by powerful cultural forces...,
"This generation feels that somehow or another they're going to figure out some technological advancement that's going to get them out of their financial troubles and outsmart the market," says Manning,

* The median credit-card debt of low- and middle-income people aged 18 to 34 is $8,200.
* The average college debt for recent grads is more than $20,000 and rising.
* People between the ages of 25 and 34 make up 22.7% of all U.S. bankruptcies (but just 14% of the population at large), according to a recent report.

Because it is not instinctual, financial literacy is a life skill that must be taught and developed with each generation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

April 28, 2008

Left ear for love

The way to a man's heart?  Through his left ear

New research suggests that declarations of love, jokes, or words of anger are best remembered when they are heard through the left ear, while instructions, directions and non-emotional messages have more impact on the right side.

It is all to do with how our brains process information. Although the left and right hemispheres, or sides, of the brain are similar structures, they have specialised functions. The left side, it is suggested, is more logic-based and dominant, while the right is the more imaginative side, more visual, intuitive, emotional and spatially aware. Because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, the left ear has been shown in some research to be the route to the emotional side of the brain, and the right ear to the non-emotional, logical side.

The news that left and right ears process sound differently is not so new.  A 2004 article in Science found that the left ear of a baby was more attuned to music and the right better at picking up speech-like sounds.

Speak to my right ear, sing to my left

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:56 PM | Permalink

Locked in a cellar for 24 years

A horrifying story of the Austrian man who locked his daughter in a cellar for 24 years, repeatedly raping her and fathering seven children by her.

Three of her children were adopted by her father and three remained locked in the cellar with their mother and had never seen sunlight until days ago.  The body of the seventh, a twin who died at birth, was burned by the father in an oven.

His wife insists she knew nothing about it.

The daughter, now 42, agreed to talk to authorities only after she was promised she would not have to see her  father again and her children would be protected.

In the face of such evil, one can only pray for the poor woman and her children.

UPDATE: Details from this unspeakable crime emerge

One police officer described seeing Elisabeth after she gained freedom: "She has been so starved of sunlight that her skin and hair were pure white and she had to shield her eyes from the light. She has been left badly nourished. It may take months and years for her to recover."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 AM | Permalink

Preaching Up

By preaching up, not down, by paying us the compliment of making serious, sustained arguments, the Pope brought America not just new perceptions but challenging ideas as well writes George Weigel

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

Bawer on creeping sharia

Bruce Bawer collects all too many examples of how Westerners are acquiescing to 'creeping sharia' in An Anatomy of Surrender.

Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis—infidels living in Muslim societies.
--
Press acquiescence to Muslim demands and threats is endemic.

From the BBC to the lack of coverage of the astounding result in the 2007 Pew poll of American Muslims aged 18-29 that showed 20% of them supported suicide bombing to the 'affectionate' reporting of a Brooklyn Iman, Reda Shata, by a New York Times reporter who focused on sympathetic personal details, only mentioning
in passing that Shata didn’t speak English, refused to shake women’s hands, wanted to forbid music, and supported Hamas and suicide bombing.
--
Many free people, alas, have become so accustomed to freedom, and to the comfortable position of not having to stand up for it, that they’re incapable of defending it when it’s imperiled—or even, in many cases, of recognizing that it is imperiled.

What are you doing to preserve and pass on the freedoms given you?   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:34 AM | Permalink

Going Bald

A not-bad excuse NOT to go to the gym.

Musclemen who pump iron are more likely to go bald, scientists warn.

That is unless you think bald men are more intelligent, sexier and more masculine as well as cooler in the summer.

           Patrick Stewart

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

April 25, 2008

A few thoughts on the Pope

It seems as if I've not been blogging much about the Pope's visit to America, but that 's not really true. I've just been reading blog posts not writing them.

I was riveted to the television for the entire visit not wanting to miss a moment or a word of what he said. I downloaded all his speeches so I could read them and ponder them.  Every excited expectation was met and then some as the Pope showed in every action, word and gesture, his purpose to spread Christ's hope and his personal humility.  Maybe the most important event was one we never saw,  The Healing in the Chapel when Pope Benedict became the healing pastor to five victims of the clerical abuse scandal.  The sight of the Pope walking down the deep pit of Ground Zero to fall to his knees and pray for minutes in silence was the most moving.

I spent two days on and off writing a wrap-up post with lots of links and thanks to the people, reporters and bloggers who wrote so much better than I could and with great feeling about each of the Papal events.

Then I lost the entire post.  So here's a much shorter recreated post to give special thanks to
The Anchoress
Whispers in the Loggia
Sissy Willis
Miss Kelly
The Deacon's Bench

Pope 2008
and all the members of  Papal Discussion blog at the New York Times.

What struck me and what I haven't seen discussed anywhere is what a profoundly counter-cultural moment in time it was.    We are so used to a steady media diet of war, murder, terrorist attacks, fears, hatred, sex, politics and celebrity stories, that the six days when the media allowed us to see the Pope at the White House and the UN along with the splendor and beauty of the Catholic Mass were astonishing.

The contrast between the bleakness of most of what we see and the power of peace and love the Pope brought to our shores could not be greater.  The contrast between the happiness of the huge crowds waiting for hours to see the Pope and the crowds at anti-war rallies or San Francisco rallies could not be greater.  The clarity, intelligence and moral seriousness of the Pope's addresses contrasted sharply with the political speeches we are used to.  We are not used to dignity, reverence and joy as part of our media diet. 

Some seeds sown by Pope Benedict will flourish immediately, others may not be evident for months, even years.  But grow they will.  In a future full of hope, many will point to this visit as changing their lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 PM | Permalink

"If you eat bananas, you'll have a boy"

The old wives tale has some truth behind it.

Mom's diet  may play role in whether baby is boy or girl

Having a hearty appetite, eating potassium-rich foods including bananas, and not skipping breakfast all seemed to raise the odds of having a boy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

Lie older

Danielle Crittenden has fine advice on how to age without pressure.

In sum: Add on 5 years to your real age  and people will say how great you look.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 PM | Permalink

Doing Good with Menstrual Blood

If this is true, it's astonishing.

Menstrual  Blood: A Valuable Source of Multipotential Stem Cells
Researchers seeking new and more abundant sources of stem cells for use in regenerative medicine have identified a potentially unlimited, noncontroversial, easily collectable, and inexpensive source -- menstrual blood.
--
Stromal stem cells derived from menstrual blood exhibit stem cell properties, such as the capacity for self-renewal and multipotency," said Amit N. Patel, MD, MS, Director of Cardiac Cell Therapy at the University of Pittsburgh's McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine. "Uterine stromal cells have similar multipotent markers found in bone marrow stem cells and originate in part from bone marrow."

A day later, a Japanese study shows that cells from menstrual blood may be useful in repairing heart damage.

The success rate is 100 times higher than the 0.2 to 0.3 percent for stem cells taken from human bone marrow, researcher Shunichiro Miyoshi, a cardiologist at Keio University's school of medicine, told French news agency AFP.

There's even a company that's begun menstrual blood banking!

It wasn't so long ago that the public and scientific consensus was that stem cells could only be harvested from human embryos. 

I'm not the only one who remembers the hysteria that surrounded President  Bush's decision not to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. 

Charles Krauthammer does in Technology Vindicates Morality.    So does the Anchoress who reminds us that embryonic stem cells have produced nightmarish results in the lab and never had a successful application.

So far there have been 73 successful treatments using adult stem cells and none for embryonic stem cells.

Doing good by doing no harm works.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:18 PM | Permalink

Stockpiling Food

When the Wall St. Journal says it's time to Load Up the Pantry for a good return on your cash, pay attention.

           Pantry

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.
--
Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate.
--
Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.
--
You can't easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.
--
The good news is that it's easier to store Cap'n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

April 24, 2008

Beaten back by a 95-year-old woman in a wheelchair!

I love stories about feisty old women fighting off criminals.  Here's one that tops them all.

When a man smashed the glass of the door to force his way inside, a  95-year-old woman in a wheelchair fought him off with a screwdriver!

For an hour and a half she fought him until he passed out and she could call 911!

Every time the man would poke his hand through the window she jabbed him until he quit.
--
"There was busted glass where they had busted out.  She had blood on her. There was glass in her hair."
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“What do you tell your friends in county jail, where did you get those wounds? I don't know that he's going to tell them he got them from a 95-year-old lady confined to a wheel chair."
--
Police suspect it will be a long time before anyone trespasses on her property and neighbors like Gerri call her a hero.  “She's very sweet.  She doesn't want to go to the nursing home and she's doing a pretty good job protecting herself.

Hats off to Gerri Grindle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:05 PM | Permalink

April 22, 2008

Teaching the young about sex

What are we teaching young people about sex? 

Too many parents have abdicated their roles as mentors to the young because their own experience has been painful.  They don't have the fortitude to counter the toxic societal message that casual sex is free, fun and only recreation.

Janice Shaw Crouse gives us some Straight Talk About Casual Sex

We cannot expect young people to act responsibly when adults - whose thinking is sometimes clouded by their rationalization of their own hurtful and toxic sexual experimentation - are irresponsible by not providing the best possible information to encourage self-discipline and self-control, which are the surest keys to young peoples' long-term well-being.

Her truths
1. Casual sex impairs the ability to establish a lasting emotional bond.
2. Casual sex leaves young people alone and lonely.
3. The "sexual revolution" has produced dramatic increases in sexually transmitted diseases.

She has the facts behind them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

The golden years are really golden

The oldest Americans are also the happiest

"The good news is that with age comes happiness," said study author Yang Yang, a University of Chicago sociologist. "Life gets better in one's perception as one ages.
---
Yang's findings are based on periodic face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of Americans from 1972 to 2004. About 28,000 people ages 18 to 88 took part.

They are also far more social than we have been lead to believe, one factor in their happiness, along with being content with what they have and who they are.

The unhappiest time is midlife and the boomers are the unhappiest of all.

Yang's study also found that baby boomers were the least happy. They could end up living the unfortunate old-age stereotype if they can't let go of their achievement-driven mind-set, said George, the Duke aging expert.
---
So far, baby boomers aren't lowering their aspirations at the same rate earlier generations did. "They still seem to believe that they should have it all," George said. "They're still thinking about having a retirement that's going to let them do everything they haven't done yet."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:36 AM | Permalink

April 19, 2008

Art at Yale

I didn't know what I was going to write about the horrifying , depraved and odious "art" project by the Yale University student.  Then I read Siggy's piece on Progressive Art and he says it all so I don't have to.

I'm just going to add a quote from Gerard

People have actually come to believe that labeling something "art" gives it a Get-Out-Of-Condemnation-Free card; that there really is some sort of immutable and unwritten social rule that if I say something is "art," then everyone who says what I am about is depraved, sick, and evil must simply back off. It matters little that time will consign the 'art' of Shvarts to the sewer of works that vanish. What matters is that in her little time here she has already managed to degrade the souls of others just a little more, just a little deeper.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:14 PM | Permalink

April 16, 2008

Societal cost of divorce and unwed mothers

How much does divorce cost us as a society? 

According to a new study it's at least $112 billion/year

“Even a small improvement in the health of marriage in America would result in enormous savings to taxpayers,” he
continued. “For example, a 1 percent reduction in rates of family fragmentation would save taxpayers $1.1 billion.”

“These costs are due to increased taxpayer expenditures for anti-poverty, criminal justice and education programs, and
through lower levels of taxes paid by individuals whose adult productivity has been negatively affected by increased
childhood poverty caused by family fragmentation,” said principal investigator Ben Scafidi, Ph.D., economics
professor at Georgia College & State University.

UPDATE.  David Freddoso looks more deeply into the study and finds that the cost of divorce and illegitimacy are greater that the annual cost of the Iraq war.

family fragmentation is the second leading case of poverty in the United States, after lack of full-time work

the very cautious assumptions behind the study ensure that the final result underestimates the cost to taxpayers.

--Marital stability does not just avert great public expense, as Scafidi shows, but it also defends communities from much broader economic ills — to say nothing of its social, moral, or religious significance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

YouTube Divorce

Let's hope this doesn't catch on.  It's appalling.

Angry wife tries divorce-by-YouTube tactic.

the wife of a major Broadway theater operator — had taken to YouTube to spill the secrets of a marriage in an apparent effort to gain leverage and humiliate the other side.

“This is absolutely a new step, and I think it’s scary,” said Bonnie Rabin, a divorce lawyer who has handled high-profile cases. “People used to worry about getting on Page Six (the gossip page of the New York Post.) But this? It brings the concept of humiliation to a whole new level.

Trisha Walsh Smith's video here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

April 15, 2008

Speech compelled by government coercion

Whatever you feel about homosexual rights ( and isn't every person due full respect as a human being/) , if you value the right to  free speech and freedom of religion, you have to be disturbed by the recent decision of the New Mexico Human Rights Commission (HRC) . 

A lesbian couple went to an evangelical Christian husband and wife photographic team  to hire them to take their wedding photographs.  They refused to photograph the same-sex ceremony for reasons of religious conscience.  The New Mexico HRC
fined them $6600. 
Fortunately hat decision is being appealed

Mr. and Mrs. Huguenin was represented by Jordan Lorence, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), who argued that photography was a form of artistic expression, thus forcing the couple to photograph the wedding was a form of compelled speech prohibited by the First Amendment.

"It was a very short order [with] absolutely no reference to the First Amendment defenses that we raised," Mr. Lorence told the Washington Times. "I find this a stunning disregard for the First Amendment issues in this case."

"This is compelled speech; this is forcing a photographer to advance a message with her artistic skills that she would not do absent government coercion," Mr. Lorence said.

Would it be so hard for the lesbian couple to tolerate and respect their views and just go somewhere else? 

Aren't we all obligated to do so in this rich, variegated society of so many different peoples, practice tolerance.

via Kathy Shadie

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 PM | Permalink

April 14, 2008

UNESCO destroys thousands of books

I found this extraordinary and demoralizing but not surprising.    Remember this the next time you order UNESCO cards or send your kids out to collect funds for the same. 

U.N. Organization Destroyed Thousands of Books

For more than two decades, 250 historians and specialists labored to produce the first six volumes of the General History of Latin America, an exhaustive work financed by UNESCO, the United Nations organization created to preserve global culture and heritage.

Then, over the course of two years, UNESCO paid to destroy many of those books and nearly 100,000 others by turning them to pulp, according to an external audit.

--
Mexico's ambassador, Homero Aridjis, said at the organization's executive council meeting this past week: "This is not only a blow to the culture and knowledge of entire populations and nations, it contradicts the mandate entrusted to UNESCO."
--
The director general of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, said it was "completely incomprehensible and inappropriate" that some of the organization's "most important and successful collections" were ordered destroyed, including histories of humanity and Africa, and surveys of ancient monuments.

When the book warehouses were moved from Paris to Brussels, UNESCO officials ordered the books pulped so they wouldn't have to pay to move them.

Just think how many schools around the world would have been ecstatic to receive these books.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 PM | Permalink

Learning how to be happy

Anna Pasternak is astonished to learn and experience for herself that the skills of happiness can be taught.

Happy now?  The course claiming to replace the blues with true happiness

Some selections from  her diary of her encounter with American professor Richard Davidson

"You will never be happy as long as you are afraid of your sadness. You don't have to learn to like your unhappiness - but you do have to learn not to be afraid of it.
--
His key message is that it is not self improvement that will make us happy, but self-acceptance.

"Classically, people believe that if they improve themselves enough, they will be happy. But we can never improve enough.
--
Holden explains the difference between who we really are and who we think we are: our "essential self" as opposed to our "self-concepts".

He warns that self-image can be extremely detrimental to happiness. Often, we allow our "story" about who we think we are to become our identity. 

"You can try to change your thoughts, but they are driven by your identity. If you want to change your thinking, change your identity."
--
When Robert Holden said: "You must let go of your hope for a better past" something released inside. I felt unbelievably drained but buoyant. As if I've re-ignited hope.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

Renowned oncologist changes position on euthanasia after contracting cancer

For many years, the renowned European oncologist Sylvie Menard was a supporter of euthanasia.  Now that she's contracted bone cancer, she's changed her mind.

Menard told the magazine that she always believed that each person should decide his own fate, but ‘when I became ill, I changed my position radically.”

“When you get sick, death ceases to be something virtual and becomes something that is with you every day,” she said.  “So you say to yourself: ‘I am going to do everything possible to live as long as possible.”

Menard, who is married and has one son, acknowledged, “Today anything that means a new chance at life is valuable to me.”
--
She said that those who promote euthanasia do so for two reasons: they don’t want to suffer and they don’t want to lose self-sufficiency, thus becoming a burden for others.

She agreed that people who are ill “do not want to experience pain” and that “they have a right to alleviate it”. She also emphasized that “pain therapy has advanced considerably in recent years.”

“Even if you do not have complete use of your faculties and you cannot get up because you are confined to bed, but you still have the affection of your family members, in my opinion, even in those conditions, it’s worth it to keep living,” she said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

April 12, 2008

How JFK quit drugs

From the London Times comes an article on The drug abuse of John F. Kennedy.

Basically a review of a new book "In Sickness and in Power: Illnesses in Heads of Government during the Last 100 Years" (David Owen), former Foreign Secretary and medic David Owen reviews the health and medication of world leaders in the past century.

The chapter on Kennedy is jaw-dropping.

Owen starts by convincingly asserting that Kennedy was much sicker than is commonly appreciated and certainly much sicker than was appreciated at the time. His Addison's disease was very debilitating and needed constant attention.

And there were other health troubles. During the Bay of Pigs fiasco Owen writes that Kennedy had:

Constant and acute diarrhoea and a recurrence of his urinary tract infection.

Central to Owen's account is the idea that the administration of drugs to Kennedy for these various ailments was out of control.

In particular, without the knowledge of his other doctors and at the same time as they were giving him other drugs, he was being tended to by Max Jacobson, a doctor known as "Dr Feelgood" because of his reputation as a provider of amphetamines and pep pills. In time Jacobson's drug treatment became almost a recreational drug for Kennedy.

Dr. Hans Kaus took control of Kennedy's medication and ended his drug abuse later that year .

He demanded total control and began using massage rather than injections to treat the President. He also got rid of Jacobson, telling Kennedy:

If I ever heard he took another shot, I'd make sure it was known. No President with his finger on the red button has any business taking stuff like that.

By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy was back on an even keel.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 PM | Permalink

Blueberries for the Great Forgetting

When David Brooks wrote The Great Forgetting that in era of aging population, "memory is the new sex", he didn't know to add that blue is the new black.  Blue as in blueberries that is.  Or maybe he just forgot.

Getting Forgetful?  Then Blueberries May Hold the Key

Blueberries are a major source of flavonoids, in particular anthocyanins and flavanols. Although the precise mechanisms by which these plant-derived molecules affect the brain are unknown, they have been shown to cross the blood brain barrier after dietary intake. It is believed that they exert their effects on learning and memory by enhancing existing neuronal (brain cell) connections, improving cellular communications and stimulating neuronal regeneration.

And that's not all Science Daily has to say about blueberries.

Blueberries may act to protect the body against damage from oxidative stress and help your balance and coordination.  A compound made of blueberries may become as effective in lowering cholesterol as commercial drugs with far fewer side effects.  After all, wild blueberries have been shown to relax arteries and reduce risks associated with cardiovascular disease.  And the natural pigments that produce that rich deep blue color may help prevent obesity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:13 PM | Permalink

Noel Coward was a spy for Britain

Fascinating historical tidbits from this essay by Stephen Koch in the New York Times

The Playboy was a Spy

“Celebrity was wonderful cover,” Noël Coward said near the end of his life. “My disguise would be my own reputation as a bit of an idiot ... a merry playboy.”
--
Perhaps a lifetime of concealing his own private life gave him a knack for the clandestine. In any case, he said, “I wanted to prove my integrity to myself.”

So he played the fool. “I was the perfect silly ass,” he said. “Nobody ... considered I had a sensible thought in my head, and they would say all kinds of things that I’d pass along.”

 Noel Coward

I love this

When war came, Coward was sent to Paris as a figurehead in a propaganda office, where he made it part of his cover to mock intelligence work as childish games carried out by inept duffers. When someone proposed leafleting the enemy with speeches from Chamberlain and Lord Halifax, he recalled, “I wrote in a memorandum that if the policy of His Majesty’s Government was to bore the Germans to death I didn’t think we had enough time.”

I never knew the Duke and Duchess were so pro-Nazi, a fact over looked in the breathless media coverage of the love story of the king who could not continue as king "without the help and support of the woman I love."

By 1940, the Windsors had graduated from mediocrity into real menace. One factor in the abdication had been that the prime minister had been told, reliably, that the woman inflaming the king’s already fascistic sentiments was a friend of Ribbentrop and the next thing to a Nazi agent. After the abdication, the Windsors were married in the residence of a Nazi collaborator. As the Battle of Britain approached, British intelligence believed — correctly — that Hitler, assisted by Ribbentrop, planned to restore the duke to the throne as a quisling monarch. Worst of all, intelligence suspected that the couple may have been complicit in this treachery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:48 PM | Permalink

A Man of Virtue and Intellect, a Pope of Hope

If you suddenly hear  church bells ringing out next Tuesday around 4 pm, they ring to mark the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States for a six day visit, the schedule for which tire out anyone much less an 81-year-old man.

Catholics around the country are eagerly awaiting the touchdown at Andrews Air Force Base where he will be welcomed by the President and First Lady, the welcoming ceremony on the White House lawn, his meeting with the bishops, vespers at the National Shrine, the Mass in Nationals Park, his meeting with leaders from other faiths,  his visit to the Park East Synagogue,  his speech before the General Assembly of the United Nations, his meeting with young people with special needs and seminarians at St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers, his trip to Ground Zero and his celebration of the Mass at Yankee Stadium. 

Of course, the Catholic media is pulling out all the stops with EWTN carrying live full coverage of every moment.  Peter Steinfels wrote in the New York Times to expect a cliched coverage by the mainstream media as they discover once again that the Pope is indeed Catholic.

Yes, he disagrees with Richard Dawkins that atheism is necessary for salvation. Yes, he believes that Jesus of Nazareth is the son of God and the center of human history. Yes, he thinks that Catholic Christianity is truer than Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or even Protestant Christianity. Astounding. What next?

To its credit the New York Times has set up a blog magisterially entitled A Papal Discussion with noteworthy and informed contributors to assess the Pope's visit.  Still I expect a lot of silly discussion about how the Pope has 'changed', has 'grown', is 'cracking down' all while wearing red Prada shoes.  But since nothing can approach the splendor of the 2000 year old Catholic Church, there will be much fascination with Catholic liturgy and vestments.  What I'm most interested is how they experience and report on a man of such virtue, intellect and moral authority.    How will they report on Pope who writes such extraordinary letters such as Deus caritas est God Is Love and Spe Salvi Saved by Hope.

In Something Beautiful Has Begun, Peggy Noonan remembers asking people who had met John Paul II what they thought or said,

they'd be startled and say, "I don't know, I was crying."

John Paul made you burst into tears. Benedict makes you think. It is more pleasurable to weep, but at the moment, perhaps it is more important to think.

I always liked Pope John Paul II, but it was Cardinal Ratizger who riveted me with his homily to the College of Cardinals as they gathered to elect a new Pope when he spoke of the
dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.

The antidote he said was the development of
a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith. And it is this faith - only faith - that creates unity and is fulfilled in love.

His call to develop a mature adult faith and his powerful intellect and ability to make the vast deposit of the magisterium clear and fresh has made me a fan and deepened my faith.

A lot of other people are getting Pope Fever like Miss Kelly who has snagged a ticket to the Mass in Yankee Stadium.  The Anchoress, who to no one's  surprise, loves Benedict and other Catholic things finds Benedict
warm, pastoral, approachable, quite paternal, and as easy to glean as a dear old uncle sharing fellowship over a cup of tea.
Sissy, a self-confessed agnostic, is getting A glimpse of the clearing and will be ringing her bells that that for many long years, they have never been heard.

With the theme of the Pope's visit "Christ Our Hope",  I expect he will bring us good news and remind us that Christian hope is transformative because it offers assurance that "life will not end in emptiness".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 PM | Permalink

A Man and His Devices

 Self Portrait In Devices

My favorite self-portrait from the Top 10 Self-Portraits of Wired readers.

See them all starting here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:31 AM | Permalink

April 10, 2008

The Chilling Effect of Richard Warman

The circus that's going on in Canada would be amusing but for the fact the Canadian right to free speech is being imperiled by kangaroo courts known as Human Rights Commissions where truth is no defense and due process rights don't exist.

Sean Murphy of the Catholic Civil Rights League aptly summed up one notorious case, in which, "a Christian printer is ordered to produce business cards and letterhead for an organization that promotes pro-pedophilia essays, is fined $5,000 for having refused to do so and is left with $40,000 in legal bills for daring to defend himself."

One man who ran a small restaurant was brought up on charges of human rights abuses because he dared ask a guy who was smoking a marijuana cigarette on his doorstep to move away.

Two transexuals are suing a prominent physician because he refused to perform labiaplasty on them on the grounds that he operates on biological females and doesn't have any experience in labiaplasty on men.

Doesn't this seem crazy to you? You may be wondering what human rights have these people violated.  Join the crowd.

The columnist Mark Steyn was caught up in the madness being called up before two on the CHRCs.  Yesterday the Ontario HRC dropped its investigation against Steyn and Maclean's magazine for printing an except of Steyn's book, America Alone, but not before saying they were guilty of Islamophobia, in what Steyn called a drive by conviction.  Freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence? Nah.

One man in particular is using those commissions as his private star chamber.  Richard Warman has made a profitable business by suing hapless Canadians for thought crimes, achieving a 100% conviction rate, and pocketing tens of thousands of tax-freedollars in awards from the Canadian human rights commissions where he used to be employed for his 'pain and suffering'.    Apparently, he has full access to the HRC investigations and he's perfectly free to use the HRC computers or to hijack the wireless network of a private citizen to pose hate messages on a white supremacist site that apparently wasn't hateful enough.  He is so litigious that the province of British Columbia had to pass a special law to stop him from suing libraries who carried books he didn't approve of.

Now, Warman is suing the Canadian bloggers who have been on his case and reported his nefarious shenanigans to the world, no doubt hoping for private settlements offline.  Not a chance with these folks

Kate McMillan of small dead animals had the effrontery of linking to allegedly libelous statements of Kathy Shadie who writes at five feet of fury and that's just what she's been, allowing Warman no quarter and no  cover for the nasty business he's been engaged in and the nasty piece of work he is.  When a Canadian senator, Anne Cools, announced her intention to intervene before the Supreme Court on the question of gay marriage, Warman posted a under pseudonym ( on Richard Lemire's Freedom site already under investigation because of a complaint Warman filed) that Senator Cools was a "n**ger "and a "c**t".    This revelation seems to be what sparked the lawsuits against Kate, Kathy, Free Dominion, the National Post and Ezra Levant who has posted all the details of the suit.

Steyn wrote yesterday about Global Warman
It's not possible to take a stand against the Canadian Human Rights Commission without also talking a stand against Richard Warman. He has been the plaintiff on half the Section 13 cases in its entire history and on all the Section 13 cases since 2002. There are 30 million Canadians yet only one of them uses this law, over and over and over again.

Make no mistake.  Warman is attempting to censor the free speech of Canadian bloggers by intimidation.
To defend themselves, the bloggers can expect to pay hefty legal fees.  Just the threat that some crazy person like Warman will sue them and you can expect other bloggers to begin, if they haven't already, to censor themselves.  It's called the chilling effect.  If Warman is  successful, if the HRCs are successful, we all lose. Not only will Canadians say or write what they think, the pattern will be attempted here in the USA. Free speech has to be defended and it has its costs.

Please consider, especially if you are a blogger, donating to their defense funds.  Each of them has a button on the site that you can click to donate even a small amount to show support.  Be part of the defense of free speech.

UPDATE:

      Cartoon Mr America
From blazing cat fur who calls such donations "Save the Canadian Blog Children Fund"
" Free speech is your God-Given Right, it should be theirs too"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:59 PM | Permalink

"Age Cool"

With all of us boomers getting older, it's good to know that MIT has an AgeLab to develop new ideas to improve the quality of life for older folk and those that care for them.

Technology and nurses will be our best hopes for aging well because there will not be enough geriatricians for us; there's not enough now as I wrote in "Nothing, It's Too Late."

Selected by the Wall St. Journal as one of the 12 People Who Are Changing Your Retirement, Joseph Coughlin describes his work as "trying to get people to 'age cool'."

he is pushing advances in transportation, health care and housing off drawing boards and into older adults' lives.
And he can't do it quickly enough.
"If we don't hurry," he says, "the products being designed now aren't going to be there when the [baby] boomers need them."


In a piece by David Ho, MIT AgeLab Preparing for an Older Tomorrow, Coughlin is quoted
"Our greatest success is now our greatest challenge," Coughlin says. "Where are you going to live? How are you going to get around? What are you going do in those 10, 20, 30, 40 years of extra time?"

So he founded AgeLab
to unravel a paradox: Humanity in the last century achieved the dream of much longer life, but didn't plan for the effects on work, health and daily living.

One of its projects is a partnership with the Business Innovation Factory and the Tockwotton Nursing Home in Rhode Island to  creating a real-world laboratory for improving elderly care by  developing and testing new solutions, products and models

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:56 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2008

The Advantages of Closing a Few Doors

You might have missed this when John Tierney posted it in February, but even if you did see it, it's worth being reminded that keeping all your options open is not the best advice.

Advantages of Closing a Few Doors

We forget that the point of a decision (from the Latin decidere to cut off) is to cut off options so one can go forward.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

Morrocan bus stop

One person can make a big difference in any community.  Look at what Jane Tinsley did in Cornwall

           Morrocan Bus Stop

Mum-of-three Jane launched her TV-style makeover in a bid to stop vandals attacking the dilapidated building near her home.

Now the bus stop in Fowey, Cornwall, provides a distinctly African feel for people waiting to use public transport and take shelter from the rain.

Jane said: "It was scruffy and horrible and the seat was broken and it is one of the first things people see when they arrive here.

"All the bits of furniture and paintings have been donated by lots of different people who all wanted to see the bus stop improved.

"We had plastic chairs at first but now they have been replaced by better quality wooden ones that people no longer needed in their homes."

Fed up with vandals, she made over her bus stop

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

April 7, 2008

End of life, alone or at home

One third of all federal spending on health care is spent caring for elderly people in the final two years of life.

One reason, I believe, we spend so much is a societal denial of the inevitability of death.  When most people now die in hospitals, it's natural to think that death is a medical failure.

"When you're looking at end-of-life care, too often the care that is delivered is simply a shotgun approach: This person is really sick, so let's try this, this, this, and this," said Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, Massachusetts' health secretary. "People don't understand the limits of technology and providers don't, in a way that is understandable to people, discuss the risks and benefits of certain interventions.

"We are operating in an era where for the most part, the public thinks that consuming more healthcare is better for your health, and that's simply not true."

End-of-life care costlier in Boston

I do not think that government regulations can solve this problem unless there is a rationing of care for the elderly.  An elderly person should be able to get whatever medical treatment he needs or she wants.

As death approaches, it's usually the family that insists on whatever it takes to help grandma.  What grandma wants is the presence of loving family and friends.

Rocco Palmo loves his 93 year-old grandmother who is constantly surrounded by the presence and love of her daughters and other family members; but, when she was hospitalized last Christmas Eve with pneumonia, he saw what was happening in the other hospital rooms.

Walking to Gram's room, I couldn't help but look in the other doors along the way and notice so many patients all alone in their beds, almost writhing with a loneliness and heartbreak you could feel a full ten feet away and almost cut with a knife. In the eeriest of ways, the usually-frenetic hallways felt like a ghost-town, filling the place with a sense of despair, of sadness and pain that was, in a word, brutal, especially given all the lights and celebrations going on in the streets outside and streaming over the TVs.

Thinking about it later, I couldn't help but try to figure out what it was that they were looking for.... And, well, the answer was right there: it might've been 24 December, but in the purest sense of it, they were still waiting for Christmas -- not wrapped gifts, lavish rituals, beautiful music or decorations on trees, but simply the loving, comforting presence of God in a human touch.

Do family members realize that leaving grandpa in the hospital for "whatever it takes"  subjects him to tubes and drops and continuous pokes and prods for yet another test, depriving him of what he wants most, the assurance that only a loving human presence can give him?  Who wants to die in a hospital if it can be avoided in any way.

Death is a profound mystery.  People who have developed a solid Christian faith and who believe in the risen Christ can face death with serenity.  Those lacking faith still want loyal companions to accompany them to the gates of death.  I wish families would consider hospice soon for their elderly relatives who are terminally ill.

As I learned when my mother was dying and all my brothers and sisters came home to be with her, our time together in her last month was wonderful, full of love and laughter, stories and visitors.  Her death was beautiful , at home in her own bed, without tubes, with all the pain medication she needed, surrounded by the children and grandchildren who loved her.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

April 5, 2008

Not Done Yet. The Aging of the Boomers

Some interesting thoughts on the aging of the boomers.

"Boomers have a clear sense that their own aging is next," writes Matt Thornhill, head of the Boomer Project, that focuses on understanding the boomer generation and is part of a larger market research firm. 

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been --And Continues to Be

In survey after survey, boomers tell us they are not yet "done." They have mountains to climb, worlds to conquer, wrongs to right, and grandbabies to kiss. For most boomers, they'll be over the hill when they're under the hill.

The quest, it seems, isn't for the Fountain of Youth, but the Fountain of Vitality. Boomers will spend time, money, and considerable effort to maintain their vitality until their last breath. Viva the Vital! -- Long live the vital! --will be the mantra for the next 40 years. It is the context that explains the path boomers are taking.

John Martin sees  in the retirement of boomers, happy days for organizations that depend on volunteers as they watch their ranks swell by as much as 50%

Boomers are Wired to Work and are volunteering in larger numbers and greater percentages than previous generations.

Our national research suggests that people over the age of 50 (which is where the majority of boomers are at present) have reached a point in life where they are less likely to focus on "becoming someone" and instead are focusing more on "being someone." While younger cohorts are driven more by interpersonal or external social values, boomers, especially boomers over 50, are more motivated by internal values such as self-fulfillment, self-respect, and sense of accomplishment.

Boomers Search for the Wisdom in Faith

Members of the generation that came of age tripping on mind-altering substances are more than likely exploring a new path at midlife and beyond: spiritual enlighten ment. In our work at the Boomer Project, we uncovered that baby boomers, now ages 44 to 62, are shifting their life's focus from trying to "become someone" to more about "being someone." This shift starts to happen around age 50, truly "midlife" (at least) for most of us.

Boomers beyond age 50 typically have become more motivated by inner feelings and beliefs, and are not driven so much by what their friends, peers, co-workers, or even family feel or believe. Boomers at midlife are beginning to wonder about their purpose, and what legacy they will leave. And it is the culmination of these feelings that has many midlife boomers becoming more religious and spiritual.

It surprised me to learn that six in seven boomers identify a religious affiliation.

When Thornhill wondered how he found himself back at church at 48, he found  Dr. Gene Cohen's concept of the smarter and wiser brain and "developmental intelligence"  compelling, 

This is the combination of wisdom, judgment, perspective, and vision one develops later in life. It is characterized by three types of thinking and reasoning typically developed after age 50 or so: relativistic thinking (recognizing that knowledge is relative and not absolute); dualistic thinking (the ability to uncover and resolve contradictions in opposing and seemingly incompatible views); and systemic thinking (being able to see the larger picture, to distinguish between the forest and the trees).
---
Accepting religion requires faith, which is not a black and white thing at all. Most religions require followers to uncover and resolve contradictions as a matter of course. And one must be able to see the larger picture in order to accept the tenets and beliefs of most religions. All of these tasks are much easier for boomers who have brains that are growing older and wiser every day.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2008

Willpower is a muscle

I can remember hearing that willpower is a muscle that must be exercised to grow strong.   

Now it seems that studies prove that consistently doing one activity that requires self-control seems to increase willpower.     

Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind

In psychological studies, even something as simple as using your nondominant hand to brush your teeth for two weeks can increase willpower capacity. People who stick to an exercise program for two months report reducing their impulsive spending, junk food intake, alcohol use and smoking. They also study more, watch less television and do more housework. Other forms of willpower training, like money-management classes, work as well.

After giving up candy and chocolate for Lent, I found easier to control my sweet tooth by eating more fruits and vegetables for snacks and that effect has persisted after Easter.  Even though I now can eat all the chocolate I want, I 'm still cutting up cucumbers and celery for snacks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

Why you can't carry your coffee onto the plane

These are the British Muslims, now on trial for their conspiracy to detonate liquid explosives on transatlantic passenger flights, "all in the name of Islam."

     British Muslims

Airline terror plotters planned bigger 9/11

Their plans were allegedly so advanced that they had drawn up details of specific flights to be targeted and bought the components needed to make hydrogen peroxide bombs disguised as soft drinks such as Lucozade and Oasis.

But they were arrested before they were able to make "a violent and deadly statement of intent that would have truly global impact", a jury was told.
--
The alleged bombers had drawn up plans to attack seven Boeing 777, 767 and 763 aircraft, each carrying between 241 and 285 passengers and crew, operated by American Airlines, United Airlines and Air Canada, said Mr Wright.

The next time you have to dump your coffee and want to complain about the new restrictions on carrying liquids on airplanes, remember them and why the restrictions were imposed.

Let's not forget that In Britain, terrorism by Muslim fanatics has been renamed "anti-Islamic activity.

The head of MI5 has warned that 4000 Muslim fanatics are on the loose.  Terror attacks, he said, are part of a deliberate campaign by Al Qaeda.  Thankfully, they caught these eight.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

Gender Confusion

Thomas Beatie says (s)he has a very stable male identity, but (s)he appears to be a hopelessly confused woman who was artificially inseminated with sperm purchased from a sperm bank.

The proof - (s)he's pregnant.

Men don't get pregnant.  This is not a news flash.

(S)he is not a man, despite  an operation to remove her breasts and doses of testosterone to grow facial hair.    (S)he  harbored a desire to have a baby, so (s)he didn't have her reproductive organs removed.

 Pregnant Man

In Oregon, (s)he registered as a man, the state accepted that change and recognized her marriage to another woman.

Their decision to go public, I suspect, may have much to do with wanting to get a contract to write a book and now that they have been on Oprah who is collaborating with People magazine, a contract I'm sure is in the offing.

The sexes and their roles in propagating the species haven't changed; it's just that some people doing it have gotten more odd.  Medical technology can do all sorts of wonders to help people solidify their gender confusion, but it can't change reality and the basic laws of nature.

Now people may be willing to call her a 'man' because (s)he insists on it, but (s)he isn't and nothing (s)he says will change that.  (S)he's a freak of nature.

I feel sorry for the poor baby born to this couple.

If you want to see more pictures of the "pregnant man" who told Oprah (s)he feared her baby would be killed, click here.   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:07 AM | Permalink

April 3, 2008

Sad Stats

How we spend our time has a great deal to do with how happy we are. 

Down the Tube: Sad Stats on Happiness, Money and TV

Sure our natural disposition and our  circumstances matter, but what we have most control over is how we spend our leisure time.

The standout cluster was what the authors label "engaging leisure and spiritual activities," things like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a cafe or going to a party. When we spend time on our favorite of these activities, we're typically happy, engrossed and not especially stressed.

"These are things you choose to do, rather than have to do," notes one of the study's co-authors, Prof. Schkade of the University of California, San Diego. we spend too much time watching television rather than time on "engaging leisure and spiritual activities" .

But too many people - women, divorced or separated, the less educated and lower income earners - are likely to spend a bigger chunk of their time in an unpleasant state.

there's been a significant increase in the hours devoted to what the authors call "neutral downtime," which is mostly watching television. Women now spend 15% of their waking hours staring at the tube, while men devote 17%.

Watching TV may be low-stress and moderately enjoyable. But people aren't mentally engaged the way they are when they're, say, exercising or socializing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 PM | Permalink

Revolting against their parents' generation

This generation that will save the country from what we boomers have done to it.

'Millennials' show respect for values

Walter Thompson, the nation's largest advertising agency...has plumbed the consciousness of the so-called "millennials" — those between 21 and 29 — to reveal a generation brimming with adultlike respect for American institutions, family values and work ethics, despite a few quirks.

Among the findings: 94 percent said they respect monogamy and parenthood, while 84 percent revere marriage. Eighty-eight percent respect the U.S. Constitution, 84 percent respect the military and more than three-fourths believed in the proverbial "American dream." Fewer than one in four, however, said they have any admiration for Hollywood.

"We were completely surprised. There has been a faulty portrayal of millennials by the media — television, films, news, blogs, everything. These people are not the self-entitled, coddled slackers they're made out to be. Misnomers and myths about them are all over the place," said Ann Mack, who directed the survey and is the official "director of trend-spotting" at the agency.

"Their opinions of monogamy and marriage are products of the era they grew up in, a reaction against a reality-TV world or their unstable childhoods. They are more traditional in their views because they want something better for their own families," Ms. Mack said.

It's an astonishing survey.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

April 1, 2008

The dark side of the BBC newsroom

Astonishingly, a fight breaks out behind a television reader at the BBC.  You have to watch this one.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:55 AM | Permalink

Women MBAs More Likely to Divorce

A professional degree can be hazardous to marital health concludes a soon-to-be-pubished survey after analyzing National Science Foundation survey of more than 100,000 professionals.

Women MBAs More Likely to Divorce Than Men

Women with M.B.A.s are twice as likely to get divorced or separated as their male counterparts. The picture isn't much rosier for women with law or medical degrees--\Prof. Wilson also found that female professionals abstain from marriage at double and sometimes nearly triple the rate of men.
----
Ms. Hewlett believes more is at play than just a prevailing image that high-earning women are a threat to men. Suggesting that highly successful women are attracted to similarly successful men, she put forward the idea that such women "can't summon up the TLC and support that high-earning men need."

Her advice? Well-educated, highly compensated women should be targeting particularly loving and supportive men.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

Bored by Decency

After years of working as a psychiatrist at one of Britain's prisons, observing closely the destructive behavior and environments that brought him his clients, Theodore Dalrymple analyzed the underclass:
"not poor... by the standards of human history" but trapped in "a special wretchedness" from which it cannot emerge.

   

"Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass" (Theodore Dalrymple)

Long term poverty, he concludes, is caused not by economics but by a dysfunctional set of values.

"The combination of relativism and antipathy to traditional culture has played a large part in creating the underclass, thus turning Britain from a class to a caste society. ... Henceforth what they had and what they did was as good as anything, because all cultures and all cultural artifacts are equal. Aspiration was therefore pointless: and thus they have been immobilized in their poverty -- material, mental, and spiritual -- as completely as the damned in Dante's Inferno. Having in large part created this underclass, the British intelligentsia, guilty about its own allegedly undemocratic antecedents, feels obliged to flatter it by imitation and has persuaded the rest of the middle class to do likewise."

The searing account of British youth in Time magazine, Britain's Mean Streets,  is getting a lot of attention across the pond by ordinary people defenseless in their encounters with 'youths' and despairing of the reluctance of the police to do anything to protect them.

the increase in nasty teenage crime that really has Britain spooked. Violent offenses by British under-18s rose 37% in the three years to 2006. Last September, 29-year-old Gavin Waterhouse died from an assault by two boys. It was recorded on a cell phone by a 15-year-old girl. In January, three teenagers from northwestern England were convicted of kicking to death 47-year-old Garry Newlove after he tried to stop them vandalizing his car. In the wake of their trial, the Sun newspaper declared "the most important issue now facing Britain" to be "the scourge of feral youngsters."
--

All that is true. But it is also true that for what Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children's Society, calls a "significant minority" of British children, unhappiness — and the criminality, excessive drinking and drug-taking and promiscuity that is its expression — really have created a crisis. Says Camila Batmanghelidjh, the founder of Kids Company, an organization working with some of London's poorest young: "If I was sitting in government, I'd be really worried — not about terrorist bombs but about this.

What accounts for the epidemic of self-destructiveness that has struck British society?    Dalrymple offered this explanation in an interview with Front Page magazine following the publication of his book :


"

"Our Culture, What's Left of It: The Mandarins and the Masses" (Theodore Dalrymple)

One reason for the epidemic of self-destructiveness that has struck British, if not the whole of Western, society, is the avoidance of boredom. For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness. I have noticed, for example, that women who frequent bad men - that is to say men who are obviously unreliable, drunken, drug-addicted, criminal, or violent, or all of them together, have often had experience of decent men who treat them well, with respect, and so forth: they are the ones with whom their relationships lasted the shortest time, because they were bored by decency. Without religion or culture (and here I mean high, or high-ish, culture) evil is very attractive. It is not boring.   

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

When everything is not fine

Don't offer theories as to why they got sick, don't ask for their prognosis, don't give unsolicited advice, and don't insist that "everything is going to be just fine." 

How to Support a Loved One Reeling from a Cancer Diagnosis

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink