February 27, 2010

"Dark waters are easy to drown in."

For those who may be contemplating suicide.  A prayer from the living world

You may be afraid to face the years ahead. You’re not the only one, and if you extinguish the light of your faith and wisdom, you consign others to darkness. You might see death by your own hand as the end of unbearable pain… but I ask you to think about Walter Koenig, facing a wall of cameras with quiet grace in the hours after finding his son’s body, and understand that it’s only the beginning of agony.

You might have decided your fellow men are rotten to the core, and you’re weary of their company. Listen to the music of Mozart, or look upon the work of Michelangelo, and consider the argument of those who profoundly disagree. Maybe part of your problem is that you’ve been listening to the wrong music, or looking at the wrong pictures.
Dark waters are easy to drown in. The judgment of the human race will not lack witnesses for the defense, and they will make their case to you, if you give them a chance.

Now, take the last few steps back to your home, and set aside one sorrow or terror with every footfall, until your mind is clear. If you’re thinking of incinerating the remaining years of your life, surely you can spare a few minutes for quiet reflection, and hear this prayer from the living world:

Please don’t leave us. We need you.

It is a quiet prayer, spoken in a soft voice, but it’s never too late to listen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:12 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2010

The Grateful Dead in the "fields of less then nothing"

Caring for orphans, ransoming hostages, burying the dead - it's all in a day's work for Father Rick Frechette

The best - and the most horrifying -article I've read this  year, Love Among the Ruins by Matt Labash

Though it’s taking me a while to reach the land of newly minted loss (in 40 seconds’ time, at least 230,000 Haitians were killed on January 12, one in every 50), I’ve come to Hartford to collect a man who, no matter where he goes, can’t seem to escape the dead. Father Rick, as most call him, has lived in Haiti for 22 years. He is founder and director of the Haitian branch of the international children’s organization Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos (“Our Little Brothers and Sisters”).

In the Tabarre section of Port-au-Prince, Frechette runs St. Damien Hospital, Haiti’s only free pediatric hospital. He also oversees an orphanage and the sprawling St. Luke missions, a boots-on-the-ground enterprise responsible for everything from its 18 simple street-schools in a country where fewer than 75 percent of children attend school, to running water and food to the city’s most ferocious slums.

Additionally, every Thursday—since long before the earthquake—Frechette and a band of Haitian volunteers trek to the city morgue and claim the nameless dead, who lie naked in bloated heaps on a blood-streaked concrete floor. “You’ve heard of Tuesdays with Morrie,” Frechette smiles, “this is Thursdays with the Krokmo” (a Creole pejorative term for undertaker. It translates as the “death hook,” meaning the show is over). The place is jammed and the dead often piled seven or eight high. The workers there are so inured to the stench and spectacle, that Frechette has seen a morgue attendant slaloming on roller blades around the bodies and workers eating their lunch while sitting on stacks of cadavers as though on breaktime in the office kitchenette.

In Haiti, even before the quake, dead bodies were nothing more than background music—as commonplace as they are unnoticed. If they didn’t end up in the stark death-cave that is the general hospital morgue, they were burned in the streets on the spot where they died (a pragmatic hygiene concern). The decency and sentimentality that a better-developed society affords are luxuries here. Father Rick and his men gather the bodies themselves, packing them into makeshift coffins fashioned from supermarket cardboard boxes. They then truck them outside the city, up a sun-bleached highway that runs alongside the Caribbean Sea, to the rolling wastelands of Titanyen, which translates from Creole as the “fields of less than nothing.” A New Orleans-style Haitian jazz-funeral band—all horns and drums—plays graveside. Father Rick, an irreverent sort, calls them “The Grateful Dead.” Then he and his men plant the cardboard coffins in large holes dug by their own gravediggers, endowing their cargo in death with a tiny modicum of the dignity that eluded them in life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

February 24, 2010

Our economic future is looking more and more bleak

List of troubled banks at 16-year-peak, FDIC says

With bank failures running at their highest level in nearly two decades, the F.D.I.C. is racing to keep up with rising losses to its insurance fund, which safeguards savers’ deposits. On Tuesday, the agency announced that it had placed 702 lenders on its list of “problem” banks, the highest number since 1993.

Not all of those banks are destined to founder, and F.D.I.C. officials said Tuesday that they expected failures to peak this year. But they also warned that the fund might have to cover $20 billion in additional losses by 2013 — a bill that could be even greater if the economy worsens.

Nearly 25% of all mortgages are underwater

That's 11.3 million households. 
Nevada was the state with the worst record at 70% of all mortgaged properties underwater. That was followed by Arizona (51%), Florida (48%), Michigan (39%) and California (35%).

The obligations owed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been explicitly backed by the Federal Treasury.  If we added those debts owing to the federal budget, our real debt to GDP Ratio is 130% and That Greece is amateur hour

Yet it is not just us, but the administration's very own Peter Orzsag who was pushing for consolidated GSE accounting two years ago. Yet with GSE debt most recently at $6.3 trillion, or about half of the existing Treasury debt, this would mean total US debt would not only explode by 50% overnight, but the recently increased debt ceiling would be immediately breached and America would find itself in technical default (where it really is right now for all technical purposes).

The Great Recession of 2011-2012

Despite the self-congratulatory assurances from the White House, Congress, and part of Wall Street that we have been saved from a slide into a 1930s depression, our most serious trials still lie ahead of us. We are unlikely to be able to get back to those halcyon days of perpetual prosperity and optimism that Americans (and most of the industrial world) enjoyed for the last 50 years. A tectonic shift is occurring beneath our feet and the world’s economic climate has shifted. We face not just a few abrasive years of getting back to normal, but a generational hard slog of constricted markets, limited resources, and rolling setbacks.......

Folks will try to live just the way they have been but those lives will be more pinched, the opportunities more limited; caution and bitterness will replace the open-handed optimism that made it a wonder to be a 20th-century American, or even a Western European.

Don Peck in The Atlantic with a very depressing look at How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

[Men have] suffered roughly three-quarters of the 8 million job losses since the beginning of 2008 … In November, 19.4 percent of all men in their prime working years, 25 to 54, did not have jobs, the highest figure since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking the statistic in 1948.
… this era of high joblessness is probably just beginning. Before it ends, it will likely … leave an indelible imprint on many blue-collar men. It could cripple marriage as an institution in many communities. It may already be plunging many inner cities into a despair not seen for decades.

The principal group not suffering are government workers - How public servants became our masters

That money will come from taxpayers. The average private-sector worker, who enjoys a lower salary and far lower retirement benefits than New York or California government workers, will have to work longer, retire later, and pay more so that his public-employee neighbors can enjoy the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. The taxpayers will also have to deal with worsening public services, since there will be less money to pay for things that might actually benefit the public.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:32 PM | Permalink

Best news today -the Bloombox

If it pans out, within 5-10 years, you'll be able to buy a bloombox for your house for about $3000.
Bloom Box: Secret App May Be Key to Tiny Energy Plant

Set to be unveiled today, the much anticipated Bloom Box—a residential "power plant" about the size of a mini-fridge—could provide cheap, environmentally friendly electricity to U.S. households within ten years, according to Bloom Energy, the company behind the fuel cell based invention.
At the heart of the Bloom Box are
solid oxide fuel cells—in this case, flat, coaster-size ceramic plates with a secret coating—widely considered by experts to be one of the most efficient types of fuel cells.

This diagram from Bloom Energy shows how the fuel cells are painted with patented inks, green on one side, black on the other.

A single Bloom Box plate can power one light bulb, but a stack of 64 of the cells could be "big enough to power a Starbucks," Sridhar said.

Oxygen and natural gas are fed into the Bloom Box and undergo a high-temperature chemical reaction in the fuel cells to produce electricity, heat, carbon dioxide, and water.

The fuel can be piped in from municipal natural gas systems—much as it is for gas stoves and ovens—or created from biogas or, as in the case of eBay, harvested from natural gas-rich landfills.

For months now, Bloom Energy has been testing refrigerator-size Bloom Boxes at campuses of major corporations—including Google, FedEx, Wal-Mart, and eBay.

At the link, you can watch a 60 minutes video with Leslie Stahl as she explores the Bloombox with founder K.R. Sridhar.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:18 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 22, 2010

Great new archeological finds

In Turkey, there is History in the Remaking as archeologists have found a temple complex that predates the Pyramids, called  "Potbelly Hill, Göbekli Tepe in Turkish

Standing on the hill at dawn, overseeing a team of 40 Kurdish diggers, the German-born archeologist waves a hand over his discovery here, a revolution in the story of human origins. Schmidt has uncovered a vast and beautiful temple complex, a structure so ancient that it may be the very first thing human beings ever built. The site isn't just old, it redefines old: the temple was built 11,500 years ago—a staggering 7,000 years before the Great Pyramid, and more than 6,000 years before Stonehenge first took shape. The ruins are so early that they predate villages, pottery, domesticated animals, and even agriculture—the first embers of civilization. In fact, Schmidt thinks the temple itself, built after the end of the last Ice Age by hunter-gatherers, became that ember—the spark that launched mankind toward farming, urban life, and all that followed.

After a dozen years of patient work, Schmidt has uncovered what he thinks is definitive proof that a huge ceremonial site flourished here, a "Rome of the Ice Age," as he puts it, where hunter-gatherers met to build a complex religious community. Across the hill, he has found carved and polished circles of stone, with terrazzo flooring and double benches. All the circles feature massive T-shaped pillars that evoke the monoliths of Easter Island.


Schmidt's thesis is simple and bold: it was the urge to worship that brought mankind together in the very first urban conglomerations. The need to build and maintain this temple, he says, drove the builders to seek stable food sources, like grains and animals that could be domesticated, and then to settle down to guard their new way of life. The temple begat the city.

While in Jerusalem, new excavations ihave revealed fortifications that date back 3000 years,

Archaeologist sees proof for Bible in ancient wall

An Israeli archaeologist said Monday that ancient fortifications recently excavated in Jerusalem date back 3,000 years to the time of King Solomon and support the biblical narrative about the era.
If the age of the wall is correct, the finding would be an indication that Jerusalem was home to a strong central government that had the resources and manpower needed to build massive fortifications in the 10th century B.C.

That's a key point of dispute among scholars, because it would match the Bible's account that the Hebrew kings David and Solomon ruled from Jerusalem around that time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:41 PM | Permalink

"I have been disqualified from a running race for running," he explained

Mark Steyn on Why the West is going down the drain

In Britain, it is traditional on Shrove Tuesday to hold pancake races, in which contestants run while flipping a pancake in a frying pan. The appeal of the event depends on the potential pitfalls in attempting simultaneous rapid forward propulsion and pancake tossing. But, in St. Albans, England, competitors were informed by Health & Safety officials that they were "banned from running due to fears they would slip over in the rain." Watching a man walk up the main street with a skillet is not the most riveting event, even in St. Albans. In the heat of the white-knuckle thrills, team captain David Emery momentarily forgot the new rules. "I have been disqualified from a running race for running," he explained afterwards.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:50 PM | Permalink

The "New Poor"

Millions of Unemployed Face Years Without Jobs

Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.
Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

Part of it is the deflation that's beginning in the upper-middle-class professional bubble

Over the next generation American professionals are going to face the same forces that transformed (often, not in a good way) the life situation of the lower middle class.  The cost squeeze is on, and just as Walmart forces its suppliers to become ever cheaper and ever more competitive, so corporations are telling law firms and other suppliers that they have to cut costs.  Even as law firms cut down on creating new partners, they are shifting more and more operations overseas.  Only a relatively small part of what law firms do really has to be done in the US by an actual lawyer; there is a lot of fat in the law, and over the next thirty years it’s going to be wrung out of the system.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:46 PM | Permalink

Temple Grandin

This month HBO released a film about Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes in a remarkable performance about  the  woman who is described as an "innovator, author, activist and autistic".    I loved it and found the film quite amazing in the way it told the story and gave us glimpses of how Temple's mind works.


This is a must movie for parents, relatives and friends of anyone who is autistic because Temple is so articulate on what it is like being autistic and hypersensitive.  After being diagnosed as autistic at the age of two, doctors recommended institutionalization but her parents refused and instead sent her to schools with structure and supportive teachers who directed her fixations in fruitful directions.   

So  for an autistic person what is life like amidst the normals?  In the WSJ weekend interview, Temple calls it  Life Among the 'Yakkity Yaks'

'Who do you think made the first stone spear?" asks Temple Grandin. "That wasn't the yakkity yaks sitting around the campfire. It was some Aspberger sitting in the back of a cave figuring out how to chip rocks into spearheads. Without some autistic traits you wouldn't even have a recording device to record this conversation on."
Nevertheless, with aggressive early intervention and tremendous discipline many people with autism can lead productive, even remarkable, lives. And Ms. Grandin—doctor of animal science, ground-breaking cattle expert, easily the most famous autistic woman in the world—is one of them.

Ms. Grandin lives in a simple apartment in Fort Collins, Colo., and has used the profits from her books to put students through school. "Four PhDs I've already done, I'm working on my fifth right now. I have graduate students at Colorado State—some of them I let in the back door, like me: older, nontraditional students. And I've gotten them good jobs."

"You know what working at the slaughterhouses does to you? It makes you look at your own mortality."

"When I was younger I was looking for this magic meaning of life. It's very simple now," she says. Making the lives of others better, doing "something of lasting value, that's the meaning of life, it's that simple."

How about meaning, I ask. What's the picture for that word? "Ok, now I'm seeing a mother saying your book helped my kid go to college—that's meaning. Or my kid got a job because of one of your lectures—that's meaning. Or a rancher comes up and says that piece of equipment works really well—that's meaning. Concrete, real stuff. On. The. Ground."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:54 PM | Permalink

The Pill and Breast Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute,  breast cancer is the 2nd most common form of malignancy diagnosed in women with skin cancer being the first.  Each year there are an estimated 178,000 new diagnoses and 40,000 deaths.

Birth control pills (BCP) uses a combination of estrogen and progesterone to inhibit female fertility.

Since they are the most widely used class of drugs on the planet, one would think that if there were evidence linking birth controls pills to breast cancer, there would be an explosion of articles across the mainstream media.  I haven't seen any which is why I was so startled to read about  The Pill and Breast Cancer.

An International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monographs Working Group has concluded that combined estrogen-progestogen oral contraceptives and combined estrogen-progestogen menopausal therapy are carcinogenic to humans, after a thorough review of the published scientific evidence
IARC is an arm of the World Health Organization with, as they say, "global reach." Involved in everything from basic research to publication of classification systems for various cancer types, the IARC classifications are the standard of care in the US and elsewhere. IARC statements are accorded great authority.

In January, 2006, the New England Journal of Medicine published a review article entitled, "Estrogen carcinogenesis in breast cancer."[vi] The authors conclude, "Studies of breast cancer have consistently found an increased risk associated with ... the use of oral contraceptives."[vii] Then, in October, 2006 Mayo Clinic Proceedings published an article that concludes, "Use of (oral contraceptives) is associated with an increased risk of premenopausal breast cancer, especially with use before first full term pregnancy."  However, an editorial in the same issue concluded, "all risks and benefits of OC use must be considered, not just the risk of breast cancer." In 2009, another study by the Fred Hutchinson Institute revealed that triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), one of the most lethal types,  showed that women who start BCP's before age 18 multiply their risk of TNBC by 3.7 times and recent users  multiply their risk by 4.2 times. [viii] Yet Louise Brinton, one of the co-authors of this and numerous other studies demonstrating increased rates of breast cancer in young women taking oral contraceptives, is a researcher at the NCI and chief organizer of a 2003 symposium on breast cancer and reproductive events in young women that failed to mention this connection .

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

The Remarkable Character of George Washington

What made George Washington, born 278 years ago today, so great?  His character.  In the end, the intangible quality of character is how our families and friends will remember us. 

The Character of George Washington

What made George Washington the most remarkable man of an extraordinary generation? He was not an intellectual giant like Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison. Compared with most other founders, he was not well educated (he attended school for only about five years), and, unlike many of them, he disliked abstract philosophical discussions. Washington was intelligent, well informed, and astute, buthe was neither a polished writer nor a spellbinding speaker. Moreover, he was not particularly affectionate, said little in public meetings, and lacked the charisma of many of his successors. Defeating the British with his ragtag army was an impressive feat, but he was not a traditional military hero. He won no spectacular victories during the Revolutionary War. Although he is widely admired as an outstanding president, few of his policies were stupendous successes.

While praising his military and political record, many scholars contend that Washington’s genius lies principally in his character. The only other American president who has been so highly extolled for his character is Abraham Lincoln. Since Washington, all presidents have been ultimately measured not by the size of their electoral victories or the success of their legislative programs, but by their moral character. His character helped sustain his troops throughout the travails of the Revolutionary War, convince delegates to the Constitutional Convention to assign significant powers to the presidency, secure the ratification of the Constitution, and enable the new republic to survive in a hostile world.

Many admirers considered Washington’s self-control the key facet of his character. He could master events because he had mastered himself. Despite being surrounded by fear, despair, indecisiveness, treason, and the threat of mutiny, he remained confident and steadfast. Eulogists also heralded his self-sacrifice, devotion to the common good, compassion, generosity, and benevolence.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:06 PM | Permalink

No real science in claims of rising sea levels

Climate scientists withdraw journal claims of rising sea levels

In a statement the authors of the paper said: "Since publication of our paper we have become aware of two mistakes which impact the detailed estimation of future sea level rise. This means that we can no longer draw firm conclusions regarding 21st century sea level rise from this study without further work.

"One mistake was a miscalculation; the other was not to allow fully for temperature change over the past 2,000 years. Because of these issues we have retracted the paper and will now invest in the further work needed to correct these mistakes."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

Growing in water

For close to 15 years now, I've thought that algae were the ultimate replacement for oil.  But then, I've always had a soft spot for fish and vegetables that can be grown in water.

Scientists discuss use of algae as a biofuel

Experts project that algae-based biofuels could displace large volumes of diesel and jet transportation fuels.
Algae is emerging as an attractive resource because it reproduces quickly, uses large quantities of carbon dioxide and can thrive in non-freshwater, including brackish and marine water, thus avoiding competition with traditional agriculture's freshwater needs. In addition, algae can produce biomass and oils, and is attractive as feedstock for renewable fuels, with potentially greater productivity and significantly less land use requirements than with other commodity crop feedstocks such as corn, soy and canola.

On the more personal side, you can grow fish, tomatoes and winter lettuce in a 250 feet greenhouse in Boulder, Colorado and create The Spotless Garden.

A form of year-round, sustainable agriculture called aquaponics — a combination of hydroponics (or water-based planting) and aquaculture (fish cultivation) — has recently attracted a zealous following of kitchen gardeners, futurists, tinkerers and practical environmentalists. It is either a glimpse into the future of food growing or a very strange hobby — possibly both.

 Silvia Bernstein-Aquaponics

Sylvia Bernstein, who has a blog devoted to aquaponics and who teaches it at the Denver Botanic Gardens, has set up quarters in a 240-square-foot greenhouse in her backyard in Boulder, Colo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:53 PM | Permalink

Naps can make you smarter

I knew there would be found a scientific reason behind why I love naps.

Take that power nap - you could end up smarter

Medical researchers have shown that the power naps favoured by Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and Margaret Thatcher not only refresh the mind, they also make people smarter.

They found snoozing for just one hour in the day is enough to increase the brain's ability to learn new facts in the hours that follow.

Other famous nappers:

Thomas Edison
Albert Einstein
Margaret Thatcher
Bill Clinton
John F. Kennedy
Ronald Reagan
Florence Nightingale

Some earlier nap posts:

We are biologically programmed to get sleepy twice a day.  When is your sleep gate?

 Nap Little Girl

Naps Are Good for Your Heart

Naps are one of the Life Lessons from the Army

Nap more and you'll cure the doldrums that follow lunch.

And from The Boston Globe, How to Nap

A slew of new studies have shown that naps boost alertness, creativity, mood and productivity in the later hours of the day.  A nap of 60 minutes improves alertness for up to 10 hours.  Research on pilots shows that a 26 minute "NASA" nap in flight (while the plane is manned by a copilot) enhanced performance by 34% and overall alertness by 54%.  One Harvard study published this year showed that a 45-miunute nap improves learning and memory.

The body benefits too.  Napping reduces stress and lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke, diabetes and excessive weight gain.  Naps make you smarter, healthier, safer.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

"Death on a cellular scale is ..oddly pro-life"

Is Aging the Body's Cure for Cancer?

Maybe so according to a study from an international team based at Newcastle University in England.

The Newcastle team, working with the University of Ulm in Germany, used a comprehensive “systems biology” approach, involving computer modelling and experiments with cell cultures and genetically modified mice, to investigate why cells become senescent. In this aged state, cells stop dividing and the tissues they make up show physical signs of deterioration, from wrinkling skin to a failing heart.

The research, published by the journal Molecular Systems Biology, shows that when an ageing cell detects serious damage to its DNA – caused by the wear and tear of life – it sends out specific internal signals.

These distress signals trigger the cell’s mitochondria, its tiny energy-producing power packs, to make oxidising “free radical” molecules, which in turn tell the cell either to destroy itself or to stop dividing.
The aim is to avoid the damaged DNA that causes cancer.

Verum Serum comments

But I’m taken by the ironic, almost poetic nature of this discovery. In a real biological sense death, at least death on a cellular scale, is found to be oddly pro-life. Aging turns out to be a gradual battle against more catastrophic failure.  It’s all very counter-intuitive and yet somehow not unpleasant to learn.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 20, 2010

The Basics

From the Population Institute, the basics on the Business of Life.

From the World Factbook, total fertility rate, 2009, selected countries.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2010

When guilt can not be expiated

With the beginning of the holy season of Lent, Christians are meant to repent, turn around,  and find their way back to God. 

Father Stephen says, "Our psychologized culture has lost the language and the instinct of repentance"

Repentance is an inner change of heart. Repentance is not concerned with clearing our legal record but with being changed – ultimately into the likeness of Christ.

Modern man is not predisposed to think about a change of heart. We think of psychological wholeness or well-being, but we do not have a language of conformity to Christ. We do speak of “hardness of heart,” but we know very little about how such a heart is changed.

George Weigel in First Things on The Lessons of Jean Marie Lustiger explores what happens when the instinct of repentance is lost.

Pope John Paul II wrote poignantly of the soul-withering effects of a European guilt that could not be expiated, because the notion of “sin” had been displaced: “One of the roots of the hopelessness that assails many people today is found in their inability to see themselves as sinners and to allow themselves to be forgiven, an inability often resulting from the isolation of those who, by living as if God did not exist, have no one from whom they can seek forgiveness.”

Born to a non-practicing Jewish family in France, Listinger converted to Catholicism as a young teen-ager in 1940.  While his family left Paris in 1939,  first relocating in Orleans, later to unoccupied Southern France, his mother returned to Paris to  run the family business when she was picked up and deported to Auschwitz where she was killed

When he became Archbishop of Paris in 1981, he said, "I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that is unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That is my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it."

He became a cardinal of the church in 1983 and  wrote his own epitaph in 2004, three years before he died.

I was born Jewish.
I received the name
Of my paternal grandfather, Aaron
Having become Christian
By faith and by Baptism,
I have remained Jewish
As did the Apostles.
I have as my patron saints
Aaron the High Priest,
Saint John the Apostle,
Holy Mary full of grace.
Named 139th archbishop of Paris
by His Holiness Pope John Paul II,
I was enthroned in this Cathedral
on 27 February 1981,
And here I exercised my entire ministry.
Passers-by, pray for me.
† Aaron Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger
Archbishop of Paris

I wrote more about this remarkable man on his death.  Cardinal Jean Marie Lustiger, R.I.P. for whom Kaddish was read before the doors of Notre Dame in Paris before his funeral.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 PM | Permalink

What happened to the most tolerant country in Europe?

Mark Steyn on  The absurd trial of Geert Wilders:

Geert Wilders, by contrast, is one of the most popular politicians in the Netherlands, and his fate is central to the future of his kingdom and his continent. He is an elected member of parliament—and, although he’s invariably labelled “far right” in news reports, how far he is depends on where you’re standing: his party came second in last year’s elections for the European Parliament, and a poll of the Dutch electorate in December found it tied for first place. Furthermore, if you read the indictment against him, you’ll see that among other things Wilders is being prosecuted for is proposing an end to “non-Western immigration” to the Netherlands: the offending remarks were made in response to a direct question as to what his party would do in its first days in office. So the Dutch state is explicitly prosecuting the political platform of the most popular opposition party in the country, and attempting to schedule the trial for its own electoral advantage. That’s the sort of thing free societies used to leave to Mobutu, Ferdinand Marcos and this week’s Generalissimo-for-Life.
It’s remarkable how speedily “the most tolerant country in Europe,” in a peculiarly repellent strain of coercive appeasement, has adopted “shoot the messenger” as an all-purpose cure-all for “Islamophobia.” To some of us, the Netherlands means tulips, clogs, windmills, fingers in the dike. To others, it means marijuana cafés, long-haired soldiers, legalized hookers, fingers in the dike. But the contemporary reality is an increasingly incoherent polity where gays are bashed, uncovered women get jeered at, and you can’t do The Diary of Anne Frank as your school play lest the Gestapo walk-ons are greeted by audience cries of “She’s in the attic!” Speaking as a bona fide far-right nutcase, I rather resent the label’s export to Holland: Pim Fortuyn wasn’t “right-wing,” he was a gay hedonist; Theo van Gogh was an anti-monarchist coke-snorting nihilist; Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a secular liberal feminist; Geert Wilders says he’s opposed to Islam because of its hostility to gay equality, whereas the usual rap against us far-right extremists is that we want the godless sodomites to roast in hell.

Surprisingly, the people behind the persecution of Geert Wilders are, according to a Dutch journalist, far-left Trotskyites

So we have an extreme left political group with violent and anti-Semitic antecedents as a political frontrunner in a trial, threatening to suppress freedom of speech. Violence and anti-Semitism are just two indicators of the “rightist” extremism that the researchers could not detect in Wilders.

Media in the Netherlands focuses on Wilders yet seldom writes about the far left origins of his most active political opponent in this trial. The bashers of the murdered Pim Fortuyn are exactly the same people as the political persecutors of Geert Wilders

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

"We pulled up the ladder we climbed"

Young and wasted by Francis Beckett in the New Statesman

The baby boomers had everything – free education, free health care and remarkable personal liberties – but they squandered it all. Now their children are paying for it

What did we do with this extraordinary inheritance that had eluded our ancestors, and that an earlier generation had worked and fought to give us?

We trashed it.

We trashed it because we did not value it. We trashed it because we knew no history, so we thought our new freedoms were the natural order of things. It was as though we decided that the freedom and lack of worry that we had inherited was too good for our children, and we pulled up the ladder we had climbed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 PM | Permalink

February 16, 2010

Vast opportunities foregone

We need more money.  And more jobs.  Who can argue with that?  So why is the Administration and Congress not looking at expanded offshore drilling?

Especially given the recent report that Oil and gas drilling bans will cut GDP by $2.36 trillion  which measures the lost opportunity we are letting slip through our fingers.

 No Zones Oilgas

Jim Hoff is right when he calls these no zones "vast areas of opportunity."  Democrats would do well to undo the permanent ban on drilling in ANWR, the 2009 scrapping of oil and gas leases in Utah and the nixing of offshore drilling

Ed Morrissey adds

There are obviously some opportunity costs lost in the refusal to use our own resources for energy production. Instead of sending billions to Brazil to boost oil production off of their coast, the private sector could invest its own money into leases and extraction. This would create hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs here in the US, as well as reduce our trade deficit. It would provide a more stable bridge towards our shift to replacement energy sources in renewables, while boosting access to cheaper energy in the short run to make the American economy more dynamic. Without it, energy prices will rise much faster than inflation, making our economy more sluggish than necessary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:37 PM | Permalink

Genetic testing at the drugstore?

In the coming era of personalized medicine, it's the pharmacists, not the health care firms, who are investing in ways to make the benefits of the sequencing of the human genome widely accessible.

CVS Wants Your Genes

About 100 million American have their prescription benefits managed by one of two companies, Medco or CVS Caremark. And both companies have recently invested in firms that aim to make genetic testing more accessible and easier for doctors and patients to interpret.
Medco is also funding studies to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of specific pharmacogenomics tests, including those for the blood thinner warfarin and the breast cancer drug tamoxifen.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

Elastic water

Elastic Water could eventually replace plastic

 Elastic Water

Bernama, a part of the Malaysian National News Agency, reports that Japanese scientists have created “elastic water." Developed at the Tokyo University, the new material consists mostly of water--95-percent--with an added two grams of clay and organic material. The resulting substance resembles jelly, but is extremely elastic and transparent.

The invention was originally revealed last week in the latest issue of the Nature scientific magazine. According to the article, the new material is quite safe for the environment and humans, and may be a “long-term” tool in medical technology, possibly to help wounded or surgically cut tissue to remain closed.

Bernama also reports that--by increasing its density--the new material could be used to produce "ecologically plastic materials," or could replace plastic altogether.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

The Reckoning and the Restructuring

Every now and again, someone so clearly points out what is going on and what has to be done, that I  must stop and say, Yes, Yes.  this is what it's all about

Via Jim Geraghty's comes this post by John Ellis, what he dubs The Grand Narrative.  

It's not a staff issue that is causing the President's political deflation. And it's not a communications issue (as in: if only the Obama Administration communicated their ideas better, everything would be okay). It's not even a political issue; the GOP doesn't have a national act to speak of and Democrats continue to hold solid majorities in both Houses of Congress. The Obama Administration's problem is narrative.

Specifically, the Grand Narrative of our time is
The Reckoning and the Restructuring. The Reckoning is all this debt coming home to roost. The Restructuring is what we're going to do about it.

The Reckoning is plain for all to see. Consumers are broke, companies are reeling under massive debt loads, and the US government is underwater as never before. Compounding these problems is an avalanche of unfunded liabilities that will soon come due. To cite just one small example, for the first time in its history, Social Security will run cash negative this year. The cost of Medicare is set to explode as baby boomers retire. You know all this. There's no point repeating all the scary numbers.

The Reckoning requires restructuring. Restructuring is not avoidable, it is inevitable. The sooner we do it, the less painful it will be for all concerned. Specifically, we must decide how to make our pension system (Social Security) and our current national health care system (Medicare and Medicaid) sustainable. We must restructure our debt. We must get 15% more performance out of our military on 15% less budget. We must get 25% more performance out of all other government services on 25% less expenditure.
Until President Obama engages the Grand Narrative of our time, and makes it his own, he will remain disconnected from the broad national interest ("interest" in the sense of what people are interested in and "interest" in the sense of what is best for the country). This is not just another recession.
This is not just a fraying at the ends. This is a crisis of high throw weight and terrifying potential consequences. It's important that we muddle through. It matters. The President needs to start the restructuring by talking openly and honestly about what it might entail.

Geraghty comments


Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 AM | Permalink

February 15, 2010

Goodness is more subtle, revealing itself gently

Rod Dreher with a marvelous tribute to his friend Gerard Faucheux who was killed along with his parents in a car crash.

A novelist I was listening to on the radio the other day spoke about how difficult it is to portray goodness effectively in fiction. Evil, she said, tends to manifest itself in dramatic strokes, but goodness is usually more subtle, and reveals itself more gently.

He made you want to be good.

Today I thought about the last time I saw him. He was in Dallas on business, and he came to dinner. We hadn't seen each other in a long time. He told me about his wife Kathy, and showed us pictures of his kids. He talked a lot about his music, and about his life in Mississippi. Gerard was a quiet man, and that night he spoke so modestly about his blessings and his accomplishments, but I was sitting there thinking, Man, you've got it all. You've got the life everybody dreams of having. He wasn't rich or famous, but he had a wife who adored him, and four great kids. He had his family, he had his faith, he had his music, and as far as I could tell, he was at peace with the world. Here's the thing: he always was. My wife was telling me tonight that getting to know Gerard at dinner that night was a memorable experience for her. She said, "There was no ego there. He just reflected goodness. It was the strangest thing. He was just sitting there, making normal conversation, but it was so clear that he had a pure heart. It was really something to encounter. He made you want to be good."

He made you want to be good. That's the story of Gerard Faucheux's life, right there.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

February 14, 2010

Climategate grows and the unraveling continues


In its last assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the evidence that the world was warming was “unequivocal”.  It warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife.


Climategate U-turn as scientist at center of row admits:  There has been no global warming since 1995.

Data for vital 'hockey stick graph' has gone missing
There has been no global warming since 1995
Warming periods have happened before - but NOT due to man-made changes

London Times  World may not be warming, say scientist

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

Why can't the temperature records be relied on?

in a damning report entitled Surface Temperature Records: Policy Driven Deception? by Joseph D’Aleo, the first Director of Meteorology and co-founder of the Weather Channel, and Anthony Watts, a meteorologist and founder of SurfaceStations.org., we learn that beginning in 1990 NOAA began systematically eliminating climate measuring stations in cooler locations around the globe....The drop in the number of weather stations was dramatic, declining from more than 6,000 stations to fewer than 1,500

Their report provides examples of how the systematic elimination of stations and unexplained adjustments in temperature data caused measured temperatures to rise for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. Many adjustments change what would have been a drop in temperatures into an increase. Take New Zealand, where D’Aleo and Watts note: “About half the adjustments actually created a warming trend where none existed; the other half greatly exaggerated existing warming.”

Is there a conspiracy?

According to one climatology expert in Canada who was threatened for his views, the answer is yes

“If people knew just how deep and dark this conspiracy is — yes, conspiracy — they’d be amazed,” he explains. “More and more academics are standing up to refute climate-change theories, but it’s still dangerous to do so. It can mean the end of a career, the targeting of someone by well-organized fanatics.”

I rather doubted this man who is arguably Canada’s leading scientific opponent of climate-change fundamentalism until the e-mails poured in after his television appearance. People wrote that he was in the pay of big oil, was a simple high-school geography teacher, was insane and worse. In fact, he is a university academic with impressive graduate degrees and doctorates and, unlike so many global warming advocates, is not in the pay of anybody.
“I’ve rather got used to it by now,” he says. “At first it was shocking that a climatologist with different ideas was treated like a Holocaust denier. Now I just move on and speak the truth.”

Such aggression has become typical of climate-change fanatics. When they lose arguments or are exposed as frauds, they attack their critics’ reputations or, in the case of the UN climate chief last week, shout that opponents should have their faces rubbed in carcinogenic material. It’s a grander, better financed version of pushing someone off a stage and is as crass and nasty as any anti-Communist witch-hunt

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

Valentines from nature

The Daily Mail has collected some wonderful nature Valentine landscapes suitable for everyone.  Enjoy.

 Coral.Reef Australia

 Tupai Island

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

February 13, 2010

"Furies and Ate pilot the ship"

Think that the crisis in Greece has little to do with you?  Think again.  Spengler calls it a Political Time Bomb and quotes a letter from a friend in Athens.

The country is sliding into psychological despair within a cocoon of unrequited desires that have been inflamed and legitimized over the years. Anger is rampant.
Prime Minister Papandreou
was on television last night, white as a ghost. He was telling the Greek press that he was thankful that the IMF was “offering” their technical expertise (technognosia) to Greece. Yes money is not coming, but how sweet of the IMF to be sending its experts to dictate terms over the next few weeks. It seems that someone in Europe gave him the unexpected news that the party is over. This reality has not yet even remotely begun to set in here. The media are giving the message that “the Europeans can’t afford to let Greece go under….that Europe stands to lose too much….that Merkel and those stuffy Northerners will have to come to Greece’s aid.”

When the reality does start seeping in—hold on to your hats….

One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing. The corruption went too deep. The country is completely unprotected on the cultural and moral front
. This too has not seeped in. And yet when people become desperate; when their world starts to crumble around them and all their delusions about themselves and their good life not only collapse, but do so without any legacy to fall back on and no dream to look forward to, then beware. We are in unchartered territory where Furies and Ate pilot the ship.

Ate is the Greek word for "ruin, folly and delusion" by which the hero is lead to his death or downfall, usually because of his hubris.  The personification of Ate is the goddess by the same name, eldest daughter of Zeus, who, in his anger over her manipulation of events, threw her out of heaven,  down to earth where she wanders about treading on the heads of men, creating havoc. 

The Furies from whom we have the words "furious" and "infuriating" are the three goddesses of vengeance, pursuing all crime without mercy, striking offenders with madness.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2010

Thought Police

Janet Albrechtsen,in the Australian, writes about the menace in the mad march of the thought police

The dark spectre of illiberalism is slowly poisoning Western liberal democracies. You won't hear about it from much of the left-liberal press. It is part of the problem and its silence only confirms that basic liberties integral to Western liberal democracies are under threat. That is why you may not have heard about the trial of Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is being prosecuted under hate laws in The Netherlands for his opinions about Islam. Agree or disagree with Wilders, this is the thundering march of the thought police.
Shutting down public debates will only drive discussion underground where, away from the blowtorch of challenging views, they will fester and grow more extreme in private. And shutting down offensive debate at the request of loony objectors just encourages more thin-skinned outrage, with ever more outlandish claims to protection from free speech, and increasing censorship. If you really want to discredit bad ideas, the surest way is to expose them to free and full debate. Remember, too, that plenty of ideas that were once regarded as offensive by a group of puffed-up, moralising sophisticates have prevailed.

People shut themselves down and don't speak out because of political correctness; they are frightened to speak the truth.  In Holland, we now know that In the trial of Geert Wilders, the truth is no defense.

Robert Spencer of JihadWatch on the Geert Wilders and the Death of Free Speech

The idea that intentionally offending someone is a criminal offense should be a matter for Kafka or comic opera, but such is the advance of multiculturalism in the Netherlands today, and the rest of Europe is not all that far behind. The real purpose of the Wilders trial is twofold: first, the Dutch political establishment hopes to use it to stop the meteoric rise of the upstart Wilders, who challenges so many of the core assumptions upon which current Dutch and European Union policy are based. And since one of those policies is unrestricted immigration from Muslim countries, they hope to discredit Wilders’s work in exposing how Islamic jihadists use violent passages of the Koran to justify violence and supremacism.

He quotes Wilders himself
I am being prosecuted for my political convictions. The freedom of speech is on the verge of collapsing. If a politician is not allowed to criticise an ideology anymore, this means that we are lost, and it will lead to the end of our freedom.” And not just in the Netherlands.

I am reminded what Theodore Dalrymple said about political correctness in an interview a few years ago because it was so absolutely right on.

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.     

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:47 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

February 11, 2010

Awesome transmissions

The analysis of most emailed stories in the New York Times  by Penn researchers Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman reveals something surprising

People preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics.

Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.”

But in general, people who share this kind of article seem to have loftier motives than trying to impress their friends. They’re seeking emotional communion, Dr. Berger said.

“Emotion in general leads to transmission, and awe is quite a strong emotion,” he said. “If I’ve just read this story that changes the way I understand the world and myself, I want to talk to others about what it means. I want to proselytize and share the feeling of awe. If you read the article and feel the same emotion, it will bring us closer together.”

I love the accompanying graphic to the story by Viktor Keen.

 Awe Emailed Stories

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

Beer for osteoporosis and Frankincense for cancer

Beer May Be Good for Your Bones

a new analysis of 100 commercial beers shows the hoppy beverage is a significant source of dietary silicon, a key ingredient for bone health.

The type of silicon in beer, called orthosilicic acid, has a 50 percent bioavailability, meaning that much is available for use in the body. Some foods, like bananas are rich in silicon but only 5 percent is bioavailable. This soluble form of silica found in beer could be important for the growth and development of bone and connective tissue, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Past research has suggested that moderate beer consumption may help fight osteoporosis, a disease characterized by low bone mass and deterioration of bone tissue.

Another past study involving nearly 1,700 women reported last year in the journal Nutrition showed participants who were light to moderate beer drinkers had much better bone density than non-drinkers. The researchers suggested the beer's plant hormones, not the alcohol, could be responsible for the bone boost.

Frankincense Tree

The BBC explores the history and the promise of frankincense as a cure for cancer

Scientists have observed that there is some agent within frankincense which stops cancer spreading, and which induces cancerous cells to close themselves down. 

Immunologist Mahmoud Suhail is quoted "Cancer starts when the DNA code within the cell's nucleus becomes corrupted.  It seems frankincense has a re-set function. It can tell the cell what the right DNA code should be. Frankincense separates the 'brain' of the cancerous cell - the nucleus - from the 'body' - the cytoplasm, and closes down the nucleus to stop it reproducing corrupted DNA codes."
Currently, with chemotherapy, doctors blast the area around a tumour to kill the cancer, but that also kills healthy cells, and weakens the patient. Treatment with frankincense could eradicate the cancerous cells alone and let the others live.
The task now is to isolate the agent within frankincense which, apparently, works this wonder

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

"Climate change fanatics corrupted science"

After far too long,  the American press is beginning to cover the debacle that is the IPCC. 

Walter Russell Mead on the AP Story Breaks US Media Wall of Denial on IPCC Mess; Al Gore Still Silent

It had to happen and today the Associated Press has given the American public at large its first good look at a story that has been old news for weeks in countries where the media is more alert. 
For those worried about global warming, the much delayed eruption of this story into the mainstream US press is the best thing that could happen.  Denial is the enemy; the more you care about global warming the more you need to insist that the leaders of national and international scientific organizations charged with assessing the evidence and explaining it to the public stick to the highest, most rigorous standards of analysis.  Increasing numbers of climate scientists are bringing themselves to say what is now more and more obvious: the leadership of the IPCC has failed this test.

As he wrote earlier the Global Warming movement is dead from two causes: bad science and bad politics


Now Michael Barone, the esteemed columnist on How climate change fanatics corrupted science

First came the Climategate e-mails made public in November that showed how top-level climate scientists distorted research, plotted to destroy data and conspired to prevent publication of dissenting views. The British government concluded last week that the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit violated the nation's freedom of information act, although the violations occurred too long ago for prosecution.
As Christopher Booker writes in the Telegraph of London, "A Canadian analyst has identified more than 20 passages in the IPCC's report which cite similarly non-peer-reviews WWF or Greenpeace reports as their authority." Similarly, the Times of London reports that a claim that warming could endanger "up to 40 percent" of the Amazon rainforest came from an anti-smoking activist and had no scientific basis whatever.
The secular religion of global warming has all the elements of a religious faith: original sin (we are polluting the planet), ritual (separate your waste for recycling), redemption (renounce economic growth) and the sale of indulgences (carbon offsets). We are told that we must have faith (all argument must end, as Al Gore likes to say) and must persecute heretics (global warming skeptics are like Holocaust deniers, we are told).

People in the grip of such a religious frenzy evidently feel justified in lying, concealing good evidence and plucking bad evidence from whatever flimsy source may be at hand.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 AM | Permalink

February 9, 2010

Where Truth is not a Defense

The ongoing trial of Geert Wilders is a travesty where Western Civilization is on Trial

In an NRO Symposium, Paul Marshall writes

The American media’s silence about the Geert Wilders trial is puzzling — the trial is explosive, much more so than most of America’s perennial “trials of the century.” Wilders, leader of the Freedom party, is arguably the Netherlands’s most popular politician, but for years he has had to live in safe houses, including on military bases. He now faces the possibility of imprisonment on charges of “group insult” and “incitement to hatred,” as defined by articles 137 (c) and (d) of the Dutch penal code, for his public speeches and op-eds criticizing Islam.

The media’s silence is also disturbing since it indicates their reluctance, even fear, when it comes to grappling with the West’s increasing censorship of anything that might be deemed offensive to some Muslims. So far, the effects in the U.S. are small — such as the Yale University Press’s removing the famous Danish cartoons from a book about those same cartoons — but they betray a mindset common to much of Europe: preemptive self-censorship.

Clifford May reports
In response to Wilders’s request to bring in witnesses to establish the veracity of the opinions that got him in trouble with the law, that body issued this statement on January 17: “It is irrelevant whether Wilders’s witnesses might prove Wilders’s observations to be correct, what’s relevant is that his observations are illegal.”

Elsewhere, Gil Bailie writes

As René Girard argues, the real struggle in our world is not between violence and peace; it is between violence and truth. All attempts to avoid the former by silencing the latter will end in catastrophe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

Welcome Nella

Via Happy Catholic, comes this absolutely wrenching and beautiful story with photos of the birth of Nella Cordelia who came into this world with Down Syndrome, not what her mother expected.

Love me. Love me. I'm not what you expected, but oh, please love me.

That was the most defining moment of my life. That was the beginning of my story.
Life moves on. And there have been lots of tears since. There will be. But, there is us. Our Family. We will embrace this beauty and make something of it. We will hold our precious gift and know that we are lucky. I feel lucky. I feel privileged. I feel there is a story so beautiful in store...and we get to live it. Wow.

-Nella Cordelia

Welcome Nella to the world and the love of your parents, family and friends.  May you always be surrounded by their love.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

"I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need."

The Millionaire who gave away the fortune that was making him miserable.

"My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Money is counterproductive – it prevents happiness to come."

Instead, he will move out of his luxury Alpine retreat into a small wooden hut in the mountains or a simple bedsit in Innsbruck.

His entire proceeds are going to charities he set up in Central and Latin America, but he will not even take a salary from these.

"For a long time I believed that more wealth and luxury automatically meant more happiness," he said. "I come from a very poor family where the rules were to work more to achieve more material things, and I applied this for many years," said Mr Rabeder.

But over time, he had another, conflicting feeling.

"More and more I heard the words: 'Stop what you are doing now – all this luxury and consumerism – and start your real life'," he said. "I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need.

I have the feeling that there are lot of people doing the same thing."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

Should women settle?

In Salon, an interview with Lori Gottlieb, author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.

As in the 2008 Atlantic essay that started it all, Gottlieb's depiction of single womanhood can be practically monstrous, a misery parade of boring happy hours and appointments with the bikini waxer, nights staring at a phone that won't ring. She uses her life as a cautionary tale: Make the right choices, little missy, or you could end up like me. As she explains in the book, "I'm trying to help. It's kind of like those graphic anti-drunk driving public service announcements that show people crashing into poles and getting killed ... It's not until you see people ending up brain-dead, lying in a coma in the hospital and surrounded by beeping monitors, that the message has an impact."

 Lori Gottlieb

From the Atlantic essay

Of course, we’d be loath to admit it in this day and age, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child).
What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:13 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2010

The immortal cells of Henrietta Lack

A book review by Dwight Garner that really makes me want to get this book.

A Woman’s Undying Gift to Science

I put down Rebecca Skloot’s first book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” more than once. Ten times, probably. Once to poke the fire. Once to silence a pinging BlackBerry. And eight times to chase my wife and assorted visitors around the house, to tell them I was holding one of the most graceful and moving nonfiction books I’ve read in a very long time.

A thorny and provocative book about cancer, racism, scientific ethics and crippling poverty, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” also floods over you like a narrative dam break, as if someone had managed to distill and purify the more addictive qualities of “Erin Brockovich,” “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “The Andromeda Strain.” More than 10 years in the making, it feels like the book Ms. Skloot was born to write. It signals the arrival of a raw but quite real talent.
The woman who provides this book its title, Henrietta Lacks, was a poor and largely illiterate Virginia tobacco farmer, the great-great-granddaughter of slaves. Born in 1920, she died from an aggressive cervical cancer at 31, leaving behind five children. No obituaries of Mrs. Lacks appeared in newspapers. She was buried in an unmarked grave.

To scientists, however, Henrietta Lacks almost immediately became known simply as HeLa (pronounced hee-lah), from the first two letters of her first and last names. Cells from Mrs. Lacks’s cancerous cervix, taken without her knowledge, were the first to grow in culture, becoming “immortal” and changing the face of modern medicine. There are, Ms. Skloot writes, “trillions more of her cells growing in laboratories now than there ever were in her body.”
Laid end to end, the world’s HeLa cells would today wrap around the earth three times.
Bought and sold and shipped around the world for decades, HeLa cells are famous to science students everywhere. But little has been known, until now, about the unwitting donor of these cells. Mrs. Lacks’s own family did not know that her cells had become famous (and that people had grown wealthy from marketing them) until more than two decades after her death, after scientists had begun to take blood from her surviving family members, without their informed consent, in order to better study HeLa.
This is the place in a review where critics tend to wedge in the sentence that says, in so many words, “This isn’t a perfect book.” And “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” surely isn’t. But there isn’t much about it I’d want to change. It has brains and pacing and nerve and heart, and it is uncommonly endearing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:36 AM | Permalink

"The U.S.is the largest holder of adjustable rate debt in the world

Another reason why the exploding deficits are such a concern.    Stephen Spruiell explains

Investor Bob Wiedemer likes to say that the United States is the largest holder of adjustable-rate debt in the world — nearly 40 percent of our public debt is short-term and must be refinanced each year.
In this context, watch Rep. Paul Ryan — fast becoming the intellectual leader of the elected Right — as he puts the screws to an evasive Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner (ff to 62:15). Ryan confronts Geithner with a quote from a Wall Street Journal interview with OMB director Peter Orzag:
"The 'unusual situation' the government finds itself in — with other countries willing to finance U.S. debt at low rates — 'won't last.' And, he added, 'When it flips, the question is how do you get ahead of that to avoid the downward spiral' of rising interest rates, a plunging dollar and a sinking economy."

Ryan looks up:
"The vigilantes in the bond markets are going to get us, and the American people are going to get hurt.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 AM | Permalink

February 3, 2010

Politicized science in the stem cell debate

After $3 billion was allocated in the state budget for embryonic stem cell research, there were in the words of Investors Business Daily,  " no cures, no therapies and little progress,"

Although scientists and pro-life advocates have denounced the dead-end science of embryo research for years, the political and ethical furor surrounding embryonic research appears to have obscured the undeniable superiority of adult stem cells' track record.  Not only have adult cells already produced dozens of treatments, but embryonic stem cells have been found prone to multiply out of control, causing tumors, and are less easily cultivated into specific types of tissue than their adult counterparts.

Meanwhile, due to advances in induced pluripotent stem cells, adult cells are now capable of transforming into various types of cells – an ability once thought to be held only by embryonic cells.

Dr. Bernadine Healy, the director of the National Institutes of Health under the Bush administration, wrote in a March 2009 U.S. News & World Report column that "embryonic stem cells, once thought to hold the cure for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes, are obsolete."  The same month, however, President Obama reversed the Bush administration ban on taxpayer funding of embryo research, saying that "our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values."

The IBD editors concluded that "it is ESCR researchers who have politicized science and stood in the way of real progress.

Politicized science again.

Calif. Quietly Shifts Fruitless Embryo Research Funds to Adult Stem Cells

California's Institute for Regenerative Medicine came into being five years ago, fueled by a conviction that the Bush administration's restriction on embryo-destructive research in the National Institutes of Health was stifling the progress of science.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:21 PM | Permalink

Fish Oil: Known Benefits, Little Risk

The Wall St Journal reports fish oil pills may be able to spare some young people with signs of mental illness from a progression into fully developed schizophrenia.

A Study Finds Mental Benefit of Fish Oil  

No one knows what causes schizophrenia but one hypothesis is that people with the disease don't process fatty acids correctly, leading to damaged brain cells. Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil could help brain cells repair and stabilize, the researchers speculate. 

Dr. Janet Wozniak of Harvard Medical School said the findings might reasonably cause psychiatrists to recommend fish oil to some patients because there are known benefits and little risk. 

This is not the first study that found a correlation between omega 3 fatty acids, mental illness and crime. 

In 2003 a study from South Africa saw the Clinical potential of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of schizophrenia.

The Australian press did a round-up of studies being conducted around the world studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on the brain in its article, Crime, punishment and a junk-food diet.  Can violent behavior be attributable at least in part to nutritional deficiencies?

The British prison trial at Aylesbury jail showed that when young men there were fed multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids, the number of violent offences committed in the prison fell by 37 per cent.

In 2006, the New York Times asked whether Eating Salmon Will Lower the Murder Rate?

In 2001, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln, a senior clinical investigator at the National Institutes of Health, published a study, provocatively titled "Seafood Consumption and Homicide Mortality," that found a correlation between a higher intake of omega-3 fatty acids (most often obtained from fish) and lower murder rates.
Consider, for example, a study conducted by researchers in Finland. They tested prisoners convicted of violent crimes and found that they had lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids than ordinary, healthy subjects. Why? Omega-3's foster the growth of neurons in the brain's frontal cortex, the bit of gray matter that controls impulsive behavior. Having enough of these fatty acids may keep violent impulses in check.

 Salmon -1

I admit to being a bit of nut on the benefits of coffee, bear, chocolate, Vitamin D and Omega 3.    Here are a few on Omega -3

Fish Oil and Breast Cancer
Fish Oil after Heart Attacks
Fish Oil to Lose Weight Faster
Fish Oil to Help Asthma
More Salmon, Less Murder
Splendid Omega

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:39 PM | Permalink

A hustle of brownies

A supremacy of dinosaurs

A dignity of dragons

A fondle of unicorns

A shroud of ghouls

A hustle of brownies

A lawn of gnomes

A clangor of robots

A harem of sexbots

A culture of viruses

If you love new words as much as I, you'll enjoy the Stoakes-Whibley Natural Index of Supernatural  Collective Nouns over at the book of joe.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:42 PM | Permalink

February 1, 2010

Critical thinking

Beyond Critical Thinking

For many students today, being smart means being critical....That very skill may diminish their capacity to find or create meaning and direction in the books they read and the world in which they live.
our students may become too good at showing how things don't make sense. That very skill may diminish their capacity to find or create meaning and direction in the books they read and the world in which they live

In training our students in the techniques of critical thinking, we may be giving them reasons to remain guarded—which can translate into reasons not to learn. The confident refusal to be affected by those with whom we disagree seems to have infected much of our cultural life: from politics to the press, from siloed academic programs (no matter how multidisciplinary) to warring public intellectuals. As humanities teachers, however, we must find ways for our students to open themselves to the emotional and cognitive power of history and literature that might initially rub them the wrong way, or just seem foreign. Critical thinking is sterile without the capacity for empathy and comprehension that stretches the self.

One of the crucial tasks of the humanities should be to help students cultivate the willingness and ability to learn from material they might otherwise reject or ignore.

via Joe Carter at First Thoughts

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:47 PM | Permalink

Why elitists are doomed to fail

Henry Oliner writes in the American Thinker.

Sowell further explains that the most educated among us know only the smallest fraction of what is to be known. That these highly educated people may know so much more than any one of us does not mean that they know a fraction as much as do all of us.
When prices are determined by central planning or anointed experts, shortages and gluts appear. The failed economies of the old Soviet Union and other systems determined by elite central planning evidences the flaw of thinking that elites know more than the combined individuals that comprise a healthy market.

The Wisdom of Crowds beats the elites any day.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:17 PM | Permalink

Invisible question marks

Taylor Mali, the WASP full-time poet who emerged from Poetry Slam  with  Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

The implosion of global warming science and the silence of the American media. UPDATED

While the British papers are chock full of stories about the implosion of global warming science and its grand narrative, there is almost nothing in the mainstream press except for the news Osama Bid Ladin has joined Al Gore in the ranks of the global warmists.  Global warming science implodes overseas: American media silent.

This is a great story. It has everything a media outlet could desire; scandal, conflict of interest (IPCC head Pauchuri runs companies that benefited from climate scare stories), government cover ups - why then, has this unraveling of the basis of climate science that posited catastrophic man made warming not been making any news at all in the United States?
As global warming the political movement is losing its scientific justification, the American people - who will be asked to foot the bill to the tune of trillions of dollars if Obama goes ahead with his "green" plans - are grossly uninformed about the state of the debate.

What makes me so mad is that taxpayers as usual are footing the bill for scientists who should be investigated for fraud and, if convicted, jailed.    Take, for example, Michael Mann, whose famous hockey stick graph showing runaway global warming, that was later discredited because the data was made up.  TARP, the American Recovery Program awarded him $2.4 million.  The Wall St Journal called it  A case study in one job 'saved'

This scientific scandal is far worse than ENRON ever was.  Via James Delingpole, I read Phillip Stott, a British academic, who is foaming with righteous indignation, on the life and imminent death of the AGW scam.

As an independent academic, it has been fascinating to witness the classical collapse of a Grand Narrative, in which social and philosophical theories are being played out before our gaze. It is like watching the Berlin Wall [pictured] being torn down, concrete slab by concrete slab, brick by brick, with cracks appearing and widening daily on every face - political, economic, and scientific.
And what can one say about ‘the science’? ‘The ‘science’ is already paying dearly for its abuse of freedom of information, for unacceptable cronyism, for unwonted arrogance, and for the disgraceful misuse of data at every level, from temperature measurements to glaciers to the Amazon rain forest. What is worse, the usurping of the scientific method, and of justified scientific scepticism, by political policies and political propaganda could well damage science sensu lato - never mind just climate science - in the public eye for decades

The UN climate panel, the IPCC lied to us about shrinking glaciers, increasing hurricanes, and rising seas and danger to the Amazon rainforest . What are they going to say to the children they terrified with tales of the Amazonian rainforest disappearing by the time they grew up?  The UN climate panel shamed by bogus rainforest claim reports the London Times.  Their claim that global warming would wipe out 40% of the Amazonian rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners with little or no scientific expertise.    Shamed indeed.

The Wheels Come Off for the IPCC  The IPCC has officially retracted claims that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035.The IPCC scientist admits Glaciergate was about influencing governments .  He knew the evidence was extremely suspect but wanted to put political pressure on governments to take action

The head of the UN Climate change panel, Rajenda Pachauri, facing calls to resign, has refused.  He got grants through bogus claims.  Some of the grants were worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Times of London reports.

The good news is  All the glaciers that aren't shrinking  The Himalayan glaciers are growing, not shrinking.  Alaska's Hubbard Glacier is growing.  Norwegian glaciers are growing as are glaciers in France, Switzerland, Canada, Mt. St Helens, New Zealand, Russia, Iceland and Argentina.

Roger Simon calls it the politicization of science.  And he's absolutely right.  This is what happens when people don't care about the truth.    Thank God for the Internet.

UPDATE. Russell Mead captures it all in one sentence.

The global warming meltdown confirms all the populist suspicions out there about an arrogantly clueless establishment invoking faked ’science’ to impose cockamamie social mandates on the long-suffering American people, backed by a mainstream media that is totally in the tank.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 PM | Permalink

Last two weeks

These last two weeks have been a doozy.  First off, I succumbed to an old addiction.  The campaign of Scott Brown was just too delicious for this reformed political junkie and I fell off the wagon.  In my lifetime I've been involved in twenty, maybe more, campaigns and I've never seen one as well run and well-executed as Scott Brown's.   

One example is how well the campaign was prepared to deal with a close election. A whole cadre of volunteer attorneys from Massachusetts and around the country who flew in on their own dimes were employed on election day as polling observers in the major cities to make sure that every vote was counted and counted only once.  I spent 13 hours at a polling place in Boston in a cold and drafty gymnasium to watch everything that was going on.  I was told that I was the first observer they had ever seen.  Beating a political machine takes organization and planning and Brown had both. 

Hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts thought they could never make their voices heard in such a one-party state.  Furious at the condescension and sense of entitlement of politicians in both Massachusetts and Washington, discouraged voters were galvanized and electrified by Scott Brown's inspiration and common sense and turned out in droves.  The Scott heard round the world, indeed. 

 Scott Brown Victory

A day to relish all the reports of his amazing victory and then I was off to Washington on a bus from my parish  for the March for Life.  Before my reconversion back to the Catholic Church after 40 years, I had heard little about the March because no mainstream media ever reported on it.  I was astonished at the size of the crowd -300-400 thousand on a cold winter day,  the overwhelming majority young, under 30.

March For Life Youngwomen

The cluelessness of the mainstream media was evidenced by CNN Rick Sanchez's report who asked "Which side is represented the most? Do we know?" and the Newsweek reporter, Krista Gesaman who asked "Where are the young women?"  My friend Gil Bailie did yeoman's work in reporting on the march as opposed to what he calls the Lame Street Media.  Embedded there is a 7 minute video on the Media Malpractice at the March for Life that is well worth watching if only to hear from the young, vibrant women themselves.

Back home, early Saturday morning,  I came down with the flu the next day.  I thought it would be over in a day or two because I had my flu shot though I didn't get the swine flu shot, then in short supply and available for only the most vulnerable groups.    Now, of course, there's an over supply and you get the vaccine at any drug store.  I didn't and the flu I had was the swine flu and it kept me in bed, miserable, exhausted and achey for a week.

I've lots of posts to catch up, some of which  may be a bit dated, but I had to write them anyway.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink