October 30, 2010

I See Dead People

I See Dead People and they have Stimulus Checks

US Senator Tom Coburn put out a report called “Federal Programs to Die for: American Tax Dollars Sent Six Feet Under” showing rampant waste, fraud and abuse in government programs.  This report has put together programs totalling $1 billion in federal monies given to the dead.

The Social Security Administration sent $18 million in Stimulus funds to dead people;
The Department of Health and Human Services doled out checks of
$3.9 million in assistance to pay heating and cooling costs out of the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to dead people. See GAO Report of June 2010;
The Department of Agriculture cranked out checks for $
1.1 billion to deceased farmers. See GAO Report of July 24, 2007;
The Farm Services Agency (FSA) provided 171,801 deceased farmers subsidies;
The Department of Housing and Urban Development cut checks for $
15.2 million in housing subsidies to the dead.  See HUD IG’s Report of November 10, 2009;
Medicaid payments of over $700,000 in prescriptions for 1,800 dead patients and prescriptions for drugs written by 1,200 deceased doctors;
Medicare payments of $92 million in medical supplies prescribed by dead doctors and $8.2 million for medical supplies prescribed for non-living patients; and,

US rep.: Estate tax rise has some planning death

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis says some of her Wyoming constituents are so worried about the reinstatement of federal estate taxes that they plan to discontinue dialysis and other life-extending medical treatments so they can die before Dec. 31.
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But she said many ranchers and farmers in the state would rather pass along their businesses - "their life's work" - to their children and grandchildren than see the federal government take a large chunk.

"If you have spent your whole life building a ranch, and you wanted to pass your estate on to your children, and you were 88-years-old and on dialysis, and the only thing that was keeping you alive was that dialysis, you might make that same decision," Lummis told reporters.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

"No child has ever been killed by poisoned candy. Ever."

 Witches Brooms

Lenore Skenazy writes in the Wall St Journal about 'Stranger Danger' and the Decline of Halloween.


Halloween is the day when America market-tests parental paranoia.
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Take "stranger danger," the classic Halloween horror. Even when I was a kid, back in the "Bewitched" and "Brady Bunch" costume era, parents were already worried about neighbors poisoning candy. Sure, the folks down the street might smile and wave the rest of the year, but apparently they were just biding their time before stuffing us silly with strychnine-laced Smarties.
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That was a wacky idea, but we bought it. We still buy it, even though Joel Best, a sociologist at the University of Delaware, has researched the topic and spends every October telling the press that there has never been a single case of any child being killed by a stranger's Halloween candy. (Oh, yes, he concedes, there was once a Texas boy poisoned by a Pixie Stix. But his dad did it for the insurance money. He was executed.)
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Halloween taught marketers that parents are willing to be warned about anything, no matter how preposterous, and then they're willing to be sold whatever solutions the market can come up with.

Think of how Halloween used to be the one day of the year when gaggles of kids took to the streets by themselves—at night even. Big fun! Low cost! But once the party moved inside, to keep kids safe from the nonexistent poisoners, in came all the nonsense. The battery-operated caskets. The hired witch. The Costco veggie trays and plastic everything else. Halloween went from hobo holiday to $6 billion extravaganza.

While in the Atlantic, we learn The Meaning of Halloween-Candy Psychopath Stories

The whole point of Halloween for kids these days is taking candy from strangers. Of course, that's just what we are never supposed to do. To protect children from the dangers of strangers' candies, parents everywhere are on high alert for the menace sometimes known as the "Halloween sadist." You know the one—that psychopath who uses the occasion of trick-or-treat as an opportunity to poison the neighborhood kiddies with strychnine-laced Pixie Stix and razor blade-studded caramels.
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The Halloween sadist legends are part of a larger movement in American culture away from our sense that we can do it ourselves. The factory does it better, tastier, safer.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 AM | Permalink

October 28, 2010

Wandering Hand

This has to be the funniest picture of the week.

Joe-Biden-Wandering-Hand

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 AM | Permalink

October 27, 2010

Modern Sloth = "Unregulated curiosity"

Greg Gutfield is exactly right about modern sloth of which I am very guilty.


So I've been working on a book proposal, but going nowhere. I start the thing, then I stop. Instead of loafing around- I move into a more deceptive realm: I pretend to do something.

In the old days, this was called "sloth." We used to link sloth with lying around in one's own filth. But that's wrong. I read a bunch on sloth - which, I know, may defeat the purpose of sloth - but, according to Daniel Rosenberg, in a magazine called Cabinet, sloth was originally defined as
"unregulated curiosity." That sloppy need ends up as pointless work - which is worse than doing nothing, because you think you're doing something.

You know that guy you know who has a crapload going on - from decoupage to reiki therapy - but he's always broke? If you tell him to focus, he'll tell you he does more in a week than you do in a month. But nothing he does matters - he just created a schedule to make distractions seem important. They're called adult education classes.
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I write this as someone who sits behind a desk doing lots of things. But it's sloth. I will never call it multitasking. You cannot do more than one thing at once, without, in the end accomplishing a few things very badly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

He didn't know that the baby he saved was his own

An amazing story about a man with all the best instincts of a father to protect life, not even knowing that the child he saved was his own.

Newborn Saved from Dumpster by Man who Later Finds Out He’s the Father

A newborn left to die in a dumpster in northwest Calgary was saved by a man who only later found out he was the boy’s father.

Calgary police said that the boy’s mother told them she did not know she was pregnant until she gave birth to the child. She allegedly put the living baby in a garbage bag and tossed him into the dumpster.

The 29-year-old woman’s boyfriend said he had no idea she was pregnant because she was heavy set and always had “a bit of a belly.”

On Tuesday, October 19, the man said his girlfriend was complaining of cramps and illness. He told police that on returning home for lunch a passerby alerted him to cries coming from a dumpster.

“A girl said, ‘I think I hear a baby in the dumpster.’ With no knowledge at the time that this is my kid whatsoever, I went running over there, stood beside the dumpster, heard the baby cry,” the man, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the child, told the Calgary Herald.

“I jumped in and removed the stuff. I personally opened the bag and uncovered all the stuff off,” he said.
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The father said his girlfriend’s behavior was perplexing but he feels she needs help rather than his anger.
“I’m not mad. I don’t know if it’s just my demeanor, knowing that getting mad isn’t going to solve everything, not going to help the problem,” he said, adding, “I’m not happy with her but I’m not angry, either. I want to make sure she gets the help she needs.”
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According to police, the custody of the child is being discussed with Alberta Children and Youth Services. However, the child’s father told the Calgary Herald today that he hopes to gain custody of his son.

“I’m just going to try to be the best dad I can be. If he wants to get involved in sports, be a computer geek, try to be the next prime minister, I’ll do whatever I can do to support him,” the father said.

I wish this man all the luck in the world.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink

"Taking insurance companies out of the mix of routine services"

C. Edmund Wright lowered his health care costs for himself and his family and his premium went down 11%.

Health Care 101: How We Lowered Our Costs

Now I am not an Ivy League grad; nonetheless, I figured out how to dramatically lower my health care costs two years in a row. And by costs, I mean both insurance premiums and overall expenditures for health care -- without sacrificing anything.

In other words, I have succeeded in "bending down the cost curve" for our family.

Moreover, I submit that this case study -- of my rather typical family of five -- is a valid microcosm of how our country can address most of our nation's health care cost issues. And again, it is by doing the very opposite of what our government is trying to force down our collective throats.
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And this is something that almost everyone could do. It is common sense and not hard to understand.
By taking insurance companies out of the mix of routine services, we have reduced the cost of routine services -- and saved a ton of money on the insurance premiums. The bureaucratic involvement in every transaction is a huge cost that no one seems to calculate when trying to reduce costs.

In fact, ObamaCare infuses even more bureaucratic involvement in every aspect of our life. How can this possibly work? It cannot, of course, not to mention the fact that it is offensive and totalitarian.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:47 AM | Permalink

October 25, 2010

Faith and Belief

In the Huffington Post,  Philip Yancey answers the question more people are asking, What Good is God?  A journalist, he traveled to six different countries to find whether faith made a positive difference and he concluded, it does in significant ways.

First, the Christian faith has an enormous influence on the broader culture...with one or two exceptions (notably Japan and Singapore), the nations that are most prosperous, most free and most resistant to corruption all have a strong Christian heritage
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Secondly, the Christian faith affects community...
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Finally, faith transforms individuals. I visited a conference of organizations that work with victims of human trafficking. There, I interviewed several score former prostitutes or "sex workers," the term they prefer. Far from the glamorous portrayals of prostitutes on television, sex workers in poor countries face hardship, abuse and degradation. One by one they told me of the transformation that took place as they experienced forgiveness from guilt and a dawning realization that God loved them despite their feelings of shame and humiliation

Faced with his own up-close encounter with death when he was told he might not survive the day, he decided only three things matter:

Whom do I love? How have I lived my life? Am I ready for whatever is next? Like others, I have found meaningful answers to those questions in my Christian faith.

But what is this Christian faith?  What does it mean to believe? Father Stephen explains on Believe It or Not

To believe the truth is not the same thing as having a correct opinion – indeed the two have almost nothing to do with one another. And this is a great difficulty – for most of the things that we think of ourselves as believing – we in fact only hold as opinions. What a man believes, in the way the word is used in the New Testament, is not seen or heard in the syllogisms he is willing to confess, but rather in how he lives his life.

Thus, when the Scriptures seek to express what it is to have faith in God, the images cease to have any particular intellectual content (or virtually no such content). Instead, Christ will use images such as a vine and its branches. To believe in Christ, to hold to Christ as Lord and God is to be like a branch to a vine. ... This is not an intellectual image but is a very understandable image of a way of life....  To accept that Christ is the Truth is more like accepting that the air in a room I am entering is breathable (and then breathing).
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To believe the truth is to venture onto the holy ground of reality and not the fantasy of well-formed ideas. On holy ground we remove our shoes and remain silent – giving voice to words of praise letting words possess integrity. It is a very difficult thing indeed.

It is a rare thing to meet a man who believes in God – but it is a life-changing encounter. May God give us all the grace to believe.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

Little Women, self-sacrifice and capitalism

How Little Women, housekeeping, socialism and capitalism are all related at Bookworm Room who found more going in Little Women than I ever did.

Capitalism works only if you find a need and fill it.  You have to look outside of yourself to determine what product others will want or what service they will need.  You then have to work, and work hard, to provide that  product or service for others.  If you have correctly read others’ needs, you will be rewarded.  In a capitalist system, that reward is money.  And in a free nation, you are allowed to keep that money (which, presumably, you will plow back into the capitalist marketplace by buying products or services that some other outward looking person has labored to put in the market).

Capitalism, then, precisely reflects Louisa May Alcott’s philosophy:  look to others, serve their needs, and reap the reward.  That she was speaking of emotional, not financial, rewards, doesn’t change the underlying paradigm.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:41 PM | Permalink

First Year of Marriage

From Brides Magazine, the 10 Shocking Secrets of the First Year of Marriage

4. THE SHOCK: You won't unpack your china for six months.

5. THE SHOCK: You'll do the dishes; your husband will fix stuff.

10. THE SHOCK: The world will feel like a better place.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

When the Unemployment Checks Stop Coming

A lot more Americans are in much deeper trouble than most of us realize

For his report on 60 Minutes Scott Pelley  went to Silicon Valley and what he found is disturbing and distressing.

99 Weeks: When Unemployment Benefits Run Out

nearly 20 percent of the unemployed in America have college degrees.

Silicon Valley lost its jobs in construction, manufacturing and in high-tech engineering that went overseas. San Jose looks the same, but it shrank by 75,000 jobs. Many buildings there stand empty.

The national unemployment rate of about nine and a half percent sounds incredibly high and of course it is. But it doesn't nearly capture the depth of the trouble. It doesn't count the people who've seen their hours cut to part time. It doesn't count the people who have quit looking for work.

If you add all of that together, the unemployed and the underemployed, it's not nine and a half percent, it's 17 percent; and in California it's 22 percent.


And what makes it so much worse is that,
nationwide, one third of the unemployed have been out of work more than a year. That hasn't happened since the Depression.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:28 PM | Permalink

The Myths of the MIddle Ages

I found this very interesting because I learned again how much I don't know about the Middle Ages.

Top 10 Myths About the Middle Ages

Myth: The death penalty was common in the Middle Ages.
Myth: Bibles were locked away to keep the people from seeing the “true word”
Myth: The poor were kept in a state of near starvation.
Myth: Peasants had thatched roofs with animals living in them
Myth: People didn’t bathe in the Middle Ages, therefore they smelled bad
Myth: Peasants lived a life of drudgery and back-breaking work
Myth: The Middle Ages were a time of great violence
Myth: Women were oppressed in the Middle Ages
Myth: People in the Middle Ages believed the earth was flat
Myth: People of the Middle Ages were crude and ignorant

This was the fact that surprised me the most.

For those who dispute the fact that the Inquisition resulted in very few deaths, Wikipedia has the statistics here showing that there were (at most) 826 recorded executions over a 160 year period – from 45,000 trials!

From the newly-relaunched Listverse full of top ten lists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

Too much money

He won the lottery in 2005, quit his job and began drinking.  Two years his wife divorced him and he drank more 'out of boredom'.  While being treated for alcohol dependency, he met a fraudster who conned him out of more than a million dollars. Finally, the 'Bored' £9million lottery winner drank himself to death
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Keith Gough, 58, said in an interview last year that his life had been 'ruined' by his lottery win.

He said: 'Without routine in my life I started to spend, spend, spend. In the end I was just bored.

'Before the win all I would drink was some wine with a meal. I used to be popular but I've driven away all my friends. I don't trust anyone any more.

'When I see someone going in to a newsagent, I advise them not to buy a lottery ticket.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink

Telemarketing scheme exploits Make-A-Wish, targets elderly

ABC spent 6 months tracking down an ugly telemarketing scheme, exploiting the good name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation and aimed at the elderly.

Swindlers pretending to be calling from such government agencies as the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Trade Commission have put a new twist on an old con. They are hiding offshore, thousands of miles away, but they're using internet phone technology to disguise their location. Victims see a 202 area code on their phones when the calls come in, and dial seemingly authentic U.S. phone numbers to call the scammers back. "Unlike the standard telemarketing frauds & these weren't people hiding behind a phone number you couldn't call -- a voice you couldn't recreate. These were people who left telephone numbers and would talk to you," said Paul Allvin, a vice president of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, who became alarmed when he started hearing from multiple victims a week about the fraudulent calls.
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During a six-month investigation, ABC News obtained never-before published recordings of the phone calls and tracked down two fugitives who have been hiding in Costa Rica. The two men, Roberto Fields Curtis and Andreas Leimer, both Americans formerly of Florida, have been indicted in the scheme but avoided extradition because they also held Costa Rican citizenship.
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But among those most alarmed have been the officials who lead the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which relies on the trust of the public for its funding. Earlier this year, the non profit organization posted a fraud alert on its website. But Allvin said the volume of calls from victims only increased.

"We've never seen something so despicable," Allvin said. "These people around hiding offshore -- willingly destroying people's lives by taking every nickel they can suck out of them. And they're using the good name of the Make-A-Wish Foundation to do it. I'm not sure how much more you can pile on top of that collection of underhanded tactics just to line your own pockets."

ABC video here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

October 23, 2010

Brains of New Moms

Very interesting study.

 New Mom

In LiveScience, Brains of New Moms Grow, Study Reveals

Although the stress of motherhood may make them feel insane at times, new moms aren't losing their minds. In fact, it's just the opposite: Their brains grow larger in certain regions within months of delivering the newborn, a new study suggests.

And those moms who are particularly awestruck and gushy over their babies show more growth in the brain areas associated with motivation, reward and the regulation of emotion, the researchers said.

The team, led by Pilyoung Kim, a developmental psychologist who is now with the National Institute of Mental Health, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brains of 19 moms two to four weeks after the birth of a child, then again up to four months afterward. Images showed small but significant increases in the gray matter in certain parts of the brain, including those responsible for sensory perception, reasoning and judgment.

A change in gray matter over such a short period is unusual among adults, according to the researchers.

Research in animal mothers has linked changes in the brain with the stimuli of touching, smelling, seeing and suckling babies. The hormones that accompany motherhood, including estrogen, oxytocin and prolactin, influence animal moms' behavior and also change their brain anatomy.

It's a small sample, so I would love to see the results with a larger group of moms, including those with post-partum depression. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:10 AM | Permalink

October 21, 2010

Just for laughs

48. Went to the corner shop - bought 4 corners.

44. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: 'I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.' 

33. I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov and there was a check tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt.

32. 'Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says "Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here"  '

28. 'A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "because," he said "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." ' 

25. 'The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her up, I said "Did you get my drift?".'

16. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.     

15. 'There's two fish in a tank, and one says to the other "How do you drive this thing?"

12. My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well, I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

1. . A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: 'Ugh, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!' The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: 'The driver just insulted me!' The man says: 'You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you.'

The official 50 funniest jokes of all time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

Just for laughs

48. Went to the corner shop - bought 4 corners.

44. A three-legged dog walks into a saloon in the Old West. He slides up to the bar and announces: 'I'm looking for the man who shot my paw.' 

33. I was having dinner with Garry Kasparov and there was a check tablecloth. It took him two hours to pass me the salt.

32. 'Four fonts walk into a bar the barman says "Oi - get out! We don't want your type in here"  '

28. 'A group of chess enthusiasts checked into a hotel and were standing in the lobby discussing their recent tournament victories. After about an hour, the manager came out of the office and asked them to disperse. "But why?" they asked, as they moved off. "because," he said "I can't stand chess nuts boasting in an open foyer." '   

25. 'The other day I sent my girlfriend a huge pile of snow. I rang her up, I said "Did you get my drift?".'

16. I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day but I couldn't find any.     

15. 'There's two fish in a tank, and one says to the other "How do you drive this thing?"

12. My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well, I was amazed, I never knew they worked.

1. . A woman gets on a bus with her baby. The bus driver says: 'Ugh, that's the ugliest baby I've ever seen!' The woman walks to the rear of the bus and sits down, fuming. She says to a man next to her: 'The driver just insulted me!' The man says: 'You go up there and tell him off. Go on, I'll hold your monkey for you.'

The official 50 funniest jokes of all time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

October 20, 2010

Tough love for environmentalists

Let's give Congress credit for what it didn't do. 

The Senate in a 95-0 vote expressed its formal resolution against the Kyoto Protocol because it would cause serious economic harm to the United States and so President Clinton never  submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification.

Now we learn that all the so-called progress in the European Union for the past twenty years to  reduce greenhouse gases was a mirage.

Walter Russell Mead on the Kyoto Fraud Revealed

But a couple of recent studies now seem to show that Kyoto was as big a fraud as the most militant enviro-skeptics ever suspected.  And it looks as if the 95 American senators were 100 percent right: the much heralded Protocol was a singularly stupid piece of counterproductive social engineering that encouraged the migration of good jobs to China and other low wage countries — without helping the environment at all.

The left leaning Guardian newspaper in Britain let the cat out of the bag yesterday, reporting that while the EU’s emission of CO2 declined by 17% between 1990 and 2010, this apparent progress was bogus.  If you add up the CO2 released by the goods and services Europeans consumed, as opposed to the CO2 thrown off by the goods and services they produced,
the EU was responsible for 40% more CO2 in 2010 than in 1990. The EU, as the Guardian puts it, has been outsourcing pollution — and jobs — rather than cutting back on greenhouse gasses.
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Environmentalists will only be able to help the world when they grow up.  And they will only grow up when the rest of the world — and especially the mainstream press and serious writers and thinkers — start holding them to serious, grown up standards.  Screwy but superficially appealing ideas like the Kyoto Protocol should be mercilessly criticized and all their flawed assumptions and wishful thinking be held up for the whole world to see — when they are first proposed and debated, not after twenty years of uncritical praise ending in failure.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 PM | Permalink

Medical Reversals and Bad Science

A Greek mathematical genius, who is also an American-trained physician,  becomes a "meta-researcher" and discovers that much of medical research is "misleading, exaggerated or flat-out wrong".

-John-Ioannidis

Described as " neat and compact 45-year-old with a trim mustache, he presents as a sort of dashing nerd—Giancarlo Giannini with a bit of Mr. Bean", Professor John Ioannidis is profiled by David Freedman in the Atlantic, Lies, Damned Lies and Medical Science

In poring over medical journals, he was struck by how many findings of all types were refuted by later findings. Of course, medical-science “never minds” are hardly secret. And they sometimes make headlines, as when in recent years large studies or growing consensuses of researchers concluded that mammograms, colonoscopies, and PSA tests are far less useful cancer-detection tools than we had been told; or when widely prescribed antidepressants such as Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil were revealed to be no more effective than a placebo for most cases of depression; or when we learned that staying out of the sun entirely can actually increase cancer risks; or when we were told that the advice to drink lots of water during intense exercise was potentially fatal; or when, last April, we were informed that taking fish oil, exercising, and doing puzzles doesn’t really help fend off Alzheimer’s disease, as long claimed. Peer-reviewed studies have come to opposite conclusions on whether using cell phones can cause brain cancer, whether sleeping more than eight hours a night is healthful or dangerous, whether taking aspirin every day is more likely to save your life or cut it short, and whether routine angioplasty works better than pills to unclog heart arteries.
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Ioannidis laid out a detailed mathematical proof that, assuming modest levels of researcher bias, typically imperfect research techniques, and the well-known tendency to focus on exciting rather than highly plausible theories,
researchers will come up with wrong findings most of the time.

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He zoomed in on 49 of the most highly regarded research findings in medicine over the previous 13 years -- that helped lead to the widespread popularity of treatments such as the use of hormone-replacement therapy for menopausal women, vitamin E to reduce the risk of heart disease, coronary stents to ward off heart attacks, and daily low-dose aspirin to control blood pressure and prevent heart attacks and strokes -- thirty-four of these claims had been retested, and 14 of these, or 41 percent, had been convincingly shown to be wrong or significantly exaggerated.
If between a third and a half of the most acclaimed research in medicine was proving untrustworthy, the scope and impact of the problem were undeniable.
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We could solve much of the wrongness problem, Ioannidis says, if the world simply stopped expecting scientists to be right. That’s because being wrong in science is fine, and even necessary—as long as scientists recognize that they blew it, report their mistake openly instead of disguising it as a success, and then move on to the next thing, until they come up with the very occasional genuine breakthrough. But as long as careers remain contingent on producing a stream of research that’s dressed up to seem more right than it is, scientists will keep delivering exactly that.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 PM | Permalink

October 19, 2010

"'Feminist and politically correct sadism"

I don't watch Nickelodeon, but this report by Larrey Anderson gave me the chills. 

It's Okay on Nickelodeon for Girls to Beat Up Boys

He calls it 'feminist and politically correct sadism". 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

October 16, 2010

American Karma

I'm a big fan of Jonathan Haidt, so I was quite interested in what he had to say about What Tea Partiers Really Want.

The passion behind the populist insurgency is less about liberty than a particularly American idea of karma

To understand the anger of the tea-party movement, just imagine how you would feel if you learned that government physicists were building a particle accelerator that might, as a side effect of its experiments, nullify the law of gravity. Everything around us would float away, and the Earth itself would break apart. Now, instead of that scenario, suppose you learned that politicians were devising policies that might, as a side effect of their enactment, nullify the law of karma. Bad deeds would no longer lead to bad outcomes, and the fragile moral order of our nation would break apart. For tea partiers, this scenario is not science fiction. It is the last 80 years of American history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

The White Revolution

It's been established that agriculture began in the Middle East.  But a mystery remains as to why suddenly (within 200 years), people in Central Europe began farming and raising livestock in about 5300 BC.

New research has revealed that agriculture came to Europe amid a wave of immigration from the Middle East during the Neolithic period. The newcomers won out over the locals because of their sophisticated culture, mastery of agriculture -- and their miracle food, milk.

How MIddle Eastern Milk Drinkers Conquered Europe

The new settlers also had something of a miracle food at their disposal. They produced fresh milk, which, as a result of a genetic mutation, they were soon able to drink in large quantities. The result was that the population of farmers grew and grew.

These striking insights come from biologists and chemists. In a barrage of articles in professional journals like Nature and BMC Evolutionary Biology, they have turned many of the prevailing views upside down over the course of the last three years.

The most important group is working on the "Leche" project (the name is inspired by the Spanish word for milk), an association of 13 research institutes in seven European Union countries. The goal of the project is to genetically probe the beginnings of butter, milk and cheese....

Homo sapiens was originally unable to digest raw milk. Generally, the human body only produces an enzyme that can break down lactose in the small intestine during the first few years of life. Indeed, most adults in Asia and Africa react to cow's milk with nausea, flatulence and diarrhea.

But the situation is different in Europe, where many people carry a minute modification of chromosome 2 that enables them to digest lactose throughout their life without experiencing intestinal problems. The percentage of people with this modification is the highest among Britons and Scandinavians.

 Milk Revolution

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Does this explain why the inventors of the sickle and the plow conquered Europe so quickly, leading to the demise of the old hunter-gatherers?

Imagine, if you will, a village of the Linear Pottery culture in the middle of winter. As smoke emerges from the top of a wooden hut, the table inside is surrounded by rosy-cheeked children drinking hot milk with honey, which their mother has just prepared for them. It's an image that could help explain why people adopted a sedentary way of life.

Burger, at any rate, is convinced that milk played a major part in shaping history, just as gunpowder did much later. "There was once a white revolution," he says.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:44 AM | Permalink

Beleaguered Entrepreneur

If we tried to start The Home Depot today, it's a stone cold certainty that it would never have gotten off the ground.

Ken Langone in Stop Bashing Business, Mr.President

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 AM | Permalink | TrackBack

Viva Chile

To watch these men each enter the capsule Phoenix and then be tugged slowly to the sky and there released embrace family and officials whose efforts made their new lives possible was one of the most inspiring things I have ever seen on television.

I'm with Peggy Noonan who writes Viva Chile!  They Left No Man Behind

the saving of those men gave us something we don't see enough, a brilliant example of human excellence—of cohesion, of united and committed action, of planning and execution, of caring. They used the human brain and spirit to save life. All we get all day every day is scandal. But this inspired.

Viva Chile. They left no man behind.That is what our U.S. Army Rangers say, and our Marines: We leave no man behind. It has a meaning, this military motto, this way of operating. It means you are not alone, you are part of something. Your brothers are with you, here they come. Chile, in leaving no man behind, in insisting that the San José mine was a disaster area but not a tomb, showed itself to be a huge example of that little thing that is at the core of every society: a fully functioning family. A cohering unit that can make its way through the world.
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So many nations and leaders have grown gifted at talk. .... But Chile this week moved the world not by talking but by doing, not by mouthing sympathy for the miners, but by saving them. The whole country—the engineers and technicians, the president, the government, the rescue workers, other miners, medics—set itself to doing something hard, specific, physical, demanding of commitment, precision and expertise. And they did it.

For two weeks they were entombed deep in the earth and no one knew they were alive.  They had almost no food and no water.    What kept them from descending even further into despair?    I can only think it was their strong faith.  Growing up in a strongly Christian culture gave them the resources that enabled them to survive a disastrous, hellish situation in such a splendid manner. 

It was surely praying at their 'makeshift shrine' that kept the Chilean miners sane.

What nobody has done so far – that I have seen (I may be wrong of course, there has been vast international coverage of this story) – is to give a convincing account of what it is that has kept the men sane and united and undespairing, what has sustained their hope of deliverance from this truly appalling ordeal. And I have no doubt at all that it was their religion and that that there weren’t that many Adventists or Evangelicals down there.

Consider the following CNA report from Santiago, which appeared on August 27: “The 33 miners trapped in the San Jose mine in Atacama, Chile, have requested that statues and religious pictures be sent down to them as they wait to be rescued… Chilean officials say the rescue could take months but that they hope to reach the miners by Christmas… A small passageway has already been put in place so messages and supplies can be sent to the trapped miners.

“Although a crucifix has already been sent down, the miners are continuing to request more statues of Mary and the saints… to construct a makeshift chapel. ‘The miners want to set up a section of the chamber they are in as a shrine,

"God won" writes Deacon Greg

Aren't we supposed to be unfazed by this sort of thing?

Aren't we supposed to shrug it all off, attribute it to science and engineering and the sheer grit of the human psyche? 

Isn't it supposed to have more to do with willpower than wonder? We live in a post-Christian world now, don't we?  To paraphrase Tina Turner: what's God got to do with it?

Well, it seems, everything.

We sit here in our living rooms and offices, sipping coffee and checking e-mails, and hour after hour, another one emerges, up a long dark hole, to a shaft of daylight, and there are cheers and tears -- and then something more.  Something that moves even the most hardened heart.  The world is blinking back tears as we see it, again and again.  One man, breathing his first fresh air in months, falls to his knees and prays. Another makes the sign of the cross. And in the media-saturated aftermath, one of the miners is interviewed on camera, still wearing his dark glasses, still numbed by it all, and he puts it in terms we can all understand. It sounds so simple -- to some, I'm sure, simplistic -- but it all makes perfect sense.

"I've been near God, but I've also been near the devil," he says through a translator. "God won."

 Chileestebanrojas18Threscued

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 AM | Permalink

October 15, 2010

The Mp3 Experiment

What fun this is and what fun they are all having.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

October 12, 2010

Bright Spark of Liberty

Lightening hits the copper-clad Statue of Liberty about 600 times a year.  It took photographer Jay Fine more than 40 years to capture the exact moment.

 Lightening Ladyliberty

That really is a bright spark: Snapper captures the moment a huge lightning bolt strikes Statue of Liberty

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 PM | Permalink

Stupendous medical achievement

What a stupendous achievement this is.

Boy Born Without Ears Receives Gift of Sound

Diego Neumaier Ortiz, a 12-year-old boy from Puebla, Mexico, was born with a condition called microtia, which left his ears almost completely undeveloped. Even with a hearing aid, sound was almost completely muffled for the young boy.

So Diego threw himself into a sport where he didn’t need to be conscious of his teammates’ calls: gymnastics. He learned to master the arts of vaulting, balance bars, and backflips. Recently, he became the junior gymnastics champion in all of Mexico. A visiting American doctor was watching from the bleachers, amazed by the child’s skill. He also noticed that Diego was deaf—and thought that something could be done to fix that.

The doctor contacted a well-known specialist in ear reconstruction, Dr. John Reinisch. He offered to take Diego’s complicated case for no charge.

In the operation, Dr. Reinisch and another surgeon, Dr. Joseph Roberson, created an outer ear for cosmetic purposes, then drilled a hole to access the inner ear and build an ear canal. The operation took nine hours, and the ear would require two weeks to heal.

When the doctors finally pulled back the gauze on Diego’s new ear, his mother praised the good work they had done. That was the first time Diego had heard her voice.

In return for the gift of hearing, Diego presented the doctors with a present of his own: his championship medals for his gymnastics wins.

“I don’t have anything to give them, but this is so valuable to me,” Diego told CBS. “I want to give them to Dr. Reinisch, because he is giving me something greater: two ears.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:19 PM | Permalink

History of the Future

I just want to note that the Muslim Brotherhood has declared war on the United States.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed (Arabic) (English translation by MEMRI) anti-American Jihad and pretty much every element in the al-Qaida ideology book. Since the Brotherhood is the main opposition force in Egypt and Jordan as well as the most powerful group, both politically and religiously, in the Muslim communities of Europe and North America this is pretty serious stuff.
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Does that mean the Egyptian, Jordanian, and all the camouflaged Muslim Brotherhood fronts in Europe and North America are going to launch terrorism as one of their affiliates, Hamas, has long done? No.

But it does mean that something awaited for decades has happened: the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to move from the era of propaganda and base-building to one of revolutionary action.
----
In August 1996, al-Qaida declared war on America, the West, Christians and Jews. Nobody important paid much attention to this. Almost exactly five years later, September 11 forced them to notice. Let it be said that
in September 2010 the Muslim Brotherhood, a group with one hundred times more activists than al-Qaida, issued its declaration of war. What remains is the history of the future.

Thanks Michael Totten

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:43 PM | Permalink

The First Atheistic Civilization

Vaclav Havel at the opening session of 14th session of Forum 2000 in Prague warns that the world is heading towards catastrophe due to pride.

We are living in the first truly global civilisation. That means that whatever comes into existence on its soil can very quickly and easily span the whole world.

But we are also living in the first atheistic civilisation, in other words, a civilisation that has lost its connection with the infinite and eternity. For that reason it prefers short-term profit to long-term profit. What is important is whether an investment will provide a return in ten or fifteen years; how it will affect the lives of our descendants in a hundred years is less important.
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But with the cult of measurable profit, proven progress and visible usefulness there disappears respect for mystery and along with it humble reverence for everything we shall never measure and know, not to mention the vexed question of the infinite and eternal, which were until recently the most important horizons of our actions.

We have totally forgotten what all previous civilisations knew: that nothing is self-evident.

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Wonder and an awareness that things are not self-evident are, I believe, the only way out of the dangerous world of a civilisation of pride.
--

Perhaps someone, just a few hundred light years away from our planet, is looking at us through a perfect telescope. What do they see? They see the Thirty Years War. For that reason alone it holds true that everything is here all the time, that nothing that has happened can unhappen, and that with our every word or movement we are making the cosmos different – forever - from what it was before.

In all events, I am certain that our civilisation is heading for catastrophe unless present-day humankind comes to its senses. And it can only come to its senses if it grapples with its short-sightedness, its stupid conviction of its omniscience and its swollen pride, which have been so deeply anchored in its thinking and actions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:30 PM | Permalink

The population bomb of old people

In Foreign Policy, Phillip Longman makes you Think Again about Global Aging.

Yes, the world faces a "population bomb" -- of old people.  The phenomenon is not limited to rich countries and the outlook is even worse for Asia.  Soon a Chinese child - only one because of its stringent one-child policy - will be responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents. 

Population  Bomb Old People

To have enough workers, old people will have to work longer, but they can only do that if they stay healthy.

In other words, a planet that grays indefinitely is clearly asking for trouble. But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road: It involves massive state intervention designed to smooth the tensions between work and family life to enable women to have more children without steep financial setbacks. But so far, countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood. This mindset may well maintain high birth rates, but with consequences that today are unacceptable to all but the most rigid fundamentalists.

So is there a third way? Yes, though we aren't quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden. Imagine a society in which parents get to keep more of the human capital they form by investing in their children. Imagine a society in which the family is no longer just a consumer unit, but a productive enterprise. The society that figures out how to restore the economic foundation of the family will own the future. The alternative is poor and gray indeed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

The population bomb of old people

In Foreign Policy, Phillip Longman makes you Think Again about Global Aging.

Yes, the world faces a "population bomb" -- of old people.  The phenomenon is not limited to rich countries and the outlook is even worse for Asia.  Soon a Chinese child - only one because of its stringent one-child policy - will be responsible for supporting two parents and four grandparents. 

To have enough workers, old people will have to work longer, but they can only do that if they stay healthy.

In other words, a planet that grays indefinitely is clearly asking for trouble. But birth rates don't have to plummet forever. One path forward might be characterized as the Swedish road: It involves massive state intervention designed to smooth the tensions between work and family life to enable women to have more children without steep financial setbacks. But so far, countries that have followed this approach have achieved only very modest success. At the other extreme is what might be called the Taliban road: This would mean a return to "traditional values," in which women have few economic and social options beyond the role of motherhood. This mindset may well maintain high birth rates, but with consequences that today are unacceptable to all but the most rigid fundamentalists.

So is there a third way? Yes, though we aren't quite sure how to get there. The trick will be restoring what, in the days of family-owned farms and small businesses, was once true: that babies are an asset rather than a burden. Imagine a society in which parents get to keep more of the human capital they form by investing in their children. Imagine a society in which the family is no longer just a consumer unit, but a productive enterprise. The society that figures out how to restore the economic foundation of the family will own the future. The alternative is poor and gray indeed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

Use it or lose it

Turns out that Taking Early Retirement May Retire Memory, Too

Data from the United States, England and 11 other European countries suggest that the earlier people retire, the more quickly their memories decline.

The implication, the economists and others say, is that there really seems to be something to the “use it or lose it” notion — if people want to preserve their memories and reasoning abilities, they may have to keep active.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink

October 11, 2010

'The Mike'

More on The Lost Pieta which just could be the art find of the century.

 Lost Pieta

Is this New York family's old painting - shoved behind a sofa and known as 'The Mike' - actually a $300m Michelangelo?

When their children knocked it off the wall with a wayward tennis ball, the Kober family wrapped up the painting they knew as ‘The Mike’ and shoved it behind the sofa.

There it remained for the next 27 years, ignored and forgotten along with the family legend that it was actually painted by Michelangelo.

Now, having finally consulted the experts the Kobers are reeling with the news that it does indeed appear to be genuine - and could be the art find of the century.

It has already been whisked out of their modest suburban home and put in a safe, with a possible price tag of $300million (£188million).
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It appears that Michelangelo painted the painting in 1545 for his friend Vittoria Colonna, some 45 years after his famous ‘Pieta’ of Mary holding Jesus at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

The painting was handed to two Catholic cardinals before it found its way to a German baroness called Villani.
She gave it to her lady-in-waiting called Gertrude Young - the sister-in-law of Kober’s great great grandfather - and she sent it to the U.S. in 1883 where it has remained ever since.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:48 AM | Permalink

Hal Lewis, the Martin Luther of Science

Anthony Watts describes the letter Hal Lewis sent to resign from the American Physical Society it as an important moment in science history.

I would describe it as a letter on the scale of Martin Luther, nailing his 95 theses to the Wittenburg church door. It is worthy of repeating this letter in entirety on every blog that discusses science.

Harold "Hal" Lewis is the Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of California, Santa Barbara and he attacks the American Physical Society of perpetuating the global warming scam and shutting down all debate.  Here are excerpts from the letter

Dear Curt:

When I first joined the American Physical Society sixty-seven years ago it was much smaller, much gentler, and as yet uncorrupted by the money flood (a threat against which Dwight Eisenhower warned a half-century ago).
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How different it is now. The giants no longer walk the earth, and the money flood has become the raison d’être of much physics research, the vital sustenance of much more, and it provides the support for untold numbers of professional jobs. For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.
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Effect on the APS position: none. None at all. This is not science; other forces are at work.
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This scheming at APS HQ is so bizarre that there cannot be a simple explanation for it. Some have held that the physicists of today are not as smart as they used to be, but I don’t think that is an issue. I think it is the money, exactly what Eisenhower warned about a half-century ago. There are indeed trillions of dollars involved, to say nothing of the fame and glory (and frequent trips to exotic islands) that go with being a member of the club. Your own Physics Department (of which you are chairman) would lose millions a year if the global warming bubble burst.
--
Since I am no philosopher, I’m not going to explore at just which point enlightened self-interest crosses the line into corruption, but a careful reading of the ClimateGate releases makes it clear that this is not an academic question.

I want no part of it, so please accept my resignation.

It has never ceased to amaze how so-called scientists fail to look their own self-interested motives when they shutdown debate particularly on this issue.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

Columbus Day

An entirely different perspective on Christopher Columbus from Instapundit

At the end of 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through studying the pagan past. . . .

Yet, even as the chroniclers of Nuremberg were correcting their proofs from Koberger’s press, a Spanish caravel named Nina scudded before a winter gale into Lisbon with news of a discovery that was to give old Europe another chance. In a few years we find the mental picture completely changed. Strong monarchs are stamping out privy conspiracy and rebellion; the Church, purged and chastened by the Protestant Reformation, puts her house in order; new ideas flare up throughout Italy, France, Germany and the northern nations; faith in God revives and the human spirit is renewed. The change is complete and startling: “A new envisagement of the world has begun, and men are no longer sighing after the imaginary golden age that lay in the distant past, but speculating as to the golden age that might possibly lie in the oncoming future.”

Christopher Columbus belonged to an age that was past, yet he became the sign and symbol of this new age of hope, glory and accomplishment. His medieval faith impelled him to a modern solution: Expansion.

The excerpt is from one of America's greatest historians and writers, Samuel Eliot Morison and his  book which Instapundit calls "superb"

Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

October 8, 2010

"He washed my face with watermelon ...It was a different time."

What's the secret to staying married 75 years?  Greg Kandra points to the Beckers.

75 Years Married

Edwin Becker was 19 when he decided that he couldn’t live his life without Gertrude. At 17, Gertrude just knew she wanted to be with him. So, on Sept. 7, 1935, the couple married at Holy Rosary Parish in Fells Point.

Seventy-five years later, the couple still doesn’t know what they’d do without one another.

“Where you see him,” Gertrude said, “you’ll see me, and where you see me, you’ll see him.”

Neither envisioned such a long life together, but two children, eight grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and 10 great-great grandchildren later, they are a testimony to love, faith and friendship.
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they didn’t know one another as children. Edwin lived in Highlandtown; Gertrude was a Canton girl.

It wasn’t until Edwin was invited to a nearby party, hosted by Gertrude’s relatives, that their paths crossed. At the party, boys washed the faces of girls with watermelons. Edwin picked Gertrude.

“He washed my face with watermelon,” Gertrude said laughing, “and I think that was the beginning of it. That was a different time.”

The couple said they dated about three years before marrying. During their courtship, Gertrude’s family moved to Essex, while Edwin’s remained in Highlandtown. That didn’t deter them, as they took the bus to see one another. Dates often involved walks around Patterson Park. They enjoyed singing together and, as Edwin put it, “We just liked to have fun.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:07 PM | Permalink

The tested formula for inner calm

From the Daily Mail, wisdom in a headline.

The secret to happiness: don't date a neurotic or worry about your career, go to church and stay thin

Experts have now come up with a simple formula for those in search of inner calm.

According to their research, people who go to church, stay thin, avoid worrying about their careers and have emotionally stable partners should be well on their way to achieving the sought-after state of mind.

Challenging the theory that an individual's long-term happiness depends on their genes, a group from the University of Melbourne, in Australia, found changes in lifestyle led to significant long-term changes in general satisfaction.

Bruce Headey, an associate professor at the university, questioned people in Germany about their jobs, social lives and religious activities during a 25-year period.

Initially, some 3,000 people responded to their surveys but towards the end of the period, this figure stood at 60,000.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 PM | Permalink

"The biggest fraud in the history of the capital markets" that we didn't know about 2 weeks ago

This is really bad, I had no idea and all because the banks didn't 'perfect their security interest'.  Bank of America, the largest U.S. bank halts foreclosures in all states.

Bank of America’s troubled mortgage portfolio is a legacy of its July 2009 acquisition of Countrywide, a subprime specialist that was among the financial institutions with the most troubled loans, as well as its January 2009 merger with Merrill Lynch, which was a major player in the business of taking mortgages and transforming them into securities to be sold to investors.

From an interview of Janet Tavakoli by Ezra Klein today in the Washington Post.

This is the biggest fraud in the history of the capital markets'

Janet Tavakoli is the founder and president of Tavakoli Structured Finance Inc. She sounded some of the earliest warnings on the structured finance market, leading the University of Chicago to profile her as a "Structured Success," and Business Week to call her "The Cassandra of Credit Derivatives." We spoke this afternoon about the turmoil in the housing market, and an edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Ezra Klein: What’s happening here? Why are we suddenly faced with a crisis that wasn’t apparent two weeks ago?

Janet Tavakoli: This is the biggest fraud in the history of the capital markets. And it’s not something that happened last week. It happened when these loans were originated, in some cases years ago. Loans have representations and warranties that have to be met. In the past, you had a certain period of time, 60 to 90 days, where you sort through these loans and, if they’re bad, you kick them back. If the documentation wasn’t correct, you’d kick it back. If you found the incomes of the buyers had been overstated, or the houses had been appraised at twice their worth, you’d kick it back. But that didn’t happen here. And it turned out there were loan files that were missing required documentation. Part of putting the deal together is that the securitization professional, and in this case that’s banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, has to watch for this stuff. It’s called perfecting the security interest, and it’s not optional.

EK: And how much danger are the banks themselves in?

JT: When we had the financial crisis, the first thing the banks did was run to Congress and ask for accounting relief. They asked to be able to avoid pricing this stuff at the price where people would buy them. So no one can tell you the size of the hole in these balance sheets. We’ve thrown a lot of money at it. TARP was just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve given them guarantees on debts, low-cost funding from the Fed. But a lot of these mortgages just cannot be saved. Had we acknowledged this problem in 2005, we could’ve cleaned it up for a few hundred billion dollars. But we didn’t. Banks were lying and committing fraud, and our regulators were covering them and so a bad problem has become a hellacious one.

EK: My understanding is that this now pits the banks against the investors they sold these products too. The investors are going to court to argue that the products were flawed and the banks need to take them back.

JT: Many investors now are waking up to the fact that they were defrauded. Even sophisticated investors. If you did your due diligence but material information was withheld, you can recover. It’ll be a case-by-by-case basis.

EK: Given that our financial system is still fragile, isn’t that a disaster for the economy? Will credit freeze again?

JT: I disagree. In order to make the financial system healthy, we need to recognize the extent of our losses and begin facing the fraud. Then the market will be trustworthy again and people will start to participate.

EK: It sounds almost like you’re saying we still need to go through the end of our financial crisis.

JT: Yes, but I wouldn’t say crisis. This can be done with a resolution trust corporation, the way we cleaned up the S&Ls. The system got back on its feet faster because we grappled with the problems. The shareholders would be wiped out and the debt holders would have to take a discount on their debt and they’d get a debt-for-equity swap. Instead we poured TARP money into a pit and meanwhile the banks are paying huge bonuses to some people who should be made accountable for fraud. The financial crisis was a product of our irrational reaction, which protected crony capitalism rather than capitalism. In capitalism, the shareholders who took the risk would be wiped out and the debt holders would take a discount but banking would go on.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:20 PM | Permalink

Trauma Surgeon

It's astonishing to contemplate how much we depend on people we do not know.  Trauma surgeons  are a good example.    Imagine working 100 hours a week for 20 years in the midst of "blood, guts, death and chaos" with such responsibility for the lives of so many people.

A night in a Detroit trauma ward

My old friend from journalism school Charlie LeDuff, who writes for the Detroit News, spent the night hanging around one of the city hospital's trauma wards. His host was chief surgeon Dr. Pat Patton, 46. Among patients with stab and gunshot wounds, Charlie gains some insight into the consequences of a crap economy, health insurance, and a routine evening for a surgeon who has regularly worked 100 hours per week in the ward... for the last twenty years.

From the
Detroit News
The trauma surgeon — perhaps the most knowledgeable about the workings of the entire human body — is considered something of a butcher among the cutting class: a brute who is the jack of all trades, the master of none. A general surgeon like Patton may not understand the intricacies of neurosurgery, but he is able to cobble together the shattered pieces of a gunshot victim in a late-night marathon of surgery.

Patton’s most important tool appears to be his right index finger. That digit acts as his probe, his periscope, his divining rod, his cork. He can remember on more than one occasion saving the life of a gunshot victim who arrived at the hospital in the back of a sedan. He simply plugged the hole with his finger.

Hats off for Dr. Patton. 

 Dr. Patton Traumasurgeon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:59 PM | Permalink

The Divorce Daughter Effect

I don't know what to make of this report based on U.S.Census data, but the comments offer glimpses into lives that are altogether fascinating.

Couples With Daughters More Likely to Divorce

Given that the researchers drew from data on more than 3 million adults from U.S. Census data, it's likely this effect is not just a statistical fluke, but the hows and whys of this phenomenon are open to debate.

From one perspective, there could be something about boys that makes parents want to stick it out, either because they enhance marital relations or make the prospect of a fatherless home more frightening. 

More recently, however, psychologists have debated whether daughters might make mothers more willing to leave a bad marriage because they provide social support that empowers their mom. 

"One dynamic I've seen is that women don't want to put up with a controlling or abusive husband because they're afraid to model this as an acceptable form of marriage to their daughters," said Susan Heitler, a Denver-based clinical psychologist and author of "Power of Two." "There is a lot of individual variation, though; it could go both ways."

Do keep in mind that 73% of divorces are initiated by women.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:37 PM | Permalink

"Inhuman Humanism"

Christians cannot ignore the crisis of faith that has come to society, or simply trust that the patrimony of the values transmitted in the course of past centuries can continue inspiring and shaping the future of the human family. The idea of living "as if God didn't exist" has shown itself to be deadly: The world needs, rather, to live "as if God existed," even if it does not have the strength to believe; otherwise it will only produce an "inhuman humanism."

Pope Benedict XVI in his address at the close of the Vatican Congress on the Catholic Press via Whispers in the Loggia, "The Masterful Way of Truth."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:43 PM | Permalink

October 7, 2010

The most fundamental question of the modern age

James Schall reflects on Pope Benedict's visit to Britain and the question he left us all to ponder, "The Ultimate Meaning of Our Human Existence."

On reflecting on this visit, no Briton, I think, whatever be the fame of English practicality, can help but wonder, if he has not before, "What is the ultimate meaning of our existence?" He did not have this question addressed to him in the Times or the Guardian but in the reflections of Benedict XVI, the Successor to Peter. It is still the most fundamental question of the modern age.

More rippling effects of Benedict's visit come from the venerable Bede,  English, atheist and blogger, who subjects Richard Dawkins to a serious intellectual flogging for his speech at the Protest the Pope Rally in London which Bede calls a "miserable performance".

One other thing announces itself with curious clarity in Dawkins's diatribe, and that's his resentment at Ratzinger being acclaimed as an important intellectual.

The only way to dispute Ratzinger's stature as a major intellect is to refuse to listen to anything he has to say; the only way to deny that his view of modern society's ills is cogent and valid is to deny his central thesis, and cling to the 'everything is wonderful in our secular paradise' mantra that Dawkins and all the rest so shamefully endorse.

Ratzinger is a bigger thinker, a better thinker, because he starts from the premise that there is something deeply wrong: the grown-up's premise.

To merely accept this as a starting base takes courage, but without doing so nothing can be achieved. A world view - still more one that assumes entitlement to authority - that does not begin from this base is dangerous, cowardly and irrelevant.

If, like me, you don't like some of Ratzinger's answers then great - let the civilised adult debate begin. But if you'd rather attach condoms to an umbrella and parade through London with a bunch of dipsticks you rule yourself out of all serious consideration. Ratzinger is asking for a debate on some big subjects, and the best these supposed intellectual heavyweights can do is call him names, ignore the questions, and congratulate each other as the waters rise around their ugly necks.

He would trust the Pope before Dawkins.

But compare Ratzinger's rigorous analysis of the "loss of an awareness of intangible moral values" in a culture that "sees in its own history only what is blameworthy and destructive [and] is no longer capable of perceiving what is great and pure" with the ghastly fluffy-bunny 'consciousness raising' of Dawkins's recent sermons and decide for yourself in whose hands your future would be safer.

Britain Gobsmacked by Pope Benedict

At a conference in Rome this evening, barrister and president of Britain’s Catholic Union, Jamie Bogle, told me, “The secular atheist liberals and their friends in the media are going to take a long time to get over this visit. Because they thought they were on a winner. They thought they were going to, if not arrest the pope, at least seriously embarrass him.

“And this little guy in white just flattened them. His gentle, calm, soft-spoken approach just won everybody over. And the demonstrations faded away.”

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The pope’s addresses, delivered barely above a whisper, made his detractors look “ridiculous, like children throwing their toys out of the pram because they couldn’t have their own way.” And today the pope’s opponents are left with little to say. “They’re nonplussed and confused” Fr. Allan said, “astonished.” “They didn’t expect people to respond as they have done.”

“They don’t understand why the British people listened to him. Why they wanted to see him. Everything the pope said is outside their mindset.”

The pope’s messages, that Christianity has a foundational place in the building of a just society, one that cannot be suppressed without destroying the foundations of freedom, were delivered fearlessly but gently, in a tone that one had to strain to hear and with an accent one had to concentrate to understand.

“He was just stating the truth,” Fr. Allan said. “It’s really swept people off their feet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

On the same page

I knew people in sync mirrored each other's body posture, but I didn't realize that it goes even further.    People in sync mirror each other's style of language.  Interesting

Happy Couples Are On the Same Page - Literally

A new study finds that people match each other's language styles more during happier periods of their relationship. Even famous poets who were married exhibited this effect in their poetry, the study found.

The tendency to mirror our voice to that of our conversation partners is called "language style matching."

"When two people start a conversation, they usually begin talking alike within a matter of seconds," said James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and an author of the new study published in the September issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. "This also happens when people read a book or watch a movie. As soon as the credits roll, they find themselves talking like the author or the central characters."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:14 AM | Permalink

October 6, 2010

In fighting colds, "The enemy is us"

How Not to Fight Colds

if you’re keen on tamping down your own cold, “boosting” your immunity may be the last thing you want to do.
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Here was a new insight in cold science: the symptoms are caused not by the virus but by its host — by the body’s inflammatory response. Chemical agents manufactured by our immune system inflame our cells and tissues, causing our nose to run and our throat to swell. The enemy is us.
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It seems counterintuitive, but there it is: People with more active immune systems may be especially prone to cold symptoms. So getting a cold may be a positive sign that your biochemical defenses are working normally — a glass-half-full view of getting the sniffles.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 AM | Permalink

The Lost Pieta

His parents gave "The Mike" to their son Martin, a  pilot in Buffalo nine years ago.  They called it "the Mike" because they also believed the painting of the Virgin and Child  they grew up with done by Michelangelo. 

'Genius pieta definitely' done by Michelangelo

If the attribution is confirmed, the work will rank alongside only three surviving panel paintings by the Italian master, potentially making it worth more than the record $118 million so far achieved for a work of art.

Antonio Forcellino, an art historian and restorer who has worked on Michelangelo's masterpieces, first came across the pieta, a 63cm x 48cm oil painting on a panel made of fir, when he was contacted by email by its US owner.

He has since spent five years seeking documentary evidence in Europe and examining the painting at its location in Buffalo.

"The first time I saw it, I was so struck by the strength of it that I felt breathless," said Mr Forcellino, an Italian.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 AM | Permalink

"Sonic Effluence"

They were sold on the idea of wind energy, but never told how loud it was, the New York Times reports

For Those Near, the Miserable Hum of Clean Energy

VINALHAVEN, Me. — Like nearly all of the residents on this island in Penobscot Bay, Art Lindgren and his wife, Cheryl, celebrated the arrival of three giant wind turbines late last year. That was before they were turned on.

Residents living less than a mile from the $15 million wind facility in Vinalhaven, Me., say the industrial whoosh-and-whoop of the 123-foot blades is making life unbearable.
Related

“In the first 10 minutes, our jaws dropped to the ground,” Mr. Lindgren said. “Nobody in the area could believe it. They were so loud.”

Now, the Lindgrens, along with a dozen or so neighbors living less than a mile from the $15 million wind facility here, say the industrial whoosh-and-whoop of the 123-foot blades is making life in this otherwise tranquil corner of the island unbearable.
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Vinalhaven’s wind farm enjoys support among most residents, from ardent supporters of all clean energy to those who simply say the turbines have reduced their power bills.
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But that is cold comfort for Mrs. Lindgren and her neighbors, who say their corner of the island will never be the same.

“I remember the sound of silence so palpable, so merciless in its depths, that you could almost feel your heart stop in sympathy,” she said. “Now we are prisoners of sonic effluence. I grieve for the past.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 AM | Permalink

October 5, 2010

Procrastination

I've been meaning to post about What we can learn from procrastination by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker, but I just didn't get around to it.

The subhead is What does procrastination tell us about ourselves?

I guess I'm just like everyone else who procrastinates because it's mysterious to me except as evidence of our divided selves.

Philosophers are interested in procrastination for another reason. It’s a powerful example of what the Greeks called akrasia—doing something against one’s own better judgment. Piers Steel defines procrastination as willingly deferring something even though you expect the delay to make you worse off.
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Lack of confidence, sometimes alternating with unrealistic dreams of heroic success, often leads to procrastination, and many studies suggest that procrastinators are self-handicappers: rather than risk failure, they prefer to create conditions that make success impossible, a reflex that of course creates a vicious cycle.

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The first step to dealing with procrastination isn’t admitting that you have a problem. It’s admitting that your “you”s have a problem.

You can use external tools to get you going (Hasslebot is  a good one.

Beyond self-binding, there are other ways to avoid dragging your feet, most of which depend on what psychologists might call reframing the task in front of you.

You know, dividing up the open-ended task or goal into smaller steps.

Another way of making procrastination less likely is to reduce the amount of choice we have: often when people are afraid of making the wrong choice they end up doing nothing. So companies might be better off offering their employees fewer investment choices in their 401(k) plans, and making signing up for the plan the default option.

Then again, maybe what you are putting off doing, isn't worth doing anyway.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 PM | Permalink

No to Internet voting

I don't trust internet voting at all.  This proves my instincts right.

Hacker infiltration ends D.C. online voting trial

Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics opened a new Internet-based voting system for a weeklong test period, inviting computer experts from all corners to prod its vulnerabilities in the spirit of "give it your best shot." Well, the hackers gave it their best shot -- and midday Friday, the trial period was suspended, with the board citing "usability issues brought to our attention."

Here's one of those issues: After casting a vote, according to test observers, the Web site played "Hail to the Victors" -- the University of Michigan fight song.

"The integrity of the system had been violated," said Paul Stenbjorn, the board's chief technology officer.
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The fight song is a symptom of deeper vulnerabilities, says Jeremy Epstein, a computer scientist working with the Common Cause good-government nonprofit on online voting issues. "In order to do that, they had to be able to change anything they wanted on the Web site," Epstein said.

Because of the hack, Stenbjorn said Monday, a portion of the Internet voting pilot -- which was expected to be rolled out this month -- is being temporarily scrapped.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:46 PM | Permalink

The First Miracle Drug

Rediscovering the First Miracle Drug

Every few months some miracle drug or other is rolled out with bells and confetti, but only once or twice in a generation does the real thing come along....

the birth of the first one is almost forgotten. It was injectable insulin, long sought by researchers all over the world and finally isolated in 1921 by a team of squabbling Canadians. With insulin, dying children laughed and played again, as parents wept and doctors spoke of biblical resurrections.

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But the miracle went only so far: insulin was not a cure. In 1921, New York City’s death rate from diabetes was estimated to be the highest in the country, and today the health department lists diabetes among the city’s top five killers. Now though, it is adults who die, not children. What insulin did was turn a brief, deadly illness into a long, chronic struggle,

 Insulin

Via Instapundit who commented

The Insta-Wife’s great grandmother died of diabetes just a few months before insulin came out. A reminder that for every miracle drug, there’s a “faster, please.”

The real struggle came after the discovery - producing the drug and getting it from here to there. 

Meanwhile, the notion of allowing patients to test their own urine for glucose and calculate their own insulin doses was outlandish to most doctors. Diabetes was the first illness which forced them to cede some medical authority to the patient, said Jean Ashton, one of the exhibit’s curators. With insulin, diabetics suddenly acquired both the right and the responsibility to maintain their own health.

The author of the piece, Abigail Zuger MD, tells the story of little Elizabeth Hughes, the daughter of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes, very sick and frail who survived long enough to be one of the first Americans to take the new drug.

The few dozen of her letters that survive from her six-month stay in Toronto, as she exuberantly regained health and strength, emphasize how desperately she wanted to stop being a patient forever.

It was a great day when she injected herself with insulin for the first time: “I can do it perfectly beautifully,” she wrote to her mother. “Now I feel so absolutely independent.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:42 PM | Permalink

October 4, 2010

Bad news about synthetic hormones

Now they tell us.

Women's Brains on Steroids: Birth control pills appear to remodel brain structure

here are millions of cases of steroid use that occur daily with barely a second thought:  Millions of women take birth control pills, blithely unaware that their effects may be subtly seeping into and modulating brain structure and activity.

It is a huge experiment whose resolution will not be known for a while, but a new study in the journal Brain Research demonstrates that the effects are likely to be dramatic.  It found that birth control pills have structural effects on regions of the brain that govern higher-order cognitive activities, suggesting that a woman on birth control pills may literally not be herself -- or is herself, on steroids.
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What happens, then, when the female brain gets a significant and artificial dose of steroid hormone, either progesterone, estrogen or both?  We know what happens below the waist, the pregnancies prevented.  What happens above the neck, as this steroidal tsunami washes over the neural coastline?

It appears that the brain, that sensitive organ replete with steroid receptors, reacts to its hormonal milieu with startling structural modifications

Scientific American also reported that Birth Control Pills Affect Women's Taste in Men.   

Women on the pill are developing differently than nature intended and choosing mates they otherwise would not have chosen.

With little research on the long term effects, millions and millions of women have taken hormones for decades, but the evidence of the consequences is beginning to appear.

We've already learned that post-menopausal women should stop taking hormones.

"An awful lot of breast cancer was caused by doctors' prescriptions," said Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

More and more evidence is revealing the disastrous effects of synthetic hormones in our water supply that has led to deformed wildlife and the alarming rise in male infertility.  But, despite the evidence, there is almost total denial.  The pill is sacrosanct, the sacred cow of the sexual revolution.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 PM | Permalink

October 2, 2010

In the name of equality

Britain enacts PC equality law which means ANYONE can sue for ANYTHING that offends them

New equality laws could spell the end of the office joke in Britain.

The legislation, championed by Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman, introduces a bewildering range of rights which allow staff to sue for almost any perceived offence they receive in the workplace.

It creates the controversial legal concept of ‘third party harassment’, under which workers will be able to sue over jokes and banter they find offensive – even if the comments are aimed at someone else and they weren’t there at the time the comments were made.

They can sue if they feel the comments ‘violate their dignity’ or create an ‘intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’.

A one-off incident is enough to sue – there is no need for the ‘victim’ to have warned the perpetrator that their comments are unwelcome.

They could even have a case against their employer if a customer or contractor says something they find offensive.

The problem with a big government is that people in it  believe they should always be making new laws, even insane ones like this.  The only people who will benefit from this absurd law are lawyers

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink

October 1, 2010

No Pressure is a repellent eco-video

James Delingpole calls it Eco-Fascism jumps the shark: massive, epic fail.

It is hard to describe how nauseating and loathsome the video No Pressure produced by Richard Curtis with funding from the British government is.    It's so bad I don't  want to embed it, but you can see it at the link.

Ostensibly the video is supposed to encourage people to reduce their carbon footprints, but unwittingly, it reveals the fascist underbelly of the green movement.  The video blows up every one, including school children, who won't go along with the campaign into bloody pulp.

As Delingpole writes, 'Go green or we'll kill your kids' says Richard Curtis eco-propaganda shocker. 

Richard Curtis, I salute you! You have just released a video which has entered history as the most emetic, ugly, counterproductive eco-propaganda movie ever made.

The Anchoress calls them "a repellent bunch of people with sick, twisted minds."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:49 PM | Permalink

Consuming Happiness

"We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it."

-George Bernard Shaw

via Word Around the Net

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink