August 31, 2012

A Remarkably Good Man

Congratulations to Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan for  a well-run convention with some great speeches.  I watched the convention last night on streaming video because I wanted to see what the delegates saw and I've had enough pundits and opinionaters to last me for quite  a while.

The two most affecting speeches were by people you never heard and who didn't leave a dry eye in the house.  You wouldn't have seen them unless you watched CSpan

First Pat and Ted Oparowski share the story of Mitt Romney's kindness towards their son diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, first 
buying him fireworks and later writing the will of the dying 14-year-old boy, and then at his funeral delivering the eulogy.

When Pam Finlayson, a newcomer to Massachusetts,  joined a new church and Romney the pastor visited her at home and helped with the laundry and visited her in the hospital after her daughter was born prematurely.

Other stories of a remarkably good man here, Joey's Park, Romney the firefighter, Christmas spirit and the search for Melissa, all at Little known facts about Mitt Romney 

In Slate

One of my personal friends, Kenneth Hutchins, the former chief of police in a Boston suburb who also worked closely with Romney at church, shares: “I’ve seen him visit with needy families in gang-ridden neighborhoods, show up in his jeans to help a family move, counsel with individuals who were grieving. I’m also confident that he helped many financially, but he has never disclosed his generosity, nor would he.”

Mark Krikorian comments on 'With No Cameras and No Reporters'

Romney sees it as unseemly to boast about them. As one of his sons said, “but when it comes to personal stories, especially the ones where he rescued someone or helped people, it feels like he is bragging, and he is a little reluctant to tell them.”

It’s that reticence to talk about acts of Christian charity that I find most encouraging. We’re never going back to the days of John Quincy Adams, who thought “the Presidency of the United States is not an office to be either sought or declined.” But the idea of a nominee who is uncomfortable prostituting every aspect of his life in order to gain office is deeply reassuring.

It somehow reminds me of the scene in Sergeant York where Gary Cooper, presented with numerous offers to be a celebrity endorser, tells the Cordell Hull character, “What we done in France is something we had to do. Some fellows done it ain’t a-comin’ back. So, the way I figure, things like that ain’t for buying’ and sellin’.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:06 PM | Permalink

August 30, 2012

Looking to find herself

A group of tourists spent hours Saturday night looking for a missing woman near Iceland's Eldgja canyon, only to find her among the search party.

The group was traveling through Iceland on a tour bus and stopped near the volcanic canyon in the southern highlands Saturday afternoon, reports the Icelandic news organization mbl.is.

One of the women on the bus left to change her clothes and freshen up. When she came back, her bus mates didn't recognize her.

Soon, there was word of a missing passenger. The woman didn't recognize the description of herself, and joined in the search.

About 50 people searched the terrain by vehicles and on foot. The coast guard was even readying a helicopter to help.

But the search was called off at about 3 a.m., when it became clear the missing woman was, in fact, accounted for and searching for herself.

Missing woman unwittingly joins search party looking for herself

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:05 PM | Permalink

August 28, 2012

Government Idiocies

Just a few of the more egregious idiocies I've read about in the past week.

In Nebraska a deaf preschooler may have to change his name because in sign language it resembles 'weapons'
The sign for his name  is a violation of the school district's weapons policy.

Phoenix Woman Ordered to Not Give Out Water in 112 Degree Heat Because She Lacked a Permit

ABC-TV 15 from Phoenix reports that local Christian proselytizer Dana Crow-Smith was ordered by a "Neighborhood Preservation Inspector" to stop giving out free bottled water last month when the temperature in Phoenix reached 112 degrees because she lacked a vending permit, though she was not vending.

Holder Justice Department Recruits Dwarfs, Schizophrenics, and the ‘Intellectually Disabled’

Those with “targeted disabilities” may be hired through a “non-competitive” appointment. That means they don’t have to endure the regular civil service competition among applicants, but can be plucked from the stack of resumes and hired immediately instead.  According to the documents, those with these “targeted disabilities” may be hired “before the position is advertised” and even “before the position’s closing date.” Moreover, lawyers with psychiatric disabilities and “severe intellectual” disabilities receive a waiver from the requirement that a new DOJ employee have practiced law for one year before being hired.

Outraged Judge Frees Veteran Raub from Virginia Psych WardHe was detained by government officials for postings on his Facebook page for being critical of President Obama.  He was never formally arrested or charged with a crime.

The new executive order that requires race-based school discipline.

President Barack Obama recently signed an executive order hiring race-sensitive bureaucrats to hold meetings and mandate racial discipline quotas,,,,,.  In plain English, that means that if different races have different incidences of disciplinary action, those of a favored race who act worse will be punished less, or those of a disfavored race who act better will be punished more, or both….Punishing students differently based on skin color

D’oh! US Postal Service wasted $1.2 million on ‘Simpsons’ stamps

The U.S. Postal Service — which is currently in the throes of snowballing debt — wasted $1.2 million on the production of “Simpsons” themed stamps, according to an inspector general’s report.  One billion stamps featuring the cartoon family were produced — and only 318 million were sold, the Washington Post reports.
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:46 PM | Permalink

Signs of the Times

Some of today's news would have been unimaginable just 25 years except in the most dystopian science fiction.

Biological father denied access to child Canadian Sperm Donor Father Denied Access to Son Being Raised by Lesbians.
From the judge's opinion:

"Citing arguments that introducing the child to his father would cause the boy confusion and insecurity, "

Mom gives birth to her own grandson

Newborn Madden Hebert became his own uncle when his grandmother gave birth to him last week, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Madden’s mother, Angel Hebert, 25, was unable to have children due to a heart condition that made it unsafe for her to get pregnant.
According to the Herald, Hebert’s mother, 49-year-old Linda Sirois, had offered for years to be a surrogate mother for her daughter in case she could not get pregnant.  Hebert and her husband, Brian, got the news last summer.
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Sirois reached out to fertility clinics around New England. Many rejected her because of her age, but the Reproductive Science Center in Lexington, Massachusetts agreed to impregnate her by in-vitro fertilization (IVF) using Hebert's egg fertilized with Brian's sperm.

Protestors greet delegates to the RNC dressed as giant vaginas

Women across the country took off their tops and exercised their right to bare breasts

Men, Who Needs Them? In the New York Times, an op ed columnist with very strange ideas about biology, says men are not necessary for human reproduction.  You were you before there was a you.

Think about your own history. Your life as an egg actually started in your mother’s developing ovary, before she was born; you were wrapped in your mother’s fetal body as it developed within your grandmother.  After the two of you left Grandma’s womb, you enjoyed the protection of your mother’s prepubescent ovary.

Hannah Rosin's much discussed essay in the Atlantic, Boys on the Side, claims female success and equality is due to the hookup culture

To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind. For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future.

The New Eugenics.  An Oxford academic states that creating designer babies could be considered a moral obligation as it makes them grow up into ''ethically better children".  Professor Julian Savulescu, an 'expert' in practical ethics  and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medical Ethics said

that we should actively give parents the choice to screen out personality flaws in their children as it meant they were then less likely to "harm themselves and others".
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He said that science is increasingly discovering that genes have a significant influence on personality – with certain genetic markers in embryo suggesting future characteristics.  By screening in and screening out certain genes in the embryos, it should be possible to influence how a child turns out.

In the end, he said that "rational design" would help lead to a better, more intelligent and less violent society in the future. "If we have the power to intervene in the nature of our offspring — rather than consigning them to the natural lottery — then we should."

Does that include the "Gay Gene"?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:06 AM | Permalink

August 27, 2012

News you can use

How to eat a Tic Tac Like a Boss

Eleven awesome food hacks.  Not to be missed.  Making crispy tortilla bowls,  Optimizing your sandwich layout.  How to preserve berries. Use a wooden spoon to prevent boiling over.  Coring lettuce in 3 seconds.

Sharpen dull tweezers with a nail file

Be Awesome at a Moment’s Notice: A Guide to Powering Up Your Brain. Use These Tricks Sparingly, or They'll Stop Working

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:27 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Super gonorrhea, aspirin again, CPR for the elderly, flossing, the germ responsible for 30,000 deaths a year

Super Gonorrhea The CDC announced that we're down to our last effective antibiotic.

The Woman Who Needed to Be Upside-Down A doctor is baffled: Why did a giant man walk into the ER holding a tiny woman by her feet?

Daily aspirin 'cuts the risk of dying from any type of cancer'  - 16% lower overall risk of cancer mortality

How stress and depression can shrink the brain

Severe depression and chronic stress can shrink the brain by blocking the formation of new nerve connections, a study has shown.  The effect disrupts circuits associated with mental functioning and emotion.

It could explain why people with major depressive disorder (MDD) suffer from concentration and memory loss, as well as blunted emotional responses.

More on CPR for the elderly

Should a frail, elderly person receive CPR?

In his 33 years as an emergency room doctor ... Dr. David Davis estimates he has resuscitated 600 people. CPR, he likes to point out, was developed during the Korean War to help wounded soldiers — otherwise healthy young men — stay alive until they reached field hospitals. Doing chest compressions on fragile old people disturbs him.

“It is violent,” Dr. Davis told me in an interview. “If you don’t do it hard enough, you can’t move any blood.” But if you do thrust hard enough, “you’re going to break the ribs and maybe the sternum.”

“If older people and their families knew all that was involved, the manipulation, the tubes, the drugs and the low chances for a good outcome, they’d opt for comfort care instead,” Dr. Davis said. He’s 66, and tattooed on his own chest is an informal advance directive: “Shock Thrice,” meaning that after three attempts at defibrillation, the team should stop resuscitation and allow him to die.

Nice cup of tea to beat bioterrorists?  Tea ingredients can kill micro-organisms and inactivate toxins, expert says.

… a principal component of black tea can neutralize ricin, a highly toxic substance which has been at the center of a number of attempted terrorist attacks.  Dr Richardson says: "One cup of char won't cure you if you have been poisoned, but compounds extracted from tea could, with further research, provide an antidote to poisoning following a terrorist attack

Dealing with the frustration of tracking medical expenses and keeping your health care records safely online with
Simplee

Doing Medicaid Reform Right   A pilot program in Florida shows the way.

Under the pilot program, Medicaid recipients are given the choice of a wide variety of plans created by multiple insurers. The insurers are allowed to escape the vast majority of mandates on coverage, and instead just have to meet an actuarial value for the plan.
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Medicaid recipients get to choose among a dozen different plans with different offerings – one hospital, multiple, HIV-positive, etc. The plans are competing on benefits, copays, and provider networks, even above traditional Medicaid FFS. There's a default plan, but the engagement is huge – 70% of recipients in the pilot choose a plan other than the default. (This is because, as Jeb was fond of saying, they're poor, not stupid.)
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The outcome, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, is 64% better health vs. managed care, with 83% higher satisfaction from those in the program. And they've saved money, too: Florida is currently saving roughly $118 million a year on Medicaid in the five counties, with better outcomes for the people in it. The state will be approved soon for a statewide expansion of the program, and expects to save almost a billion dollars per year.

My Health-Care Alternative for the Old and Poor  by Devon Nunes

Replacing Medicare and Medicaid with a simple debit card will result in better-quality care, for less.


One germ liable for 30,000 deaths

Clostridium difficult, or C. diff, that ravages the intestines. The bacteria preys on people in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities — the very places patients trust to protect their health.

A USA TODAY investigation shows that C. diff is far more prevalent than federal reports suggest. The bacteria is linked in hospital records to more than 30,000 deaths a year in the United States — about twice federal estimates and rivaling the 32,000 killed in traffic accidents. It strikes about a half-million Americans a year.

If you don't floss daily, maybe this news will get you going.  Women who look after their teeth and gums 'have lower risk of dementia'
Inflammation triggered by gum disease has already been implicated in heart disease and diabetes

Obesity and high blood pressure 'speed up mental decline' for those aged over 50

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:25 PM | Permalink

August 23, 2012

The bad and the good: Most expensive green jobs ever and the country's largest ecological restoration ever

$9 Billion in ‘Stimulus’ for Solar, Wind Projects Made 910 Final Jobs -- $9.8 Million Per Job

The Obama administration distributed $9 billion in economic “stimulus” funds to solar and wind projects in 2009-11 that created, as the end result, 910 “direct” jobs -- annual operation and maintenance positions -- meaning that it cost about $9.8 million to establish each of those long-term jobs.

At the same time, those green energy projects also created, in the end, about 4,600 “indirect” jobs – positions indirectly supported by the annual operation and maintenance jobs -- which means they cost about $1.9 million each ($9 billion divided by 4,600).

Combined (910 + 4,600 = 5,510), the direct and indirect jobs cost, on average, about $1.63 million each to produce.

Scientists reverse America's worst ecological disaste

Great news! The worst ecological disaster in the history of the United States may be about to be reversed.

The American chestnut tree was once king of the Eastern forest. Its sturdy hardwood, its beautiful shape, and its nourishing nuts aided Americans’ construction, crafts, and cooking for hundreds of years. Tragically, a fungus from Asia killed billions of trees, and only a small number remain today.
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This is true environmentalism in action: conservation restoring the beauty and the riches of the world we have been given

Driving down the Fenway one day in Boston, I caught sight of a tree that looked as if  were alight with a thousand candles and It was so beautiful I had to pull over so I could gaze at it for minutes in wonder.  I later learned it was an American chestnut tree in bloom and I saw it just as its pollen stalks caught the light of the setting sun.   

 American Chestnut Pollen

Hopes for Chestnut Revival Growing Engineered Versions of the Once-Common Species, Long Ago Wiped Out by a Fungus, Take Root

The experiments are the culmination of decades of research by scientists at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. At the same time, a separate effort was under way to splice the American chestnut with a Chinese version, producing a potentially blight-resistant tree dubbed the "Restoration chestnut." Both efforts have given hope to supporters who want the chestnut to reclaim part of its share of the forest.

"I didn't think they would ever do it," said Kim Steiner, a professor of forest biology at Pennsylvania State University. Now, he said, "I'm sure it's going to happen."
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The American Chestnut Foundation….started planting their new chestnuts—one-sixteenth Chinese and the rest American—in Virginia in 2006. More than 100,000 of the trees are growing across 19 states. with plans for millions more in what the group calls the country's largest ecological restoration effort.
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Returning the chestnut to American forests in large numbers could depend on help from the mining and timber industry. Federal law requires mining companies to restore land they strip through means that include forestation. Chestnuts thrive in the loose, sandy soils left after mining. The chestnut foundation is working with mining and energy companies….

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 PM | Permalink

Amazing scientific breakthroughs

All-in-one magic makeup camouflages soldiers, repels mosquitoes AND protects against bomb blasts

Scientists have developed camouflage makeup that not only helps soldiers hide from the enemy, but also shields them from the searing heat of bomb blasts – and it’s thinner than a sheet of paper.

The heat-resistant face paint, developed for the US military, has been described as one of the most fundamental changes in thousands of years to camouflage, and could also benefit fire fighters.

The material is powerful enough to protect against a thermal blast that can reach 600 degrees Celsius (1,112 degrees Fahrenheit), as hot as a burning cigarette.

Scientists discover how to stop bananas from rotting…by covering them with seafood.

  It's a paper-thin hydrogel coating of the chemical chitosan, a substance derived from shellfish that blocks the bananas' respiration

The giant 3D printer than could create a HOUSE in 24 hours

The cup of herbal tea that could help fight breast cancer: Plant extract can kill cells in test tube 

Extracts from the plant known as virgin’s mantle, which is used as a medicinal tea in some countries, can kill cancerous cells in the test tube.  The plant-based tea is already drunk by women in rural Pakistan who have breast cancer, but until now its use as a treatment has been regarded as folklore.

Research by scientists at Aston University, Birmingham, and Russells Hall Hospital, Dudley, suggests it contains potent anti-cancer agents that act singly or in combination against the proliferation of cancer cells.  Laboratory tests showed they arrested the growth of cells within five hours of application and caused them to die within 24 hours.

Professor Helen Griffiths and Professor Amtul R Carmichael, who headed the study, found herbal tea made from the extract of the plant destroys cancer cells but, unlike conventional chemotherapy, treatment does not damage normal breast cells, thus reducing side effects.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:22 PM | Permalink

Pedophilia in 50 Shades of Grey?

Is 50 Shades Of Grey – Pedophilia Hiding In Plain Sight

The main character is described in pigtails, given words like “Holy Cow”  “down there”, “jeez”  “double crap” she can’t operate a computer (but is supposedly a college graduate), describes skipping and doing cartwheels, repeatedly says she is made to feel like a child, has her imaginary friend (inner goddess) feels shame, is spanked and slathered in BABY OIL, told what to say, what to eat, what to do, until finally and sadly so predictably, is physically beaten.  (But she returns to him soon after, which is again, a very common theme of abuse, including pedophilia).

This is a book I never plan to read.  That so many have read it and loved it is a disturbing comment on society today, especially  women today, who have made this the fastest selling book since Harry Potter. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:01 PM | Permalink

Emerging Adulthood, 18-29

Delayed Development: 20-Somethings Blame the Brain

"Until very recently, we had to make some pretty important life decisions about education and career paths, who to marry and whether to go into the military at a time when parts of our brains weren't optimal yet," says neuroscientist Jay Giedd at the National Institute of Mental Health, whose brain-imaging studies of thousands of young people have yielded many of the new insights. Postponing those decisions makes sense biologically, he says. "It's a good thing that the 20s are becoming a time for self-discovery."

Such findings are part of a new wave of research into "emerging adulthood," the years roughly from 18 to 29, which psychologists, sociologists and neuroscientists increasingly see as a distinct life stage.
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"It should be reassuring for parents to know that it's very typical in the 20s not to know what you're going to do and change your mind and seem very unstable in your life. It's the norm," says Jeffrey J. Arnett, a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who coined the term "emerging adulthood" in 2000.

For young adults, it can be a stressful time. High rates of anxiety, depression, motor-vehicle accidents and alcohol use are at their peak from 18 to 25, trends that tend to level out by age 28, studies show. And a recent survey by Clark University, which polled more than 1,000 young adults nationwide, found that 72% said this time of life was stressful and 33% said they were often depressed. Still, 89% believed they would eventually get what they want out of life.
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The fact that the brain stays unfinished during early adulthood "is the best thing that ever happened to humans" because it allows us to adapt to changing environments, says Dr. Giedd. "We can figure out what kind of world we live in and what we need to be really good at."
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Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues are higher in the teens and 20s than in any other decade except the 80s. Some experts blame the roller coaster of change and uncertainty during the youthful years. "Most emerging adults find it very exciting to be in this time of life, but some find it overwhelming. They wonder, 'How do I find out who I am, or what I want to do?' Or they want to be a doctor or own a business and they find the doors closed to them," says Dr. Arnett.

"There's also a lot of loneliness and making and breaking of romantic relationships in this period."

I've always thought that the 20s are the most difficult time of all.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

The male biological clock is "an extraordinary important force in evolution

Landmark study reveals men have a biological clock too

Men delaying fatherhood have been told to consider freezing their sperm after a study showed they also have a rapidly ticking biological clock.

Researchers found older fathers pass down the majority of the faulty genes linked to conditions such as autism and schizophrenia.
Scientists in Iceland discovered  97 per cent of genetic mutations  were caused by the age of the  father, while the mother’s age had no effect at all. The child of a 40-year-old father had two-and-a-half times as  many potentially damaging mutations as that of a 20-year-old, and  the gap increased with every  passing year.

Reacting to the study, Alexey Kondrashov, a professor of evolutionary biology at Michigan University, said if the findings were confirmed, ‘collecting the sperm of young adult men and cool-storing it for later use could be a wise individual decision’.

While it was suspected that the trend towards late fatherhood may be related to rising rates of autism, this was the first large-scale test.
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Everyone has some genetic mutations, but on average children had an additional two for every year of the father’s life. A 20-year-old father transmitted on average 25 mutations to his child, while 40-year-old fathers, the oldest in the study, transmitted around 65.

The mother transmitted around 15, regardless of her age
. Lead author Dr Kari Stefansson, of deCODE, a leading genetics firm in Reykjavik, said the father’s age was ‘an extraordinarily important force in evolution’, adding: ‘The number of mutations coming from the mother is constant, which makes sense as her eggs are formed before she is born, whereas men constantly generate sperm through to old age.

The very important conclusion we can draw from this is that the concern focused on the increasing age of mothers is probably misplaced.  They may be off the hook, and men are on it – as disorders from these mutations are much more common than the risks associated with older mothers.’

The researchers, writing in the journal Nature, say the father’s age seems to increase problems with brain function – such as autism, schizophrenia and possibly dyslexia and low intelligence.  However, while there is no increase in genetic mutations, older mothers are known to increase their child’s risk of more serious chromosome abnormalities, which make them more likely to miscarry or have children with Down’s syndrome.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:18 AM | Permalink

August 22, 2012

Green tea 'eradicates skin cancer'

Green tea extract 'eradicates skin cancer with no side-effects' - but drinking it doesn't work

A chemical found in green tea has been used to treat two types of skin cancer, scientists say.

The extract is too weak to make an impact when consumed in tea. However, when applied to cancer cells in the lab it made two-thirds of tumors shrink or disappear.

Scientists at the universities of Strathclyde and Glasgow, who carried out the research, found the extract, known as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), had no side-effects on other cells or tissue.  They created a cell with EGCg and transferrin, a protein that naturally targets and latches on to the surface of cancer cells, and applied it to tumors.

Tests were done on two types of skin cancer: epidermoid carcinoma which forms scales on the surface of the skin and melanoma which often develops in people who have moles on their skin.  In both studies, 40 per cent of tumors vanished, while 30 per cent of tumors in carcinoma cases and 20 per cent in melanoma cases shrank. A further 10 per cent of melanoma tumors were stabilized, so did not grow or shrink.
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'This research could open doors to new treatments for what is still one of the biggest killer diseases in many countries.'

The research is published in the medical journal Nanomedicine.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:42 PM | Permalink

"If you do not cheat life, it won't cheat you."

Good advice from Surabhi Surendra .  5 Truths that will transform your life

We all prefer to live by our own rules. These are often trial and error methods. We make mistakes, learn a lesson from them and avoid them in future. A wise way to live life is by learning from others’ mistakes. With eons of wisdom and experience, there are some golden rules that hold good for every one.

I'm summarized them here, but read the whole thing to get the full impact.

1. No decision is good or bad, it is the end result that matters.
2. 90% of us have the same level of talent. It is the attitude that determines our altitude.
3. Never think of problems, think of solutions.
4. Honesty is always the best policy.
5. Only keep the essentials, cut the unnecessary and you will achieve more.

Or as one commenter said, "If you do not cheat life, it won't cheat you."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:54 PM | Permalink

August 21, 2012

"Something that contains great truths has been almost universally reviled"

Mary Eberstadt:  I was ‘blown away’ by Pope Paul VI’s accurate predictions about the sexual revolution

BJ: It certainly underscored the importance of everything you’re talking about. Your book does not discuss health care but renders a more valuable service, which is to talk about the ramifications of widespread recreational sex and its effects. You pick up the baton from none other than Pope Paul VI, as you mention. You flesh out the predictions of his encyclical Humanae Vitae in your book’s last chapter very well. What did you find prophetic about it, and were you surprised it was as indicative as it turned out to be?

EB: I was indeed surprised. I did not read Humanae Vitae until just a few years ago, just a few years shy of its 40th anniversary, and when I finally read the document through I was just blown away by its understanding of what the world would look like if the sexual revolution proceeded.

The main thing that surprised me was its understanding of what would happen to the relation between the sexes. Humanae Vitae predicted that in a world of contraceptive sex, men and women would not get along as well, that once you sever procreation from recreational sex men would look down on women. He also advanced the idea that there would be a lowering of standards of conduct between the sexes. All of this, I argue, has come true, and yet the secular world has refused to acknowledge its truth. That to me is a paradox, because if you were to ask which document of modern times was the most unwanted and reviled document it would have be Humanae Vitae, right? Across the world, it is seen as a laughingstock in some places, as a profoundly undesired testament in others, yet this document contains more truth about the sexual revolution and the world it would usher in than any other document. We’re left here with a great paradox – I really believe that – that something that contains great truths has been almost universally reviled. And that in itself was justification enough to undertake this book.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:15 PM | Permalink

Religion Roundup

In Syria Over 12 thousand Christian faithful "starving" in the village of Rableh: humanitarian law is invoked

Over 12 thousand faithful Greek-Catholics are trapped in the village of Rableh, west of Qusayr, in the area of Homs. Food is scarce, the faithful are living on "bread and water", medicine is lacking to treat the sick and wounded.

Christian boy tortured and killed in Pakistan
The tortured body of an 11 year old Christian boy has been found in a town in Punjab, Pakistan, days after a young Christian girl was arrested on blasphemy charges.  The body was found with the ears, nose, tongue and limbs torn from the body, the belly ripped open and internal organs (including the liver and kidneys) taken, perhaps to be sold on the black market. As if this were not enough, the killers then poured acid on his face, possibly to make him unrecognizable.    The long list of Christian children raped or killed in Pakistan

Video report confirms Egyptian crucifixions.  Translated Sky News Arabia: 'Crucifying dissidents in front of the presidential palace'

A German district  court ruled that circumcision was illegal because it inflicted 'damage on children and could not be protected by freedom of religion.  Shortly  thereafter,  a German rabbi was arrested for 'harming' infants by performing a bris,  ' the covenantal ritual at the heart of Judaism'.

While the rabbi has not yet been tried, let alone convicted, the spectacle of German courts prosecuting a Jew for practicing Judaism doesn’t just awaken echoes of the Holocaust. It also sounds a warning that the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Western Europe is not a passing phase.

While stopping short of recommending routine circumcision, the American Academy of Pediatrics revised its guidelines to say that the health benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks

Obama Campaign will hold Muslim Juma at DNC but refused Cardinal Dolan's request to say a prayer which he will do at the RNC.

The Catholic owners of a Vermont Inn pay $30,000 in an out-of-court settlement for expressing their religious beliefs despite the fact they never told the plaintiffs, a lesbian couple, that they would not host a same sex wedding reception.  The inn's wedding coordinator  did tell the couple that and also admitted that she lied about it under oath

A shepherd to his flock: Pastor risks life to stay with woman kidnapped in Egypt.

Louis told the Bedouin captors that he would not simply let them take Alphonse by herself. “Take me, too,” he told them. “I have to go, too.” As a pastor and the leader of the group, Louis felt responsible for Alphonse’s safety.
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kidnapped tourists have become unfortunate tools of negotiation that the some Bedouins have used to extract concessions from the transitional Egyptian government.
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Details are sketchy as to what, if any, promises were made to secure their release, but on July 16, Abu-Masuh drove the three captives to meet a police inspector to whom the kidnapper release Louis, Alphonse, and their interpreter. Some reports indicate that Egyptian authorities have promised to work to free his uncle, but Abu-Masuh said what motivated him to release his captives was a change of heart. He said, “We are people of mercy, and they don’t have anything to do with this.”

In Texas, Pentecostal Christian Woman Fired from Burger King for Wearing Long Skirt Instead of Pants.  The EEOC is now filing on behalf of the 17-year-old  for religious discrimination by not making a reasonable accommodation for her religious beliefs.

The Soul-Crushing Scorched-Earth Battle for Gay Marriage

Since my article came out, I have been through far worse than I ever thought would happen. …Gay basher?  What the heck has this movement come to?  For God's sake, I am a bisexual raised by a lesbian couple, who helped countless people dying of AIDS.  I've spent my life cleaning up the messes left by gay politics.  I wrote an honest essay.  That's bashing?

Belief in Hell Makes People Better.  Belief in Heaven Not So Much

Eric Metaxas, A Christian Nation?

So what's the truth? I think my friend Os Guinness offers terrific clarity in his new book A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future.   Friends, I simply cannot overstate how important this book is at this moment in our history.  In the book, Os points out that revolutions are not rare in the history of nations, nor is the pursuit of freedom. History tells plenty of stories about how freedom is won through revolution. But what made the American experiment unique is not that freedom was won, but that the founders provided a formula for how freedom could be sustained.
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In A Free People's Suicide, Os Guinness calls this recipe "The Golden Triangle of Freedom." The critical thing we must understand, Guinness says, is that the three truths that make up this triangle - freedom, virtue and faith - are interdependent.
In other words, freedom requires virtue. Virtue requires faith. And faith requires freedom
. If freedom, virtue or faith cease to be central to the American way of life, the most radical and effective experiment in self-government in the history of the world will fail.  That's why we care so deeply about the HHS mandate, or the Chick-fil-A fiasco, because they reflect the cultural and political trend to push faith from the center of our public life.

Finally, Father Robert Barron on Paul Ryan and Catholic Social Teaching.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:16 PM | Permalink

Only 5% of eligible adults have been inoculated against shingles

Do I need the shingles vaccine?

What if there was an infection that can cause permanent nerve damage and pain? What if the virus could affect the eye and cause blindness or affect the brain and cause meningitis?  What if the burning rash attacks almost half of all Americans sometime in their life?  If you knew there was a vaccine which could protect you from that malady, would you get the shot? 

The disease is called shingles or herpes zoster and despite a successful vaccine being available only five (5) percent of eligible adults have been inoculated.

If you are over 60, get inoculated and save yourself grief

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 PM | Permalink

Jonathan Chait fesses up and tells the truth

Jonathan Chait, a liberal, writes in New York magazine, The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy Is on Your Screen

The more uncomfortable reality is that the culture war is an ongoing liberal rout. Hollywood is as liberal as ever, and conservatives have simply despaired of changing it.

You don’t have to be an especially devoted consumer of film or television (I’m not) to detect a pervasive, if not total, liberalism
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In short, the world of popular culture increasingly reflects a shared reality in which the Republican Party is either absent or anathema. That shared reality is the cultural assumptions, in particular, of the younger voters whose support has become the bedrock of the Democratic Party.
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Set aside the substance of the matter and consider the process of it—that is, think of it from the conservative point of view, if you don’t happen to be one. Imagine that large chunks of your entertainment mocked your values and even transformed once-uncontroversial beliefs of yours into a kind of bigotry that might be greeted with revulsion. You’d probably be angry, too.
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By now, conservatives have almost completely stopped complaining about Hollywood, even as the provocations have intensified. What passes for a right-wing movie these days is The Dark Knight Rises, which submits the rather modest premise that, irritating though the rich may be, actually killing them and taking all their stuff might be excessive.
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For the most part, your television is not consciously attempting to alter your political beliefs. It is mainly transmitting an ethos in which greed is not only bad but the main wellspring of evil, authority figures of all kinds are often untrustworthy, sexual freedom is absolute, and social equality of all kinds is paramount.
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We liberals owe not a small measure of our success to the propaganda campaign of a tiny, disproportionately influential cultural elite.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

Environment Roundup: Failure of the false narratives of doom

George Will Why doom has not materialized  and apocalypse fatigue has set in.

[1972]  begat “The Limits to Growth,” a book from the Club of Rome, which called itself “a project on the predicament of mankind.” It sold 12 million copies, staggered the New York Times (“one of the most important documents of our age”) and argued that economic growth was doomed by intractable scarcities. Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish academic and “skeptical environmentalist,” writing in Foreign Affairs, says it “helped send the world down a path of worrying obsessively about misguided remedies for minor problems while ignoring much greater concerns,” such as poverty, which only economic growth can ameliorate.
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The modelers missed something — human ingenuity in discovering, extracting and innovating.

Richard Fernandez comments

Surveying the ruins of industrial America Hanson notes elsewhere that “Hiroshima looks a lot better today than does Detroit”, raising the interesting possibility that recovering from a nuclear blast may be possible or at least a lot more likely than surviving terminally stupid political projects.
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The worst thing about political crusades is that they manufacture “facts”. That is to say they mass-produce lies.  As a now-skeptical environmentalist Fritz Varenholt noted, movements to save the world tend to force the data into the narrative. After a while the public, force fed a diet of press releases, come to believe the narrative is the fact.

Like Water for Climate Bjorn Lomberg

“Everyone knows” that you should drink eight glasses of water a day. After all, this is the advice of a multitude of health writers, not to mention authorities like Britain’s National Health Service…….Now the British Medical Journal reports that these claims are “not only nonsense, but thoroughly debunked nonsense.” This has been common knowledge in the medical profession at least since 2002.

Wind and solar power is destabilizing the German grid

The problem is that wind and solar farms just don’t deliver the same amount of continuous electricity compared with nuclear and gas-fired power plants. To match traditional energy sources, grid operators must be able to exactly predict how strong the wind will blow or the sun will shine.

But such an exact prediction is difficult. Even when grid operators are off by just a few percentage points, voltage in the grid slackens. That has no affect on normal household appliances, such as vacuum cleaners and coffee machines. But for high-performance computers, for example, outages lasting even just a millisecond can quickly trigger system failures.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:19 PM | Permalink

Religion Roundup: In Egypt, call to kill Christians, Pakistani Christians flee, Pope Pius XII framed, quality of Israeli sperm plummeting

Murder of Copts Begins After Genocide Call

Hours after leaflets from Egypt’s jihadi organizations were distributed promising to “reward” any Muslim who kills any Christian Copt in Egypt, specifically naming several regions including Asyut, a report recently appeared concerning the random killing of a Christian store-owner.

A 12-year-old Pakistani girl who is retarded has been arrested for blasphemy.  She either burned a Koran deliberately or inadvertently and she's now in jail facing the death penalty and her family is in protective custody.  As many as 600 Pakistani Christians Fearing Backlash Flee the Area.

The Framing of Pius XII - From Skepticism to Belief

Professor Ronald J. Rychlak is an expert on the “Hitler’s Pope” controversy surrounding Venerable Pope Pius XII.  But despite being a defender of Pius XII’s wartime record in saving Jewish lives from the Holocaust, the American law professor at the University of Mississippi was initially skeptical of claims, first disclosed by former Romanian intelligence chief General Ion Mihai Pacepa in 2007, that efforts to blacken Pius’s name were driven by a Soviet plot.

Yet after two years of research and regular contact with Pacepa, his perception changed, and he is now convinced that the KGB played a key role in framing Pius XII by promoting The Deputy – Rolf Hochhuth’s 1963 play that gave birth to the “Black Legend” of Pius as a Nazi sympathizer.

'I can still see the horror that made me flee Pakistan - in the haunted eyes of girls raised HERE': Nadira Naipaul exposes arranged marriages and honor killings in the UK

When I married V.  S. Naipaul and moved to England in 1996, I thought I had left the horror behind.  Pakistan had drained my resolve, and I was tired of fighting a losing battle. To me, England, for all its ills, was the promised land.

Instead, I have found the horror I fled has followed me here. It is all around, eroding the very core of everything Britain believes in.

Israeli sperm banks find quality is plummeting

But finding such super sperm isn't as easy as it used to be. Only 1 in 100 donors makes the cut. A decade ago, it was 1 in 10….
Simply put, the quality of Israeli sperm is falling at an alarming rate, and no one's sure exactly why.

Fertility is a major issue in Israel, where memories of the Holocaust genocide are fresh, and having children is an entrenched part of Judaism.
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"People in Israel are getting quite a load of estrogen," said Laurence Shore, a retired hormone and toxicology researcher at the Kimron Veterinary Institute near Tel Aviv. "I don't think it's a good idea to expose children to such high levels of estrogen."
He said that no studies so far have determined that estrogen levels in Israel are harming humans, adding that exposure may be too low for that. But he said it might be a factor in the sperm decline.  His research has found Israeli milk and associated products such as butter and cheese can contain 10 times as much estrogen as products from other countries because of Israel's aggressive milk-production practices.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

"Men took to changing wives with the same zest which they displayed in the consumption of the recently restored forty-per-cent vodka."

This Atlantic article sounds remarkably like the arguments in today's culture wars is from 1926, The Russian Effort to Abolish Marriage - A Woman Resident in Russia.

The question whether marriage as an institution should be abolished is now being debated all over Russia with a violence and depth of passion unknown since the turbulent early days of the Revolution. Last October a bill eliminating distinctions between registered and unregistered marriages and giving the unmarried consort the status and property rights of the legal wife was introduced in the Tzik, or Central Executive Committee. So much unforeseen opposition to the proposed law developed that the Tzik decided to postpone its final adoption until the next session, meanwhile initiating a broad popular discussion of the project.

Since that time factories, offices, clubs, and various Soviet organizations and institutions have passed resolutions for and against the bill, and the halls have not been able to hold the eager crowds that thronged to the meetings in city, town, and village. One must live in Russia to-day, amid the atmosphere of torment, disgust, and disillusionment that pervades sex relations, the chaos, uncertainty, and tragedy that hover over the Russian family, to understand the reasons for this heated discussion, for these passionate pros and cons.
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At the same time a law was passed which made divorce a matter of a few minutes, to be obtained at the request of either partner in a marriage. Chaos was the result. Men took to changing wives with the same zest which they displayed in the consumption of the recently restored forty-per-cent vodka.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:37 AM | Permalink

August 20, 2012

Poverty or squalor, encounter in a coffee shop, 'start doing', you already have enough

Some worthwhile longer reads

Theodore Dalyrmple What is Poverty

What do we mean by poverty? Not what Dickens or Blake or Mayhew meant. Today, no one seriously expects to go hungry in England or to live without running water or medical care or even TV.
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Certainly they are in squalor—a far more accurate description of their condition than poverty—despite a threefold increase in per-capita income, including that of the poor, since the end of the last war.
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Every few months, doctors from countries like the Philippines and India arrive fresh from the airport to work for a year's stint at my hospital. It is fascinating to observe their evolving response to British squalor.
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Before very long, though, they start to feel a vague unease. A Filipina doctor, for example, asked me why so few people seemed grateful for what was done for them.
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I asked the doctor from Madras if poverty was the word he would use to describe this woman's situation. He said it was not: that her problem was that she accepted no limits to her own behavior, that she did not fear the possibility of hunger, the condemnation of her own parents or neighbors, or God. In other words, the squalor of England was not economic but spiritual, moral, and cultural.
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I tell the doctors that in all my visits to the white households in the area, of which I've made hundreds, never—not once—have I seen any evidence of cooking. The nearest to this activity that I have witnessed is the reheating of prepared and packaged food, usually in a microwave
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By the end of three months my doctors have, without exception, reversed their original opinion that the welfare state, as exemplified by England, represents the acme of civilization. On the contrary, they see it now as creating a miasma of subsidized apathy that blights the lives of its supposed beneficiaries. They come to realize that a system of welfare that makes no moral judgments in allocating economic rewards promotes antisocial egotism. The spiritual impoverishment of the population seems to them worse than anything they have ever known in their own countries

Joel Runyon tells the story of An Unexpected Ass Kicking and then goes on to write the 7 Things I Learned from My Unexpected Encounter with Russell Kirsch

Most of all. Stop reading. Start doing. There’s a lot of things that haven’t been done yet that need you to go do them. Go.

What My Son's Disabilities Taught Me About 'Having It All'.

Because of her child's problems, the author will never have a tidy, peaceful life. But none of this keeps her from being happy -- as long as she asks herself the right questions.
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When I look at friends and acquaintances, many with perfectly beautiful children and wonderful lives, and see how desperately unhappy or stressed they are about balancing work and family, I think to myself that the solution to many problems is deceptively obvious. We are chasing the wrong things, asking ourselves the wrong questions. It is not, "Can we have it all?" -- with "all" being some kind of undefined marker that shall forever be moved upwards out of reach just a little bit with each new blessing. We should ask instead, "Do we have enough?"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 AM | Permalink

August 18, 2012

A Range of Astonishing

Astonishing.  Harvard Researchers Can Store All the Data Humans Make in a Year on 4 grams of DNA

Forget that hard drive humming inside your computer – the most efficient memory storage device on the planet might be locked up in each and every cell in your body…The result is a method of storing data so dense that it makes most modern tech seem like wasted space.

The team estimates that the every piece of digital information humankind produces in a year could be stored in about four grams of DNA.

Astonishing. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has begun crucifixions

The Arab Spring takeover of Egypt by the Muslim Brotherhood has run amok, with reports from several different media agencies that the radical Muslims have begun crucifying opponents of newly installed President Mohammed Morsi.

Middle East media confirm that during a recent rampage, Muslim Brotherhood operatives “crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others.”

Astonishing. Incredible shot of US swimmer that perfectly shows the phenomenon of surface tension

 Us Swimmer Surface Tension Water
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink

His brother's keeper

This story is a devastating reflection on the President who speaks eloquently of being our brothers' keeper, but doesn't pay a penny to help out his own half-brother or his aunt even though he earned $789,674 in 2011.

How I became George Obama's 'brother'

A few days ago I received a call from a man I recently met named George.  He was a bit flustered, and soon informed me that his young son was sick with a chest condition.  He pleaded with me to send him $1,000 to cover the medical bills.  Since George was at the hospital I asked him to let me speak to a nurse, and she confirmed that George’s son was indeed ill.  So I agreed to send George the money through Western Union.  He was profusely grateful. 

But before I hung up I asked George, “Why are you coming to me?”  He said, “I have no one else to ask.”  Then he said something that astounded me, “Dinesh, you are like a brother to me.”

Actually, George has a real life brother who just happens to be the president of the United States.  (George Obama is the youngest of eight children sired by Barack Obama Sr.)  George’s brother is a multimillionaire and the most powerful man in the world.  Moreover, George’s brother has framed his re-election campaign around the “fair share” theme that we owe obligations to those who are less fortunate.

Roger Kimball writes

this spectacle of callous familial neglect by, as Dinesh rightly describes him, the most powerful man in the world is something special. Forget politics. This is about simple humanity. I have to assume that Dinesh’s facts are true. No one would dare fabricate such a story. But what does it mean?  For once I am speechless.

In 2010, the Obamas reported a joint income of $1,728,096

In 2011, the Obamas reported $789,674 in income.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

Comparing energy subsidies

The Energy Subsidy Tally

The folks at the Institute for Energy Research used the Energy Department data to calculate

Subsidy per unit of electricity produced per megawatt hour:

Natural gas, oil and coal ……. $  .64
Hydropower…………………… $  .82
Nuclear………………………… $ 3.14
Wind…………………………… $56.29 
Solar a whopping……………$775.64.

So for every tax dollar that goes to coal, oil and natural gas, wind gets $88 and solar $1,212.

After all the hype and dollars, in 2010 wind and solar combined for 2.3% of electric generation—2.3% for wind and 0% and a rounding error for solar. Renewables contributed 10.3% overall, though 6.2% is hydro. Some "investment."

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Fossil fuels accounted for 78% of U.S. energy production but received only 12.6% of tax incentives.
Renewables accounted for 11% of energy production but received 77% of the tax subsidies—
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Coal, oil, and natural gas industries paid more than $10 billion of taxes in 2009.
Wind and solar are net drains on the Treasury.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

August 17, 2012

Round-up of fun links

Every two years, a huge floral carpet is laid out on the Grand Place in Brussels 

Floral Carpet Brussels

It takes just four hours with everyone pitching in.

-Floral Carpet Kids

The astonishing work of make-up artist Promise Tamang Phan who transforms herself into Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka and Johnny Depp  himself.

The Google Autocomplete Map revealing the fattest and most boring US states.

A History of the Past.  'Life Reeked with Joy'

Possibly as an act of vengeance, a history professor--compiling, verbatim, several decades' worth of freshman papers--offers some of his students’ more striking insights into European history from the Middle Ages to the present.

Winners of the National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest 2012  The one below is by Ken Bower.  But you really have to go to the link to see winners in all their glory.

 Ngeo Winner 2012 Travelers' Photos

What do you see when you look in the mirror?  Tom Hussey's series on Reflections

 Tom Hussey Series  Reflections

Father Barron comments on "The Dark Knight Rises"  and the problem of evil.  Evil is solved by the great heroic self-sacrificing act of love on the part of a savior.    The Christ archetype, he argues, haunts the Western culture even in a secular age.    Bruce Wayne is an icon of Christ.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:03 AM | Permalink

Environmental Round-up

US Carbon Emissions Hit 20-Year Low, No Thanks to Carbon-Trading Schemes

The Energy Department has just released a report that ought to leave the greens asking: How did we get this so wrong? As the AP reports, the study shows that US carbon emissions have just hit their lowest level in 20 years. How was this reduction achieved? Natural gas:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years, and government officials say the biggest reason is that cheap and plentiful natural gas has led many power plant operators to switch from dirtier-burning coal.

Many of the world’s leading climate scientists didn’t see the drop coming, in large part because it happened as a result of market forces rather than direct government action against carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere.

The Solar-Painted Desert

Several weeks ago in a remarkable but little-noticed policy directive, the Interior Department announced that it will allow construction permitting on 285,000 acres of public land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah for solar energy projects. Even more remarkable, Interior said that energy firms can petition Interior to build solar installations "on approximately 19 million acres"—a larger land mass than Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
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What's surprising is that few if any nature groups are protesting this regulatory rush to approve renewable energy projects. Environmental groups have never hesitated to block a dam to save a snail darter, or oppose a forest-clearing to save an owl, but desert tortoises and bighorn sheep are apparently expendable as sacrifices to the gods of green energy. So much for protecting wildlife from big, bad profit-making industry.

The electricity produced in Obama's Federal Land Grab will be ridiculously expensive.

Whereas most of the pressure from environmental groups has been in preventing the development of Western lands, now these seemingly endless tracts are being regarded as a fertile field of dreams for environmentalists to carry on their experiments with wind and solar energy. Early this month, President Obama proudly announced seven major projects on Western lands. The largest will be a 3,000-MW-capacity wind farm covering 350 square miles of Wyoming. The others include a 75-square-mile wind farm in the Mojave Desert of Arizona and several-square-mile solar complexes in California, Arizona, and Nevada

All these projects will suffer the intermittency problems that plague wind and solar generation everywhere. This intermittency will create surges and voltage drops that destabilize a grid. Some solar plants are now developing thermal storage that can carry them through a few hours of the night, but only this reduces their overall capacity by nearly one-half, so that instead of requiring 10 square miles of highly polished mirrors to generate 500 megawatts -- the size of an average coal plant -- it will take twenty. These projects will also require hundreds of miles of transmission lines to bring them to population centers. And the electricity they produce will be ridiculously expensive.

Yet all will move ahead because federal-and-state-sponsored renewable programs are being pursued without any regard for the economic consequences. The electricity they produce will be guaranteed a market at a price that makes them profitable, whatever it may be.

The tax subsidy for wind energy is already equivalent to 50-70% of the wholesale price of electricity.

Though you would not know it from wailing and gnashing of teeth over the expiration of the [production tax credit, or] PTC, many states also have renewable energy standards that force ratepayers to buy wind, solar, and biomass produced electricity regardless of how much it costs. These renewable standards are separate from—and, for wind-power producers, in addition to—the PTC.
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A business that cannot survive without taxpayers paying 50 percent of the costs does not help the economy. Instead, it eats up more value than it produces.

Let's not forget how the mandate for ethanol is gas is driving up the cost of gas and most significantly food.  The worst drought in more than 50 years has caused more damage than expected to corn and soybean crops, the government said on Friday, heightening calls for a suspension of ethanol quotas to head off another global food crisis.

"It's universally acknowledged that ethanol is raising the price of food," Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute said. "It's not lowering the price of gas. In fact, it may be raising the price of gas, and it's having a devastating environmental effect in terms of coastal pollution."

US farmers urge Obama administration to suspend ethanol quota amid drought
EPA's requirements for corn ethanol will drive food prices even higher after an already distressed harvest, growers warn

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:24 AM | Permalink

August 16, 2012

Kids of older parents

More people are putting off parenthood. What will that mean for their kids?

The irony is that when you have a child at 45, you’re ensuring that your children will grow up faster than you ever had to. It guarantees that your kids will have a little less of the freedom you enjoyed because they’ll be taking care of you a little earlier. Having an older father means I don’t feel right leaving New York or turning off my cellphone for three days. I push away fantasies of pressing the reset button on my life and moving far away. Even if my dad were in Olympian shape, I still wouldn’t want to squander my last decade with him living thousands of miles apart. Losing my mother in my formative years was gut-wrenching, and all of my grandparents had died by the time I turned 25. (My father, whose mother had him at 19, didn’t begin this parental care taking process until he was in his early 60s.)

If you want your children to know their grandparents, take some countercultural advice Marry Young (and Well), Have Many Children (But Responsibly)   

Siblings prevent kids from becoming narcissists. We are creating children with wildly unrealistic perceptions of how much focus and attention they can expect in life. I firmly believe this sets them up for great disappointment, and potential failure later. We are also creating a barely replacement-level population if we limit ourselves to two children. We should have faith to invest in the human capital of the future.

Raising Successful Children

Decades of studies, many of them by Diana Baumrind, a clinical and developmental psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the optimal parent is one who is involved and responsive, who sets high expectations but respects her child’s autonomy. These “authoritative parents” appear to hit the sweet spot of parental involvement and generally raise children who do better academically, psychologically and socially than children whose parents are either permissive and less involved, or controlling and more involved.
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authoritative parents actually help cultivate motivation in their children
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The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality.
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Hanging back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting. It’s easier when they’re young — tolerating a stumbling toddler is far different from allowing a pre teenager to meet her friends at the mall
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While doing things for your child unnecessarily or prematurely can reduce motivation and increase dependency, it is the inability to maintain parental boundaries that most damages child development. When we do things for our children out of our own needs rather than theirs, it forces them to circumvent the most critical task of childhood: to develop a robust sense of self.
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There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of over parenting than an unhappy parent. One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.

Connected, powerful 21st-century moms

A generation ago, a new mom up all night with a screaming newborn had few places to turn: a tattered copy of Dr. Spock; an apologetic call to her pediatrician’s answering service; a desperate one to her own mother. Today, the new mom can flip open her laptop and solicit instantaneous opinions from others in the trenches, either on anonymous chat boards, like YouBeMom or UrbanBaby, or from her “intimate’’ circle of 350 Facebook friends. When she’s looking for a baby sitter, a Mama & Me class, a gluten-free bakery, she taps her local moms’ listserv. When she loves a product, she posts it on Pinterest. When it fails or frustrates her, she tweets, YouTubes, blogs all about it. And whatever she has to say, her fellow moms are listening.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:01 PM | Permalink

Government Round-up: Exxon-Mobil's taxes, bullets and Job gains since 1948

Taxation Hero ExxonMobil Pays $3 In Taxes For Every $1 In Profit.  It paid the U.S. Treasury $59 billion from 2006-2010.

Exxon-Mobil's  US tax bill was bigger than its US earnings.

In 2010, our total tax expenses in the United States were $9.8 billion, which includes an income tax expense of more than $1.6 billion. That $9.8 billion in taxes exceeded our 2010 U.S. operating earnings of $7.5 billion.

Some ways the government has been spending it.

Your Agriculture Department Paid $2 Million for a Single Intern

A report from the Agriculture Department’s Inspector General has revealed some stunning examples of financial waste in the Department’s nascent technology security efforts, which have mismanaged about $63 million in taxpayer funding. Among the IG’s findings: the USDA spent more than $2 million on an internship program that only hired one full-time intern, $3 million on technology hardware that was never used, and $235,000 on a project that was later canceled due to redundancy.

Why is the Social Security Administration going to purchase 174 thousand rounds of ammunition? to be delivered to 41 locations across the country.

Why did the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put out a contract for 46,000 rounds of hollow point bullets?

Why did  Homeland Security purchase 450 million rounds of .40 caliber hollow point bullets?

Obama's Failure in Job Gains In One Big Chart or why he is called the Dr. Kevorkian of job creation.

Jobcreationsince1948Politicalmath

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:54 PM | Permalink

"Cronyism is now permeating our justice system" No prosecution of Wall St criminals

Over $1 billion in customer funds  which were supposed to be segregated funds  'disappeared' when MF Global went bankrupt in one of the 10th largest bankruptcies in US history.

John Corzine, formerly CEO of Goldman Sachs and former Senator for New Jersey (D) and former governor of New Jersey (D), was the CEO of MF Global was the money went missing.

Today the New York Times reports that No Criminal Case is Likely in Loss at MF Global.  Highly unlikely are charges against Corzine.

That keeps the Administration's perfect record on persecuting Wall St criminals.  Zero.  No prosecutions under Obama and AG Holder at all.

By comparison, the Bush administration prosecuted and convicted over 1300 Wall St financial criminals including 130 corporate vice presidents and over 200 CEOs and corporate presidents.

The Clinton administration prosecuted over 1800 S&L (savings and loan) executives and won convictions in about 1000 cases.

Bush - 1,300 convictions;
Clinton - 1,000 convictions;
Obama - Zero attempts

Why?

The GAI report reveals that the Department of Justice upper echelon is stacked with attorneys from law firms representing the very same companies involved in the financial meltdown of 2008, as well as financial corporations with questionable actions during the Obama administration…AIG, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, ING, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Wilmington Trust, and John Corzine's MF Global.

These very same DoJ attorneys also happen to be some of Obama's biggest bundlers for Obama's 2008 bid for president.
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"When we think of cronyism and the problems of cronyism and crony capitalism, we think in terms of economic loss and gain," Schweizer said in a phone interview. "What we're showing here is that cronyism is now permeating our justice system. So, it's not just a question of dollars and cents, it's a question of whether you're going to face legal jeopardy or not on what you're doing."

UPDATE:  Ace: Good News: You Can Now Officially Steal $1 Billion From Your Customers And Avoid Prosecution, As Long As You're Hooked Up With the Self-Styled "Party of the Common Man"

A billion dollars of customer money just disappeared -- it wasn't lost in bad investments, it was lost as in "I can't find it" -- and apparently there is no criminality here.

People lose wallets. They lose cell phones. They lose pencils. They lose lighters.

They tend not to lose a billion dollars. Not without someone wishing it be "lost."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink

August 15, 2012

Chocolate, Milk and Julia Child

We can only hope. A Daily Dose of Chocolate May Stave Off Dementia.

Researchers found that consuming cocoa every day helped improve mild cognitive impairment – a condition involving memory loss which can progress to dementia or  Alzheimer's – in elderly patients.

90 people aged 70 or older diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment were split into three groups of 30 and given either a high, medium or low dose of a cocoa drink daily
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Researchers found those who drank the high and medium doses daily had significantly better cognitive scores by the end of the eight-week study in a number of categories, including working memory.

Larger studies are needed to confirm.

How to eat like your favorite authors Nabokov, Hemingway, Collette and Jonathan Frazen.  Recipes included.  I'm going to try Emily Dickinson's Coconut Cake.

Something I was glad to learn, The Milk You Drink is Free of Antibiotics

On a traditional farm, sick cows on antibiotics are milked into a separate container, and the milk is dumped until the antibiotics are out of the cow's system.

If a trace of antibiotics is found in a tank delivered to a processing plant, the entire load is dumped—yours and whatever other farms' milk is in the tank. You don't get paid and you are fined. The tainted milk never reaches the processing plant's tank. Consumers can be assured that all milk, traditional and organic, is antibiotic-free.

Best of all  In honor of Julie Child's 100th birthday, PBS Digital Studios has released Julia Child Remixed: Keep on Cooking - Bring on the roasted potatoes.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:48 AM | Permalink

August 14, 2012

Paul Ryan's First Article as the Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate in The Onion

Count me in as one of Paul Ryan's admirers.    Though I am intensely interested, I'm not going to blog much about the presidential race, except occasionally , like now, to point out to this hilarious Onion article , Admit It, I Scare The Ever-Loving Shit Out Of You, Don't I?

I have another question for you: How scared are you that I can convince people I’m right? Because I’m good at it. No, I’m really good at it. You see, I know how to turn up the charm and charisma without putting people off. Then I back up what I’m saying with arguments that, when they come out of my mouth, sound completely accurate and well-reasoned. And I do it with such passion that people automatically recognize me as a man with deep convictions he will stand up for, no matter what.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 PM | Permalink

August 10, 2012

Friday roundup: Churchill, microwaving socks, homeschooling , Locked In, 2 Moms, Lincoln and more

Survey shocker: Liberal profs admit they'd discriminate against conservatives in hiring, advancement.  No surprise to me.

Honesty is the best policy as telling fewer lies 'improves your physical and mental health'  People reported feeling better after they stopped exaggerating or making excuses.

Don't microwave clothes, use a hair dryer if you must.  Brit sets fire to home by microwaving socks.

Useful for any cook is this article, Common Cooking Mistakes: Cooking Tips and Questions Answered.

If you are going to NYC in the next month, don't miss Churchill: The Power of Words’ is at the Morgan Library, but first, read this review, Winston Churchill: American's enduring love for Winnie and his words.

Imagine being a child who never ever saw the outside world or even the sun. Islamist sect found living underground near Russian city for 10 years.

Ever fancy yourself becoming an archeologist?  Now's your chance to participate in The Ancient Lives Project from home.  Thomas McDonald has the details

A collaborative effort by Oxford, the Egypt Exploration Society, the Imaging Papyri Project, and other groups and institutions, Ancient Lives is trying to speed up the transcription process by crowd sourcing and computerization. This means that you can help decipher the Oxyrhynchus papyri… it could speed up the transcription and identification of fragments, allowing them to be published. It’s also about the coolest way to be an archaeologist without ever leaving your home.

As part of Operation Nightingale, recovering wounded soldiers performing a routine excavation found a warrior just like themselves, only buried 1400 years ago.

Home Schools vs. Public Schools.  A fascinating info graphic on how much better kids do if they are home-schooled.  Anthony Esolen has some examples in Aged Before Their Time

What united them all was an abiding happiness, which I can only describe as youth, not in chronological age but in soul…..
They had never known the subtle and corroding nihilism of a government school, for they had never gone to one; they had been taught at home. That meant, at the least, that they spent their days among people who loved them, and whom they loved in turn. And they seemed well on their way to becoming young men and women possessing that most attractive of character traits, the one that Chesterton embodied so well: that of being at once wise beyond their years


The Tragedy Europe Forgot
  Some 12 million Germans, mostly women and children, were expelled from Eastern Europe in 1945, an Allies-endorsed ethnic cleansing.

A question I've never been able to answer.  Why Aren't Murderous Communists Condemned Like Nazis Are?

A rare survivor of 'Locked-in syndrome recounts his ordeal

The medics believed he was in a persistent vegetative state, devoid of mental consciousness or physical feeling.
Nothing could have been further from the truth. Marsh was aware, alert and fully able to feel every touch to his body.
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But he still weeps when he remembers watching his wife tell the doctors that they couldn't turn off his life support machine.

"The doctors had just finished telling Lili that I had a 2% chance of survival and if I should survive I would be a vegetable," he said. "I could hear the conversation and in my mind I was screaming 'No!'"

Funniest video of the week. Olympic Sailing. Commenting by Someone Who Has No Clue What's Going On.  It's hilarious. Watch it to the end.

19 Things the Millionaire Next Door Won't Tell You

Growing Up with Two Moms: The Untold Children's View by Robert Oscar Lopez

Quite simply, growing up with gay parents was very difficult, and not because of prejudice from neighbors….. People in our community didn’t really know what was going on in the house. To most outside observers, I was a well-raised, high-achieving child, finishing high school with straight A’s.

Inside, however, I was confused. When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you, in a fundamental way striking at basic physical relations, you grow up weird. I have no mental health disorders or biological conditions. I just grew up in a house so unusual that I was destined to exist as a social outcast.

 Lincoln Daniel Day Lewis

Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in first official picture from Spielberg's biopic.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 AM | Permalink

Sign of the Times

The jobseeker's Facebook dilemma.  Declare your normality to the world, or risk being labelled a psychopath?

Some psychologists and employers now believe that someone who does not have a page on Facebook, or on another social networking site, may be a misfit or even a psychopath.

Facebook is now used so commonly by young people that not having an account might indicate that you are abnormal and dysfunctional, or even dangerous.
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Having a Facebook page can be seen by some as a testimonial declaring social normality, with a wide circle of friends. The absence might indicate that there is something serious to hide.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:55 AM | Permalink

August 9, 2012

The Drought Continues to Worsen

Effects of the drought.  Half of US Counties now considered disaster areas

As of this week, nearly half of the nation's corn crop was rated poor to very poor, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The drought is continuing to make food more expensive, up 6% in July), and affecting global corn prices,  up 23% in July

"Corn is in almost everything"

More than one-third of our corn crop is used to feed livestock. Another 13 percent is exported, much of it to feed livestock as well. Another 40 percent is used to produce ethanol. The remainder goes toward food and beverage production.

Exacerbating the effects of the drought is the government mandate, part of the renewable fuel standard that requires fuel sold in the U.S. to contain 13% ethanol which is made from corn.

What corn can be grown should be used for Food, Not Fuel.   

With the stroke of a pen, the EPA can suspend the mandate and return 40% of the corn crop to farmers.    Will the President direct the EPA to do so?

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink

The case of marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants

The case of the marauding bands of aggressive juvenile male elephants,  In the Absence of Fathers:  A Story of Elephants and Men

Some years ago, officials at the Kruger National Park and game reserve in South Africa were faced with a growing elephant problem. The population of African elephants, once  endangered, had grown larger than the park could sustain. So measures had to be taken to thin the ranks. A plan was devised to relocate some of the elephants to other African game reserves. Being enormous creatures, elephants are not easily transported.  So a special harness was created to air-lift the elephants and fly them out of the park using helicopters.

The helicopters were up to the task, but, as it turned out, the harness wasn’t. It could handle the juvenile and adult female elephants, but not the huge African bull elephants. A quick solution had to be found, so a decision was made to leave the much larger bulls at Kruger and relocate only some of the female elephants and juvenile males.

At the new location,  rangers began finding dead white rhinoceros, an endangered species, that had been killed violently not with guns but by marauding bands of aggressive young male elephants.

What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of the large dominant bulls that remained at Kruger. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls provide modeling behaviors for younger elephants, keeping them in line.
__

To test the theory, the rangers constructed a bigger and stronger harness, then flew in some of the older bulls left behind at Kruger. Within weeks, the bizarre and violent behavior of the juvenile elephants stopped completely. The older bulls let them know that their behaviors were not elephant-like at all. In a short time, the younger elephants were following the older and more dominant bulls around while learning how to be elephants.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | Permalink

Magic Washing Machines

In 2010, Hans Rosling spoke to TED about the  Magic Washing Machine.

Pedal-powered washer could make a big difference in developing nations

Design students Alex Cabunoc and Ji A You of the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles visited the the slums of Cerro Verde, Peru. There they saw women spending days on end hauling water and washing clothes by hand and they came up with a solution. They created the GiraDora, a foot-pedal washing machine that’s inexpensive and portable.
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 Giradora-Pedal-Powered-Washing-Machine

GiraDora is a plastic tub tall enough to sit on. In fact, it’s designed to be operated while sitting on it to keep it stable. Inside, there’s a second tub like that in a conventional washer mounted on a center post. The post is connected to a pedal on the base of the tub. The machine is filled with clothes, water and soap and the lid put back. The operator then sits on the tub and repeatedly presses down on the pedal with her foot. This works the mechanism that agitates, cleans and rinses the clothes. When the clothes are clean, a stopcock in the base is opened and the pedal worked again. Now the washer becomes a spin drier and the clothes can be hung up to complete drying in a reasonable time. The cost of the machine is about US$40.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 AM | Permalink

What Hospitals Can Learn from The Cheesecake Factory

A long and fascinating read Big Med by Atul Gawande  in The New Yorker

Restaurant chains have managed to combine quality control, cost control, and innovation. Can health care?

David Luz, regional manager for the eight Cheesecake Factories in the Boston recounts the story of his 78-year-old mother who had early Alzheimer's disease and required a caretaker at home….

"Getting her adequate medical care was, he said, a constant battle….“It is unbelievable to me that they would not manage this better,” Luz said. I asked him what he would do if he were the manager of a neurology unit or a cardiology clinic. “I don’t know anything about medicine,” he said. But when I pressed he thought for a moment, and said, “This is pretty obvious. I’m sure you already do it. But I’d study what the best people are doing, figure out how to standardize it, and then bring it to everyone to execute.”

John Wright, an orthopedic surgeon has spent the past 10 years in an experiment to standardize joint-replacement surgery

“Customization should be five per cent, not ninety-five per cent, of what we do,” he told me. A few years ago, he gathered a group of people from every specialty involved—surgery, anesthesia, nursing, physical therapy—to formulate a single default way of doing knee replacements. They examined every detail, arguing their way through their past experiences and whatever evidence they could find. Essentially, they did what Luz considered the obvious thing to do: they studied what the best people were doing, figured out how to standardize it, and then tried to get everyone to follow suit.
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\Wright has become the hospital’s kitchen manager—not always a pleasant role. He told me that about half of the surgeons appreciate what he’s doing. The other half tolerate it at best. One or two have been outright hostile. But he has persevered, because he’s gratified by the results. The surgeons now use a single manufacturer for seventy-five per cent of their implants, giving the hospital bargaining power that has helped slash its knee-implant costs by half. And the start-to-finish standardization has led to vastly better outcomes. The distance patients can walk two days after surgery has increased from fifty-three to eighty-five feet. Nine out of ten could stand, walk, and climb at least a few stairs independently by the time of discharge. The amount of narcotic pain medications they required fell by a third. They could also leave the hospital nearly a full day earlier on average (which saved some two thousand dollars per patient).

My mother was one of the beneficiaries.
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And we are seeing glimpses of this change. In my mother’s rehabilitation center, miles away from where her surgery was done, the physical therapists adhered to the exercise protocols that Dr. Wright’s knee factory had developed. He didn’t have a video command center, so he came out every other day to check on all the patients and make sure that the staff was following the program. My mother was sure she’d need a month in rehab, but she left in just a week, incurring a fraction of the costs she would have otherwise. She walked out the door using a cane. On her first day at home with me, she climbed two flights of stairs and walked around the block for exercise.
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We’ve let health-care systems provide us with the equivalent of greasy-spoon fare at four-star prices, and the results have been ruinous. The Cheesecake Factory model represents our best prospect for change.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

August 7, 2012

“Each stolen election is a bullet at the heart of what this country is about.”

The integrity of the ballot box is now in question.    Democrat Pat Caddell says

“Each stolen election is a bullet at the heart of what this country is about.”

“Support of the voter I.D. law, it’s called common sense.”

“We are talking about the demise of our democracy and it is slow motion suicide.”

160 Counties in the U.S. have more registered voters than people actually eligible to vote

A nonpartisan election integrity group has sent legal notices to 160 counties across the U.S. that it says have more voters on its registration rolls than actual live, eligible voters — and thus represent potential hotbeds for election fraud,
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The counties in question are spread across 19 states that together account for 203 electoral college votes, including six current battleground states. Among the counties are LaSalle, Ill., which True the Vote identified as having 520 percent voter registration; Jefferson, Miss. with more than 230 percent; and Hanson, S.D. with 165 percent.

“It’s simply unacceptable for any county to have more voters on its rolls than people who are alive and eligible to vote,” True the Vote President Catherine Engelbrecht said in a statement. “Failing to maintain accurate voter registration records is a flagrant violation of Section 8 in the NVRA.”

What happens when 1,099 felons vote in a race won by 312 ballots?  Senator Al Franken.

"When voters are disenfranchised by the counting of improperly cast ballots or outright fraud, their civil rights are violated just as surely as if they were prevented from voting," write Fund and von Spakovsky. "The integrity of the ballot box is just as important to the credibility of elections as access to it."

Restoring Integrity in America's Elections: True the Vote Summit 2012

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

Maybe the cloud is not so safe

Cloud safety: Internet storage service Dropbox admits security breach as fears grow over storing information online

Online storage service Dropbox has admitted to a security breach that led to many of its members receiving unsolicited emails.  A stolen password had been used to access an employee's accounts and copy a 'project document' containing user emails addresses.

The US company said that usernames and passwords stolen from other sites had also been used to sign in to some of its members' accounts.
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'The Dropbox incident underlines the necessity of having different passwords for every website,' said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.  'As people pile more confidential information onto the web, hackers are being given a greater incentive to penetrate accounts.

Matt Honan over at Wired tells how his entire digital life was destroyed.

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

In many ways, this was all my fault. My accounts were daisy-chained together. Getting into Amazon let my hackers get into my Apple ID account, which helped them get into Gmail, which gave them access to Twitter. Had I used two-factor authentication for my Google account, it’s possible that none of this would have happened, because their ultimate goal was always to take over my Twitter account and wreak havoc. Lulz.

Had I been regularly backing up the data on my MacBook, I wouldn’t have had to worry about losing more than a year’s worth of photos, covering the entire lifespan of my daughter, or documents and e-mails that I had stored in no other location.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 AM | Permalink

Is it General Motors or Government Motors?

Unbelievable. 

GM which still owes taxpayers billions of dollars has just spent $559 million to sponsor a British soccer team! For all that money, Manchester United players will now sport  Chevrolet  on their red jerseys.  The only good part of this story is that the GM marketing chief responsible for this terrible deal was removed.  Still, $559 million?

To refresh your memory, Some generally excepted Tarp Fund Bailout numbers

  • $49.5 Billion - Conservative agreement of total TARP funds loaned or given to GM
  • $30.1 Billion - Government purchase of GM stock - GM did not have enough financing to support a re-organization plan a bankruptcy court could accept, (or so it was stated), so to get the money, the U.S. Government gave GM $30.1 billion dollars in exchange for 60% ownership of the New GM company….the $30.1 billion is not a loan that can be repaid - it can only be recovered through the sale of the government's interest in GM ownership.
  • The AWU's, (UAW), received a 17% ownership stake in GM, (65% in Chrysler), in lieu of the money GM owed for union health and pension commitments.
  • Private secured investors were given a settlement agreement at the rate of 29 cents on the dollar *Note: these "private investors" also included investment funds composed of other union pension funds, like the Federated Teachers Association…..It should be noted that established contract law required secured creditors be paid first, but Obama's administration simply ignored this legal requirement and gave the unsecured union creditors first position - leaving whatever might be left for the secured investors.
  • Common-share stock holders were completely wiped out, when GM emerged from bankruptcy, all shares in the "old" GM were worthless

  • GM was allowed to retain a $45 billion business-loss tax credit, carried forth from the "old" GM to the "New" GM - a practice unheard of in bankruptcy proceedings, essentially adding a $45 billion "gift" to off-set tax liabilities of the new company.
  • Delphi, a parts supplier network and GM spinoff, had all GM debt to it cancelled. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also decided to cut pensions liabilities for salaried non-union employees to expedite GM’s emergence from bankruptcy. 

Emails: Geithner, Treasury drove cutoff of non-union Delphi workers’ pensions

Emails obtained by The Daily Caller show that the U.S. Treasury Department, led by Timothy Geithner, was the driving force behind terminating the pensions of 20,000 salaried retirees at the Delphi auto parts manufacturing company….The move, made in 2009 while the Obama administration implemented its auto bailout plan, appears to have been made solely because those retirees were not members of labor unions.

The internal government emails contradict sworn testimony, in federal court and before Congress, given by several Obama administration figures.


Government Motors: As GM shares near record low, taxpayer loss on bailout rises to $35 billion

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

Making the same mistake over and over

And You Thought the Housing Crisis Was Over!  The Community Reinvestment Act is back, as if 2008 never happened.    This time by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the brain child of Elizabeth Warren.

Yes, believe it or not, the federal government is now starting another initiative to force banks to lend to low-credit-rated blacks and Hispanics -- not just anybody but specifically blacks and Hispanics -- and is threatening -- and already imposing -- huge punitive fines if they don't. Moreover, this time they're going even further. They're going to take over the credit rating agencies and force them to change their standards to accommodate blacks and Hispanics so that nobody will have any idea who is a bad credit risk and who is not.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

August 6, 2012

The 'perverse nonchalance of the bank HSBC

More of the unintended consequences of too-big-to-fail banks.

Cocaine cowboys know the best places to bank

...last month a Senate panel held a hearing on the U.K. bank HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and its ties to drug lords, money laundering, al- Qaeda and rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.

Here’s a bank with $2.7 trillion of assets that flouted U.S. laws for a decade, according to the July 17 report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. HSBC turned a blind eye to organized crime, Mexican drug cartels and overseas terrorism financiers, and gave them access to the U.S. banking system. HSBC’s main U.S. regulator, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, for years tolerated its violations of anti-money laundering laws.
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Let’s try out a novel idea: Banks that help drug cartels launder money and give cover to those tied to terrorism should be put out of business. Is that really so hard for everyone to agree on?
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Except we have this mutant species of corporation called too-big-to-fail banks whose collapse might wreck the global economy. No financial institution in the U.S. can survive a felony indictment. So these companies have become un-indictable, creating a perverse nonchalance regarding financial crimes. In 2010, Wachovia paid $160 million to settle criminal allegations of laundering Mexican drug money. By then the bank had been bought by Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and the Justice Department let it off with a deferred-prosecution deal. U

Here's a good example of "perverse nonchalance"  from today's Business Insider,

Today the New York State Financial Authority accused UK investment bank Standard Chartered of having facilitated $250 billion worth of transactions on behalf of Iran….To set the scene, in 2006, the New York branch of Standard Chartered allegedly grew concerned about the amount of Iran business the bank was doing.  The folks in London were underwhelmed to say the least.

(From the complaint) here's what New York said to London:  "In October 2006, SCB’s CEO for the Americas sent a panicked message to the Group Executive Director in London. “Firstly,” he wrote, “we believe [the Iranian business] needs urgent reviewing at the Group level to evaluate if its returns and strategic benefits are . . . still commensurate with the potential to cause very serious or even catastrophic repetitional damage to the Group.” His plea to the home office continued: “[s]econdly, there is equally importantly potential of risk of subjecting management in US and London (e.g. you and I) and elsewhere to personal repetitional damages and/or serious criminal liability.”

And here's how London responded:
8. Lest there be any doubt, SCB’s obvious contempt for U.S. banking regulations was succinctly and unambiguously communicated by SCB’s Group Executive Director in response. As quoted by an SCB New York branch officer, the Group Director caustically replied: “You f---ing Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians.” — Page 5
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:37 PM | Permalink

New study shows half of the global warming in the USA is artificial

If I didn't read British newspapers and James Delingpole, I would never have known that

the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – the US government body in charge of America's temperature record, has systematically exaggerated the extent of late 20th century global warming. In fact, it has doubled it.

Global Warming?  Yeah, right.

The full story is at Watts Up With That?  New study shows half of the global warming in the USA is artificial

U.S. Temperature trends show a spurious doubling due to NOAA station siting problems and post measurement adjustments.


 Watts Et Al 2012-Conus-Compliant-Nonc-Noaa

And then there is the deliciousness of Delingpole's writing 

So, in the spirit of magnanimity in total crushing victory I would urge readers of this blog not to crow too much about the devastating blow Watts's findings will have on the Guardian's battalion of environment correspondents, on the New York Times, on NOAA, on Al Gore, on the Prince of Wales, on the Royal Society, on Professor Muller, or on any of the other rent-seekers, grant-grubbers, eco-loons, crony capitalists, junk scientists, UN apparatchiks, EU technocrats, hideous porcine bolsters, demented squawking parrots, life-free loser trolls, paid CACC-amites and True Believers in the Great Global Warming Religion.

That would be plain wrong.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

August 3, 2012

"Sorry, not Catholic enough"

Just  how narrowly drawn is the religious exemption in the HHS mandate? Cardinal Dolan gives some examples

A Catholic hospital founded and still sponsored by nuns, striving to carry out our Savior’s command to care for the sick?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, its purpose is not the inculcation of religious values, and it hardly asks for a person’s religion before admitting a patient.

A Catholic Charities homeless shelter, providing a bed, a shower, and a nutritious meal?  Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, it serves all seeking help, regardless of their religious beliefs.  (Would the government prefer us to turn away anyone who can’t produce a baptismal certificate and recite the Nicene Creed?)

A Catholic high school founded and still run by a religious order, which has proudly educated young men, preparing them to succeed in college, in the work place, as husbands and fathers?   Sorry, not Catholic enough.  No religious freedom here!  After all, the student populations is more than 50% non-Catholic.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

Your government at work

The Government Admits The US Power Grid Can Be Taken Out At Any Time

The Government Accountability Office just released a report backing up earlier findings: because a series of recommendations were ignored, the U.S. electric grid remains highly susceptible to cyberattacks.

The grid is reliant on a number of IT systems that have known and likely unknown vulnerabilities. The result of a cyberattack on the grid could result in damage to electricity control systems, power outages, and failures in safety equipment on a scale currently unknown.
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The worst is, GAO told the Government what they had to do last year, and it was ignored. The Department of Commerce's report on smart grid security was "missing key elements" and has not been fixed.

IRS missing billions in ID theft

The Internal Revenue Service may have delivered more than $5 billion in refund checks to identity thieves who filed fraudulent tax returns for 2011, Treasury Department investigators said Thursday. They estimate another $21 billion could make its way to ID thieves' pockets over the next five years.

Amtrak lost $800M on cheeseburgers and soda

Taxpayers lost $833 million over the last decade on the food and beverages supplied by Amtrak, which managed to spend $1.70 for every dollar that received in revenue.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 AM | Permalink

Shock discovery: Alzheimer's protein May Reverse Multiple Sclerosis

Alzheimer's disease molecule can actually REVERSE multiple sclerosis, say scientists after shock discovery

A molecule that causes Alzheimer’s disease could reverse paralysis caused by multiple sclerosis (MS), a study has found. The much-maligned molecule, known as A-beta, has until now been known as the chief culprit behind Alzheimer’s.

But it is also found in multiple-sclerosis lesions, which occur when immune cells invade the brain and spinal cord and attack the insulating coatings of nerve cells. The nerve signals then get mixed up leading to blindness, loss of muscle control and difficulties with speech, thought and attention.

Scientists from Stanford University in the United States wanted to investigate the role the molecule played in MS. They used a mouse model that mimics several features of the disease - including the autoimmune attack on myelinated sections of the brain. They then injected A-beta into the rodent’s belly.  The scientists had suspected the injection would exacerbate the MS, but the opposite happened.

In mice whose immune systems had been 'trained' to attack myelin, which usually results in paralysis, A-beta injections delivered before the onset of symptoms prevented, delayed and even reversed paralysis.

This shows that when A-beta is injected outside the brain it moderates and can even reverse symptoms of MS and does not cause Alzheimer’s in the mouse.

The researchers believe the startling discovery will open new avenues in the fight against MS, a hugely debilitating condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK.  Laboratory tests also showed that A-beta countered not only visible symptoms such as paralysis, but also the increase in certain inflammatory molecules that characterizes multiple-sclerosis flare-ups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

Post menopause, a daily glass of wine

Post menopause: Daily glass of wine 'is as good as drugs for protecting women's thin bones'

One or two glasses of wine a day could work as well as drugs at  protecting older women from thinning bones.  Regular moderate intake of alcohol after the menopause helps to maintain bone strength, according to an international review team.

In comparison, they say, abstaining from alcohol leads to a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
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Experts from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research analyzed a study by researchers  at the University of Oregon that showed while women were drinking 19g of alcohol a day – about two small glasses of wine – they had a drop in loss of old bone that improved the balance between old and new bone, maintaining strength.

When the women were asked to stop drinking, their 'bone turnover' went up.

One reviewer said: 'The results suggest an effect of moderate alcohol consumption similar to the effects of bisphosphonates.'

Vermeer Glass Of Wine

Johannes Vermeer, A Glass of Wine

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

Life expectancy U.S. Map

 Us Lifeexpectancy Map

The life expectancy map of America: Graphic reveals alarming differences in death rates between states

The diagram has been compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from data gathered from 98 per cent of the medical files for all deaths across the U.S. in 2010.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:57 AM | Permalink

"The so-called 'Welfare State' is less a means of combating poverty than institutionalizing it...This is an irrefutable lesson of history"

Roger Kimball on Despotism, Distraction and the Defense of Civilization

The so-called “Welfare State,” for example is less a means of combating poverty than institutionalizing it. You don’t hear that from our politicians. But that is the irrefutable lesson of history.
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That is to say, the battle for freedom and against the encroachments of servitude is never over. Every generation must fight it again, indeed, every individual must always be vigilant about keeping freedom alive in his own heart. That is the great Burkean point I try to make in The Fortunes of Permanence. Civilization is an achievement not a gift; it is always besieged, must constantly be defended, and once lost, is immeasurably difficult to reclaim. We see the results of the assaults against freedom all around us.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

Good News: Alzheimers Stopped by Pine Cones and Artificial Skin Breakthrough

Very good news on the health front.

Scientists perfect artificial skin growth - and can direct it so precisely they can even spell out their home city's name in tribute

Replacement skin may soon be easily available for burn victims and sufferers of other skin-related conditions following a break-through in the laboratory.

Scientists have been able to engineer skin on a large-scale - growing centimeters at a time, a huge step-up from previous techniques which could grow just microns at a time.


 Toronto Artifical Skin
Alzheimer’s stopped by pine cones: Brain disease pill breakthrough

A NEW pill that harnesses a chemical found in PINE CONES is tipped to become the first to prevent and delay Alzheimer’s disease.
Tests showed the once-a-day tablet — given to patients when they first show symptoms — can stop the degenerative brain condition in its tracks.

It also appeared to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s among patients who had been long diagnosed.

The pill, whose potent chemical is also found in pine tree bark, stops the body producing so-called “amyloid” proteins. These coat brain cells and cause the disease, which hits more than 820,000 Brits.

Code-named NIC5-15, the drug has been rigorously analyzed in animal tests, where it showed astounding results.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

Why persuade and convince when you can browbeat

Some comments on the HHS mandate now in effect.

George Weigel writes

The administration has not made any serious effort to address the concerns over the mandate that have been vigorously pressed by Catholic bishops, Catholic employers, pro-life Americans of all religious persuasions and none, and civil-society advocates. The administration’s alleged “accommodation” of these concerns — after the White House appeared to have been blindsided by the ferocity of the response to the original mandate — was quickly recognized for the accounting shell game it was and is. As such, it was rejected as an unacceptable governmental intrusion into the unique mission of religious bodies, even by religious institutions and associations that had supported Obamacare.

Speaker John Boehner issued a statement

The administration’s mandate stands today not because it is sound policy; not because it reflects the will of the people; not because it is consistent with the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution.  The mandate stands today because the Democratic-controlled Senate preemptively blocked legislation that would have reversed this attack on religious freedom.  And it stands because the President of the United States has refused to listen to the people and institutions that built a great nation.

David French in Self-Indulgence as a Foundational Virture

The imposition of the HHS mandate combined with the continuing — and inane — campaign against Chick-fil-A demonstrates how we’re replacing our founding virtues of industry, honesty, marriage, and religiosity (as described in Charles Murray’s invaluable Coming Apart) with a new prime virtue — self-indulgence. What is remarkable about the Chick-fil-A controversy is the extent to which the company’s entire portfolio of work, its excellent food, welcoming environment, extensive charitable interventions with at-risk families and youth, are nothing but ashes and dust unless Chick-fil-A gets on board with a sexual revolution that places self-indulgence (and defense of that indulgence) over every other cultural value.

He makes another valuable point, Stigma Beats Dogma.  Why persuade and  convince when you can browbeat.

In the battle of ideas, stigma always beats dogma. In other words, through stigmatization, one can defeat a set of ideas or principles without ever “winning” an argument on the merits.
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Here’s a question for conservative parents and teachers: Are we really equipping young people to face the challenges of college if we teach them arguments? Or should we instead be primarily preparing them to face scorn and hate with inner toughness and good cheer? After all, when a professor calls you a “fascist bastard” for defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, what is he doing if not trying to defeat dogma with stigma?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:45 AM | Permalink

Watch out for artificial butter

Personally, I wouldn't touch the stuff.  I like the real stuff. 

Artificial Butter Flavoring Ingredient Linked to Key Alzheimer's Disease Process

A new study raises concern about chronic exposure of workers in industry to a food flavoring ingredient used to produce the distinctive buttery flavor and aroma of microwave popcorn, margarines, snack foods, candy, baked goods, pet foods and other products. It found evidence that the ingredient, dactyl (DA), intensifies the damaging effects of an abnormal brain protein linked to Alzheimer's disease.

The study appears in ACS' journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:38 AM | Permalink

August 1, 2012

Potpourri of interesting articles you may have missed

Some interesting articles that you may have missed.

When Hyphen Boy Meets Hyphen Girl, Names Pile Up  "We had the potential of being the McKenna-Thomas Camera-Smith household. Which sounded too much like a law firm, really."

PJ Tatler  What Obama could learn from  West Wing

The president’s speech calls to mind a second-season West Wing episode, in which speechwriter Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe) explains to the staff of some liberal house members why he won’t insert a line in President Bartlet’s upcoming speech. They want the president to attack Republican tax cut proposals as financing “private jets and swimming pools” for the wealthy. As Seaborn argues:

Henry, last fall, every time your boss got on the stump and said, “It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share,” I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of twenty-six other people. And I’m happy to ’cause that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get twenty-seven votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house twenty-seven times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet twenty-seven times hotter. The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for twenty-two percent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying.

The Big Mistake

The CEO of Peregrine Financial, a futures trading brokerage firm in Iowa, is accused of stealing over $200 million of the customers' money over a 20 year period.  This is one mistake that Russ Wasendorf made.

The bigger mistake was trying to commit suicide and leaving notes for his business partners and his wife. That leaves no question he was trying to commit suicide.  He made the mistake of hooking his tailpipe exhaust to a hose into his car as his suicide method.

Being a successful CEO he undoubtedly has a new car. In order to asphyxiate yourself with carbon monoxide you must use an automobile dating before 1992. Since then catalytic converters have been so successful that there is not sufficient carbon monoxide to commit suicide.

The Washington Post admits that Dan Quayle was right 20 years ago about Murphy Brown; single parenthood should be discouraged.

Why you should 'grin and bear life's problems - it's good for the heart.  Your grandma was right again.

Ed Driscoll, Reality, What a Concept .  For example, what the liberal Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam discovered about ethnic diversity.

...as communities become more ethnically diverse they in fact become socially frayed. In a survey that included interviews with over thirty thousand people, Putnam found that as a community becomes more ethnically and socially varied, social trust plummets. People tend to “hunker down,” in Putnam’s words banding together with a shrunken and shrinking group of friends or alone in front of the TV. Trust in political leaders, the political process, and even voting decline precipitously. Volunteerism, from charitable giving to carpooling, deteriorates. Political activism increases as people look to government to solve problems that once might have been solved by a simple conversation across a coffee table or a shared fence between neighbors.

Note: Putnam did not find that diversity fuels racism; the vast bulk of the people interviewed for the study were not bigots. What he found was that diversity promotes alienation, disengagement, and social isolation. This all runs counter to a host of prevailing clichés and pieties.

In Nature, The mind reader

Adrian Owen has found a way to use brain scans to communicate with people previously written off as unreachable. Now, he is fighting to take his methods to the clinic.

Walter Kirn Confessions of an Ex-Mormon.  A very affecting  personal history of America’s most misunderstood religion.

IPCC Admits Its Past Reports Were Junk

Hidden behind this seemingly routine update on bureaucratic processes is an astonishing and entirely unreported story.  The IPCC is the world's most prominent source of alarmist predictions and claims about man-made global warming.  Its four reports (a fifth report is scheduled for release in various parts in 2013 and 2014) are cited by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. and by national academies of science around the world as "proof" that the global warming of the past five or so decades was both man-made and evidence of a mounting crisis.
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In 2010, we learned that much of what we thought we knew about global warming was compromised and probably false.  On June 27, the culprits confessed and promised to do better.  But where do we go to get our money back?

Diesel won't save you money.  Great diesel myth: They DON'T save you money and petrol models 'are more economical for most makes of car'

"Totally re-writing" fashion history is the discovery of medieval bras and bikini panties from the 15th century

Doctors hail jab that can stop Alzheimer's in its tracks for three years.  Bad news: it won't be on the market for years.  Extensive human trials are next

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:58 PM | Permalink

"'Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God"

There are wonderful people in the world who live out their Christian faith in a way that is remarkable.  Case in point, Lee and Gloria Ervin, a couple in the seventies who took her a horrifically burned woman from another country, Julie Aftab.

She was a 16-year-old Pakistani girl, a Christian who wore a small crucifix on a chain around her neck, when was brutally attacked in her office with battery acid that was thrown on her face by one man and down her throat by another while they shouted she would go to hell for shunning Islam.    A woman heard her cries for help and poured water over her head before taking her to the hospital.  The hospital refused to treat her because she was Christian.  Eventually a hospital was found to treat but they could do little.

Aftab could not speak or move her arms and the acid had burned through her skin to leave bone-deep wounds.  As a result of the attack, Julie lost most of her esophagus, one of her eyes and both of her eyelids.  What remained of her teeth could be seen through a gaping hole where her cheek had been.  She was labelled a pariah in her neighborhood, her family was persecuted and their home was burnt down.

But arrangements were made for her to be treated in Houston and to live with a local couple in their seventies, Lee and Gloria Ervin, whom she now calls Uncle Lee and Auntie Gloria.

Supported by her host parents, Aftab has said that the attack has made her faith stronger, adding: 'Those people, they think they did a bad thing to me, but they brought me closer to God. They helped me fulfill my dreams.'

She spoke no English when she arrived in Houston in 2004 but was granted asylum in 2007.  She graduated from high school, and then from San Jacinto College, before enrolling at the University of Houston-Clear Lake - where she is an accounting major.

She says that the acceptance and the outpouring of love she receives from Texans is overwhelming. She came to the U.S. for treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children. Each one of her operations have been paid for or donated by medical staff and hospitals in Houston.  Her immigration case was overseen by Catholic Charities of Galveston-Houston, which found a prominent Houston law firm, Baker Botts LLP, to take on her asylum case without charge. 

Yesterday, she took the oath of citizenship and became an American citizen.  She said afterwards "'This day means so much to me… I never thought I would be the person I am today, and it is all because of God and his people.'

 Julie Aftab

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:31 PM | Permalink

A Remarkable Chinese Woman

The truly inspiring story of the Chinese rubbish collector who saved and raised THIRTY babies abandoned at the roadside

A woman has been hailed a hero after details of her astonishing work with abandoned children has emerged.

 Lou Xiaoying

Lou Xiaoying, now 88 and suffering from kidney failure, found and raised more than 30 abandoned Chinese babies from the streets of Jinhua, in the eastern Zhejiang province where she managed to make a living by recycling rubbish.  She and her late husband Li Zin, who died 17 years ago, kept four of the children and passed the others onto friends and family to start new lives.

Her youngest son Zhang Qilin - now aged just seven - was found in a dustbin by Lou when she was 82.

'Even though I was already getting old I could not simply ignore the baby and leave him to die in the trash. He looked so sweet and so needy. I had to take him home with me,' she said.

'I took him back to our home, which is a very small modest house in the countryside and nursed him to health. He is now a thriving little boy, who is happy and healthy.

'My older children all help look after Zhang Qilin, he is very special to all of us. I named him after the Chinese word for rare and precious.

'The whole thing started when I found the first baby, a little girl back in 1972 when I was out collecting rubbish. She was just lying amongst the junk on the street, abandoned. She would have died had we not rescued her and taken her in.

'Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness and I realized I had a real love of caring for children.
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One fan explained: 'She is shaming to governments, schools and people who stand by and do nothing. She has no money or power but she saved children from death or worse.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:08 AM | Permalink