February 29, 2012

"Morally irrelevant" babies

I find this appalling and chilling and profoundly wrong. 

Ethicists call for killing of newborns to be made legal

A leading British medical journal has published an article calling for the introduction of infanticide for social and medical reasons.

The article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, entitled “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” states in its abstract: “After-birth abortion (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”

The article, written by Alberto Giubilini of the University of Milan and Francesca Minerva of Melbourne University, argues that “foetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons” and consequently a law which permits abortion for certain reasons should permit infanticide on the same grounds.

Lord Alton, co-chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group, said that infanticide was the “chilling and unassailable” logical step for a society that permits killing a baby one day before birth.

He said: “That the Journal of Medical Ethics should give space to such a proposition illustrates not a slippery slope, but the quagmire into which medical ethics and our wider society have been sucked.

“Personal choice has eclipsed the sacredness, or otherness, of life itself. It is profoundly disturbing, indeed shocking, to see the way in which opinion-formers within the medical profession have ditched the traditional belief of the healer to uphold the sanctity of human life for this impoverished and inhumane defence of child destruction.

“It has been said that a country which kills its own children has no future. That’s true. And a country which accepts infanticide or the killing of a little girl or a little boy because of their gender, the killing of a baby because of a disability, or the killing of a child because it is inconvenient, the wrong shape, or the wrong colour, also forfeits its right to call itself civilised.”

But Julian Savulescu, the editor of the Journal of Medical Ethics, has defended the publication of the paper on the British Medical Journal website. He said: “What is disturbing is not the arguments in this paper nor its publication in an ethics journal. It is the hostile, abusive, threatening responses that it has elicited. More than ever, proper academic discussion and freedom are under threat from fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society.”

We know what's next - euthanasia or assisted suicide.  Even further down the slope, anyone sick or in a coma or disabled  or whose care costs too much for the government. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:59 PM | Permalink

Stone Age wanderers across the Atlantic Ice

For as long as I can remember people have wondered about the Clovis people, the first human inhabitants of the New World and why they disappeared leaving their stone spear points all over the the country, mainly in the Southwest.

Everybody thought they came, like the Indians, from Asia over the Bering Strait and down the coast.  So I was flabbergasted to learn  that the Clovis people may have come across the Atlantic ice from Europe during the Ice Age.  That at least is the conclusion drawn from the archeological evidence of Clovis type tools found along the East coast at six different locations.

That find is being called one of the most important archaeological breakthroughs in several decades

 Clovis Migration

Three of the sites were discovered by archaeologist Dr Darrin Lowery of the University of Delaware, while another one is in Pennsylvania and a fifth site is in Virginia.

Fishermen discovered a sixth on a seabed 60 miles from the Virginian coast, which in prehistoric times would have been dry land.
But the age of the newly-discovered tools are from between 26,000 and 19,000 years ago and are virtually exactly the same as western European materials from that time, reported The Independent.

Professor Dennis Stanford, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC, and Professor Bruce Bradley of the University of Exeter, were the two leading archaeologists who analysed  the evidence.

They have argued that Stone Age humans were able to make the 1500 mile journey across the Atlantic ice and suggested that from Western Europe, Stone Age people migrated to North America at the height of the Ice Age.

About three million square miles of the North Atlantic was covered in thick ice for all or part of the year at the peak of the Ice Age.
However, beyond the ice, the lure of the open ocean began would have been extremely rich in food resources for hunters.

The two archaeologists have just published their book Across Atlantic Ice.

 Across Atlantic Ice-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

February 28, 2012

Advil for a broken heart

Who would that Advil would help a broken heart or any type of emotional pain.

The pill that could mend a broken heart: Scientists claim simple painkillers could dull the pain of rejection

Pain killers could be used to dull the emotional pain of rejection in the future, scientists have claimed.

Researchers have discovered that emotional and physical pain cause similar reactions in the brain and are so similar that some studies have shown that taking painkillers can actually dull emotional pain, the authors claim.

Social rejection or being dumped can produce such a strong reaction that it is processed in the part of the brain that normally deals with physical pain.
One study that was examined even found that people who took a pain killer for three weeks reported less hurt feelings than people who took a placebo.

The scientists saw a correlation in the brain activity of people who had experienced social rejection and physical pain

Expressing her surprise at the findings Professor Eisenberger said: 'It follows in a logical way from the argument that the physical and social pain systems overlap, but it’s still kind of hard to imagine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 PM | Permalink

‘I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.’

The Thinking Man's Detective

If there is one subtext to all of Morris’ subsequent films and writings, it is the private eye’s creed, the anti-postmodernist belief that “the truth is out there.” Truth may be elusive, it may even be unknowable, but that doesn’t mean, as postmodernists aver, that reality is just a matter of subjective perspectives, that one way of seeing things is just as good as another.

“I’m amazed,” Morris said when we spoke recently, “that you still see this nonsense all over the place, that truth is relative, that truth is subjective. People still cling to it.” He calls these ideas “repulsive, repugnant. And what’s the other word? False.”

The private eye trick is pure genius.

But I digress (something impossible to avoid in writing about Errol Morris). I wanted to tell you about his private-eye trick, which he learned from a hard-bitten partner.

It wasn’t a blackjack-, brass knuckles-type thing. “It went like this,” Morris explained. “He’d knock on a door, sometimes of someone not even connected to the case they were investigating. He’d flip open his wallet, show his badge and say, ‘I guess we don’t have to tell you why we’re here.’

“And more often than not the guy starts bawling like an infant, ‘How did you find out?’” And then disgorges some shameful criminal secret no one would ever have known about otherwise.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:29 PM | Permalink

Perverse incentives

This has gone viral over the net and I don't where it started.  I found it at Maggie's Farm

The food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, has announced that is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to "Please Do Not Feed the Animals" because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

It's funny and true except for the part about the National Park Service being part of the Department of Agriculture.  It's not.  It's part of the Department of the Interior.  But yes, the indeed, the NPS tells that to all park visitors.

It reminded me of Vodkapundit's comment to the chart below which shows that you can do as well working one week a month at minimum wage as you can working a $60,000 -a-year, full-time, high-stress job.  The chart originated with Wyatt Emerich of the Cleveland Current and then picked up by Zero Hedge which verified all the numbers.


Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit, commented, "The safety net is becoming a barcalounger. Who’s got the remote?"

Seems to me that we do very well for the poor and very poorly for the middle class who work and pay taxes.  A society built on such perverse incentives and unsustainable entitlements can not last. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

February 25, 2012

"The present recommendations may kill people instead of saving them"

Should the FDA regulate our salt consumption?  Do they have a solid scientific  basis on which to base any proposed regulation?

The Independent Women's Forum looks at the load of negative reaction to the FDA's proposed regulation,  Lower Salt, Lower Life Expectancy.

Perhaps the most persuasive (and frightening) comments come from two medical researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.
In their letter to the FDA, Niels Graudal and Gesche Jürgens warn of the dire consequences of this government action (emphasis mine):

[W]e would like to state that the `science’ on which the FDA policy on sodium reduction is based is dubious. This truth is already unmistakable now for most interested scientists and sooner or later it will be clear also to laymen. When this happens there will be responsible persons who would have a problem as the present recommendations may kill people instead of saving them. We therefore suggest that FDA, instead of considering how to reduce the sodium intake in the population, reconsiders the policy.

Graudal and Jürgens based their comments on their own widely-respected research (the findings of which were published in the American Journal of Hypertension) in which they analyzed 167 other studies on salt and found that low-sodium diets increase likelihood of premature death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2012

Stella rainbows, UFO clouds and shooting stars

An amateur photographer captures stunning glowing cloud in the skies above Russia

 Ufo Cloud

A stunning stella rainbow captured in the skies above Italy by a photographer using long-exposure techniques.

 Stella Rainbow Italy

When you have a few minutes to watch rolling skies, shooting stars, lenticular clouds and the American southwest in all its glory.
you can not do better than Epic Skies by Tony Rowell on Vimeo.

 Purple Mountains

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:00 PM | Permalink

Install this privacy plug-in right now

Are you at all concerned about your privacy?  If so then recent stories about how Google and others track your every move is very worrisome.  Even if you thought you had enabled privacy options on your browser, turns out that Google tricked Apple's Safari in order to track users.

The cover story in last week's New York Times Magazine shows you just How Companies Learn Your Secrets.

Beginning March 1, Google will implement its new privacy policy that will allow them to build a permanent profile on you including age, gender and locality.    The Daily Mail shows you three simple steps to delete your Google browsing history before it's too late.

Last week, I read Vodkapundit's post on Somebody's Watching Me.

I took his advice and installed Do Not Track, a free browser extension from a young Massachusetts company, Albine

He reported on his experience in  Somebody's (Not) Watching

Just a quick update to Monday’s item about Do Not Track Plus.  In 48 hours, this thing has killed off more than 5,200 attempts to track my browsing. I look at websites as a big part of my job, so a big number didn’t come as a surprise. But that big? I had no idea.  But that’s nothing compared to how much easier life is for my CPU. I keep Apple’s Activity Monitor up and running all the time, just because I’m a bit of a geek like that. Under a typical browser workload — which for me is a lot of open windows and tabs — my browser web content could be eating up anywhere from an eighth to a quarter of my CPU cycles. That’s been cut down by about 80%.  In other words, web trackers might be quadrupling the processor load of your web browser, slowing down your whole system.  As I said the other day, just go and download it right now.

My experience was very like his.  In eight days, the Do Not Track software I installed blocked 17,652 attempts to track me online.
My computer had been very slow much too often and often seized up so I had to restart. Now it  speeds along the way it should.  I've never been so happy with a plug-in since Adblock.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2012

"You can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D"

If this article doesn't encourage you to start getting enough Vitamin D, you're a hopeless case.

 Sunshine Vitamind

Sunshine, Vitamin D and Death by Scientific Consensus

The "consensus" on sunlight exposure has badly misled us towards massive vitamin D deficiencies

The “scientific consensus” that has held sway for four decades regarding both exposure to the sun and vitamin D has collapsed. What has emerged in place of the old “settled science” is the knowledge that most people in America are seriously vitamin D deficient or insufficient....

Simply put, unless you are one of the few people with optimal serum D levels, such as lifeguards and roofers in South Florida, you can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D. It also means we can significantly reduce both health care costs and the staggering national deficit by taking a few simple steps.
In truth, however, sensible sun exposure and vitamin D3 supplementation would do far more for our national health than the current health care bill. Even better, the benefits to society could be achieved without spending hundreds of billions of dollars. If an “Army of Davids” took it upon itself to spread the word, they could achieve what government is apparently incapable of achieving.
Though Holick began documenting the connection between vitamin D insufficiencies or deficiencies thirty years ago, the scientific floodgates have opened in the last year or two. Word of this massive body of evidence has only really begun to permeate the scientific community in the last few months.

Optimal vitamin D serum blood levels, attained through sunlight or supplementation, dramatically reduce the risk of many diseases other than bone maladies. Many of the most serious are ameliorated by an astonishing 50 to 85 percent. These diseases include cancers, from breast and colon to deadly melanoma skin cancers.

Yes, that’s right. The really nasty skin cancers can be prevented by getting moderate, sensible sunshine or through vitamin D supplementation. Non-melanoma skin cancers do increase somewhat with sun exposure, especially with sun burns. These skin cancers, however, are relatively benign as they tend not to spread into other parts of the body. They are easily detected and removed because they appear on skin exposed to the sun.
The big killers and most expensive diseases respond similarly to adequate D. I’m talking about hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. So do type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes (to a lesser extent), rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and apparently even viral diseases such as H1N1 and AIDS.

I predict that other diseases will also be linked to vitamin D insufficiencies as more studies are performed. Even conditions such as autism and schizophrenia may be directly related to prenatal or infantile vitamin D deficiency.
Many of the benefits of D, incidentally, appear rapidly. Holick and others who prescribe D in clinical situations report that patients often experience dramatic improvements in quality of life within months. Not only do hypertension and bone density respond quickly, the neuromuscular impact of D is such that many of those who experience body pains and muscular weakness are relieved quickly when their serum blood levels are adjusted. Depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and various other maladies can respond extremely quickly to the sunshine vitamin.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

"Anti-Catholic and Un-American"

Father Barron on the HHS mandate.  Clear, calm and considered as always.

Added bonus Where are the women?

Bonus No. 2  Soft tyranny via Maggie's Farm

..."taking each individual by turns in its powerful hands and kneading him as it likes, the sovereign extends its arms over society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of small, complicated, painstaking, uniform rules through which the most original minds and the most vigorous souls cannot clear a way to surpass the crowd; it does not break wills, but it softens them, bends them and directs them; it rarely forces one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it hinders, compromises, enervates, extinguishes, dazes and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrial animals of which the government is the shepherd."

Alexis de Toqueville,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 PM | Permalink

February 20, 2012

"Rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment"

The Audacity of Power: President Obama Vs. The Catholic Church by Charles Kadlec in Forbes via The Anchoress

In one of the boldest, most audacious moves ever made by a President of the United States, President Barack Obama is on the brink of successfully rendering moot the very first clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” (emphasis added). If he forces the Catholic Church to comply with the Health and Human Services ruling to provide its employees with insurance that covers activities the Church has long held sinful — abortion via the morning after pill, sterilization and contraceptives — then the precedent is clear: when religious beliefs conflict with government decrees, religion must yield.
Before our very eyes, President Obama is on the verge of establishing the principle that the right to religious freedom comes not from our Creator, but from those who rule us. A government endowed right granted to women now trumps our unalienable right to act in accordance with our religious beliefs and conscience. Not only does this overturn the First Amendment, it also tramples the nation’s founding principles as announced in the Declaration of Independence. Such an achievement would be the true audacity of power.

The fundamental question is whether the Catholic Church, and by extension, individual Americans have to engage in activities according to the rulings of this and future Presidents, or are we free to live our lives as we choose as long as we do not harm another. Are we free to engage in long standing religious practices that have never before been deemed unlawful, or has the federal government established a de facto state “religion” that it is prepared to enforce through the full coercive power of its financial resources and the imposition of financial penalties.
I am not a Catholic, nor do I believe in the Church’s opposition to contraception. But I pray that the leadership of the Catholic Church will have the faith and courage to stand for its core beliefs and use all of its moral power and political influence to defeat the President’s edict. I pray they will reach out across the political spectrum to people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists in the name of religious freedom and individual liberty

Paul Ryan on Meet the Press

“What we’re getting from the White House on this conscience issue, it’s not an issue about contraception, it’s an issue that reveals a political philosophy the president is showing that basically treats our constitutional rights as if they were revocable privileges from our government, not inalienable rights from our creator,”

David French

Religious employers are asserting rights of conscience and free exercise of religion grounded in the First Amendment, arguably the single-most important constitutional provision protecting individual liberty from state power. Competing against this 200-year-old foundational legal principle is . . . an executive branch regulation (not even a statute) establishing a “right” that has never before existed in the history of the Republic — a “right to contraception coverage at no additional cost”

David Warren, a Canadian, in Matters of Conscience

Americans do not yet fully realize that ObamaCare is a "work in progress." What they see now is only the thin end of the wedge, and the current controversial HHS Mandate is modest compared to what will arise farther down the road.

A "Preventive Services Task Force" has been empowered to "prioritize" (thus effectively decide) everything to be covered by private health insurance - and with perfect Kafkaesque serenity, for it makes all decisions behind closed doors, need not announce decisions in draft, and is under no obligation to consider any external suggestions. Its decisions cannot be directly appealed, and it cannot be sued for the consequences of them.

If the Americans fail to repeal ObamaCare, they will soon learn it was a stalking horse for the full "socialization" of their health-care system.

Obama Deceives Catholics on Compromise, J. Christian Adams

Give the Obama administration their due, they sure are great deceivers. In an effort to escape the firestorm engulfing them because of the ObamaCare mandate that forces churches to violate their theology, the president announced a “compromise” on February 10. The details of this compromise demonstrate that President Obama simply cannot be believed.
Lies, all.

First, nothing was changed from the original rule.  The Department of Health and Human Services, Friday night, hours after Obama’s big “compromise,” issued the final regulation in exact form as the regulation first issued in August 2011 “without changes.”  Church-affiliated entities, such as Catholic hospitals, were still not exempted in the issued final regulation.

This is Not Just a “Culture War,” It’s An Attack on The First Amendment by Ron Futrell

This is also a fight much larger than “culture.” Culture is something that defines art and common belief. Culture is something that changes with the times and can actually be defined as you wish. Much of our culture today is not what it was 50, 100, or 200 years ago.
For the media to call this a “culture war” greatly diminishes its value, this is a battle over the First amendment of the US Constitution. Obama wants the Constitution circumvented to pander to his base, I would hope that most of us would be united with the Catholic Church in wanting it protected.

It Isn't Just Catholics Mad About ObamaCare Mandate

This week, two non-Catholic Christian colleges are proving that Obama-Care's contraception-sterilization requirement isn't just a Catholic concern. They are suing for their religious freedoms, too.
The two schools argue that the "compromise" President Obama announced earlier this month, forcing insurers themselves instead of religious institutions to provide the controversial services — and for free — "is entirely fictitious."

Memo to Jews: After They Come for the Catholic Church, They Will Come For Us
  David Goldman

Today it is contraception and the morning-after pill. Tomorrow it will be kosher slaughter, or matrilineal descent, or circumcision, or other matters of existential importance to Jewish observance. If the Obama administration gets away with forcing Catholic institutions to step across lines of life and death in the name of “health,” the federal government will have a precedent to legislate Judaism out of existence — as several other countries have already tried to do.
Open the door to “scientific” determination of matters of life and death, and America’s Orthodox Jews — a minority within a minority — will be vulnerable to a new Inquisition. On this issue, there can be no compromise. Agudath Israel is right: Jews should stand by the right of the Catholic Church to determine what is acceptable by its standards, just as we one day will ask the Catholic Church to stand by our right to determine what is acceptable by our standards. To its credit, Britain’s Catholic Church stood by us in 2009 when the English courts shamefully and wrongly ruled that our most basic religious criteria were “racist.” Shamefully and wrongfully, some Jews have failed to stand by the Church under the Obama administration’s persecution. I appeal to these Jews: Don’t be naive. We’re next.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:50 PM | Permalink

Stand up straight to strengthen your willpower

An easy way to increase self-control

From Willpower: Resdiscovering the Greatest Human Strength:

Unexpectedly, the best results came from the group working on posture. That tiresome old advice—“Sit up straight!”—was more useful than anyone had imagined. By overriding their habit of slouching, the students strengthened their willpower and did better at tasks that had nothing to do with posture. The improvement was most pronounced among the students who had followed the advice most diligently (as measured by the daily logs the students kept of how often they’d forced themselves to sit up or stand up straight).

And it's not the posture aspect that does it -- it's consistently working to change a habit that improves self control:

 Before After Posture

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

The effect on the Japanese people of the radiation leaked from the Fukusima nuclear plant

A year after the great Japanese earthquake and resulting damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant and it's not what many people think.

So far no one has died from radiation leaks as a result of the plant's damage. No one has even been reported as becoming sick. In fact, no one has required decontamination except plant workers. In other words, the leak was minimal and not problematic. There wasn't a huge meltdown, there wasn't a Chernobyl style disaster.

In fact, as Andrew Bolt links, even Chernobyl wasn't as bad as people thought:
As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.

The new numbers are presented in a landmark digest report, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts,” just released by the Chernobyl Forum. The digest, based on a three-volume, 600-page report and incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assesses the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history.
And so it is with nuclear power. Plants are better built now, better understood, and safer. If a massive quake and tsunami did so little damage to a plant, shouldn't we be a little more willing to give these clean, abundant power sources a chance?

This is extremely good news,  And for the vast majority of us unsuspected and surprising.  After all, we all read stories along these lines. 

"The Japanese crews will slough their skin and muscles, and bleed out internally under the full glare of the world's media"

That was Guy Rundle last March in the Australian Crikey.

Another case where what the media's propagation of fears is completely divorced from what has been shown by scientists seeking truth, making careful observations, collecting and analyzing data and then drawing careful conclusions.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2012

"When neither doctor nor patient can make the right decision, it is vital to have a caring family member advocate on your behalf.'

How a diagnosis of stage III stomach cancer profoundly changes an oncologist

By the reckoning of my physicians, survival was a percentage, and a horrible one — fifteen to seventy percent if I completed the treatment regimen.  That seemed to be an incredibly wide spread.  More and more I found myself thinking about percentages. If I completed the regimen and the disease returned, there were seemingly no other viable treatment options. It was morphine and palliative care. I was 39 years old. Death was a 100 percent certainty, eventually. So did it matter?

During one particularly desperate moment, I decided that I had had enough. I refused further treatment. I lay in my bed without anxiety, comfortable that I had made the correct decision. I watched the events around me, including the distress of my husband, Brian.

My doctors couldn’t override it or persuade me to change my mind, but, luckily, my husband, Brian, could and did. From my mental cocoon, Brian was by my side convincing me to finish treatment.

My dreams of dying were not the products of anxious moments of terror. I was simply incapable of making the right decision for myself. My doctors were professional but ultimately could not decide for me. When neither doctor nor patient can make the right decision, it is vital to have a caring family member advocate on your behalf. Without Brian, and his tireless commitment to my recovery, I wouldn’t be here today.

While I am still battling cancer and have not yet returned to work nor am I leading a normal life, my illness has changed me profoundly as a physician. No amount of doctoring can prepare you for being a patient.  During the past year, I have endured multiple treatment methods, metastasis, and most recently the discovery of a brain tumor that threatens my eyesight.  The past year has been full of the most vulnerable moments in my life.

If anything, it’s that recognition of vulnerability as well as expertise that makes me a better doctor today.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:39 PM | Permalink

February 18, 2012

"You're trying to ban bacon!!!!"


It’s as if we passed a law requiring mosques to sell bacon and then, when people objected, responded by saying “What’s wrong with bacon? You’re trying to ban bacon!!!!”
Expect more effort to gin up social-issue hysteria in order to distract people from the real story, which is this:
Obama spent us into bankruptcy, most of the money went to cronies, and the job situation got worse. That’s the real story, not a question of who pays for birth control, which doesn’t cost that much anyway.

Mark Steyn on Contraception Misdirection

According to CBO projections, by mid-century mere interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. For purposes of comparison, by 1788 Louis XVI’s government in France was spending a mere 60 percent of revenues on debt service, and we know how that worked out for His Majesty shortly thereafter. Not to worry, says Barry Antoinette. Let them eat condoms.

This is a very curious priority for a dying republic. “Birth control” is accessible, indeed ubiquitous, and, by comparison with anything from a gallon of gas to basic cable, one of the cheapest expenses in the average budget. Not even Rick Santorum, that notorious scourge of the sexually liberated, wishes to restrain the individual right to contraception.

But where is the compelling societal interest in the state prioritizing and subsidizing it? Especially when you’re already the Brokest Nation in History.

Right to insurance trumps right to religion for Pelosi, Boxer

The House Minority Leader says self-insurance is no protection against the government's contraceptive mandate, while California's junior senator says people have a right to be insured but no right to practice their faith
Lost in the phony "compromise" on the Health and Human Services mandate on religious institutions being forced to pay for contraceptive services was the fact that many such institutions are self-insured. So making insurance companies pay instead is a distinction without a difference. Sometimes these religious institutions are their own insurance company.
On MSNBC's Politics Nation with Al Sharpton Tuesday, where the two discussed a bill to protect freedom of religion and conscience, Pelosi agreed that you cannot "make a law where an employer can decide his own religious beliefs violate your right to be insured."

Funny, we thought the First Amendment trumped everything, including the nonexistent right to be insured.

It’s Not About Contraception

How exactly was the liberty to use contraception jeopardized by the Catholic exemption? In no way would a woman’s freedom in this respect be infringed simply because her employer was free to choose not to pay for her contraceptive products and services.

Yet advocates of Obamacare insist on conflating these issues. They repeatedly portray opposition to forced financing of contraception as opposition to contraception itself.
Women have the right to contraception (and any other product) in the sense that they have a right to spend their money on it or to try to persuade someone else to do so. There can be no right to force (or have the government force) others to pay.

Charles Krauthammer on The Obamacare Trifecta

Give him points for cleverness. President Obama’s birth-control “accommodation” was as politically successful as it was morally meaningless.
Where does it say that the president can unilaterally order a private company to provide an allegedly free-standing service at no cost to certain select beneficiaries?

This is government by presidential fiat. In Venezuela, that’s done all the time. Perhaps we should call Obama’s “accommodation” Presidential Decree No. 1.

Consider the constitutional wreckage left by Obamacare:

First, its assault on the free exercise of religion...Second, its assault on free enterprise......Third, the assault on individual autonomy.
This constitutional trifecta — the state invading the autonomy of religious institutions, private companies, and the individual citizen — should not surprise. It is what happens when the state takes over one-sixth of the economy.

Kulturkampf (culture struggle) as Public Health

About a month ago, people who thought religious institutions shouldn’t be forced to pay for things they morally oppose were unremarkable, boring even. Now, they are waging a heinous War on Women.

Through the twisted logic of statism run amok, opposition to a new Health and Human Services mandate forcing employers to buy insurance covering contraceptives becomes opposition to access to contraceptives altogether.
Never mind that a vast government apparatus exists to provide poor women access to contraceptives, from Medicaid and community health centers to Title X. There are roughly 4,500 Title X–funded clinics around the country. They are required to provide free birth control to the poor and subsidized birth control to people with incomes between 100 percent and 250 percent of poverty. They serve about 5 million people a year.

By any reasonable standard, we are one of the most lavishly contracepted societies in the history of the planet.

Michael Novak examines Obama's Deceptive Hidden Premises

(1) The first deception is that the president has issued a “contraception mandate.” It is not that; it is a presidential power grab. No state or other jurisdiction is trying to ban contraception. Neither the Catholic Church nor any other religious body is trying to ban contraception. The means of contraception are even more widely available than in drugstores; one can pick up condoms in restrooms, even in restaurants. The reason for this deception is to make opponents appear to be doing something they are not. They are not banning contraception. It is dishonest to focus on contraception instead of on the real issue, the attempt to extend presidential power into areas constitutionally forbidden to it.

The genius of this deception is its explicit attack on the Catholic Church.
(2) The second deception is that sterilization, contraception, abortifacients — and by logical extension, at the proper hour, abortion — are not matters of private choice, but matters of women’s health. This definition is then expanded into an enforceable right to women’s health. This supposed right is then expanded into a duty upon others to pay for the private choices and values systems of some women. In other words, this is naked coercion in its most deceptive form, and an illicit and twisted use of rights talk.

Pregnancy is a disease? The destruction of an individual human being within, boy or girl, is a matter of women’s health?
(3) The third hidden premise is that President Obama has the power to make laws respecting the self-understanding of churches.  — so now we see the symbolic meaning behind Obama’s use of the columns of ancient pagan temples at his nomination in 2008. He was dreaming of Caesar. And now he is Caesar, lusting for power over what belongs to Caesar, but also over what belongs to God.

But the Catholic Church, like all Christian churches, has always regarded hospital work and work for the poor and higher education as religious works, essential to true religion. True religion, Deuteronomy teaches, is to care for the widow and the orphan.
This despised mandate is, then, a violation by one most powerful political institution, the state, against the integrity of those other major institutions that are outside the power of the state — the churches and synagogues and mosques. The Constitution in its First Amendment insists that “Congress shall make no law . . .” and it clearly does not mean that the president or his Department of Health and Human Services has the constitutional power to do so either.

Two Key Questions that Unlock the HHS “compromise” debate

Do religious-based organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, and businesses owned by devout religious believers including Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, have the right under Obamacare to negotiate an agreement with an insurance company so that the insurance policy the employer offers to its employees does not include contraception, abortion, sterilization, etc.?

Does an entrepreneur under Obamacare have a right to create an insurance company that in fact meets the needs of such employers?

If the answer to each is “no,” then Obamacare violates a fundamental right. If “yes,” then the problem is solved and the debate is over. But since the HHS regulations allow a narrow exemption for some religious organizations–e.g., churches, synagogues, mosques–that means that the answer to the questions is probably “no.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2012

Greece's depression twice as deep as Britain's in the thirties

I have been transfixed at what is going in Greece, but I never realized how bad it was until I read The callous cruelty of the EU is destroying Greece, a once-proud country.

For all of my adult life, support for the European Union has been seen as the mark of a civilised, reasonable and above all compassionate politician....the British establishment has tended to view the EU as perhaps a little incompetent and corrupt, but certainly benign and generally a force for good in a troubled world. This attitude is becoming harder and harder to sustain, as this partnership of nations is suddenly starting to look very nasty indeed: a brutal oppressor that is scornful of democracy, national identity and the livelihoods of ordinary people.

The turning point may have come this week with the latest intervention by Brussels: bureaucrats are threatening to bankrupt an entire country unless opposition parties promise to support the EU-backed austerity plan.

Let’s put the Greek problem in its proper perspective. Britain’s Great Depression in the Thirties has become part of our national myth. It was the era of soup kitchens, mass unemployment and the Jarrow March...Yet the fall in national output during the Depression – from peak to trough – was never more than 10 per cent. In Greece, gross domestic product is already down about 13 per cent since 2008, and according to experts is likely to fall a further 7 per cent by the end of this year. In other words, by this Christmas, Greece’s depression will have been twice as deep as the infamous economic catastrophe that struck Britain 80 years ago.

Yet all the evidence suggests that the European elite could not give a damn...
Perhaps 100,000 businesses have folded, and many more are collapsing. Suicides are sharply up, homicides have reportedly doubled, with tens of thousands being made homeless. Life in the rural areas, which are returning to barter, is bearable. In the towns it is harsh and for minorities – above all the Albanians, who have no rights and have long taken the jobs Greeks did not want – it is terrifying....

It is not just families that are suffering – Greek institutions are being torn to shreds. Unlike Britain amid the economic devastation of the Thirties, Greece cannot look back towards centuries of more or less stable parliamentary democracy. It is scarcely a generation since the country emerged from a military dictatorship and, with parts of the country now lawless, sinister forces are once again on the rise. Only last autumn, extremist parties accounted for about 30 per cent of the popular vote. Now the hard Left and hard Right stand at about 50 per cent and surging.

I'm with Daniel Hannan who writes Leaving the euro isn't a punishment; it's Greece's last chance for recovery.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2012

Greece on Fire, Athens "blackened with ashes and rage"

The implosion of the Greek economy is affecting everyone in Greece.  After lawmakers approved of harsh new austerity measures demanded by creditors, in exchange for money (130 billion euro) to keep the country afloat.

there were riots across the country.  Athens was burned leaving unprecedented damage.

Nearly a third of the targets were banks.

Rioters destroyed or seriously damaged 93 buildings45 buildings were burned in Athens, including nine national heritage buildings.

"Criminals targeted all that was best in the city of Athens, its neoclassical monuments," said Thanassis Davakis, the Conservatives' cultural policy chief. "The damage must be swiftly redressed and the city's memory restored."

The Chaos of Greece

Rioters torched shops and offices, with banks and foreign businesses the main targets. Pensioners wearing gas masks joined a blockade of Parliament and squared off against some 4,000 police officers. The city's best-known cinema was burned to the ground, along with nine other national-heritage sites.

This was Athens on Sunday night as the Greek Parliament voted for austerity measures that are their only ticket to a €130 billion bailout. Don't think these scenes can't—or won't—be repeated in other Western capitals.

Stunning Pictures of the Disaster Zone in Greece

 Burning Cinema Athens

The Attikon cinema burning

Nikos Konstandaras on What was Lost in the Fire

What is lost in the fire may be greater than that which we feared to lose. The neoclassical building that housed the Attikon cinema was one of the most beautiful in Athens, among the very few that reminded us of what our city could have become if we had respected its past, if we cared about its present and its future. Perhaps it was a fitting sacrifice – a symbol of our rush to destroy because we cannot create, an expression of our need to abandon memories and pass into the future, blackened with ashes and rage.

What is lost in the flames may be greater than the incomes that will be reduced, greater than percentages of wages and pensions, greater than deposits lost and hopes abandoned. What is at greatest risk is our identity, our civilization. If we cannot stay in the eurozone, if we find ourselves on Europe's edge, we will be defeated, humiliated and alone.

The Way Greeks Live Now

By many indicators, Greece is devolving into something unprecedented in modern Western experience. A quarter of all Greek companies have gone out of business since 2009, and half of all small businesses in the country say they are unable to meet payroll. The suicide rate increased by 40 percent in the first half of 2011. A barter economy has sprung up, as people try to work around a broken financial system. Nearly half the population under 25 is unemployed. Last September, organizers of a government-sponsored seminar on emigrating to Australia, an event that drew 42 people a year earlier, were overwhelmed when 12,000 people signed up. Greek bankers told me that people had taken about one-third of their money out of their accounts; many, it seems, were keeping what savings they had under their beds or buried in their backyards. One banker, part of whose job these days is persuading people to keep their money in the bank, said to me, “Who would trust a Greek bank?”

Misery in Athens New Poor' Grows from Greek Middle Class

The "new poor" includes Lambros Zacharatos, who navigates the streets of Athens with Leonidas Koutikas in the Klimaka van night after night. Until last year, Zacharatos worked as an interior designer, earning up to €4,000 ($5,300) in a good month. "All of the sudden, boom, the crisis was here and 90 percent of the commissions were gone," he says. Zacharatos and two others sleep in a room above the Klimaka offices. The bunkbeds and veneer cabinet are reminiscent of a youth hostel.

Zacharatos says things happened very quickly. He lost his job, had no money to pay for his apartment, and within a few months he was out on the street. "Never in my worst nightmares would I have imagined that I would one day become homeless," he says.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2012

"High soda intake is a good marker for poor overall diet, and poor overall attention to health"

Carbonated drinks  what we call Soda is linked to lung disease


More bad news for soda lovers: in addition to obesity and heart disease, the sugary drinks may be tied to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Australian researchers found.

People who consumed at least a half a liter of soft drinks a day were more than twice as likely to develop either lung condition compared with those who didn't partake at all (OR 2.33, 95% CI 1.51 to 3.60), Zumin Shi, MD, of the University of Adelaide in Australia, and colleagues reported in Respirology.

The cross-sectional study, however, couldn't prove causality, and researchers not involved in the study suspect an overall unhealthy diet effect might be at play.

"High soda intake is a good marker for poor overall diet, and poor overall attention to health," David Katz, MD, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn.,
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:13 PM | Permalink

Happy Valentine's Day As Time Goes By

An all time favorite ballad by an all time great singer from an all time romantic movie.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:55 PM | Permalink

February 13, 2012

Life advice from Osama Bin Laden

'Do not follow me down the road to jihad. Go and get a good education in the West': Osama Bin Laden’s extraordinary instructions to his young children

Osama Bin Laden told his children to live peacefully in the West where they would get a good education, his brother-in-law has revealed.

Zakaria al-Sadah, whose sister is the fifth wife of the Al-Qaeda leader, said Bin Laden did not want his children and grandchildren following in the same path of terrorism like him.

'He told his own children and grandchildren, go to Europe and America and get a good education,' according to an interview with Sadah in The Sunday Times.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:52 AM | Permalink

Spiritus contra spiritum

In the New York Times, A Rabbi’s Teachings on Recovery Find a Wide Audience

Rabbi Taub’s thesis, the central insight of his teaching and writing. Addiction, he argues, is less a chemical dependency or a mental illness than the consequence of an individual’s absence from God and of the psychic pain that absence inflicts.

“The substance isn’t the addict’s problem,” Rabbi Taub put it at one point in his talk. “The substance is the addict’s best attempt at a solution.” The only true solution, he went on, is “a personal God experience,” a spiritual breakthrough that supplies “the deep-seated need for union with God.”
In saying overtly what the recovery movement often leaves deliberately ambiguous — the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous refer to a “Higher Power” without defining it — Rabbi Taub has become a phenomenon. Even as he is anchored within the Hasidic world, he has transcended it, first by reaching unaffiliated and secular Jews and then, most unexpectedly, by finding an eager audience among Christians.
Without any formal training in addiction treatment, Rabbi Taub entered the field experientially in 2006, leading a weekly group at a Chabad House in Milwaukee for Jewish men in recovery. Through the efforts he was struck by how many of the men had become observant in the course of getting clean and sober. He considered that turns of events no coincidence.

In the next several years, as he began to conduct research into addiction treatment, Rabbi Taub made a surprising and affirming discovery. It was a 1961 letter from Carl Jung to Bill Wilson, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous. In it, Jung, the legendary psychiatrist, directly recommended “union with God” as essential to recovery.

“Alcohol in Latin is ‘spiritus,’ ” Jung wrote, “and you use the same word for the highest religious experience as well as for the most depraving poison. The helpful formula therefore is: spiritus contra spiritum.” (The approximate translation would be spirituality against spirits of the alcoholic sort.)
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:33 AM | Permalink

February 11, 2012

Persecution of Christians

In Newsweek, Ayaan Hirsi Ali:The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World

From one end of the muslim world to the other, Christians are being murdered for their faith.

We hear so often about Muslims as victims of abuse in the West and combatants in the Arab Spring’s fight against tyranny. But, in fact, a wholly different kind of war is underway—an unrecognized battle costing thousands of lives. Christians are being killed in the Islamic world because of their religion. It is a rising genocide that ought to provoke global alarm.
But a fair-minded assessment of recent events and trends leads to the conclusion that the scale and severity of Islamophobia pales in comparison with the bloody Christophobia currently coursing through Muslim-majority nations from one end of the globe to the other. The conspiracy of silence surrounding this violent expression of religious intolerance has to stop. Nothing less than the fate of Christianity—and ultimately of all religious minorities—in the Islamic world is at stake.
It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.

Each month, Raymond Ibrahim documents Muslim Persecution of Christians.  The report for January 2012, is horrifying.  Each month is.

She was flogged -- given 40 lashes as hundreds of Muslim spectators jeered -- for embracing a "foreign religion."

More documentation of persecution for apostasy, attacks on churches, dhimmitude, abductions, ransom and murder.

Enraged by the voices of children singing carols at a nearby church, Muslims praying in a mosque decided to silence them—including with an axe: "The children were preparing for mass to be celebrated the next day which was a Sunday. The loud cheers became terrified whimpers when suddenly four men, one of them with an axe, barged into the church. The men slapped the children, wrecked the furniture, smashed the microphone on to the floor and kicked the altar. "You are disturbing our prayers. We can't pray properly. How dare you use the mike and speakers?" (Islam forbids Christians from celebrating loudly in church, banning bells, microphones, and other aids).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:10 PM | Permalink

Accommodation or shell game

Free birth control for women under Obamacare is bad policy.    First of all, It's not insurance.  Secondly,  the fertility of women is not a disease. 

Thirdly, women have easy access to whatever contraception they want at clinics across the country.  In the fourth place, it's not very expensive.  So why must rich and middle-class women be subsidized?  If the expense of birth control is financially out of reach for poor women who I point are eligible for Medicaid, then the focus should be on increasing the number of clinics who will pay for contraception for the very poor.

Taking a radical feminist position,  Nancy Pelosi says religious freedom is an 'excuse" when it comes to women's health.  I say women's health is the smokescreen to cover a grotesque overreach by this administration.

How much will free birth control cost?

Blue Cross’s unofficial estimate was that it would cost $2.8 billion for the contraceptive/sterilization/abortifacient coverage, and $13 billion for all preventive care services.

The Bishops respond to Obama's 'accommodation"

The bishops expressed their hope that the new regulatory mandates the president described today "appear subject to some measure of change." "But," they said, "we note at the outset that the lack of clear protection for key stakeholders—for self-insured religious employers; for religious and secular for-profit employers; for secular non-profit employers; for religious insurers; and for individuals—is unacceptable and must be corrected."

...we note that today's proposal continues to involve needless government intrusion in the internal governance of religious institutions, and to threaten government coercion of religious people and groups to violate their most deeply held convictions. In a nation dedicated to religious liberty as its first and founding principle, we should not be limited to negotiating within these parameters. The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services.

The Real Trouble With the Birth-Control Mandate

Critics are missing the main point. There are good reasons that your car-insurance company doesn't add $100 to your premium and then cover oil changes.
Insurance is supposed to mean a contract, by which a company pays for large, unanticipated expenses in return for a premium: expenses like your house burning down, your car getting stolen or a big medical bill.

Insurance is a bad idea for small, regular and predictable expenses. There are good reasons that your car insurance company doesn't add $100 per year to your premium and then cover oil changes, and that your health insurance doesn't charge $50 more per year and cover toothpaste.

The Washington Times editorializes, Obama's free abortion pills

It was typical of the administration to make the proposed deal a giveaway program. Mr. Obama seems to be saying that if you don’t see who is paying for the abortion pills then no one is...... It was a classic Obama compromise; he gets 100 percent of what he wants and the other side gets a lecture about fairness.

Obama goes Henry VIII on the Catholic church to proclaim The Church of Obama writes Mark Steyn

As his Friday morning faux-compromise confirms, the continued existence of a “faith-based institution” depends on submission to the doctrinal supremacy of the state.
As Philip Klein pointed out in the American Spectator two years ago, the Obamacare bill contained 700 references to the secretary “shall,” another 200 to the secretary “may,” and 139 to the secretary “determines.”.... In my latest book, I cite my personal favorite among the epic sweep of Commissar Sebelius’s jurisdictional authority:

“The Secretary shall develop oral healthcare components that shall include tooth-level surveillance.”
The bigger the Big Government, the smaller everything else: First, other pillars of civil society are crowded out of the public space; then, the individual gets crowded out, even in his most private, tooth-level space. President Obama, Commissar Sebelius, and many others believe in one-size-fits-all national government — uniformity, conformity, supremacy from Maine to Hawaii, for all but favored cronies. It is a doomed experiment — and on the morning after it will take a lot more than a morning-after pill to make it all go away.

Obama to Kids: Get the old kid to buy you beer

Obama offered his “compromise” exemption for religious institutions today regarding his contraception (sterilization and abortifacient) mandate. Now, instead of the religious institution having to pay for it directly, the insurance company (which the religious institution is paying) will pay for it instead.

The Wall Street Journal dubs it Immaculate Contraception calls it an accommodation that makes the birth-control mandate worse
The real audience for this non-compromise are the many voters shaken that the White House would so willfully erode the American traditions of religious liberty and pluralism, most of whom don't adhere to anti-contraceptive teachings.
There is simply no precedent for the government ordering private companies to offer a product for free, even if they recoup the costs indirectly. Why not do that with all health benefits and "bend the cost curve" to zero?

Charles Krauthammer calls it The Gospel According to Obama

Obama declares good works to be the essence of religiosity. Yet he turns around and, through Sebelius, tells the faithful who engage in good works that what they’re doing is not religion at all...The contradiction is glaring, the hypocrisy breathtaking. But that’s not why Obama offered a hasty compromise on Friday. It’s because the firestorm of protest was becoming a threat to his reelection.

John C. Wright, the science fiction writer, a one time atheist who became a  believer

The secularist society does not want to hear alternative thought; they want a simple “yes,” to whatever is on the agenda of the worldly world and suits its values. People seem not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes”—a self-actualized “yes” formed through an engagement with what is true, over what is reported; what is real, over what is caricature. A “yes” that is greater than the self, and lives beyond the moment.

Wright again

The Leftists now would prefer schools and charities and hospitals be penalized, fined, and closed rather than be run by Catholic charities, because we do not promote sterility and prenatal infanticide.

Those champions of freedom and progress would rather see children uneducated, the sick unhealed, the poor in the street and the prisoner in the jail go hungry and untended, rather that let our despicable and unclean Christian hands touch them.

A Catholic, a Protestant and a Rabbi get together and...United We Stand for Religious Freedom.

Unacceptable -former Vatican ambassador, Professor Robert George and others

Father Robert Barron on Secularism's Toll on Catholic Americans

There is a modality of secular liberalism that is not aggressive toward religion, but rather recognizes that religion makes an indispensable contribution to civil society. This more tolerant liberalism allows, not only for freedom of worship, but also for real freedom of religion, which is to say, the expression of religious values in the public square and the free play of religious ideas in the public conversation.

Most of our Founding Fathers advocated just this type of liberalism. But there is another modality of secularism — sadly on display in the current administration — that is actively aggressive toward religion, precisely because it sees religion as its primary rival in the public arena. Appreciating certain moral convictions as disvalues — think here especially of Catholic teachings concerning sexuality — it seeks to eliminate religion or at the very least to privatize and hence marginalize it. In doing so, it indeed reveals itself as totalitarian, for it allows no room in the public space for anything but itself.

The Anchoress

And so the story is not over, and no matter how much time and effort the mainstream media, the democrats and some of your own Catholic friends tries to tell you otherwise — it is not over. It is just going to recede to the backburners in the minds of many, while pressure is applied here and squeezes are put there.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:48 PM | Permalink


 Agemaps Bobby Neal Adams

The family portraits that age you... in a split-second

Photographer's 20-year project puts together series of amazing pictures of his relatives without using Photoshop
Some are spliced with younger selves - while others combine parents with their children

The incredible series of pictures called AgeMap is a 20-year project by Bobby Neel Adams, who also merges portraits of family members into one image in his Family Tree series.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:45 PM | Permalink

Getting Ovarian cancer wrong

Ovarian cancer breakthrough

Ovarian cancer is one of the most feared diseases, as it hard to detect and often leads to death.

And efforts to concoct a solution have been futile, as the cure rate has only been bumped up by two percent in the last three decades.

But a research team at McGill appears to have made a breakthrough by learning that the cancer actual begins in the fallopian tubes.

"We were barking the wrong tree. the name we got it wrong, we got the origin of ovarian cancer wrong. We got the test that we should be using for this wrong," said Dr. Lucy Gilbert, the MUHC oncologist who lead the research.

The revelation has led to better screening of the hard-to-detect condition, which is frequently overlooked because its first symptoms appear benign, they include bloating and more frequent urination.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 PM | Permalink

Reversing Alzheimer's in mice with a widely available cancer drug

Cancer Drug reverses Alzheimer's in Mice

A widely available cancer drug has shown remarkable success in reversing Alzheimer’s disease in mice, raising hope of a breakthrough against incurable dementia in humans, US researchers said Thursday.

Mice treated with the drug, known as bexarotene, became rapidly smarter and the plaque in their brains that was causing their Alzheimer’s started to disappear within hours, said the research in the journal Science.

“We were shocked and amazed,” lead author Gary Landreth of the Department of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Ohio told AFP.

“Things like this had never, ever been seen before,” he said.

The drug works by boosting levels of a protein, Apolipoprotein E (ApoE), that helps clear amyloid plaque buildup in the brain, a key hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
Six hours after mice got the drug, soluble amyloid levels fell by 25 percent, ultimately reaching 75 percent reductions. The effect lasted up to three days, said the study.

Soon after taking the drug, mice performed better on tests of mental ability and showed improved responses to odors.

via Instapundit who writes "Faster, Please".

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 PM | Permalink

February 10, 2012

“Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes”

The best joke of the year from The London Telegraph

Hundreds of Telegraph readers submitted jokes after comedian Tim Vine cemented his reputation as king of the one-liners by winning the Lafta awards Joke of the Year.

Vine's gag - “Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes” – saw off competition from acts including Jimmy Carr and Paul Daniels, the magician.

We asked readers to suggest their own favourite jokes. More than 3,600 votes were cast for the top ten.

Coming top with 736 votes was FMLuder's pun:

"I had a car crash the other day. A dwarf got out the other car and said, 'I'm not happy'.
To which I replied, 'Which one are you then."

Here's more one-liners from Tim Vine

Exit signs? They're on the way out!

Black Beauty? Now there's a dark horse!

Velcro? What a rip-off!

Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels.

Eric Bristow asked me why I put superglue on one of his darts. I said you just can't let it go can you?

I saw this advert in a window that said: “Television for sale, £1, volume stuck on full.” I thought, “I can’t turn that down.”

I've just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I'll tell you what, never again
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:58 PM | Permalink

February 9, 2012

Social media vs. Religion

In the Guardian, Alain de Botton: a life in writing. An atheist who appreciates religion.

Religions, he thinks, have the buttons and know how to use them. His book considers the Catholic mass, early Christianitiy's ritual of agape or love feasts, and Jewish Passover rituals to explore how religions encouraged us to overcome fear of strangers and create communities.

He then tentatively imagines a so-called "agape restaurant" where, instead of dining with like-minded friends, you would be invited to eat with strangers. It would be the antithesis of Facebook. "Social media has lots of benefits but compared to Christianity it tends to group people by interests. Religion puts you with people who have nothing in common except that you're human." It might be a welcome challenge, he suggests. "I think that's what we need at a societal level – hosts who are able to produce the benevolence, charity, curiosity and goodwill that are in all of us but we can't let out."
He thus suggests he and Oprah, unlike our philosophy departments, have a surer grasp on society's anxieties. "I once very politely raised the thought that one reason philosophy departments have been cut is the fault of philosophers. The answer always comes back: 'The point of philosophy is to ask questions, not to give answers.' I can't help but think 'No. It can't be!' Imagine if you applied that question to other areas – is the purpose of rocket science to ask questions about rockets?"

We need, he insists, answers to Oprah-like questions now more than ever. "We're quite adrift. Civilisation should be about the transmission of the best ideas and we don't seem to believe in transmission. We've no effective mechanism."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:24 AM | Permalink

Downtown Abbey Stars Offscreen

Have you wondered what the stars of Downtown Abbey are like off-screen? 

Papermag brings us Downton Abbey Stars On-Screen Vs. Off-Screen

 Mister Bates


Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:16 AM | Permalink

Speaking Truth to Power

Mark Joseph on The President and the Prophet, Obama's Unusual Encounter with Eric Metaxas.

If the organizers of the national prayer breakfast ever want a sitting president to attend their event again, they need to expect that any leader in his right mind is going to ask — no, demand — that he be allowed to see a copy of the keynote address that is traditionally given immediately before the president’s.

That’s how devastating was the speech given by a little known historical biographer named Eric Metaxas, whose clever wit and punchy humor barely disguised a series of heat-seeking missiles that were sent, intentionally or not, in the commander-in-chief’s direction.
But before the president could utter a word, it was Metaxas who delivered a devastating, albeit apparently unintentional critique of such God-talk, recounting his own religious upbringing which he described as culturally Christian yet simultaneously full of “phony religiosity.”

“I thought I was a Christian. I guess I was lost,” he matter-of-factly stated.

For some reason I can't embed the video from C-Span , but Justin Taylor did, so watch it here.  Metaxas is charming, funny, serious and profound Christian.    It may be the best thing you've seen all week whether you are a believer or not.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:09 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2012

When All Hell Let Loose

What happens when All Hell Let Loose?

Military historian Sir Max Hastings asks and answers the question

what happens when “almost everything which civilised people take for granted in time of peace [is] swept aside, above all the expectation of being protected from violence.”

The figures themselves almost overwhelm the reader: 60 million people died between 1939-45, both combatants and civilians, often in horrifying circumstances. Russia’s sacrifice of lives was immeasurably greater than all the other countries: 65 percent of the total.
He also shows the bungling and incompetence that are a characteristic of war and which often caused most casualties, commenting that in England “before peace came, accidents in the blackout killed more people than did the Luftwaffe.” The magnificent Churchillian rhetoric which Hastings rightly extols in his study of the wartime prime minister could not hide the fact that the British armed forces demonstrated continual “failures of will, leadership, equipment, tactics and training.” Where there was a will to win, as the author points out, it could not compete with the Russian or German brutal acceptance of the inevitability of huge
Interestingly, given the intellectual eminence of Germany, the author suggests that Britain’s claim to genuine success lay in the superiority of its application of science and technology.  The best civilian brains were mobilised in the war effort; the work of the boffins at Bletchley Park and the cracking of the German Enigma code were more effective in defeating the enemy than the campaigns in the field.
Yet as the author grimly reminds us, two million Russians also starved to death in territories controlled by their own governments; Stalin was as cynical about human life as was Hitler. His war aims, to grab as much territory in Eastern Europe as he could get away with, were equally selfish and at odds with human liberty.
He is dismissive of the German defence, “We did not know” when mass atrocities came to light after the War, concluding that it was “impossible” for most German civilians credibly to deny knowledge of the concentration camps or of the slave labour system. Again, referring to the Holocaust, he judges that it was “easy”, in one of the most highly educated societies in Europe, to find people willing to murder “those whom their rulers defined as state enemies, without employing duress.”

His book available at Amazon

'Unquestionably the best single-volume history of the war ever written’ The London Sunday Times

...an epic tale of human experience, from campaign to campaign, continent to continent.This magisterial book ranges across a vast canvas, from the Russian front, where more than 90% of all German soldiers who perished met their fate, to the agony of Poland amid the September 1939 Nazi invasion, and the 1943 Bengal famine, in which at least a million people died under British rule – and British neglect.

Via Tea at Trianon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

Could some obesity be infectious?

Gut microbe imbalance is catching, study finds

A study from Yale University found that both obesity and liver disease can be triggered by a family of proteins called inflammasomes that alter the balance of microbes in the stomach.

Amazingly, this altered intestinal environment can be passed on - making obesity an infectious condition.
The finding came to light during a study on stomach bacteria in mice.

Senior study author Professor Richard Flavell,said: 'When healthy mice were co-housed with mice that had altered gut microbes, the healthy mice also developed a susceptibility for development of liver disease and obesity.'

NAFLD is the result of metabolic syndrome, a collection of disorders that includes obesity and diabetes, and is the leading cause of chronic liver disease in the western world.

It is estimated that up to 30 million people suffer from NAFLD in the United States alone.

Professor Flavell said the next step will be to extend the research to see if the same effect can be seen in humans.
'We found, in mice, that targeted antibiotic treatment brought the microbial composition back to normal, and thus eased the liver disease.  Our hope is that our findings may eventually lead to a treatment for humans.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

February 5, 2012

Lighting up the night

 Timelapse Fireflies Tsuneaki Hiramatsu

Stunning time-lapse photographs of fireflies by Japanese photographer Tsuneaki Hiramatsu

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 PM | Permalink

February 4, 2012

"You're not the customer; you're the product"

This most devastating article on Facebook articulates why Facebook makes me so uncomfortable.  While I did set up an account
so I could read linked articles, I don't use it.  I just have a horror of my personal information that I would post becoming Facebook's property and I certainly don't like its privacy policy.   

Log off! -  one trenchant sceptic describes how the social network is ruthlessly selling your soul   by Tom Hodgkinson

in all this hysteria about the vast sums involved, has anyone thought to question what exactly Facebook is selling? The answer is both obvious and sinister: You.

Terrifyingly, the social networking site turns you into a product. It makes your friendships, marriages and children into a product.

Facebook tells its users: ‘It’s free and always will be.’ Now consider this bit of wisdom: If you’re not paying, you’re not the customer; you’re the product.’

The site — founded by famously low-key American Mark Zuckerberg — has always presented itself as a sort of altruistic social service. Its tagline reads: ‘Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.’

Now that sounds fairly harmless. What sort of curmudgeon could object to connecting and sharing?  In actual fact, though, Facebook is a gigantic, and really quite frightening, advertising scam. Its business model is to collect information about individual consumers (you) and sell that information back to advertisers.

These advertisers include global brands such as Coca-Cola and Blockbuster. They are seeking to extend their domination across the globe — and Facebook has provided a brilliant way of reaching ‘consumers’ all over the world, without having to go to the expense of putting up bill boards or buying ads in glossy magazines.

Facebook can be compared to an advertising executive walking into the pub, sitting between you and your friend, and flashing ads at you while you chat.

Accepting something for free — in this case, a networking service — actually puts you in the power of the service. They call the tune; and here the tune involves relinquishing your privacy and being subjected to lots of advertising.
One way in which they do this involves using ‘cookies’. Each time you search anything on the internet, information about your activity is gathered by the search engine — most of us use Google — and then used to build up a picture of your interests.

Facebook has 845 million users worldwide, and each is asked to provide information on their spending habits. This they willingly do. Users also upload photographs of themselves. All this information becomes the property of Facebook and is stored on their databases.

News that Facebook’s Timeline feature — which will expose people’s entire history on the site — is to become mandatory has sparked criticism that users’ privacy will be further compromised.
Indeed, it is young people who are the real victims of Facebook’s stratospheric rise: exposed to relentless advertising, easy prey for the cyber-bullies which haunt sites like Facebook, and worryingly vulnerable to predatory adults.
Child protection teams warned that cases involving bullies and sexual predators trebled on Facebook last year
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:27 AM | Permalink

Scepticism on recent jobs report

I would love to believe that the new jobs report is as 'positive in every way' as the economists say in the Wall Street Journal - an increase of 243,000 jobs that pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.3%.

But Zero Hedge has a devastating rebuttal using the same statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Implied Unemployment Rate Rises to 11.5%.

the spread between the reported and implied unemployment rate just soared to a fresh 30 year high of 3.2%. And that is how with a calculator and just one minute of math, one strips away countless hours of BLS propaganda.

Record 1.2 Million People Fall Out Of Labor Force In One Month, Labor Force Participation Rate Tumbles To Fresh 30 Year Low

Another disturbing indicator Social Security Trust Fund Outlook Takes $1 Trillion Dive

The outlook for Social Security's trust fund has deteriorated to an astonishing degree over the past year, new Congressional Budget Office projections show.

The nonpartisan budget scorekeeper released the estimates Tuesday as part of broader economic and budget forecasts. CBO expects the trust fund to peak in 2018 and decline to $2.7 trillion in 2022 — a full $1 trillion less than Social Security's own actuaries predicted last year.

The new trajectory suggests that the trust fund's current depletion date of 2036 may jump ahead several years when Social Security's trustees release their annual report this spring, making the retirement program more central to the 2012 election .

We're not only not out of the woods yet, we haven't even fully recognized the problem..

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:26 AM | Permalink

February 2, 2012

The big story in Washington that not many in the political class understood

Peggy Noonon on A Battle the President Can't Win

The big story took place in Washington. That's where a bomb went off that not many in the political class heard, or understood.

But President Obama just may have lost the election.

The president signed off on a Health and Human Services ruling that says under ObamaCare Catholic Institutions—including its charities, hospitals and schools—will be required by law, for the first time ever, to provide and pay for insurance coverage that includes contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures. If they do not, they will face ruinous fines in the millions of dollars. Or they can always go out of business.

In other words, the Catholic Church was told this week that its institutions can't be Catholic anymore.

I invite you to imagine the moment we are living in without the church's charities, hospitals and schools. And if you know anything about those organizations, you know it is a fantasy that they can afford millions in fines.

There was no reason to make this ruling—none. Except ideology.

The church is split on many things. But do Catholics in the pews want the government telling their church to contravene its beliefs? A president affronting the leadership of the church, and blithely threatening its great institutions? No, they don't want that. They will unite against that.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 PM | Permalink

Fundamental and radical secularism

Megan McArdle on whether the Church must dispense birth control

As Ross Douthat points out, the regulations seem to have nothing to do with whether the Catholic hospitals or other charities take public money; rather, it's the fact that they provide services to the public, rather than having an explicitly religious mission.

I've seen several versions of Kevin's complaint on the interwebs, and everyone makes it seems to assume that we're doing the Catholic Church a big old favor by allowing them to provide health care and other social services to a needy public.  Why, we're really coddling them, and it's about time they started acting a little grateful for everything we've done for them!

These people seem to be living in an alternate universe that I don't have access to, where there's a positive glut of secular organizations who are just dying to provide top-notch care for the sick, the poor, and the dispossessed.

In the universe where I live, some of the best charity care is provided by religious groups--in part because they have extremely strong fundraising capabilities, in part because they often have access to an extremely deep and motivated pool of volunteers, and in part because they are often able to generate significant returns to scale and longevity. And of course, the comparative discretion and decentralization of private charity, religious or secular, makes it much more effective in many (not all ways) than government entitlements. 
And I'm fairly certain that if I wanted to stage a confrontation with Catholic charities, it would not be over something as trivial as forcing them to provide birth control coverage to their employees.  Preventing pregnancy is not a low-frequency, high cost event, and thus it is not really insurable.  It's just a backdoor transfer from wages to birth control consumption.

Just why birth control has to be free to everyone is beyond me.  Mandates like this is one reason why the cost of health insurance continues to rise.    I think it's a bad policy.  But it's far worse than that.  The Administration has decided that free birth control trumps freedom of religion.    This is fundamentalist secularism and a massive assault against Catholic institutions.

Pope Benedict XVI was prophetic when he spoke to American bishops on their 'ad limina' visit to Rome just two weeks ago.

it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. 

Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.
Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices.

Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society.

I am not at all surprised that Catholic Backlash Against Obama Grows and it just might doom his chances for reelection.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:08 PM | Permalink

Honey's Golden Touch

This is why every home should have honey in its first aid kit.

Honey’s golden touch: Study finds liquid kills 85 per cent of bacteria found in hard-to-treat wounds

Honey could have the golden touch when it comes to keeping bugs at bay.

In tests, manuka honey eased and prevented hard-to-treat wound infections.

Just two hours of honey treatment killed 85 per cent of bacteria, the journal Microbiology reports.


The Cardiff University research showed that the honey makes it more difficult for bacteria to take over wounds, by preventing them from forming impenetrable ‘living film’.

While honey’s healing powers have been feted before the science behind its success has not been fully understood.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:33 PM | Permalink

Deadbeat Moms

This will challenge our conventional thinking.  Via Instapundit

Deadbeat Moms More Common Than Deadbeat Dads.

The percentage of "deadbeat" moms is actually higher than that of dads who won't pay, even though mothers are more consistently awarded custody of children by the courts.

Census figures show only 57 percent of moms required to pay child support -- 385,000 women out of a total of 674,000 -- give up some or all of the money they owe. That leaves some 289,000 "deadbeat" mothers out there, a fact that has barely been reported in the media.

That compares with 68 percent of dads who pay up, according to the figures.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:30 PM | Permalink

Carbonated drinks increases risk of heart attack, stroke

For all those who just can't get going without a Coke in the morning or in the afternoon, you better reconsider.  You're far better off with coffee or tea, hot or iced. 

A daily can of diet fizzy drink 'increases risk of heart attack or stroke'

Those who drink diet soft drinks daily are '43 per cent more likely' to have heart attacks

Carbonated drinks can cause long-term liver damage similar to that of chronic alcoholism

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center claim those who drink diet soft drinks are 43 per cent more likely to have heart attacks, vascular disease or strokes than those who have none.

Previous analysis of soft drinks has shown that the soft drinks, which have a substantial amount of artificial sweeteners, can cause liver disease similar to that caused by chronic alcoholism.
The U.S. research team studied the soft drink and diet soft drink consumption of 2,564 study participants over a 10-year period - along with their risk of stroke, heart attack and vascular death. 

They found those who drank diet soft drinks every day were 43 per cent more likely to have suffered a 'vascular' or blood vessel event than those who drank none, after allowing for pre-existing vascular conditions such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and high blood pressure.
The latest study appears in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:02 PM | Permalink

Children of divorce

How divorce ruins childrens' lives

A new study on divorce, looking at the complete spectrum of research on the subject, confirms what most people already know – even if they are not willing to admit it: divorce causes “irreparable harm” to the whole family, but  particularly to the children.

There have been plenty of individual studies exposing one or more effects of divorce, but rarely do researchers give an overview of the findings to date – and it makes disturbing reading.
In short, if a society wanted to reduce children’s chances of living a happy and fulfilled it could find few better ways to do it than by promoting divorce. Why then do so many “advanced economies” allow easy divorce?

From the report, The Effects of Divorce on Children from the Marriage and Religion Research Institute

Each year, over a million American children suffer the divorce of their parents. Divorce causes irreparable harm to all involved, but most especially to the children. Though it might be shown to benefit some individuals in some individual cases, over all it causes a temporary decrease in an individual's quality of life and puts some "on a downward trajectory from which they might never fully recover."

Divorce damages society. It consumes social and human capital. It substantially increases cost to the taxpayer, while diminishing the taxpaying portion of society. It diminishes children's future competence in all five of society's major tasks or institutions: family, school, religion, marketplace and government.
Divorce detrimentally impacts individuals and society in numerous other ways:

Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
Education: Divorce diminishes children's learning capacity and educational attainment.
The marketplace: Divorce reduces household income and deeply cuts individual earning capacity.
Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children's health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:57 PM | Permalink


A new smartphone application to report crimes, Crimepush

the latest in mobile technology to provide urban populations with fast, discrete, and intelligent safety assistance. After being held at gunpoint on the streets of Washington, DC co-founder, Shayan Pahlevani thought of a way to conveniently help report and prevent crimes for the 21st century.

The company utilizes Smartphone technology to put crime reporting, literally, in the hands of users. After downloading the free iPhone or Android application, users can report an ongoing crime with the push of a button. A package of information including the location of the crime, photo, video, audio, and text description of the crime are sent to authorities immediately. The application also allows for users to report crime anonymously so that they may continue with their busy lives knowing that with a push of a button, police will know and have everything to pursue the criminal. Ordinary users become the eyes and ears of authorities.
Pahlevani tells us to take a moment to think about the number of crimes that go unreported. “Often people are witness to crimes, such as sexual assault and robbery, but do not take the time or effort to call the police. There are other times when personal security is at stake and there is no discreet method of alert,” says Pahlevani. “Opening a new channel via a mobile application, youth populations will be more motivated to provide crime tips and informants will have better tools utilizing a phone’s built-in technology to capture audio, image, or video evidence.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

Vit D, the Sunshine Vitamin

If you live and work  in the northern half of the country, it's almost impossible to get enough vitamin D in the winter from sunshine alone.  So take a supplement.    The RDA for adults according to the National Institutes for Health is  600 IU.

Colds, heart disease, even cancer: Why the weather could be to blame

Low levels of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ have been linked to conditions ranging from colds to heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Last week, it was reported low levels may be linked to cot death.
Vitamin D not only helps the body absorb calcium (vital for healthy bones), but also plays a part in the immune system by helping reduce inflammation in the body.

This may explain the link with disease — chronic inflammation is thought to trigger heart disease and cancer. Vitamin  D also regulates cell growth, which might explain any possible cancer link.
It's been well known for years that low levels of the nutrient are linked to weak bones in adults and children. But there has been a spate of studies linking it to a range of major health problems, many of which are on the rise.

These include diabetes — one study last year found obese children with low levels of vitamin D were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes as adults.

Another found adults with low levels had a 57 per cent increased risk of developing the disease.  There could also be a link to the auto-immune condition Crohn’s disease. Researchers found patients may have a reduced ability to absorb the vitamin. 

Vitamin D has been linked to cancer. A study in the BMJ showed those with the highest levels of the vitamin in their blood had a 40 per cent lower risk of bowel cancer compared to those with the lowest levels of the vitamin.

Researchers have also suggested a link between vitamin D deficiency and multiple sclerosis. Low levels have even been linked to rheumatoid arthritis.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:50 PM | Permalink