October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

 Stargazing Dark-Park
the Wigstownshire Astronomical Society

From the soon-to-be official Dark-Sky Park, in Galloway Forest, registering Bortle 2 on the international darkness scale.

Not far away comes the traditional Scottish prayer.

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 AM | Permalink

October 30, 2009

A girl is more likely to die from an adverse reaction to Gardasil than from cervical cancer

In 2006 the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Gardasil as a vaccine against certain types of human papillomavirus (HPV) which is the primary cause of cervical cancer in women.  Gardasil is manufactured by Merck and the company has aggressively marketed the drug  including political contributions through its PAC.

Many state and local governments have proposed that Gardasil be required for school girls as young as those entering the sixth grade.

 Gardasil Girl

Now one of the lead researchers for the Merck drug, Dr. Diane Harper,  says the "Pubic should receive more complete warnings."

"Parents and women must know that deaths occurred. Not all deaths that have been reported were represented in Dr. Slade's work, one-third of the death reports were unavailable to the CDC, leaving the parents of the deceased teenagers in despair that the CDC is ignoring the very rare but real occurrences that need not have happened if parents were given information stating that there are real, but small risks of death surrounding the administration of Gardasil."

After 26 million vaccinations, Dr. Harper says it will have NO effect on the rate of cervical cancer in the U.S.

To date, 15,037 girls have officially reported adverse side effects from Gardasil to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). These adverse effects include Guilliane Barre, lupus, seizures, paralysis, blood clots, brain inflammation and many others. The CDC acknowledges that there have been 44 reported deaths."

Merck's Dr. Harper told CBS News that a girl is more likely to die from an adverse reaction to Gardasil than from cervical cancer.

What would be the point in promoting the inoculation of millions of girls and women with a useless, sometimes dangerous drug? And it really is useless: Merck's current project is to push it to pre-teen girls, but Dr. Harper pointed out that, once a girl hits puberty, any effectiveness of the vaccine disappears, and she has to start over again with the course of shots. And by the way, the efficacy of the drug in pre-teen girls hasn't actually been tested.

One thing we know about Gardasil is that each three-dose treatment costs $360, which has helped Merck a lot. It's been one of the company's top-selling drugs.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

"We're Governed by Callous Children"

We are governed at all levels by America's luckiest children, sons and daughters of the abundance, and they call themselves optimists but they're not optimists—they're unimaginative. They don't have faith, they've just never been foreclosed on. They are stupid and they are callous, and they don't mind it when people become disheartened. They don't even notice.

Peggy Noonan

Update: Richard Fernandez responds in The Lordlings

“They don’t even notice.” But in the end, they must. The one thing no generation of parents can protect their children from is reality. No inheritance can withstand the foolishness of heirs. The harsh arithmetic on the frontier, the terrible outflow of dollars and cents, the gradual and then sudden loss of credibility as people see they are dealing not with serious people but with gilded fools cumulate their irresistible effects. In the end the gay parade of capering children enters a dark cavern and the entrance shuts behind them. Those who don’t want to join in this cavalcade have two duties.

The first is to survive; to have the wit to realize that if something can’t go on, then it won’t. The administration is touting “green shoots”. Others might use the phrase “pushing up daisies”. People who can tell the difference have got to rig for depth charges and evade worst; but be ready to take aggressive productive action where they can.

But the second duty is more important. Those unentranced by the magic flute have an obligation to remember what happened; to keep the history books free of revisionism so that by shame and memory those pied pipers who led a generation astray can never return unchallenged to sound their witching tune again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 AM | Permalink

October 29, 2009

"We still don't know how ordinary window glass works and keeps it shape."

 Dna Nebula -1

DNA Nebula

Seven questions that keep physicists up at night.  Among them:

Why this universe?

What is everything made of?

How does complexity happen?

What is reality really?

"We still don't know how ordinary window glass works and keeps it shape,"  said Professor Leo Kandanoff from the University of Chicago, one of the physicists interviewed.

Is it a liquid,  a solid or some "distinctly different structure with properties of both liquids and solids?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 PM | Permalink

Down to Nanoworld

Look at this amazing demonstration of Cell Size and Scale from the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah.

Use the slider to zoom into the nanoworld from coffee bean on down to the carbon atom, passing egg, sperm, influenza virus and water molecule along the way.

Via Kottke, The long zoom of cells

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 PM | Permalink

Scenes from the Brave New World

Scenes from the Brave New World

No men OR women needed: Scientists create sperm and eggs from stem cells

Scientists at Stanford University in California found the right cocktail of chemicals and vitamins to coax the cells into becoming eggs and sperm.
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The American team used stem cells taken from embryos in the first days of life but hope to repeat the process with slivers of skin.

Somehow I don't think it's ever going to work.

Gateway Pundit reports on the Skincare company now using aborted fetal tissue in anti-aging cream.

The skin care company, Neocutis, calls them "processed skin cell proteins"  or PSP®, the trademark they have registered for the aborted fetal tissue used in their anti-aging skin cream.  The phrase to watch for is "bio-restorative" as in Lumiere, bio-restorative eye cream, Journee, bio-restorative day cream, BioGel, bio-restorative hydrogel.  Knowing that can you imagine using those creams every day on your face?

In certain council recreation areas in Britain, parents are banned from watching their children in playgrounds...in case they might be pedophiles.

Children as young as five will instead be supervised by council 'play rangers' who have been cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau.

Councillors insist they are merely following Government regulations and cannot allow adults to walk around playgrounds 'unchecked'.

But furious parents attacked the move and threatened to boycott the playgrounds.

Concerns were raised last night that other councils around the country are adopting similar policies amid confusion over Government rules and increasing hysteria over child protection.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:04 PM | Permalink

Secret court seizing property from elderly

What happens in Britain if someone doesn't have a durable power of attorney to hand over their finances to a trusted relative in the event of disability.

Secret court seizes £3.2bn from elderly... and even forces furious families to pay to access own bank account

A secret court is seizing the assets of thousands of elderly and mentally impaired people and turning control of their lives over to the State - against the wishes of their relatives. The draconian measures are being imposed by the little-known Court of Protection, set up two years ago to act in the interests of people suffering from Alzheimer's or other mental incapacity.

The court hears about 23,000 cases a year - always in private - involving people deemed unable to take their own decisions. Using far-reaching powers, the court has so far taken control of more than £3.2billion of assets. 

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But the system elicited an extraordinary 3,000 complaints in its first 18 months of operation. Among them were allegations that officials failed to consult relatives, imposed huge fees and even 'raided' elderly people's homes searching for documents.

Carers trying to cope with a mentally impaired loved one, forced to apply for a court order to access money, said they felt the system put them under suspicion as it assumed at the outset that they were out to defraud their relatives.

The level of intrusiveness is unbelievable.  Richard Fernandez writes in Outlaw

Leaving decisions to individuals makes it unlikely that they will all get it right but it equally implies they almost never get it all wrong. Society based on individual choices has a diversified portfolio of outcomes. In contrast if a government gets it wrong, it goes spectacularly wrong.
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This anonymous bureaucracy was set up to protect the elderly from their relatives. There are almost certainly a considerable number of no-good, low-down and grasping relatives who are raiding their impaired parent’s estate. But there were also a great many relatives who acted honorably and even self-sacrificially to care for their aging relatives as well as possible. As the article notes that “opposition politicians said the system, set up by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, needed to be overhauled to take account of the fact that most people were ‘honourable and decent’ and had their loved ones’ best interests at heart.” By creating a bureaucracy to handle what was formerly a family affair the UK did away with variance and replaced it with standardized, soulless and allegedly shabby treatment. The progressives spread the good news that we’re all going to eat the same dinners. The bad news is that it may uniformly be gruel.

If this isn't a spur to estate planning, nothing is.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

"Parents are the sculptors of their children's brains"

Growing up without a father actually changes the way your brain develops. 

This is Your Brain Without Dad

German biologist Anna Katharina Braun and others are conducting research on animals that are typically raised by two parents, in the hopes of better understanding the impact on humans of being raised by a single parent. Dr. Braun's work focuses on degus, small rodents related to guinea pigs and chinchillas, because mother and father degus naturally raise their babies together.
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Their preliminary analysis indicates that fatherless degu pups exhibit more aggressive and impulsive behavior than pups raised by two parents.
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The neuronal differences were observed in a part of the brain called the amygdala, which is related to emotional responses and fear, and the orbitofrontal cortex, or OFC, the brain's decision-making center.
The balance between these two brain parts is critical to normal emotional and cognitive functioning, according to Dr. Braun. If the OFC isn't active, the amygdala "goes crazy, like a horse without a rider," she says. In the case of the fatherless pups, there were fewer dendritic spines in the OFC, while the dendrite trees in the amygdala grew more and longer branches.

A preliminary analysis of the degus' behavior showed that fatherless animals seemed to have a lack of impulse control, Dr. Braun says. And, when they played with siblings, they engaged in more play-fighting or aggressive behavior.
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An OECD report found that just 57% of children in the U.S. live with both parents, among the lowest percentages of the world's richest nations.  The report, which sparked some controversy when it was released in September, found that children in single-parent households have an increased risk of delinquency and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, as well as poorer scholastic performance.
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The bottom line, says Dr. Braun, is that parents need to fuel their children's brains with talk, touch and sensitive stimulation that involves give and take.

Parents, she says, "are the sculptors of their children's brains."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

October 28, 2009

How Genuine Fascism Came to Britain

What happened in Britain that in that once great democracy,  one-fifth of the electorate would consider voting for the BNP, a genuine fascist party?

Shannon Love on The Collapse of the British Liberal Order

liberal orders don’t slowly evolve into authoritarian ones. Instead, they become less and less effective until they suddenly collapse into an authoritarian order. People simply lose faith that the liberal order can function and they throw their support behind an authoritarian order just to survive.
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The major problem in resisting authoritarian orders is the simple fact that they usually work quite well in the short term. In the 1920s, Mussolini was widely admired across the political spectrum for saving Italy from imploding after years of red socialist strikes and violence had all but shut down the country. Hitler pulled Germany out of the Great Depression spectacularly. The communists did manage to rapidly industrialize peasant economies (albeit at a staggering cost in lives).
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The BNP could very well rise to power by quickly and easily fixing problems that many Britons see going unaddressed by the left.

Britain faces major problems with a permanent economic underclass, low economic mobility, illegal immigration and a large, vocal and often violent unassimilated Islamic subculture. The native working class in particular feels squeezed by economic competition from low-cost immigrants. More importantly, they have seen themselves relegated in social status to the bottom of the heap.

 Britannia

So who lost Britain?  The Labour Party, once home to the working class.

Labour wanted mass immigration to make Britain more multicultural says former Labour advisor

The huge increases in migrants over the last decade were partly due to a politically motivated attempt by ministers to radically change the country and "rub the Right's nose in diversity", according to Andrew Neather, a former adviser to Tony Blair, Jack Straw and David Blunkett.
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He said Labour's relaxation of controls was a deliberate plan to "open up the UK to mass migration" but that ministers were nervous and reluctant to discuss such a move publicly for fear it would alienate its "core working class vote".


Melanie Phillips writes The outrageous truth slips out: Labour cynically plotted to transform the entire make-up of Britain without telling us

There could not have been a more grave abuse of the entire democratic process. Now, however, we learn that this is exactly what did happen. The Labour government has been engaged upon a deliberate and secret policy of national cultural sabotage.
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Now the political picture has been transformed overnight by the unguarded candour of Andrew Neather's eye-opening superciliousness. For now we know that Labour politicians actually caused this to happen - and did so out of total contempt for their own core voters.

David Pryce Jones on Nick Griffin, the BNP leader

Griffin is far from a Hitler or Mussolini, far even from suitably streamlined European fascists of today like Jorg Haidar or Jean-Marie Le Pen. Overweight, he waddles. His face seems designed to be incapable of smiling, and he has no humour, no powers of persuasion, no gift for repartee. This glum figure is undoubtedly a racist, an anti-Semite, an ignoramus, and a liar about the unsavory things he has done and said on his way towards the top of the BNP.
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Griffin has only one point to make, namely that immigration is out of control and British people no longer feel that this is their country.
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Nobody seems to have worked out that mass immigration and the welfare state are incompatible. British people see immigrants receiving benefits, housing, and the rest of it on a scale that is neither deserved nor available to them. Post-war governments, whether Conservative or Labour, have created this confusion and taken every measure to pretend either that it is not happening or that it doesn't matter.

Mike McNally on Britain's New Star on the Far, Far Right

The BNP speaks to the white working classes, a constituency which feels increasingly alienated, neglected, and abandoned by a “New” Labour party which once drew the bulk of its support from those same people. In broad terms, these are people who feel left behind by the pace of social and economic change. They are concerned about the erosion of what they see as their British identity under a government obsessed with promoting multiculturalism. More pressingly, they feel under pressure from mass immigration [3], angered by the continuing transfer of political power away from their elected leaders and into the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats of the European Union, concerned by rising crime, and alarmed by the spread of Islamic extremism.

Labour long ago lost the big battles of economic ideas to the Conservatives, but Britain’s cultural establishment has succeeded in making left-wing and “progressive” views on immigration, Europe, and crime the orthodoxy of the ruling classes, despite their unpopularity at the ballot box. (A former Labour advisor recently revealed how Tony Blair and his ministers encouraged mass immigration to socially engineer a “multicultural” Britain and “rub the right’s noses in diversity.”)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2009

Gender-bending chemicals

From Denmark comes official research of "ubiquitous chemical contamination" that is driving down sperm counts and feminizing male children all over the developed world.

Why boys are turning into girls

two-year-old children are at risk from a bewildering array of gender-bending chemicals in such everyday items as waterproof clothes, rubber boots, bed linen, food, nappies, sunscreen lotion and moisturising cream.

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Sperm counts are falling so fast that young men are less fertile than their fathers and produce only a third as much, proportionately, as hamsters. And gender-bending chemicals are increasingly being blamed for the mystery of the "lost boys": babies who should normally be male who have been born as girls instead.
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The results build on earlier studies showing that British children have higher levels of gender-bending chemicals in their blood than their parents or grandparents.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 AM | Permalink

October 26, 2009

"Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

The social consequences of unwed mothers are long-lasting and heart-breaking.

Why don't you guys study like the kids from Africa?"

In a moment of exasperation last spring, I asked that question to a virtually all-black class of 12th-graders who had done horribly on a test I had just given. A kid who seldom came to class -- and was constantly distracting other students when he did -- shot back: "It's because they have fathers who kick their butts and make them study."

Another student angrily challenged me: "You ask the class, just ask how many of us have our fathers living with us." When I did, not one hand went up.

Making the Grade Isn't About Race.  It's About Parents by Patrick Welsh.

It's not about race though that is what school administrators and community activists focus on. There's plenty of money for schools.

"The real problem," says Glenn Hopkins, president of Alexandria's Hopkins House, which provides preschool and other services to low-income families, "is that school superintendents don't realize -- or won't admit -- that the education gap is symptomatic of a social gap."

Hopkins notes that student achievement is deeply affected by issues of family, income and class, things superintendents have little control over.

In The Daddy Gap, Amy Alkon, the Advice Goddess points to a 2005 Kay Hymowitz piece in City Journal.  Kay Hymowitz is a trenchant observer and writer about  the marriage gap that is increasingly responsible for the growing divide between economic classes.

1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.

By now, these facts shouldn't be hard to grasp. Almost 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Those mothers are far more likely than married mothers to be poor, even after a post-welfare-reform decline in child poverty. They are also more likely to pass that poverty on to their children. Sophisticates often try to dodge the implications of this bleak reality by shrugging that single motherhood is an inescapable fact of modern life, affecting everyone from the bobo Murphy Browns to the ghetto "baby mamas." Not so; it is a largely low-income--and disproportionately black--phenomenon. The vast majority of higher-income women wait to have their children until they are married. The truth is that we are now a two-family nation, separate and unequal--one thriving and intact, and the other struggling, broken, and far too often African-American.

Until black leaders come to grips with what is really happening in the inner cities, the plight of black males and black females will only get worse.   

The men won't grow up, won't become fully formed,  but stay passionless and apathetic, distraught in their failure to launch.  As a black woman pleaded, "Enough of this selfishness: Time for black men to act like men." 

Too many young girls may yearn for marriage, but making babies is something they can do, something they believe they must do if they want meaning in their lives.  Misbegotten health policies are not teaching young girls that they are too young to start families, but giving them contraceptives without parental consent and essentially saying do what you want.

The model of the two-person, mother-father model of parenthood is being changed to meet adults' rights to children rather than children's needs to be known and , whenever possible, by their mother and father.  It's the ultimate selfishness that will continue to cause ruin in people's lives and in our society.

How do we respond to the fact that so many children are starving for a father?

 Baby Swallows

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

Psychedelic look of aspirin

 Aspirin

Aspirin crystals

The Most Amazing Medical Images of 2009_

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

The Grandparent Society

Peter Francese is a demographic trends analyst at Oglive & Mather.  He sees four major, emergent trends that will come into even sharper focus with next year's census. What America will look like in 2010.

1. The Grandparent Society.  Grandparents will number almost 70 million in 2010 and are growing 5x faster than the population as a whole.

This, Francese says, is the most fascinating development in recent memory, the morphing of America into a multi-generational society in which grandparents, their adult children, and their children’s children are all living in the same house, with the grandparents offering both economic and emotional support.

This coincides with a staggering increase in births to single mothers; today, one in four children is born to an unmarried woman. And, as Francese puts it, “Who needs the help of grandparents more than a single mom?” The upshot, he says, is that Americans 50 years and older control the vast majority of assets and show the most economic growth; he thinks advertising dollars should shift from the current 10% spent on that demographic to 40%.

2. The "rocketing ascendancy of women in America"

3. The growing Hispanic population, up 42% as America becomes ever more multicultural.

4. The migration pattern to the South and West.

The Midwest and Northeast are hemorrhaging jobs and residents, while the South and the West have seen a huge uptick in residents (and, California aside, are doing better economically).

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:06 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2009

GAO reports on TARP

Neil Barofsky is the TARP Inspector General who just submitted his 256 page report to Congress.  The Washington Examiner editorializes

Barofsky notes that the Treasury Department's failure to implement anti-fraud measures, or even to require TARP recipients to report how they used the billions Congress and the Treasury Department gave them, makes it highly unlikely that the $317 billion outstanding -- nearly half the TARP total -- will ever be returned to taxpayers. Barofsky also threatened to subpoena documents relating to the Treasury Department's "less-than-accurate statements ... concerning TARP's first investments in nine large financial institutions," as well as its subsequent refusal to report what hundreds of other TARP recipients did with the funds.

So there you have it: Treasury officials lied to Congress and the public, and refused to demand even a basic level of accountability from TARP recipients while borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars that taxpayers will eventually have to pay back, plus billions in interest.

Uncovering the bull under the bailout

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

October 22, 2009

The Benedictine Revolution

The Anchoress had, by far, the best roundup on Pope's Benedict decision to set up a special provision for Anglicans to come over to Rome and enter into full communion with the Catholic Church as whole communities with their married priests and gorgeous liturgy.  But I like best what  Richard Fernandez had to say in The lighting of the beacons.

For that reason Benedict is picking up stragglers, having judged the Anglicans already shattered. But its real foe, upon which Rome’s eyes are fixed, are the socialist/communists. Osgiliath is driven in and the orcs are hard behind. Roman Catholic Archbishop Nichols, the primate of England, put it bluntly.

He claimed the Pope had made the decision because he wants worshippers to unite in the face of increasing secularism rather than form numerous smaller churchers. … Quoting the Pontiff, he said: “As he has written: ‘In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God.’ “

 Trio Anglican, Vatican, Benedict

The Roman Catholic Church is living through an extraordinary historical moment. It is facing two religious competitors. From one side, there is the religion which pretends to be a political movement — socialism/communism. From the other flank there is the political movement which pretends to be a religion — Islam.  Both religions have massive amounts of money, heavy weaponry and great cultural power. Pope Benedict has probably looked at the ancient but fragile ramparts of Rome and realized that unless something turns up, they may not hold. Indeed, any normal assessment of forces would conclude that Benedict’s Church is doomed.  The future looks like a face-off between socialist secularism and unbending Islam.  How can Christianity even hope to keep the field? The full power of political correctness are marshaled on the one hand, and the multitudinous throngs of the Jihad are arrayed on the other. Never mind Canterbury’s end. What odds would you give Rome? An observer would give none, but for this cryptic prophecy in Matthew 16:18.

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

It's so interesting that this comes after the widely successful tour of the relics of St. Theresa de Liseux across England, the announcement of a papal visit to England next year where he will stay with the Queen in Buckingham Palace, and the canonization of the great Cardinal John Henry Newman next year, the most famous Catholic convert from Anglicanism in the 19th century.

Cardinal-Newman

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 PM | Permalink

Sharpie basement

This is just wonderful. Man decorates basement with $10 worth of Sharpie pens

Good work, Charles Kratzer, the lawyer who did this art project in his spare time.

But where do you put all your  junk?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:01 PM | Permalink

How Wall Street Profits

I  didn't know how JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs made $6.8 billion in profit last quarter but then I read How Wall Street is making its billions.

the big investment banks are able to borrow money from the U.S. government at 0 percent interest. Then they can turn around and buy short-term bonds that pay 2 or 3 percent annual interest. Now they’re making 2 percent on whatever they borrowed....

Are they investing the money in American business? “No, they are mostly buying Treasuries.” So the money is just being shuffled from one Federal bank account to another, with each Wall Street bank skimming off $1 billion per month for itself? “Pretty much.”

via Kottke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 PM | Permalink

Kingfisher

From the National Geographic comes a photo gallery by Charlie Hamilton James, featuring the Eurasian kingfisher, a Blaze of Blue

 Kingfisher

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

Pandora, the Music Genome Project

I meant to link this earlier this week, but it got lost in all my open tabs. 

As a fan and user of Pandora, I was fascinated to learn more about The Song Decoders.   

On first listen, some things grab you for their off-kilter novelty. Like the story of a company that has hired a bunch of “musicologists,” who sit at computers and listen to songs, one at a time, rating them element by element, separating out what sometimes comes to hundreds of data points for a three-minute tune. The company, an Internet radio service called Pandora, is convinced that by pouring this information through a computer into an algorithm, it can guide you, the listener, to music that you like. The premise is that your favorite songs can be stripped to parts and reverse-engineered.

 Pandora

It can take 20 minutes to amass the data for a single tune. This has been done for more than 700,000 songs, by 80,000 artists. “The Music Genome Project,” as this undertaking is called, is the back end of Pandora.
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Pandora’s approach more or less ignores the crowd. It is indifferent to the possibility that any given piece of music in its system might become a hit. The idea is to figure out what you like, not what a market might like. More interesting, the idea is that the taste of your cool friends, your peers, the traditional music critics, big-label talent scouts and the latest influential music blog are all equally irrelevant.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 PM | Permalink

Refractions of Light

Jason Kottke in The glittery Big Bang  thinks these photos "are probably what the universe looked like at an early age."

Alan Jaras is the artist who captures the refractions of a beam of light as it travels through transparent plastic and textured materials straight onto a 35 mm film.

 Bending Light

Bending light

 Frozen Light

Frozen light

 Silken Light

Silken light

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:30 PM | Permalink

Challenging conventional wisdom on common resources

According to this Reason report by John Stossel, the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences  was shared by  Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win this prize 

whose life's work demonstrates that politicians and bureaucrats are not nearly as good at solving problems as regular people. Ostrom, the first woman to win the prize (which she shared with Oliver Williamson of UC-Berkeley), is a political scientist at Indiana University. The selection committee said that she has "challenged the conventional wisdom that common property is poorly managed and should be either regulated by central authorities or privatized. Based on numerous studies of user-managed fish stocks, pastures, woods, lakes and groundwater basins, Ostrom concludes that the outcomes are, more often than not, better than predicted by standard theories. She observes that resource-users frequently develop sophisticated mechanisms for decision-making and rule enforcement to handle conflicts"

A Nobel Prize for Showing that Freedom Works

Not only is government help often not needed, Ostrom says it usually screws things up because bureaucrats operate in an ivory tower ignorant of the local customs and the specific resource.
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Fundamental for advocates of freedom is not "the market" narrowly conceived, but the broader realm of consent and contract.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:19 PM | Permalink

October 20, 2009

"Frankly, I wanted to die. But then heard Ollie"

Mrs Morrisroe-Clutton, a librarian, fell ill at the end of July after eating a vegetarian burger from a fish and chip shop in her home town of Wrexham.

She was admitted to intensive care at the town's Maelor Hospital where doctors diagnosed she had contracted E.coli.

They put her into a medically induced coma and placed her on a dialysis machine to try to control her seizures and kidney failure.

She had given birth a few weeks earlier.  Her husband made and then played  tapes of their new-born son Oliver to her in the hospital.

Coma mother wakes after hearing gurgles from her 11 week-old son

'I knew that I was dying,' she said. 'I confess that at one stage I gave up. 'I confess that at one stage I gave up. Frankly, I wanted to die.

'But then I heard Ollie. I remember lying there thinking that I wanted to hold him, to see his face and to stroke his little hands.

'I knew that I had to live and that he needed his mother.'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 PM | Permalink

Extreme Sheepherding

Best ever sheepherding video.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

Thank the marvelous snake

Mother Nature has provided a rich source of raw materials for a host of important drugs: aspirin comes from willow tree bark; the blood pressure drug captopril from the venom of a pit viper; warfarin, the widely used blood thinner, was derived from moldy sweet clover.

Now researchers think that desperately ill heart failure patients may find relief with the help of the eastern green mamba snake.

 Green Mamba Snake


That's the hope, at least, of John Burnett, a heart failure expert at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. He and his colleagues have fashioned an experimental drug based in part on the venom of the snake, a tree-dwelling relative of the cobra that is found in eastern Africa.

The Deadly Mamba as a Lifesaver

Marvelous.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 PM | Permalink

October 19, 2009

"Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell"

In the Financial Post, Have we learned anything?

WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED? How could overly enthusiastic homebuyers in the United States sink the global economy?
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The problem, however, was not that we had too few regulations; on the contrary, we had too many, and above all, faulty ones. Some readers may object that I am mainly quibbling about the meaning of words and fighting an ideological battle. You may have a point. Please feel free to call the problem whatever you like -- just so long as you are aware of what it consists of. Because what would be fatal would be for slogans about "insufficient regulation" to give rise to the idea that the crisis happened because the government was absent, and that the government must therefore intervene and regulate more to avoid a repeat.
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The problem is, we do not have a casino economy. To borrow a metaphor from child rearing, we have a "helicopter economy." Helicopter parents hover over their kids, preventing them falling and hurting themselves. This means their children never grow up and learn to see dangers for themselves. And for this very reason, such children will eventually fall in more serious and dangerous contexts instead, because risk is part of the human condition. The helicopter economy works in a similar way. The government hovers over the banks and investors, making sure they do not get hurt too badly (and cleaning up any messes they leave behind.) Whenever there is an accident, the benchmark rate is lowered, the central bank extends credit and taxpayers' money is pumped in. The players never learn to look out for risks; they just continue their reckless behaviour, and sooner or later they will fall off a ledge that they were not watching out for and pull us all down with them.

Capitalism without bankruptcy is like Christianity without hell -- it loses its ability to motivate humans to be prudent or respect their fears.

There should never be a company that's too big to fail.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 AM | Permalink

October 18, 2009

Relax, the world won't end in 2012

How many times have you heard people say in all seriousness that the world will end in 2012 and point to the fact that the Mayan calendar ends in that year as proof?

Soon a Hollywood film is coming - 2012 - about the end of the world that has all sorts of earthquakes, buildings toppling down, meteors and tsuanamis.  The trailer for the movie is so over the top, I laughed out loud. 

But too many are really terrified

At Cornell University, Ann Martin, who runs the "Curious? Ask an Astronomer" Web site, says people are scared.

"It's too bad that we're getting e-mails from fourth-graders who are saying that they're too young to die," Martin said. "We had a mother of two young children who was afraid she wouldn't live to see them grow up."

The Mayans have had enough.    2012 isn't the end of the world, Mayans insist.

I came back from England last year and, man, they had me fed up with this stuff."
--

"If I went to some Mayan-speaking communities and asked people what is going to happen in 2012, they wouldn't have any idea," said Jose Huchim, a Yucatan Mayan archaeologist. "That the world is going to end? They wouldn't believe you. We have real concerns these days, like rain."
--
Doomsday theories come from Westerners not from the Mayans.    Gifted Mayan astronomers mapped out out a "Long Count" calendar from 3114 B.C. to roughly 4772

marking time in roughly 394-year periods known as Baktuns. Thirteen was a significant, sacred number for the Mayas, and the 13th Baktun ends around Dec. 21, 2012.

"It's a special anniversary of creation," said David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Maya never said the world is going to end, they never said anything bad would happen necessarily, they're just recording this future anniversary on Monument Six.

Now Scientists try to calm '2012' hysteria.    They are so concerned about the level of fear, they are speaking out.

"Two years ago, I got a question a week about it," said NASA scientist David Morrison, who hosts a website called Ask an Astrobiologist. "Now I'm getting a dozen a day. Two teenagers said they didn't want to see the end of the world so they were thinking of ending their lives."

--
According to Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at UC Berkeley, the Maya never predicted anything. The 2012 date is approximately when the ancient calendar would roll over, like the odometer on a car; it did not mean the end -- merely the start of a new cycle.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

Too much positive thinking?

From a review of Barbara Ehrenreich's new book, Bright-Side - How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America.

It’s more than a little refreshing to know that Barbara Ehrenreich doesn’t care whether you smile. Indeed, she’d rather you not. ..., she accuses positivity-freaks of corrupting the media, infiltrating medical science, perverting religion, and destroying the economy. ... she pushes back against a kind of cultural pressure so totalizing we sometimes fail to notice its existence.
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Ehrenreich seems less worried about what positivity fans value than what they ignore. Her idea of a life well-lived, as she repeatedly tells us, involves storming into the world and demanding progressive political change. Positivity’s decidedly inward focus—in which the solution to every problem lies in a mere attitudinal shift—thus seems troubling, a “retreat from the real drama and tragedy of human events.”
--
Platitudinous happy-talk seems so harmless that most of us barely notice it, yet it can be a burdensome, even bullying, attempt to enforce emotional conformity. Consider, for instance, the “pink-ribbon culture,” a rose-tinted world Ehrenreich steps into when she is diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Positive thinking seems to be mandatory in the breast cancer world,” she writes, “to the point that unhappiness requires a kind of apology.” Dour pathology slides are out; “remembrance” teddy bears are in.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 AM | Permalink

Everybody knows

David Warren, one of the finest essay writers today, quotes another great essayist Charles Lamb, in defending Rush Limbaugh from the journalists who won't admit to spreading false quotes that are know to be false because Everybody knows


"The people" have always wished to be flattered, but they do not benefit from that service. And while it is too much to go about slashing their tires, it is important to war constantly against what "everybody knows." For what everybody knows is usually displaced some distance from the truth, and often in opposition to it. "Western Civ" was not built upon what everybody knows, but to the contrary. It was assembled in the face of darkest human nature, by the assiduous efforts of small and often persecuted minorities, trying to get at the surprising truth, and then spread it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2009

"Arctic Renaissance man", Matthew Henson, an unknown hero

I had never heard of Matthew Henson before he was featured in Lessons in Manliness.  I also didn't know what a miserable man Robert Peary was. 

Robert Peary’s hunger for the Pole, and for fame, was insatiable. He made 7 grueling Arctic expeditions between 1886 and 1909. The only man who accompanied him on each of those expeditions was Matthew Henson. Together they faced the harshest of Arctic challenges and together they planted the American flag at the Pole.
--
But Peary, who author Fergus Fleming called “the most unpleasant man in the annals of polar exploration,” had no interest in sharing the glory of the accomplishment with any other man, especially a black man. Years before his quest for the Pole commenced, Peary had written to his mother, “I must be the peer or superior of those about me to be comfortable.”
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Crestfallen that he had to share the glory of the moment with 4 Eskimos and a black man, Peary immediately ceased to speak to Henson, the man who had saved his life on a previous expedition and had remained absolutely loyal to him for 22 years when every other member of the expeditions had left because of Peary’s insufferable personality and demands. Unwilling to share the resulting fame, Peary forbade Henson to write, lecture, or grant interviews about the expedition. Henson had used his own camera to take 100 pictures on the trip and used his own money to develop them. Peary asked to borrow these pictures and then never gave them back.

 Matthew Henson Explorer

Booker T. Washington, a Henson admirer, summed it up well:

“During the twenty-three years in which he was the companion of the explorer he not only had time and opportunity to perfect himself in his knowledge of the books, but he acquired a good practical knowledge of everything that was a necessary part of the daily life in the ice-bound wilderness of polar exploration. He was at times a blacksmith, a carpenter, and a cook. He was thoroughly acquainted with the life, customs, and the language of the Esquimos. He himself built the sledges with which the journey to the Pole was successfully completed. He could not merely drive a dog-team or skin a musk-ox with the skill of a native, but he was something of a navigator as well. In this way Mr. Henson made himself not only the most trusted but the most useful member of the expedition.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:50 AM | Permalink

"If your gas grill won’t start….walk away."

With the perspective of an ER physician, Dr. McGuff offers advice to  help prevent you from "offing yourself prematurely".

1. Drive the biggest vehicle you can afford to drive. Your greatest risk of death comes from a motor vehicle accident... It goes without saying to wear your seatbelts, and you should be engulfed by as many air bags as possible. If we were truly rational about risk, all seat belts would be 5-point restraints and we would wear helmets while driving.

2. Never get on a 4-wheeler ATV. These are the most dangerous vehicle that I know of. ATV’s have produced more quadriplegics than anything else I have seen.

3. Do not road cycle or jog on public roads/roadsides. This is self-evident.

4. Do not fly a plane or helicopter unless you are a full-time professional pilot. If you are a doctor, lawyer, actor, athlete, stockbroker or other well-to-do professional do not get a pilot’s license. Expertise in one area of life does not transfer to piloting, often with fatal results.

5. If you are walking down a sidewalk and are approaching a group of loud and apparently intoxicated males, cross to the other side of the street immediately. If anyone tries to start a fight with you, the first step should be “choke them with heel dust”.

6. If your gas grill won’t start….walk away. Never throw gas (or other accelerant) on a fire.

7. Never dive into a pool or body of water (except in a pool diving area marked 9 feet or deeper after you have checked in out feet-first).

8. Never get on a ladder to clean your gutters, or on your roof to hang Christmas lights. Do not cut down trees with a chainsaw. I have seen too many middle age males (with a bug up their ass to get something done) die from these activities. In general, any house or lawn work that you can hire for an amount equal to or less than your own hourly wage is money well spent.

9. If you are retirement age and plan on moving to a new home…think twice. The stress pushes many seniors over the edge. If you do, buy an existing house. I have lost count of the number of retirees that have died of heart attacks while going through the stress of custom-building their retirement dream home.

10. If anyone tries to force you into your car or car trunk at gun point, don’t cooperate. Fight and scream all you can even if you risk getting shot in the parking lot. If you get in the car, you will most likely die (or worse).

11. If you are in any personal or professional relationship that exhausts you or otherwise causes your recurrent distress, then end the relationship immediately.

12. Don’t play the lottery…you might win. Any unearned wealth, or wealth that is disproportionate to the objective value you provide will destroy you. Lottery winners and Sports/Movie stars share a common bond of disproportionate rates of depression, addiction, and suicide.


Via First Thoughts

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:26 AM | Permalink

""There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America"

Wouldn't this be great. 

Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world

America is not going to bleed its wealth importing fuel. Russia's grip on Europe's gas will weaken. Improvident Britain may avoid paralysing blackouts by mid-decade after all.

The World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires last week was one of those events that shatter assumptions. Advances in technology for extracting gas from shale and methane beds have quickened dramatically, altering the global balance of energy faster than almost anybody expected.
--

Rune Bjornson from Norway's StatoilHydro said exploitable reserves are much greater than supposed just three years ago and may meet global gas needs for generations.
--

 Oil Shale Basins

Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, said proven natural gas reserves around the world have risen to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 60 years' supply – and rising fast.

"There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America. Reserve estimates are rising sharply as technology unlocks unconventional resources," he said.
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The US Energy Department expects shale to meet half of US gas demand within 20 years, if not earlier. Projects are cranking up in eastern France and Poland. Exploration is under way in Australia, India and China.

Texas A&M University said US methods could increase global gas reserves by nine times to 16,000 TCF (trillion cubic feet).
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Natural gas has much lower CO2 emissions than coal, even from shale – which is why the Sierra Club is backing it as the lesser of evils against "clean coal" (not yet a reality). The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said America may not need any new coal or nuclear plants "ever" again.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:59 AM | Permalink

"The greatest systemic risk to our economy is not Wall Street. It's the growing federal debt (and weakening dollar)"

Washington is Nuts

As boom- and bust-prone as high finance always has been and remains, the greatest systemic risk to our economy is not Wall Street. It's the growing federal debt (and weakening dollar) being enacted by those Washington politicians -- the ones who want to protect us from Wall Street.

It soon may be not a risk but a certainty of generations-long economic stagnation and hard times as a direct result of "unsustainable" and ever-growing national debt, driven by a federal budget almost half of which is to be paid for each year by borrowing money -- primarily from China -- and already weakening the dollar such that foreigners are trying to get rid of their dollars any way they can.
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And yet the same Congress and president who want to stop the banks from taking too much risk cannot stop themselves from ever more deficits. Indeed, so intoxicated -- nay, hypnotized! -- by debt is the current government that it is not even proposing to try to cut back.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:28 AM | Permalink

October 13, 2009

Unspeakable tragedy and a remarkable woman

Too often we don't see the lives of heroic virtue around us.

Maria Dickerson raised three children and was beginning to step out with a new boyfriend when an unspeakable tragedy happened to three young children she knew well whose mother was strangled, her throat slit  and left for dead in their kitchen where they found her in the morning.

After an unspeakable tragedy, a new life

In the days after the murder, a social worker told family friend Maria Dickerson that no relatives had come forward to claim Melissa’s children, and they would probably be placed in separate foster homes.

“Stop right there,’’ Maria said. She had known all of these children since they were babies. Her daughter was a godmother to Nathan and Skyla. Maria was baby Kiara’s godmother.

Maria had already raised two daughters, and it was just her son, Jordan, at home now. She had recently started seeing a tall, soft-spoken sales rep named Kevin Mason, and she liked him a lot.

And yet she didn’t have a second’s hesitation.

“These kids must be kept together,’’ she said. “Give them to me.’’

She quit her well-paid insurance job. She bought bunk beds and baby dolls. She cleared space for four more.

“Anybody would have done it,’’ she said.

No. Most people would think about doing it. Only someone truly remarkable would go through with it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:05 PM | Permalink

Burden of Debt

Imagine if you had to spend 40% of all you earned on credit card interest.  Not paying down your credit card  debt, just paying the interest.  How secure or hopeful would you feel about the future?  Would you be looking to borrow more?

Yet, that's just the situation we're in.

In 2009, 40% of our income tax will go to pay interest on our national debt.  Lawrence Kadish in Taking the National Debt Seriously writes that such debt makes our future unstable

unless Americans are made aware of this financial crisis and demand accountability, the very fabric of our society will be destroyed. Interest rates and interest costs will soar and government revenues will be devoured by interest on the national debt. Eventually, most of what we spend on Social Security, Medicare, education, national defense and much more may have to come from new borrowing, if such funding can be obtained. Left unchecked, this destructive deficit-debt cycle will leave the White House and Congress with either having to default on the national debt or instruct the Treasury to run the printing presses into a policy of hyperinflation.

It is against this background that Washington is now debating whether to create social programs it can't afford.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:45 AM | Permalink

October 12, 2009

Attacking the messenger

Even though no one can expect benefits under the proposed health care reform bill until 2013, cuts to Medicare and tax increases will take effect immediately, the AP reports. 

By counting 10 years of Medicare cuts and tax  increasing and only 7 years before  and subsidies and benefits kick in, the cost looks lower than it really is.

Even more expensive will be health care premiums that individuals and families already pay -about $1700 a year to the cost of family coverage in 2013 said a study released today by Pricewaterhousecoopers.   

At the heart of the argument is whether the Finance Committee bill does enough to draw young, healthy people into the insurance risk pool. By postponing and reducing penalties on people who do not sign up for health insurance, industry analysts predict it would attract less-healthy patients who would drive up costs.
--
"Market reform enacted in the absence of universal coverage will increase costs dramatically for many who are currently insured by creating a powerful incentive for people to wait until they are sick to purchase coverage," the authors of the report wrote

Because the study was commissioned by the industry group America's Health Insurance Plans, and despite the obvious fact that all corporate audits are performed by outside independent auditors such as Pricewaterhousecoopers, the White House attacked the auditing firm and not the specifics of the report.

"Those guys specialize in tax shelters," said Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform. "Clearly this is not their area of expertise."

From Powerline

I want to focus on just one feature of the Baucus plan that the PWC report addresses: the "weak mandate" to buy insurance, coupled with a strong requirement on the insurance industry that it insure everyone, regardless of pre-existing conditions or state of health. This combination will devastate the individual insurance market:
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PWC is stating the issue politely, to say the least. What is meant by a "weak mandate" is that, in the current version of the Baucus bill, there is no requirement to buy health insurance at all until after 2013, and by 2017 the penalty for failing to buy health insurance still amounts to only about 15% of the cost of the insurance. Now, think about it: if you know that you don't have to buy health insurance when you are young and healthy, but if you should get sick, or just get older, you can apply for health insurance at any time and it will be illegal for the insurance company to turn you down, what would you do? Obviously, you would defer buying insurance unless and until you get sick. This means that the pool of those who are insured will be lower quality, and the cost therefore higher for everyone who buys insurance. It is as though you could wait until you die, and then your heirs can buy life insurance on you.

This isn't reform, it is stupidity.

It actually would be very easy to make health insurance cheaper. All we have to do is allow insurance companies to compete nationally instead of state-by-state and eliminate all mandates that limit consumer choice. It has been estimated that these simple reforms--which are not part of any of the Democrats' "reform" bills, for obvious reasons--would reduce health care costs by one-quarter to one-third. Instead of such common-sense reforms, the Dems are proposing Rube Goldberg measures that will make health care more expensive. Instead of eliminating mandates, their measures, including the Baucus bill, increase them--in effect making cheaper health insurance illegal

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 PM | Permalink

Who cares about science and facts?

When even the BBC asks What happened to global warming,  when there's been no increase in warming for the past 11 years despite a great increase in man made CO2,  when the leader of Greenpeace admits the organization put out fake global warming data about disappearing Arctic ice,  when the  premise of runaway global warming depends on the  'hockey stick' graph first published in Nature and then by the PCC that turns out to be based on scientific fraud, do you think our esteemed Congress might want to get more facts before imposing cap and trade taxes to be paid by everyone who consumes energy that some call the largest tax increase in American history in the midst of a recession?

I didn't think so either.

Richard Fernandez has a better and more detailed discussion in the 2010 to Yuma

Of course none of this matters. Even the eleven years of non-warming the BBC reports is irrelevant. The science itself is unimportant.  Not even twenty years of freezing winters would cool the ardor of activists.  There are too many political careers and too much money riding on the Truth of Global Warming for that train to be canceled. We’ve got to get aboard whether we like it not.

UDATE:  More from Thomas Lifson, Government Funded Research Unit Destroyed Original Climate Date

If the data cannot be reviewed, it cannot be trusted, scientifically.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

Michael Pollan's food rules

Well, actually, they are not his, but his readers. The top 20 from 2500 received.  Here's one I follow.

 Food Rule-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:20 PM | Permalink

Perils of the Pathway

She took her elderly mother who had come down with pneumonia to the hospital for expert care.  Little did she know that she would have to fight to have the hospital give her mother food and water .

Daughter saves mother, 80, left by doctors to starve.

AN 80-year-old grandmother who doctors identified as terminally ill and left to starve to death has recovered after her outraged daughter intervened.

Hazel Fenton, from East Sussex, is alive nine months after medics ruled she had only days to live, withdrew her antibiotics and denied her artificial feeding. The former school matron had been placed on a controversial care plan intended to ease the last days of dying patients.

Doctors say Fenton is an example of patients who have been condemned to death on the Liverpool care pathway plan. They argue that while it is suitable for patients who do have only days to live, it is being used more widely in the NHS, denying treatment to elderly patients who are not dying.
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Ball, 42, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, said: “My mother was going to be left to starve and dehydrate to death. It really is a subterfuge for legalised euthanasia of the elderly on the NHS. ”

It really does seem that the Liverpool pathway has become a protocol to deal with all elderly patients and thus the reason to give minimum care and so hasten their deaths.   

For the life of me, I can not understand how doctors or hospitals, even under the guise of 'policy' or 'protocol', can deny  anyone who wants food and water no matter how old or sick.   

I wrote about The Death Pathway last month and the alarm many doctors, patients and families have as they witness themselves the denial of food and fluids to patients.

Dr. Hargreaves who has practiced palliative care for 20 years said in an interview,

I am getting more concerned about this “death pathway” that is coming in.  “It is supposed to let people die with dignity but it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy."

He said that he had personally taken patients off the pathway who went on to live for “significant” amounts of time and warned that many doctors were not checking the progress of patients enough to notice improvement in their condition.

Professor Millard said that patients were being terminally sedated around the clock making it difficult for a doctor to see whether a patient is getting better.  Astonishingly, 16.5% of all deaths in Britain come about after continuous deep sedation.

Continual drugs, no food or fluids, is the pathway to death all right, unless a strong daughter raises a ruckus.

Back to Christina Ball who saved her mother's life.

Ball insisted that her mother was not dying but her objections were ignored. A nurse even approached her to say: “What do you want done with your mother’s body?”

On January 19, Fenton’s 80th birthday, Ball says her mother was feeling better and chatting to her family, but it took another four days to persuade doctors to give her artificial feeding.

Fenton is now being looked after in a nursing home five minutes from where her daughter lives.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:56 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

October 9, 2009

Food Flags

Just look at these "food flags" created for the Sydney International Food Festival.

Italy Food-Flags

It's basil, pasta and tomatoes for Italy.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:22 PM | Permalink

Good news for chronic fatigue sufferers

Chronic fatigue syndrome has frustrated sufferers and doctors alike because nobody knew what caused the disease or how best to treat it.  That just changed.

Scientists say that a retrovirus may cause chronic fatigue syndrome, also known as ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis)

Researchers found the virus, known as XMRV, in the blood of 68 out of 101 chronic fatigue syndrome patients. The same virus showed up in only 8 of 218 healthy people, they reported in the journal Science.
But lead scientist Judy Mikovits from the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada, said further blood tests revealed 95 per cent of the ME patients had antibodies to the virus. This indicated they had been infected with XMRV.

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Researchers found the virus, known as XMRV, in the blood of 68 out of 101 chronic fatigue syndrome patients. The same virus showed up in only 8 of 218 healthy people, they reported in the journal Science.  But lead scientist Judy Mikovits from the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Nevada, said further blood tests revealed 95 per cent of the ME patients had antibodies to the virus. This indicated they had been infected with XMRV.
--

The XMRV virus is a retrovirus, like the HIV virus that causes AIDS. As with all viruses, a retrovirus copies its genetic code into the DNA of its host but uses RNA - a working form of DNA - instead of using DNA to do so.

 Chronic Fatigue

Reports the New York Times

“I think this establishes what had always been considered a psychiatric disease as an infectious disease,” said Dr. Mikovits, who is research director at the Whittemore Peterson Institute in Reno, a nonprofit center created by the parents of a woman who has a severe case of the syndrome. Her co-authors include scientists from the National Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Mikovits said she and her colleagues were drawing up plans to test antiretroviral drugs — some of the same ones used to treat HIV infection — to see whether they could help patients with chronic fatigue. If the drugs work, that will help prove that the virus is causing the illness. She said patients and doctors should wait for the studies to be finished before trying the drugs.

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Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, said the discovery was exciting and made sense.

“My first reaction is, ‘At last,’ ” Dr. Schaffner said. “In interacting with patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, you get the distinct impression that there’s got to be something there.”
--

He added, “
This is going to create an avalanche of subsequent studies.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:36 PM | Permalink

October 8, 2009

Another NHS outrage

A plumber by trade, Torron Eeles fell down the stairs and broke his arm on December 3, 2008. 

 Broken Arm
Here he is today

Plumber with shattered arm left horrifically bent out of shape has operation 'cancelled four times'

Mr Eeles claims his first two operations at the Queen Elizabeth II hospital i... were cancelled due to a lack of beds and operating time respectively.

His third operation in February was postponed after he was found to have high blood pressure, while the fourth, scheduled for May, was abandoned because of concerns about his smoking.

He can't work, but because he can turn on a tap and raise his arm, he doesn't qualify for temporary disability benefits.

Government health care, government rules.  He didn't stop smoking, so no operation for him.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:44 AM | Permalink

Whatever

"Whatever' is voted the most irritating word in the English language.

Absolutely right.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 AM | Permalink

October 7, 2009

I wonder if Beyonce has seen this

This is so great.  I have never seen a baby dance like this.


Baby Dances To Single Ladies @ Yahoo! Video

Hat tip to The Anchoress

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 PM | Permalink

Why cut reimbursement rates to cardiologists and oncologists?

I'm all for incentives to increase the number of doctors, especially general practitioners. 

But I don't know why the Administration proposes to cut the prices paid for cardiologists and oncologists by 11% and 19% respectively so they can pay general practitioners more.

Obama's War on Specialists

this boost for GPs comes at the expense of certain specialties. The 2010 rules, which will be finalized next month, visit an 11% overall cut on cardiology and 19% on radiation oncology. They're targets only because of cost: Two-thirds of morbidity or mortality among Medicare patients owes to cancer or heart disease.
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The way Medicare works is that Congress decides each year how much it wants to spend on doctors, period. If one area of medicine receives a larger slice of this pie, another must accept a smaller one.
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Jack Lewin, who heads the American College of Cardiology, said in an interview that the crackdown will cause "a horrible disruption" that will force many community and independent practices to close their doors, lay off staff or make senior patients wait days or weeks for tests and services.
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HHS justified its decision with a flimsy survey whose data it won't release and whose results can't be replicated. Dr. Lewin told us that both HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and budget director Peter Orszag refuse to meet with him to discuss the topic.


Why heart disease and cancer, the biggest killers as people grow older?

Especially on top of a $500 billion cut in Medicare spending in the proposed health care bills.

Will seniors and boomers who are about to swell the senior ranks and so required to use Medicare stand for this?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 PM | Permalink

The one page Republican health plan

Jennifer Rubin in Simple and Cheap points to Jeffrey Anderson who culled all the best Republican proposals for health care reform and put them on a single page.

1. Leave employer-provided insurance as it is and give individuals a $2,500 tax credit to equalize tax treatment for individuals who buy their own insurance.

2. Allow individuals to buy insurance across state lines.

3. Extend COBRA for up to 30 months, allowing people to keep their insurance if they leave a job.

4. Remove government regulations limiting insurers from offering premium breaks for healthy lifestyle choices.

5. Enact real malpractice reform (limit punitive damages to $250,000 and all noneconomic damages to $750,000).

6. Provide help to encourage insurance pools for the hard to insure.


Over 10 years Anderson’s plan would spend $75B and include $345M in tax cuts.

At least even Congressmen would be able to read the whole thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:01 PM | Permalink

Every three days, a new heart

I found this fascinating.

Self-Destructive Behavior in Cells May Hold Key to a Longer Life

Deep down, we are all cannibals. Our cells are perpetually devouring themselves, shredding their own complex molecules to pieces and recycling them for new parts. Many of the details of our endless self-destruction have come to light only in the past few years. And to the surprise of many scientists, links are now emerging between this inner cannibalism and diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.

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In fact, as Dr. Klionsky wrote in a paper published online in Trends in Cell Biology, this cannibalism may extend our lifespan. Increasing our body’s ability to self-destruct may, paradoxically, let us live longer.
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A cell uses the material to build new molecules, gradually recreating itself from old parts. “Every three days, you basically have a new heart,” said Dr. Ana Maria Cuervo, a molecular biologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
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Unfortunately, as we get older, our cells lose their cannibalistic prowess. The decline of autophagy may be an important factor in the rise of cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders that become common in old age. Unable to clear away the cellular garbage, our bodies start to fail.

 Lysosome Intracellular Digestion

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:55 PM | Permalink

The dearth of manly men

Could the pill have put off women from manly men?

The Pill may also have changed women's taste in men, according to a study.

