June 29, 2010

“They couldn’t have been spies. Look what she did with the hydrangeas.”

One woman commenting on the Russian spy next door.   

An F.B.I. investigation that began at least seven years ago culminated with the arrest on Sunday of 10 people in Yonkers, Boston and northern Virginia. The documents detailed what the authorities called the “Illegals Program,” an ambitious, long-term effort by the S.V.R., the successor to the Soviet K.G.B., to plant Russian spies in the United States to gather information and recruit more agents.

The alleged agents were directed to gather information on nuclear weapons, American policy toward Iran, C.I.A. leadership, Congressional politics and many other topics, prosecutors say. The Russian spies made contact with a former high-ranking American national security official and a nuclear weapons researcher, among others.

Ex-KGB agent Uri Bezmenov says the principal task of the KGB occupying 85% of its time, money and manpower was  subversion and Ideological Indoctrination

He says demoralization came first and it takes 15-20 years to infiltrate the schools to teach the next generation and change their perception of reality.  The idealistic  "useful idiots" of the Left  - media,  are important to destabilize society.

Here he speaks on KGB psychological warfare techniques, subversion and control of Western society.

They were far more successful than we realize or care to admit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

"Ancient insights into human nature work best"

In the business of changing lives, the straight path is rarely the best one. A.A. illustrates that even in an age of scientific advance, it is still ancient insights into human nature that work best. Wilson built a remarkable organization on a nighttime spiritual epiphany.

David Brooks on Bill Wilson's Gospel

In a culture that generally celebrates empowerment and self-esteem, A.A. begins with disempowerment. The goal is to get people to gain control over their lives, but it all begins with an act of surrender and an admission of weakness.

In a culture that thinks of itself as individualistic, A.A. relies on fellowship. The general idea is that people aren’t really captains of their own ship. Successful members become deeply intertwined with one another — learning, sharing, suffering and mentoring one another. Individual repair is a social effort.

In a world in which gurus try to carefully design and impose their ideas, Wilson surrendered control. He wrote down the famous steps and foundations, but A.A. allows each local group to form, adapt and innovate. There is less quality control. Some groups and leaders are great; some are terrible. But it also means that A.A. is decentralized, innovative and dynamic.
Wilson ...sought to arouse people’s spiritual aspirations rather than just appealing to rational cost-benefit analysis. His group would help people achieve broad spiritual awakenings, and abstinence from alcohol would be a byproduct of that larger salvation.

 -Aa Book Cover

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 AM | Permalink

It's "payback time"

The shame of the current Department of Justice is seen most nakedly in the failure to prosecute the Black Panther case of video intimidation at a polling place in Philadelphia that was caught on video.

He was a voting rights attorney in the Department of Justice and now, after his resignation, J. Christian Adams writes about what is happening inside the hallowed halls of Justice.  Inside the Black Panther case.

I and other Justice attorneys diligently pursued the case and obtained an entry of default after the defendants ignored the charges. Before a final judgment could be entered in May 2009, our superiors ordered us to dismiss the case.

The New Black Panther case was the simplest and most obvious violation of federal law I saw in my Justice Department career. Because of the corrupt nature of the dismissal, statements falsely characterizing the case and, most of all, indefensible orders for the career attorneys not to comply with lawful subpoenas investigating the dismissal, this month I resigned my position as a Department of Justice (DOJ) attorney.
Based on my firsthand experiences,
I believe the dismissal of the Black Panther case was motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has opened an investigation into the dismissal and the DOJ's skewed enforcement priorities. Attorneys who brought the case are under subpoena to testify, but
the department ordered us to ignore the subpoena, lawlessly placing us in an unacceptable legal limbo.
Most disturbing,
the dismissal is part of a creeping lawlessness infusing our government institutions. Citizens would be shocked to learn about the open and pervasive hostility within the Justice Department to bringing civil rights cases against nonwhite defendants on behalf of white victims. Equal enforcement of justice is not a priority of this administration. Open contempt is voiced for these types of cases.
Some of my co-workers argued that the law should not be used against black wrongdoers because of the long history of slavery and segregation.
Less charitable individuals called it "payback time." Incredibly, after the case was dismissed, instructions were given that no more cases against racial minorities like the Black Panther case would be brought by the Voting Section.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

"Thanks but no thanks"

Read it and weep.  The Avertible Catastrophe

Some are attuned to the possibility of looming catastrophe and know how to head it off. Others are unprepared for risk and even unable to get their priorities straight when risk turns to reality.

The Dutch fall into the first group.  Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway....
To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.
The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 AM | Permalink

Why people get wiser as they age

Why cultures around the world and up and down the centuries have depended on the advice of the grey-haired elders.

What older people lose in reaction time, they make up for in better decision-making with greater insight. 

With age, really DOES come wisdom: Scientists prove older people are less impulsive

Granny was right all along, scientists say. You really do get wiser when you get older. 

According to their research, although the brain slows down with age, this simply helps older men and women develop greater insight. 

The reason for this is that, unlike the young, the elderly's brains are not ruled by the chemicals that fuel emotion and impulse. So their slower responses really are more thoughtful and 'wiser'.

For their study, scientists looked at the brain scans of 3,000 Californians aged between 60 and 100. 

These showed that what older people lose in reaction times, they make up for in better decision-making. 

Professor Dilip Jeste, from the University of California at San Diego, said older people were less affected by dopamine, which helps signals pass between neurons and is involved in the reward system of the brain.
The elderly brain is less dopamine- dependent, making people less impulsive and controlled by emotion.

'Older people are also less likely to respond thoughtlessly to negative emotional stimuli because their brains have slowed down compared to younger people.

'This, in fact is what we call wisdom,' he told the Royal College of Psychiatrists' international congress, in Edinburgh.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink

Aging through a physician's lens

The doctor found passion, meaning and purpose a few blocks away.

Dr. Jeffrey M. Levine was studying geriatrics at the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan when he began taking classes at the International Center for Photography a few blocks away.
Twenty-five years later, Dr. Levine’s moving portraits of older Americans have appeared on 30 covers of The Gerontologist, among other medical journals. “Aging Through a Physician’s Lens,” an exhibit of his work, was shown at the New York Academy of Medicine earlier this year and traveled to universities across the South
“It’s been a great struggle and a big financial concession,” Dr. Levine said of his dual lives as a geriatrician and photographer.

 Dr. Jeffrey Levine Photographer

In part, he hopes to persuade medical students — whose documented reluctance to specialize in geriatrics may have unhappy consequences for this aging nation — that treating old people is a satisfying mission.

He hopes to help the public, too, see older people in a different light. “Google ‘pictures of aging’ and you’ll find I.V.’s, condescending stereotypes, caricatures,” he said. “I like to show pictures that are uplifting, that show the inner spirit that helped an individual reach that age.”

“I don’t mean 90-year-old bungee jumpers,” he added, “just people who on a daily basis live contented, happy, healthy, productive lives. Who participate in life. Who contribute to the world.”

The Elderly Through the Eyes of a Geriatrician  by Paula Span

His reaction to the piece on his blog, Aging and Invisibility

I was touched by some of the comments that readers wrote in response to the blog post, particularly one by Elisabeth, a 78 year old woman from Oklahoma who complained of becoming invisible with old age.  “We are invisible,” she said, and even though no one is rude, they “for the most part do not see us as real people.” This perception is one that I have frequently heard articulated when discussing the aging process with my patients.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The risks of contraceptives

Contraceptives are far more dangerous than women think. 

According to the US Drug Watchdog the serious side effects of birth control pills such as Yaz and Yasmin are potentially putting millions of women at risk for stroke, heart attack and even death.

woman who have used the pill are now showing up in their 30's with breast cancer (prior to the pill breast cancer was a post-menopausal women's disease). Next time you are at the pharmacy ask for the insert information inside the very box that is provided to the consumer when they purchase a contraceptive.  On NuvaRing's website (a common contraceptive) risks associated with the drug include blood clots, strokes, heart attacks, high blood pressure, heart disease, gallbladder disease, liver tumors, and cancer of the reproductive organs and breasts.

How many doctors are telling women who go in for contraceptives these stunning statistics?
Women who use hormonal contraceptives for a minimum of 4 years prior to their first full term pregnancy have a 52% higher risk of developing breast cancer (Mayo Clinic Proceedings). Women who use a hormonal contraceptive for more then 5 yrs are 4 times more likely to develop cervical cancer (International Agency of Research on Cancer). Instead many doctors convince married and single woman to go on contraceptives when they go into the office.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) is a highly reliable form of not only spacing children but helping couples to conceive. Recent studies have shown it to be 99% effective.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:47 AM | Permalink

Something's name is God

Via the Brothers Judd

What Scientists Think About Religion (Elaine Howard Ecklund, Ph.D., June 28, 2010, Huffington Post)

From 2005 to 2008, I surveyed nearly 1,700 natural and social scientists on their views about religion, spirituality and ethics and spoke with 275 of them in depth in their offices and laboratories. It turns out that nearly 50 percent of scientists identify with a religious label, and nearly one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month. While many scientists are completely secular, my survey results show that elite scientists are also sitting in the pews of our nation's churches, temples and mosques.

Of the atheist and agnostic scientists I had in-depth conversations with, more than 30 percent considered themselves atheists; however, less than six percent of these were actively working against religion.
Many atheist and agnostic scientists even think key mysteries about the world can be best understood spiritually, and some attend houses of worship, completely comfortable with religion as moral training for their children and an alternative form of community. If religious people better understood the full range of atheistic practice -- and the way that it interfaces with religion for some -- they might be less likely to hold negative attitudes toward nonreligious scientists. The truth is that many atheist scientists have no desire to denigrate religion or religious people.

In fact,
about one-fifth of the atheist scientists I spoke with say they consider themselves "spiritual atheists." Perhaps their stories are the most interesting. One chemist I talked with does not believe in God, yet she says she craves a sense of something beyond herself that provides a feeling of purpose and meaning and a moral compass......

Given the presence of religion in the scientific community, why do Americans still think scientists are hostile to religion?
Within their scientific communities, religious scientists tend to practice what I call a "secret spirituality."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:43 AM | Permalink

June 28, 2010

Treated to Death

Americans are treated, and overtreated, to death

The doctors finally let Rosaria Vandenberg go home.

For the first time in months, she was able to touch her 2-year-old daughter who had been afraid of the tubes and machines in the hospital. The little girl climbed up onto her mother's bed, surrounded by family photos, toys and the comfort of home. They shared one last tender moment together before Vandenberg slipped back into unconsciousness.
Vandenberg, 32, died the next day.

That precious time at home could have come sooner if the family had known how to talk about alternatives to aggressive treatment, said Vandenberg's sister-in-law, Alexandra Drane.

Instead, Vandenberg, a pharmacist in Franklin, Mass., had endured two surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation for an incurable brain tumor before she died in July 2004.

"We would have had a very different discussion about that second surgery and chemotherapy. We might have just taken her home and stuck her in a beautiful chair outside under the sun and let her gorgeous little daughter play around her — not just torture her" in the hospital, Drane said.

Americans increasingly are treated to death, spending more time in hospitals in their final days, trying last-ditch treatments that often buy only weeks of time, and racking up bills that have made medical care a leading cause of bankruptcies.

More than 80 percent of people who die in the United States have a long, progressive illness such as cancer, heart failure or Alzheimer's disease.

More than 80 percent of such patients say they want to avoid hospitalization and intensive care when they are dying, according to the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which tracks health care trends.

Yet the numbers show that's not what is happening:

_The average time spent in hospice and palliative care, which stresses comfort and quality of life once an illness is incurable, is falling because people are starting it too late. In 2008, one-third of people who received hospice care had it for a week or less, says the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

I learned from my mother the immense gift of not letting your last weeks be torture, A Beautiful Death.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:24 PM | Permalink

"The nature of parenting is to beat that out of you"

Tony Woodlief presents a parent's Case Against Happiness

Any parent will tell you children are difficult, and they wear you out, and they likely will just break your heart in the end. And who knows -- maybe when we believe we are feeling deep joy from parenthood (usually over a glass of wine, after all the little stinkers are finally in bed), we are simply sentimentalizing the whole ordeal to keep ourselves from rooting out our unused passports from the sock drawer and dashing off to Europe, never to be heard from again. Or perhaps we just feel too guilty to admit that, while we couldn't bear losing them now that we have them, we very well could have been delightfully satisfied had we never met them.

And here's where I wonder if we ought to re-examine our commitment to happiness. It seems to me that there's possibly some merit -- if we persevere and have the sense to learn from it -- in the other-orientation that is (good) parenting. It's fine to go through life happy, in other words, but I suspect we also want to go through life without becoming big fat self-absorbed jackasses. Children really help in that regard.

To be sure, there are too many parents who, despite their children, remain narcissistic nimrods. But the nature of parenting is to beat that out of you.
Instead of asking parents and non-parents whether they are happy right now, we might ask whether they are becoming more like the people they want to be. And then we might see children not as factors that may or may not be contributing to our happiness, but as opportunities to practice what most of us -- perhaps me most of all -- need to do more often, which is to put someone else before ourselves.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:16 PM | Permalink

Eyewitness to the eruption of Mt Vesuvius

If you have had any doubt that people who lived two or three thousand years ago were,  in all essential respects, like us, you can read the Letters of Pliny the Younger

Take this eyewitness account of the eruption of Mt Vesuvius

The buildings all round were shaking,” he writes, and to his amazement the tumultuous seas were “sucked back” by an earth-tremor  leaving “many sea-creatures stranded on the dry sand.” Meanwhile, Vesuvius continued to spit forth a  “black and menacing cloud, split by twisted and quivering flashes of fiery breath,” which opened out “into extended shapes of flames, like lightning flashes, but greater.”

Young Pliny and his mother soon decided to flee, despite the darkness brought on by the ash, and were nearly trampled to death by the panicked mob:

You could hear women moaning, children howling, and men shouting; they were crying out, some seeking parents, others children, and others wives, or recognizing them by the sound of their voices. Some were lamenting their own misfortune; others that of their families. A few in their fear of death were praying for death. Many were raising their hands to implore the gods, but more took the view that no gods now existed anywhere, and that this was an eternal and final darkness hanging over the world.

When true daylight finally reappeared, the exhausted survivors  were “confronted with a scene of universal change, for everything was buried by deep ash, as though by snow.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:15 PM | Permalink

"No family is an island"

Ross Douthat reviews a new study and concludes that Divorce spreads like a virus  and that there are societal consequences to individual choices.

Fascinating stuff from a new study, entitled “Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everybody Else is Doing It Too”:

To explore how social networks influence divorce and vice versa, we utilize a longitudinal data set from the long-running Framingham Heart Study. We find that divorce can spread between friends, siblings, and coworkers, and there are clusters of divorcees that extend two degrees of separation in the network … Interestingly, we do not find that the presence of children influences the likelihood of divorce, but we do find that each child reduces the susceptibility to being influenced by peers who get divorced. Overall, the results suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages serves to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship, and that, from a policy perspective, divorce should be understood as a collective phenomenon that extends far beyond those directly affected.

There’s no escaping peer effects: If your friends or neighbors or relatives get divorced, you’re more likely to get divorced — even if it’s only on the margins — no matter what kind of shape your marriage is in. And inevitably, the ripples keep on spreading, to the next generation and beyond …

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 AM | Permalink

"Visually, American men remain perpetual boys"

The implication is that a new pill, despite its unforeseen side effects, is necessary to cure the sexual malaise that appears to have sunk over the country. But to what extent do these complaints about sexual apathy reflect a medical reality, and how much do they actually emanate from the anxious, overachieving, white upper middle class?
Meanwhile, family life has put middle-class men in a bind; they are simply cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women. Contemporary moms have become virtuoso super-managers of a complex operation focused on the care and transport of children. But it’s not so easy to snap over from Apollonian control to Dionysian delirium.

Nor are husbands offering much stimulation in the male display department: visually, American men remain perpetual boys, as shown by the bulky T-shirts, loose shorts and sneakers they wear from preschool through midlife. The sexes, which used to occupy intriguingly separate worlds, are suffering from over-familiarity, a curse of the mundane. There’s no mystery left.

Another reason why Camille Paglia is one of the most acute observers of contemporary society No Sex Please, We're Middle Class

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:30 AM | Permalink

June 25, 2010

The ominous legacy of Cordoba

Raymond Ibrahim on the Two Faces of the Ground Zero Mosque

While the Cordoba Initiative appears to Americans as a sign of good faith and a new beginning with the Islamic world, to Muslims it represents conquest, dominance — even suicidal jihad against the infidel.

Oddly enough, the so-called “tolerant” era of Cordoba supposedly occurred during the caliphate of ‘Abd al-Rahman III (912-961) — well over a thousand years ago. “Eight hundred years ago,” i.e., around 1200, the fanatical Almohids — ideological predecessors of al-Qaeda — were ravaging Cordoba, where “Christians and Jews were given the choice of conversion, exile, or death.” A Freudian slip on the part of the Cordoba Initiative?
In fact, the true history of Cordoba, not to mention the whole of Andalusia, is far less inspiring than what Western academics portray: the Christian city was conquered by Muslims around 711, its inhabitants slaughtered or enslaved. The original mosque of Cordoba — the namesake of the Ground Zero mosque — was built atop, and partly from the materials of, a Christian church.  Modern day Muslims are well aware of all this.  Such is the true — and ominous — legacy of Cordoba.

More pointedly, throughout Islam’s history, whenever a region was conquered, one of the first signs of consolidation was/is the erection of a mosque atop the  sacred sites of the vanquished: the pagan Ka‘ba temple in Arabia was converted into Islam’s holiest site, the mosque of Mecca; the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, was built atop Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem; the Umayyad Mosque was built atop the Church of St. John the Baptist; and the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque upon the conquest of Constantinople.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 PM | Permalink

Taser Granny

"Don't Taze My Granny" was the headline on Drudge that prompted me to clink through to read this story of a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma.

Lonnie Tinsley of El Reno, Oklahoma made a nearly fatal mistake last December 22 when he went to check on his grandma, Lona Vernon.

Concerned that Lona hadn’t taken her medications, Lonnie called 911 in the expectation that an emergency medical technician would be dispatched to the apartment to evaluate the bedridden 86-year-old woman.

Instead, that call for help was answered by nearly a dozen armed tax-feeders employed by the El Reno Police Department.

Understandably alarmed — and probably more than a little disgusted — by the presence of uninvited armed strangers in her home, Lona ordered them to leave. This directive, issued by a fragile female octogenarian confined to a hospital-style bed and tethered to an oxygen tank, was interpreted as “aggressive” behavior by Officer Thomas Duran, who ordered one of his associates : “Taser her!”

“Don’t taze my granny!” exclaimed Tinsley. According to a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Tinsley’s “obstructive” behavior prompted the police to threaten him with their tasers. He was then was assaulted, removed from the room, thrown to the floor, handcuffed, and detained in a police car. At this point, the heroes in blue turned their attention to Lona.

The tactical situation was daunting; at this point, the police had only a 10-1 advantage over a subject who — according to Duran’s official report — had taken an “aggressive posture” in her hospital bed. The sacred imperative of “officer safety” dictated that the subject be thoroughly softened up in order to minimize resistance.

Accordingly, one of the officers approached Lona and “stepped on her oxygen hose until she began to suffer oxygen deprivation,” narrates the complaint, based on Lona’s account. One of the officers then shot her with a taser, but the connection wasn’t solid. A second fired his taser, “striking her to the left of the midline of her upper chest, and applied high voltage, causing burns to her chest, extreme pain,” and unconsciousness. Lona was then handcuffed with sufficient ruthlessness to tear the soft flesh of her forearms, causing her to bleed.

After her wounds were treated at a local hospital, Lona was confined for six days in the psychiatric ward at the insistence of her deranged assailants from the El Reno Police Department.

Just what kind of aggressive posture could an 86 year-old woman in a hospital bed and tethered to an oxygen tank take  that would so intimidate ten policemen that "officer safety" required she be stunned with a taser gun?

Boy, I like to sit in on that jury.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:06 PM | Permalink

"The world's first aquatic orangutan"

The orangutan who learned how to swim to be with his trainer

 Swimming Orangutan

But 30-year-old Moksha Bybee has the most unusual of swimming partners - a seven-year-old urangutan who clings to her as she dives beneath the surface.

The jungle-dwelling creatures are not known for their love of the water, but Suryia appears to have permanently swapped tree trunks for swimming trunks.

And d Mrs Bybee says it's virtually impossible to keep Suryia from the pool on a nice day.

The two make an unusual sight as they lark about at the Myrtle Beach Safari park in South Carolina.

Mrs Bybee said that Suryia spent only three weeks learning how to swim and now can't get enough of his new skill.

Staff  introduced Suryia to their 67ft pool after they noticed he had an unusual love for splashing around in the bath.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:11 PM | Permalink

June 24, 2010

From Song into Language

Singing 'rewires" damaged brain

Teaching stroke patients to sing "rewires" their brains, helping them recover their speech, say scientists.

By singing, patients use a different area of the brain from the area involved in speech.

If a person's "speech centre" is damaged by a stroke, they can learn to use their "singing centre" instead.

Researchers presented these findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Diego.
Dr Aniruddh Patel from the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, said the study was an example of the "explosion in research into music and the brain" over the last decade.

"People sometimes ask where in the brain music is processed and the answer is everywhere above the neck," said Dr Patel. "Music engages huge swathes of the brain - it's not just lighting up a spot in the auditory cortex."

This story reminded me of Songlines by Bruce Chatwin who had the idea that  language started as song, an idea  reinforced when he visited Aboriginal settlements in Australia and learned of  the aboriginal dreamtime sings the land into existence.

Dreamtime Kullilla Art Image1

From the Wikipedia entry on Dreamtime

Many Indigenous Australians also refer to the Creation time as "The Dreaming". The Dreamtime laid down the patterns of life for the Aboriginal people.

Colleen Wallace Nungari Dreamtime Sisters Image1

The Creation was believed to be the work of culture heroes who travelled across a formless land, creating sacred sites and significant places of interest in their travels. In this way songlines were established, some of which could travel right across Australia, through as many as six to ten different language groupings. The songs and dances of a particular songline were kept alive and frequently performed at large gatherings, organised in good seasons.

Journeys Of The Dreamtime An Exhibition Of Australian Aboriginal Art From The Ce Image1

The dreaming and travelling trails of the Spirit Beings are the songlines

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:18 PM | Permalink

Emotionally stunting Botox

 Botox Getty

Botox can stunt you emotionally, but may help if you're depressed.  So does smiling.

Smiling makes you happy research into botox shows

Botox, used to fight facial wrinkles, is made of an extremely toxic protein called Botulinum toxin that temporarily paralyses the muscles that cause creases.

That means no lines, but also no moving of the muscles at all which often makes faces look frozen.

Now the lack of facial expressions may influence emotional experiences as well, the research found.

A person with limited ability to make facial expressions was found to also have a limited ability to feel emotions.

Bad news for Botox users If your face is too tight to show disgust, you won't be able to get rid of the feeling, instead you think about disgusting things more often.

Good news, Botox may ease depression   So does smiling,  Even if you're faking it, smiling releases endorphrins that make you feel better

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:05 PM | Permalink

"Carnival of pointless blather"

Conrad Black on the meetings in Toronto

The G-8 and G-20 are a carnival of pointless blather.

The G-8 and G-20 economic summit meetings about to be inflicted on the unenthused population of Toronto are illustrative of the absurdity of much of the world’s political leadership. A catalogue of all that is amiss in the world in policy terms is hardly necessary. These leaders constantly meet with each other, yet their itinerant economic summits seem not to have turned up the slightest prior apprehension of the current economic crisis, nor many useful ideas about how to mitigate it.
The cost of these meetings in Toronto is about a billion dollars
They should all waste less of their own and one another’s time and clean up the messes they have made or inherited. Then they might be able to say something worth hearing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:37 PM | Permalink

June 23, 2010

And the blind see in a "roaring success"

Thanks to adult stem cells, the New England Journal of Medicine reports blindness reversal in dozens of patients.

- Dozens of people who were blinded or otherwise suffered severe eye damage when they were splashed with caustic chemicals had their sight restored with transplants of their own stem cells--a stunning success for the burgeoning cell-therapy field, Italian researchers reported Wednesday.

The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.

“This is a roaring success,” said ophthalmologist Dr. Ivan Schwab of the University of California, Davis, who had no role in the study--the longest and largest of its kind.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 PM | Permalink

What does the sun sound like?

Listen to the music of the sun recorded by scientists

Astronomers at the University of Sheffield have managed to record for the first time the eerie musical harmonies produced by the magnetic field in the outer atmosphere of the sun.

They found that huge magnetic loops that have been observed coiling away from the outer layer of the sun's atmosphere, known as coronal loops, vibrate like strings on a musical instrument.

In other cases they behave more like soundwaves as they travel through a wind instrument.

Using satellite images of these loops, which can be over 60,000 miles long, the scientists were able to recreate the sound by turning the visible vibrations into noises and speeding up the frequency so it is audible to the human ear.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

Incompetence in clean-up

Does it seem to you that the Administration doesn't want to encourage in any way the clean-up of oil in the Gulf

Louisiana was constructing sand berms to protect its coastline from the encroaching oil

Federal government Halts Sand Berm construction

The federal government is shutting down the dredging that was being done to create protective sand berms in the Gulf of Mexico.

The berms are meant to protect the Louisiana coastline from oil. But the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has concerns about where the dredging is being done.

Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, who was one of the most vocal advocates of the dredging plan, has sent a letter to President Barack Obama, pleading for the work to continue.

Nungesser said the government has asked crews to move the dredging site two more miles farther off the coastline.
"Once again, our government resource agencies, which are intended to protect us, are now leaving us vulnerable to the destruction of our coastline and marshes by the impending oil," Nungesser wrote to Obama. "Furthermore, with the threat of hurricanes or tropical storms, we are being put at an increased risk for devastation to our area from the intrusion of oil.

The Federal government refused foreign offers of oil skimmers

“Three days after the Gulf oil rig explosion, the Netherlands offered to send in oil skimmers to pump oil off of the surface of the ocean. The Obama Administration turned them down because they were not 100% efficient and small amounts of oil would be pumped back into the Gulf with the excess water. EPA regulations do not allow for residue water to contain any oil. So rather than use equipment that was not 100% efficient the Obama Administration chose to let all of the oil run into the Gulf.
They didn’t accept the British help because they didn’t have the proper paperwork.

If the Administration doesn't want to waive the Jones Act so foreign oil skimmers can enter U.S. territorial waters, you would think that every oil skimmer in the country would be commandeered to protect the coastline.

Obama Says Oil Spill Is Like 9-11… But Sends Only 20 of 2,000 US Oil Skimmer Boats to Florida Coast

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

June 22, 2010

"Giving is the most potent force on the planet and will protect you your whole life"

Giving is the most potent force on the planet and will protect you your whole life," says Dr. Stephen Post.

Happiness is a byproduct of living generously. People who are self-described as being people of generosity and self-giving love, people who are concerned for others in their actions or in affect are happier than people who don't fall into these categories. The chief predictor of self-reported happiness is not material wellbeing. It is not the power we hold over others, the accumulation of accolades or prestige. The single most important predictor of happiness is whether a person is living as much for others as for self.
caring for other alcoholics, the disinhibition of self-giving love, doubles the likelihood of recovery during this one-year period. That's big news, especially since there are probably 350 to 400 12-step groups based on the 12-step paradigm.
A remarkable fact is that giving, even in later years, can delay death. The impact of giving is just as significant as not smoking and avoiding obesity.

A remarkable essay "Do Good Things Happen to Good People?"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 PM | Permalink

"College let her down" Not pretty enough to be a real target, her youth and her innocence were attractive enough to get her seduced and abandoned. She knew enough not to have an abortion—the pro-life creed is almost the only one that kids get, anymore,

Riding Away by Joseph Bottum

Not pretty enough to be a real target, her youth and her innocence were attractive enough to get her seduced and abandoned. She knew enough not to have an abortion—the pro-life creed is almost the only one that kids get, anymore, even out in the rural areas—but she didn’t have the sense or the character to keep it from happening in the first place, and nobody else was looking after her. She had a single talent: She sat a horse like a dream, and she thought that the school that had recruited her because of that talent would be her ticket to education and sophistication.

College let her down.
Even out at a minor western state university, there’s no supervision, no moral code, no help. Just the one-hour freshman orientation session that hands out condoms and vaginal dams, with a warning about AIDS. The cowgirl from the ranch—her parents wouldn’t have sent her to UC Berkeley or NYU, mostly because old reputations die hard. But they didn’t realize they were doing the rough equivalent.

The cost of a small state school’s embarrassment, of its hunger to be just like everywhere else, is paid by abortions and the knocked-up, messed-up young women who were thrown to the wolfish boys, unconstrained by either manners or morals.
he learned some lessons in college about life and its costs, and she’ll survive. All those ranch kids are survivors. They don’t really know how not to be.

But was this the only lesson our college system could give her—that people at college won’t look out for her like the people on the ranches? Is this all we have to teach?

The Anchoress called it sad and beautiful and all too true and it is.    Compared to my college life, the perils and  faced by college students, stumbling about trying to find the best way to live a good life are truly horrifying. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 PM | Permalink

Canyon carved in three days in Texas flood

This is amazing.  Science Daily reports Canyon Carved in Just Three Days in Texas Flood

In the summer of 2002, a week of heavy rains in Central Texas caused Canyon Lake -- the reservoir of the Canyon Dam -- to flood over its spillway and down the Guadalupe River Valley in a planned diversion to save the dam from catastrophic failure. The flood, which continued for six weeks, stripped the valley of mesquite, oak trees, and soil; destroyed a bridge; and plucked meter-wide boulders from the ground. And, in a remarkable demonstration of the power of raging waters, the flood excavated a 2.2-kilometer-long, 7-meter-deep canyon in the bedrock.

According to a new analysis of the flood and its aftermath -- performed by Michael Lamb, assistant professor of geology at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), and Mark Fonstad of Texas State University -- the canyon formed in just three days.

A paper about the research appears in the June 20 advance online edition of the journal Nature Geoscience.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

New blood test coming to diagnose breast cancer

Very good news for women and the men who love them.

At the recent annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C. came the announcement that a new Blood test detects breast cancer before any sign of a lump.

A blood test that detects breast cancer more than a year before any symptoms appear could dramatically improve survival rates.

The test looks for raised levels of a certain protein that is already known to increase once cancer has developed. But in a new study, researchers found levels of the protein, called epidermal growth factor receptor, were already high up to 17 months before women were diagnosed with breast cancer.
The latest development came from a study of more than 400 breast cancer victims by scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in Seattle.

The volunteers were all taking part in a major, long-running U.S. study, called the Women's Health Initiative, a 15-year investigation that began in 1991 and involved more than 100,000 volunteers.

Every volunteer donated blood samples to the study for routine testing. When researchers identified women who later developed breast cancer, they analysed the blood samples they had given up to 17 months before their diagnosis.

These were then compared with another group of cancer-free women from the same study.

The results showed those with the highest levels of epidermal growth factor receptor were nearly three times more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later date.
Epidermal growth factor receptor is a protein on the surface of all cells. But in excess quantities, it can trigger uncontrolled growth of cancerous tissue.

Dr Christopher Li, who led the research, said it was too early for the biomarker test to be used on its own as a cancer diagnosis. But it could form part of the screening process if further trials confirm the early findings.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2010

Presenting a Good Appearance

Considering the attention given to clothes in the press and elsewhere, and that many people list shopping (by which they mean shopping for clothes) as their principal pastime, it is astonishing how few well-dressed people one sees on the streets. On the contrary, most people approximate to the famous and apt description of the professionally bohemian poet Dylan Thomas: an unmade bed. 
Having lived among really poor people in Africa and elsewhere, I know that to present a good appearance to others is for them a triumph of the human spirit and not just a manifestation of vanity or superficiality, much less a semi-intellectual pose like that of Marie-Antoinette playing shepherdess. The fact is that, given the laws of thermodynamics, it takes no effort to look like a slob; to be smart calls for care and attention, not only to one's clothes but to how one behaves. It also means that one must try to imagine what one appears in the eyes of others. Slobbery is the sartorial manifestation of solipsistic egotism; smartness is simultaneously self-respect and respect for others.
I have been deeply moved to see the old men of deeply-depressed towns, who themselves lived very hard lives, and who were the most working of the working class, dress smartly in ties, jackets and highly-polished shoes merely to go to the pub for a pint of beer or to do a bit of shopping. In today's world, I wanted to bow down before them with reverence and respect, amongst other things in recognition of the respect that they showed me (and, of course, everyone else) in dressing in this way, for it could not be easy for them and was the result of considerable effort. How splendid and dignified they looked!

Theodore Dalrymple on Outward and Visible Signs

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

June 18, 2010

Does government intervention increase unemployment?

Thomas Sowell is a national treasure.  Here he is on A Mind-Changing Page and yes, it seems so.

This is more than just a question about history. Right here and right now there is a widespread belief that the unregulated market is what got us into our present economic predicament, and that the government must "do something" to get the economy moving again. FDR's intervention in the 1930s has often been cited by those who think this way.
What is on that one page in "Out of Work" that could change people's minds? Just a simple table, giving unemployment rates for every month during the entire decade of the 1930s.

Those who think that the stock market crash in October 1929 is what caused the huge unemployment rates of the 1930s will have a hard time reconciling that belief with the data in that table.
While the market produced a peak unemployment rate of 9 percent-- briefly-- after the stock market crash of 1929, unemployment shot up after massive federal interventions in the economy. It rose above 20 percent in 1932 and stayed above 20 percent for 23 consecutive months, beginning in the Hoover administration and continuing during the Roosevelt administration.

As Casey Stengel used to say, "You could look it up." It is all there on that one page.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:18 PM | Permalink

June 17, 2010

Tango, not vuvuzelas

Besides the fact that those horrid vuvuzelas can harm your hearing, the tango is so much better and sexier.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 PM | Permalink

The most courageous woman in the world confounds Santa Monica

Why Ayaan Hirsi Ali, possibly the most courageous woman in the world,  is so deeply unsettling to leftists.

She continues to be an outspoken critic of the subjugation and mistreatment of women under fundamentalist Islam, and the AHA Foundation which she founded aims to combat “several types of crimes against women, including female genital mutilation, forced marriages, honor violence, and honor killings.” These would seem to be fairly non-controversial goals, especially in a pro-feminist Western society, but they received a rather chilly response that night from the tolerant progressives of Santa Monica.

 Ayaan Hirsi Ali Nomad

Statements made by Ms. Ali that in most cities in middle America would have received applause were met with a respectful but stony silence. When the floor was opened for questions from the seemingly stunned audience, one after another of Santa Monica’s finest political thinkers rose unsteadily from their chairs to ask a question that might allow them to hold onto their deeply-held and carefully nuanced progressive beliefs in the face of someone who must have seemed to them to be an untouchable figure, a woman born in Somalia who left Islam and became an atheist, as well as an unrelenting critic of the injustice and violence that is routinely taught in the Muslim world.
Well, she was black, so they could not dismiss her as a racist; she had lived in Somalia, Saudi Arabia, The Netherlands and the United States, so they could not call her an ignorant provincial hick; she was an avowed atheist, so they could not call her a Christian bigot on a crusade against peaceful Islam; and she was multi-lingual, articulate, and brilliant, so they couldn’t just call her stupid. All the pejoratives they usually apply to people who disagree with them wouldn’t work, and so they were left to confront her ideas, and those ideas stripped them naked, rent their garments of superiority and condescension into tatters at their feet, and left them angry and confused, whining to each other in the corners of the room, unable to say anything to her face. Their favorite weapons, ad hominem name-calling and sneering condescension, were disarmed.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 PM | Permalink

Will Germany drop the euro?

I don't think the eurozone will last the year and I bet the Germans are the first ones out.

The euro is in crisis, and Germany is footing the bill. An obvious solution is emerging: rather than Greece being kicked out, Germany itself abandons the currency. Gerard Baker thinks the unthinkable

The nightmare for Germans is that an unholy alliance of Spanish, Greeks, Italians and Portuguese will be able to tell the good people of Bavaria exactly how much of their taxes they can spend in Bavaria and how much they must transfer to their needy cousins down south. Instead of a union in which the disciplined Germans call the tune, the system entrenches the bailout culture Berlin has insisted could never be a part of the single currency.

The solution to all this is increasingly obvious. If the Greeks were to be ejected from the eurozone, the implications for Europe’s economy might be devastating. The revived Greek drachma would immediately experience a massive devaluation against the euro. Since all its debts are denominated in euros, it would quickly be unable to meet its obligations. This would not only cause the Greek economy to crash, it would cause havoc for European (including German) banks.

They might be able to survive default and the collapse of the Greek economy, but as the contagion spread, and it became clear that Portugal and then Spain were next in line to exit the euro, the financial panic would deepen.

So a Greek departure from the eurozone is almost unthinkable. But there’s a better option. If Germany left the eurozone itself, it would at a stroke free itself from an increasingly intolerable fiscal burden and leave the weaker countries with some chance of managing their way out of crisis. The euro would presumably decline sharply against the deutsche mark, but that would not necessarily bankrupt the Greek government and companies, because their debts would still be payable in euros.
A number of countries might choose to leave with Germany: Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are already more or less fully integrated within the greater German economy. France would face a difficult decision whether to stay with the southern and eastern Europeans or join the Germans.

None of the options facing the euro members looks attractive. There is no sure route out of this crisis towards a heavenly outcome of sustained prosperity and growth. But a voluntary German departure might be the least painful way of avoiding what will be an economic hell for anyone caught up in it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:10 PM | Permalink

Testament to Love

What a touching story.  Dying man renews wedding vows with wife of 72 years.

Vernon McAlister had a dream last week about the woman he has loved nearly all his life.

His wife Sue was in a room decorated with lace — “the most beautiful, beautiful lace” — and she stood near a window, bathed in sunlight and dressed in a lace gown and veil, waiting for him to marry her again.

After that dream, he was peaceful, sure of what he wanted to do next.

He asked the nurses at Hospice of the Upstate to help him stay alive a few more days. He wanted to celebrate his 72nd anniversary with his bride.

On Sunday, a day after their actual anniversary, the McAlisters celebrated their union by renewing their vows.

This time, they were not nervous.

She is 87 and he is nearly 93.

 Wedding Vows Renewed

“He has taken care of me my whole life,” she said. “He has loved me and respected me and cherished me the way he said he would when I was just a young girl and he was just a young man. There is nothing to be nervous about when you are walking toward the person you love with your whole heart.”
And though he was in a hospital bed, Vernon McAlister’s eyes lit up when he saw her walking down the aisle. The first time they did this, he was almost 21, and she was 15 and a half.

All of the couple’s children —their sons Tony, Phil, Van and Don McAlister and daughter Anita Floyd — were able to attend the ceremony.
“They are a testament to love,” Floyd said. “It is amazing how they support each other. And it is amazing how that dream of her has kept him going. That’s why we thought this ceremony was so important. That dream of her is all he has talked about.”
Sue McAlister’s had trembled as she kissed her husband, cupping his chin and then smoothing his hair. Her husband looked at her with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:51 PM | Permalink

Phoney iPCC consensus confirmed by IPCC insider

IPCC Insider says the IPCC consensus on climate change was phoney.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change misled the press and public into believing that thousands of scientists backed its claims on manmade global warming, according to Mike Hulme, a prominent climate scientist and IPCC insider. The actual number of scientists who backed that claim was “only a few dozen experts,” he states in a paper for Progress in Physical Geography, co-authored with student Martin Mahony.
Hulme, Professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia –  the university of Climategate fame — is the founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and one of the UK’s most prominent climate scientists. Among his many roles in the climate change establishment, Hulme was the IPCC’s co-ordinating Lead Author for its chapter on ‘Climate scenario development’ for its Third Assessment Report and a contributing author of several other chapters.

We already knew that but it's good to have it confirmed by such a prominent insider. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:44 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2010

Happy like the Muffler Man

I am not at all surprised that more college-educated jump tracks to become skilled manual laborers.

They started out studying aerospace engineering, creative writing and urban planning. But somewhere on the path to accumulating academic credentials, they decided that working with their hands sounded more pleasant -- and lucrative -- than a lot of white-collar work. So bye-bye to term papers and graduate theses, and hello to apprenticeships to become plumbers, electricians, auto mechanics and carpenters.

And why not?  Such jobs can't be outsourced and You can't hammer a nail over the Internet

Camille Paglia a few years ago called for a Re-Valorization of the Trades
Perhaps there's hope of change because of the tens of thousands of liberal arts graduates with expensive degrees who are finding themselves out of work and depressingly marginalized in a society where the manual trades offer guaranteed employment at relatively high wages. A dose of Buddhism might do people good: Sweeping garden sand into oceanic designs around ornamental rocks is considered a spiritual exercise in Asia. I say that landscaping, construction, carpentry, metalworking and all the other trades should be promoted by primary education as worthy careers for both men and women.

If you work hard, you just might count yourself among the happiest of workers like Muffler Man

Leo had majored in Romance Language Literature at the University of New Mexico but when his young family came to California years ago he decided to apply himself to an honest trade.

“People think that because I know all these languages, and poems, and books, I should have been something more than a mechanic. But if I worked in my academic field, I’d be fighting to make twenty or thirty thousand a year. And guess what? Last year I took home over two hundred grand from this little shop.”

As I backed my car off the hoist he was belting out a Puccini aria.

My muffler man does good work, and is easily the happiest person I’ve met so far in California.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:19 PM | Permalink

When being wanted isn't enough

Ross Douhat in The New York Times calls it a freewheeling fertility marketplace whose impact on American life keeps increasing with about a million Americans the biological children of sperm donors.

Their inner lives are the subject of a fascinating study from the Institute for American Values, based on a survey of younger adults, ages 18 to 45, who were conceived through sperm donation. The authors — Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval Glenn and Karen Clark — depict a population that’s at once grateful to the fertility industry and uneasy about the way they were conceived, supportive of assisted fertility but haunted by the feeling of being a bought-and-paid-for child.

A new and extensive survey shows how sperm donor kids suffer, something I've been saying for years.  Being wanted isn't enough. Too many going this route fail to think through the ramifications that will ripple down generations.  Children know that being denied their right to know about their biological heritage is inherently unnatural and unjust.

The Kids Are All Right, due out in July, is being praised for its honest portrayal of a lesbian couple, played by Julianne Moore and Annette Bening. But what seems most revelatory about the movie is its portrayal of their two teenage children who track down their sperm donor biological father and insist on forging a connection with him. Finally, we have an exploration of how children born from such procedures feel, because in fact it turns out that their feelings about their origins are a lot more complicated than people think.
The results are surprising. While adoption is often the center of controversy, it turns out that sperm donation raises a host of different but equally complex—and sometimes troubling—issues. Two-thirds of adult donor offspring agree with the statement "My sperm donor is half of who I am." Nearly half are disturbed that money was involved in their conception. More than half say that when they see someone who resembles them, they wonder if they are related. About two-thirds affirm the right of donor offspring to know the truth about their origins.

Regardless of socioeconomic status, donor offspring are twice as likely as those raised by biological parents to report problems with the law before age 25. They are more than twice as likely to report having struggled with substance abuse. And they are about 1.5 times as likely to report depression or other mental health problems.

As a group, the donor offspring in our study are suffering more than those who were adopted: hurting more, feeling more confused, and feeling more isolated from their families.
Christine Whipp, a British author conceived by anonymous sperm donation more than four decades ago, gives voice to the feelings some donor offspring have of being a "freak of nature" or a "lab experiment":

My existence owed almost nothing to the serendipitous nature of normal human reproduction, where babies are the natural progression of mutually fulfilling adult relationships, but rather represented a verbal contract, a financial transaction and a cold, clinical harnessing of medical technology.
What to do? For starters, the United States should follow the lead of Britain, Norway, Sweden, and other nations and end the anonymous trade of sperm. Doing so would powerfully affirm that as a nation we no longer tolerate the creation of two classes of children, one actively denied by the state knowledge of their biological fathers, and the rest who the state believes should have the care and protection of legal fathers, such that the state will even track these men down and dock child support payments from their paychecks.

Not all donor children feel the same way.  About one fifth of them go on to donate either eggs or sperm. 

Family Scholars has the press release announcing the results of the study, My Daddy's Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation,

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

June 14, 2010

Reason 237, 452 to be grateful

6 People You've Never Heard of Who Probably Saved Your Life.  How many names do you even recognize?

# 6 Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov

#5 James Harrison

#4 Viktor Zhdanov & Donald Harrison

# 3 Henrietta Lacks

# 2 Henri Dunant

At the very top, # 1, is  Norman Borlaug  who is officially recognized for saving "over a billion people" from starvation over the world.

It is humbling to think how much of the comfort of our lives is due to the work of others, alive and dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:42 PM | Permalink

June 9, 2010

Bubbles bursting

Is the higher education bubble about to burst?  Glenn Reynolds thinks so.

College has gotten a lot more expensive. A recent Money magazine report notes: "After adjusting for financial aid, the amount families pay for college has skyrocketed 439 percent since 1982. ... Normal supply and demand can't begin to explain cost increases of this magnitude."
A New York Times profile last week described Courtney Munna, a 26-year-old graduate of New York University with nearly $100,000 in student loan debt -- debt that her degree in Religious and Women's Studies did not equip her to repay. Payments on the debt are about $700 per month, equivalent to a respectable house payment, and a major bite on her monthly income of $2,300 as a photographer's assistant earning an hourly wage.

And, unlike a bad mortgage on an underwater house, Munna can't simply walk away from her student loans, which cannot be expunged in a bankruptcy. She's stuck in a financial trap.

There's the financial bubble, but also the reality bubble where college students learn disdain for real, tried and  true methods of creating and distributing wealth.

Thomas Sowell on The Real Public Service

Commencement speakers express great reverence for “public service,” as distinguished from narrow private “greed.” There is usually not the slightest sign of embarrassment at this self-serving celebration of the kinds of careers they have chosen — over and above the careers of others who merely provide us with the food we eat, the homes we live in, the clothes we wear, and the medical care that saves our health and our lives.
This didn’t come about because of the politicians, bureaucrats, activists, or others in “public service” that you are supposed to admire. No nation ever protested its way from poverty to prosperity or got there through rhetoric or bureaucracies.

It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:48 AM | Permalink

June 5, 2010

Raining drunken parrots


My favorite story of the week: Drunken parrots falling from sky

SEEMINGLY DRUNKEN AND HUNGOVER parrots are dropping out of the sky in the Northern Territory and experts are at a loss to explain why.

The red-collared lorikeets lose coordination and pass out after eating a mystery food, Lisa Hansen, of the Ark Animal Hospital at Palmerston, near Darwin said on Thursday.

And to top it off, the parrots are left with nasty hangovers after mystery illness strikes

One of the veterinary surgeons, Lisa Hanson, told The Times: ‘They act quite like a drunken person would.’ It’s not just the clumsiness that shows similarities to drunkenness either; Ms Hanson said other symptoms have also included ‘obnoxiousness’ and over excitement.

And just like after too many pints, the birds appear to experience a hangover of sorts, which includes headaches, tiredness and sadness, which can take months for them to recover, while some have even died.

The most likely cause is thought to be from an unknown substance the birds are eating – perhaps fermented nectar from a plant, Ms Hanson said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 AM | Permalink

"In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence"

The failure of human beings to meet their own ideals does not disprove or discredit those ideals. The fact that some are cowards does not make courage a myth. The fact that some are faithless does not make fidelity a joke. All moral standards create the possibility of hypocrisy. But I would rather live among those who recognize standards and fail to meet them than among those who mock all standards as lies. In the end, hypocrisy is preferable to decadence.

Michael Gerson on Sex and Grace

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:48 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2010

Vacuum it up

I found it interesting that among the 10 Biggest Oil Spills in History,  the 1989 Exxon-Valdez spill doesn't even make the list.

The largest oil spill in history, some 240 million gallons, was a deliberate spill by Saddam Hussein that I never heard of  During the 1991 Gulf War, as Iraq retreated from Kuwait, it opened up the valves of oil wells and pipelines to stop the approaching American troops.    Cleanup was effected by 25 miles of booms and 21 skimmers who, together with vacuum trucks, recovered some 60 million gallons.

So why has the federal government not employed supertankers and other ships to Vacuum up the Oil?  The Anchoress reports

“No one’s listening,” says Nick Pozzi, who was an engineer with Saudi Aramco in the Middle East when he says an accident there in 1993 generated a spill far larger than anything the United States has ever seen.

According to Pozzi, that mishap, kept under wraps for close to two decades and first reported by Esquire, dumped nearly
800 million gallons of oil into the Persian Gulf, which would make it more than 70 times the size of the Exxon Valdez spill.

But remarkably, by employing a fleet of empty supertankers to suck crude off the water’s surface, Pozzi’s team was not only able to clean up the spill, but also salvage 85 percent of the oil, he says.

“We took [the oil] out of the water so it would save the environment off the Arabian Gulf, and then we put it into tanks until we could figure out how to clean it,” he told AOL News.

Why are we just now learning that 17 countries offered assistance to help with the spill, but BP has accepted only 2 of them.  I understand why the federal government must rely on BP's resources, equipment and expertise to find a solution to this mess, but they don't have to rely on them to clean it up

If the President is in charge, why isn't he and BP, doing more to at least try the vacuuming approach dubbed suck and salvage?  Why did it take so long to issue emergency permits so that Louisiana could build sand berms to keep oil from the wetlands?  Why isn't the Administration enlisting

Even though the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has fined BP 760 times, Exxon-Mobil once,

it seems counter-productive to open up criminal investigations now before the clean-up.  How Washington Just Worsened the Gulf Oil Spill.

The Anchoress in Part II Vacuuming up the Oil Spill has many updates and more links

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 PM | Permalink

Stay fit by cleaning your own house

One way of staying fit and getting enough exercise is to clean your own house.

If your house is as clean as a whistle, you'll be fit as a fiddle

Scientists think it may be that people who take pride in their homes also take pride in their health.

We've all heard the saying 'tidy desk, tidy mind'. But now it seems that having a well-kept house might lead to a well-kept body.

Those who take pride in their homes are fitter than those who live surrounded by clutter, research suggests.

The study of almost 1,000 people also revealed that the state of a person's home is more closely linked to their fitness than it is to the area in which they live.

The finding surprised the U.S. researchers, who say that when trying to increase exercise levels, governments should focus on what happens indoors as well as out.

In other words, people might be more likely to pick up a duster than a tennis racquet.
Researcher NiCole Keith told the American College of Sports Medicine's annual meeting: 'If you spend your day dusting, cleaning, doing laundry, you're active.'

She added that
some people 'won't take 30 minutes to go for a walk but they'll take 30 minutes to clean'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Man's almost infinite appetite for distraction

I knew before I read On Distraction that I spend too much time on the Internet. 

One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible.

The obsession with current events is relentless.

Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.

As Neil Postman wrote in comparing George Orwell's 1984 to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.  Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions".

Huxley was more prescient

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 AM | Permalink

What led to the precipitous drop in crime?

The recent release by the FBI of the preliminary crime statistics for 2009 show that as gun sales have skyrocketed since 2005, violent crime has dropped precipitously during the same period showing that an Armed Public is a Safer Public

This drop in crime has continued even as the Great Recession deepened leading Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen to conclude

It could be, as conservatives have insisted all along, that crime is committed by criminals. For liberals, this is bad news indeed.
the latest crime statistics strongly suggest that bad times do not necessarily make bad people. Bad character does.

Wondering whether there's a gun-packing grandma inside the house you plan to burgle makes even bad characters think twice. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

Six Million Killed in Democratic Republic of Congo

I just wish the U.N. would spend less time ganging up on Israel and more time dealing with the truly horrendous scale of suffering in the Democratic Republic of the  Congo where six million have been killed in the past ten years, about 1500 a day, and rape against women has been the preferred means of terror.

Read Georgianne Nienaber who writes Witness to Rape in Congo: "What is the Future When the Heart of the Community is Broken?"

The testimony is shocking and horrifying.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

The "Perfect" Game

I thought the two best comments on the Gal  perfect game came from two women who understand that there's more to life than winning and that sometimes not getting the right call can show two men at their best.

Peggy Noonan Nobody's Perfect but They Were Good

What was sweet and surprising was that all the principals in the story comported themselves as fully formed adults, with patience, grace and dignity. And in doing so, Galarraga and Joyce showed kids How to Do It.

A lot of adults don't teach kids this now, because the adults themselves don't know how to do it. There's a mentoring gap, an instruction gap in our country. We don't put forward a template because we don't know the template. So everyone imitates TV, where victors dance in the end zone, where winners shoot their arms in the air and distort their face and yell "Whoooaahhh," and where victims of an injustice scream, cry, say bitter things, and beat the ground with their fists. Everyone has come to believe this is authentic. It is authentically babyish. Everyone thinks it's honest. It's honestly undignified, self-indulgent, weak and embarrassing.

Galarraga and Joyce couldn't have known it when they went to work Wednesday, but they were going to show children in an unforgettable way that a victim of injustice can react with compassion, and a person who makes a mistake can admit and declare it.

The Anchoress - Replay will Ruin Baseball

Baseball is the teacher of lessons in courage, perseverance and grace. It pits one man, batter or pitcher, against an entire team and says “show us your heart.” Then, as Bart Giamatti wrote, “it breaks your heart,” because it is designed to do so.

But baseball then mends the heart it has broken, and in the most magnificent ways, in ways that uplift players and fans, alike.

Because baseball has no replay, the “bad calls” are part of the game, and because they are, so is the paradoxical transcendent lightness that comes from a heavy moment being shrugged off and allowed to pass.
Such moments are good for baseball, and it is good for the nation. Humility in error (or in the face of unfairness) and manly good-will are things we no longer see in a world full of puffed-up egos. They are examples we need to see lived out before our eyes, more often.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2010

57% of children who lost a parent in childhood would trade a year of their lives for a day with their parents

Too little attention is paid to the psychological and emotional toll on  children who lose one or both of their parents at a young age, so kudos to the Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation who are helping terminal parents and their children build memories on a last vacation.

Families With a Missing Piece by Jeffrey Zaslow
A New Look at How a Parent's Early Death Can Reverberate Decades Later

When polled, 57% of adults who lost parents during childhood shared Mr. Herman's yearnings, saying they, too, would trade a year of their lives. Their responses, part of a wide-ranging new survey, indicate that bereavement rooted in childhood often leaves emotional scars for decades, and that our society doesn't fully understand the ramifications—or offer appropriate resources. The complete survey of more than 1,000 respondents, set for release later this month, was funded by the New York Life Foundation on behalf of Comfort Zone Camp, a nonprofit provider of childhood bereavement camps.

Among the findings: 73% believe their lives would be "much better" if their parents hadn't died young; 66% said that after their loss "they felt they weren't a kid anymore."
In the 2009 memoir "The Kids Are All Right," four siblings from Bedford, N.Y., orphaned in the 1980s, described the risks in harrowing detail. They wrote of
"growing up as lost souls," and turning to drugs and other troubling behaviors as coping mechanisms.

It's a common story. Gary Jahnke, 31, of Hastings, Minn., was 13 when his mother died of cancer. "I gave up on my good grades and dropped out of high school," he says. "I didn't do anything except drink, do drugs and be depressed. I was confused and angry, and adults didn't know how to help me. I had a good relationship with my dad, but he was also grieving."
Donica Salley, a 50-year-old cosmetics sales director in Richmond, Va., understands well the ramifications of losing a parent. When she was 13, her 44-year-old father drowned while on vacation in the Bahamas. "That was the onset of my depression," she says. "My mom tried to fill the void and the hurt by buying me things."

Two years ago, Ms. Salley's husband died after falling off the roof of their house while cleaning the gutters. He was also 44. Their 17-year-old son has since attended a Comfort Zone camp. "It's a safe haven for him," Ms. Salley says. "There's something about being with people who've been through it. When my father died, I didn't know anyone who'd lost a parent. I was alone."
Some activists say it's vital to start helping young people even before their parents die. To that end, the Georgia-based Jack & Jill Late Stage Cancer Foundation provides free vacations to families in which one parent is terminally ill. The organization was founded by Jon and Jill Albert, shortly before Jill's 2006 death to cancer at age 45. Their children were then 11 and 13.

"When Jill passed away, people who lost parents when they were young told me it would be a 30-year impact for the kids," says Mr. Albert, 48. His organization, with the help of corporate sponsors, has sent 300 families on vacations.

"These trips allow families to build memories, and to take a lot of pictures and videos together," says Mr. Albert.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:51 PM | Permalink

Value but no price

Some goods, like food and clothes, have instrumental value; other goods, like children and works of art, are valuable in themselves. Love is priceless, not because its price is higher than we can pay, but because it cannot be purchased but only earned. Of course, you can purchase the simulacrum of love, and there are people who are accomplished providers. But love that is purchased is only a pretense. Goods like love, beauty, consolation, and the sacred are spiritual goods: they have a value, but no price.
No force has been as strong in protecting human sexual love from the market as the force of religion, which elevates sex to a sacrament and forbids its abuse. Likewise, no force has been so strong in protecting the environment as the religious sentiments evoked by Ruskin and Muir. Almost everyone feels that there are places, scenes, landscapes, and townscapes that are threatened with desecration, and whose integrity and beauty must be respected with a quasi-religious veneration. It is to this vestigial religious sentiment that we owe the national parks of America, the lake lands of England, the city of Venice, and the landscape of Provence -- all of which would long ago have been vandalized had it not been for those who protected them as spiritual sites.

Roger Scruton on Not for Sale

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

A blood test to spot cancer Before tumors develop

The simple blood test that spots cancer six years before tumours develop

A simple blood test to spot cancer up to six years before a tumour forms could be available in Britain next year.
The brainchild of a Nottingham University cancer specialist, it could provide vital early warning of lung and breast cancers - diseases that between them claim almost 50,000 lives annually.
Diagnostic techniques such as scans and biopsies focus on tumours that have already formed but the new test can detect that something is wrong well before the cancer does any damage.

The Oncimmume test picks up telltale signs of a germinating cancer in the blood.  The signals - generated by the immune system - can be detected up to five years before a cancer is spotted, from just two teaspoons of blood.

Professor John Robertson, the breast cancer specialist who spent 15 years developing the test, said: 'We are starting to understand carcinogenesis in a way that we have never seen before - seeing which proteins are going wrong and how your immune system responds.

'It's as if your body is shouting "I've got cancer" way before a tumour can be detected.

Presentations on the technology are due to be made at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference in Chicago next week.


Breast cancer cells

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

Spiritual but not Religious

It’s a great and self-serving mess, this claim to be “spiritual but not religious,” which we hear from almost anyone who talks about religion in public, ....It’s one of those easily remembered phrases that work like a “get out of jail free” card for anyone who feels he has to explain his lack of religious practice, and as a claim to superiority for those who care about being superior to those who practice an established religion. It’s the religious equivalent of “I gave at the office” or “There’s a call on the other line” or “I don’t eat meat.”
The word “spiritual” has no useful meaning if it does not refer to a relation to a real spirit, something from a world not our own, something supernatural, something that or someone who tells us things we do not know, judges us for our failures, and gives us ideals to strive for and maybe help in reaching them. It’s not a useful word if it means a general inclination or shape of mind or emotional pattern or set of attitudes or collection of values. There is no reason to call any of these spiritual.

Unless, of course, you like that little sense of importance and that comforting sense of social approval that our society still gives to “spiritual things,” though not to religious things. It’s a warm and fuzzy word. It’s a cute cuddly bunny word. It’s not like “religion.” That’s a cold and forbidding word. It’s a screeching preacher with bad breath word.

David Mills on Spirituality Without Spirits

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:11 AM | Permalink

To hear for the first time

The moment when young Jonathan hears for the first time.

Cochlear implants are still a relatively new technology.  Here are 9 more people hearing for the first time.

And there's Harold Whittle who long ago heard sound for the first time after being fitted with a hearing aid.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:58 AM | Permalink

The Brighter Side of Aging

Another study - covering more than 340,000 people shows Happiness May Come With Age.

A large Gallup poll has found that by almost any measure, people get happier as they get older, and researchers are not sure why.

“It could be that there are environmental changes,” said Arthur A. Stone, the lead author of a new study based on the survey, “or it could be psychological changes about the way we view the world, or it could even be biological — for example brain chemistry or endocrine changes.”
The results, published online May 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, were good news for old people, and for those who are getting old. On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, and then, apparently, life begins to throw curve balls. They feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18.


In measuring immediate well-being — yesterday’s emotional state — the researchers found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85. Worry stays fairly steady until 50, then sharply drops off. Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85. Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves: they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s.
Andrew J. Oswald, a professor of psychology at Warwick Business School in England, who has published several studies on human happiness, called the findings important and, in some ways, heartening. “It’s a very encouraging fact that we can expect to be happier in our early 80s than we were in our 20s,” he said. “
And it’s not being driven predominantly by things that happen in life. It’s something very deep and quite human that seems to be driving this.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:49 AM | Permalink