June 28, 2008

The Best and the Brightest?

I went to an elite college and much as I am grateful for the fine, indeed excellent, educational experience I had, it's taken me decades to strip away the disadvantages William Deresiewicz writes about in  The Disadvantages of an Elite Education  in The American Scholar.  A brilliant essay.

The first disadvantage of an elite education, as I learned in my kitchen that day, is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you.
because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it.
But it isn’t just a matter of class. My education taught me to believe that people who didn’t go to an Ivy League or equivalent school weren’t worth talking to, regardless of their class. I was given the unmistakable message that such people were beneath me. We were “the best and the brightest,” as these places love to say, and everyone else was, well, something else: less good, less bright.

.. elite universities ... select for and develop one form of intelligence: the analytic. While this is broadly true of all universities, elite schools,... But social intelligence and emotional intelligence and creative ability, to name just three other forms, are not distributed preferentially among the educational elite. The “best” are the brightest only in one narrow sense. One needs to wander away from the educational elite to begin to discover this.

The second disadvantage, implicit in what I’ve been saying, is that an elite education inculcates a false sense of self-worth
If one of the disadvantages of an elite education is the temptation it offers to mediocrity, another is the temptation it offers to security.
if you’re afraid to fail, you’re afraid to take risks, which begins to explain the final and most damning disadvantage of an elite education: that it is profoundly anti-intellectual. This will seem counterintuitive....The system forgot ... that the true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers.
So when students get to college, they hear a couple of speeches telling them to ask the big questions, and when they graduate, they hear a couple more speeches telling them to ask the big questions. And in between, they spend four years taking courses that train them to ask the little questions—specialized courses, taught by specialized professors, aimed at specialized students.
The disadvantage of an elite education is that it’s given us the elite we have, and the elite we’re going to have.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

June 27, 2008

A Small but Satisfying Victory

Freedom of religion and freedom of speech are the primary jewels we have been given as Americans, part of our common patrimony.  To see them under threat and being attacked in Canada was alarming, a little too close to home.  Like acid rain and pollution which know no boundaries, such threats should be stopped at the source.  And so I have written ...

      Whither Canada?
      The Chilling Effect of Richard Warman
      "Freedom of Speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value"

The good news is that many others are concerned and most of them are playing a much larger part than I.    The other good news ...

On Thursday, the Canadian "Human Rights" Commission dismissed the complaint of the Canadian Islamic Congress against Maclean's magazine for printing an excerpt of Mark Steyn's America Alone.

Counsel to the Islamic Congress, Faisal Joseph expressed his disappointment and claimed "inappropriate political pressure."

Steyn was sited at the Prime Minister's Garden and when told of the decision joked maybe he should appeal.

 Mark Steyn After Dismissal

Macleans responded
Though gratified by the decision, Maclean's continues to assert that no human rights commission, whether at the federal or provincial level, has the mandate or the expertise to monitor, inquire into, or assess the editorial decisions of the nation's media. ...We enthusiastically support those
parliamentarians who are calling for legislative review of the commissions with regard to speech issues.

Still to watch is the decision from the HRC of British Columbia and the many cases filed against Christians and others like the comedian recently charged for his offensive comments against a pair of hecklers.

The best solution is to get rid of all the silly pseudo-judicial commissions and revert to the common law which has done quite well over the past 800 years in taking care of the true free speech abuses -  fraud, defamation and libel.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

June 26, 2008

The Spirit of Appeasement

An Anatomy of Surrender   Bruce Bawer argues, quite convincingly, that too many Westerners, motivated by fear and multiculturalism, are acquiescing to creeping sharia.

These 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.

Call it a cultural surrender. The House of War is slowly—or not so slowly, in Europe’s case—being absorbed into the House of Submission.
The driving force on the road to sharia is the media who have caught the spirit of the age which is nothing other than the spirit of appeasement.

Bawer expands on the role the New York Times plays  in The Times, It Ain't a-Changin

Let’s examine some highlights from the history of the Times — not only America’s most famous newspaper, but the one from which the nation’s media have, to an extraordinary extent, taken their lead for generations. These highlights do not even begin to tell the whole story of the Times’s treatment of totalitarianism over the decades, of course, but they point to something chronic, unhealthy, and dishonest at the heart of the Gray Lady’s editorial sensibility that has yet to be effectively addressed - and that has its counterparts in countless less prominent media on which the Times has long exerted a major influence.

There follows a sad litany of the NYT's denial of the famine under Stalin, its failure to report on the vicious  anti-semitism of the Nazi regime, its far too long  denial of genocide against the Jews in Germany and its portrayal of Fidel Castro as a romantic, guerilla hero.

In this sense, the Times is not a liberal newspaper at all, but deeply conservative, determined above all to provide its largely comfortable and affluent readers with a consistent, predictable picture of the world that doesn’t challenge their own worldview in any significant way or make them feel obliged to deal with things they’d prefer not to deal with. Certainly a loyalty to “established patterns” is a factor in the refusal by the Times and other media today to report honestly on the dramatic changes in European society wrought by the continent’s ongoing Islamization.
The Times should have learned a valuable lesson or two from its past. But it’s making exactly the same mistakes today with Islam in the West that it did with Stalinism and Hitlerism, ignoring and discrediting the testimony of honest observers while giving legitimacy to tyranny’s sympathizers and apologists. The Times’s power is such that it might play an immensely positive role in educating its readers about the situation before them and helping them to recognize where their own responsibilities lie. Instead it’s pursuing an editorial policy that bids fair to be every bit as disastrous as was its approach to Stalin, the Holocaust, and Castro. And a large segment of the mainstream Western media is following its example.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

Vitamin D for chronic pain and fatigue

An analysis of 22 clinical studies of patients with varied chronic pain and fatigue syndromes found almost all patients lacked vitamin D, U.S. researchers said.

Stewart B. Leavitt, editor of Pain Treatment Topics and author of the report, said when sufficient vitamin D supplementation was provided, the aches, pains, weakness and related problems in most of the patients either vanished or were at least helped to a significant extent.

Vitamin D helps with chronic pain, fatigue

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

Itching is something else utterly strange

Atul Gawande's essays in The New Yorker are always a must-read for me.

But I warn you, when you read The Itch, you will feel that "diabolical and peculiar sensation". 

You will want to scratch, so scratch and enjoy it.  So don't go so far as this poor woman.

For M., certainly, it did: the itching was so torturous, and the area so numb, that her scratching began to go through the skin. At a later office visit, her doctor found a silver-dollar-size patch of scalp where skin had been replaced by scab. M. tried bandaging her head, wearing caps to bed. But her fingernails would always find a way to her flesh, especially while she slept.

One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain.

Itching it turns out is not pain,  but something else utterly strange.  Just why is it we can't tickle ourselves but we can  make ourselves itchy just by thinking about it?

Turns out it's all in our heads.  Direct visual input is only 20% of what we 'see'; 80% comes from memory.

The account of perception that’s starting to emerge is what we might call the “brain’s best guess” theory of perception: perception is the brain’s best guess about what is happening in the outside world. The mind integrates scattered, weak, rudimentary signals from a variety of sensory channels, information from past experiences, and hard-wired processes, and produces a sensory experience full of brain-provided color, sound, texture, and meaning. We see a friendly yellow Labrador bounding behind a picket fence not because that is the transmission we receive but because this is the perception our weaver-brain assembles as its best hypothesis of what is out there from the slivers of information we get. Perception is inference.

Best cure so far for those who experience sensations in "phantom limbs" is believe it or not -  a mirror.

The mirror box, however, provides the brain with new visual input—however illusory—suggesting motion in the absent arm. The brain has to incorporate the new information into its sensory map of what’s happening. Therefore, it guesses again, and the pain goes away.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 PM | Permalink

Banning Father's Day cards

One in four British children lives with a lone parent - double the figure 20 years ago.

So Father's Day cards have been banned in Scottish schools "for fear of embarrassing classmates who live with single mothers and lesbians.

While local authorities say teachers need to react to the "changing pattern of family life" 
Matt O'Connor, founder of campaign group Fathers For Justice, said: "I'm astonished at this. It totally undermines the role and significance of fathers whether they are still with the child's mother or not.

"It also sends out a troubling message to young boys that fathers aren't important."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 PM | Permalink

Licensed to Hug

A torrent of child protection laws in Britain means that a quarter of adults will have to pass the "pedophile" test before being allowed to interact with any children except their own.

The rise in regulation has fueled an atmosphere of suspicion, left adults afraid to intervene or take responsibility and eroded social bonds.

Child protection laws are 'poisoning the relationships between adults and children.

The Institute for the Study of a Civil Society released its new study, Licensed to Hug and says

The dramatic escalation of child protection measures has succeeded in poisoning the relationship between the generations and creating an atmosphere of suspicion that actually increases the risks to children, according to a new study released today by Civitas.

In Licensed to Hug Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent, argues that children need to have contact with a range of adult members of the community for their education and socialisation, but 'this form of collaboration, which has traditionally underpinned intergenerational relationships, is now threatened by a regime that insists that adult/child encounters must be mediated through a security check'
‘The adult qualities of spontaneous compassion and commitment are, we argue, far more effective safeguarding methods than pieces of paper that promote the messages “Keep Out” and “Watch Your Back”.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2008

The Gloucester Girls

Having lived in beautiful Gloucester for several years, I was even more interested in the story of the Gloucester girls 16 and younger becoming pregnant so they could raise their babies together.

In Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High, Time magazine said

The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers. Sex-ed classes end freshman year at Gloucester, where teen parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center. Strollers mingle seamlessly in school hallways among cheerleaders and junior ROTC. "We're proud to help the mothers stay in school," says Sue Todd, CEO of Pathways for Children, which runs the day-care center.

Clearly access to contraception will do nothing to prevent young girls who want to become pregnant.

Kay Hymowitz in Gloucester Girls Gone Wild writes

But the story could have one upside: it might expose the folly of much of what has passed for wisdom about teen pregnancy. I say might because so far the media seems to be having trouble grasping what happened in this old, largely Catholic fishing town.
übersocialized middle-class experts, journalists, and policy makers aren’t addressing the fact that girls tend to like babies. In most cultures in human history, 15- or 16-year-olds were seen as viable mothers (only after being married off, of course), so biological urge coincided with social need.
In the past, the problem was held at bay by a combination of sexual reticence, social disapproval, and a no-baby-without-marriage rule, since it wasn’t easy to find a presentable boy ready to sign on to a life sentence at 16. No more. Sexual reticence is now deemed something on the order of a Victorian perversion. Social disapproval? Nowhere evident. The Gloucester school’s superintendent found that most townspeople greeted with a yawn the news that local teen pregnancy rates were soaring,
Then there’s the point compellingly made by Kathleen Parker in her new book Save the Males: Americans aren’t all that keen on fathers these days. A girl eyeing her cousin’s cute little baby girl used to believe that she had to find a husband before she could have one of her own. Now, she can bypass the husband problem and just spend a little leisure time with the homeless guy on Main Street. Who cares if Dad is an addict or a tramp? They’re all bums—or jerks—anyway

What is so distressing is the poverty-stricken future that lies ahead for these girls and their children.  The 'unmarriage' revolution that Kay Hymowitz writes of in her book does more to contribute to the growing inequality in America than anything else.

"Marriage and Caste in America: Seperate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age" (Kay S. Hymowitz)

The increase in single mothers raising children is not just a problem in Gloucester.  Intact families with mothers and fathers raising children is the most important element in a sound society with a hopeful future for all.  Sadly, it's the least educated girls, thirsting to be loved,  who become prey for older, unscrupulous males, seduced into believing that sex equals love.

The battle to point to an alternative way of living -
sexual self-control, resilience against passing temptations, better avenues of communication, a wider range of interests, and, ultimately, the ability to make a complete gift of self to another in marriage -
is being lost when the ACLU and Planned Parenthood have teamed up
in an aggressive campaign over the past several years—a campaign to pressure states to eliminate abstinence education and to reject federal funding for these programs. .... The goal is to get enough states to refuse the federal abstinence-education funding to the point where the ACLU and Planned Parenthood can convince Congress to eliminate such funding entirely.

All this is happening, by the way, as fresh reports arrive almost every month about the benefits of teen abstinence and the effectiveness of abstinence programs.

The War on Abstinence

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

Wonder Drug 'Cures' Shyness

Oxytocin, the natural hormone that assists childbirth bonding the mother to the infant, and dubbed the 'love drug' because it also bonds lovers together is now being considered for use in the U.K. to treat shyness.

Produced naturally in the brain during social interactions, it promotes romantic feelings, helps mothers bond with babies and makes people more sociable.

Oxytocin is released during orgasm and is also the key birthing hormone that enables the cervix to open and the contractions to work. Where labour has to be induced, it is often given to the mother intravenously to kick-start contractions.

Professor Zak said: 'We've seen that it makes you care about the other person. It also increases your generosity towards that person. That's why (the hormone) facilitates social interaction.'

Scientists find childbirth wonder drug that can 'cure' shyness

Autistic patients given oxytocin as part of a study in New York found their ability to recognise emotions such as happiness or anger in a person's tone of voice - something which usually proved difficult - also improved.

Experiments by Dr Eric Hollander at the city's Mount Sinai School of Medicine found a single intravenous infusion of the chemical triggered improvements that lasted for two weeks.

Previous research has revealed autistic children have lower than usual levels of oxytocin in their blood.

Professor Zak said: 'Oxytocin does not cure autism, but it does reduce the symptoms.'

My earlier post on oxytocin, A Wash of Love

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

How Rich People Spend Their Time

They don't lay about watching TV.

People who make less than $20,000 a year, for example, told Kahneman and his colleagues that they spend more than a third of their time in passive leisure -- watching television, for example. Those making more than $100,000 spent less than one-fifth of their time in this way -- putting their legs up and relaxing. Rich people spent much more time commuting and engaging in activities that were required as opposed to optional. The richest people spent nearly twice as much time as the poorest people in leisure activities that were active, structured and often stressful -- shopping, child care and exercise.

How Rich People Spend Their Time

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:59 AM | Permalink

June 23, 2008

A Blessing with every Breath

If I had died in 1975, without faith, without family, without love, I would have gone with a bitter curse on my lips.

Now, my heart raises a blessing with every remaining breath.

Lawrence Harvey while awaiting a third kidney transplant,  the first lasted for 20 years, the second for two.

Deliver Me or Take Me

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:33 PM | Permalink

You know that money you were counting on?

8 Reasons You Should Not Expect an Inheritance

...with each passing year, the pressures on the nest eggs of those older people will only grow. The truly rich will be fine, as they usually are. But a lot of other people, even retirees with net worths well into the seven figures, could end up spending every dime before they die.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

When a Man Cries

When a man cries, everyone pays attention.

The rarity of male tears lends to them true potency. When a man sheds tears, particularly in the public eye, people sit up and take notice. We know something truly consequential is occurring.

The 15 Greatest Man Cries
from the Art of Manliness along with the 10 times  When Is It Okay for a Man to Cry.

7. Visiting sites that pay tribute to those who laid down their lives for others. Whether running your fingers over the names at the Vietnam War Memorial or watching the oil leak from the sunk USS Arizona, contemplating the sacrifices made by your fellowman should make you tear up.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 PM | Permalink

Where Winners Can't Quit

When Yang Wenjun won an Olympic gold medal in flatwater canoeing four years, he was awarded the deed to a three-bedroom apartment.

Wang, one of China’s most successful water sports athletes, has never lived in his apartment. He has not seen his parents in three years. At 24, he lives 250 miles away at his sport’s training center, where he is preparing for the Beijing Olympics.

Yang said he could not stand his life.
Marek Ploch, a Polish-Canadian who is Yang’s coach, knows how much Yang wants out.

“He doesn’t care about the achievement,” Ploch said. “We just count the days to the Olympic Games. After that, it is possible, maybe, for him to relax until the end of his life.”

“There are many athletes like me who never get the help,” Zou said by telephone. “We are left uneducated, unable to have children and destroyed by a system that told us it would take care of us forever.”

In China’s Medal Factory, Winners Cannot Quit

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

June 20, 2008

Germans love Indians, French love line dancing

You'd be surprised at how enamored Europeans are for American culture. 

There is the  German love affair with the Wild West.  Karl May, the best selling German author of all time, first stoked this love in the 19th century with his totally imaginary novels of cowboys and Indians.

Every summer the Karl May Festspiele  takes place in several German and Austrian locations and draws throngs of visitors .

German fetish for American Indians
At powwows — there are dozens every year — thousands of Germans with an American Indian fetish drink firewater, wear turquoise jewelry and run around Baden-Württemberg or Schleswig-Holstein dressed as Comanches and Apaches. There are clubs, magazines, trading cards, school curriculums, stupendously popular German-made Wild West films and outdoor theaters, including one high in the sandstone cliffs above the tiny medieval fortress town of Rathen, in Saxony, where cowboys fight Indians on horseback. A fake Wild West village, Eldorado, recently shot up on the outskirts of Templin, the city where Angela Merkel, the chancellor, grew up.

When I first skied the Jungfrau, the Swiss Alps above Grindenwald, I was astonished on my first run halfway down to come across  an enormous Indian teepee where where people stopped for coffee, raclette and sausage.

But the French passion for line dancing is a new one for me. 

 French-Line Dancing

They turn out in their hundreds in Stetsons and boots as hits such as the Crazy Foot Mambo and the Cowboy Strut echo around their village halls.
“It's growing at a crazy rate. There are thousands of clubs and more are springing up all the time.”

But leave it to the French who will put line dancing under state regulation with rules, certifications and official country dancing diplomas.

Amateur instructors will have to take 200 hours of training under the new rules. Professionals will get 600 hours, including such subjects as line dancing techniques, “the mechanics of the human body” and the English (or at least Texan) language. They will also learn how to teach line dancing to the elderly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2008

The Pursuit of Happiness

Arthur Brooks seems to be all over the place these days decoding what social science research has found out about happiness.

In the City Journal, he writes that Free People Are Happy People.

Freedom and happiness are highly correlated, then; even more significant, several studies have shown that freedom causes happiness.
Pundits and politicians on the left often tell us that a free economy makes for an unhappy population:... But for most people, it turns out, that isn’t true.

To begin with, those who favor less government intervention in our economic affairs are happier than those who favor more.

Religious freedom—known to the Founding Fathers as the “first liberty”—probably brings happiness, too.
Many of the happiest people in America achieve their happiness through faith. When asked in the 2000 GSS about the experiences that made them feel the most free, about 11 percent of adults put religious and spiritual experiences at the top of the list.

Brooks  reports that religious people who practice their faith are twice as likely to say they are happy than secular people.  The psychological well-being that religion can promote is also linked to better physical health.

"Gross National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America--and How We Can Get More of It" (Arthur C. Brooks)

Brooks, the author of the new published Gross National Happiness writes
According to hundreds of reliable surveys of thousands of people across the land, happy people increase our prosperity and strengthen our communities. They make better citizens--and better citizens are vital to making our nation healthy and strong. Happiness, in other words, is important for America. So when I chanced upon data a couple of years ago saying that certain Americans were living in a manner that facilitated happiness--while others were not--I jumped on it.
I had always thought that marching to the beat of my own drummer and making up my own values as I went along were the right things to do, and that traditional values, to put it bluntly, were for suckers.

Turns out that I was in for some surprises.

In Why We're Happy, he lays out  the top five happiness predictors
1. Faith
2. Work
3. Marriage and Family
4. Charity
5. Freedom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 AM | Permalink


Ana Julie Tores runs an animal shelter in Cali, Columbia and nursed an African lion back to health after it was found abused and emaciated in a traveling circus.

Jupiter the lion hasn't forgotten her kindness in an amazing display of affection,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 AM | Permalink

June 16, 2008

For graduates starting their first real job

You would do well to pass on A Primer for Young People Starting Their First Job to those who have never before encountered taxes, health plans and 401(k) plans they had to pay for.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:06 PM | Permalink

When is Your Sleep Gate?

Having always been a proponent of naps even as other people scoffed, I welcome the solid, scientific evidence that midday naps benefit your mental acuity and your overall health.

 Nap Little Girl

We are biologically programmed to get sleepy twice a day with "an afternoon quiescent phase in our physiology which diminishes our reaction time, memory, coordination, mood and alertness."

 Nap Two Guys

But when is the best time to nap?  Depends on whether you're a lark or an owl.

Larks who get up early have a sleep gate at about 1 pm.  Owls who stay up late find their sleep gate at 2:30 or 3.

 Power Nap

Or if you're like me, it's whenever I feel like it. 

If you've forgotten how, and it's alarming how many people have, the Boston Globe has printed a pull-out guide How to Nap

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 PM | Permalink

June 15, 2008

More Fathers Please

To all fathers who are raising children in the most important job a man can do, my appreciation and a Happy Father's Day. 

Juan Williams tells us just how important in The Tragedy of America's Disappearing Fathers.

As we celebrate Father's Day tomorrow, we should reflect upon a sad fact: It is now common to meet young people in our big city schools, foster-care homes and juvenile centers who do not know their dads. Most of those children have come face-to-face with their father at some point; but most have little regular contact with the man, or have any faith that he loves or cares about them.

When fatherless young people are encouraged to write about their lives, they tell heartbreaking stories about feeling like "throwaway people." In the privacy of the written page, their hard, emotional shells crack open to reveal the uncertainty that comes from not knowing if their father has any interest in them. The stories are like letters to unknown dads – some filled with imaginary scenes about what it might be like to have a dad who comes home and puts his arm around you or plays with you.

They feel like they've been thrown away, Mr. Myers says, because "they don't have a father to push them, discipline them, and they give up trying to succeed . . . they don't see themselves as wanted." A regular theme of their stories is that they feel safer in a foster care home or juvenile detention center than on the outside, because they have no father to hold together the family. There is no one at home

Those who had a father around remember the lessons learned from our fathers.
collected by The Art of Manliness which should be mandatory reading for those lost boys with absent or unknown fathers who must imagine what being a man is about and father themselves.

The truest happiness is in self sacrifice in love like this father, Dick Hoyt, in Team Hoyt    Absolutely amazing love story between father and son.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 PM | Permalink

June 14, 2008

Water, Bugs and Algae for our energy future

Let's hope that some of these great innovations reach commercial distribution and soon.

Breakthrough car only needs water to go.
Genepax unveiled the car in the city of Osaka on Thursday, saying that a litre of any kind of water - rain, river or sea - was all that was needed to get the engine going for about an hour at a speed of 80 km.
Once the water is poured into the tank at the back of the car, the a generator breaks it down and uses it to create electrical power, TV Tokyo said.

Scientists find bugs that eat waste and excrete petrol

the genetic alteration of bugs – very, very small ones – so that when they feed on agricultural waste such as woodchips or wheat straw, they do something extraordinary. They excrete crude oil.

Because crude oil (which can be refined into other products, such as petroleum or jet fuel) is only a few molecular stages removed from the fatty acids normally excreted by yeast or E. coli during fermentation, it does not take much fiddling to get the desired result.

Silicon Valley is looking to develop  Oil 2.0
• LS9 is the company behind the petrol-excreting bugs.
• Google has set up an initiative to develop electricity from cheap renewable energy sources
• Craig Venter, who mapped the human genome, has created a company to create hydrogen and ethanol from genetically engineered bugs

Others see in Algae: the big idea for future energy

Algae, that green stuff in your pond, is being used to make biodiesel in New Zealand. Algae can grow almost anywhere, even in deserts. And some species grow so fast that they double in size three or four times a day. According to Fred Krupp, author of the excellent Earth: The Sequel, it would take only 47 million acres of algae to produce fuel for half of America's cars, compared with 1.5 billion acres of soy beans.
Algae also eat carbon dioxide at a similarly prolific rate. That makes them multitasking miracle-workers: both a fuel and a way to clean up power-plant emissions. Not surprisingly, several companies are now trying to move from relatively small algae beds to industrial scale.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:48 PM | Permalink

June 13, 2008

Hurrah for the Irish Vote

They voted NO to the Lisbon Treaty.  They were the only citizens allowed to vote on the proposed treaty in the only referendum allowed, 3 million voting for the 490 million who were not allowed.

David Pryce Jones explains

The Lisbon Treaty was supposed to mark the moment when the United States of Europe irrevocably became a political and juridical entity, with the character of an empire. In earlier stages of the empire-building process, the French and the Dutch voted NO in referendums, but the European Union and national governments chose to ignore those votes, pressing ahead as though public opinion did not exist. The 27 heads of states in Europe all signed up to the treaty in draft, and all are in the process of ratifying it, simply bulldozing it through by means of presidential decree or parliamentary measures without consulting their populations. The absence of democratic consent would have been delightfully familiar to Stalin.

All except the Irish, that is. Their constitution alone specified a referendum. As usual, the elite, big business, the media, favoured a YES vote, and took it for granted. But the Irish people did not want to lose their constitution or their sovereignty. If other countries in the EU were allowed a similar vote, they too would reject the Lisbon Treaty. In a very real sense, the Irish have spoken for the majority of Europeans.

The E.U. will find someway some way to ignore this resounding NO just as they did two years ago when the French and the Dutch voted NO on the proposed E. U. Constitution which was then repackaged as the Lisbon Treaty.

Richard North has a round-ip at Pajamas Media, the Irish Voters Dump Latest EU Treaty and sent it packing. 

Such an idea is akin to the voters of Colorado deciding on the president of the United States of America, the others leaving it for their state legislatures to decide.

I loved the comment by Letalis Maximus.

First Guinness, now this. The Irish; is there nothing they can’t do?

Bravo, I say. Bravo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:17 PM | Permalink

The Shame of Wellesley

George Leef writes about Mary Lefkowitz, emeritus professor at Wellesley College and her bitter experience defending historical fact over mythical Afrocentrism claims.

How Truth Lost Out to Political Correctness at Wellesley

In her introduction Lefkowitz writes, “Telling the truth, instead of being our first responsibility, has suddenly become less important than achieving social goals. These goals were to be reached not by means of the usual scholarly tools of reflection and reasoned persuasion. They were to be imposed by assertion and fiat.”

One of those “social goals” that now dominate in American education is that of making various minority groups (those designated as victims of our oppressive culture) feel good about themselves. Toward that end, some professors have taken to the creation of myths. The particular myth that plays the central role in this drama is that of the “Stolen Legacy.”
In one particularly ludicrous aspect of this myth, it is asserted that Aristotle journeyed to the Library at Alexandria and stole books that he later claimed as his own works.

When Professor Lefkowitz learned that this and other intellectually indefensible ideas were being taught by a professor (Tony Martin) in the Africana Studies Department, she publicly challenged their historical accuracy. Among other problems with the “stolen legacy” idea is that Aristotle died years before the Library at Alexandria was built. But when she pointed this fact out to Professor Martin, he took umbrage. Who was she, a white Jew, to question his interpretation of black history?! At that point, it began to occur to her that Martin, a tenured faculty member, was one of those people who won’t let the truth get in the way of achieving their objectives.

More disturbing yet, she discovered that the dean of the college would not intervene. Quoth the dean, “He has his view of ancient history and you have yours.”

Read it and weep.  Wellesley, at least its administration, can't handle the truth or thinks its students can't.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2008

Eighty Years in the Making

Each week with my film club we see a movie and then go out for dinner at a nearby restaurant or pub to talk about it and everything else.

Last night we saw Young at Heart, a funny, feel-good movie like no other.  I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering if the audience would be laughing at the old folks.; I was touched to see how moved and delighted the young audiences were.

They've toured Europe and the States and played in prisons.  Their joy in being together and singing is infectious.  Their dedication and hard work is inspiring.

HIghly recommended.

Here's one of their music videos, Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

There's so much fun and life there, it's pure delight.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

Law school dean becomes priest and prison chaplain

They call him 'Doc' at the prison for his four doctoral degrees. 

For decades he was dean of two law schools including Notre Dame. 

Now at 71, a widower and father of five, David Link will be ordained a Catholic priest this Sunday.

When his wife died in 2003 from ovarian cancer, Link said
"I certainly got a call from the Holy Spirit.  It wasn't on a cell phone, but it was a pretty clear call. When the Holy Spirit calls, he doesn't ask how old you are. He just has another job for you."

Urged by his wife, he became a volunteer at the Indiana State Prison where he will continue as full time chaplain after his ordination.

When he began sending the men birthday cards, one inmate, "this big, tough-looking dude," came to his office crying with thanks. No one had ever sent him a birthday card before.

"If you had said to me 10 years ago when I was dean of the law school that I'd first of all go to the seminary, and second that I'd be here working with maximum security prisoners, I would have said you had a bad mental problem," he said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2008

21st Century Romeo and Juliet

A difficult, touchy subject about elderly parents in a nursing home. 

Who controls the intimate lives of people with dementia?

An Affair to Remember. 
She was 82.  He was 95.  They had dementia.  They fell in love.  And then they started having sex.
Gerontologists highly recommend sex for the elderly because it improves mood and even overall physical function, but the legal issues are enormously complicated, as Daniel Engber explored in his 2007 article "Naughty Nursing Homes": Can someone with dementia give informed consent? How do caregivers balance safety and privacy concerns? When families object to a demented person being sexually active, are nursing homes responsible for chaperoning? This one botched love affair shows the incredible intensity and human cost of an issue that, as Dorothy's doctor says, we can't afford to go on ignoring.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:58 AM | Permalink

June 10, 2008

The British Government has no convincing moral direction says the Church of England

A surprising document from the Church of England,  what Ruth Gledhill in the London Times calls the Church's strongest attack on the Government in decades.   

The policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have helped to generate a spiritual, civic and economic crisis in Britain, according to an important Church of England report.

Labour is failing society and lacks the vision to restore a sense of British identity, the report says.... It accuses the Government of “deep religious illiteracy” and of having “no convincing moral direction”.

The report, commissioned for the Church of England and to be published on Monday, accuses the Government of discriminating against the Christian Churches in favour of other faiths, including Islam.

The authors find evidence of deep-seated hostility to the Church in particular, excluding it from important areas of policy and research – despite Mr Blair being one of the most devout prime ministers of the past century. They portray a Government committed to research into Muslim communities but barely interested in Christian involvement in Britain’s civic and charitable life.

This is in spite of what the authors describe as centuries of pioneering work by the Church in areas of welfare and social provision. “We encountered on the part of the Government a significant lack of understanding or interest in the Church of England’s current or potential contribution in the public sphere,” the report says.

They are right. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink

What's Not Being Passed On

One thing the boomer generation is not passing on is the experience of living in an intact family, what the younger generation yearns for. 

Andrew Klaven visited a fourth grade class in a slum recently and was very pleased with himself with the 'riveted attention' of the students.

“Don’t take it personally,” the teacher told me brusquely. “It’s just that they’ve never seen anyone like you before. A man—obviously tough—who’s not a gangster.”
I am: an unapologetic, because-I-said-so, head-of-household male. They used to call us “husbands” and “fathers” back in the day. That’s what these kids had never seen.

At Home in Splitsville, a young man laments

When I was born, my dad's mom was already remarried to a divorced man, who became my grandpa. And my dad's dad married a new woman - already divorced twice from the same man - who became my grandma; that pair are now divorced from each other. My mom's parents also re-coupled with other divorced people. My maternal grandma's new beau happened, through a previous marriage, to be the biological grandfather of three of my cousins. So he was both their paternal grandfather and maternal step-grandfather.

as my wife and I look to start a family of our own. If my goal is to have a happy family - and it is - then surely ending my marriage and losing contact with my future children would be a tremendous failure. It seems the height of folly to declare "never, ever," especially in print. But that's what I want to do. I want to shout from the rooftops: "It won't happen to me! I've learned from their mistakes! I'm different!" And I think I am. I certainly hope so.

Dennis Prager has similiar thoughts and details what's been lost. When I Was a Boy, America Was a Better Place.

When I was boy, I was surrounded by adult men. Today, most American boys (and girls, of course) come into contact with no adult man all day every school day. Their teachers and school principals are all likely to be women. And if, as is often the case, there is no father at home (not solely because of divorce but because "family" courts have allowed many divorced mothers to remove fathers from their children's lives), boys almost never come into contact with the most important group of people in a boy's life -- adult men. The contemporary absence of men in boys' lives is not only unprecedented in American history; it is probably unprecedented in recorded history.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:11 AM | Permalink

June 9, 2008

Will the Irish Save Civilization a Second Time?

No other European nation is giving its citizens the right to vote on whether to accept or reject the Lisbon Treaty which would result in a massive transfer of sovereignty from the nation states to the European Union.

The Irish Post editorializes

First, on Thursday, four million Irish citizens resident in the Irish Republic will be asked to ratify a new democratic structure for the European Union and its 500 million citizens. Despite the fact that this proposed structure will radically alter the relationship between all the member states and the union, and between all the citizens and the union, it apparently does not require the votes of the other 496 million or so citizens. Such is European democracy.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a European superstate run by Eurocrats who are unsackable, founded on a treaty that is unintelligible and watching the democratic linkage between citizen and state disappear under oceans of verbiage. I don’t believe the architects of this treaty, people like Valery Giscard D’Estaing or Guiliano Amato. I think they are practised political truth-massagers, - and tax-free ones to boot. As Amato himself said at the LSE last February: ‘‘The good thing about not calling it a constitution is that no one can ask for a referendum on it.”

Brits at their Best calls it Funeral rites for Britain

In the same week that Magna Carta will be 793 years old, the funeral rites for Britain have begun with scarcely a mention in Britain's mainstream press, or in America's.

Transnational elites have stealthily seized control of European nations and Britain, and though there are three last opportunities to escape the EU this week, it is doubtful that a Britain that has been hollowed out from inside can take advantage of them. If Britain does not, she will be finished as a nation according to the stated intentions of the EU.

Unless the British people rise up and rebel, they will have lost their country and their freedoms - achieved with so much sacrifice - 'not with a bang but with a whimper'.

And so the silence - as if we could pretend that nothing is happening as long as we don't make a sound.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:52 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2008

"Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life"

J. K. Rowling was the commencement speaker at Harvard this week and her most important lesson learned in life she could give to the new graduates was the benefits of failure.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:40 PM | Permalink

Tony Blair Evangelist

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation had its American kickoff last week and Michael Gerson was there to note The Faith That Moves Tony Blair.

Religion, Blair argues, is not going away, as secularists have expected and predicated for centuries. For millions, he noted in his Westminster speech, it is "the motive for their behavior, the thing which gives sense to their lives and purpose to their journeys -- which makes life more than just a sparrow's flight through a lighted hall from one darkness to another, in that memorable image of the Venerable Bede." While religion may sometimes be a source of conflict, it has often been a source of reform and idealism -- as in the fight against slavery, apartheid and genocide. The goal of his faith foundation, he explained to me, is for the major faiths "to work together against injustice rather than prey -- that's p-r-e-y -- on injustice."
"Faith," Blair argues, "is not an historical relic but a guide for humanity on its path to the future. A faithless world is not one in which we want ourselves and our children to live."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2008

Flatulence inoculation

One of the pleasures of growing older is recognizing the threads that appear again and again in the tapestry of one's life.  One thread that always makes me laugh is flatulence.

I told this story in Five Things You Don't Know About Me.

When I began working at the Department of Interior as the Special Assistant to the Solicitor,  I  wrote a number of speeches for the Solicitor, one of which became infamous,  picked up by the Associated Press across the country and, in the end, selected by Parade magazine in its year-end round-up as the best or funniest  environmental stories of the year, I can't remember which.

Let's face it, it's hard to find something interesting and relevant to write about for the South Dakota  Stockgrowers Association, - that's cattlemen to you.    So, when in the course of reading reports from the EPA, and the International Climate Change Committee, I came across the fact that grants were being awarded to study cow flatulence and digestion  as one of the major sources of methane contributing to climate change, I knew I had a winner.  "Windy cows" it was.  The speech wrote itself and the cattlemen loved it.


I followed that with More on Cow Flatulence when years later the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization called livestock a major threat to the environment contributing more to greenhouse emissions than all transportation combined.

So the news that a flatulence inoculation has been developed in New Zealand was  of more than passing interest and not just because it gives me an excuse to post one of the funniest jokes ever.

George W. Bush not only smiles and waves nicely, always knows the right thing to say, too!

Bush and the Queen at London Heathrow, a 300-foot long red carpet is stretched out to Air Force One and Mr. Bush strides to a warm but dignified handshake from Queen Elizabeth II.

They ride in a silver 1934 Bentley limousine to the edge of central London where they board an open 17th century coach hitched to six magnificent white matching horses.

As they ride toward Buckingham Palace, each looking sideways and waving to the thousands of cheering Britons lining the streets, all is going well.

But suddenly the right rear horse lets fly with the most horrendous, earth-rending, eye-smarting blast of gastronomic flatulence ever heard in the British Empire, including Bermuda, Tortola and other islands.

It shakes the coach.

Uncomfortable, but under control, the two dignitaries of state do their best to ignore the whole incident, but then the Queen decides that's ridiculous.

She turns to Mr. Bush and explains, "Mr. President, please accept my regrets. I'm sure you understand that there are some things that even a Queen cannot control."

George W. Bush, ever the gentleman, replies, "Your Majesty, please don't give the matter another thought. You know, if you hadn't said something, I would have thought it was one of the horses."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 AM | Permalink

One room schoolhouse

 One-Room Schoolhouse

You know this is not a bad idea. 

Charles Martin on a One room school house for the 21st century

the Adams County school has room for 24 students, so we assume 24 students in Manhattan, and a one-room school built in quality office space in midtown. I laid out a floor plan and discovered we could fit it nicely into 1,050 square feet; equip it with good quality desks and chairs and with one iMac computer for every two students, plus one for the teacher and a Mac Pro as a classroom server; and add Internet connections and $1,000 per student for books and supplies. How much remained to hire a teacher?

$230,000. Almost a quarter of a million dollars.
The conventional model of schools today .. an essentially industrial model, where students are grouped into age cohorts and moved through their grade levels like workpieces through an assembly line.

Traditional (as opposed to conventional) schooling, or apprenticeship, operated on a model we might call a mastery model: when one was apprenticed to a potter, the potter was going to teach you to make pots or else. It wasn’t the job of the one-room schoolmarm to move the students through the grades; they were expected to get results.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

What the Hell?

The death of hell is indeed the death of life itself, for it ensures a world without justice, without consequence, and without restraint. Like the Phoenix, Hell will always arise from its own ashes, bringing new horrors far beyond what our vaunted knowledge can comprehend or conquer. To deny the reality of hell after death is to guarantee its incarnation in life. Hell will not be denied; its horrors will be visited liberally upon those who acknowledge it least.

From The Doctor is In, The Death of Hell.

If hell does not exist, men would be wise to invent it. If it does exist, we are fools to deny it.

Today, the accepted definition of Hell is the absence of God.  I can only surmise that with God's absence is the absence everything that reflects His glory, all of nature and all that is human that mirrors truth, goodness and beauty.

Ted Chiang's Hell is the Absence of God won both Hugo and Nebula awards  as Best Novelle in 2002.  You can read it at the link.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

Robert Kennedy's Reports from Palestine

Forty years ago, I stayed up late to watch the television reports of the Democrat primary in California and watched in disbelief as the tragic scene unfolded on the tiny screen in real time.

On the 40th anniversary of his assassination, four dispatches written by Robert Kennedy for the Boston Post have been found.

Robert Kennedy's 1948 Reports from Palestine

 Robert Kennedy Palestine

Via The Belmont Club where Richard Fernandez writes

Maybe, having been disillusioned by the hatred and duplicity all around him, RFK was struck by a strange mood of wistfulness. He inserts this strange monologue into his narrative seemingly out of the blue.

Having been out of the United States for more than two months at this time of writing, I notice myself more and more conscious of the great heritage and birthright to which we as United States citizens are heirs and which we have the duty to preserve. A force motivating my writing this paper is that I believe we have failed in this duty or are in great jeopardy of doing so. The failure is due chiefly to our inability to get the true facts of the policy in which we are partners in Palestine.

It was a time before the incessant din of propaganda has since convinced Americans that evil was exclusively Made in the USA. History that is ostensibly written to enlighten is often in practice written to deceive. The most common use of history is to make us misremember the past. What we believe happened, as well as what we believed about RFK may have nothing to do with how things were. Reading his contemporaneous reports is like visiting a country we never knew existed and meeting a man who died twice; once at the hands of Sirhan Sirhan and again by the knife of popular culture. Twenty years after Kennedy left Palestine, Palestine came to him in a Los Angeles hotel.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

After decades, parents look for their disabled children

In the 1950s, disabled children often disappeared into state institutions.  Now one family seeks its lost son

Claire Ansberry tells What Happened to Ricky in the Wall St. Journal, a story with a happy ending.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:57 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2008

‘Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.”

‘Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don’t give it any value.” —Canadian “Human Rights” Investigator Dean Steacy, responding to the question “What value do you give freedom of speech when you investigate?”

This is the way free speech ends, not with a bang but as the result of an administrative hearing in a windowless basement in Vancouver, Canada.

At least that’s where a “Human Rights Tribunal” is taking place this week that will further solidify the Canadian legal position that the right not to be offended by something you read is more sacred than the freedom of the press.

Mark Hemingway writes the Idiot's Guide to Completely Idiotic Canadian 'Human Rights' Tribunals.

The hearing against Mark Steyn and Canada's most popular magazine Maclean's has been going on this week in Vancouver.

I've been following the liveblogging by Maclean's national editor Andrew Coyne.

It reads like a slapstick farce in a kangaroo court and would be laugh-out-loud funny if you didn't know that both Steyn and Maclean's will be found guilty after hearing closing arguments tomorrow.

As Hemingway notes
the Canadian Human Rights Commission is stunningly effective: In its 31 years of existence, not a single complaint brought before it has been dismissed. That's right: Everyone is guilty before God and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Mark Steyn reflects himself on the goings-on "Geez, these days, I don't seem able to step out of the house without committing a hate crime"

By the way, I see I've been nominated for a National Magazine Award, to be handed out later this month. By then, Mr. Joseph will have succeeded in getting the B.C. troika effectively to ban me from Maclean's and from all Canadian journalism. An impressive achievement.  My book was a No. 1 bestseller in Canada, and the new paperback edition was at No. 4 the other day, and President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Governor Mitt Romney, Senator Joe Lieberman, Senator Jon Kyl and (at last count) six European prime ministers have either recommended the book or called me in to discuss its themes. But in Canada it's a hate crime.

One thing I've learned these last few months is that it's always worse than you expect. The willingness of the B.C. troika's social engineers to trample over every basic rule of English law has embedded at the heart of Canadian justice a soft beguiling totalitarianism. I'll be the first No. 1 bestselling author and National Magazine Award-nominated columnist to be deemed unpublishable in Canada.

But I won't be the last.

To get a sense of what these HRCs are doing, they are now attempting to prosecute a case against an American resident, based upon what an American citizen allegedly posted to a mainstream American Catholic website.

What passes for mainstream Catholic discussion in America is now the basis of a hate complaint in Canada.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

June 4, 2008

Support for a Stiff Upper Lip

Talking about a trauma has for some time been the default position to help people recover.

A new study lead by UC Irvine psychologist Roxane Cohen Silver suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work.  The study is published in the June issue of the American Psychological Association's Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

in the immediate aftermath of a collective trauma it is perfectly healthy not to want to express thoughts and feelings.
“Some people don’t need to express thoughts and feelings after trauma and do just fine, and it’s a myth that you must express your distress in order to recover,” Silver said. “Mandatory or required psychological counseling is often unwarranted and universal intervention is likely to be a waste of resources.”

Via Neuranthropology where Greg Downey wrote

The research looked at the effects of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks and found that ‘individuals who communicated their thoughts and feelings about the attacks reported more physical health problems and emotional distress over time, even after controlling for exposure to and distance from the attacks.’

Brits at their Best  have more to say about the traditional stiff upper lip.

Words are powerful, perhaps more secretly powerful than we know. People who repeatedly relive a trauma by describing it in detail in psychological counselling sometimes find they have burned it into their souls.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:34 AM | Permalink

Lance Armstrong Mice and "Rediscovering the Logic of the Past"

Just in time for aging boomers like myself, new drugs to treat aging on the horizon.

The general public has no idea what's coming," said David Sinclair, a Harvard Medical School professor who has made headlines with research into the health benefits of a substance found in red wine called resveratrol.
Sinclair said treatments could be a few years or a decade away, but they're "really close. It's not something (from) science fiction and it's not something for the next generation."
He described how his research found that mice given large doses of resveratrol "live longer, they're almost immune to the effects of obesity. They don't get diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer's as frequently. We delay the diseases of aging."

Sinclair showed video of mice on resveratrol running on a treadmill far more vigorously than those who didn't get the substance. He called them "our Lance Armstrong mice."

A large dose meant the equivalent of a human drinking about 1,000 bottles of red wine daily, he said.

The New York Times looks into it and finds New Hints That Red Wine May Slow Aging.

The secret appears to be protein agents that in people are called sirtuins.

And it seems Dr. Sinclair is co-founder of Sirtris, a start-up company seeking to develop drugs that activate sirtuins.

"The upside is so huge that if we are right, the company that dominates the sirtuin space could dominate the pharmaceutical industry and change medicine,” Dr. David Sinclair said.
the door has now been opened to drugs that exploit an ancient biological survival mechanism, that of switching the body’s resources from fertility to tissue maintenance. The improved tissue maintenance seems to extend life by cutting down on the degenerative diseases of aging.

I wonder whether the recent change in Burgundy resulting in a surge of quality will have any effect .

The quality of Burgundy — red Burgundy in particular — has risen strikingly over the last two decades. From the smallest growers to the biggest houses, the standards of grape-growing and winemaking have surpassed anybody’s expectations. These days, Burgundy has very few bad vintages, and among good producers, surprisingly few bad wines.
“It’s not so much an improvement as a blooming,” said Becky Wasserman, an American wine broker who has lived in Burgundy since 1968. “It’s a realization of potential."
Most striking of all was the number of young producers making superb wines, whether they have taken charge of their family domains or started out new.
Few could have envisioned such a level of quality back in the early 1980s, a time when Claude Bourguignon, a French soil scientist who, with his wife, Lydia, works with numerous wine estates, famously said that the soil of the Sahara had more life in it than the soil of Burgundy.
Their first order of business was to wean the soil off two decades worth of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
Over the next 20 years a great many producers turned to organic farming, and others adopted biodynamic viticulture, a particularly demanding system that takes a sort of homeopathic approach to farming. These days it’s the rare farmer who still uses chemical herbicides in the vineyard.

“The soils are alive again,” Mr. Bourguignon said by telephone last week. “They’ve really changed, and it’s one of the reasons the wine has changed.”
“We can now understand what our grandparents were doing,” said Jean-Marie Fourrier of Domaine Fourrier in Gevrey-Chambertin. “We’re rediscovering the logic of the past.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 AM | Permalink

Where can we do the most good?

The Copenhagen Consensus Conference proposes the Top Ten Solutions to the World's Biggest Problems

Assume $75 billion to spend over four years.

1. Supply the micronutrients,  the highest priority
vitamin A and zinc to 80 percent of the 140 million children who lack them in developing countries is ranked as the highest priority by the expert panel at the Copenhagen Consensus 2008 Conference. The cost is $60 million per year, yielding benefits in health and cognitive development of over $1 billion.

2. Widen free trade
Success at Doha trade negotiations could boost global income by $3 trillion per year, of which $2.5 trillion would go to the developing countries...."Trade reform is not just for the long run, it would make people in developing countries better off right now. There are large benefits in the short run and the long run benefits are enormous."

3. Fortify foods with iron and iodized salt
Two billion people do not have enough iron in their diets which results in energy sapping anemia and cognitive deficits in children and adults. Lack of iodine stunts both physical and intellectual growth. More than 30 percent of developing country households do not consume iodized salt. Correcting these mirconutrient deficits would cost $286 million per year

4. Expanded immunization coverage of children
5. Biofortification (agricultural improvements through research and development)
6. Deworming and other nutrition programs at school
7. Lowering the price of schooling
8. Increasing girls' schooling
9. Community-based nutrition promotion
10. Support for women's reproductive roles.

Results of the ranking of the 30 proposed challenges to eight of the world's most distinguished economists invited to rank are here.   

Mitigation measures for global warming ranked last based on its poor benefit/cost ratio.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:50 AM | Permalink

"Cushy' Jails

Britain again where the jails are so comfortable, criminals are breaking in. 

40,000 prisoners snub chance of early release because jails are so 'cushy'.

The findings follow warnings from prison officers' leaders, who claimed inmates were often happy to enjoy 'soft' conditions behind bars, where drugs are cheaper than outside.

They said prostitutes plied their trade in open prisons and criminals in secure units enjoyed breakfast in bed, satellite TV and sports facilities, while staff treated them 'with kid gloves' and were 'subservient' for fear of breaching their human rights.

Meanwhile the government is planning a nationwide 'deradicalisation' program to deal with the many who have been drawn into Islamist extremism but have yet to commit a crime.

One pilot program cited
is already mentoring "vulnerable individuals" using techniques including encouraging them to feel more valued and to eradicate myths and assumptions which have led to them becoming alienated and disempowered.

Boosting the self-esteem  of would-be jihadists through counseling.  It's probably better than it sounds since the proposed plan supports grassroots projects.  A bottom-up approach to transforming youths in trouble rather than a top-down government initiative. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 AM | Permalink

June 3, 2008

Voyaging Across Sexual Boundaries

Writer Jan Morris remarries wife she wed as a man.

Morris described her transformation from male to female in two autobiographical works, Pleasures of a Tangled Life and The Conundrum.

She described how,  as a man,  he never felt homosexual but always regarded himself as 'wrongly equipped'.

Morris is also the author of Pax Britannica, a three part history of the rise and fall of the British Empire, which she started writing as a man and concluded when she was a woman.

Other works include portraits of cities including Oxford, Venice and New York.

Elizabeth said yesterday: 'I made my marriage vows 59 years ago and still have them.

'We are back together again officially. After Jan had a sex change we had to divorce.

'So there we were. It did not make any difference to me. We still had our family. We just carried on.'

The couple have already planned to be buried on a small island on the River Dwyfor behind their house, with the inscription on the headstone to read: 'Here are two friends, at the end of one life.'

 Jan Morris

I read Conondrum when it was first published and all the rage.  Morris  described her voyages across sexual boundaries in the same beautiful and haunting way she wrote about the cities she visited and lived in around the world.  She's an admirable woman and I'm delighted that she was with her true love for 59 years.

"Conundrum (New York Review Books Classics)" (Jan Morris)

"The World of Venice: Revised Edition" (Jan Morris)

"The World: Life and Travel 1950-2000" (Jan Morris)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:21 PM | Permalink

Drink Water from a Glass Not a Bottle

Drink water from a glass not a bottle unless you want "smoker's lips", those lines and wrinkles around the lips that heavy smokers have.

D.C. dermatologist Dr. Marilyn Berzin says "When you're drinking from a water bottle, you're pretty much making the same face as you are when you're smoking a cigarette,"

Berzin said that over time that face creates permanent lines.

People who drink from water bottles with either sport or straw tops or nozzles, consistently, all day long, for about two years, will start to develop noticeable smokers lips, according to Berzin.

Drinking from a wide-mouthed glass allows the upper lip to stay relaxed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 AM | Permalink

Health round-up

Three important medical advances this week.

Enzyme drug  could reverse the onset of Alzheimer's

The researchers from Dundee University, led by Dr Calum Sutherland, say the enzyme can partially reverse the process that causes the abnormal structures of a protein called CRMP2.

This protein has a key role in the development of the "tangles" seen in Alzheimer's disease.

Bone drug helped stave off breast cancer

A drug used to strengthen the bones of women with breast cancer helped cut the risk of the cancer returning by 36 percent, European researchers said on Saturday,

They said Zometa, sold by Swiss drug giant Novartis AG, helped women with early-stage breast cancer who were already taking hormone therapy to reduce their cancer risk.

The finding comes from the first large-scale study to show a drug in the class known as bisphosphonates can reduce the risk that cancer will come back.

"I'm convinced it's going to change the landscape," said Dr. Michael Gnant of the University of Vienna, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago.

"In these patients, I would expect it is going to be pretty much the standard of care pretty soon," Gnant said in a telephone interview.

A Mother's Gamble pays off

Nate, a 2-year-old boy with a rare and deadly genetic disease that prevented his skin from attaching to his body was cured when a bone marrow disorder from his healthy 3 year-old brother gave him the protein, collagen VII,  he was born without.

Every now and then, you really feel like you've done something great," says John Wagner, a hematologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2008

Racist flag and "no go" Muslim areas in Britain

A British teen-ager in England was told by a police officer to remove his England flag from inside his car because it could be offensive to immigrants.  If he didn't he was told, he would be fined 30 pounds.

Meanwhile two Christian preachers face arrest in Birmingham.
A police community support officer ordered two Christian preachers to stop handing out gospel leaflets in a predominately Muslim are of Birmingham.
The evangelists say they were threatened with arrest for committing a "hate crime" and were told they risked being beaten up if they returned. The incident will fuel fears that "no-go areas" for Christians are emerging in British towns and cities

West Midlands Police, who refused to apologise, said the incident had been "fully investigated" and the officer would be given training in understanding hate crime and communication.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:11 PM | Permalink

"They come from heaven to work in hell"

A retired Air Force Colonel Stephan Walker arrived in Iraq for a short trip.

He left in his wake improved sight for many Iraqis and priceless training for Nasiriyah General Hospital physicians in Nasiriyah, Iraq.

Visionary doctor helps hundreds of Iraqis

Khalid Abid Alshaheed is a doctor's assistant who works almost every day in the general hospital in Nasiriyah, which is about 11 miles from here with an estimated population of more than 560,000. He comes to Camp Mittica whenever a Western doctor does so that he can learn from them. A few months prior to helping with the eye surgeries, he was here helping with cleft surgeries.

"The patients are very happy to receive this help, this has a very positive effect," he said through a translator. "What we are doing here is so helpful and it's completely free. For the eyes, here now, it's very useful for the people, and the doctors are doing their job in a very perfect way."

As for what he learns from the doctors, he said that 40 percent of his medical knowledge has come from the training he's received at Camp Mittica.

The list of supplies the doctor brought and the skills he used in the operating room are the result of his 31 years as an Air Force ophthalmologist. During that time, he helped people in Korea, Thailand and the rural Philippines. He was also a member of the first portable eye surgery team from Wilford Hall to go to Latin America. During that time, and the four years since his retirement, he has gone on more than 20 of the 50-plus missions the team has gone on in the past 15 years.

But regardless of whether the doctor or the Wilford Hall team is busy performing wonders around the world, the Iraqis still hope to see them again. "I just want to ask the coalition forces doctors and the foreign doctors to come here because this is a great job done by them to come to such country like Iraq and to help the poor people ... because for me they come from the heaven to work in the hell," Mr. Tahir said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

"Too white and too middle class to adopt"

Britain continues its slow suicide

Social workers said we were too middle class and too white to adopt

As prospective parents, they might seem ideal. Gavin, 39, is an executive editor of BBC TV’s prestigious Question Time and The Politics Show. Teresa, 42, is a director of a staff recruitment business.

They have good incomes, a spacious home and a supportive family and friends. They have been together for nearly 20 years and married for ten.

Yet they have been ignored, rejected, patronised and repeatedly humiliated by Britain’s adoption system. They have willingly paid thousands of pounds, accepted rude and intrusive questions, completed countless bureaucratic forms and  have come to a shocking conclusion: that all they can offer is outweighed by the huge disadvantage of being white and middle-class.

It is a story that illustrates the distressing truth about adoption – that children are routinely denied loving parents and a home because of politically correct policies that prevent the placement of black or mixed-race babies with white couples.

‘We have discovered that if you are white and have a decent living, the adoption authorities put you to the bottom of the pile,’ explains Teresa.

‘This is despite the fact that there are children who desperately need families. It’s so heartbreaking that we have decided to speak about this in public.

'Many couples don’t dare say anything, fearing it will hinder their adoption. But we feel that children are being let down by a system that is wrong and operates on a set of imperatives that don’t work.’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:57 PM | Permalink

"It's an awful story"

On leave from the violence he had survived in the war in Iraq, a young Marine was so wary of crime on the streets of his own home town that he carried only $8 to avoid becoming a robbery target.

Despite his caution, Lance Cpl. Robert Crutchfield, 21, was shot point-blank in the neck during a robbery at a bus stop. Feeding and breathing tubes kept him alive 4 1/2 months, until he died of an infection on May 18.

"It is an awful story," said Alberta Holt, the young Marine's aunt and his legal guardian when he was a teenager determined to flee a troubled Cleveland school for safer surroundings in the suburbs.

Crutchfield was attacked on Jan. 5 while he and his girlfriend were waiting for a bus. He had heeded the warnings of commanders that a Marine on leave might be seen as a prime robbery target with a pocketful of money, so he only carried $8, his military ID card and a bank card.

"They took it, turned his pockets inside out, took what he had and told him since he was a Marine and didn't have any money he didn't deserve to live. They put the gun to his neck and shot him," Holt told The Associated Press.

Home from Iraq, Wary Marine Fatally Wounded.

An awful story and tragedy.  Condolences to his family

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:53 PM | Permalink