Scientists say the hormones in the oral contraceptive suppress a woman's interest in masculine men and make boyish men more attractive. Although the change occurs for just a few days each month, it may have been highly influential since use of the Pill began more than 40 years ago.
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If the theory is right, it could partly explain the shifting in tastes from macho 1950s and 1960s stars such as Kirk Douglas and Sean Connery to the more wimpy, androgynous stars of today, such as Johnny Depp and Russell Brand.

Dr Alexandra Alvergne, of the University of Sheffield, says the Pill could also be altering the way women pick their mates and could have long-term implications for society.
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Scientists have long known that a woman's taste in men changes over her menstrual cycle.
During the few days each month when women are fertile - around the time of ovulation - they tend to prefer masculine features and men who are more assertive.
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On days when women are not fertile, their tastes swing towards more feminine, boyish faces and more caring personalities, researchers have shown.

However, if women are taking the Pill they no longer have fertile days. That means they no longer experience the hormonal changes that make them more attracted to masculine men and those with dissimilar genetic make-up.

Or maybe the dearth of manly men can be laid to something in the water. 

The wide spread use of the pill has resulted in the estrogen pollution, via female urine,  of rivers and waters feminizing fish, creating intersex fish and, in part,  responsible for male infertility.


When EPA-funded scientists at the University of Colorado studied fish in a pristine mountain stream known as Boulder Creek two years ago, they were shocked. Randomly netting 123 trout and other fish downstream from the city’s sewer plant, they found that 101 were female, 12 were male, and 10 were strange “intersex” fish with male and female features.

It’s “the first thing that I’ve seen as a scientist that really scared me,” said then 59-year-old University of Colorado biologist John Woodling, speaking to the Denver Post in 2005. 

They studied the fish and decided the main culprits were estrogens and other steroid hormones from birth control pills and patches, excreted in urine into the city’s sewage system and then into the creek. 

Woodling, University of Colorado physiology professor David Norris, and their EPA-study team were among the first scientists in the country to learn that a slurry of hormones, antibiotics, caffeine and steroids is coursing down the nation’s waterways, threatening fish and contaminating drinking water.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:36 PM | Permalink

October 6, 2009

A Man of Faith

I never heard of Jack Rushton who, some 20 years ago while body surfing with his son was picked up by a wave and thrown onto a rock breaking his neck and injuring his spinal cord. 

"I learned within days after my accident that any quality of life I would have from that point on would be centered in the mind and the spirit," he said.

Rushton compared it to leaving mortality and entering the spirit world -- having to, in essence, leave his functioning physical body behind.

"Yet my mind was consumed by cherished truths I think maybe I had taken for granted for much of my life," he said. "They brought great peace of mind to me and helped me to deal with a future that looked black and almost impossible to comprehend."

But when I saw his YouTube video, I couldn't believe how funny he was and how inspiring. 

He writes the blog Observations to leave behind for his 6 children and 17 grandchildren.  Here he writes about the enormous effect of receiving loving kindness from others.

There was an African American nurse that worked the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. about three nights each week. She radiated a spirit of love and light that penetrated my dark world every time she was with me. Every morning before she would leave to go home, knowing that with the shift change I would probably not see another nurse for at least an hour, she would get a basin full of hot water and with a washcloth she would wash and massage my face in a most loving and caring way. It was not doctor's orders and no other nurse ever thought to do it... but she did, and she did it every morning she was there. No one can know how good that felt, especially when you can't feel anything in your entire body except your face and the top of your head. But as good as it felt physically it even felt better emotionally to have someone, really a stranger, show that kind of love and concern.

Another flash of light that always brought hope and made the worst of times a good time was the care given to me by an African-American nurse's aide. He was a big man, muscular, an Afro hairdo, ear rings, various tattoos, and a loud voice. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley late at night. Poor Jo Anne was afraid to leave the hospital that first night that he was to be a participant in my care. How true it is that looks can be deceiving. I was never treated with such respect, kindness, and tenderness by anyone at Rancho than by him. He couldn't do enough for me. I always rejoiced when I realized he was to be my helper during a 12 hour period. It was obvious to me that what he was doing was not being done out of a sense of duty but out of love and deep concern for me and the other young men in our spinal cord injury unit. He had a great sense of humor and made me feel good in spite of myself and the trauma I was going through.

The power of faith is quite extraordinary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 PM | Permalink

'Time management is a myth'

What every Super Achiever Knows About Time Management  from the Field Guide for Real Estate Investors

Yet, the super achievers seem to have all the time they need. They must know the secrets of time management the rest of us don't. In December of 2007 and January of 2008 I interviewed a sampling of the really high achievers here at the Field Guide and I learned an amazing time management revelation.

They do know a secret but it is not the one you might expect. The super achievers know that time management is a myth. They focus not on managing their time but on managing their achievements
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They know a to do list is often used as an excuse to avoid the difficult, yet critical, task.
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Super achievers don't manage their time, they create, manage and maximize their opportunities. At any given time they know the one critical, must complete, task and they work on that task

HT Instapundit

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:07 PM | Permalink

"Relational wasteland"

Michael Gerson writes about today's 20-somethings, singles who, Lost without a Courtship Narrative, find themselves in a "relational wasteland".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:36 PM | Permalink

Elderly woman witnesses to man trying to rob her

Catching up on all the stories I wanted to post about, here's how one remarkable elderly woman of faith saved herself and possibly her attacker.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:33 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2009

A vision come true

A remarkable story of a man with determined persistence to make his vision come true. 

Homeless man becomes a millionaire after writing hit symphony ...with no musical training

A self-trained musician who slept rough on the streets for a decade has been hailed a genius after writing a symphony.
Stuart Sharp, 67, saw a vision of the musical masterpiece in his mind after his baby son Ben died 35 years ago.

He could not read or write music but the tunes were so vivid he was determined to turn the 'imaginary' sounds into a symphony in memory of his lost child.

Stuart's Angeli Symphony has been described as a work of 'genius' by music experts and is to be played in the Royal Albert Hall.

 Stuart Sharp



Stuart said: 'My son Ben died after medical complications at birth and my wife was very ill in hospital. I was in so much trauma you can not imagine.

'Then on the night of Ben's funeral I had a vision of soothing, beautiful music and it gave me great comfort.

'I could see the whole orchestra playing and as I watched I could see all the individual notes being played on the different instruments.

'After that I would often hear the music and I could remember it all very vividly. 'The tunes were always very real, very beautiful, sometimes as if the angels were really playing to me.

'I did not know what the notes were and at times I doubted my sanity, especially as I am an atheist. But I came to understand that it was music for my son and I could see it on stage one day.' 
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'I think after Ben died I died and became a different person.'

A documentary is now being made about his life story and his Angel symphony will be the soundtrack.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

Asperger Syndrome at work

Penelope Trunk, the Brazen Careerist, has Asperger's Syndrome. 

 Penelope Trunk

This week she is offering career advice on How to deal with Asperger Syndrome at work.

People often tell me that I should write career advice for people with Asperger Syndrome. This is because I am surrounded by people who have Asperger’s, and I have it myself.  Please, do not tell me I don’t have it. First of all, it looks very different in men and women, and most of you have experience with men. Second, I’m way more weird in person than I am on the blog. And surely you thought it was the other way around.

So, anyway, the reason I’m good at giving career advice is because I had to learn things systematically, which helps me break it down for everyone else.

For example, I had to learn that a candy dish on someone’s desk means “I like to talk with people.” Other people read this cue instinctively.
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I don’t really do career coaching. I don’t have patience. But often career coaches send people with Asperger’s to me, because mostly, these people are extremely difficult to coach.

They are difficult to coach because the biggest problem is that non-verbal cues that are obvious to everyone else are totally lost on people with Asperger’s. For example, you can tell when you are boring someone, but someone with Asperger’s cannot—we just keep talking.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink