April 28, 2012

We are probably all alone

I think this is probably the case.

Scientists say Earth may be a 'one-off fluke' and the Milky Way's billions of other planets may all be lifeless

Nasa has said there are 'billions' of planets in our own Milky Way galaxy - but a new study suggests that the idea that they are teeming with alien lifeforms may just be wishful thinking.

Two Princeton scientists used what's known as 'Bayesian analysis' - a technique that 'boils down' ideas to the actual data, as opposed to scientists' own ideas about what 'should' be true.

They suggest that it's very possible Earth is a one-off aberration where life took hold unusually fast - and on the average extraterrestrial planet, the chances of life are very low indeed.

 Sunrise From Space

"Sometimes I think we're alone in the universe, and sometimes I think we're not. In either case, the idea is quite staggering."
Arthur C. Clarke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 PM | Permalink

Before you leave the hospital, do these five things

A physician writes Before You Ditch The Hospital, Don't Forget To Do These 5 Things

The day we get to go home from the hospital after a surgery or sickness …[is] a major step from illness to recovery, but it is also a potential disaster for the ill-prepared.
Hospital stays are getting shorter every year and discharge doesn't occur when you are healed, but instead at a point where you can go to a less expensive location to recover. Most commonly, that place is your home. The only guaranteed aspect of your transition home is that it will not go as planned. You will be bombarded with more information than you can keep straight.
1. MEDICATIONS: It seems obvious, but this is the greatest source of confusion. …. You need to have your nurse or doctor carefully go over your old and new list [of medications] to make sure everyone is on the same page. Another tip: Only use one pharmacy, so that the pharmacist will have a record of all your medicines and can identify any potential problems. Have the hospital or pharmacy fax your final list of medications to your primary doctor. So often the doctor who takes care of you in the hospital is not the doctor who will follow you once you go home.

2. RED FLAGS:…Don't settle for the computer-generated form that the hospital hands out to patients. Ask your doctor for your specific condition's red flags. How much pain is too much pain? How long will it continue to hurt when you urinate? How much longer will I be coughing? Is there anything special that should make me run to the hospital, rather than call my doctor?

3. WHO TO CALL: Get the specific phone numbers of who to call if there is a problem. My wife had surgery on a Friday, so I asked the doctor for the name of who would be on call that weekend, and if he would let them know that we were out there. Make sure that someone at the hospital you are leaving lets your primary care doctor know that you are loose on the street. I always give patients a copy of their entire lab and x-ray reports to carry back to their main doctor. If they get into trouble before a scheduled appointment, then they have the critical information with them.

4. FOLLOW-UP: One of the main causes of readmission to the hospital is that the patient has not had appropriate follow-up after they leave the hospital. You may be told to see your regular doctor in 10 days, but when you call, they cannot see you for six weeks. Have the nurse or case manager at the hospital you are leaving call and make the appointment. Insist on it.

5. START A NOTEBOOK: . As a rule, when you come home from the hospital you have bundles of papers, some important and others destined for the recycling bin. Stick the important ones in a notebook or folder….. Take your notebook with you to each doctor's visit so you have a list of your medicines, doctor's names, laboratory results, and instructions all in one place.

If you cannot get all of these questions answered yourself, then assign one family member to be in charge of the process. It is our -- your healthcare providers' -- responsibility to make sure you get the information, but ultimately, it is going to be your responsibility to remember everything, and make sure you have all of your facts straight. Whether you believe it is fair or not, no one is going to organize all this for you -- it is your responsibility, and in your best interests, to get it together.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:12 PM | Permalink

"Thinking about death can make your life better"

Life Advice: Think More about Death

A new paper published in Personality and Social Psychology Review looks over the accumulated evidence and concludes that thinking about death can make your life better…..researchers led by Kenneth E. Vail III at the University of Missouri, Columbia, say the perks of morbid thinking are too great to ignore.
Conscious reminders of death can encourage people to stay healthy and pursue their goals.
When people were asked to list their goals immediately after answering questions about death, they placed more importance on what psychologists call "intrinsic" goals--those related to relationships and personal growth, for example, rather than wealth or attractiveness.
Thoughts about dying may strengthen our bonds to others, too. Studies have found that after reminders of mortality, people feel more committed to their romantic relationships and strive more for intimacy. They're also more inclined to have children.
Tapping into the benefits of our fear of death, the authors say, could make people "more inclusive, cooperative, and peaceful." The downside of our psychological response to death is hostility toward outsiders. But as long as people view themselves as part of a larger community, thinking about our mortality can encourage us to clean up our acts. We may be more helpful to others, more committed to our relationships, more focused on healthy habits, and more thoughtful about our long-term goals.

All the spiritual traditions I know of say the same thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 PM | Permalink

April 27, 2012

A Pause for Beauty

Every day there comes the point when I can not stomach any more news.  That's when I turn to  Beauty. 

A newly-discovered, but now essential blog for me is Colossal.  Christopher Jobson, creator and editor says,

I often describe Colossal as a blog that explores the intersection of art, design, and physical craft. I enjoy artwork that is tactile, physical and non-digital in nature, especially sculptural work and installations that use impossible numbers of components, or sequences in a process. During the course of a week you’ll find roughly 15-20 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing and street art. I share things that I feel are accessible to everyone, requiring little explanation or theory, so in that sense, I hope people not involved directly in the arts can also find it interesting.
Some examples:

Gravity-Defying Land Art by Cornelis Konrads

 Moment Of Decision

Drawing with Leaves

 Drawing With Leaves

Book Igloo


Gorgeous Macro Photographs of Dew-Soaked Dandelions by Sharon Johnstone

 Dew Soaked Dandelion

24 Hours of Photographs Merged into a Single Panoramic Image

 24Hr-Panormaic Chris Kotsiopoloulos

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:13 PM | Permalink

Italian style

Italy can still teach our Congressmen a thing or two.

What is it with you Italians?

The Italians despise the politicians they elect because they are hugely paid, hugely corrupt, and hugely useless. They can blame no one but themselves, because each nation gets the politicians it deserves. Once upon a time before I knew better I used to think there was a solution: Catch the Italians young before it is too late and force them to spend an entire day each week at school learning the difference between right and wrong and why this matters. But then I remembered that they are all Catholics and the Catholic Church does all that anyway. And look where that has got the Italians! So then it dawned on me: It’s gotta be in their DNA.
There are 435 Congressmen in America (population 311 million) and 100 Senators; their gross basic salary is $174,000. There are 630 Deputati, as members of the Lower House are called in Italy (population 60 million) and 315 Senatori. Average salary is around 200,000 euro ($261,000) according to a recent survey of European politicians’ incomes.

Italy’s politicians the highest-paid in Europe.
Italian politicians usually have second jobs, because let’s face it: They have a lot of time on their hands. I know one of them: He is a newspaper columnist with whom I am coauthoring a book on Benito Mussolini. My coauthor declared earnings for 2011, I noted recently with a great deal of irritation, of 340,000 euro ($444,000).
after three years on the job, for example, they are entitled to a fat inflation-proof pension when they reach 60 (which most of them already are). Planes, trains, stamps, gym, cinema, theater, life and personal-injury insurance, hairdresser, tennis, and English lessons—you name it, they get it free.

Obviously, they also get free private health and dental care for themselves and their families.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:52 PM | Permalink

Obamacare and Pope Leo XIII, the handwriting on the wall

Recommended by the Scrapbook. here are a couple of very good articles to read over the weekend

The most intelligent article I've read about How to Replace Obamacare by James Capretta and Robert Moffit in National Affairs .

The Handwriting on the Wall by George Weigel

the words on the wall at this moment in history speak of the results of a negation — a deconstruction — of the deep truths on which the civilization of the West has been built. And one of the main things that the "handwriting on the wall" in the early 21st century is telling us is that the secular project is over.

By "secular project," I mean the effort, extending over the past two centuries or more, to erect an empty shrine at the heart of political modernity.
In both its hard and soft forms, the secular project was wrong. Above all, it ignored the deep truth that it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make democracy and the free economy work properly. People of that kind do not just happen. They must be formed in the habits of heart and mind, the virtues that enable them to guide the machinery of free politics and free economics so that the net outcome is human flourishing and the promotion of the common good. There is no such formation in the virtues of freedom available at the empty shrine.

A glimpse of what the empty shrine does produce was on offer late last summer in Great Britain, when packs of feral young people rampaged through city after city in an orgy of self-indulgence, theft, and destruction. The truth of what all that was about was most powerfully articulated by Lord Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, writing in the Wall Street Journal:

This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that had been building for years. The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people…[who are the products of] a tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West, saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality, and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.
That false worship of the Self — the worship of that which is not worthy of worship — has led to a severe attenuation of the moral sinews of democratic culture: the commitment to reason and truth-telling in debate; the courage to face hard facts squarely; the willingness to concede that others may have something to teach us; the ability to distinguish between prudent compromise and the abandonment of principle; the very idea of the common good, which may demand personal sacrifice.
Taking a cue from that great philosophical celebrant of irony, Richard Rorty, Colgate University's Robert Kraynak has neatly described the net result of all this as "freeloading atheism": Like Belshazzar's lords, wives, and concubines, those formed by the empty shrine and the worship of the imperial, autonomous Self have been drinking profligately out of sacred vessels, freeloading on moral truths that they do not acknowledge (and in many cases hold in contempt), but which are essential for sustaining democracy and the free economy, which the freeloaders claim to honor. But as Lord Sacks pointed out last summer, that jig is up.
What I have called the "empty shrine" at the center of political modernity was, for Leo XIII, the result of a dramatic revolution in European intellectual life in which metaphysics had been displaced from the center of reflection, thinking-about-thinking had replaced thinking-about-truth, and governance had therefore come unstuck from the first principles of justice. Science, which had replaced metaphysics as the most consequential of intellectual disciplines, could provide no answer to the moral question with which all politics, in the Western tradition, begins: How ought we to live together? Worse, when science stepped outside its disciplinary boundaries and tried its hand at social and political prescription, it let loose new demons, such as Social Darwinism, that would prove astonishingly lethal when they shaped the national tempers that made possible the great slaughters of the First World War.
Leo XIII insisted that freedom is not sheer willfulness. Rather, as Leo's successor John Paul II would later put it, freedom is the human capacity to know what is truly good, to choose it freely, and to do so as a matter of habit, or virtue. According to this line of argument, a talent for freedom grows in us; we cut short that learning process if we insist, with the culture of the imperial autonomous Self, that my freedom consists in doing what I want to do, now.
"The handwriting on the wall" at this moment in history is telling us that a political culture detached from the deep truths embedded in the human condition eventually yields traits of selfishness and irresponsibility that ill befit citizens of a democracy. "The handwriting on the wall" is telling us that a democratic politics that ignores those deep truths eventually dissolves into thinly disguised dictatorship — the dictatorship of relativism. And if that is the message, then our duty comes into clearer focus, too.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:27 PM | Permalink

Repeating patterns in nature and the cosmos

God, being a fine artist does not repeat himself, but he does rhyme.

 God Braincell Universe

See it in hi-res and read the text.

From sea shells to spiral galaxies, repeating patterns are the law of nature and the cosmos.  There's a long article at the Journal of Cosmology by Rhawn Joseph that teases out the mathematical implications with some beautiful examples

The symmetry and patterns exhibited by elementary particles, atoms, snail shells, sea shells, whirlpools, cyclones, solar systems, and spiral galaxies, should be applied to all galaxies, collectively, and to the cosmos. What these patterns have in common is they can be predicted from formulations first proposed by Pythagoras, and secondly, all orbit an eye or hole at their center.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:14 PM | Permalink

Why Women Make Less Than Men

They work fewer hours for pay

Kay Hymowitz: Why Women Make Less Than Men

In studies from the U.S. to Sweden, pay discrimination can't explain the disparity. Women earn less because they work fewer hours.
The main reason that women spend less time at work than men—and that women are unlikely to be the richer sex—is obvious: children. Today, childless 20-something women do earn more than their male peers. But most are likely to cut back their hours after they have kids, giving men the hours, and income, advantage.
Women, in fact, make up two-thirds of America's part-time workforce
A 2007 Pew Research survey came up with similar results for American women: Among working mothers with minor children, 60% said they would prefer to work part-time, while only 21% wanted to be in the office full-time (and 19% said they'd like to give up their job altogether). How about working fathers? Only 12% would choose part-time and 70% wanted to be full-time.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:37 PM | Permalink

April 25, 2012

"The Constitution is wrong" How about the People's Rights Amendment?

The Constitution is your patrimony.  Be very aware of the people who want to amend it out of existence. 

Abraham Lincoln said,
"Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties."

George Washington said,  “The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon”

Sam Adams, “"The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men."

Patrick Henry said,  “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government - lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

Henry Clay,  “The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity- unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity

Enter Jim McGovern, (D) US Representative from Worcester, MA., “The Constitution is wrong.”

Now he is sponsoring the People's Rights Amendment in what Jeff Jacoby calls a 'flawed war'

McGovern’s problem, it turns out, is with the Bill of Rights. He objects to the way it safeguards fundamental rights — such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances — not only when citizens act as lone individuals, but also when they unite as corporations in order to pool their assets and act more efficiently.

Like many on the left, McGovern has gone batty on the subject of “corporate personhood.” This is a perfectly commonplace, centuries-old legal construct that makes it possible for individuals organized as a group to carry out their affairs effectively. Because corporations are legal “persons,” for example, they can rent property without requiring the signature of every shareholder on every lease. They can be sued in court as single entities, without obliging plaintiffs to go after tens of thousands of individual defendants. They can be taxed. They can enter into contracts. They can register patents.

What infuriates many liberals is that corporations can also express political views, spending money to take sides in contested elections.  . “Corporations are not people,” scowled McGovern at a Democratic forum last week…..So the congressman proposes to strip corporations of all constitutional liberties and guarantees.
Under McGovern’s proposal, corporations — for-profit and nonprofit alike —would have no more rights than legislators chose to give them. Congress could ban ExxonMobil and R.J. Reynolds from commenting on any public issue, and they would have no recourse to the First Amendment. But it isn’t only Big Oil and Big Tobacco that could be censored with impunity. So could Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association. So could the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Museum of Fine Arts. So could innumerable universities, charities, churches, small businesses, and government watchdogs. And so, of course, could most newspapers, magazines, TV networks, and book publishers. Corporations of every kind would lose their constitutional defenses. Vast swaths of American life would be permanently vulnerable to the whims and vendettas of politicians.

And what is true of First Amendment rights would be true of all the others: Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, due process under law, the right to trial by jury — corporations could be stripped of them all.

McGovern and Pelosi may honestly imagine that mutilating the Constitution in this way will make American democracy more wholesome and less corrupt. What it would really do is empower the political class to a degree never before seen in our history. Far from reinvigorating the dream of the Founding Fathers, the People’s Rights Amendment would transform it into a nightmare.

The National Review editorializes, Keep the First Amendment

The phrase “stunning development” is used far too often in our politics, but here is an item that can be described in no other way: Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats, frustrated by the fact that the Bill of Rights interferes with their desire to muzzle their political opponents, have proposed to repeal the First Amendment.

That is precisely what the so-called People’s Rights Amendment would do. If this amendment were to be enacted, the cardinal rights protected by the First Amendment — free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances — would be redefined and reduced to the point of unrecognizability. The amendment would hold that the rights protected by the Constitution are enjoyed only by individuals acting individually; individuals acting in collaboration with others would be stripped of those rights.
The so-called People’s Rights Amendment would have some strange consequences: Newspapers, television networks, magazines, and online journalism operations typically are incorporated. So are political parties and campaign committees, to say nothing of nonprofits, business associations, and the like. Under the People’s Rights Amendment, Thomas Friedman would still enjoy putative First Amendment protection, but it would not do him much good inasmuch as the New York Times Company, being a corporation, would no longer be protected by the First Amendment. In short, any political speech more complex than standing on a soapbox at an intersection would be subject to the whims of Nancy Pelosi.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 PM | Permalink

Comparing the historicity of Muhammed and Christ

This is out of left field and fascinating.

Muhammad Sven Kalisch, a Muslim convert and Germany's first professor of Islamic theology has concluded that The Prophet Muhammed probably never existed,

When Prof. Kalisch took up his theology chair four years ago, he was seen as proof that modern Western scholarship and Islamic ways can mingle -- and counter the influence of radical preachers in Germany. He was put in charge of a new program at Münster, one of Germany's oldest and most respected universities, to train teachers in state schools to teach Muslim pupils about their faith.
Prof. Kalisch, who insists he's still a Muslim, says he knew he would get in trouble but wanted to subject Islam to the same scrutiny as Christianity and Judaism. German scholars of the 19th century, he notes, were among the first to raise questions about the historical accuracy of the Bible.
The earliest biography, of which no copies survive, dated from roughly a century after the generally accepted year of his death, 632, and is known only by references to it in much later texts.
He was struck, he says, by the fact that the first coins bearing Muhammad's name did not appear until the late 7th century -- six decades after the religion did.
He traded ideas with some scholars in Saarbrücken who in recent years have been pushing the idea of Muhammad's nonexistence. They claim that "Muhammad" wasn't the name of a person but a title, and that Islam began as a Christian heresy.

At the same time, Robert Spencer has come out with a new book, Did Muhammed Exist? I learned in a book review who lays out Spencer's evidence.

1.  There are no documents from the 7th and 8th centuries written by independent observers.
2.  Even among Arabic documents and artifacts, there is no mention of or example of any Qur’anic text until the year 691, a full 80 years after Muhammad supposedly started dictating it, and 60 years after it was completed and purportedly became the central text of Arab society.
3. The name Muhammad actually appears in the Qur’an only four times, and in three of those instances it could be used as a title — the “praised one” or “chosen one” — rather than as a proper name. By contrast, Moses is mentioned by name 136 times, and Abraham, 79 times. Even Pharaoh is mentioned 74 times. Meanwhile, “messenger of Allah” (rasul Allah) appears in various forms 300 times, and “prophet” (nabi), 43 times.
4. While the Qur’an is nearly silent on Muhammad, the Hadiths — a sort of second-tier commentary on the Qur’an written much later but nonetheless regarded as sacred and authoritative Islamic texts — discuss Muhammad and his life in endless detail….none of which date from earlier than two centuries after Muhammad’s death.
5. The earliest biography of Muhammad, upon which all subsequent biographies are based, was not written until a century after his death, in an era of few or no written records, when all potential eyewitnesses were long dead; and furthermore, that original biography is itself long gone, and all we have left is a much later copy, the author of which frankly confesses he left out all the embarrassing parts?
Did Muhammad Exist? is essentially one big hoisting of Islam by its own petard. A religion that purports to be “revealed,” and perfect and unchanging from its inception, has a serious burden of proof; but as Spencer shows, Islam fails to supply that proof.

By contrast, the proof that Jesus really existed is overwhelming despite the fact that many, atheists in particular, dispute this.

Here you can find laid out extra-biblical sources for the historicity of Jesus Christ

Secular sources.  The Roman historians: Tacitus (55-120 AD), Suetonius (69-130AD),  Thallus (~52AD), Pliny the Younger (63-113 AD), Celsus (~178 AD), Lucian of Samosata (12-~180 AD)

Jewish evidence.  The Babylonian Talmud and the Jewish historian Josephus who wrote in Antiquities 18.63-64

About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he . . . wrought surprising feats. . . . He was the Christ. When Pilate . . .condemned him to be crucified, those who had . . . come to love him did not give up their affection for him. On the third day he appeared . . . restored to life. . . . And the tribe of Christians . . . has . . . not disappeared

Extra-Biblical (Christian) Evidence.  Clement of Rome (?~98AD), Ignatius of Antioch (? - ~ 100 AD), Quadratus of Athens (126 AD), Aristides the Athenian (126 AD), Justin Martyr (~100-165 AD), Hegesippus (110 AD - 180 AD)

The dates of the writing of the gospels was most likely prior to AD 70 when the Temple in Jerusalem was still standing and eyewitnesses were still around

Dating back from the Acts of the Apostles which was written about 62 AD

Gospel of Luke around 60 AD
Gospel of Mark, sometime in the 50s AD
Gospel of Matthew, the first gospel written in AD 41 according to Church father Eusebius by the apostle Matthew, an eyewitness.
Gospel of John  prior to 70 AD by the apostle John, an eyewitness.

Then there is the matter of prophecy.    There are none for Muhammed.  By contrast, the 300 Messianic prophecies were written by various prophets in the thousand years before Christ.

They spoke of a Messiah who would one day come to earth and walk among mankind. These prophecies mentioned
specific names, locations, and even the timing surrounding His appearance. The known date of completion for the
Old Testament writings is 430 B.C., so these prophecies were in circulation at least 430 years before the time of
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 PM | Permalink

Happiness Ascendant

An excerpt on happiness from Jerome Kagan's new book, Psychology's Ghosts as reviewed by Carol Tavris

In his second essay, "Happiness Ascendant," Mr. Kagan virtually demolishes the popular academic effort to measure "subjective well-being," let alone to measure and compare the level of happiness of entire nations. No psychologist, he observes, would accept as reliable your own answer to the question: "How good is your memory?" Whether your answer is "great" or "terrible," you have no way of knowing whether your memory of your memories is accurate. But psychologists, Mr. Kagan argues, are willing to accept people's answer to how happy they are as if it "is an accurate measure of a psychological state whose definition remains fuzzy."

Many people will tell you that having many friends, a fortune or freedom is essential to happiness, but Mr. Kagan believes they are wrong. "A fundamental requirement for feelings of serenity and satisfaction," Mr. Kagan says, is "commitment to a few unquestioned ethical beliefs" and the confidence that one lives in a community and country that promote justice and fair play. "Even four-year-olds have a tantrum," he notes, "if a parent violates their sense of fairness." His diagnosis of the "storm of hostility" felt by Americans on the right and left, and the depression and anomie among so many young people, is that this essential requirement has been frustrated by the bleak events of the past decades. War, corruption, the housing bubble and the financial crisis, not to mention the fact that so many of those responsible have not been held unaccountable, have eroded optimism, pride and the fundamental need to believe the world is fair.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 PM | Permalink

The world's oldest divorcees

99-year-old divorces wife after he discovered 1940s affair

An Italian couple are to become the world's oldest divorcees, after the 99-year-old husband found that his 96-year-old wife had an affair in the 1940s.

The Italian man, identified by lawyers in the case only as Antonio C, was rifling through an old chest of drawers when he made the discovery a few days before Christmas.

Notwithstanding the time that had elapsed since the betrayal, he was so upset that he immediately confronted his wife of 77 years, named as Rosa C, and demanded a divorce.

Guilt-stricken, she reportedly confessed everything but was unable to persuade her husband to reconsider his decision.

She wrote the letters to her lover during a secret affair in the 1940s, according to court papers released in Rome this week.

The couple are now preparing to split, despite the ties they forged over nearly eight decades – they have five children, a dozen grandchildren and one great-grand child.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 PM | Permalink

April 24, 2012

“It’s scary, isn’t it?”

Egg-Producing Human Ovarian Stem Cells Concern Ethicists

Human eggs apparently now can be produced in a lab dish from stem cells derived from adult women’s ovaries.

That is the promise of groundbreaking research by Harvard Medical School professor Jonathan Tilly.

The finding raises possibilities such as a limitless supply of lab-grown human eggs for experimentation and fertilization from one woman, as well as some sort of embryonic stem cell-derived, anti-aging elixir.

Tilly’s research team at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Vincent Center for Reproductive Biology published their findings — which turn a half century of embryology orthodoxy on its head — in the March issue of Nature Medicine.
[E]mbryo researcher Tilly is flush with the possibilities from his discovery of ovarian stem cells — from bottomless egg banks to youth-restoring ovarian stem-cell transplants. When maintained outside the body, he told Nature Video, the cells “are more than happy to make eggs on their own. And if we can guide that process correctly, I think it opens up the chance that some time in the future we might get to the point of having an unlimited source of human eggs — that a woman could come in, have a small biopsy taken from her ovary for us to retrieve these cells, and once we get these cells out, we can take 100 of them and make a million of them.”

But what purpose could a million human eggs in a laboratory serve?

None good,
thinks Father Alfred Cioffi of the National Catholic Bioethics Center. “There is one word for this: eugenics. Europe is reverting to the blinding fever that led to the Second World War.”

Even researcher Anderson sees the import. “It’s scary, isn’t it?” he said.

I'll say.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:45 PM | Permalink

Heart to Heart

A wonderful story of unlikely love.

We found love while waiting for new hearts: Young couple awaiting transplants at same hospital fall for each other

Two teenagers awaiting heart transplants at a Texas hospital got more than they hoped for - when they fell in love.

Linda Thibodeaux and Jordan Merecka were waiting for the life-saving surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston when their physical therapists and nurses thought they should meet.

Linda had just been fitted with a new heart, which was the second transplant she had undergone, while Jordan, 18, was still hoping for a suitable match.

Instead, he was living on an artificial heart named SynCardia that weighed 400 pounds, which he had to drag along to their first awkward encounter.

But the pair bonded over their extraordinary struggles for survival.

'I'd never met anyone my age who was going through pretty much the same exact thing,' Linda told ABC13. 'Its a connection you can't really have with anyone else.'

'You're never probably ever going to find someone else who knows what you've been through and relate to it like she can,' added Jordan.

Jordan remained on his mechanical heart for five months while he waited for a suitable donor.

On the brink of death, a match was finally found.

'I felt like myself getting a whole new heart again, but it was him and it was a beautiful moment,' said Linda.

Their romance blossomed as they recovered from their respective surgeries and, six months later, they are both healthy and campaigning for more organ donors.

'I wouldn't be here without someone donating their heart and it's such a selfless act,' Linda said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:47 PM | Permalink

The beauty of the world below

Spectacular underwater images from the University of Miami's annual Underwater Photography contest.

'The quality of photos keeps getting better each year,' UM lecturer and photographer Myron Wang who judged among the panel of experts said in a release by the school

 Beneath Mangroves Matthew Potenski
Under mangrove trees

 Swimming Jellyfish
Sea nettle jellyfish swimming

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:05 PM | Permalink

“Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

Sherry Turkle muses on The Flight from Conversation

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.
A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”
A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay.
Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this.
WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:41 PM | Permalink

April 21, 2012

EU calls WWII the 'European Civil War'

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." wrote George Santayana

European Union to Rechristen World War II as the 'European Civil War'

Today we learn that the European Union (our real ruler) is opening a £44m museum that will be a House of European History. This vanity project in and of itself is an offensive waste of money as governments and peoples tighten belts across Europe.

That's right: a European Civil War that saws millions fight and die in theaters around the world in places as diverse as Tobruk, Pearl Harbour and the Burma Railway.

What greater calculated insult can there be to those from India, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and across the world who fought and died to defend freedom from Nazi and Japanese tyranny?

Mark Steyn comments

the geographical myopia but the fundamental dishonesty of the characterization: If this were truly a “European Civil War”, it would have been over in nothing flat, because on the Continent of Europe every nation was either neutral, conquered, or on the wrong side. It’s hard to have a civil war with only one team. The only thing that makes it a “European” civil war at all is that, after the fall of France, one small island way out on the periphery off the continental shelf and its non-European empire declined to submit, and were eventually joined by its transatlantic ally. It was, in a certain sense (and putting Russia and Japan to one side), a “western civil war” between the Anglophone democracies and Continental Fascists – but for some reason that’s far less congenial an interpretation to EU myth-makers.

What is so embarrassing for the current European leaders is the indisputable fact that the greatness of Europe  and its unity came from its deep roots in Christianity.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks on the issue of Europe

"If Europe loses the Judeo-Christian heritage that gave it its historic identity and its greatest achievements in literature, art, music, education, politics, and economics, it will lose its identity and its greatness, not immediately, but before this century reaches its end.

"When a civilization loses its faith, it loses its future. When it recovers its faith, it recovers its future. For the sake of our children, and their children not yet born, we – Jews and Christians, side-by-side – must renew our faith and its prophetic voice. We must help Europe rediscover its soul."

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Muslim co-chair of the Conservative Party, speaks out against the 'deeply intolerant 'militant secularism.

"I will be arguing for Europe to become more confident and more comfortable in its Christianity," she said. "The point is this: The societies we live in, the cultures we have created, the values we hold and the things we fight for all stem from centuries of discussion, dissent and belief in Christianity.

"These values shine through our politics, our public life, our culture, our economics, our language and our architecture," she said. "You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes."

The baroness said she feared "that a militant secularization is taking hold of our societies. We see it in any number of things: when signs of religion cannot be displayed or worn in government buildings; when states won't fund faith schools; and where religion is sidelined, marginalized and downgraded in the public sphere.

"It seems astonishing to me that those who wrote the European Constitution made no mention of God or Christianity," she said.

The baroness, the first Muslim female to hold a Cabinet post in a British government, said one of the "most worrying aspects about this militant secularization is that, at its core and in its instincts, it is deeply intolerant."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

April 20, 2012

Collapse of Civility -UPDATED

Theodore Dalrymple on The Ugly Brutishness of Modern Britain

The people who want to flee Britain are not economic migrants. It is not high taxes that they object to (many want to move to France, where taxes are not low), but barbarism. They are cultural refugees in search of a more civilized homeland, where fewer people are uncouth or militantly vulgar.

What has caused this collapse of civility in Britain, which was, within living memory, a civil country? In my view, it is a demotic version of egalitarianism, allied with multiculturalism.
Multiculturalism is damaging because it denies that, when it comes to culture, there is a better and a worse, a higher and a lower—only difference.
Incivility in Britain thus has a militant or ideological edge to it. The uncivil British are not uncivilized by default—they actively hate and repudiate civilization.

Peggy Noonan thinks something seems to be going terribly wrong from flash mobs to the scandals of the GSA, Secret Service, the banks etc etc and it's a Crisis of Character

This week Gallup had a poll showing only 24% of Americans feel we’re on the right track as a nation. That’s a historic low. Political professionals tend, understandably, to think it’s all about the economy—unemployment, foreclosures, we’re going in the wrong direction. I’ve long thought that public dissatisfaction is about more than the economy, that it’s also about our culture, or rather the flat, brute, highly sexualized thing we call our culture.

In the National Journal, In Nothing We Trust - Americans are losing faith in the institutions that made this country great.

And this extraordinary graphic.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

April 19, 2012

Breast cancer is effectively ten different diseases

Landmark British study that could revolutionize breast cancer treatment: It turns out it's actually TEN different diseases

Breast cancer is effectively ten different diseases, according to breakthrough research that could revolutionize treatment.

The biggest study of its kind in the world has classified the country’s most common cancer into ten separate types.

The finding brings doctors closer to the holy grail of tailoring treatments to individual women. The rewriting of the rule book on breast cancer could also lead to new drugs and better diagnostic tests.

Dr Julia Wilson, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘This is incredibly exciting research which has the potential to change the face of breast cancer; from how we diagnose and treat it, to how we follow it up afterwards.’

However, the need for more research means it will be three to five years before women with breast cancer can start widely reaping the benefits of the shake-up in treatment.
The painstaking analysis of the genetics of 2,000 tumors, including many from women in London, Cambridge and Nottingham, has revealed there to be ten sub-types of the disease. Each tumor within a particular group shares similar genes and different women with the same type have similar odds of survival.

The ‘exquisitely detailed’ analysis also revealed several new genes that drive the growth and spread of the disease. This opens the door for the development of drugs that counter their effects. Knowledge of the genetics of each type of the disease will also speed the development of drugs, allowing women to have treatments tailored to their tumor. A handful of such ‘wonder-drugs’, including Herceptin, are already in use.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

Fish-eye view of the Empire State Building

Photographer Randy Scott Slavin using a fish-eye lens and stitching photos together makes extraordinary landscapes of America.  Below is the Empire State Building.

 Fisheye Empirestatebuilding

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

Middle-Aged People Rule the World

Evolution has given humans a huge advantage over most other animals: middle age

The evidence from skeletal remains suggests that our ancestors frequently lived well into middle age and beyond. Certainly many modern hunter-gatherers live well beyond 40.

The probable existence of lots of prehistoric middle-aged people means that natural selection had plenty to work on. Those with beneficial traits would have been more successful at nurturing their children to reproductive age and helping provide for their grandchildren, and hence would have passed on those traits to their descendants. As a result, modern middle age is the result of millennia of natural selection.
We lead an energy-intensive, communication-driven, information-rich way of life, and it was the evolution of middle age that supported this.
Gathering sufficient calories is crucial for the success of a human community, especially since young humans take so long to grow up. …. a recent study of two groups of South American hunter-gatherers suggested that each couple required the help of an additional 1.3 non-reproducing adults to provide for their children. Thus, middle-aged people may be seen as an essential human innovation, an elite caste of skilled, experienced super-providers on which the rest of us depend.
The other key role of middle age is the propagation of information. A... Humans have taken this second form of information transfer to a new level. We are born knowing and being able to do almost nothing. Each of us depends on a continuous infusion of skills, knowledge and customs, collectively known as culture, if we are to survive. And the main route by which culture is transferred is by middle-aged people showing and telling their children — as well as the young adults with whom they hunt and gather — what to do.
These two roles of middle-aged humans — as super-providers and master culture-conveyers — continue today. In offices, on construction sites and on sports fields around the world, we see middle-aged people advising and guiding younger adults and sometimes even ordering them about. Middle-aged people can do more, they earn more and, in short, they run the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

April 18, 2012

Crony Justice

Corzine Steals Billions Sans Charges, Errant Whale Watcher Faces Prison

Justice may be blind, but who works overtime to make it deaf, dumb, and stupid?

Which would you imagine might attract more aggressive enforcement from the Justice Department: the theft of $1.2 billion from supposedly segregated customer brokerage funds, or lying about an alleged incident of whistling to attract the attention of a whale so that whale watchers could get a better peep? If you said the latter, then you appreciate the extent to which federal law enforcement priorities have run off the rails.
Who has set the priorities at the Justice Department that is allowing this to happen, and why? How can an SEC that can't catch a Bernie Madoff before he blows himself up or nail a guy like John Corzine after his hand, arm, neck, and head are caught in the cookie jar be expected to professionally, effectively, and impartially enforce the thousands of regulations inflicted on the rest of us?
But woe to anyone who messes with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's rules on harassing marine mammals. Or runs afoul of the Environmental Protection Agency when their backyard is declared a wetland. Or gets in a Davis Bacon labor dispute with a powerful union. Or fails to file accurate Affirmative Action Plan paperwork. Yet it seems that if you‘ve got the right Washington connections you can pick your clients' pockets and even burn the economy to the ground without suffering any consequences.

This is more than just justice gone awry. It is the systematic destruction of the rule of law and its replacement by shameless cronyism.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:47 AM | Permalink

“Opening up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty.” “Opening up yet another fragment of the frontier of beauty.”

You don't want to miss this, The Night I Met Einstein by Jerome Weidman

Apparently I was in for an evening of chamber music….

After a while, becoming aware that the people around me were applauding, I concluded it was safe to unplug my ears. At once I heard a gentle but surprisingly penetrating voice on my right: “You are fond of Bach?”

I knew as much about Bach as I know about nuclear fission. But I did know one of the most famous faces in the world, with the renowned shock of untidy white hair and the ever-present pipe between the teeth. I was sitting next to Albert Einstein….

“I don’t know anything about Bach,” I said awkwardly. “I’ve never heard any of his music.”

A look of perplexed astonishment washed across Einstein’s mobile face.

“You have never heard Bach?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:46 AM | Permalink

April 17, 2012

'Paradigm shift' in treating prostate cancer

New treatment for prostate cancer gives 'perfect results' for nine in ten men: research

A new treatment for prostate cancer can rid the disease from nine in ten men without debilitating side effects, a study has found, leading to new hope for tens of thousands of men.

It is hoped the new treatment, which involves heating only the tumors with a highly focused ultrasound, will mean men can be treated without an overnight stay in hospital and avoiding the distressing side effects associated with current therapies.

A study has found that focal HIFU, high-intensity focused ultrasound, provides the 'perfect' outcome of no major side effects and free of cancer 12 months after treatment, in nine out of ten cases.

Traditional surgery or radiotherapy can only provide the perfect outcome in half of cases currently.

Experts have said the results are 'very encouraging' and were a 'paradigm' shift in treatment of the disease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:03 AM | Permalink

April 16, 2012

"I don't know what is awaiting me" says Pope Benedict on his 85th birthday

Happy Birthday Holy Father.  Benedict on his 85th Birthday

Earlier in the day, in an impromptu homily, the Pope had said: “I find myself on the last stretch of my journey in life, and I don’t know what is awaiting me.”

“I know, however, that the light of God exists, that he is risen, that his light is stronger than any darkness and that God’s goodness is stronger than any evil in this world, and this helps me go forward with certainty,” he said.

 B16 At 85
10 Bavarian children dance the skirt-swirling, shoe-stomping, thigh-slapping 'Schuhplattler' before the Pope

Michael Cook at MercatorNet.  Benedict XVI's analysis of the crisis of Western culture is outstanding in its depth and clarity.

Although insiders say that Benedict is slowing down, he lives at a pace which would kill younger men: a relentless succession of trips in Italy, trips overseas, daily speeches, a multitude of official visitors and the constant pressure of global attention.

And Joseph Ratzinger is still a one-man ideas factory. Since he was elected in 2005, he has written two books of his own as the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, has collaborated in a book-length interview, has written three encyclicals (more or less book-length theological position papers) and his collected addresses have been compiled into several books.
There is no denying that Western humanism is tottering. It was born in the cradle of religious belief and is grounded on the twin cornerstones of respect for reason and awe at the dignity of mankind. But – to telescope 200 years of cultural history into a few sentences – it is quavering in a crisis of self-confidence. Religion is shut up in a closet. The ambit of reason is restricted to only those things which can be touched and measured. And human dignity is being suffocated by technology.
Books have been and will be written about Benedict’s achievement. But I’m not risking anything by highlighting out the following themes.

If the ideal society is thoroughly secular, why is depression one of the leading causes of disability?
Even before he became Pope, Benedict has stressed that Christianity offers a coherent answer to our search for happiness.

Joy as the secret weapon of Christianity is a theme to which he returns again and again. "Faith gives joy. When God is not there, the world becomes desolate, and everything becomes boring, and everything is completely unsatisfactory,”
If atheism is a sign of progress, why have we trashed the environment? Few people have noticed, but ecology is a recurrent theme in Benedict’s writing. This stems not from a vague pantheism or nostalgic conservatism, but from the Biblical conviction that man is the steward of creation. A desolate environment mirrors interior desolation.
If science is so convincing, why is it so difficult to agree on fundamental issues?…Questioning moral relativism is fundamental to his program. He keeps reminding his listeners that if reason cannot deal with intangible issues like what is good and what is just, they will be defined by whoever is most powerful.

More at the link.

The Anchoress says Benedict is A Cloister Unto Himself.

Some people think the pope is a very complicated man, but really, he is very easy to get, because he is very open. He is not a politician; he is not a diplomat; he is simply a man who is humbly all-for-God, who lives his faith so completely that there are no shadows. His words are words of Be-ing, primarily.
Even before he was Benedict, back when he was Joseph Ratzinger, I loved his humility; he has always struck me as the shy old uncle who — once drawn out — keeps you enthralled with the openness, depth and breadth of his intellect, which is never pedantic, and always accessible.
His pontificate, which some thought would be “transitional” may very well end up being transformational.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:30 PM | Permalink

"Sliding, not deciding"

Even The New York Times sees The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage

When Jennifer started therapy with me less than a year later, she was looking for a divorce lawyer. “I spent more time planning my wedding than I spent happily married,” she sobbed. Most disheartening to Jennifer was that she’d tried to do everything right.
She was talking about what researchers call “sliding, not deciding.” Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean.

WHEN researchers ask cohabiters these questions, partners often have different, unspoken — even unconscious — agendas. Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage. One thing men and women do agree on, however, is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse.
Jennifer said she never really felt that her boyfriend was committed to her.  “I felt like I was on this multiyear, never-ending audition to be his wife,” she said. “We had all this furniture. We had our dogs and all the same friends. It just made it really, really difficult to break up. Then it was like we got married because we were living together once we got into our 30s.”

I’ve had other clients who also wish they hadn’t sunk years of their 20s into relationships that would have lasted only months had they not been living together. Others want to feel committed to their partners, yet they are confused about whether they have consciously chosen their mates. Founding relationships on convenience or ambiguity can interfere with the process of claiming the people we love.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:12 PM | Permalink

"You never know what you are going to face when you open that exam room door'

What doctors discover: You never know what's behind the exam room door

There is much monotony to being a physician. I have seen more variations of the common cold than I ever thought possible during medical school. But the foibles of the human body are often surprising.
You never know what you are going to face when you open that exam room door. Sometimes it’s chest pain. Others it’s a runny nose.

And occasionally it’s a middle aged woman trapped in the closet with a dead baby in one hand and rosary beads in the other. Decades later she is still mourning …

… and begging for self forgiveness.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

"The fundamental political question is, 'Do you believe things are getting better or worse?' "

Daniel Greenfield on change, "Better or Worse?"

All politics are the politics of the future. The one cause that we all champion, regardless of our political orientation, is the cause of the future. All that we fight for is the ability to shape the future.

The fundamental political question is, "Do you believe things are getting better or worse?"
Ruling parties tend to answer, "Better", opposition parties tend to answer, "Worse". The deeper answer to that question though lies in our perceptions of the past and the future.

The left romanticizes chaos, while the right romanticizes order. But the left's chaos necessitates a harsher order as the chaos it unleashes is managed with higher and higher levels of social authorities that enforce their perfect plan for change on the formless society bubbling under them. The right's order allows for less authority because it depends on empowering organic social institutes and mores, rather than enforcing a detailed plan that goes against the grain.

The right's organic order allows for freer societies because it stems from how people actually live. It is rooted in the past, rather than an ever-changing plan for the future. The left's artificial order makes for societies that are fundamentally repressive, even when they allow for a limited degree of autonomy, because the hand of the planners is always on every man and woman.

Repressive societies on the right are bottom up, they represent the preferred order of the people, but while the left chants of the will of the people, their repressive societies represent only the master plan of an elite. The right builds such societies to foreclose change, the left builds its societies to implement change, but once that happens, their societies freeze, turn reactionary and fall apart as they no longer have any reason to exist, but to perpetuate the power of the elite
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:00 AM | Permalink

April 13, 2012

"The age we mark as modernity began with grand, exhilarating gestures'

Jason Jones, Of Human Dignity and Shoes

The age we mark as modernity began with grand, exhilarating gestures: discourses on method that would set us free from the dead hand of tradition (Descartes); declarations of the rights of man (the French Revolutionary Assembly); manifestos rejecting the tyranny of mere economic laws over the lives and labor of men (Karl Marx). The grand progression of the movement Henri de Lubac dubbed “heroic humanism” was full of such golden moments, which moved through the dark night of history like torches leading us forward, ever forward, to a glittering future that would make life at long last worthy of man. At the end of all the struggles, after the next (surely final!) conflict, or the next, we were promised without any irony a brave new world, an earthly paradise.
And we did. That’s what we spent the 19th and 20th centuries doing, energetically. We broke up historic empires into nation-states, where men forgot their loyalty to tiny village or global Church, and learned to think as members of ethnic tribes or aggrieved social classes. After these collectives had done their work, and proved themselves too dangerous (in 1945, and 1989, respectively) we set about smashing them, too. We broke down the ramshackle, inefficient structure of the old extended family to its minimal, nuclear core—and then when that didn’t prove as economically useful, we split that into atoms. When we learned that families have no economic use or political import, we redefined them at last as consensual, temporary alliances of adults—to whom the State contracts the duty of caring for children overnight, in the hours when schools and daycare facilities aren’t open. We have very thoroughly accomplished the job modernity’s founders set us: liquidating every barrier to the assertion of the Self, short of the laws of physics. We have killed all the fathers. We are free to make of ourselves exactly what we will, no less and no more. And here we sit with the treasure we’ve won: this pile of shoes.
The only support, it turned out, for having a high opinion of other people’s lives (our own are sacred by definition) lay not in the shiny new laboratories or libraries we were building, but in the drafty, candlelit houses of worship we had to bulldoze to make room.
The old sacred books that old men quoted to thwart the free play of our desires, which we piled in bonfires or smirked at as curiosities, were more important than we realized. They held crucial information, the shibboleths needed to make men treat each other a certain way—a way we had come to take for granted. That way of treating people—respecting the weak, sacrificing for the young, venerating the old—emerged in human history as the side-effects of specific assertions about the world. We didn’t want to believe this.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:26 PM | Permalink

Aspirin for Cancer?

How aspirin might inhibit the spread of cancer

Aspirin and other household drugs may inhibit the spread of cancer because they help shut down the chemical "highways" which feed tumours, Australian researchers announced on Tuesday.

Scientists at Melbourne's Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre said they have made a biological breakthrough helping explain how lymphatic vessels -- key to the transmission of tumours throughout the body -- respond to cancer.

"We've shown that molecules like the aspirin... could effectively work by reducing the dilation of these major vessels and thereby reducing the capacity of tumours to spread to distant sites," researcher Steven Stacker said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:25 PM | Permalink

April 12, 2012

Leftists hate history; students suffer

According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, 80% of seniors from fifty-five of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities (including Berkeley and UCLA) received a D or F when asked basic questions about American history like identifying the Gettysburg Address or recognizing fundamental constitutional principles.

This is shocking. 

Richard Kirk on Ethics has more on how Leftists Corrupt Academia and the UC System.

A lengthy document submitted last week by the California Association of Scholars (CAS) to the California Board of Regents offers compelling evidence that these incoming freshmen will be paying more money for a lower quality education that’s heavily corrupted by leftist activism.
The CAS report views the politicization of higher education as a major factor that’s fostered this state of affairs. After all, instructors besotted with ideology focus on indoctrination—not on dispensing a balanced portrait of complex issues and developing a student’s ability to critically evaluate competing perspectives.

In the words of the CAS study: “political activists tend to have a very different attitude to alternatives to their own convictions.” In their view competing beliefs “do not deserve sympathetic consideration, for they are at best wrong, at worst evil.”

What's most shocking is not the students' abysmal ignorance of American history. but the moral failure of the universities who have been given a great trust to pass on the legacy won for us by our ancestors.

Leftists hate history.  Anthony Esolen explains why in Progressive Inhumanity, Part Three: Hatred of the Past

I have long thought that the term "progressive" was a dodge, because no one could tell me exactly where we were supposed to be headed and why.

The progressive clamors for change with no goal in sight; change for change's  sake.

If we ask, "Change, for what?" we make the mistake of believing that our opponents retain a strong notion of human nature and of the moral laws that work towards its fulfillment. They do not. They therefore advocate change for its own sake; change, with perhaps an implicit trust that the change will eventually work towards some greater good, as if directed by social evolution, without their being able to specify exactly what that good would be.
To greet change for change's sake is, then, less to unite one's heart to the homeland ahead (since there is no homeland ahead), but to divorce one's heart from the homeland behind. It is to uproot man from that soil wherein he grows in time but towards eternity.
Am I being unfair to the progressive? The essential attitude of the progressive towards the past is that of contempt and hostility. What do we see in the past? A crime list of vices and stupidities.  It isn't just that we dwell upon the failings of our forebears and neglect to see their virtues. Very often we place upon our forebears the worst imaginable construction, or ascribe to them vices they did not possess and crimes they did not commit…The hostility is applied also to stupendous human works.
But what is left of a truly human life? The commitment to change is like a ride on a roller-coaster, with one important reservation. We can enjoy a roller-coaster ride because we know that it will soon end, and we can put our feet back on the trusty solid ground. Imagine, though, a roller-coaster ride that does not end. Imagine a ride that has all the inconveniences of a bad journey — frenetic pace, confusion, dislocation, loss — and none of the consolations: no end of the journey, nothing but death, which is not now like arriving at a destination, but is instead like being at last tossed out of the car.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

"The trembling that they want to inculcate falls flat"

Pascal Bruckner: The Ideology of Catastrophe

Over the last half-century, leftist intellectuals have identified two great scapegoats for the world's woes. First, Marxism designated capitalism as responsible for human misery. Second, "Third World" ideology, disappointed by the bourgeois indulgences of the working class, targeted the West, supposedly the inventor of slavery, colonialism and imperialism.

The guilty party that environmentalism now accuses—mankind itself, in its will to dominate the planet—is essentially a composite of the previous two, a capitalism invented by a West that oppresses peoples and destroys the Earth.
The fear that these intellectuals spread is like a gluttonous enzyme that swallows up an anxiety, feeds on it, and then leaves it behind for new ones…..We are inoculated against anxiety by the repetition of the same themes, which become a narcotic we can't do without.
Another result of the doomsayers' certainty is that their preaching, by inoculating us against the poison of terror, brings about petrification. The trembling that they want to inculcate falls flat. Anxiety has the last word. We were supposed to be alerted; instead, we are disarmed. This may even be the goal of the noisy panic: to dazzle us in order to make us docile. Instead of encouraging resistance, it propagates discouragement and despair. The ideology of catastrophe becomes an instrument of political and philosophical resignation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 PM | Permalink

Push to Add Drama

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

Recovery Kitty

Anorexia is a terrible disease and one very hard to overcome.  So attention must be paid to this method that worked for one woman.

"Feeding up a bony stray cat saved me from anorexia': Woman who weighed the same as a 12-year-old reveals how she beat her eating disorder.

Aged 20, Ashley Ransley was severely anorexic, and despite her 6ft frame she weighed the same as a 12-year-old.

Doctors warned her she could have a heart attack at any moment as her body gradually shut down, and following years of failed treatments she resigned herself to a slow suicide.

But now the student from Fenton, Michigan, tips the scales at a healthy 1 1st albs and claims the experience of feeding up a malnourished cat helped her to overcome her long-term eating disorder.

Ashley, now 25, weighed just 7st 10lbs when she rescued the stray feline that had wandered onto her family’s property.

At first she thought it was a kitten because of it was so small, but vets later confirmed it was a fully grown female and extremely malnourished, weighing just three pounds. 

While she helped the little animal, which she named Riley, regain weight, Ashley found she was also able to heal herself of the mental illness that had blighted her since school.

 Ashley Ransley  Riley-The-Cat

She said: 'As I worked on rehabilitating her to a healthy weight, I was focusing less and less on my eating disorder.

I began to eat when she ate, share some of my food with her, and if I got anxious and wanted to purge or over-exercise, I would use her as a distraction.

'Both malnourished and slowly regaining our health, our connection grew to more than just pet-owner attachment.

'I didn’t really want to die, and I was getting better. I called her my recovery kitty.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 PM | Permalink

Scientists revolt at NASA

Hansen and Schmidt of NASA GISS under fire for climate stance: Engineers, scientists, astronauts ask NASA administration to look at empirical evidence rather than climate models.

When Chris Kraft, the man who presided over NASA’s finest hour, and the engineering miracle of saving Apollo 13 speaks, people listen.
From the joint letter to NASA Administrator

49 former NASA scientists and astronauts sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden last week admonishing the agency for it’s role in advocating a high degree of certainty that man-made CO2 is a major cause of climate change while neglecting empirical evidence that calls the theory into question.
Select excerpts from the letter:
“The unbridled advocacy of CO2 being the major cause of climate change is unbecoming of NASA’s history of making an objective assessment of all available scientific data prior to making decisions or public statements.”

“We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change are not substantiated.”

“We request that NASA refrain from including unproven and unsupported remarks in its future releases and websites on this subject.”

Science is never settled when  scientists look to discover truth.  If someone says "the science is settled" they have forsaken truth to promote an agenda.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

The End of Women

Carolyn Moynihan on The End of Women

The great gift of the sexual revolution to women is not that it has taken them out of men’s power but that it has made them over as the new men. They can pursue their careers just like men. They can have sex without getting pregnant and having to get married, just like men. They can ignore the emotional consequences of uncommitted sex (“And how bad are heartaches, anyway?” asks Rosin) as men tend to do.

When the ache for a baby gets too strong, today’s macho woman can go get herself impregnated with donor sperm at a fertility clinic. And since there’s really no difference between men and women any more she could just settle down with a lesbian partner and save herself any further trouble from the officially male of the species.

The truth is that, if men have become redundant, so have women. One makes no sense without the other. What we have instead is humanoids who come in a range of genders and can make use of their sexual endowment (or someone else’s) in a variety of ways. They can generate or acquire children as the case may be; they can saddle the kids with two “moms” or two “dads” or with other combinations of “parents” if it suits them. What that means for the children simply doesn’t matter. Nothing that comes from the sexual revolution can really be bad for anyone. Get used to it.

Isn’t this the insane world we see taking shape before our eyes? There may have been a lot wrong with marriage and the status of women in the America of young Mrs Adrienne Conrad (Rich’s married name), but cutting sex adrift from babies and marriage was patently not the solution. It has made nonsense of the body and made men and women strangers to themselves.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:46 PM | Permalink

Montessori methods for patients with dementia

Here's a good idea.  Montessori methods could be used for patients with dementia.

Judith Potts writes It's time to give our elderly the sort of care we give our children

The Montessori method was originally designed for children with learning disabilities. Now it is a sought-after form of nursery education for children of all abilities. My own children attended one and I based my method of teaching drama on the muscle memory and five sense techniques. Seeing a reluctant child develop into one who is confident enough to use his or her imagination to create an imaginary object is truly magical. I am sure it would be the same working with dementia patients.

I can see how it would adapt for dementia patients – even those with severe dementia – because muscle memory still works for these patients, making repetition easy for them. Arranging flowers, sorting objects and singing songs are successful exercises that muscle memory holds. Using beautiful objects in a peaceful, warm and caring environment will enable some memory to be re-opened. Recognition skills can be re-established and enjoyment in successful task completion experienced again.
Tom and Karen Brenner are Montessori gerontologists, researchers, consultants, trainers and writers. They work with dementia patients – using the Montessori method – while also training others in the system.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:43 PM | Permalink

April 11, 2012

Self-portraits in the Flemish style

The most inventive use of airplane time I've ever seen.  Kudos to Nina Katchadourian.

Airplane Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style

Flemish Lavatory Portraits

While in the lavatory on a domestic flight in March 2010, I spontaneously put a tissue paper toilet cover seat cover over my head and took a picture in the mirror. The image evoked 15th-century Flemish portraiture. 

I decided to add more images made in this mode and planned to take advantage of a long-haul flight from San Francisco to Auckland, guessing that there were likely to be long periods of time when no one was using the lavatory on the 14-hour flight.

I made several forays to the bathroom from my aisle seat, and by the time we landed I had a large group of new photographs entitled Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style. 

I was wearing a thin black scarf that I sometimes hung up on the wall behind me to create the deep black ground that is typical of these portraits. There is no special illumination in use other than the lavatory's own lights and all the images are shot hand-held with the camera phone.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:30 PM | Permalink

Senior Companions

When it comes to getting old, we have to take care of each other.

Senior companions, introduced in 1974 as part of the Senior Corps, helps "“helps frail seniors maintain independence in their homes, while also providing respite for caregivers,”

Paula Span calls it An Age-Appropriate Assist

John Antsy keeps a busy schedule. Tuesdays and Fridays, he heads over to see Don and Prudence Allender, who might need groceries or prescriptions picked up or a light bulb changed. “It’s a great boon, because neither of us is driving,” Mrs. Allender said. Mr. Antsy, on the other hand, is still cruising around Waterloo, Iowa, in his 2000 Buick LeSabre.

On Mondays, he visits with a woman living in his subsidized senior apartment building; she uses an oxygen tank and rarely goes out, so she appreciates having company.

On Wednesdays, he spends a few hours with a man who has Parkinson’s disease, which provides a break for the man’s caregiving wife. “It gives her time to go out with her sister and get her hair done, have lunch, do some shopping,” Mr. Antsy explained.

No clients on Thursday, but “that’s fine and dandy, to have a day off.” Mr. Antsy, who volunteers about 20 hours a week with the Senior Companions program at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, can use a break himself now and then. He’s 78.

About 13,600 such Senior Companions participants — all older adults themselves — served nearly 61,000 clients last year. The volunteers must be at least 55, but more than 40 percent are, like Mr. Antsy, over 75.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:24 PM | Permalink

Recent Idiocies

In a vain attempt to capture some of the idiocies I come upon while surfing the web, I've decided to make them a category.

He can't imagine life without an unemployment check. In Austria, an unemployed Man Saws Off His Own Foot To Avoid Work.

Just leave her on the floor  School bans 5-year-old cerebral palsy girl from using walker...because it's 'unsafe' for other children.

Banning words.  In New York City, educators have banned certain references on city-issued tests. 50 words in all are banned, among them:

dinosaurs - because it might upset fundamentalists
birthdays - because it might offend Jehovah's Witnesses
Halloween - because it suggests paganism
poverty - because it might offend someone who is poor
wealth - because it might make some people jealous
disease -because it might offend someone who is ill
divorce  - because it might offend children of
homes with swimming pools - because it might upset those without one
terrorism - because it's too scary

Re-engineering humans.  Geo-engineering is too hard and too risky, so these  bioethicists propose altering the human species to combat global climate change!      Professor  S. Matthew Liao  of the Center for Bioethics at NYU suggests we use preimplantation genetic diagnosis to select embryos that are smaller so they will use fewer resources.  Other nifty ideas include inducing intolerance to red meat,  "pharmacological enhancements" to promote altruism and empathy and making human eyes more catlike, through genetic manipulation,  so we need less light.  Tiny, happy people, indeed.

In Warwick, R.I., school officials deemed a student mural inappropriate and painted over a scene of a married man and wife and young boy  because it "may not represent the life experiences of many of the students" and may be offensive to students who do not come from traditional families.  Of course, such idiocy got on the local radio and the school superintendent said, let the young girl finish the mural the way she envisioned it.    Below is the offensive art that was painted over.

 The Offensive Painting Ri

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:10 PM | Permalink

April 10, 2012

The "Digital-Age Leonardo da Vinci"

Astonishing visualization from Alexander Tsiaras at TED, Conception to Birth

Here is his profile

Another beautiful image of the heart glowing in an open chest cavity at JAMA, Art from the Heart

 Alexander Tsiaras Heart

His mission: "We want to change how people think about health, think about their bodies. The way to do that is by telling stories--beautiful, compelling, visual stories that show what an amazing thing the body is."

His company is Anatomical Travelogue is "a pioneer in illustrating the intricate details of the human body in images that are at once high-tech, anatomically faithful and artistically striking—the ultimate "insider art," he jokes."

From a feature article at Business Innovation Factory

Tsiaras isn't a doctor; he's a photographer, technologist and visionary with an expert knowledge of anatomy and a passion for the human form. The books he has produced—including From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds, The Architecture and Design of Man and Woman: The Marvel of the Human Body, Revealed, The InVision Guide to a Healthy Heart and The InVision Guide to Sexual Health — have spawned educational videos and exhibits at the National Museum of Health and Medicine.

The images are 'visualizations' that Tsiaras and his team create using full-body scans, ultra-powerful microscopes and molecular modeling tools that allow him to illustrate the body in vivid detail, for both 3-D pictures and animations. He has described his work as "'Fantastic Voyage' meets the TIME-LIFE book series."

Some see Tsiaras as a digital-age Leonardo da Vinci, whose anatomical renderings set the standard for centuries. But Tsiaras describes himself in more prosaic terms.

"Most of this is just about information," he says. "I look at myself as a storyteller who works with artists and technologists."
Anatomical Travelogue is growing rapidly—it's now at 60 employees and has amassed what Tsiaras says is the largest library of high-resolution volume data on the body in the world—and Tsiaras believes its future is limitless.

One project from the Anatomical Travelogue is The Visual MD.  Anyone who is at risk for a heart attack should watch the video on Understanding Heart Attacks.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:35 PM | Permalink

Moonbow at Victoria Falls

 Moonbow Victoriafalls

How wonderful photography that we can see so many of nature's marvels.

More astonishing shots by Charlie Hamilton James  here.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 PM | Permalink

How often should you get dental x-rays

If you are used to getting a dental x-ray every year at your annual dental exam, you may want to reconsider.    Maybe every other year or every third year is enough.

Study links dental X-rays and risk of benign brain tumor - frequency pivotal

Frequent dental X-rays are associated with an increased risk of developing the most common, noncancerous brain tumors, according to a new study, a finding that researchers say should serve as a reminder that even dental X-rays may be harmful if ordered too often.

Far from suggesting that people should skip dental X-rays, the researchers said that the new information should become part of the conversation people have with their dentists, especially since the American Dental Association’s guidelines suggest that healthy patients without cavities and free of risk factors should get bitewing X-rays once every one to three years, depending on their age.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:26 AM | Permalink

April 9, 2012

"Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies,"

Pope Benedict's Easter Homily

"Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies," Benedict, wearing white robes in a symbol of new life, told the faithful in a packed St. Peter's Basilica.

Still, Benedict worried in his homily: "The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil."

"The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general," the pope said.

"If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other 'lights,' that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk," Benedict added.

Benedict, who has made protection of the environment a theme of his papacy, made a reference to urban pollution in his homily. "Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars in the sky are no longer visible," he said. "Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment?"

"With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify," Benedict added, saying that faith was the "true enlightenment."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:14 PM | Permalink

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it,”

The over-prescription of antibiotics to both humans and animals may well spell the end of modern medicine that we expect and feel entitled to.

Life won't be the same without antibiotics

The antibiotics used to treat even minor wounds when they become infected – as well as far more serious conditions – are rapidly losing their effectiveness, in the face of ever more resistant germs. There’s also a lack of new ones to take their place. We face the horrifying prospect of returning to the dark medical age before the discovery of penicillin, thanks both to the over-prescribing of antibiotics by doctors and – as a new report makes clear – by their virtually indiscriminate use in factory farms.

Typical journalistic scaremongering? No, but don’t take it from me. Here’s Dr Margaret Chan, who as head of the constitutionally cautious World Health Organisation (WHO) is humanity’s premier guardian of public health, speaking recently at a Danish Government conference.

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it,” she warned. “Things as common as a strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill. Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of pre-term infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake.”

Dr Chan described how the world is “losing” its present antibiotics, while “the pipeline is virtually dry” for new ones. Drug companies are not bothering to research or develop replacements, partly because they make much more money out of treatments for conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure – which are taken for life, rather than in short courses – and partly because they fear they will not recoup their investment before bacteria develop resistance and render the new drugs useless.

Already 25,000 Europeans die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections, while worldwide there are some 650,000 annual cases of multi-drug-resistant TB, half of which can’t be cured even with the best care. “Many common and life-threatening infections,” warns the WHO, “are becoming difficult or even impossible to treat.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

Writing off the old

In the much touted national health service of Great Britain, life-saving treatment is denied to the elderly.    Even palliative surgery!

Sentenced to death for being old: The NHS denies life-saving treatment to the elderly, as one man's chilling story reveals

When Kenneth Warden was diagnosed with terminal bladder cancer, his hospital consultant sent him home to die, ruling that at 78 he was too old to treat.

Even the palliative surgery or chemotherapy that could have eased his distressing symptoms were declared off-limits because of his age.

His distraught daughter Michele Halligan accepted the sad prognosis but was determined her father would spend his last months in comfort. So she paid for him to seen privately by a second doctor to discover what could be done to ease his symptoms.

Thanks to her tenacity, Kenneth got the drugs and surgery he needed — and as a result his cancer was actually cured. Four years on, he is a sprightly 82-year-old who works out at the gym, drives a sports car and competes in a rowing team.

‘You could call his recovery amazing,’ says Michele, 51. ‘It is certainly a gift. But the fact is that he was written off because of his age. He was left to suffer so much, and so unnecessarily.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

Generational tax

Too many abortions, not enough babies and too generous pensions put Germany in the position where it now must levy a special tax on the young.  And so, extra burdens are added to those who are just starting out in adult life.  This is not the way it should be.   

This is the first, not the last, of generational taxes we will see.

Germany set to tax young

GERMANY is proposing to levy extra taxes on the young to pay for the costs of the country's growing numbers of old people, under government plans for a ''demographic reserve'' levy.

Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats have drafted proposals that, if law, would require all those over 25 to pay a proportion of their income to cushion Germany against a looming population crisis.

... officials are considering a special levy of about 1 per cent of income.

Estimates from Germany's federal employment agency predict that the workforce will be reduced by 7 million people by 2025.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:01 PM | Permalink

April 4, 2012

Boy scout tips saved his life

Stranded man, 76, survives 10 days in the wilderness after eating snow and remembering Boy Scout tips... but friend dies going to find help

An elderly man has survived ten days in the remote Nevada desert by eating snow and using tips he learned as a Boy Scout.

James Klemovich, 76, was found in good health by military personnel but his travel partner was discovered dead around a mile from the stranded car after he went to find help. 

Mr Klemovich, from Littleton, Colorado, had been exploring a mine he co-owned with 75-year-old Laszlo Szabo of Lovelock, Nevada. Pershing County Sheriff Richard Machado said Mr Klemovich and his friend got lost on March 18. They were reported missing by family members who hadn't heard from them in several days.  The 76-year-old, who is diabetic, was treated at a hospital in Fallon, Nevada and has since been released.  He also wears a pacemaker and has had triple bypass heart surgery.
According to Mr Klemovich's wife, Joanne, the pair had become stuck on an isolated road with no cell phone reception.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 AM | Permalink

End "too big to fail"

Dallas Fed President: Break up the Banks, End 'Too big to fail'.

A recent report by the Federal Reserve Board of Dallas accuses the nation’s largest banks of being “a perversion of capitalism” and “a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy.”

The report titled “Choosing the Road to Prosperity Why We Must End Too Big to Fail—Now“ goes on to say the infamous Dodd-Frank bill, which was supposed to “regulate” the financial industry, “may actually perpetuate an already dangerous trend of increasing banking industry concentration.”

JPMorgan, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp, hold 52 percent of all U.S. deposits, according to the report, which makes that whole “too big to fail” problem seems a lot worse now than it did before Dodd-Frank.

In an effort to better understand the claims made in this report, PBS FRONTLINE interviewed the Dallas Fed CEO and president, former banker Richard W. Fisher.

You can watch a video of Fischer at the link

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

The modern university teaches that there is no truth, only "lifestyle."

Western Survival Depends on Western Pride writes David Rusin

Due to “post-modernism, moral relativism, and multiculturalism, the West has lost all self-confidence in its own values, and seems incapable and unwilling to defend those values,” argues Ibn Warraq, author of Why the West Is Best. “By contrast, resurgent Islam, in all its forms, is supremely confident, and is able to exploit the West’s moral weakness and cultural confusion to demand ever more concessions from her.”

Warraq declares that if their system is to endure, Westerners must acknowledge that “the great ideas of the West — rationalism, self-criticism, the disinterested search for truth, the separation of church and state, the rule of law and equality under the law, freedom of thought and expression, human rights, and liberal democracy — are superior to any others devised by humankind.” Likewise, it is critical to compare Western ideals to those of the Islamists, which are antithetical to liberty and increasingly threaten it. A glance at how women and minorities are treated by strict Islamic law is sufficient to expose multiculturalism’s “lie that all cultures are worthy of equal respect and equally embracing of individual freedom and democracy,” to quote reformist Muslim Salim Mansur.

Astonishing isn't it, that people who point this out are often vilified and politicians who do so are raked over the coals for daring to declare the superiority of Western culture.

This decline in Western confidence was apparent 25 years ago when Alan Bloom first wrote, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today's Students.    It was a book that drove them crazy

The crisis was​–is​–​a crisis of confidence in the principle that serves as the premise of liberal education: that reason, informed by learning and experience, can arrive at truth, and that one truth may be truer than another.
He asked readers to consider contemporary students as he encountered them. They arrived ill-equipped to explore the large questions the humanities pose, and few saw the need to bother with them in any case. Instead, he said, they were cheerful, unconcerned, dutiful, and prosaic, their eyes on the prize of that cushy job. They were “nice.” You can almost see him shudder as he writes the word. “They are united only in their relativism,” he wrote. “The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate.”

Relativism, in fact, was the only moral postulate that went unchallenged in academic life.
a professor at Carleton College, Michael Zuckert, told of canvassing the students in his class on American political thought. He asked whether they agreed that the truths in the first lines of the Declaration of Independence were indeed “self-evident.” Seven percent voted “yes.” On further conversation, he wrote, it turned out “that they were convinced there is no such thing as ‘truth,’ self-evident or otherwise, in the sphere of claims of the sort raised in the Declaration.”

An admirer of the book writes

The goal of Bloom’s book was to show how Americans of all political persuasions, social backgrounds and economic conditions are debating within a narrow modern world-view and have simply accepted as fact a mushy blend of modern theory that repeatedly contradicts itself and stands in sharp contrast to an almost entirely forgotten world of opposing thought: that of the ancients.
Where the purpose of higher education once was to enable the student to find truth, the modern university teaches that there is no truth, only "lifestyle."
Bloom simply wanted to make students think, to make them understand that there are different ideas of what man is and that they must confront these ideas if they wish to lead a meaningful life.

Andrew Ferguson writes another appreciation.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:15 AM | Permalink

The Nationalization of the Family

"The West has nationalised families over the last 60 years.  Old age, ill health, single motherhood — everything is the responsibility of the state."

Professor R. Vaidyanathan, Indian Institute of Management, as quoted by Mark Steyn.

The nationalized family is the key to understanding why the West's economic "downturn" is not merely cyclical. Like any other nationalized industry, the nationalized family prioritizes more and more perks for its beneficiaries, is unresponsive to market pressure, and revels in declining productivity. Literally: The biggest structural defect in the Western world is its deathbed demography, the upside-down family tree. When 100 grandparents have 42 grandchildren (as in Greece), it is a societal challenge under any circumstances. When 42 grandchildren have to pay off the massive debts run up by 100 grandparents, that's pretty much a guarantee of disaster
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

Loving the Rapist's Child

A remarkable story, Loving the Rapist's Child

Today, we celebrate nine wonderful years with Rachael, our only daughter. It seems like a bad dream now that we ever considered living without this amazing little girl. She is a constant reminder to us, not of rape but of the startling beauty one can find hidden in tragedy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

"Just 24 hours after getting the Wonderbag, I can't imagine life without it."

It won't be long before you get this non-electric slow cooker.

It looks like a beanbag. So how does it cook soups, stews and porridge to perfection?

Squashy, shapeless and stuffed with recycled polystyrene beads, it's an unlikely contender for the year's must-have accessory. But, before long, I'll bet you'll find one nestling in the kitchens of Orlando Bloom, Leonardo diCaprio and every other celebrity with eco-credentials.


The Wonderbag, you see, is no mere style accessory. It might look like a Seventies beanbag, but it's actually a non-electric slow cooker. Tuck a pan of hot ingredients into its cosy folds, and it will keep them stewing slowly for hours.

Its inventor, Sarah Collins, 42, admits: 'It's the oldest technology in the world. I don't understand how someone else hasn't made it already.' Our ancestors buried hot stew pots in the ground to keep them cooking without fuel.
Although the Wonderbag was designed to help the poor, it's just as useful for those who are more short of time than money. 'I'm amazed by the uptake in the UK,' says Collins. 'It's not just people who are worried about green issues, we're getting busy executives and working mums. Taxi drivers love it because they can keep food hot all day in the cab.'

The bag can also keep food chilled, too, so it's great for summer picnics. So, just 24 hours after getting the Wonderbag, I can't imagine life without it.

Wonderbag is  "eco-cooking that's changing lives" and Unilever has just ordered 5 million.

"Not only are our brands perfect for adding flavour to a Wonderbag dish, but the bag adds real value to households by saving them time and money while cooking tasty, nutritious food. Incorporating the Wonderbag adds a new dimension to our promotion and the bags are a real crowd puller."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:55 AM | Permalink

Why are so many girls with no medical disorder growing breasts early?

They are growing up too quickly before childhood development is completed.

Puberty Before Age 10: A New 'Normal"?

In the late 1980s, Marcia Herman-Giddens, then a physician’s associate in the pediatric department of the Duke University Medical Center, started noticing that an awful lot of 8- and 9-year-olds in her clinic had sprouted pubic hair and breasts. The medical wisdom, at that time, based on a landmark 1960 study of institutionalized British children, was that puberty began, on average, for girls at age 11. But that was not what Herman-Giddens was seeing. So she started collecting data, eventually leading a study with the American Academy of Pediatrics that sampled 17,000 girls, finding that among white girls, the average age of breast budding was 9.96. Among black girls, it was 8.87
Well-respected researchers at three big institutions — Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York — published another study in Pediatrics, finding that by age 7, 10 percent of white girls, 23 percent of black girls, 15 percent of Hispanic girls and 2 percent of Asian girls had started developing breasts.
So why are so many girls with no medical disorder growing breasts early? Doctors don’t know exactly why, but they have identified several contributing factors.

Girls who are overweight are more likely to enter puberty early than thinner girls....animal studies show that the exposure to some environmental chemicals can cause bodies to mature early. Of particular concern are endocrine-disrupters, like “xeno-estrogens” or estrogen mimics.....Family stress can disrupt puberty timing as well. Girls who from an early age grow up in homes without their biological fathers are twice as likely to go into puberty younger as girls who grow up with both parents. Some studies show that the presence of a stepfather in the house also correlates with early puberty.
Evolutionary psychology offers a theory: A stressful childhood inclines a body toward early reproduction; if life is hard, best to mature young. But such theories are tough to prove.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 AM | Permalink

"I couldn't read or nothing"

Imagine the courage of finally learning how to read at age 90!  And then going on to write a book!

Book written by 98-year-old lobster boat captain who only learned to read at age 90

James Arruda Henry had plenty to be proud of as a lobster boat captain who managed to build his own house and raise a family.

But he kept a secret into his 90s - one that forced him to bluff his way through life by day and brought tears at night.

Mr Henry was illiterate. He couldn't even read restaurant menus; he'd wait for someone else to place an order and get the same food. Sometimes he'd go hungry rather than ask for help. Most of his family was none the wiser.

Now he's 98, and his self-published collection of autobiographical essays is being read in elementary schools. In A Fisherman's Language details his barefoot beginnings in Portugal, life in a tenement in Rhode Island, boxing as a young man and his adventures at sea.
'I couldn't read or nothing. I tell you, it makes me a very, very happy man to have people call me and write me letters and stuff like that.'
A granddaughter, Alicia Smith, had the idea of sending the book on a cross-country journey as a literary chain letter of sorts. A copy started its trip at an elementary school in Connecticut and is heading off Friday to one in Berkeley, California.

 In A Fisherman's Language

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:04 AM | Permalink

April 3, 2012

15 million jobs missing

The Obama Jobs Gap is up to 15 million missing jobs

According to JP Morgan economist James Glassman, to restore the job market to where it was in 2007 before the recession, some 14.8 million jobs would have to be created.

 15 Million Jobs Missing

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:54 PM | Permalink

April 2, 2012

Where Academia fails

Following up on the difference in the moral view of  liberals and conservatives that Jonathan Haidt  uncovered in my post "The Sacred is especially difficult for liberals to understand",  let's turn to
Timothy Dalrymple who writes  if you Want to End Rabid Partisanship, Reform American Academia

But the problem is not merely ignorance. Liberals are also alienated from core conservative values. Liberals are trained to believe that many of the traditional American ideals and values that conservatives inherit in their families and churches are cruel and intolerant, imperialistic, and implicitly racist, sexist, and classist…Liberals consistently misinterpret what motivates conservatives because they really cannot see the world from the conservative perspective

Thus, the Theory of the Missing Motive applies. Unable to see a rational and noble motive at the center of the Tea Party movement, liberals supply a darker and more convenient motive instead. Just as ancient cartographers wrote “there be dragons here” beyond the bounds of the world they knew, so liberals write “there be racism here” because the mind of the Tea Partier is undiscovered country in their map of the world.
When you look at the three values that conservatives (according to Haidt) honor but liberals do not — loyalty, respect for authority, and sanctity — these are precisely the values that are flouted in the precincts of American academe.  The result is a more impoverished moral imagination amongst students, a stubborn inability to understand the beliefs and the motives of conservatives, and thus the imputation of nefarious motives to those irrational conservatives who do not see things in the ways the illuminati do.

I believe it all began with Woodrow Wilson who before he was elected President of the United States was President of Princeton College.  He was asked what the function of a liberal education
  Wilson replied, "To make a person as unlike  one's father as possible."

As one conservative put it, “it has taken modern science to remind liberals what our grandparents knew."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:02 PM | Permalink