September 29, 2012

The debacle of U.S. foreign policy

What I learned on the web today, not from the mainstream media, is totally disheartening.

Two weeks after Islamists murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens, FBI agents  still have not been granted access to the U.S. consulate in Libya to investigate the crime scene.

Continuing Muslim protests at US embassies around the world, Media ignores

As Jim Geraghty points out, hundreds of Thai Muslims are massed around our embassy in Bangkok, Thailand; Bangladesh’s police reported that they had picked up a university professor for planning an attack on our embassy in Dhaka; hundreds more Muslims are massing in Calcutta, India, breaking through barricades and trying to break into our embassy; a 200-vehicle convoy of Muslim radicals rabble roused near the US embassy in Manila, Philippines.

From Mark Steyn's latest column: Obama a better president of the future

The excitable lads around the globe torching American embassies with impunity seem to have figured this out, even if the striped-pants crowd at Turtle Bay are too polite to mention it. Obama is not the President of the Future. He is President right now, and one occasionally wishes the great visionary would take his eye off the far distant horizon where educated women and fire-breathing Imams frolic and gambol side by side around their Chevy Volts, to focus on the humdrum present where the rest of us have the misfortune to live.
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Even more extraordinary, on Sept. 14, fewer than two dozen inbred, illiterate goatherds pulled off the biggest single destruction of U.S. airpower since the Tet Offensive in 1968, breaking into Camp Bastion (an unfortunate choice of name) in Afghanistan, killing Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Raible, and blowing up a squadron’s worth of Harriers.  And, even though it was the third international humiliation for the United States in as many days, it didn’t even make the papers. Because the court eunuchs at the media are too busy drooling over Obama’s appearance as what he calls “eye candy” on the couch between Barbara and Whoopi.

…And to the baying mob from Tunis to Jakarta those dead Americans and al-Qaida flags over U.S. embassies and an entire USMC air squadron reduced to charred ruins are a veritable Willie Wonka production line of eye candy. To the president, they're just "bumps in the road" to the sunlit uplands of "the future.

From the Anchoress, Court Eunuchs of MSM won’t tell us, so thank you, BBC!

Do a Google search on “Camp Bastion”, and it’s all BBC, baby, all BBC! Add the word “assault” to the search and you do find a story in the New York Times…in the “world” section, under Asia Pacific, with an headline about the Taliban’s reach.
I guess that’s one way to say “see, we reported on it” while insuring that a story doesn’t really make many ripples in the public awareness.

The BBC report she references. Camp Bastion assault: Details emerge of Taliban attack

The Taliban attackers who broke through Camp Bastion's perimeter chose the darkest night of the year to launch their assault….They quickly made their way to the US Marine Harrier flight line. They were dressed in American army uniforms but, instead of boots, they wore training shoes.

In quick succession, they fired rocket-propelled grenades at eight Harrier jump jets under canvas hangers, destroying six and damaging two.

Every Marine, whether a mechanic or pilot, is a trained rifleman.  Squadron Commander Lt Col Chris Raible ran 150 metros across open ground under fire. He was carrying only his service pistol.  As he lay down, shooting at the insurgents, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, killing him.
Sgt Bradley Atwell was also killed by an RPG as he pushed forward with a counter-attack.

Capt Smalley said: "Lt Col Raible was one of the best Harrier pilots we have in the entire fleet… He wrote on many of the tactics and techniques that the Harrier uses."

Bookwormroom writes about the lack of uproar about the U.S. drone attacks on our supposed ally Pakistan

Stories are starting to appear in the U.S. press saying that Obama’s drone attacks — each of which he allegedly approves personally, after carefully selecting the target he wants dead — are killing and wounding thousands of civilians, including women and children, in Pakistan:

U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, have traumatized innocent residents and largely been ineffective, according to a new study released Tuesday.  The study by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law calls for a re-evaluation of the practice, saying the number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low — about 2%.

“TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228 – 1,362 individuals,” according to the Stanford/NYU study.

Based on interviews with witnesses, victims and experts, the report accuses the CIA of “double-striking” a target, moments after the initial hit, thereby killing first responders.

Finally some one is reporting on the Fast and Furious gun-running-to-the drug-cartels scandal that killed several hundred Mexicans.  Not the American press but Univision.  Here's a video preview by ABC News of the "bombshell" report on Univision, Sunday night at 7 with English subtitles.

Among other groups of Fast and Furious victim stories Univision says it will tell in the special to air Sunday evening at 7 p.m., is one about how “16 young people attending a party in a residential area of Ciudad Juárez in January of 2010″ were gunned down with weapons the Obama administration gave to drug cartel criminals through Fast and Furious.

The Anchoress writes

Kind of like the “Fast and Furious” story — the gun-running operation which (contrary to this administration’s line) was not started “under Bush” and which took place without the knowledge of the Mexican government, and which program’s toll on human lives has been rather stoutly ignored by the press — is suddenly seeing a little coverage at least on days when most people don’t pay much attention to news. The US mainstream press could have covered the story any time these past 16 months or so, but it has taken the insistent attention by Univision to force the American press to, if not keep up, at least do enough to allow for plausible deniability when they’re asked why they ignored the story.

In Foreign Policy magazine, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, We’ve Lost Track of Some Syrian Chemical Weapons.  This follows reports that  Syrian rebels claim to have taken control of a military base that contains chemical weapons.

Among those Syrian rebels, of course, are a lot of jihadists who march under the black banner of al-Qaeda. So when the rebels state that they have chemical weapons, it's almost the same as saying al-Qaeda has some - or at least has the opportunity to get its hands on them.

We are now giving drones to Yemen.  What could possibly go wrong?

The equipment marks a significant change in U.S. military cooperation with Yemen, which was suspended until earlier this year. Moreover, the U.S. Defense Department traditionally has kept a close hold on any UAV technologies, exporting them almost exclusively to close Western allies.

Benghazi-Gate:  A Timeline of Government Deceit, Deception and Outright Lies.  long and extensive and totally dispiriting.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:29 PM | Permalink

Glorious portrait of Queen Elizabeth

Abbey and glorious: Portrait of The Queen, alone, at the spot where she was crowned is unveiled in all its 11ft glory

 Portrait 50Th Queen

In centuries past, royal artists portrayed monarchs as grand, imposing and often rather stern.  But the latest portrait of the Queen pictures her in a moment of quiet reflection as she stands on the spot in Westminster Abbey where she was crowned 60 years ago. 

Artist Ralph Heimans said he sought to capture 'her humanity' in the 9ft by 11ft portrait, commissioned by the Palace to mark the Diamond Jubilee.

She stands on the Cosmati pavement – a spot where every English monarch has been crowned since it was commissioned by Henry III in the 13th century.

 Close-Up 50Th Portrait Qe

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:37 PM | Permalink

Closer to the cliff every day

The Economy Durable goods drop 13.2% in August.  Q2 GDP downgraded from 1.7% to 1.3%

‘It’s all unraveling’ | Is this the last quarter of the recovery?

James Pethokoukis: Has the U.S. economy turned a corner? Yes, and then another corner and now it’s going backward. A slew of bad economic data today. A taste of what economists are saying:

– It’s all unraveling this morning. OK in the US jobless claims fell and the consumer comfort index improved.  But the downward revision to GDP and the chillingly large drop in Durable goods orders is enough to send chills up your spine. Yes, aircraft and defense orders were the bulk of the weakness. But nothing there is reassuring.


GDP collapse puts U.S. economy into recession red zone

U.S. economic growth is dangerously slow. I’ve frequently written about research from the Fed which finds that since 1947, when two-quarter annualized real GDP growth falls below 2%, recession follows within a year 48% of the time. And when year-over-year real GDP growth falls below 2%, recession follows within a year 70% of the time.

Ace:  I can only express my disgust so many times -- this is huge, and the media is embargoing it entirely.

Much of the news of the economic disaster ahead is being suppressed.

On May 7th, it was revealed that the Obama administration spent $8.35 billion on a “demonstration project” designed to postpone the vast majority of Obamacare’s Medicare Advantage cuts until after the election. On July 31st, it was revealed that the Labor Department warned defense contractors against notifying workers of impending layoffs before the election as well, despite the fact that it would require violating the law to do so. On September 21, it was revealed that a report on the Greek bailout will also be postponed until after the U.S. election. ….
Thus, the president can continue to campaign on the “heartless” cuts a Romney administration will administer to healthcare in general, and seniors’ healthcare in particular, even as those same seniors remain oblivious to the reality that $7.4 billion will be cut from the Medicare Advantage program in 2013. As a result, enrollees will lose an average of $515 in benefits. Americans remain equally oblivious to the reality that family health insurance premiums have gone up by an average $2,730, despite a 2008 promise Obama made to lower premiums by $2500 by the end of his first term.

Friday, the Administration offered a little quid pro quo

If defense contractors don't issue the lay-off notices in October,  the government will "provide the funds to pay the fines they impose on the contractors for non-compliance with regulations written by the government"  You couldn't make this stuff up.

Student loans, "the new subprime' .  The Department of Education released Friday the  federal student loan cohort default rates.
The number, for all colleges, stood at a stunning 13.4% for the 2009 …there is now at least $122 billion in federal student loan defaults. And surging every day.

Disappearing people.  There's the unemployment rate and the real unemployment rate without all the disappearing people.  Real Unemployment rate is 11.7%

Economic Freedom. Zerohedge The Declining Economic Freedom of the United States

The United States, long considered the standard bearer for economic freedom among large industrial nations, has experienced a remarkable plunge in economic freedom during the past decade. From 1980 to 2000, the US was generally rated the third freest economy in the world, ranking behind only Hong Kong and Singapore. The ranking of the US has fallen precipitously; from second in 2000 to eighth in 2005 and 19th in 2010. By 2009, the United States had fallen behind Switzerland, Canada, Australia, Chile, and Mauritius, countries that chose not to follow the path of massive growth in government financed by borrowing that is now the most prominent characteristic of US fiscal policy. By 2010, the United States had also fallen behind Finland and Denmark, two European welfare states. Moreover, it now trails Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Estonia, Taiwan, and Qatar.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 PM | Permalink

The Benghazi Coverup

According to a source close to Ambassador Stevens, the US diplomat was worried about his personal safety and "never-ending" security threats in Benghazi in the months leading up to the attack.  CNN reports that "Stevens specifically mentioned a rise in Islamic extremism and al Qaeda's growing presence in Libya" to the source close to him. …  Facts: 

  • Amb. Stevens was aware and concerned about the growing terrorist threat in Libya.
  • Clinton's State Department chose to use un-armed security from Britain rather than the US Marine Embassy Guard for protection.
  • On September 10th, al-Qaeda called specifically for Libyans to target Americans to avenge the death of an al-Qaeda leader.
  • On September 11th, heavily armed terrorists attacked the US diplomatic mission in Benghazi and murdered Amb. Stevens and three other Americans.

What really happened to Ambassador Stevens?

 Amb Stevens Dragged

No Marines for Libyan Ambassador: Full Secret Service Detail for Valerie Jarrett's Vacation   On Martha's Vineyard!

As the New York Times reports Valerie Jarrett is The Other Power in the West Wing has a full-time Secret Service detail even though her only title is "Assistant to the President for Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs." 

The White House refuses to disclose the number of agents or their cost, citing security concerns. But the appearance so worried some aides that two were dispatched to urge her to give the detail up. She listened politely, one said, but the agents stayed.

Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice went on 5 Sunday news shows on Sept 15 to say

“The best information and the best assessment we have today is that in fact this was not a preplanned, premeditated attack. That happened initially was that it was a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired in Cairo, as a consequence of the video.”

Our fearless misleader, Steve Hayes reviews recent reports adding to the enormity of the administration line peddled by Rice et al. in the days after the murders:

The attack was, in fact, planned. It did involve al Qaeda-linked terrorists. It was not a copycat of the protests in Cairo, Egypt. Indeed, there was no protest outside the consulate in Benghazi at all. The U.S. compound was not well secured. The two ex-Navy SEALs killed in the attack were not there to protect the ambassador, and they were not, obviously, joined by several colleagues also providing security. The date of the attack was not coincidental. And the anti-Islam YouTube video at the center of the administration’s public relations effort had nothing to do with the assault that took the lives of four Americans.

This, more than anything, is the problem with the administration’s response. It wasn’t that they failed to provide enough information to the public, but that they provided incorrect information and did so long after it was clear to many in the intelligence community that the political narrative was false.

It bears constant repeating.

Four American diplomats were murdered on American soil on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The Libyan government had warned us days ahead of time. Our American Ambassador warned that he was being targeted by Al Queda. And yet, we took precisely zero additional security precautions.

Up until a few days ago, Administration officials have been lying about the circumstances surrounding the terrorist attack. They have even tried to cover-up the basic facts of the assassination.


Democrat Pollster Pat Caddell. Mainstream media is threatening future of country

“First of all, we’ve had 9 days of lies…If a president of either party…had had a terrorist incident and gotten on an airplane [after remarks] and flown off to a fundraiser in Las Vegas, they would have been crucified…it should have been, should have been, the equivalent, for Barack Obama, of George Bush’s “flying over Katrina” moment. But nothing was said at all. Nothing will be said. […] It is [unacceptable] to specifically decide that you will not tell the American people information they have a right to know. [The MSM] has made themselves the enemy of the American people. It is a threat to the very future of the country; we’ve crossed a new and frightening line on the slippery slope, and it needs to be talked about."

The Benghazi cover-up  is worse than Watergate

It involves the terrorist murder (not an electorally irrelevant burglary) of government officials, their reckless endangerment, the undermining of the Bill of Rights and free speech by our own administration in response to Islamist threats, and, ultimately, the complicity of that same administration, consciously or unconsciously, in the downfall of Western civilization.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media function as their more-than-willing accomplices in this downfall, in essence as Obama’s court eunuchs.
Sound excessive?  Hear me out.

Libya: The Timeline 

Fox News’ Special Report produced a timeline of the Benghazi attack and its aftermath that provides a useful and comprehensive survey of events to date:.

Only ABCNews' Jake Tapper Reports that Administration secretly knew Benghazi was a terrorist attack from day one; CBS, NBC Embargo.

Gallup: 60% of Americans don't trust the mainstream media.  I'm one of them.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

September 28, 2012

A few things good to know

Why putting things off wastes 69 minutes a day and three years of your adult life

And one in five of us waste more than two hours a day putting off what we should be doing.  Research shows we waste on average 69 minutes a day procrastinating on tasks like trimming the hedge

Women are more likely to do so than men, with 59 per cent admitting to putting off important tasks compared with 50 per cent of men. But we begin to kick the habit as we grow older.  While 65 per cent of 18-24 year olds admit to procrastinating at least once a day, the figure drops to 51 per cent of those aged over

Two things that can increase the hours in your day from Business Insider
1) Use time to help others.  A good way to feel less busy is to give away some of your time. Spending time on others makes us feel less time-constrained
2) The experience of awe.  Those who were primed to feel awe... saw time as much more expansive, less constricted. They felt free of time’s pressure.

Also with practical tips

  • Best time to get a human being on the phone when calling a company's customer service line: As early as possible (lowest call volume)
  • Best day of the week to eat dinner out: Tuesday (freshest food, no crowds)
  • Best day to fly: Saturday (fewer flights means fewer delays, shorter lines, less stress)
  • Best time to fly: Noon (varies but pilots say airport rush hours coincide with workday rush hours)
  • Best time to have surgery: Morning (4x less likely to have complications in the morning than between 3-4PM)
  • Best time to exercise: 6-8PM (body temp highest, peak time for strength and flexibility)
  • Best time to have sex: 10PM-1AM (skin sensitivity is highest in late evening)

Chi running marries method and mindfulness    I love Tai Chi, but don't much like running.  Maybe I'll try this.

Chi Running evolved when a tai chi-practicing ultra-marathoner decided to apply principles from the Chinese system of slow, smooth movement to his running……Correct alignment is a tenet of chi running. Posture is the first thing Dreyer works on with clients.

"If posture isn't good, the support system isn't good," he said. "Any weakness or misalignment will really affect you because you're always on one leg," he said, noting that running injuries happen from the knees down.  In his method a forward tilt from the ankles moves the runner's center of mass ahead and allows gravity to take on more of the body's weight."The body gets to fall," Dreyer said. "All you have to do is lift your legs."

5 Simple Mind Hacks That Changed My Life

1) Making yourself impervious to criticism.
2) How to make a final decision.
3) The key to getting over mistakes.
4) How to stop overreacting to minor issues.
5) How to have a more active life.

Galaxy Jello

when the Kiddo woke up the next morning and asked if he could have a galaxy for breakfast, I was thrilled. He’d been out the night before, when I made them, and didn’t know what they were actually supposed to be, so when he looked at them and saw all of time and space in a jar, I couldn’t have been happier.

Using a plastic bottle to separate eggs.  Mesmerizing via Kottke

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:29 PM | Permalink

Hope for new anti-aging drug after scientists reverse muscle wastage in old mice

Hope for new anti-aging drug after scientists reverse muscle wastage in old mice

Drugs could one day be used to reverse the muscle-wasting effects of aging, new research suggests.  Scientists have identified a key process responsible for muscle weakening in old age and used a chemical to block it in mouse studies.  The findings could pave the way to body-building anti-aging drugs that keep people strong and fit near the end of their lives

A team of British and US researchers looked at the way stem cells in muscle repair damaged tissue by dividing and developing into numerous new muscle fibers.  Strenuous activity, such as lifting weights, results in minor damage that triggers this response and builds up muscle. The end result is bulging biceps and rippling torsos.

But as people age, muscle loses its ability to regenerate itself, leading to limbs that are puny and weak.  Studying old mice, the researchers found that the number of dormant stem cells in muscle reduces with age.  They traced the effect to excessively high levels of FGF2 (fibroblast growth factor 2) - a protein that stimulates cells to divide.  In aging muscle, the protein was continuously awakening the dormant stem cells for no reason.  The supply of stem cells depleted over time, so not enough were available when they really were needed. As a result, the ability of muscle to regenerate was impaired.

The scientists found that a drug that inhibits FGF2 prevented the decline of muscle stem cells. Treating old mice with the drug, called SU5402, dramatically improved the ability of aged muscle tissue to repair itself.  SU5402 is purely manufactured for laboratories and not licensed for therapeutic use.

But scientists hope the research, published in the latest online issue of the journal Nature, will lead to future treatments.  Senior researcher Dr Albert Basson, from King's College London, said:

'Preventing or reversing muscle wasting in old age in humans is still a way off, but this study has for the first time revealed a process which could be responsible for age-related muscle wasting, which is extremely exciting.  The finding opens up the possibility that one day we could develop treatments to make old muscles young again. If we could do this, we may be able to enable people to live more mobile, independent lives as they age.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:28 PM | Permalink

Religious practice has resources that help stabilize marriages

Are Christians Just As Likely to Divorce?

‎“Christians divorce at the same rate as everyone else.” Have you ever heard this? I get this comment all the time when I’m doing speaking engagements or radio interviews. People treat it as an established fact, not even a question. The short answer is: NO THEY DON’T! The long answer is: It depends on what you mean by Christians. If you’re talking about everyone who describes themselves as Christian or Catholic, maybe you’ve got something. But sociologists have verified many times that regular religious practice is a huge protective factor against divorce.
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For instance, nominal Catholics are 5 percent less likely, active Catholics 31 percent less likely, and “average Catholics” 18 percent less likely to divorce than is the general population. Among Protestants, nominal Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce than the average person. Conservative Protestants are 10 percent less likely to divorce, and active Conservative Protestants are 35 percent less likely to divorce than the population at large.

This false belief is harmful because:
  • it contributes to a general sense that divorce is inevitable.
  • it demoralizes people both at the personal level (everyone gets divorced anyway, even the Christians) and at the policy level (we might as well make peace with divorce, even Christians get divorced).
  • it makes Christians appear to be hypocrites.
  • people can’t see that religious practice has resources that help stabilize marriages.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

Carrying some of your little boy within you all of your life

Why having a son puts a woman in a new frame of mind: DNA can pass into body from fetus before reaching brain

A mother’s children are never far from her mind – and scientists may have worked out why.  They believe that if a woman has a son, some of his cells pass into her body before reaching her brain.  And the male DNA may linger there for decades.
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In the same way that a mother passes oxygen and nutrients to her unborn child through the placenta, ‘traffic’, including cells, also moves in the other direction.  The study suggests that the baby’s cells – or their descendants – persist in the mother for decades, as male DNA was found in the brain of a woman who died aged 94.  It is thought having a daughter also leaves a mark on the mother’s brain – but testing for this would be more difficult.

The study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, is the first to find male DNA in women’s brains. It is too early to say what effect, if any, it has.    Previous studies have found male cells in women’s blood, bone marrow, hearts, lungs, livers and other organs.  And the phenomenon, which is known as microchimerism, is thought to be good for a woman’s health.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:22 PM | Permalink

Friday videos: Dolphin birth and the amazing farm with 32,000 cows

Incredible Dolphin Birth at Dolphin Quest Hawaii  YouTube

 


The miracle of American farming, illustrated by the amazing 32,000-cow, 25,000-acre Fair Oaks Dairy Farm

The video below features the amazing 25,000-acre (40 square miles) Fair Oaks Dairy Farm in Indiana, where 32,000 dairy cows produce 2.5 million pounds of milk every day, which is enough milk from that one farm for all of the people in Chicago and Indianapolis (8 million residents). The herd of dairy cattle is so large that more than 80 calves are born every day, and the public is allowed to watch the births in a special glass-walled theater, as well as tour the entire facility. All of the farm’s energy is generated from the cow manure that is collected, processed and turned into methane, which then powers 100 percent of the farm’s electricity.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:30 PM | Permalink

September 27, 2012

Thoughts on Beauty

Bad Catholic writes Humans Are Useless

Beauty begets love. A flutter and twitch of female lashes can crush a man’s heart like a Bud Light can under a steamroller. A father who spends the day immersed in the beauty of the Shenandoah Valley returns by night with hugs for his children and a softer touch for his wife. Beauty begets love, as sunlight wakens sleepers…

Love likewise begets beauty. Beautiful art is a “labor of love.” Love has poetry gush from the dry well of a man’s imagination, music from a girl ashamed to sing, and literature from the lonely.

The reason for this relationship is not that the two are both glorious, wonderful, and likely to be pasted in Helvetica over instagrammed pictures of middle-schoolers making out on a beach. Beauty and love are bonded by their similar operations within the human person.

To appreciate a thing as beautiful is to appreciate it as useless, not because it is trash, but because it is real treasure. That which is beautiful is good in and of itself. We do not appreciate the beautiful in regards to how we can use it, change it, or by what it can do for us. We appreciate the beautiful for being, for presenting itself to our intellect — for existing.

Margaret Laracy with a doctorate in psychology, witnesses to the positive effects of natural and artistic beauty in clinical practice and how it restores fullness: True Beauty Satisfies the Human Heart

In my research, I found empirical studies showing that exposure to natural beauty is salutary, actually improving physical and mental health. There are also health benefits of exposure to artistic beauty, as expressed in painting and music. I became increasingly aware of how the various forms of beauty can help to heal the human person, particularly in terms of psychological healing.

Many people think of beauty in sentimental or superficial terms. Such reductions detach beauty from truth. The encounter with beauty comes through the senses but is not limited to what is on the surface of things or to what is felt.

Beauty engages reason. It is a delight of reason. Beauty can be described as the attractive intelligibility of an object. So beauty is a quality of an object, but it is actualized in the encounter between the object and the perceiving subject, in a relationship.

St. Thomas Aquinas names three essential conditions of beauty: clarity, harmony and integrity. Clarity is what comes first through our sense experience, when we notice the distinct illumination — the luminosity — communicated by an object. For example, the brilliant colors of a flower initially draw our attention. We also experience harmony, or the right ordering of the parts. The harmony of a flower is expressed in the size and placement of petals on a stem of a flower. All of this is synthesized into a complete configuration, thereby showing the third aspect of beauty, integrity. The wholeness of the object elicits repose and contemplation, rather than agitation and grasping. There’s a restorative feeling of being "at home." Within this rest, though, there is also an opening to more that continues to call us.
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Beauty is a form of knowledge, but it differs from scientific knowledge.  Beauty conveys an intelligibility that is not reducible to scientific properties. For example, to see a rose and appreciate its beauty is to know it. I may know nothing of what a botanist could share with me about the organic properties of the flower. Nonetheless, the knowledge of the rose that I have is genuine. In fact, if I had studied botany and knew all the facts about roses, but had never seen and appreciated a rose, my knowledge of it — albeit scientific — would be incomplete.

Beauty, properly understood and experienced restores the fullness of the human person

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:40 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Parkinson's diagnosed over phone, drug-resistant gonorrhea, phage therapy, migraines, neuro-flapdoodle

Diagnosing Parkinson's disease very early on and over the phone

Leaving a simple phone message could help spot the early signs of Parkinson’s years before serious symptoms develop, say scientists.
Researchers have discovered they can detect the disease through voice recordings with initial studies already showing a 99 per cent accuracy rate.
A team at Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed a computer program me that is able to recognize the tremors, breathiness and weakness in the voice, which are thought to be early indicators of the condition.

The breakthrough technology could alert doctors to prescribe early treatment, which could slow the progress of the disease. The current approach to a Parkinson’s diagnosis can take years, as there is no blood test that detects it.

Dr Kieran Breen, director of research at Parkinson’s UK described the study as an 'exciting prospect'.
He said: 'The Parkinson’s Voice Initiative could lead to voice recognition tests that can diagnose and monitor Parkinson’s.
'We know that speech is often affected in people with Parkinson’s - so developing a test that can spot the earliest subtle changes is an exciting prospect.  At the moment we don’t have a definitive test to diagnose Parkinson’s, and no reliable way to monitor the development of the condition - which is a massive barrier to finding a cure.

The Rise of Drug-Resistant Gonorrhea.

Now, however, public-health experts view the Kyoto case as something far more alarming: the emergence of a strain of gonorrhea that is resistant to the last drug available against it, and the harbinger of a sexually transmitted global epidemic. . . . ‘This is what we have feared for many years.’”

Instapundit comments on  Sex and the Superbug 

I sound like a broken record, but we need new antibiotics, and, even more, new therapies that aren’t based on antibiotics at all. Why aren’t we seeing more action on phage therapy?

Phage therapy?  Never heard of it.  Here's the absolutely fascinating article on The Next Phage

How to heal an infection that defies antibiotics? Another infection. Doctors in Eastern Europe have used lab-grown viruses to safely cure millions of wounds. So why can't we do the same here?

Short answer: THE FDA

As viruses go, phages are relatively benign. They're the most abundant naturally occurring organisms on Earth. They can be found virtually everywhere—-in soil, drinking water, sewage. In fact, each one of us naturally has billions of them in our bodies. They prey only on bacteria, never human cells, they rarely spread from person to person, and, perhaps most important, bacteria have trouble becoming immune to them. As living organisms, phages are constantly changing and adapting in tandem with their host bacteria to kill them more effectively. Phage therapy could therefore eliminate the vicious cycle in which bacteria evolve resistance to antibiotics, necessitating the development of new, even more powerful drugs, at which point the process begins all over again.
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Eliava the "mother ship of phage research," a worldwide Mecca for people suffering from antibiotic-resistant infections. Only it doesn't look like the sort of place you'd want to go with a health problem. When Wolcott visited to hunt down alternatives for his patients, the four-story facility bore a closer resemblance to a neglected sanatorium. The walls were unpainted, the rooms were dark, and the equipment looked like museum pieces. "The conditions were abysmal," he says. "Yet the science is amazing."
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What surprised him most, a
side from the dreary decor, was the painstaking way each prescription was custom-tailored for the patient. Phages are species-specific—-different strains attack different bacteria. Since some wounds can harbor hundreds of different types of bacteria, physicians there first culture a tissue sample of the infection to determine its precise bacterial composition. The next step is to brew a custom cocktail of sometimes hundreds of phages selected from the institute's vast library of thousands. This whole process can take up to four days. The treatment—often administered through an IV bag that drips phage liquid directly into patients' wounds for 24 hours a day—can last up to two weeks.
As inconvenient as the procedure sounds, few people complain about it. The results are spectacular.

Emotionally neglected children 'more likely to suffer strokes in old age'

The study found that the risk of stroke was nearly three times higher in those who reported a moderately high level of childhood emotional neglect than those who reported a moderately low level.    Dr Wilson said the results stayed the same after considering factors such as diabetes, physical activity, smoking, anxiety and heart problems.  The study was published in the online issue of the medical journal Neurology.

The magnet to cure a migraine: Can this device mean the end of excruciating pain for Britain’s eight million sufferers?  How will the FDA deal with it, as a medical device?

Your brain on pseudoscience

The idea that a neurological explanation could exhaust the meaning of experience was already being mocked as “medical materialism” by the psychologist William James a century ago. And today’s ubiquitous rhetorical confidence about how the brain works papers over a still-enormous scientific uncertainty.

Paul Fletcher, professor of health neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, says that he gets “exasperated” by much popular coverage of neuroimaging research, which assumes that “activity in a brain region is the answer to some profound question about psychological processes. This is very hard to justify given how little we currently know about what different regions of the brain actually do.” Too often, he tells me in an email correspondence, a popular writer will “opt for some sort of neuro-flapdoodle in which a highly simplistic and questionable point is accompanied by a suitably grand-sounding neural term and thus acquires a weightiness that it really doesn’t deserve. In my view, this is no different to some mountebank selling quack salve by talking about the physics of water molecules’ memories, or a beautician talking about action liposomes.”

'Neuro-flapdoodle'  I'll have to remember that

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:13 PM | Permalink

We surrounded by a halo

 Halo Surrounding Galaxy
artist's illustration

Nasa reveals massive halo of hot gas that envelops our universe

It is an astonishing reminder of just how large the universe is.  Nasa today revealed this incredible image showing our Milky Way Galaxy is embedded in an enormous halo of hot gas that extends for hundreds of thousands of light years.

The estimated mass of the halo is comparable to the mass of all the stars in the galaxy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink

September 26, 2012

Redefining basic human relationships

The Future of Marriage  George Weigel

In public policy terms, the Catholic critique of “gay marriage” reflects the Catholic idea of the just state. Rightly understood, marriage is one of those social institutions that exist “prior” to the state: prior in terms of time (marriage existed before the state), and prior in terms of the deep truths embedded in the human condition. A just state thus recognizes the givenness of marriage and seeks to protect and nurture this basic social institution.

By contrast, a state that asserts the authority to redefine “marriage” has stepped beyond the boundaries of its competence. And if that boundary-crossing is set in constitutional or legal concrete, it opens up a Pandora's box of undesirable results. For if the state can decree that two men or two women can make a “marriage,” why not one man and two women? Two women and two men? These are not paranoid fantasies; the case for polyandry and polygamy is now being mounted in prestigious law journals.

And if the state can define “marriage” by diktat, why not other basic human relationships, like the parent-child relationship, the doctor-patient relationship, the lawyer-client relationship, or the priest-penitent relationship? There is no principled reason why not.  Thus “gay marriage” is another expression of that soft totalitarianism that Benedict XVI aptly calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:26 PM | Permalink

Women and Alzheimers

Sexual differences are biological and consequential and there's no point in denying it.  Especially when doing research in Alzheimer's.

Why are women twice as likely to get Alzheimer's?: Experts think it's linked to hormones - and having a hysterectomy can hugely increase your risk

They are questioning why so much research into Alzheimer’s focuses on male brains — despite women being twice as likely to get the disease, and their brains having a fundamentally different make-up.

New studies show female hormones could be the reason women are more at risk, suggesting hormone replacement therapy could have a protective effect.
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It’s well known that victims of Alzheimer’s have clumps of damaged proteins — called plaques and tangles — in their brains.  Less well known is that depending on your sex, the tangles are found in very different places, according to Larry Cahill, professor of neurobiology at the University of California.
About 90 per cent of male sufferers have them in the hypothalamus, a central area of the brain controlling hunger, eating and sex — but only 10 per cent of women do, he says. Women have them in a nearby area involved in controlling production of a neurochemical called acetylcholine.

But why this is or what difference it makes to symptoms and behavior hasn’t been researched properly.  Wherever the plaques or tangles are, men seem to be able to handle them better — women can have worse symptoms, even though they have much less damaged protein in their brains.
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researchers from the University of Hertfordshire reported that women suffering from Alzheimer’s deteriorate faster than men — even when they are apparently at the same stage of the disease, suggesting men’s brains are better at coping with the ravages of the disease.

Furthermore, research from Kansas University found that if your mother had Alzheimer’s, that doubles your risk of developing the disease compared with having a father who had it.
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Women with a certain variant of a gene called ApoE4 are 50 per cent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s,’ says Dr Pauline Maki, a psychiatrist at the University of Illinois in Chicago, with a special interest in brain-hormone links. ‘That was discovered 15 years ago and affects around 20 per cent of the population, but it has never been followed up.’

Could a simple eye test spot the early stages of Alzheimer's?

Researchers found sufferers of the disease struggled with light tracking part of eye test  Potentially exciting' results could lead to new screening process

But what help is early detection if Drug giants give up on Alzheimer's cure  Research too difficult and costly.

The world's leading pharmaceutical companies are downgrading the search for new treatments for Alzheimer's disease after the failure of a series of high-profile drugs trials.

The human and financial costs of the disease are growing rapidly as the population ages, but the prospects of treatments to halt it, or slow its progress, are receding as at least five trials in the past five years have delivered disappointing results.
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At least 12 times as much was spent on cancer research as dementia research, yet dementia cost the country twice as much as cancer, he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

Strange, bizarre and true

Fisherman finds FINGER in trout. . . and it's traced to wakeboarder, 31, who lost it in accident two months earlier )and no, he doesn't want it back)

'I was like: "Let me guess, they found my fingers in a fish."'  The fish was caught about eight miles from where Mr Galassi had lost his fingers.

He had been on a camping trip at the scenic lake when he decided to go wake boarding.  He told the Spokesman-Review his hand had got caught in a loop in the towline, and he couldn't pull it out before the line tightened behind the boat that was going to pull him.

When he finally broke free, he didn't feel much pain but when he looked at his hand he realized something had gone terribly wrong.  'I pulled my hand out of the water and it had pretty much lopped off all four fingers,' he said. 'It was a lot of flesh and bone, not a lot of blood.'

Teenage girl 'shot dead in crossfire after hiring thugs to pretend to take her hostage… so her friend would lend her more money'   

Just a few days before her death, the man, who was a friend of her older sister's, had given Hidic a $100 loan, according to the Star-Telegram.  'We had frequently discussed that Claudia needed some direction and counseling,' the 43-year-old, who has not been identified, said.

A few days later, she returned to the man's home and asked for $600 more, but he refused. That's when investigators believe she devised her plan to rob him. But police spokeswoman Sharron Neal told the newspaper that he is not a 'person of interest' or a suspect.

Broadway patron, who invested $4.5m in musical, 'dies of malaria before paying up'… and he may never have existed at all    Ben Sprecher's production of Rebecca has been left with a $4.5million shortfall.  Scheduled to open in November, will it? 

Nurse Throws Donor Kidney in the Trash at the University of Toledo Medical Center in Ohio.  Two nurses and live organ transplant program suspended.

The nurse claims she was out of the room on a break when the surgeon told the staff that he had placed the kidney in a bag of chilled, protective slush. Believing the bag contained waste, the nurse flushed the contents down the hopper of a dirty utility sink.
The medical center suspended two nurses after the incident; one was later fired, and the other resigned, the hospital said. A surgeon was stripped of his title as director of some surgical services, and a surgical services administrator put on paid leave has resumed work.  The hospital also notified 975 patients and potential organ donors and recipients that they might need to make other arrangements for services typically provided through the program under review.

This Week reports Thousands of donor kidneys are thrown into the garbage every year.

In the United States last year, more than 4,700 people died waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant. Yet in each of the past five years, more than 2,600 kidneys recovered from deceased donors wound up going to waste, highlighting an inefficient donor-matching system in drastic need of an overhaul. What can health regulators change to ensure the much-needed organs go to people in dire need.

In 2011, for example, 2,644 of the 14,784 kidneys recovered from donors were thrown away (18 percent), according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Nearly 500 of those were not transplanted because a recipient could not be found in time.

France set to ban the words 'mother' and 'father' from official documents  Will it be illegal to use an 'old' birth certificate?

Hong Kong Billionaire Offers $65 Million To Any Man Who Can Woo His Gay Daughter

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur, Blasphemy in NYC, 'Sullying' Mormonism, 'The Boy They Couldn't Kill' and Thought-police in Canada

Yom Kippur: Dying So We May Live  Rabbi David Wolpe

Yom Kippur is a powerful existentialist statement. In its best known prayer, the Unetaneh Tokef, we are reminded that we are fleeting, that our lives are like the wind that blows, like the flower that fades, as a passing shadow. On Yom Kippur we dress in white. It has connotations of purity, because white shows the slightest stain. But the deeper reason is that a robe is reminiscent of the shrouds in which we will be buried. We emulate corpses: not eating, not drinking, freed of the body. This will one day be our fate.
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Judaism asks us to grasp both ends: We know we will die, and therefore should savor all that life offers. Our time is given vividness and urgency by being limited. Love is more precious knowing the sun will set.
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To live with an awareness of death is to live in gratitude for the realization that we are passing through. At moments it feels like we have forever. Yet we know it is not so. Yom Kippur arrives to remind us that time is limited. We beat our chests, the Jewish defibrillation, to revive our hearts, to awaken ourselves to our own swift passage. Today, though, on this day, it is our privilege to be alive. Let us repent, renew and live the time we are lucky to have with vividness, brio, goodness and in gratitude to God.

Celebrating Blasphemy in New York

As if by divine intervention, the revoltingly sacrilegious “Piss Christ” portrait will be going on display this Thursday at a ritzy Manhattan gallery right around the corner from the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. For those who don’t know, this particular instance of free speech consists of a photograph taken of a crucifix floating in the artist’s urine. It caused a stir in the late 1980s and 1990s because the artist (Andres Serrano) had been subsidized by NEA and other public grants. Of course, Democrats staunchly defended both the work and the funding, and Serrano is a star among Manhattan’s elite liberal socialites.

Coming so soon on the heels of Obama’s condemnations of the Mohammed spoof trailer, Representative Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.) is calling on President Obama to condemn the Piss Christ exhibit. 

That’s wrong. First of all, the president shouldn’t be condemning any work of art. But if you really want him to condemn the Piss Christ, this is what you have to do: Find an enterprising young artist willing to create a “Piss Mohammed” version of Serrano’s work, and ask the museum to hang it right next to the Piss Christ. It could be part of a “Piss Religion” exhibit.
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Every last person who complains will have to explain why they said nothing during the 20-plus years that the revolting Piss Christ has been touring art galleries around the world. They will be forced either to treat Islam and Christianity the same (i.e., stop trashing the latter) or finally admit the cowardly truth, which is that their degree of respect for any given religion is proportional to its proponents’s propensity for violence.

Astonishing that anyone would say this much less the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate.  But since there is no depth down which he will not go to be partisan, Harry Reid said, "Romney has sullied Mormonism", the religion they both share.  Jennifer Rubin comments:

It is not as if Reid were some low-level staffer or an overly zealous donor. He is, for goodness sakes, the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. Yet, vile comments such as these get less attention than a birthed outburst from Donald Trump. When the vice president says to an African American audience that the Republicans want to keep “y’all in chains,” the mainstream media shrugs or makes excuses. The outrage only travels in one direction.

Imagine if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that the president had “sullied” the face of Christianity and is “not the face of Christianity”? He would be denounced in every newspaper, and his resignation would be demanded. Imagine if Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in 2000 had said the Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), had “sullied” Judaism and is “not the face of Judaism.” I suspect he’d no longer be in the U.S. House.

"Look for a building with a cross on it."

Escape from North Korea chronicles the only good-news story out of North Korea: People are getting out.  Almost all of them flee first to China, where they trade one circle of hell for another.  China’s immoral policy is to track them down, arrest them and repatriate them.  Since it’s a crime to leave North Korea without permission, the returnees are treated very harshly – thrown in to prison and sometimes even executed for such “crimes” as meeting an American missionary in China or plotting to go to South Korea.

In China, the North Korean who finds his way to a church is likely to be safer than one who doesn’t. It’s illegal to help a North Korean in China, but church people routinely dare defy the law and do so anyway. The sooner a refugee hooks up with the Christian network, the greater his chances of avoiding arrest and repatriation and of finding a way to disappear safely into Chinese society. If he wants to go to South Korea, church people can help him navigate his way to the underground railroad and obtain passage out of China. This is risky business.

Egypt: Muslims distribute leaflets telling Christians to leave city or have their property destroyed

Mollie who called it the best magazine piece of the year. The Boy They Couldn't Kill The grandmother of "unwavering love" is Saundra Adams.

Thirteen years ago, NFL receiver Rae Carruth conspired to kill his pregnant girlfriend and their unborn son. The child has not only survived but thrived—thanks to the unwavering love of his grandmother

She could have filled him with hate, for his father and his Carruth blood; or anger, for the loss of his mother; or bitterness, for the loss of who he could have been. She filled him with something more powerful. He hardly ever cried as a baby, so quick was she to feed him and hold him and change his diapers, and as time went on he seemed to cry only for others. He would cry if one child hit another child, or at the suffering of a movie character, or when his godmother had a nosebleed. When G-Mom had food poisoning, so severe she had to crawl along the floor, there he was, crawling beside her.

She taught him that the rain was a shower of God's blessing, and he believed her, so that when his schoolmates ran inside to stay dry he just stood there and let it fall on him. She taught him that he could do anything, that he had no limits, even though a neurologist told her he would never walk or talk, and now of course he can do both. He can ride horses. He started sixth grade at the end of August. He makes his bed and cleans his room without being told. He wakes up smiling and goes to sleep smiling and in between he looks like the happiest person in the world. On the spectrum of cerebral palsy, he is somewhere near the middle. Conventional wisdom says he will always need help, always be catching up, never quite get to normal. But you never know. Medical technology is advancing. He runs through his therapy with a blazing intensity, and Sturkey thinks he could one day dress himself, prepare his own meals and walk safely around his own home. His grandmother believes he will get a job, get married, prolong the Adams bloodline and do many other amazing things. It may not be wise to bet against her.

Canadian thought police vs. concerned father

A Hamilton (Canada) -area Christian father is suing his children’s public school board after they refused to allow him to withdraw his children from controversial lessons on homosexuality. Dr. Steve Tourloukis, a dentist, says the suit comes after he has been asking for accommodation from the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board since Sept. 2010. A member of the Greek Orthodox Church, he has a daughter in grade 1 and a son in grade 4.

The Hamilton-Wentworth board ‘equity policy’ has been controversial. It states:
If a student writes an essay defending the traditional definition of marriage one man and one woman – they can now be sent to “reeducation” classes, in an attempt to change their homophobic (i.e. “anti-homosexual”) views.
If a student gives a speech arguing that homosexual activity isn’t normal they could well be suspended – or even expelled – under the School Board’s new “Equity Policy”.
If a teacher expresses their view that marriage is between one man and one woman they will face disciplinary action, and could face termination.

Tourloukis said, ‘[I want them] to acknowledge my inherent parental rights to direct the spiritual and moral education of my own children,’ he said. ‘They’re my kids, not the government’s, not the Hamilton-Wentworth School Board’s. I don’t believe that teachers are ‘co-parents’ with equal say in my children’s religious beliefs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 PM | Permalink

September 24, 2012

New statistics are chilling

Suicide is now the leading cause of injury deaths.  Too many people are living lives of despair as the miserable economy takes its toll.   

More people commit suicide than die in car crashes.    A report in the American Journal of Public Health says suicide ranks first followed by car crashes, poisoning, falls and murder.

"Suicides are terribly undercounted; I think the problem is much worse than official data would lead us to believe," said study author Ian Rockett, a professor of epidemiology at West Virginia University…. For the study, Rockett's team used data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics to determine the cause of injury deaths from 2000 to 2009.

Deaths from intentional and unintentional injury were 10 percent higher in 2009 than in 2000, the researchers noted. And although deaths from car crashes declined 25 percent, deaths from poisoning rose 128 percent, deaths from falls increased 71 percent and deaths from suicides rose 15 percent, according to the study.
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In 2009, more than 37,000 Americans took their own lives, and more than 500,000 were at risk of suicide, according to Pamela Hyde, administrator of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

How to Stop Hospitals from Killing Us.

Medical errors kill enough people to fill four jumbo jets a week. A surgeon with five simple ways to make health care safer. 

All of them have to do with transparency

  • online hospital performance ratings
  • teamwork scores  Good teamwork meant safer care.
  • compliance cameras
  • open notes
  • no more gagging


A staggering 94 million Americans exposed to potential identity theft through breaches in government agencies
.  And it's probably much worse.

ABC News reports 

Furthermore, out of 268 breach incidents reported since 2009, the 67 of the public agencies responsible (and I use that term loosely) couldn't even figure out how many records were lost. That fact alone will tell anyone with basic math skills and a lick of common sense that this epidemic is much worse than we know. …..

Premeditated attacks by hackers accounted for only 40 breaches since 2009, a mere 15 percent of the total….Plain and simple stupidity and negligence caused most of the rest.
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the sad truth is that our own government's security policies -- or lack thereof -- have put us all at risk. …The GAO's report found that out of 24 major government agencies, 18 had inadequate information security controls….the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services, each of which have met just over 50 percent of the law's requirements.

Robert Morgenthau: The Death of Peter Wielunski

For every soldier killed in combat, 25 veterans are dying by suicide. It's time to broaden efforts against PTSD.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

Female ad icons

Ad Age Picks the Top 10 Female Ad Icons of All Time

Before you click the link, how many can  you name solely from  what they market?

salt, kitchen, bananas, recruiter, plumber, 'mountain-grown' coffee, paper towels, fast-food hamburgers, insurance.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 AM | Permalink

September 23, 2012

Three of the most persistent men in the world

My favorites from Quora's question Who is the most persistent person who ever lived?

Dashrath Majhi

Dashrath Majhi's wife died without any treatment, because the nearest town with a Doctor was 70 km away from their village in Bihar, India. Well that could have been a far shorter distance, if not for a hill in between the village and the town.

Dashrath did not want anyone else to suffer the same fate as his wife.  So he did the unthinkable:

From Wikipedia:

Dashrath Manjhi's claim to fame has been the herculean task of single-handedly carving a 360-foot-long (110 m), 25-foot-high (7.6 m) and 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) road by cutting a mountain of Gehlour hills with a hammer, chisel and nails working day and night for 22 years from 1960 to 1982. This passage reduced the distance between Atri and Wazirganj blocks of Gaya district from 70 km to just 7 km.

Jadav "Molai" Payeng has spent about 30 years singlehandedly planting a 1,360 acre forest.

It all started way back in 1979 when floods washed a large number of snakes ashore on the sandbar. One day, after the waters had receded, Payeng , only 16 then, found the place dotted with the dead reptiles. That was the turning point of his life.

"The snakes died in the heat, without any tree cover. I sat down and wept over their lifeless forms. It was carnage. I alerted the forest department and asked them if they could grow trees there. They said nothing would grow there.

The rest of the story at Treehugger

Augustin in Honduras who, ravaged by polio, set out to overcome his poverty and disease by building a helicopter out of discarded bits of trash.  It took him 50 years, but he persisted even though every one thought he was crazy.  Tyler Bastian made a short film to tell his story in Everything is Incredible on Vimeo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:51 PM | Permalink

Mike Rowe, McDonalds, soft skills and a very happy baker

Lamb Castration, PETA and American Labor - Mike Rowe at TED.  Don't miss it, it's great.

 

Taking on the dirty job of dignifying hard work,  Rowe has his own very cool website and heads a foundation "to promote the skilled trades in areas of public awareness, reducing stigmas, education, career planning and job opportunities as well as support organizations that get us there.
Yeah, it’s a trade thing."

Mike Rowe and Manual Labor

His work on Dirty Jobs, where he is a “perpetual apprentice,” has allowed Rowe to see from the front lines of the workplace our national attitudes towards work. “Pig farmers, electricians, plumbers, bridge painters, jam makers, blacksmiths, brewers, coal miners, carpenters, crab fisherman, oil drillers … they all tell me the same thing over and over, again and again,” he says. “Our country has become emotionally disconnected from an essential part of our workforce.  We are no longer impressed with cheap electricity, paved roads, and indoor plumbing. We take our infrastructure for granted, and the people who build it.”
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Rowe wrote that “the ranks of welders, carpenters, pipe fitters, and plumbers have been declining for years, and now, we face the bizarre reality of rising unemployment, and a shortage of skilled labor.” This is the so-called “skills gap,” where jobs that require certain abilities or know-how remain unfilled even in the face of a vast number of otherwise available workers.

Hard Unemployment Truths About 'Soft' Skills  Nick Schultz

What exactly are the skills you can't find?" I asked, imagining that openings for high-tech positions went begging because, as we hear so often, the training of the U.S. workforce doesn't match up well with current corporate needs.

One of the representatives looked sheepishly around the room and responded: "To be perfectly honest . . . we have a hard time finding people who can pass the drug test." Several other reps gave a knowing nod. Applicants were often so under qualified, they said, that simply finding someone who could properly answer the telephone was sometimes a challenge.

More than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing went unfilled in 2011 due to a skills shortage.

Schultz says the principal missing skills are  the punctuality and dependability inherent in a good work ethic along with an elementary command of English, interpersonal skills and enthusiasm and motivation.

5 Life Lessons Learned Working at McDonalds

No task is beneath you

"McDonald's founder Ray Kroc was famous for dropping in on a restaurant, driving [up in] his Cadillac, dressed in his business suit and gold watch, and then asking for a mop so he could clean up some spilled mustard,"

Challenge yourself to master new skills

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recalled how proud he was that he could crack 300 eggs into a bowl with one hand. As Teets said, every job can teach you something about yourself, even if it’s just to learn what you don't like.

Roll with the punches

What one Marine Corps lieutenant colonel learned about being an effective decision-maker under stress served him well during his multiple tours of duty in the Middle East.

Learn from the successes of others

Drew Nieporent, a successful New York restaurateur who owns Tribeca Grill with actor Robert DeNiro, still uses the lessons he learned while working at McDonald's, even as he’s moved on to gourmet restaurants, Teets discovered.  "As a current restaurant owner," he said, "seeing McDonald's on the resumes of applicants would be a huge plus."

How to deal with people and become a leader

Former White House chief of staff Andrew Card, who worked his way through college at a McDonald's, said a big part of his job was finding different ways to help each employee succeed.

Vincent Talleu is one happy baker!    I found his video of Bakery Work mesmerizing  and his bread photos divine.  Thanks Sippican. 

 Vincent Talleu     

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 PM | Permalink

September 22, 2012

Scientific Weaknesses of Evolution and what C.S Lewis and Anthony Flew Thought

I have no trouble whatsover accepting Darwin's theory of evolution intraspecies because there is manifest evidence to support it.    But too many people go too far when they promote evolution to the reason behind everything.  That's bunk and most scientists know it but are afraid to admit it because to do so opens to door to the possibility of an intelligent source of creation.

From Business Insider, Scientific Weaknesses of Evolution

Intelligent Design, is one of the more sophisticated alternative theories to evolution, well-known for its support from Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe. Intelligent Design does not dispute the definition of evolution as "change over time" or, for the most part, that living things are related by common ancestry. However, this group does believe that the natural world is too complex and diverse to have occurred through random processes.
The Discovery Institute, a religious think tank that advocates the theory of Intelligent Design, outlines their own findings of scientific weakness in modern evolutionary science.

Genetics: Random mutations cause harm to organisms and do not build complexity.

Biochemistry: Random and undirected processes do not seem capable of producing cellular complexity.

Paleontology: The fossil record shows abrupt appearance and generally lacks intermediate fossils.

Taxonomy: Despite DNA discoveries, biologists are failing to reconstruct Darwin’s ‘tree of life’.

Chemistry: The chemical origin of life remains an unsolved mystery.

Icons of Evolution: Textbooks often overstate or misstate key lines of evidence for modern evolutionary theory.

CS Lewis' Views on Science, Evolution

The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism and Society is a compilation of writings from a variety of scholars who examined scientific books and pamphlets found in the author's personal library.  According to John West, the book's editor and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Wash., these documents contain underlined passages and annotations composed by Lewis that have never been written about before. There are over three dozen science-related books in Lewis' collection, and most of them are on the topic of evolution.
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Lewis was concerned that some would use modern science in the same way they tried to use magic in medieval times, to control nature.

"The downside is if you want to control the world then you may get delusions of grandeur, or you may try to play God … The deification of science, the application of science to morality, the use of science for things like eugenics and breeding a better human race are things that really concerned him," said West.
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West also used the example of the much-disputed contraception mandate found in the United States' Affordable Care Act, which would require religious organizations to pay for contraception and abortifacients even if they don't believe in the use of them.

Previously, West says, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement citing good science as a reason to keep the law in spite of religious convictions.

"So they're citing science as a justification for basically abrogating religious freedom. And this is precisely the sort of scientism that Lewis is talking about, the misuse of science outside its proper sphere to limit human freedom, to basically claim control over morality," said West.

Anthony Flew was the famous British professor of philosophy who argued for atheism most of his life until he dramatically changed his mind

It now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design,” he said. “It seems to me that the case for an Aristotelian God who has the characteristics of power and also intelligence, is now much stronger than it ever was before.”

When Flew revealed that he had come to the conclusion that there might be a God after all, it came as a shock to his fellow atheists, who had long regarded him as one of their foremost champions. Worse, he seemed to have deserted Plato for Aristotle, since it was two of Aquinas's famous five proofs for the existence of God – the arguments from design and for a prime mover – that had apparently clinched the matter.

After months of soul-searching, Flew concluded that research into DNA had "shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved". Moreover, though he accepted Darwinian evolution, he felt that it could not explain the beginnings of life. "I have been persuaded that it is simply out of the question that the first living matter evolved out of dead matter and then developed into an extraordinarily complicated creature," he said.

Flew went on to make a video of his conversion entitled Has Science Discovered God? and seemed to want to atone for past errors: "As people have certainly been influenced by me, I want to try and correct the enormous damage I may have done," he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

September 21, 2012

When middle age starts, marijuana extracts fight cancer and tailor-made organs with the body's own cells

A First: Organs Tailor-Made With Body’s Own Cells

Middle age begins at 55 years, survey suggests

And Britons do not see themselves as elderly until they are nudging 70, the survey of 1,000 UK adults aged 50-plus for the Love to Learn online learning website says.  Previous studies have pinpointed the start of middle age as early as 36.

The research suggests that as the population ages, new cut-off points are being drawn.
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However, a sizable minority, nearly one in five, thought middle age did not begin until after the age of 60.  But almost one in five (19%) said that being middle age is a state of mind, rather than something that begins at a certain age.  The research also asked the panel at what age they thought middle age ends. The average came in at 69 years and 277 days.  This suggests middle age itself now spans 14 years and goes well beyond the government's planned state pension age of 66.

Marijuana fights cancer and helps manage side effects

Cannabis plant extract 'could stop aggressive breast cancer from spreading'

A compound found in cannabis could halt the spread of many forms of aggressive cancer, scientists say.

Researchers found that the compound, called cannabidiol, had the ability to 'switch off' the gene responsible for metastasis in an aggressive form of breast cancer. Importantly, this substance does not produce the psychoactive properties of the cannabis plant.  The team from the California Pacific Medical Center, in San Francisco, first spotted its potential five years ago, after it stopped the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in the lab.

The pair teamed up to see if they could treat a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer called 'triple negative.' This form, which affects 15 per cent of patients, doesn't have three hormone receptors that the most successful therapies target. Cells from this cancer have high levels of ID-1.

When they exposed cells from this cancer to cannabidiol they were shocked to find the cells not only stopped acting 'crazy' but also returned to a healthy normal state. They discovered that the compound had turned off the over expression of ID-1, stopping them from traveling to distant tissues.

Other potentially treatable cancers are forms of leukemia, lung, ovarian and brain cancers, which also have high levels of ID-1.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:56 PM | Permalink

Friday videos: Breakout singer in a department store, Gratitude and the chirping sound of the earth

A Love Story in 22 Pictures.  True love indeed, bring your kleenex.

The young Filipina who stepped up to a Karaoke machine in a Singapore grocery store and became an internet sensation.

Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg

   

Song of the earth.  The sound of radio waves in the earth's magnetosphere sounds a lot like birds chirping in a dawn chorus.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:53 PM | Permalink

Another study proves what you already know

Paper Towels Best Method to Dry Hands Finds Mayo Clinic Study

According to a new study released by the Mayo Clinic, drying hands with a paper towel is more effective when compared with cloth towels and electric air dryers (i.e. hot air dryers and jet air dryers). The research, conducted last year and published June 1, reviewed 12 studies on the hygienic efficacy of different hand drying methods. This included drying efficiency, the removal of bacteria and the prevention of cross-contamination.

The study concluded that paper towels:
  • Work better than electric air dryers for hygiene purposes;
  • Remove bacteria more effectively;
  • Cause less contamination in the restroom area;
  • Should be the recommended hand-drying method in healthcare settings.

Rasmussen released survey findings showing that the internet is inching ahead of television as the best way to get news and information in the world.

The internet lead the pack among the various news outlets, with 40% identifying it as the best source of news. Television was a close second with 37%. Perhaps the most shocking revelation is that a mere 7% identify print newspapers as the best way to get news. This is right on target with the a recent report that newspaper ad revenue has dropped to 1950's levels.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:52 PM | Permalink

Redistribution sounds good, but it's fatal

Thomas Sowell on The Fallacy of Redistribution

The history of the 20th century is full of examples of countries that set out to redistribute wealth and ended up redistributing poverty. The communist nations were a classic example, but by no means the only example.

In theory, confiscating the wealth of the more successful people ought to make the rest of the society more prosperous. But when the Soviet Union confiscated the wealth of successful farmers, food became scarce. As many people died of starvation under Stalin in the 1930s as died in Hitler's Holocaust in the 1940s.

How can that be? It is not complicated. You can only confiscate the wealth that exists at a given moment. You cannot confiscate future wealth -- and that future wealth is less likely to be produced when people see that it is going to be confiscated. Farmers in the Soviet Union cut back on how much time and effort they invested in growing their crops, when they realized that the government was going to take a big part of the harvest. They slaughtered and ate young farm animals that they would normally keep tending and feeding while raising them to maturity.
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Among the most valuable assets in any nation are the knowledge, skills and productive experience that economists call "human capital." When successful people with much human capital leave the country, either voluntarily or because of hostile governments or hostile mobs whipped up by demagogues exploiting envy, lasting damage can be done to the economy they leave behind.

Fidel Castro's confiscatory policies drove successful Cubans to flee to Florida, often leaving much of their physical wealth behind. But poverty-stricken refugees rose to prosperity again in Florida, while the wealth they left behind in Cuba did not prevent the people there from being poverty stricken under Castro. The lasting wealth the refugees took with them was their human capital.

Seems to me our tax system is already extremely progressive .  Via Instapundit

 Top Ten Earners 74%Income Taxes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

September 20, 2012

The Scandal of the "Non-Partisan" AARP - UPDATED 3x

Far from being the non-partisan advocate for seniors,  the  AARP, as newly released show, took a distinctly partisan if stealthy role in co-ordinating with the Obama Administration to pass Obamacare.

Kimberly Strassel on The Love Song of AARP and Obama

Thanks to just-released emails from the House Energy and Commerce Committee, we now know that AARP worked through 2009-10 as an extension of a Democratic White House, toiling daily to pass a health bill that slashes $716 billion from Medicare, strips seniors of choice, and sets the stage for rationing. We know that despite AARP's awareness that its seniors overwhelmingly opposed the bill, the "nonpartisan membership organization" chose to serve the president's agenda..

The 71 pages of emails show an AARP management taking orders from the White House, scripting the president's talking points, working to keep its board "in line," and pledging fealty to "the cause." Seniors deserve to know all this, as AARP seeks to present itself as neutral in this presidential election.
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AARP had long lambasted cuts in fees to Medicare doctors because reduced payments would mean fewer doctors who accept patients with the insurance. Yet in its campaign for ObamaCare, it argued the money the health law strips from Medicare—by imposing price controls on hospitals—would improve "care."
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In August 2009, AARP had already unveiled a national advertising blitz for ObamaCare, to ensure that "every member of Congress knows the 50-plus community wants action to fix what's wrong with healthcare." The group made this claim despite weeks of daily tracking showing its members in revolt against the president's plan.

UPDATE:  I thought this was a useful chart to understand just where the $716 billion cuts are in Medicare.

 Obamacare Raids Medicare

The chart comes from Deroy Murdock in The Corner who comments:

Democrats will find it difficult to refute the below chart by Heritage Foundation research assistant Alyene Senger. It very clearly shows the $716 billion that Democrats swiped and delineates exactly from where in Medicare they stole it. This is as close to a police report of a home burglary as one will find in public policy, a graph is based on irrefutable data from the Congressional Budget Office. Democrats can run but cannot hide from these numbers:

UPDATE 2: Paul Ryan speaks to the AARP and Yuval Levin was there.

Be sure to read Paul Ryan’s speech to the AARP’s national convention today—a clear and forthright elucidation of the case for saving Medicare and the federal budget through market-based reforms and against doubling down on failed central planning and price controls through Obamacare.
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The AARP sometimes presents itself as a kind of membership organization consisting of senior citizens, but it is basically a huge financial-services company with an enormous stake in the current design of the Medicare system (it makes about half a billion dollars in revenue each year endorsing and selling Medicare supplemental, Medicare Advantage, Medicare prescription drug, and long-term care insurance policies). It profits in particular from higher-premium Medicare supplemental coverage (because it receives a royalty fee on every dollar seniors spend on premiums for AARP-endorsed products), and so would be a major loser in a premium-support reform. The organization has therefore worked closely with Democrats to oppose such a reform, and in return has also been helpful to them in the broader health-care debate—lobbying in favor of Obamacare, for instance, despite the fact that it made major cuts in Medicare and despite the very evident opposition of AARP members.

UPDATE 3:  An analysis shows AARP made $2.8 billion off of Obamacare and stands to make billions in the future

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:03 PM | Permalink

Alexis de Tocqueville, a Prophet

From Chapter VI on de Tocqueville's Democracy in America,  the Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear

It would seem that if despotism were to be established among the democratic nations of our days, it might assume a different character; it would be more extensive and more mild; it would degrade men without tormenting them. I do not question that, in an age of instruction and equality like our own, sovereigns might more easily succeed in collecting all political power into their own hands and might interfere more habitually and decidedly with the circle of private interests than any sovereign of antiquity could ever do.
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I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world….the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.
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Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

Inspired by Mitt de Tocqueville by Samuel Gregg

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:17 PM | Permalink

The Epidemic of Christian Persecution in the World including Crucifixions

Simply astonishing. 150,000 Christian martyrs every year, 17 an hour.    Playing politics with the global war on Christians  by John Allen.

The fact that there isn't yet a broad-based movement to fight anti-Christian persecution suggests something is missing in public understanding.,,,In part, too, it's because of the antique prejudice that holds that Christianity is always the oppressor, never the oppressed.
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the doors of a Trappist monastery in Latrun, near Jerusalem, were set ablaze, with provocative phrases in Hebrew spray-painted on the exteriors walls, such as "Jesus is a monkey……..The assaults on Christian holy sites also reflect a nasty, if little-discussed, streak of broader anti-Christian animus in some Israeli circles. Local priests have reported that sometimes Yeshiva students chant insulting slogans at them, or even throw stones and spit in their direction.
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To be clear, so far these outrages haven't resulted in any deaths -- as opposed to, say, the thousands of Christians killed in Nigeria by the radical Islamist "Boko Haram" movement, or the hundreds who died in the Indian state of Orissa during anti-Christian pogroms in 2008. Israel remains a fundamentally safe environment for Christians, certainly as compared to most places in its immediate neighborhood.

Word on Fire has a round-up with links of the "malicious and continual persecution of Christians worldwide. In some cases it's groups that are targeted, in other cases it's individuals, but in all cases it's a deeply disturbing trend that only awareness can help quell."

Crucifixions of dissidents in Egypt and Yemen Worry Christians  The picture below shows a victim crucified on an electric pylon in Yemen.

 Memri-Crucifixion-Lg

a sign affixed above the victim’s head displayed the flag of the Al-Qaeda-linked group and a text from verse 5:33 of the Koran: “The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”

Walid Shoebat, a former PLO operative who is now a terrorism analyst, said that the inscription in one of the photos reads, “He was crucified for three days in accordance with shariah.” According to Shoebat,  the group carried out the Shariah-prescribed penalties as retribution for allegedly giving information to U.S. forces which then carried out drone strikes against terrorists in Yemen.
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A report on the Arabic Sky News notes that crucifixions are being carried out in Egypt, virtually under the nose of the newly elected President Mohammed Morsi, who has long been a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.  An English translation of the Sky News report stated that members of the Muslim Brotherhood crucified dissidents and  and “crucified” them “naked on trees in front of the presidential palace.”

Christians risking life to help North Koreans escape

A new underground railroad run significantly by Christians has formed to help North Koreans escape their oppressive regime, Hudson Institute senior fellow Melanie Kirkpatrick told The Daily Caller.

“The new underground railroad is a secret network of safe houses and escape routes that carries North Koreans across China to safety in neighboring countries,” Kirkpatrick, author of the new book “Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad,” explained to TheDC. “From there, most go on to South Korea, though a few come to the U.S. or go to Europe or Canada.”

“Two groups of people operate the new underground railroad,” she continued, “brokers, who are in it for the money, and humanitarian workers — especially Christians — who are in it to serve God. It is against Chinese law to assist North Koreans, and anyone who helps them is subject to arrest, prison, and, if he’s a foreigner, expulsion

Sadly, American and European reporters who write about religion all too often have no idea what they are talking about as John Hinderaker points out today.      (Get Religion does it every day)

The Yahoo News article is written by Benjamin Radford, who bills himself as a “paranormal investigator.” Radford writes:

In the Muslim world, blasphemy (especially insulting their prophet Muhammad) is considered a grave offense, punishable by death. Islam, however, is hardly unique in that regard. Early Christians were intolerant of blasphemy, and in fact, Leviticus 24:16 specifically calls for blasphemers to be killed.

Hmm. So this guy thinks the Book of Leviticus was written by “early Christians?” And Yahoo News is publishing his ignorance to an audience of millions?

The Hebrew Bible goes even further,…

So there is no ambiguity at all, this guy actually doesn’t know that Leviticus is part of the Hebrew Bible.

…specifying that those who offend God should be butchered alive and their homes destroyed (Daniel 3:29). So there is scriptural basis in both Islam and Christianity for condemning blasphemers to death.

Actually, the verse from Daniel quoted by Radford is part of a decree by King Nebuchadnezzar–not God–after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were unhurt by the fire. And there is not a single line anywhere in the New Testament about killing those who blaspheme against Jesus. But all of that is almost beside the point. It is blindingly obvious that Muslims all too often commit or threaten murder against alleged “blasphemers,” while Christians and Jews never do. Radford’s article is both ignorant and tendentious.

…Yahoo, with a market capitalization of almost $19 billion, needs to get its act together and stop peddling rank ignorance and bigotry to its audience of many millions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:48 PM | Permalink

Grit, chores, time and life without a father

Children need to learn grit.  Brain power helps, but grit is really what's needed for success in the long run. Opting Out of the 'Rug Rat Race'

Start kids helping out with chores at 18 months.  Doing chores helps kids build competence, relatedness,  motivation and autonomy says The Art of Manliness on Dadliness

Spend more time with your children.  Basing his presentation on The National Study of Youth and Religion, Michael Theisen said

• the average father spends eight minutes per day with his children including meal and television time

parents spend less than three minutes of non-directive communication with their children each day
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Most compelling was that the study said parents are the single most influential factor on religious and spiritual aspects of their children's’ lives. Theisen said the research notes that adolescents mirror their parents’ beliefs. They also asked young people the question, “If you could change anything about the your family situation, what would it be? Theisen said, “The teenagers said, ‘To become closer to my parents.’
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The research also found over and over again that faith makes a difference in the lives of young people. Theisen said it has a positive effect on the lives of children making them more engaged adolescents who live “more constructive and promising lives.”

Parents need to involve their children in their faith. It doesn’t necessarily mean they must “preach” to their children. They will get much further by living out their own faith so their children can mirror it, he said.  “Make decisions based on values, morals and faith,” Theisen said.

Teen-agers need time with their fathers.  Time with dad good for self-esteem and social competence.

The more time spent alone with their fathers, the higher their self-esteem; the more time with their dads in a group setting, the better their social skills.

"The stereotype that teenagers spend all their time holed up in their rooms or hanging out with friends is, indeed, just a stereotype," said Susan McHale, director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State. "Our research shows that, well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for adolescents' psychological and social adjustment."

Researchers studied families with at least two children over a period of seven years.
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While increased time with Dad showed key benefits for self-esteem and "social competence," time with Mom did not show the same correlations

Life without a fatherThis Child's View of Single-Motherhood

Not having a father around meant I took on more student debt than I would have otherwise. It meant I would be recalled from college to do things around the house on the weekend, or I would come home just to make sure she was alright and make sure she spent time with someone. Instead of her helping me start life financially, I was helping her manage her mortgage payment, or paying for a new water-heater. I was happy to do so when I could. Though I often wondered where her actual inabilities were real, or when they were manufactured (even unconsciously) to bond me with her, even in hardships. In other single-mother households I knew, things functioned much less smoothly.

Helping her meant diminished resources for starting my own family when it came time. It also meant that there was no one else to manage things when she became sick and died last year.

The single strongest predictor of an early death?  Parental divorce

The long-term health effects of parental divorce were often devastating— it was indeed a risky circumstance that changed the pathways of many of the young Terman participants. Children from divorced families died almost five years earlier on average than children from intact families. Parental divorce, not parental death, was the risk. In fact, parental divorce during childhood was the single strongest social predictor of early death, many years into the future.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:43 AM | Permalink

Sin in Breaking Bad. UPDATED

Sin, the very word sounds archaic.  Yet, Kyle Roberts at Patheos makes a convincing case that society still needs 'sin' language.

He explores Breaking Bad, the TV drama that just showed its mid-session-finale.  Like Roberts and millions of others, I am hooked on the drama but all of us will have to wait until next summer to see the second half of the fifth season and the final conclusion of the story of the corrosion of one man's soul and its devastating effects on the people around him.

 Walter White-1

For those of you who haven't seen it Roberts provides a quick summary:

the drama about Walter White, a middle-aged high school chemistry teacher turned meth manufacturer. When Walt learned he had a severe case of lung cancer, and was given only months to live, the scramble was on for a way to provide for his family. He fell in with Jesse, a former student turned meth dealer, and discovered he could apply his chemistry skills to make crazy powerful meth (and loads of cash). Of course, along the way Walt finds himself in all sorts of trials and tribulations–doing and seeing things a reserved, educated “family man” with a Ph.D. in chemistry could have never anticipated…

Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, has affirmed that his goal is to turn Mr. Chips into Scarface. Gilligan has noted that the problem with most television shows is the “stasis” of its characters. They don’t change much, because consistency secures longevity. Breaking Bad is going to end after season five, and it’s not going to be pretty.

One of the geniuses of this show is that it seems to highlight the necessity for the theological category of “sin.” The show doesn’t so much dance around questions of moral ambiguity as it does put the viewer face to face with our potential for unabated moral depravity and for the inane ways in which we might try to “justify” that depravity. That conscientious, highly educated, high school teacher and family man could make a series of existential choices that lead him down a path of dramatic, moral and personal transformation (through which he contributes, directly or indirectly, to the personal destruction of others), seems outrageous to us. But empirical observation (and recent, tragic news events) confirms this is an actual possibility. As theologian Reinhold Niebuhr famously noted, “The doctrine of original sin is the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith.”
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as Kierkegaard believed, sin is an absurd “position,” in which one refuses to accept the basic limitations of our finitude. Sin is the refusal to submit ourselves to God and to embrace the weaknesses of our humanity. Sin is, for Kierkegaard, when anxiety turns to despair and when, in despair, one refuses to give oneself over to God. Sin is Walter White refusing to accept his death and trampling on others in order to secure an inheritance for his family–and to do it “my way.” “I earned this,” he says.

As a society, we cannot interpret the immoral actions of human beings solely by reference to neurology gone haywire, nor can we belittle the consequences of sinful actions by a empathetic deference to the sacredness of personal choice.

Only the language of sin adequately describes the way of life Walter White chose, a disordered way of thinking and behaving.  One commenter adds:

We simply are lost for words adequate to describe our experience in this world without a deep understanding of sin, and particularly, the Augustinian one of prideful reaching, the idolatrous rejection of limits that we see displayed in Walter White. The one thing I would add to it, is that it is not just the rejection of our finitude that characterizes our sin. The other problem is the deification of a finite good such as family, relationships, money, security, etc. so that it replaces God within the moral landscape we inhabit. Once that is done, we will inevitably follow its commands, (because all gods have commandments to obey), and be transformed into the image of what we worship. This component, the making ultimate of non-ultimate things, is the idolatry that Augustine, Kierkegaard (Sickness Unto Death), as well as H. Richard Niebuhr spoke of that gives sin its forward propulsion.

UPDATE:  Jack Thornton at Word on Fire compares Breaking Bad to Paradise Lost

Sin exists, sin matters, and “Breaking Bad” confronts this reality head on.
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The fear of death and the driving desire to provide for one’s family are very powerful, and one can at least sympathize with these emotions even while one condemns his decision to create a dangerous narcotic. But as the show continues it is clear that the central motivation for his actions is not something so noble as the desire to provide for his wife and children. It’s pride. He wants to feel powerful and influential. He wants to be in control of both his own fate and the fate of others. He wants to use his chemistry talents to be the best at something. He wants to be feared. And so, when he is offered a way out, a way to pay for his treatment and legally, safely provide for his family for the rest of their lives, he rejects it because he considers it charity and, in his arrogant opinion, charity is a bad thing.

So, driven by pride, Walter sets out into the world of drug trafficking and with each step falls deeper and deeper into sin and crime.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 AM | Permalink

September 19, 2012

Her faith kept her alive

'I asked the lord to satisfy my stomach as if I’d had a full meal': Woman who survived SEVEN WEEKS stranded in Nevada wilderness after husband died seeking help says her faith kept her alive

A Canadian woman found on the verge of starvation after seven weeks in a Nevada wilderness area told an Idaho church congregation that she had been prepared to die the same day hunters came across her stranded van. Rita Chretien, of Penticton, British Columbia, spoke on Sunday during a service at First Church of the Nazarene in Twin Falls about her ordeal.

She was found weak but alive in May 2011 in the rugged mountains of northeastern Nevada, near the Idaho state line.  Aged 56 at the time, Mrs Chretien survived 49 days on trail mix, boiled sweets and melted snow. But it was her faith, she told the church, that saved her.

'I asked the lord to satisfy my stomach as if I’d had a full meal,' Mrs Chretien said, adding that 'I’ve always walked with the lord ever since I was a little girl.'

She and her husband, Albert, 59, had become stranded after their van got stuck on a muddy road on Mach 22, having lost their way because they were 'foolishly following a GPS without a lot of experience,' Mrs Chretien said.  Mr Chretien set off on foot after three days to seek out help but failed to return. His body was never found and he has been presumed dead.

After being stranded 49 days, Mrs Chretien said her strength was almost gone and she thought she was going to have a heart attack.  She pulled on fresh socks, wrapped herself in a blanket and prepared to die.... Minutes later she heard the sound of off-road vehicles.

'I thought I was dreaming,' she said. 'Then I thought, "Hey, I'm not dreaming. This is really happening".'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:03 PM | Permalink

"The moral law has become the very emblem of immorality"

A quote worth pondering via Rod Dreher from political philosopher J. Budziszewski taken from his book on the natural law, "What We Can't Not Know".

We are passing through an eerie phase of history in which the things that everyone really knows are treated as unheard-of doctrines, a time in which the elements of common decency are themselves attacked as indecent. Nothing quite like this has ever happened before. Although our civilization has passed through quite a few troughs of immorality, never before has vice held the high moral ground. Our time considers it dirty-minded to treat sexual purity as a virtue; unfeeling to insist too firmly that the sick should not be encouraged to seek death; a sign of impious pride to profess humble faith in God. The moral law has become the very emblem of immorality. We call affirming it “being judgmental” and “being intolerant,” which is our way of saying it has been judged and will not be tolerated.

From the Booklist review at Amazon:

According to the natural law, a concept Christianity adopted and modified from Greek and Roman philosophy, knowledge of God's existence and of fundamental moral principles constitutes humanity's universal common sense. It isn't innate, however, but must be inculcated through traditional moral systems, such as the Tao, the dharma, and the Ten Commandments. Budziszewski invokes the last as best known to most of his potential readers and cites Judaic and Christian scripture, yet this is no religious tract but a philosophical exposition and a disputation on current moral attitudes and issues, especially abortion. Framing the entire presentation in terms of a lost world of moral consensus, Budziszewski says the natural law grounds a rational worldview that has been discredited by sin and guilt, and displaced by world views grounded in sensation  (he is particularly cogent on the varieties of modern atheistic or agnostic feelings). But the natural law weltanschauung could be reestablished, and Budziszewski concludes his superb "guide" with broad advice on how to do so
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

September 18, 2012

Will someone explain to me why the Department of Homeland Security has purchased over a billion rounds of ammunition?

And why is the DHS  blacking out the amount of bullets bought?

The Department of Homeland Security has redacted information relating to the quantity of bullets it is buying following a controversy concerning the agency’s purchase of over a billion rounds of ammo, which many fear is a sign the federal government is preparing for civil unrest in the United States.

Despite the fact that documents are only supposed to be redacted if authorized by Congress or for national security reasons, a solicitation posted on the FedBizOpps website yesterday concerning ammunition purchases made by the DHS on behalf of Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) contains numerous blacked out sections.
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The solicitation explains how the contract put out by the DHS to purchase the ammunition was not subject to “full and open competition,” a process justified by what the DHS claims was an “unusual and compelling urgency” to acquire the bullets, noting that there is a shortage of bullets which is threatening a situation which could cause “substantial safety issues for the government” should law enforcement officials not be adequately armed.

The Department of Homeland Security’s decision to black out sections of the document, including the number of bullets being purchased, is likely to be related to a massive controversy which has snowballed over the last few weeks pertaining to concerns as to why the federal agency has purchased well over a billion rounds of bullets over the last 6 months alone.

The DHS’ decision back in March to purchase of 450 million rounds of .40-caliber hollow point bullets that are designed to expand upon entry and cause maximum organ damage prompted questions as to why the federal agency required such powerful bullets and in such large quantities merely for training purposes.

This was followed up by a more recent order for a further 750 million rounds of assorted ammunition, including bullets that can penetrate walls.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 PM | Permalink

Are the new ideas of what a 'family' is good for society?

Harvard professor categorizes families across time and culture into three types    Family Impact on Society

Scott Hahn in his book “First Comes Love” cites the monumental work of Harvard University Professor, Carle C. Zimmerman’s entitled “Family and Civilization” …..  Zimmerman studied families in different societies throughout history.  He classified families in these societies into three categories:  the trustee family, the domestic family, and the atomistic family.
The trustee family includes the ancestors, the present living family members, and progeny, yet to be born, as members of the family.  This type of family is called “trustee family” because the living members are the trustees of all that belongs to the family:  its values, its religious beliefs, its rights, its blood, its name, and its property.  The duty of the present members is to preserve, protect, and pass on to future generations all that they consider as properly belonging to the family.  The trustee family sees itself in religious terms, and considers itself united by a sacred bond to its ancestors as well as to its future descendants who will perpetuate the family name, honor, and worship. The trustee family considers children to be a divine blessing; a father is treated with great respect as a patriarch who serves the ancestors as well as the offspring.  In the trustee family sexual immorality is considered a crime.  Marriage is a covenant.

The domestic family limits its members to the living, the children of a father and a mother united as husband and wife by a marital bond.  The family members have individual rights, but also family duties. Children are considered as indispensable economic agents.  The father is seen as the chief executive of the family.  Sexual immorality is considered an individual sin, and the marriage bond is a contract.

The atomistic family emphasizes individual rights above family duties.  The offspring consider the household as a place from which to escape.  Children are considered a liability and an obstacle to personal fulfillment.  The father is viewed as a pathetic figure that must be left behind, in order for an individual to grow.  Sexual immorality is considered a private matter, an alternative life style.  A society in which the atomistic family model predominates has a high rated of divorce, negative population growth, and pervasive sexual immorality.  Marriage is seen as a convenient means of companionship.

The most significant finding of Zimmerman’s studies is that societies that embrace the trustee family model are societies that rise to the level of civilizations.  Whereas societies based on the atomistic family model are societies on the verge of ultimate decline.

No civilization is eternal.  Over time the concept of family degenerates from the trustee family model to the atomistic family model before the total collapse of that civilization.

We are seeing today an all-out assault on the traditional meaning of families.  One example from the headlines:  California's proposed three parent family law .  Jennifer Roback Morse writes that it was inevitable.

Can a child have three parents? If California State Senator Mark Leno has his way, children in California will be able to have three legal parents. Before we dismiss SB 1476 as another example of California Weird, we had best look into it more closely.
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I believe this development was inevitable, more inevitable in fact than the much-vaunted inevitability of gay marriage. Once we started trying to normalize parenting by same-sex couples and redefine marriage to remove the dual-gender requirement, we had to end up with triple-parenting.
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We are replacing the natural pre-political concept of biological parenthood with an artificial, government-created concept of parenthood that is entirely socially constructed. Instead of the government simply recognizing and recording the pre-political reality of biological parenthood, we are giving agents of the state the authority to construct parenthood.
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The solution is to amend the law to remove the possibility of a person unrelated to the child, either by biology or adoption, being counted as a parent. The solution is to stop requiring a gender-neutral reading of a statute that is based on the biological, gendered facts of human reproduction.

Brazil's three-way 'marriage' ignites uproar.  A legal notary gave her stamp of approval to a civil union between a man and a woman and another woman.

Domingues believes that the couple represents a new idea of what “family” is and how the definition of what a family is has changed over the years.

The BBC quotes Domingues saying, “What we considered a family before isn't necessarily what we would consider a family today.  We are only recognizing what has always existed,” she added. “We are not inventing anything."

While polygamy is illegal in Brazil, this is classified as a "civil union" not a marriage.

A lawyer who helped draft the civil union document says the women and their man merely wanted to make it official, to protect all of their rights if they split up, and to make it easier to divide pensions, health benefits, and personal property if one or another (or another) dies.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 PM | Permalink

Remember When Art Was About Beauty?

The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark A. Signorelli'

Whereas earlier traditions of artistic creation embraced symmetry within complexity, modernism has embraced extreme simplicity, dislocation, and imbalance. Whereas earlier traditions sought to bring pleasure to an audience — “to teach and delight,” as Horace’s famous dictum would have it — modern art attempts to “nauseate” or “brutalize” an audience (the terms are from Jacques Barzun’s The Use and Abuse of Art). Whereas pre-modern architecture employed scale and ornament, modern architecture aggressively promotes gigantisms and barrenness. Whereas classical literature was grounded in regular grammar and public imagery, modern literature routinely resorts to distortions of syntax and esotericism.
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This is how the farce of modernism ends, with the anti-bourgeois rebel revealed to be a money-grubbing little fraud.
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Nothing is so important to the spiritual and mental flourishing of a people as its art. The stories they tell, the buildings they inhabit, the public spaces in which they gather, the songs they sing, the fashioned images they gaze upon — these things shape their souls more permanently and effectively than anything else. We live in a time when the art all around us accustoms men to, and insinuates into their souls, the most erroneous and degrading ideas imaginable about themselves and their world. A humane society can hardly be expected to grow out of such an adverse cultural environment.

You can read about the multi-millionaire artist Jeff Koons at Wikipedia and be dismayed to learn that he holds the record for the most expensive piece of art created by a living artist ever sold at auction.  His Hanging Heart sold for $23 million.

 Jeff Koons Hanging Heart

His balloon flower beat that by selling for $25 million.

 Jeff Koons Ballon Flower

Here's another example, Acrobat Popeye

 Jeff-Koons-Acrobat-Popeye-001

And he doesn't even do his own work!  He's the 'idea' person and how banal his ideas are.

I Was Jeff Koons’s Studio Serf

“I’m basically the idea person,” Jeff Koons once told an interviewer. “I’m not physically involved in the production. I don’t have the necessary abilities, so I go to the top people.” He paid me $14 an hour, doubling my previous salary as an undergrad shelf-stocker at the Columbia library.
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My job was simple: Paint by numbers. The most intricate sections required miniature brushes, sizes 0 and 00, their bristles no longer than an eyelash. The goal was to hand-fashion a flat, seamless surface that appeared to have been manufactured by machine, which meant there could be no visible brush strokes, no blending, no mistakes.

When you see this, does beauty even enter your mind?  Are you inspired in any way?  Or do you realize how fraudulent it really is?

 Jeff-Koons-Sculpture-1

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:21 PM | Permalink

More government idiocies UPDATED

Subsidizing wind energy jobs. 
The Joint Committee on Taxation, the non-partisan congressional entity established in 1926,  concludes that the cost of creating wind-energy jobs is about $329,000 per job.  Oregon blasted through that  average with the Shepherds Flat wind project which was awarded $490 million in cash from the federal government to create just 35 permanent jobs at a cost of about $14 million each.

No statistics on Pell Grants that cost us $40 billion a year
We spend $40 billion per year in Pell grants; yet, no one keeps statistics of how effective the program is by tracking how recipients fare in college.

My guess is that the figure is so embarrassingly low that the government doesn't want it published. I wrote a year or so ago that the Pell Grant graduate rate, after six years, was 40 percent, based on a bit of statistical estimation I did. No one seriously questioned my result. For every two students who -after six years -succeed to get a degree, three fail. Yet spending on this program has expanded enormously in recent years.

Targeting libraries for lending e-books.
DOJ Targeted Public Library for Lending E-Books 'Inaccessible' to the Blind.  I'm all for assistance to people with disabilities, but this is ridiculous.

– The U.S. Justice Department says it has reached a settlement with the Sacramento (California) Public Library over a trial program the library was conducting that let patrons borrow Barnes and Noble NOOK e-book readers. DOJ and the National Federation of the Blind objected to the program on grounds that blind people could not use the NOOK e-readers for technological reasons.

The Justice Department said the settlement is aimed at stopping discrimination: “Emerging technologies like e-readers are changing the way we interact with the world around us and we need to ensure that people with disabilities are not excluded from the programs where these devices are used,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez in a news release.  A DOJ official told CNSNews.com it interviewed a woman who could not participate in the library's e-reader program due to her disability and concluded that the program had violated the ADA.

Following the logic of the Justice Department, libraries should be banned from lending out videos (inaccessible to the blind) and CDs (inaccessible to the deaf).

Banning father-daughter dances.
Following a complaint by a single individual, father-daughter dances and mother-son events are banned in Cranston, R.I…

"This is 2012 and they [public schools] should not be in the business of fostering blatant gender stereotypes."

said the ACLU in filing the suit.  I wish the ACLU would fight for religious freedom which is seriously threatened rather than these silly cases which deprive normal people the pleasure afforded in traditional events that have been enjoyed in thousands of communities by millions of people.

Promoting the cult of a killer.
The Environmental Protection Agency in its celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month included the iconic image of Che Guevara along with the slogan “Hasta la victoria simper,” or “On to victory, always.”    Che, as any knowledgeable person knows, was the butcher of Cuba and set -up forced labor camps for dissidents, gays and practicing Catholics.  Re-branding Guevara: Che the Butcher

Violence was at the core of Che’s philosophy. Shortly before his death at the hands of Bolivian troops in 1967, he wrote “Message to the Tricontinental.” In this essay he advocated the effective use of violent hatred:

"Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective, and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy. "

Philadelphia wants garden torn up and debris put back on empty lot.
Real estate developer who spent $20,000 transforming debris-filled lot into garden is told by city he was trespassing… and now they want him to change it BACK

A real estate developer who repeatedly sent in requests to buy a vacant lot next to some of his property was repeatedly denied or ignored by the city, he said.  So Ori Feibush, who owns OCF Realty as well as OCF Coffee House, decided to take matters into his own hands, spending around $20,000 to clean highway dividers, weeds, and a decade’s worth of garbage.

But the city of Philadelphia said that by cleaning the dilapidated lot, Mr Feibush was trespassing. To add insult to injury, the city said that Mr Feibush had to return the 1,600-square feet back to its original state.

UPDATE: Obama Administration sent unarmed British firm to protect U.S. Mission in Benghazi in the spirit of a '"low profile"

American Marines were not stationed at the U.S. embassy in Tripoli or the American mission in Benghazi, as would typically have been the case. In the spirit of a "low profile," the administration didn't even want an American company in charge of private security. Blue Mountain, the British firm the State Department hired, was willing to abide by the "no bullets" Rules of Engagement (ROE), so were a logical fit for the contract. These sub-standard protections for American diplomats were signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the ROE. 

In essence, the Obama Administration tasked an unarmed British firm with security responsibilities that should have been handled by armed American servicemen, and it was all approved by the Secretary of State. Needless to say, the plan failed and an Ambassador was murdered, along with several others.

As of now, the State Department has not disclosed the full State Department Rules of Engagement for Libya.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 PM | Permalink

Gloom and Doom

The Magnitude of the Mess We're In By George P. Shultz, Michael J. Boskin, John F. Cogan, Allan H. Meltzer and John B. Taylor

The amount of debt is one thing. The burden of interest payments is another. The Treasury now has a preponderance of its debt issued in very short-term durations, to take advantage of low short-term interest rates. It must frequently refinance this debt which, when added to the current deficit, means Treasury must raise $4 trillion this year alone. So the debt burden will explode when interest rates go up.
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Did you know that the Federal Reserve is now giving money to banks, effectively circumventing the appropriations process?…The Fed now pays 0.25% interest on reserves it holds. So the Fed is paying the banks almost $4 billion a year. If interest rates rise to 2%, and the Federal Reserve raises the rate it pays on reserves correspondingly, the payment rises to $30 billion a year. Would Congress appropriate that kind of money to give—not lend—to banks?
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The issue is not merely how much we spend, but how wisely, how effectively. Did you know that the federal government had 46 separate job-training programs? Yet a 47th for green jobs was added, and the success rate was so poor that the Department of Labor inspector general said it should be shut down. We need to get much better results from current programs, serving a more carefully targeted set of people with more effective programs that increase their opportunities.
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We cannot count on problems elsewhere in the world to make Treasury securities a safe haven forever. We risk eventually losing the privilege and great benefit of lower interest rates from the dollar's role as the global reserve currency. In short, we risk passing an economic, fiscal and financial point of no return.
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The problems are close to being unmanageable now. If we stay on the current path, they will wind up being completely unmanageable, culminating in an unwelcome explosion and crisis.

The fixes are blindingly obvious. Economic theory, empirical studies and historical experience teach that the solutions are the lowest possible tax rates on the broadest base, sufficient to fund the necessary functions of government on balance over the business cycle; sound monetary policy; trade liberalization; spending control and entitlement reform; and regulatory, litigation and education reform. The need is clear. Why wait for disaster? The future is now.

Study: Uncertainty has raised the U.S. employment rate by a full percentage point.    I 'm not surprised.  When the future is so uncertain, businesses and people hunker down.

8,786,049: Yet Another Record for Americans Collecting Disability.  Release of new data from Social Security Administration. 

In August 2012, 142,101,000 Americans were working and 8,767,941 were on disability--meaning there were only 16.2 people working for each person collecting disability.

For every $1 Added to the Economy, Obama Added More Than $3 in Debt.  Source Treasury Department

Ben Stein says It's Later Than Any Dare Think.  When republics fall, it's not always slow.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 PM | Permalink

Wedding Jitters and Wedding Costs

Having pre-wedding jitters? Then DON'T go through with it, say psychologists

Women who have doubts about getting married should not ignore them - as those with misgivings about walking down the aisle are more likely to get divorced, according to a university report.

In the first scientific study to test whether doubts about getting married are more likely to lead to an unhappy marriage and divorce, psychologists report that their misgivings are often a warning sign of trouble if they go ahead with the marriage.

The University of California, Los Angeles, study demonstrates that pre-wedding uncertainty, especially among women, predicts higher divorce rates and less marital satisfaction years later.

For Richer, Not Poorer: 6 Reasons to Cut Your Wedding Cost in Half

In my years as a financial advisor, I counseled many young couples regarding their financial matters. In that time, I never heard a newlywed couple say they wish they'd spent more money on their wedding. In fact, a year or two after the wedding day euphoria dissipates and couples start thinking about the rest of their lives together, most couples wished they'd spent far less cash on their big day/
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A survey of 18,000 U.S. brides married last year found that their average wedding cost $27,000.
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Let's assume you and your spouse-to-be spend half the average amount on your big day and save the other half. Regardless of your financial goals, $16,000 is a great head start. Consider how this hypothetical savings can make an enormous dent in the six most common financial goals I heard from young couples.

Goal No. 1: "We want to buy a home"
Goal No. 2: "We have credit card debt that we'd love to pay off"
Goal No. 3: "Our dream is to travel the world"
A couple could use the $16,000 saved to take one $4,000 vacation every other year for nearly the next decade. A honeymoon on a scaled-back budget doesn't sound so bad now, does it?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:33 PM | Permalink

September 17, 2012

So you never read Moby Dick

‘I have written a blasphemous book’, said Melville when his novel was first published in 1851, ‘and I feel as spotless as the lamb’.

You can read or listen to a chapter a day in the the Moby-Dick Big Read:

It's  an online version of Melville’s magisterial tome: each of its 135 chapters read out aloud, by a mixture of the celebrated and the unknown, to be broadcast online, one new chapter each day, in a sequence of 135 downloads, publicly and freely accessible.


Moby-Dick captures stars for reading voyage

David Cameron, Tilda Swinton, Stephen Fry and Simon Callow jump aboard ambitious project to broadcast Herman Melville's classic novel in its entirety – 135 chapters over 135 days.

The news is so bad and so dispiriting that listening to a great book for a few minutes each day provides a healthy antidote.

I'm going to do it.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:18 PM | Permalink

September 13, 2012

Obama's war on the young

Walter Russell Mead, a Democrat writes  How The Student Loan Program Became Obama's War On The Young

The federal government that Democrats like to portray as the friend of the friendless, the hope of the poor, the light of the world and the most generous uncle that ever lived has turned into the most inexorable, hard hearted and relentless debt collector in the nation, hounding a generation of students literally into their graves over loans they will never be able to pay and which they cannot escape.

Using techniques that are banned by law when it comes to private debt collection agencies, the federal government is exempt from statutes of limitations and bankruptcy rulings and can garnish Social Security checks and disability payments.

Yes, handicapped, disabled people can have their meager checks cut to satisfy student loan debt on jobs their disabilities now make it impossible to do.
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The student loan program is a shining example of the blue social model in the midst of decay. It’s a program that used to work pretty well, but over time has morphed into a nightmare.
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This isn’t a minor issue in American life. Helping young people to make the transition from dependency into responsible adulthood is a critical task. When young people are so crushed by debt that they are delaying decisions like starting a family or buying a house, then the system isn’t working at a basic level. When growing numbers of young people are crushed by debts they did not understand, cannot pay and cannot discharge, then society is sitting on a time bomb. A generation of embittered deadbeats and angry, impoverished cynics is not the best foundation for a free and open society. When these alienated people living marginalized lives come disproportionately from the ranks of minorities, the divisive and destructive consequences of a social program gone to the bad can be serious indeed.

25 and deep in debt

At 25 years old, I have $188,307.22 in student debt, all of which is my sole financial responsibility. 

That exorbitant number was abetted by easy lending with a co-signer, negligence and lack of awareness, over-borrowing and the exponential growth of tuition.

I work both a full-time and part-time job, and abide by a strict budget. Yet, I still sleep in my parent’s basement and am dependent for food, gas and health insurance.

I am told I am not alone.

Crushing Debt Drove Me to Kosovo - And Then to Iraq

Ten years ago, I was nearly 30 and over $90,000 in debt. I had spent my twenties trying to build an interesting life; I had two degrees; I had lived in New York and the Bay Area; I had worked in a series of interesting jobs; I spent a lot of time traveling overseas. But I had also made a couple of critically stupid and shortsighted decisions. I had invested tens of thousands of dollars in a master’s degree in landscape architecture that I realized I didn’t want halfway through. While maxing out my student loans, I had also collected a toxic mix of maxed-out credit cards, personal loans, and $2,000 I had borrowed from my father for a crisis long since forgotten. My life consisted of loan deferments and minimum payments.
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I was finally reckoning with the fact that I was facing decades of unaffordable minimum debt payments. Any career ambitions I might have had would be put on hold indefinitely, possibly permanently. Travel was over. The full amount that I would have to pay off at the end of it all was too awful to contemplate. I felt trapped and hopeless. I was in a dark place.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 PM | Permalink

September 12, 2012

Some things I learned this week

Blowing the whistle on a corporate tax cheat can make you a lot of money.

Jailed tax cheat whistleblower gets $104m reward from the IRS for exposing secret offshore accounts held by American millionaires in Swiss bank

Bradley Birkenfeld has been awarded $104 million weeks after being released for withholding information about his own role in Swiss bank UBS AG's tax avoidance schemes.  Mr. Birkenfeld's $104 million reward works out at $4,600 for every hour of the two-and-a-half years he spent in prison.

He took advantage of a 2006 law passed by Congress that awards whistleblowers up to 30 percent of the revenue they help to recover with the information that they supply to the IRS.  The IRS whistleblower statute targets high-income tax dodgers and guarantees rewards for qualified whistleblowers if the company in question owes at least $2 million in unpaid taxes, interest and penalties.

All part of a case that shook Swiss banking to its core in 2009  when UBS entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and paid $780 million in fines, penalties, interest and restitution to settle charges that it helped 17,000 U.S. clients hide $20 billion

There is no 'junk DNA' and what we called 'junk' turns out to be incredibly valuable.

Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role

The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

The findings, which are the fruit of an immense federal project involving 440 scientists from 32 laboratories around the world, will have immediate applications for understanding how alterations in the non-gene parts of DNA contribute to human diseases, which may in turn lead to new drugs. They can also help explain how the environment can affect disease risk. In the case of identical twins, small changes in environmental exposure can slightly alter gene switches, with the result that one twin gets a disease and the other does not.

As scientists delved into the “junk” — parts of the DNA that are not actual genes containing instructions for proteins — they discovered a complex system that controls genes. At least 80 percent of this DNA is active and needed.

Dark Energy is real and is fueling the expansion of the universe and scientists have no idea what it's made of

Dark energy, the mysterious cosmic force thought to be the fuel behind the accelerating expansion of the universe, is real, according to an Anglo-German team of astronomers.

After a two-year study, scientists at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom and LMU University Munich in Germany have concluded that the likelihood of dark energy's existence stands at 99.996 percent.
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A basic premise of modern cosmology is that the visible universe of stars, planets and gases makes up about 4 percent of the cosmos and is sitting like flotsam in a massive sea of unknown material referred to as dark energy.
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Dark energy is one of the great scientific mysteries of our time, so it isn't surprising that so many researchers question its existence,' 'But with our new work, we're more confident than ever that this exotic component of the universe is real - even if we still have no idea what it consists of.'
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Dark energy is thought to make up 73 percent of the cosmos, while the slightly less mysterious dark matter comprises the remaining 23 percent.

Wood has amazing qualities that we never knew before.

Treating modern violins with fungi makes them 'sound like a rare Stradivarius'

A wood researcher in Switzerland has succeeded in modifying wood for a violin by treating it with special fungi which alters the acoustic properties of the instrument, making it sound almost identical to a Stradivarius violin.
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Together with the violin makers Martin Schleske and Michael Rhonheimer, Professor Schwarze developed violins made of mycowood - wood treated with the fungi.  In 2009 the violins were played in a blind test alongside a Stradivarius from 1711. All the violins were played by the British violinist Matthew Trusler.  Both the jury of experts and the majority of the audience thought that the mycowood violin that Schwarze had treated with fungi for nine months was the actual Stradivarius.

Why wood pulp is world's new wonder material

THE hottest new material in town is light, strong and conducts electricity. What's more, it's been around a long, long time.

Nanocrystalline cellulose (NCC), which is produced by processing wood pulp, is being hailed as the latest wonder material. Japan-based Pioneer Electronics is applying it to the next generation of flexible electronic displays. IBM is using it to create components for computers. Even the US army is getting in on the act, using it to make lightweight body armor and ballistic glass.  To ramp up production, the US opened its first NCC factory in Madison, Wisconsin, on 26 July, marking the rise of what the US National Science Foundation predicts will become a $600 billion industry by 2020.

So why all the fuss? Well, not only is NCC transparent but it is made from a tightly packed array of needle-like crystals which have a strength-to-weight ratio that is eight times better than stainless steel. Even better, it's incredibly cheap.  "It is the natural, renewable version of a carbon nanotube at a fraction of the price," says Jeff Youngblood of Purdue University's NanoForestry Institute in West Lafayette, Indiana.

Giving a sleeping pill to someone in a long-term coma might just wake them up.

Medical miracle? Father 'wakes up' from seven-year coma after he is given a sleeping pill

A South African man who had been in a coma for seven years was 'woken up' after being given a sleeping pill.  Ayanda Nqinana, from Johannseburg, was left with severe brain injuries after his car crashed along an Eastern Cape road in 2005.  His doctors said the father-of-one would most likely never recover.

But his wife Nomfundo recently read a newspaper article about other long-term coma patients who had woken up after being fed sleeping pill Stilnox.
She insisted her husband be given the tablets and, just five days later, Mr Nqinana was awake and able to talk.  He even recognized relatives, including his son Ayavuya, and could recall conversations from before his crash.

Mrs Nqinana told TimesLive.co.za: 'Ayavuya was so excited that he kept running to me saying: "Mum! Daddy knows my name." 'I will never forget the day Ayanda woke up; it was the happiest day of my life."

The shiniest living thing in the world is an African fruit with no nutritional value whatsoever.

 Polla Condensata

Tiny glittering berries belonging to the plant Pollia condensata have been labeled the shiniest living things in the world, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

But it's more than their brilliance that makes these tropical fruits, native to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda in particular, noteworthy.  The plant is made up of special layer of cells that reflects light to give the fruit its iridescent hues - a phenomenon known as structural coloration.  "The optics are impressive," Silvia Vignolini, co-author of the study, told Nature. "There are no previous examples of this in nature."


P. condensata's dazzling color rarely changes either, since it has no pigments that might fade and no pulp that might lead to rotting.  The irresistible-looking fruit is, in fact, resistible - at least in terms of diet. It has no nutritional value and cannot be eaten. Beverly Glover, co-author of the study, believes that the bright berries entice birds who then decorate their nests with the fruit.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

September 11, 2012

September 11 now long ago and far away

 911 From Space

Even from space, this view of 9/11 cries out

Station Commander Frank Culbertson…wrote in his diary…"It's horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are."

The Miracle of Human Goodness

The following account, written by a nameless flight attendant in the wake of 9/11 and released into cyberspace like a note in a bottle thrown into the sea, is just one of such rays of sunshine, an uplifting and heartwarming story that restores, if only for a while, one's belief in mankind.
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Gander and all the surrounding communities (within about a 75-kilometer radius) had closed all high schools, meeting halls, lodges, and any other large gathering places. They converted all these facilities to mass lodging areas for all the stranded travelers. Some had cots set up, some had mats with sleeping bags and pillows set up. ALL the high school students were required to volunteer their time to take care of the "guests." Our 218 passengers ended up in a town called Lewisporte, about 45 kilometers from Gander where they were put up in a high school. If any women wanted to be in a women-only facility, that was arranged. Families were kept together. All the elderly passengers were taken to private homes. A young lady who was 33 weeks into her pregnancy was put up in a private home right across the street from a 24-hour Urgent Care facility. There was a dentist on call and both male and female nurses remained with the crowd for the duration. Phone calls and e-mails to the U.S. and around the world were available to everyone once a day.

Local bakeries stayed open to make fresh bread for the guests.  Food was prepared by all the residents and brought to the schools.  People were driven to restaurants of their choice and offered great meals.  Everyone was given tokens for local laundromats to wash their clothes, since luggage was still on the aircraft.  In other words, every single need was met for those stranded travelers.  The generous hosts also tried their best to entertain the stranded passengers, offering them all kinds of excursions.  Some guests were taken on boat cruises of the lakes and harbors.  Some went for hikes in the forests.  Finally, when U.S. airports had reopened, they were delivered to the airport right on time and without a single passenger missing or late.  The local Red Cross had all the information about the whereabouts of each and every passenger and knew which plane each needed to be on and when all the planes were leaving.

Read to the very end.

 Tribute-In-Light

The Problem with Moving On From 9/11

Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the crime, is dead, as President Obama and his supporters constantly remind us and for that we are thankful. But Al Qaeda is far from destroyed. The Islamist terrorist war against the West is not over and those who act as if it is are doing the country a disservice.


Americans are, we are constantly told, weary of the wars that followed 9/11 and it is hard to blame them for that. The United States has left Iraq and the mess that our exit is causing may undo the victory that President Bush’s surge made possible. We are soon to leave Afghanistan, a decision that may eventually lead to power for Al Qaeda’s Taliban allies. Throughout the Middle East, terrorists loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda persist. So do others that call themselves by different names. In Gaza, the Islamists of Hamas have created an independent terrorist state in all but name. In Lebanon, the Islamists of Hezbollah now dominate the government. In Iran, an Islamist state funds terror throughout the region and works to build a nuclear bomb as the West pursues ineffectual measures to stop them.

It is true that more than a decade of hard work by American intelligence services has prevented another 9/11. Given that most experts thought a second tragedy was almost inevitable, this is no small achievement. But the problem with this battle is that it needs more than constant vigilance from those tasked with protecting the country. It also requires the sort of patience that the citizens of democracies rarely possess.

NBC’s ‘Today’ Skips 9/11 Moment Of Silence For Kardashian Interview

The cable networks all carried it, with ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” carrying it as well. The only national general news program to not carry the moment of silence was NBC’s ‘Today,” which, in an odd bit of counter-programming, opted to air an interview with “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” star Kris Jenner, who talked about the new season of the reality show, and her breast implants.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:07 PM | Permalink

Education: Chicago teachers' strike, music training, classical education and Regnerus

Watching the mess in Chicago over the teachers' strike is the best argument for more school choice and vouchers.  Doors were shut to students who go to public school (404,000) but open to students(45,000) at charter schools, private schools and parochial schools.

The shakedown by the striking teachers union is egregiously unfair not just to the students but also to their parents who now must scramble to make arrangements to keep their children off the deadly streets of Chicago where there are more murders than in Afghanistan against U.S. troops.

Despite a 50% student dropout rate, despite the fact that 20% of the high school graduates are still functionally illiterate, despite the fact that the city is already broke, the public school teachers were offered a raise of 16% over four years and the union turned it down.  The real issue is whether the teachers will be held accountable for their performance.  The teachers' union doesn't want bad or ineffective teachers fired so it resists all attempts to measure their performance.

Chicago Bled Dry by Striking Teachers' Unions

Chicago teachers have the highest average salary of any city at $76,000 a year before benefits. The average family in the city only earns $47,000 a year. Yet the teachers rejected a 16 percent salary increase over four years at a time when most families are not getting any raises or are looking for work.

The city is being bled dry by the exorbitant benefits packages negotiated by previous elected officials. Teachers pay only 3 percent of their health-care costs and out of every new dollar set aside for public education in Illinois in the last five years, a full 71 cents has gone to teacher retirement costs.
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Just 15 percent of fourth graders are proficient in reading and only 56 percent of students who enter their freshman year of high school wind up graduating.

The battle over teacher accountability in public schools and the necessary sacrifice government paid teachers will have to make as the fiscal mess we're in only gets worse will take place all over the country.  The old battle cry 'it's for the children' doesn't work anymore.

Even a Few Years of Music Training Benefits the Brain

There is a body of research that suggests music training not only improves hearing, it bolsters a suite of brain functions. Musically trained kids do better in school, with stronger reading skills, increased math abilities, and higher general intelligence scores. Music even seems to improve social development, as people believe music helps them be better team players and have higher self-esteem. “Based on what we already know about the ways that music helps shape the brain, the study suggests that short-term music lessons may enhance lifelong listening and learning,”

Inspiration from Dorothy Sayers who lamented the inability of her "contemporaries to recognize shoddy reasoning and emotional manipulation" has lead to the case for  Classical Education in Catholic schools and the notable success of St Jerome's in Washington, D.C.

Disproving the notion that a classical curriculum is elitist, many students who previously struggled found motivation and success through the rich content and lively discussions that required them to think deeply.

“We have seen what it looks like for a child to be truly educated, and it is a very different thing than just the acquisition of skills,” said Donoghue. “This is about opening the treasure trove of the Catholic Church, and re-imagining ourselves in its heritage and thought.”

University upholds study finding children do better with straight parents than homosexuals

A Texas university has determined that “no formal investigation is warranted” against a professor who published a rigorous study this summer finding that children of heterosexual parents fare better in many respects than children of homosexual parents.

The University of Texas at Austin announced this week it would not pursue allegations against associate sociology professor Mark Regnerus an article published in the journal Social Science Research in July.

The announcement came in response to LGBT activist and blog author Scott Rosensweig, who had accused Regnerus of crafting a study “designed so as to be guaranteed to make gay people look bad, through means plainly fraudulent and defamatory,” and of “harbor[ing] anti-gay prejudices” because he is Catholic.

The study unearthed alarming disparities between the two family models, from suicide attempts and unemployment rates to sexual abuse.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:54 AM | Permalink

September 10, 2012

Hot faces and cool gloves

Thermal camera that can tell if you had too much to drink

Thermal cameras could one day pick drunk people out of a crowd, by monitoring the body temperature of various parts of their face.

Scientists in Greece have published a paper detailing how two computer formulas, in conjunction with the camera, can spot physical differences, such as the dilation of blood vessels in a drunk's cheek, or the slight increase in heat on a drunk person's nose when compared with their forehead.

 Hotnose Drunk Thermal Camera

Hot face gives it away when you've drunk too much

There's even an app that checks your heart rate in seconds by staring at your face.  Apparently, light reflectivity is also based on blood flow.  Cardiio on iTunes.

Standford Cooling Glove

As everyone has learned from this era of athletes using performance-enhancing drugs, steroids and doping is against the rules. But researchers at Stanford have created a cooling glove that according to one of the lead scientists on the team is “Equal to or substantially better than steroids … and it’s not illegal.”

How can a cooling glove improve athletic performance? The researchers got lucky and noticed the glove dramatically reduced muscle fatigue. The device works by creating a low pressure environment around the hand, expanding arteriovenous anastomoses (vessels responsible for controlling body temperature).  A cooling liquid  is concurrently circulated throughout the glove, rapidly lowering core body temperature.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

Some notes and links on procrastination and a simple way to get work done

Hands down, procrastination is our favorite form of self-sabotage.  How often do we say to ourselves i'll do it tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the busiest day of the week.  Or we say, I'll do it someday, but someday is not a day of the week.  One of these days is none of these days.  Or as some wag put it, "Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday."

For those of you who procrastinate, you may find the links below interesting, inspiring or all too familiar.

There's An Eerie Similarity Between Procrastination And Taking Drugs

So procrastination is a mood-management technique, albeit (like eating or taking drugs) a shortsighted one. But we’re most prone to it when we think it will actually help.

Leaving things undone makes you feel stupid  The unfinished task continues to weigh upon the mind impairing your ability to accomplish other tasks requiring logic.    William James put it more poetically, "Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task."

Why do we procrastinate so much?

I am certain that Hamlet has long remained the most celebrated play in the English language because so many of us - students, or not - have experienced the horror of crippling indecision and compulsive delaying tactics.

Prof Piers Steel of the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, author of The Procrastination Equation, has conducted extensive research into the topic. He found that 95% of us procrastinate at some point.

Prof Joseph Ferrari of DePaul University Chicago, the author of Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done, has found that 20% of the population of the world are chronic procrastinators, complicating their lives, and probably shortening them, with their incessant delaying and task avoidance.

I am, as you will have guessed, a fully paid-up member of the hardcore procrastinators' gang. I never open bank statements, I flee from urgent emails, I haven't filed a tax return for four years and I cannot write anything (although journalism is my living) until the deadline's savaging my ankles.

Some tales of epic procrastinating

When we first got married, my wife brought home a whiteboard on which we could list the jobs that needed to be done. About a year later it disappeared. Just before our silver wedding anniversary, I found the whiteboard in our garage. There were about 20 jobs on it. None of them had been done - and most of them still needed to be done. Steve Swift.
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In 1970 I moved house, dismantling my well-organised workbench. I then spent the next 30 years putting off reassembling it. I was forever hunting for a tool, screw, fuse… looking in a variety of boxes and shelves. I would spend 10 to 20 minutes on each search. Finally, 30 years later, I got to grips and put everything back in its place. I was astonished it only took me 45 minutes. At two 10 minutes searches a month that makes an incredible 120 hours solid work, or three 40-hour weeks. I cannot believe this except that figures don't lie. Leon Laporte
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II started up the Stirling University Procrastination Society in 1980. It was a resounding success. Not one person bothered to return their registration form on time and we never got round to holding any meetings. Well done us. Yay! JohnB

Sometimes though, procrastination works as Penelope Trunk discovered in an unexpected lesson about procrastination

Sometimes procrastination is the best tool we have for taking care of ourselves.

From the Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian, the 17th century Spanish philosopher and writer  comes my favorite procrastination quotes


The wise does at once what the fool does at last.

He who puts off nothing till tomorrow has done a great deal.

Update:  I was going through my Evernote account when I came across notes from a post at Zenhabits about a Simple Way to Get Work Done

The system breaks down to just three rules:

  1. At the end of each week, make a new to-do list entitled, “Weekly Goals”. Write everything you want to accomplish in the next seven days.
  2. Every night, make a new to-do list entitled, “Daily Goals”. Pull from your weekly list and routine every task you want to finish tomorrow.
  3. During your workday, focus only on completing the daily list.Pretend your other work doesn’t exist. When you’ve finished the daily list, you’re done for the day and you’re not allowed to add more work.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:02 AM | Permalink

September 7, 2012

That's not fair

Puncturing the notion of 'You didn't build that' brilliantly.

Via bookwormroom

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:11 PM | Permalink

What a color blind person sees and why blue always comes last

The incredible images that show how a color-blind person sees the world (and why it might explain Van Gogh's genius)

An expert in color science has hit upon an intriguing idea on why Van Gogh painted as he did - and his insights could change the way we view the Master's art.

It has long-been rumored than Van Gogh was color-blind, and this theory is often cited as to why the artist painted with such bold strokes and vibrant, occasionally quirky hues.

When Japanese-based Kazunori Asada, giving a speech in Hokkaido about vision deficiencies, found himself viewing Van Gogh's work in a room illuminated to give the impression of colorblindness, he found the pieces of art transformed into even better pieces of art.

Here's one example.  Below is the original and familiar Starry Night.

 Starry-Night-Original

Below is Starry Night as a color-blind person would see it.

-Starry-Night-Colorblind

Speaking of colors, if you haven't heard Radioland's  podcast on colors, you can stream it here

What is the color of honey, and "faces pale with fear"? If you're Homer--one of the most influential poets in human history--that color is green. And the sea is "wine-dark," just like oxen…though sheep are violet. Which all sounds…well, really off. Producer Tim Howard introduces us to linguist Guy Deutscher, and the story of William Gladstone (a British Prime Minister back in the 1800s, and a huge Homer-ophile). Gladstone conducted an exhaustive study of every color reference in The Odyssey and The Iliad. And he found something startling: No blue! Tim pays a visit to the New York Public Library, where a book of German philosophy from the late 19th Century helps reveal a pattern: across all cultures, words for colors appear in stages. And blue always comes last
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:06 PM | Permalink

September 5, 2012

Astonishing video on how to get to Mars

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

Roundup of Health stories: Eggs, malaria, organic food, rosacea, your internal brush and zapping blood pressure

Sunny-side up  In Defense of Eggs

Recent research on the dangers of egg consumption is misleading and unnecessarily alarming. The dangers of cholesterol are over-hyped, and we can't underestimate the value of unprocessed, high-mineral foods.
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Most people should be eating more eggs, particularly the yolks.

Great news.  Scientists close to creating single-dose cure for all strains of malaria.

New treatment should enter clinical trials in 2013
Malaria killed 655,000 people in 2010.

Organic no better than produce grown with pesticides, say Stanford University scientists.  Biggest study yet.

Red skin condition rosacea could be caused by mite feces in your pores.  Yuk

Internal 'brush' that lines the lungs could offer insight into treating diseases such as cystic fibrosis and asthma

Brush-like layer pushes out sticky mucus and the unwanted matter it contains
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The researchers used imaging techniques to examine what was actually happening within the lungs - and found a dense meshwork of human bronchial epithelial cell cultures. The brush-like layer consists of protective molecules that keep sticky mucus from reaching the cilia and epithelial cells, thus ensuring the normal flow of mucus.

Dr Michael Rubinstein, who led the study, said: 'The air we breathe isn't exactly clean, and we take in many dangerous elements with every breath. 'We need a mechanism to remove all the junk we breathe in, and the way it's done is with a very sticky gel, called mucus, that catches these particles and removes them with the help of tiny cilia.'  'The cilia are constantly beating, even while we sleep.  'In a co-ordinated fashion, they push mucus, containing foreign objects, out of the lungs, and we either swallow it or spit it out.

It is hoped the findings will help scientists understand more about lung diseases such as asthma

Doctors zap high blood pressure with radio waves> Procedure could be a permanent cure

A radical therapy that zaps the kidneys with radio waves could provide a permanent cure for high blood pressure, research shows.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink