November 30, 2010

Don't be upset about your moles

People with more skin moles have less risk of bone disease and they look younger. You know, like Cindy Crawford
Most people have somewhere between 30 and 40 moles on their bodies, but some have hundreds. According to the research, the more moles you have, the less wrinkles and blemishes. Another study showed that the mole-heavy were also less susceptible to osteoporosis and other bone problems associated with aging: People with over 100 moles got osteoporosis half as often as those with less than 25.

Researcher Dr. Veronique Bataille believes that an abundance of moles is an indicator of a factor to do with an individual’s DNA code. People with many moles have longer telomeres – a section of the DNA strand that determines how many times a cell will divide over its lifetime. The longer the telomeres, the more moles someone will have – and, the more youthful the appearance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

November 27, 2010

The Dying Banker

A Dying Banker's Last Financial Instructions

when Mr. Murray, a former bond salesman for Goldman Sachs who rose to the managing director level at both Lehman Brothers and Credit Suisse First Boston, decided to cease all treatment five months ago for his glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, his first impulse was not to mourn what he couldn’t do anymore or to buy an island or to move to Paris. Instead, he hunkered down in his tiny home office here and channeled whatever remaining energy he could muster into a slim paperback. It’s called “The Investment Answer,” and he wrote it with his friend and financial adviser Daniel Goldie to explain investing in a handful of simple steps.


So when his death sentence arrived, Mr. Murray knew he had to work quickly and resolved to get the word out to as many everyday investors as he could.

“This is one of the true benefits of having a brain tumor,” Mr. Murray said, laughing. “Everyone wants to hear what you have to say.”

About his former employer Goldman Sachs he says
“Our word was our bond, and good ethics was good business,” he said of his Wall Street career. “That got replaced by liar loans and ‘I hope I’m gone by the time this thing blows up.’ ”


But he plays along with the dying banker angle, willing to do just about anything to make sure that his message is not forgotten, even if he fades from memory himself.

“This book has increased the quality of his life,” Mr. Davis said. “And it’s given him the knowledge and understanding that if, in fact, the end is near, that the end is not the end.

"The Investment Answer" (Daniel C. Goldie, Gordon S. Murray)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

Children in the War Against Dementia

A moving story that illuminates and chills, Children Ease Alzheimer's in Land of Aging because it's a glimpse into our future.

It is part of a remarkable South Korean campaign to cope with an exploding problem: Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. As one of the world’s fastest-aging countries, with nearly 9 percent of its population over 65 already afflicted, South Korea has opened a “War on Dementia,” spending money and shining floodlights on a disease that is, here as in many places, riddled with shame and fear.

South Korea is training thousands of people, including children, as “dementia supporters,” to recognize symptoms and care for patients. ----

Hundreds of neighborhood dementia diagnostic centers have been created. Nursing homes have nearly tripled since 2008. Other dementia programs, providing day care and home care, have increased fivefold since 2008, to nearly 20,000. Care is heavily subsidized.

And a government dementia database allows families to register relatives and receive iron-on identification numbers. Citizens encountering wanderers with dementia report their numbers to officials, who contact families.

So the authorities promote the notion that filial piety implies doing everything possible for elders with dementia, a condition now called chimae (pronounced chee-may): disease of knowledge and the brain which makes adults become babies. But South Korea’s low birth rate will make family caregiving tougher.

“I feel as if a tsunami’s coming,” said Lee Sung-hee, the South Korean Alzheimer’s Association president, who trains nursing home staff members, but also thousands who regularly interact with the elderly: bus drivers, tellers, hairstylists, postal workers. “Sometimes I think I want to run away,” she said. “But even the highest mountain, just worrying does not move anything, but if you choose one area and move stone by stone, you pave a way to move the whole mountain.”


The dementia caregiving program had made him “wonder why I wasn’t able to do that with my own grandma, and I think I should do better in the future to compensate for all my wrongdoing,” he said. “I could have taken care of my grandmother with a grateful feeling. If only I could have.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:05 AM | Permalink

The World of Energy Turned Upside Down

Good News. There Will Be Fuel and the New York Times no less says there's "Energy and Plenty of It for Decades to Come"

Just as it seemed that the world was running on fumes, giant oil fields were discovered off the coasts of Brazil and Africa, and Canadian oil sands projects expanded so fast, they now provide North America with more oil than Saudi Arabia. In addition, the United States has increased domestic oil production for the first time in a generation.

Meanwhile, another wave of natural gas drilling has taken off in shale rock fields across the United States, and more shale gas drilling is just beginning in Europe and Asia. Add to that an increase in liquefied natural gas export terminals around the world that connected gas, which once had to be flared off, to the world market, and gas prices have plummeted.

Energy experts now predict decades of residential and commercial power at reasonable prices. Simply put, the world of energy has once again been turned upside down.

Shale drilling is also beginning to produce significant amounts of oil in the United States. The Bakken shale field centered in North Dakota has become the fastest-growing major oil field in the United States, with production rocketing to about 350,000 barrels a day, from 100,000 barrels a day a decade ago. In a recent report, the consultancy firm PFC Energy projected production would climb to 450,000 barrels a day by 2013.

Add up the shale, the deepwater drilling and Canadian oil sands, says Edward L. Morse, the head at commodity research at Credit Suisse, and what you get is less dependency on OPEC and hostile countries like Venezuela. Synthetic oil made from Canadian oil sands has become the largest single source of imported oil this year, far more than from any OPEC country.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

Upper Class Twits

Upper-Class People Have Trouble Recognizing Others' Emotions from Science Daily

Upper-class people have more educational opportunities, greater financial security, and better job prospects than people from lower social classes, but that doesn't mean they're more skilled at everything. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds surprisingly, that lower-class people are better at reading the emotions of others.

How can they be so emotionally unintelligent? I suggest they are Our Ruling Class as Angelo Codevilla describes them:

Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints.
Its attitude is key to understanding our bipartisan ruling class. Its first tenet is that "we" are the best and brightest while the rest of Americans are retrograde, racist, and dysfunctional unless properly constrained. How did this replace the Founding generation's paradigm that "all men are created equal"?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:50 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2010

"The Euro Game is Up!"

He's a member of the European Parliament, a Euro-skeptic from Great Britain by name of Nigel Farage.
Here's part of what he said

Untold millions must suffer so that your euro dream can continue. Well it won't work, because it's Portugal next. With their debt levels of 325 percent of GDP they are the next ones on the list, and after that I suspect it will be Spain, and the bailout for Spain would be 7 times the size of Ireland, and at that moment all the bailout money has gone - there won't be any more.

But it's even more serious than economics, because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens.
The Daily Express has become the first national newspaper to call for Britain to leave the European Union. Britain is Better Off Out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:25 PM | Permalink

The Biggest Mountain of Debt in the World Is Getting Bigger

Michael Synder wrote 11 StatisticsThat Reveal Just How FAr the U.S. Economy Has Fallen Over the Past Four Years that will chill your bones.

#2 At Thanksgiving back in 2006, 26 million Americans were on food stamps. Today, there are over 42 million Americans on food stamps and that number is climbing rapidly.

#4 At the end of the third quarter in 2006, 47 banks were on the FDIC “problem list”. At the end of the third quarter in 2010, 860 banks were on the FDIC “problem list”.

#8 According to one analysis, the United States has lost a total of 10.5 million jobs since 2007.

#11 In 2006, the U.S. national debt was getting close to 9 trillion dollars. Today, the U.S. national debt is well past 13 trillion dollars and is rapidly closing in on 14 trillion dollars.

In 2006, the Democrats took over control of Congress.

Veronique de Rugy gives us a picture of what our future will look like if we don't cut spending dramatically.

__CBO_Entitlement Spending Chart.jpg

The chart using CBO data is the best-case scenario!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 PM | Permalink

Kids of Divorce

A surprising story: Kids of Divorce Have Double the Risk of Stoke

Turns out that severe and chronic stress in childhood can alter the body's regulation of the hormone cortisol which makes people vulnerable to a range of diseases over time

Yes, the stigma of children of divorce no long stings, that is Until They Start Dating.

Upon publication of her book For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered, renowned social scientist Mavis Hetherington conceded that in her studies the grown children of divorce had a higher divorce rate when they grew up. But she hastened to point out that, on the bright side, those who married people from intact families had more stable marriages than those who married other children of divorce. Her critic, demographer Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, replied in a USA Today article, "Then what she is really saying is that if you are a divorced person, nobody should marry your child."

Do you need a perfect marriage? Does anyone have a perfect marriage? Elizabeth Marguardt says Why Your 'Good Enough" Marriage is Good for Your Kids.

These marriages may feel troubled to the one or both of the spouses, but they are not struggling with the kinds of serious or frequent conflict many imagine when they picture a marriage on the rocks.

It is these marriages -- what some call "good enough" marriages -- that matter so much. To any still-married parent who is considering divorce who may be reading this, I want to affirm that your "good enough" marriage is doing a world of good for your kids.

Not long ago, with my co-investigator Professor Norval Glenn of the University of Texas at Austin, I conducted a national study of young adults from divorced and intact families. That study, reported in my book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Crown, 2005), revealed a great deal about what divorce does to children as well as what marriage does for children.

"Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce" (Elizabeth Marquardt)

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink

Thanksgiving leftovers worth keeping

Now that Thanksgiving is past, the mad rush towards Christmas begins. But before we start driving ourselves crazy with how much we have to do and how little time we have to do it in, why don't we pause a moment and reflect on some of the Thanksgiving stories and posts worth keeping.

John Murray writes of Strangers, Saints and Indians and finds the divine hand of Providence in the story of Squanto, who Pilgrim Governor William Bradford wrote was 'sent of God'.  

John Stossel writes of A Lost Thanksgiving Lesson and the tragedy of the commons.

Thank You. No, Thank You. Grateful people are happier, healthier long after the leftovers are gobbled up.

It turns out, giving thanks is good for your health.
A growing body of research suggests that maintaining an attitude of gratitude can improve psychological, emotional and physical well-being.
Adults who frequently feel grateful have more energy, more optimism, more social connections and more happiness than those who do not, according to studies conducted over the past decade. They're also less likely to be depressed, envious, greedy or alcoholics. They earn more money, sleep more soundly, exercise more regularly and have greater resistance to viral infections.
Now, researchers are finding that gratitude brings similar benefits in children and adolescents. Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches and feel more satisfied with their friends, families and schools than those who don't, studies show.
I love it when social science research confirms what we were taught at our parents' knees.
Gratitude: The Wonder Drug. Indeed.
And the Thanksgiving photo that makes me laugh year after year.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

November 25, 2010

The world is more wonderful than we know

There are so many things to be thankful for, Here's just one.

  For the beauty that surrounds us that we can't see, let us give thanks.   

The Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition reveals to us some of that extraordinary and complex beauty.

front section of daddylonglegs eyes.jpg

Igor Siwanowicz won first place for his micro photo of the frontal section of a fly's (daddy longlegs) eyes.


Yanping Wang reveals the seeds of wild flowers.

More photos from the competition in a NYTimes slideshow here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:04 AM | Permalink

November 19, 2010

Take the appetite for gambling and attach it to a savings vehicle

In the New York Times's Freakonomics blog, Steven Dubner asks the question

Could a Lottery Be the Answer to America’s Poor Savings Rate?

The facts are simple. Americans have a low savings rate; and Americans love to play the lottery. Last year, we spent more than $58 billion on lottery tickets, or roughly $200 per person. As entertainment goes, the lottery is pretty cheap — a dollar and a dream and all that. But as an investment, it offers a dreadful return. States typically withhold about 40 percent of the ticket money from the prize pool for overhead costs and, often, education funds. That’s a far worse return than casino gambling or horse race betting. Which is why the lottery is sometimes called “a tax on stupid people.”

That’s why people like Tufano and University of Maryland economist Melissa Kearney are interested in bringing PLS plans to the U.S. ... PLS accounts have been successful in other parts of the world for years.


Melissa Kearney sums up the argument best:

..a recent national survey of a thousand adults, one in five American adults said their greatest chance of accumulating hundreds of thousands of dollars is through the lottery. That number jumps to forty percent for folks making less than twenty-five thousand dollars a year. So a lot of Americans think the lottery is their only chance at winning big sums of money, why don’t we take that appetite for gambling, for a product like this and attach it to a savings vehicle that offers some positive return? It’s a win-win situation.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

Surgery dramatically lowers blood pressure

New Surgery Drops Blood Pressure 30%

A new surgical technique can lower blood pressure by up to 30% by destroying tiny nerves in the arteries leading to the kidneys. These nerves regulate blood supply, but can be overactive in some patients, dangerously boosting blood pressure. This new procedure inserts a small probe through a catheter in the renal arteries and produces heat sufficient to kill off the nerves.

The surgery can be completed in about 40 to 60 minutes and only requires an overnight stay in the hospital. Only 10% of patients were unresponsive to treatment, according to research being published in The Lancet, compared to almost 50% who are unresponsive to traditional blood pressure medications. Furthermore, meds often only reduce blood pressure by 10%, making the new method almost three times better.

From MIT's Technology Review

A California company has shown how to dramatically lower blood pressure in hard-to-treat patients by destroying tiny nerves in the kidney.

The nerves are located inside the main arteries leading to the kidney. They affect blood pressure by controlling the release of sodium and an enzyme called renin, and by managing blood flow from the kidneys themselves.

The procedure was developed by Ardian, a medical device company based in Mountain View, California. Previous studies have shown that these nerves are overactive in many people with high blood pressure, says Murray Esler, who led the new research. By destroying these nerves in about 50 people, Esler could reduce those patients' uncontrolled high blood pressure by nearly 30 percent. A study describing the work was presented today at the American Heart Association, and the work is published in The Lancet.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

"One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy"

What a leading member of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change told a German interviewer last week.


    (EDENHOFER): First of all, developed countries have basically expropriated the atmosphere of the world community. But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy. Obviously, the owners of coal and oil will not be enthusiastic about this. One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore, with problems such as deforestation or the ozone hole.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:22 AM | Permalink

    Some practical tips

    Just a few little practical tips that I came across this week that I didn't know before.

    From Lifehacker Use Spent Coffee Grounds for Easier Fireplace Cleanup.

    Also, Adopt the 30/30 minute work cycle to to increase focus and energy

    And then, Store product model numbers on your smartphone so you always get the right cartridge for your printer and the right size air filter.

    From Unclutterer, Silver wrapping paper suits every occasion, it's always appropriate, elegant and inexpensive. and the time to stock up is now when stock of silver paper is abundant.

    To deliver your presents cross country learn How to use airline miles to fly business class (without even stepping foot on an airplane

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

    November 18, 2010

    Super Mamika

    I loved this story, Man dresses depressed Holocaust-survivor grandma as superhero, cheers her up.

    "Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika, a WWII survivor, feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he photographed her dressed up as a fictional superhero. To his surprise, she loved it. The photos are a bit comical, but there's an underlying sense of hope, strength and courage in them."


    More photos here

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:20 PM | Permalink

    Where did the stimulus money go in San Francisco?

    Pro Commerce reports that the stimulus money - almost $250 million - received by the city of San Francisco, was used entirely to subsidize the pensions of city employees, thus closing the city's budget deficit.

    If you do the math, the city's retirement costs for employees in the past 10 years actually grew only 66,733 percent.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

    Choose paper, not reusable shopping bags

    Why you should not use reusable shopping bags In three words: E.coli, salmonella, and lead

    Researchers from the University of Arizona stopped 84 shoppers using reusable shopping bags to examine their bags

    Over half were contaminated with bacteria including E. coli and many were contaminated with salmonella.

    The researchers warned the levels of bacteria they found were high enough to cause a wide range of serious health problems and even death. Children may be in the greatest danger, they added, as they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of organisms such as E.coli.

    If you don't wash your reusable bags every time you use them, it's highly likely that they are contaminated.

    Most of the reusable bags are made in China and contain potentially unsafe levels of lead reports The New York Times.

    You're better off choosing paper not plastic bags.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:09 PM | Permalink

    November 17, 2010

    Europe stumbling and coming apart?

    Ambrose Evans Pritchard writes the scariest article I've read in some time.

    Europe stumbles blindly towards its 1931 moment.

    Unless the ECB takes fast and dramatic action, it risks destroying the currency it is paid to manage, and allowing a political catastrophe to unfold in Europe.
    “Does the ECB understand the concept of contagion?” asked Jacques Cailloux, chief Europe economist at RBS. Three EMU countries have already been shut out of the capital markets, and footloose foreign creditors hold €2 trillion of debt securities issued by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece.
    The eurozone’s fiscal fund (European Financial Stability Facility) is fatally flawed. Like Alpinistas roped together, an ever-reduced core of solvent states are supposed to carry the weight on an ever-widening group of insolvent states dangling beneath them. This lacks political credibility and may be tested to destruction if – as seems likely – Ireland is forced to ask for help. At which moment the chain-reaction begins in earnest, starting with Iberia.

    Bundesbank chief Axel Weber might fairly conclude that it is impossible at this stage to reconcile the needs of Germany and the big debtors. If the ECB prints money on the scale required to underpin the South, it would set off German inflation, destroy German faith in monetary union, and perhaps run afoul of Germany’s constitutional court. If EMU must split in two, it might as well be done on Teutonic terms.

    All this is understandable, but is Chancellor Merkel really going to let subordinate officials at the ECB destroy Germany’s half-century investment in the post-war order of Europe, and risk Götterdämmerung?

    That is until I read that interest on the debt and entitlement expenses will take ALL of the revenue of the Federal Government in the year 2025 according to the Congressional Budget Office.

    Gonzala Lira livens up the report as only he can in Is Europe Coming Apart Faster Than Anticipated?

    The bond markets have no faith in Ireland—Greece has been shown up as having lied again about its atrocious fiscal situation—and now Portugal is teetering—

    —in other words, the PIIGS are screwed. I would venture to guess that we are about to see this slow-boiling European crisis bubble over into a full blown meltdown over the next few days—and it’s going to get messy.

    I think that these measures the European leadership is trying to carry out are simply postponing the inevitable. And what’s inevitable is a crash of the peripheral members of the Eurozone—the PIIGS plus Belgium. Because even if the Irish are bailed out in the next day or two, in a few months time, we’ll have another round of panic, this time over Portugal. And by next summer, it is going to be Spain—inevitably.
    In my post just last week, The Tidal Forces Ripping Europe Apart, I argued that the stress of over-indebtedness coupled with an unwillingness to take haircuts and restructure the sovereign debt would rip the European Union apart.

    I argued this would happen—I just didn’t think it would happen so soon . . .
    Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:07 PM | Permalink

    Why that annoying spare tire may save your life

    Good news if you have a 'spare tire' around your middle because stem cells taken from the fat around your waistline may be just the treatment you need when you get your first heart attack.

    'Spare tire' could save lives: belly fat helped heart attack patients

    Stem cells taken from waistline fat could be used as a treatment for heart attacks.

    Scientists injected stem cells derived from waistline fat tissue into the hearts of coronary patients and found the cells reduced levels of damage, increased blood flow and improved the organs' pumping ability.

    Eleven men and three women who had suffered recent heart attacks took part in the pioneering pilot study, given the name Apollo.

    Ten patients were treated with stem cells while four received a dummy 'placebo' infusion.

    Liposuction - a cosmetic procedure commonly used to reduce people's waistlines - was used to remove up to 250 cubic centimetres of fat from the patients' bellies.

    From each sample, the researchers isolated and extracted 20 million adult stem cells - regenerative cells with the potential to become more than one kind of tissue.

    It took nine to ten minutes to infuse the stem cells into a patient's heart.

    Six months later members of the treated group showed a 3.5 per cent improvement in heart perfusion, the heart's ability to receive oxygenated blood.

    Compared with the placebo patients, they also experienced a 5.7 per cent increase in the amount of blood pumped out by the heart's left ventricle chamber.

    On average, the amount of damaged heart muscle in the treated patients was halved from 31.6 per cent to 15.4 per cent. In the non-treated group, levels of heart damage remained the same.

    A follow up trial will recruit 375 patients from around Europe

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

    November 15, 2010

    Flying American flags

    Cody Alicea, 13-year-old from Denair, California  rode his bike to school with an American flag on the back for more than 2 months to be patriotic and to honor veterans like his grandfather.    A couple of days before Veterans  Day  his school, worried about racial tensions or uprisings about the flag,  ordered him to take it down.

    They had no idea of the firestorm in opinion that would ensue and when it did, the school quickly backed down and apologized.

    Today, he proudly biked to school with the American flag flying and hundreds of supporters from the Patriot Guard Riders.

    Good for them.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:12 PM | Permalink

    The "Anti-bone trifecta"

    The childhood disease rickets is a softening of the bones that can lead to fractures and deformity.  The predominant cause is vitamin D deficiency.  Famine in developing countries often results in severe malnutrition of young children leading to rickets.  When you see a child with bowed legs, the child probably has rickets.


    In most cases, rickets is easily cured with milk, sunshine and exercise.  In the absence of vitamin D, either from sunshine or from supplements, calcium can not be absorbed by the body.

    Rickets was a scourge in the 19th century when young children were sent to work long days in factories and now it looks as if it will be a scourge in the 21st century as well.

    Too little milk, sunshine and exercise: It's an anti-bone trifecta.

    But cases of full-blown rickets are just the red flag: Bone specialists say possibly millions of seemingly healthy children aren't building as much strong bone as they should - a gap that may leave them more vulnerable to bone-cracking osteoporosis later in life than their grandparents are.

    "This potentially is a time-bomb," says Dr. Laura Tosi, bone health chief at Children's National Medical Center in Washington.

    In England, middle class children are suffering rickets as parents cover them in sunscreen and limit time outside in sunshine

    It is thought extensive use of sunscreen, children playing more time on computer games and TV rather than playing outside and a poor diet are to blame.

    Professor Nicholas Clarke, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital and professor of paediatric orthopaedic surgery at the University of Southampton, said

    “We are facing the daunting prospect of an area like Southampton, where it is high income, middle class and leafy in its surroundings, seeing increasing numbers of children with rickets, which would have been inconceivable only a year or so ago.

    Nutritional ignorance in the US among middle-class families is also leading to rickets according to a professor of pediatrics.   Parents on vegetarian diets mistakenly believe that their child is allergic to milk and switch to soy-based or rice-based drinks.

    "Soy and rice beverages may look like cow's milk, but these products may not contain the amount of calcium and vitamin D that's needed for proper growth and development,"
    Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink

    Religious are less stressed

    Numerous studies have reported on the health benefits — both mental and physical — of religious belief. But precisely why faith is linked to higher levels of well-being and lower levels of mortality remains something of a mystery.

    Newly published research provides an intriguing clue: When they make a mistake, religious people are less likely to get stressed out about it.

    And God Said, 'Don't Sweat the Small Stuff'.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:40 PM | Permalink

    The displacement of public virtue

    Frank Furedi put his finger on something I've sensed but have been unable to articulate - how bureaucratization of every day life threatens vital public virtues.

    It's time to stand up for courage and conviction.

    Historically, a public referred to a group of people with an idea of themselves as distinct and independent, as having something in common, and a sense that it had some power and influence. So therefore the idea of empowering the public is a contradiction in terms: power is gained, not granted. When you ‘empower’ people, you’re not empowering them, you’re enfeebling them.
    Today, it seems that almost every form of public engagement – of public relations – is a kind of impression management. People make a lot of money out of it, but it really doesn’t bear upon everyday life. I think the problem is a cultural one and that’s the domain we should be addressing.

    The cultural problem that we have today is something that Machiavelli identified over 500 years ago. He grasped that the strength of a body politic is determined by the extent to which it was infused by public spirit. As far as Machiavelli was concerned, a real public spirit accounted for the strength of the Roman Empire – the Roman republic specifically – and also the incredible things that were going on in Florence, Sienna and so on during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
    I would argue that almost every single virtue that makes for public spirit is stigmatised by our society. Having recently been listening to people’s recollections at the inquiry into the 7/7 bombings about what happened that terrible day in London in 2005, what really struck me was that you had stories of people wanting to do things for the hurt and injured but who were being told by fire officers that for health and safety reasons they could not go anywhere near these people.

    Just imagine: here are all these people, they’re trying to help others, they’re trying to do the right thing, but to do so they have to adhere to a very clear process. All these processes, all these procedures, serve to displace public interaction. They make public virtue dependent on adhering to different codes of conduct.
    And most importantly, instead of culturally validating people’s active, positive side – all the good things about human beings – what we’ve done is subjugate them to the most boring, flattened out form of bureaucratic rule. As long as that’s the case, any form of public engagement will simply be a caricature of itself.
    Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:30 PM | Permalink

    Why Marriage Matters

    Marriage makes a big difference when it comes to family, economics, physical health and longevity, mental health and emotional well-being and crime and domestic violence.

    Here's a summary from leading scholars "across the human sciences and across the political spectrum".

    Read it, you might be surprised at just how good for you marriage is.

    Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-six Conclusions from the Social Sciences

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 AM | Permalink

    November 12, 2010

    Skin into blood and dangerous popcorn

    A quick round-up on health and medical news this week.

    Very good news on the medical front as Scientists Turn Skin Cells Directly into Blood Cells.

    In an important breakthrough, scientists at McMaster University have discovered how to make human blood from adult human skin.

    The discovery, published Nov. 7 in the journal Nature, could mean that in the foreseeable future people needing blood for surgery, cancer treatment or treatment of other blood conditions like anemia will be able to have blood created from a patch of their own skin to provide transfusions. Clinical trials could begin as soon as 2012.

    The discovery was replicated several times over two years using human skin from both young and old people to prove it works for any age of person.

    The potential of this discovery is enormous.  In 5 years time, we may be donating patches of our own skin before surgery or treatment of cancer.

    Those convenient popcorn bags that you can just pop into the microwave are popping out dangerous chemicals

    University of Toronto scientists have found that many paper food packages, like microwave popcorn bags, are popping dangerous chemicals into the products they contain.

    And significant levels of those chemicals and the products they break down into are now in human blood, the study’s co-author says.

    “We found these food contact paper chemicals in human blood in high concentrations,” says Scott Mabury, an environmental chemist at the U of T.

    Indeed, he says that a large portion of the so-called Perfluorinated carboxylic acids — or PFCAs that have been worrying doctors and global regulatory agencies for a decade likely come from paper junk food wrappers.

    “The normal example is popcorn bags and pizza boxes, but the fact of the matter is it’s much more widespread than that,” says Mabury.

    “Many, many papers that are used in the food packaging industry contain these (chemicals).”

    The best course of action is to take frozen food out of its wrappers and cover with paper towels before microwaving.

    As for popcorn, it tastes much better if you use a popcorn popper.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:37 PM | Permalink

    November 11, 2010

    Courage and Veterans' Day

    We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. Whenever we have almost succeeded in doing so, the Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone, and there is still at least one vice of which they feel genuine shame. ..

    And in fact, in the last war, thousands of humans, by discovering their own cowardice, discovered the whole moral world for the first time. In peace we can make many of them ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them.

    C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters via American Catholic.

    We honor courage which is why this is the ....

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

    Old Soldiers

    Buddy Madden has played taps on Veterans' Day since he was 6 years old, playing at more than 3500 military funerals for 86 years.

    "We're all brothers of the service.  We're all family.  We all served in uniform.  We're all, we're all together.  We're all one."

    Haunting Notes for Veterans' Day

    For all who served, my thanks,  our thanks.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:45 AM | Permalink

    November 10, 2010

    What comes next UPDATED

    Just about everyone seems to agree that hard times lie ahead as countries look to deal with their unsustainable debt and alarmingly increasing interest payments.

    As countries cut back on social benefits, no one seems to be talking about what comes next.

    There seems to be only one political argument of interest left in the Western democracies: how “big” should the state be, and what are the proper limits of its responsibilities?

    The West is turning against big government - but what comes next? by Janet Daley

    In the United States, the electorate’s considered answer to it has humiliated a president and swept an extraordinary number of neophytes – whose primary attraction was their loathing of government power – into the most powerful legislature in history. In Britain, it has become the dominant theme (in fact, the raison d’être) of a coalition between a Left-of-centre party and a Right-of-centre one, which has managed to achieve a remarkable degree of agreement on the need to reduce – or, at least, to examine rigorously – the role of government intervention in all areas of social life.
    The dominant economies of Europe, too, are going through quite momentous re-examinations of the post-war philosophy which accepted the state as an unquestionable source of benevolence and all-pervasive social justice.

    So a generation after the collapse of totalitarian socialism, its democratic form is finally crumbling as well. And, oddly enough, the latter may take longer than the former to unravel.

    But now that we have all (apart from the ideological androids) come to pretty much the same conclusion, what is to be done? How can the mechanisms that entangle government in virtually every aspect of our personal and communal affairs be disengaged? And how can populations which have, perhaps against their better judgment, become dependent on the state, be enabled to take back what should be their rightful liberties and responsibilities?
    If ordinary citizens are to be expected to take back more control and moral responsibility, then some pretty basic things will have to be on the table. First, they must be allowed to keep significantly more of what they earn. The lowering of taxes cannot be a vague intention or a pious hope. It is a sine qua non of a more self-reliant, independent, morally resourceful private life.

    Richard Fernandez comments

    The critical time will be the period before a collapse sets in to prepare the voters for what they are about to experience. The great value of the Tea Party is that its adherents understand that road ahead will be rough. They are under no illusions of where socialism goes nor of the costs of weaning society off it. It takes only a few years to ruin lives. It takes a long time to rebuild them.
    UPDATE: In response to the student riots in London over increased tuition fees, Fernandez writes in Scylla and Charybdis
    The truth is that pain, not hope, is coming: it will be forced on society by reality whether in the form of spending cuts or higher taxes. The gangrene has gone too far to be pushed back without some discomfort. And this means political conflict of which the riots in Greece and in London are but a sample. But asLarry Bell at Forbes notes, fiscal and monetary policy are not the whole story. Ultimately the productive resources of the nation have to be freed from the dead weight of leftist shibboleths and regulation. Describing California, Bell argued that it’s policies have tended to serve a few industries and the environmental left rather than the broad citizenry.

    while California focuses on wind turbines, solar panels and electric cars, vast offshore oil resources remain undeveloped and nuclear power is ignored. Consequently, the energy-starved state’s employment and economic future is bleak. A 2009 Milken Institute study showed a recent loss of nearly 400,000 manufacturing jobs.

    But to set that aright means even more conflict. That seems a given. What the collapse of the welfare state means is that the role of government in public policy must be fundamentally revisited. It is nothing less than a revolution in the making and we can only hope to see it through with the maximum civility.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:37 PM | Permalink

    Huntress with Buck

    David Chancellor won the 2010 Taylor Wessing Photographic Prize awarded by the National Gallery in London.

    Winner--2010 Huntress With Buck

    He says about 14 year-old Josie Slaughter from Alabama on her first hunting trip to South Africa:

    ‘Josie had hunted her buck earlier in the day and was returning to camp. As we arrived, the sun set below the cloud cover and I had almost unreal light for around a minute. The contrast between the peace and tranquillity of the location, plus Josie’s ethereal beauty and the dead buck, was what I wanted to explore. Here was a vulnerability and yet also a strength.’
    Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

    November 9, 2010

    "I needed counseling, not a sex-change operation"

    Another bizarre story.

    Charles had a sex change - then hated being Samantha so became a man again. Now he's getting married. So is his fiancée barmy, brave... or just in love?

    When millionaire property developer Charles Kane steps out with his new fiancée, people tend to either stare or discreetly do a double take.

    It may be because Victoria Emms is a striking redhead and, at 28 to Charles’s 50, is young enough to be his daughter.

    But they both suspect it is because they look - to use their own words - ‘eccentric’ or ‘odd’.

    In Victoria’s eyes, Charles is ‘all man’, but others may disagree. Born Sam Hashimi, the businessman and divorced father-of-two had a sex-change operation in 1987 to turn him into glamorous interior designer Samantha Kane.

    -Sexchange-And Backagain
    As Charles Kane, the divorced father-of-two, as Samantha Kane, interior designer, as the newly-engaged fiancee Victoria Emms.

    So what kind of woman would want to marry a such man? A woman, it seems, with her own complicated body-image issues.

    For it turns out that Victoria is a ‘recovering anorexic’. Both she and Charles believe their ‘mutual struggle with body form and image helped romance to blossom’.

    Far more interesting to me anyway is what he has learned from his experience.

    Based on my own experiences, I believe sex-change operations should not be allowed, and certainly not on the NHS.

    ‘People who think they are a woman trapped in a male body are, in my opinion, completely deluded. I certainly was. I needed counselling, not a sex-change operation.
    Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

    Creating children to order

    The gay father, the lesbian partners and a battle over the future of two children

    The children were fathered using sperm from a man who advertised in 'Gay Times'. The biological mother has accused the man of trying to marginalise her lesbian partner
    Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said: ‘This case raises a whole host of questions about the ethics of artificial insemination by donor. Just because we have the technology to do something doesn’t necessarily make it desirable or socially beneficial.

    ‘It is always a recipe for disaster to try to create children to order by artificial means to satisfy the desires of natural parents who are unrelated and lack a shared commitment to parenting.’

    There will be a lot more court battles like this in our future.  We are beginning to see the consequences of artificially conceiving children outside of a committed relationship.

    For the children who result from such a loveless conception, it can be tragic.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 PM | Permalink

    The Bloodlands

    In the New York Review of Books, Anne Applebaum reviews two new books in The Worst of the Madness.   Even from this distance in time it's hard to fathom how civilized European societies descended into such paroxysms of murderous violence and depravity.

    Once, in an attempt to explain the history of his country to outsiders, the Polish poet Czesław Miłosz described the impact of war, occupation, and the Holocaust on ordinary morality. Mass violence, he explained, could shatter a man’s sense of natural justice. In normal times, had he stumbled upon a corpse on the street, he would have called the police. A crowd would have gathered, and much talk and comment would have ensued. Now he knows he must avoid the dark body lying in the gutter, and refrain from asking unnecessary questions….


    For all of these reasons, Miłosz explained, “the man of the East cannot take Americans [or other Westerners] seriously.” Because they hadn’t undergone such experiences, they couldn’t seem to fathom what they meant, and couldn’t seem to imagine how they had happened either. “Their resultant lack of imagination,” he concluded, “is appalling."

    The title of this book, Bloodlands, is not a metaphor. ...This is the region that experienced not one but two—and sometimes three—wartime occupations. This is also the region that suffered the most casualties and endured the worst physical destruction....This is the region that experienced the worst of both Stalin’s and Hitler’s ideological madness.....

    This region was also the site of most of the politically motivated killing in Europe—killing that began not in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, but in 1933, with the famine in Ukraine. Between 1933 and 1945, fourteen million people died there, not in combat but because someone made a deliberate decision to murder them.

    If nothing else, a reassessment of what we know about Europe in the years between 1933 and 1953 could finally cure us of that “lack of imagination” that so appalled Czesław Miłosz almost sixty years ago. When considered in isolation, Auschwitz can be easily compartmentalized, characterized as belonging to a specific place and time, or explained away as the result of Germany’s unique history or particular culture. But if Auschwitz was not the only mass atrocity, if mass murder was simultaneously taking place across a multinational landscape and with the support of many different kinds of people, then it is not so easy to compartmentalize or explain away.

    ;Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin" (Timothy Snyder)

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:51 PM | Permalink

    “The real crisis in Britain is the destruction of human relationships, the foundation of society.”

    Called England's "red Tory" and a "philosopher king"  Philip Blond believes Both Left and Right Have Broken Britain  and How We Can Fix It the title of his new book.

    “The Right is exclusively pro-market and the Left is proscribing everything but the state. They are now no longer sustainable positions.”
    Blond differs from most other critics of capitalism is in trying to reunite economics with ethics and in seeing social and economic problems as symbiotic.
    Part of Blond’s mission is to restore economics to its roots, for it is impossible to separate economic decline and social breakdown.

    “The real crisis in Britain is the destruction of human relationships, the foundation of society,” he says. “And that’s what’s right with the Broken Britain thesis. It’s a loss of human society. The poorer you are, the lonelier you are, the more costs you incur for the state, because human sociability is linked with wealth, health and all sorts of indicators from mental illness to obesity.

    “The crisis in human relationships is shown in the way men treat women and women treat men, and how we treat our children. Now we’re getting to the situation where nearly half of all British children will be born outside of marriage, and the longevity of the relationships they’re born into is a third less than if they were married. We are reproducing an atomised society. That is a genuine social disaster.”
    “We’ve killed history in our country. These people, often university educated, have literally a sophomoric understanding of British history. In fact, it’s not even that good. They have no grasp of their own recent history or their own future.”
    Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

    November 1, 2010

    The Cloud of Witnesses

    Al Qaeda attacked the Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad during Sunday mass, and 52 are dead.

    Lieutenant General Hussein Kamal, a deputy interior minister said 52 hostages and police were killed and 67 wounded in the incident, which ended with police storming the Assyrian Catholic church to free more than 100 hostages seized by guerrillas.
    "What happened was more than
    a catastrophic and tragic event. In my opinion, it is an attempt to force Iraqi Christians to leave Iraq and to empty Iraq of Christians," Human Rights Minister Wijdan Michael, a Christian, said at the scene.

    Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, claimed responsibility in a statement posted on Islamist websites for the attack on "the dirty den of idolatry."

    Pope Benedict, in today's angelus for All Saints Day, said

    Last evening, in a grave attack on the Syriac-Catholic cathedral of Baghdad, there were scores of deaths and injuries, among them two priests and a group of the faithful there for Sunday's Holy Mass. I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, even more ferocious in that it has been inflicted upon defenseless people gathered in God's house, which is a house of love and reconciliation

    Today is All Saints Day and the new martyrs will add to the "Cloud of Witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1). 

    Below is the gorgeous Litany to the Saints sung in Latin.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

    They start them young

    I live in a neighborhood with many young children, so when Halloween comes, I have scores of trick or treaters.

    Halloween begins the weekend before with neighborhood pumpkin carving parties that climax with flaming jack o lanterns to the back yard to put the little ones in the proper state of mind.


    They start  getting them ready for Halloween at a young age, but this is the youngest trick or treater I ever seen.

     Only 3 Months Old-1

    A scary sight indeed.

    Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 AM | Permalink