November 30, 2012

'Mordar, gaydar, even crimidar' yes; but, emotions aren't all in the face

What's in a Face 

Several years ago, a woman named Brook White appeared on the reality TV competition show American Idol. White was 24 years old, blond, and strikingly pretty. When she sang her song, "Like a Star," she struck a familiar chord among some viewers. White said nothing about her religion, but Mormons, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were certain that she was one of their own.

"She has the Mormon Glow," one blogger wrote, referring to the belief that the faithful radiate the Holy Spirit. White mentioned that she never drank a cup of coffee or watched an R-rated movie—signs of a Mormon-like squeaky-clean lifestyle. But the "glow" clinched it, and it turned out that her fans were right. "I didn't know I was setting off the Mormon radar," White remarked later in an interview with The Arizona Republic.

 White Idol Mormon

Soon after, psychologists Nalini Ambady, then at Tufts University, and Nicholas Rule, at the University of Toronto, set out to test the Mormon glow. One way to do this is to see if even non-Mormons can detect it. The psychologists began their experiment by cropping head shots of Mormons and non-Mormons and asking undergraduate volunteers whether they could pick out the Mormons.

They certainly could—and in just a glance. While random guessing would yield 50 percent accuracy, as in a coin toss, the volunteers accurately identified Mormon men and women 60 percent of the time. (Mormons themselves were only slightly more accurate.) This means that "Mordar" isn't foolproof, but it's statistically significant—about as accurate as the ability to tell if a face looks envious or anxious.

"Thin-slicing" is the term that Ambady and her colleague, Richard Rosenthal, coined in 1992 to describe the ability to infer something about a person's personality, character, or other traits after a very brief exposure. Thin-slicing relies on a brain network that includes the fusiform gyrus, which perceives faces, and the amygdala, which filters that information for anything that might be useful or threatening to survival.
Over evolutionary time, the ability to quickly extract information from faces has given us an edge in predicting character and behavior. It helps us to discern who's sick and whom to trust, who's flirt worthy, and who might blow up at a moment's notice. To get a sense of others' religiosity, sexual orientation, promiscuity, aggressiveness, competence, intelligence, and even trustworthiness, you might think that you should focus on how they act, not how they look. But then you'd neglect your swiftest insights.

via Ace who remarked "Mordar, gaydar, even crimidar"

But emotions aren't all in the face reports NPR.

Photos of athletes in their moment of victory or defeat usually show faces contorted with intense emotion. But a new study suggests that people actually don't use those kinds of extreme facial expressions to judge how a person is feeling.

Instead, surprisingly, people rely on body cues.
To test this in another way, he manipulated the photographs. He'd take the face of a winner and paste it onto the body of a loser, or vice versa.    What he found was that the exact same face would be interpreted as showing a positive or negative emotion, depending on which body it was on. These results are reported in the journal Science.

"I think that many people will find this very surprising," says Lisa Feldman Barrett, a scientist at Northeastern University who studies emotions. These studies challenge long-held assumptions about the importance of facial expressions, she says.
These findings add to a growing body of evidence that when we're trying to figure out another person's emotional state, we rely on a lot more than just the face.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

November 29, 2012

Why are white men, especially old white men, held in such disdain

Target: Old White Men

You could roughly say that old white men built the whole modern world.

You can precisely say this if you include in the category the budding old white men known as younger white men. Who were all the great inventors, innovators, and philosophers from ancient Greece and Rome up through medieval and modern Europe and the United States? Who forged the West? Who birthed democracy? Who improved upon it, giving us our Constitution and modern republican government? There is a reason why most of the busts and pictures of legendary figures portray old white men.

We might also note that while old white men probably weren't the first to practice slavery, they were the first to eliminate it. The same can be said of human rights: old white men had lots of company trampling them. They were alone in crafting the modern conception of them.
Demonizing white men old or dead keeps the young and alive disconnected from them and hence from the past. This gives us a civilization of children, just the kind of people a pied piper can lead.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

Why people don't like teacher unions

Because of behavior like this.

Louisiana Voucher Test  Meet 11-year-old Gabriel Evans, teachers union enemy No. 1.

Here's the bizarre world in which we live: In 2007 Gabriel Evans attended a public school in New Orleans graded "F" by the Louisiana Department of Education. Thanks to a New Orleans voucher program, Gabriel moved in 2008 to a Catholic school. His mother, Valerie Evans, calls the voucher a "lifesaver," allowing him to get "out of a public school system that is filled with fear, confusion and violence."

So what is the response of the teachers union? Sue the state to force 11-year-old Gabriel back to the failing school.
The Louisiana unions know that putting their dismal classrooms into competition with private schools could eventually have students and parents trampling each other in a rush to the exits.

Louisiana's story is the latest study in how far the education bureaucracy will go to protect its money and power and resist the competition that comes from school choice, even when it means forcing kids to return to schools that steal their futures. The scholarships are only available to students in failing schools. If teachers unions want to stop their students from leaving, they don't need a lawsuit. They need to start serving 11-year-olds like Gabriel Evans instead of themselves.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:40 PM | Permalink

Son-in-law vs. daughter-in-law

Research Shows That Charming Your Wife's Parents Helps Make a Marriage Last.  The Power of the Son-in-Law

Dr. Orbuch, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, is studying 373 same-race couples who were between the ages of 25 and 37 and in their first year of marriage when the study began in 1986. …In couples where the husband initially reported being close to his wife's parents, the risk of divorce over the next 16 years was 20% lower than for the group overall. Yet when the wife reported being close to her in-laws, that seemed to have the opposite effect: The risk of divorce with these couples was 20% higher.
Want to improve in-law relations in your family? Here are some tips from Dr. Orbuch.

If you are a parent of a daughter, be open to bonding with your son-in-law. You are probably from different generations and backgrounds, but you can still find common ground. It will make your daughter happy to see this man is a cherished member of her family. Be practical, though. A father- and son-in-law will rarely be as tight knit as a father and son.

Parents of a son, tread carefully. Your daughter-in-law is probably more sensitive to meddling than a son-in-law would be. She may perceive interference when none was intended. Or maybe you were intruding a bit.

If you are a wife, be aware of the need to maintain boundaries with your in-laws—especially when sharing details about your marriage, parenting decisions or personal issues. Reassure your in-laws that you want a close and loving relationship, but learn to say no. If conflict arises, ask your husband for help settling it.

If you are a husband, treat your in-laws as special and important. Remember that when you care for them, your wife feels you are caring for her.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink

"Wherever she goes, she brings people together"

Christina Nehring writes about Loving a Child on the Fringe

If you’d told me five years ago that I was soon to bear a disabled child with blood cancer—for whom I’d have to surrender, possibly forever, career and love life—I’d have contemplated suicide. Moreover, I would have thought this a level-headed response: not an act of despair but a lucid sort of Swiss-style euthanasia.
Wherever she goes, she brings people together—imperiously gesturing to cantankerous couples to sit down together and lifting their palms onto each others’ thighs, reconciling warring classmates by joining their hands, and charming child-leery adults with flirty smiles and studious imitations of their idiosyncrasies. Her gifts are the opposite of my own: Where I am shy, she is bold; where I am good with (known) words, she is good with drama, dance, and music; where I am frightened of groups, she loves them, and the children in her preschool compete hard to sit by her side at lunchtime as the nurses in her hospital petitioned to be assigned to her room.
The joy Eurydice takes in each detail of life is the most infectious quality I’ve ever known. When she flings her arms around my neck as she does every day, every night, my most recurrent fear is no longer relapsing cancer, no longer early dementia or heart disease or hearing loss—or even the fact that Eurydice is growing up too slowly. It is a testament to how radically this child has transformed me that my most recurrent fear may be that she’s growing up too fast—that one day she could be too mature to give me those massive, resplendent, full-body hugs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:31 PM | Permalink

November 28, 2012

What to do when your orangutan won't settle down

My male orangutan is addicted to Jane Austen and reads up to 50 pages of Pride and Prejudice a day, claims zookeeper

Albert, the literature-loving 200-pound primate at Gdansk Zoo in Poland, is reported to enjoy up to 50 pages a day of Jane Austen's masterpiece Pride And Prejudice, according to the Daily Star.

 Orangutan+Jane Austin

Keeper Michael Krause resorted to reading the book aloud out of desperation when Albert and partner Raya would not settle down for the night, despite staff trying to wear them out with play or fruit snacks.

I didn't know what to do until I pulled out a book I was reading during a break and within a couple of minutes they were trying to read over my shoulder,' he said.

'Now they go to bed quietly and peacefully as long as they get their stories.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:20 PM | Permalink

Tips you can use

New Studies on Older Endurance Athletes Suggest the Fittest Reap Few Health Benefits

"Running too fast, too far and for too many years may speed one's progress toward the finish line of life,"

The secrets of how not to get a ticket if you're stopped by the police according to a veteran officer

[P]ut yourself in the officer's shoes. That means remembering that as soon as you pull over the officer is just as worried as you are about how this stop is going to go….'If it’s nighttime, turn on the interior lights in your car. If it’s night or day, lower all the windows on your car. … And put your hands up on the steering wheel — high, where the cop can see them."

Be apologetic if the officer asks you if you know what you did wrong, but remember you don't have to admit to anything.

You can play dumb. You can say, ‘What did I do?’ And if he tells you what you did, you could say, ‘I must have…you know, I just didn’t realize it,' Kane said. And crying only works if you're a woman. Especially an attractive woman. 

How a blue light in your car is as good as coffee at keeping you alert

Sleepiness is responsible for one third of fatalities on motorways as it reduces a driver's alertness, reflexes and visual perception.
Researchers from the Université Bordeaux Segalen, France, and their Swedish colleagues demonstrated that constant exposure to blue light is as effective as coffee at improving night drivers' alertness.

If you're looking for an assisted living community for an aging relative, check out Silver Living for professional research and reviews of senior living communities around the country.

Things you should never throw in the trash because they are so toxic

1. CFL light bulbs. CFL bulbs contain mercury
2. Lithium-ion batteries. The rechargeable ones.  T
3. Electronics equipment. TVs, stereos, speakers, and mobile phones.  Mobile phones can often be taken back by your cell phone dealer.
4. Car-related fluids. Antifreeze, wiper fluid, engine oil, or anything that comes from your car
5. Paints. Varnishes, stains, and paints.

I wondered now Nicholas Brody on Homeland was able to remember all the lies he told.  Well, now A new study finds that Practice makes a perfect fibber: Just 20 minutes of rehearsing can make you an infallible liar

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:16 PM | Permalink

“When they’re little they sit on your lap; when they’re big they sit on your heart.”

When They’re Grown, the Real Pain Begins

Cora, a mother to five grown children and grandmother to seven, grabbed tiny Jake, put her face right up to his and started speaking loud baby talk to him. Then, as she bounced him on her knee, she turned to me and said, “When they’re little they sit on your lap; when they’re big they sit on your heart.”
In retrospect, having little kids was a breeze. As long as you hugged them a lot and made good food, things seemed to be, for the most part, O.K. You could fix many problems, and distract them from others. Your home could be a haven from all that might be painful and difficult in the world beyond.

All of that changes when they are grown. They fall in love, break their hearts, apply for jobs, leave or lose the jobs, choose new homes, can’t pay the rent for those new homes and question their choice of profession. They forge their way, all just outside of your helping reach. Then, when bad things happen, they need you like crazy, but you discover that the kind of help you’ve spent 25 years learning how to give is no longer helpful.

Retired Royal Navy officer Nick Crews experienced that despondency when he wrote to his three children a scathing email that has now gone round the world, 'I am bitterly, bitterly disappointed'

It is obvious that none of you has the faintest notion of the bitter disappointment each of you has in your own way dished out to us. We are seeing the miserable death throes of the fourth of your collective marriages at the same time we see the advent of a fifth.
Fulfilling careers based on your educations would have helped — but as yet none of you is what I would confidently term properly self-supporting. Which of you, with or without a spouse, can support your families, finance your home and provide a pension for your old age? Each of you is well able to earn a comfortable living and provide for your children, yet each of you has contrived to avoid even moderate achievement.
I can now tell you that I for one, and I sense Mum feels the same, have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children's underachievement and domestic ineptitudes. I want to hear no more from any of you until, if you feel inclined, you have a success or an achievement or a REALISTIC plan for the support and happiness of your children to tell me about.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:32 AM | Permalink

November 27, 2012

Signs of the Times

And this is different from foot-binding in what way?  Women are cutting off their little toes so they can better fit into stilettos.

Creepy.  Jamie Foxx at the Soul Train Awards  "Give an Honor to Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama"    Why doesn't the President discourage this cult worship?

Buying and selling human life in the form of embryos.  Money back guarantee that pregnancy will result from using their embryos.

In the cutthroat field of fertility treatments, Dr. Ernest Zeringue sharply cuts costs by creating a single batch of embryos, then divvying it up among several patients. One 'horrified' critic calls it the 'commodification of children.'
Zeringue sharply cuts costs by creating a single batch of embryos from one egg donor and one sperm donor, then divvying it up among several patients. The clinic, not the customer, controls the embryos, typically making babies for three or four patients while paying just once for the donors and the laboratory work.
People buying this option from Zeringue must accept concessions: They have no genetic connection to their children, and those children will probably have full biological siblings born to other parents.
"I am horrified by the thought of this," said Andrew Vorzimer, a Los Angeles fertility lawyer alarmed that a company — not would-be parents — controls embryos. "It is nothing short of the commodification of children."

Time to get worried.  The U.N. wants control of the Internet

"Having the Internet rewired by bureaucrats would be like handing a Stradivarius to a gorilla. The Internet is made up of 40,000 networks that interconnect among 425,000 global routes, cheaply and efficiently delivering messages and other digital content among more than two billion people around the world, with some 500,000 new users a day. …
"The ITU is the wrong place to make decisions about the future of the Internet," says Google. "Only governments have a voice at the ITU. This includes governments that do not support a free and open Internet. Engineers, companies, and people that build and use the web have no vote."

Defining depravity downwards in Deutschland

All of which brings me back to Der Spiegel. There is a hesitancy by the German news weekly to say that this is wrong. Is that the business of a newspaper? Should the moral voice be extinguished in modern newspaper reporting? Is Herr Kiok’s argument that morality should not govern law true?
Der Spiegel appears to think so, as it has framed this story in such a way as to remove the moral element. By not providing contrary voices to the Zoophilia activists, the newspaper does not address the issue as to why this conduct should be governed by law.
it is the British tabloid, The Sun who has the best quotes, has the most fun and raises the best question.

Bestiality dropped off the statute books as a crime in 1969 but in recent years incidents of it have mushroomed along with websites promoting it. There are even “erotic zoos” for perverts to visit and abuse animals ranging from llamas to goats. Hans-Michael Goldmann, chairman of the agriculture committee, said the government aimed to forbid using an animal “for individual sexual acts and to outlaw people ‘pimping’ creatures to others for sexual use”.

But pro-zoophilia campaign group ZETA — Zoophiles Commitment to Tolerance and Enlightenment — vowed to challenge any ban on bestiality. Chairman Michael Kiok said: “Mere concepts of morality have no business being law.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:26 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Sleep is good, stop slouching, flu shot for heart health, grapefruit and Afilbercept for cancer

Why getting a good night's sleep will keep you slim, get you promoted and save your marriage.  Do you believe Penelope Cruz gets an average of 14 hours of sleep a day?

Stop slouching.  It could be making you sad and depressed.  Just by sitting or standing upright, you better your mood and increase your energy.

It just may be that Exercise can protect the brain from fatty foods.  Exercise seems to stimulate the production of certain biochemical substances that prevent free fatty acids from infiltrating the brain resulting in fewer plaques and better memory.  It does on mice and rats anyway. 

The New England Journal of Medicine reports that more than 1 million women who have had mammograms have been unnecessarily treated for breast cancer over the past three decades.

Could Whole-Genome Testing Increase Insurance Costs?  Yes.  Genetic testing can also make it harder to buy life insurance, disability insurance and long-term care insurance.

There's still time to get your flu shot and protect yourself against a heart attack at the same time.  Flu shot can protect against heart attacks

Getting vaccinated cuts risk for a heart attack or stroke by up to 50 percent, according to two studies presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress….  The findings suggest “that flu vaccine is a heart vaccine", -- Researchers report that up to 91,000 Americans a year die from heart attacks and strokes triggered by flu. --- Another surprising benefit of getting a flu shot is reduced risk for pulmonary embolism (a blood clot in the lungs) and deep vein thrombosis (a clot in the legs). 

Other vaccines that reduce heart attack risk is you're over 65: the herpes zoster vaccination against shingles and the vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia.

Hope for cancer victims as scientists develop drug that sends cells to sleep to stop them spreading

A new drug called Aflibercept tricks tumors into becoming dormant by flipping molecular switches in the structure of the cancer so it cannot spread.  Positive results are being seen already in the UK, where trials have seen patients enjoy a 'significant' extension of life.
A report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology said Aflibercept had a 'statistically significant survival benefit' compared to conventional drug regimes treating bowel cancer that had spread after initial treatment.
Maybe they will find other cancers where it may be more effective.' Aflibercept is administered as a 30-minute infusion alongside chemotherapy.  It is available in the US, and European approval is expected soon.

Men: Put down that soft drink.  Just one soft drink a day increases your risk of aggressive prostrate cancer by 40 per cent

Men who drink fizzy drinks are not just ruining their teeth and waistlines  - they could be at risk of aggressive prostate cancer as well.
A Swedish study has found just one soft drink a day could increase the risk of developing more serious forms of the cancer by 40%.
The study, which will be published in the upcoming edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, examined more than 8,000 men aged between 45 and 73 for an average of 15 years.

Why a breakfast of grapefruit and marmalade on toast could be lethal for people taking medication

Both grapefruit and Seville oranges contain chemicals that can interact with certain drugs such as statins and antidepressants.
Adverse effects can include acute kidney failure, respiratory failure, internal bleeding and sudden death.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:46 PM | Permalink

When your wife used to be a man and the agony of divorce ameliorated somewhat by technology

A Belgian is seeking to have his marriage annulled after discovering that his Indonesian wife of 19 years had been born a man.

Jan, 64, said that he and his wife had decided not to have children because he had two by his previous marriage and she fooled him by pretending to menstruate, using sanitary towels, "to conceal the truth".  "Even during sex, I never noticed anything," he said.

"That person has deliberately deceived him for years, even scammed. Presumably she has also forged documents used here to get a residence permit. The children, who for years have lived with her, are devastated," said his Liliane Verjauw, his lawyer.

The Agony of Divorce

As most people know, divorce is a painful experience. When women are lulled into believing that it can be liberating they are unprepared for the wave of negative emotion that descends on them after they get divorced.
If you expect to feel liberated and end up feeling an anguish that goes well beyond anything you can imagine, the pain of divorce is going to become excruciating.

Our culture is so thoroughly involved in the business of eliminating all negative emotion, numbing us to it, that we often forget that sometimes anguish shows that we have grasped the reality of our lives. v.  Joint Custody from a Distance

These days, the cool aloofness of technology is helping temper sticky emotional exchanges between former spouses. And for the most part, according to divorce lawyers and joint-custody bearers, handling the details via high tech is a serious upgrade.
E-mail and texting alone have practically revolutionized post divorce family relationships.
But since their divorce in 2005, the arrangement has been fraught with disagreement. When Ms. Thomas requested court-mandated parent counseling, the judge ordered the two to use an online tool called Our Family Wizard instead. Now, lawyers supervise e-mail exchanges between her and her ex, ensuring that each party responds to the other in a timely manner. All e-mails are time dated and tracked. Parents can create a shared expense log and receive automated notices and reminders about parental obligations.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:16 PM | Permalink

Just in time for aging boomers, the Granny Pod

Just in time for aging boomers,  the Granny Pod

A Virginia company is advertising a new type of living arrangement for elderly parents: a 12 by 24 feet pop up 'Granny Pod' that fits easily into the back yard of a standard American home.

The $125,000 dwelling is being marketed as an alternative arrangement for people struggling to provide adequate care for the aging relatives since assisted living communities have become stigmatized and inviting an elderly relative a spot in the home can prove a squeeze.

The structure is formally referred to as the MedCottage and was designed by a Blacksburg, Virginia company, N2Care.The company was started by Rev. Kenneth J. Dupin, who is a minister in southwest Virginia, according to the Washington Post. He established the design company to create living structures or auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs) that would provide a way for families to care for an elderly relative on their own property.

'Equipped with the latest technical advances in the industry, MEDCottage was made to assist with many care-giving duties. Using smart robotic features, it can monitor vital signs, filter the air for contaminants, and communicate with the outside world very easily.'
'Sensors alert caregivers to problems, and medication reminders are provided via computers. Technology also provides entertainment options including music, literature and movies.'

It was initially approved by the State of Virginia as a 'temporary family health-care structures' since it contains surveillance cameras and the technological capabilities to allow for remote monitoring of the resident.

The MedCottage sells for approximately $85,000 but delivery and installation can add another $40,000 to the total cost.

Original story in The Washington Post., Pioneering the granny pod: Fairfax County family adapts to high-tech dwelling that could change elder care.   

-Grannypod click for full graphic

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:27 AM | Permalink

Will the next great hope be a ketone drink, DeltaG ?

Could this elixir hold the key to weight loss? Experts hope it'll also treat diabetes, epilepsy and Alzheimer's

There’s a new drink that could not only help you lose weight, but could also treat epilepsy, diabetes and possibly even Alzheimer’s. It might also be an incredible energy booster. When a group of international rowing champions took it, one of them beat a world record.
It sounds far too good to be true, but the drink’s scientific credentials are impeccable.

It’s been developed by Kieran Clarke, professor of physiological biochemistry at Oxford University and head of its Cardiac Metabolism Research Group, at the behest of the U.S. Army.

Equally amazing is that the drink doesn’t involve a new drug. It contains something our bodies produce all the time. This key ingredient is ketones — the tiny, but powerful sources of energy our bodies make naturally when we start using up our fat stores for energy because there are no carbs around.
Professor Clarke had been working on ketones as a high energy source for more than a decade when she approached DARPA, who funded the research that allowed her to discover a way to make ketones in the lab.

‘No one had done it before,’ she says. ‘We called it DeltaG, which is the biochemical name for energy, but also has a military ring to it — Delta Force and all.’ She tried the new compound on rats and found it boosted physical and mental performance.
But that wasn’t all. The rats became much healthier. They lost body fat, had lower levels of triglycerides (fatty acids) in their blood and lower blood sugar levels. There were no signs of harmful side-effects.
So why haven’t we heard about this before? It’s because ketones are a natural product that can’t be turned into a top-selling treatment, so no drug company is interested.

‘We have a problem raising the money just to produce enough of it to run trials cheaply,’ says Professor Clarke (which is why you won’t see it in shops for some time).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

November 26, 2012

Alzheimers or not

Alzheimer’s Precursors Evident in Brain at Early Age

Scientists studying Alzheimer’s disease are increasingly finding clues that the brain begins to deteriorate years before a person shows symptoms of dementia.
The studies, published this month in the journal Lancet Neurology, found that the brains of people destined to develop Alzheimer’s clearly show changes at least 20 years before they have any cognitive impairment.
“The prevailing theory has been that development of Alzheimer’s disease begins with the progressive accumulation of amyloid in the brain,” Dr. Reiman said. “This study suggests there are changes that are occurring before amyloid deposition.”

Alzheimer’s Tied to Mutation Harming Immune Response

The mutation is suspected of interfering with the brain’s ability to prevent the buildup of plaque.... The discovery, researchers say, provides clues to how and why the disease progresses. The gene, known as TREM2, is only the second found to increase Alzheimer’s risk substantially in older people.  …The other gene found to raise the odds that a person will get Alzheimer’s, ApoE4, is much more common and confers about the same risk as the mutated version of TREM2
I was of the opinion that the immune system would play a fairly small role, if any, in Alzheimer’s disease,” Dr. Stefansson said. “This discovery cured me of that bias.”

For Alzheimer’s, Detection Advances Outpace Treatment Options

“The scan was floridly positive,” said her doctor, Adam S. Fleisher, director of brain imaging at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix.

The Jimenezes have struggled ever since to deal with this devastating news. They are confronting a problem of the new era of Alzheimer’s research: The ability to detect the disease has leapt far ahead of treatments. There are none that can stop or even significantly slow the inexorable progression to dementia and death.
Many insurers, including Medicare, will not yet pay for the new scans, which cost several thousand dollars. And getting one comes with serious risks. While federal law prevents insurers and employers from discriminating based on genetic tests, it does not apply to scans. People with brain plaques can be denied long-term care insurance.

An Outcast Among Peers Gains Traction on Alzheimer's Cure

Some people collect stamps, others vintage cars. As a young Ph.D. student at Cambridge University in the 1980s, Claude Wischik was on a mission to collect brains.

 Dr Claude Wischik

It wasn't easy. At the time, few organ banks kept entire brains. But Dr. Wischik, an Australian in his early 30s at the time, was attempting to answer a riddle still puzzling the scientific community: What causes Alzheimer's disease? To do that, Dr. Wischik needed to examine brain tissue from Alzheimer's patients soon after death.

He also embraced an idea that, if he is right, could ultimately spin Alzheimer's research on its heels—and raise new hopes for the roughly 36 million people world-wide afflicted with Alzheimer's or dementia.

The 63-year-old researcher believes that a protein called tau—which forms twisted fibers known as tangles inside the brain cells of Alzheimer's patients—is largely responsible for driving the disease. It is a theory that goes against much of the scientific community: For 20 years, billions of dollars of pharmaceutical investment has supported a different theory that places chief blame on a different protein, beta amyloid, which forms sticky plaques in the brains of sufferers. But a string of experimental drugs designed to attack beta amyloid have failed recently in clinical trials
A key moment came in 2008, when Dr. Wischik and Elan presented results of their studies at an Alzheimer's conference in Chicago. The Elan drug failed to improve cognition any better than a placebo pill, causing Elan shares to plummet by more than 60% over the next few days.

The TauRx results Dr. Wischik presented were more positive, though not unequivocal. The study showed that, after 50 weeks of treatment, Alzheimer's patients taking a placebo had fallen 7.8 points on a test of cognitive function, while people taking 60 mg of TauRx's drug three times a day had fallen one point—translating into an 87% reduction in the rate of decline for people taking the TauRx drug.

Researchers report potential new treatment to stop Alzheimer's disease

Molecular 'tweezers' break up toxic aggregations of proteins in mouse model

Answers About Alzheimer’s, Part 1.    Answers Part II.  Answers Part III

Readers recently submitted more than 100 questions about Alzheimer’s and memory loss to this week’s expert, Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, a psychiatry professor at Duke University Medical Center and an author of “The Alzheimer’s Action Plan.”

Detective Work: The False Alzheimer's Diagnosis

More than 100 other conditions, from vitamin and hormone deficiencies to rare brain disorders, can mimic Alzheimer's disease, experts say. Some are readily treatable.
Meds that Mimic Alzheimer's
Over 100 different drugs have side effects that can mimic Alzheimer's in some people. Among the most common:

Antihistimatines (Benadryl, diphenhydramine)
Sleeping pills (Ambien, Sonata)
Painkillers (Darvon, Toradol, Demerol, Naproxen, Aleve)
Anti-anxiety drugs (Valium, Librium, Halcion, Xanax)
Anti-psychotic drugs (Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa)
Cholesterol drugs (Lipitor and other statins)
Older antidepressants (Elavil, Miltown, Tofranil)
Incontinence drugs (Detrol, Ditropan, Toviaz)
Acid-reflux drugs (Zantac)
Blood pressure drugs (Procardia, Adalat)
Tranquilizers (Serentil, Thorazine, Mellaril)
Heart drugs (Norpace, Lanoxin, Aldoril, Vasodilan, Cardura, Aldomet)
Stomach drugs (Bentyl, Levsin, Donnatal, Librax)
Parkinson's drugs (benztropine, trihexyphenidyl)
Source: American Geriatrics Society; Public Citizen; FDA
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:12 PM | Permalink

Seawater and sunlight

Let's applaud this team.  After all they are Growing Food in the Desert.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that a group of young brains from Europe, Asia and north America, led by a 33-year-old German former Goldman Sachs banker but inspired by a London theatre lighting engineer of 62, have bought a sizable lump of this unpromising outback territory and built on it an experimental greenhouse which holds the seemingly realistic promise of solving the world's food problems.

Indeed, the work that Sundrop Farms, as they call themselves, are doing in South Australia, and just starting up in Qatar, is beyond the experimental stage. They appear to have pulled off the ultimate something-from-nothing agricultural feat – using the sun to desalinate seawater for irrigation and to heat and cool greenhouses as required, and thence cheaply grow high-quality, pesticide-free vegetables year-round in commercial quantities.

So far, the company has grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers by the tone, but the same, proven technology is now almost ready to be extended to magic out, as if from thin air, unlimited quantities of many more crops – and even protein foods such as fish and chicken – but still using no fresh water and close to zero fossil fuels. Salty seawater, it hardly needs explaining, is free in every way and abundant – rather too abundant these days, as our ice caps melt away.

Sundrop Farms

At Sundrop Farms we responsibly grow food in some of the world’s driest regions using abundant and renewable resources – seawater and sunlight – using our proprietary greenhouse technologies.  Grow Positive!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:26 PM | Permalink

Sandy aftermath made even more gruesome after abysmal failure of FEMA

Proving once again that the aftermath of disasters is almost always worse than the disasters themselves, Thieves strike storm-damaged Breezy Point homes over Thanksgiving holiday

Adding insult to injury,  Sandy victims are charged for full month of power despite blackouts that in some places lasted more than 2 weeks.

Worst of all, murderers find in the storm wreckage inviting spots to dump bodies    In Storm’s Debris, the Macabre

Long Island Residents Dealing With Sandy-Related Garbage Nightmare

Plagued by filth, health concerns are mounting on Long Island’s South Shore.Streets in one local community are still buried in more than two weeks of trash build-up and another is pumping out rivers of raw sewage.t.
“Every day I go home, I take a shower for an hour and I throw out the shoes I had on. I just don’t know how to protect myself from this mess. This is how cholera started,” Bay Park resident Randee Gerry said.

Sewage on their streets and in their homes, backing up through toilets and bathtubs. The storm surge ruptured sewage mains.

Preliminary estimate from Governor Chrisite's office:  Sandy cost New Jersey $30 billion in damages to homes, businesses and tourism.

 Sandy Half-House-1

Some of that no doubt because the New Jersey railway parked much of its trains in the flood zone despite warnings, resulting in damage to one third of its locomotives and a quarter of its passenger cars, damage that will cost tens of millions of dollars to repair.

All of which makes even more disheartening reports of the abysmal failure of FEMA.  The report below makes the federal government's response sound completely inept.  Dan Greenfield says the recovery effort was "criminally botched." 

I asked, ‘Why haven’t you been sent out?’” he says. “Then he just lays the story on me, tells me about all the personnel they have out there, more than 100 ambulances, two paramedics per ambulance, everybody waiting for marching orders.”

Horrified, the logistical worker offered to help transport them to a place where they could be useful.

He said they couldn’t do it because FEMA had them all under contract, and they couldn’t go out without FEMA’s say-so.

In the first rush after the storm, these emergency medical responders were frantically busy with the evacuation of NYU Langone and Bellevue, transporting patients out of the damaged hospitals to safer facilities.

But after that burst of activity, the orders suddenly stopped coming. EMT crews idled for days on end, waiting for direction, growing increasingly exasperated as the hours and days ticked by.
“I called my contact back for clarification,” the logistics worker tells the Voice. “He says to me: ‘We’re firefighters and EMTs and nurses. We’ve been here for days, and they haven’t let us off the compound, they haven’t given us marching orders, they haven’t even given us our equipment. We’ve been sleeping on plastic chairs since we got here.’”

The motorcycle club, the Hallowed Sons, proved far more .

By Tuesday morning, the waters had receded, and the Hallowed Sons had set up camp in the Oceanside Park, serving food and sending teams out with residents to their small, single-family homes to remove wreckage and junk out of the ruined basements and first floors. On a bedsheet they spray-painted the words “Hallowed Sons MC, Just Ask for Help.” Aside from the shell-shocked residents, they were the only people on the scene.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:42 AM | Permalink

Niggly-wiggly and collywobbles

27 Everyday Things you Never Knew Had Names

1. Glabella

2. Vagitus - the cry of a newborn baby

3. Chanking - the food that you spit out

5. Niggly-Wiggly

6. Darkle

9. Nattiform

13. Punt

16. Brannock Divide

20. Collywobbles - butterflies in your stomach

26. Rasceta

You just have to go to the link to see the rest of the definitions and the photos that help explain

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:41 AM | Permalink

November 21, 2012

The Fabulous Tale of Squanto

A Patuxet Indian, friend of explorers, captured to be sold as a slave, freed by friars in Spain, convert to Catholicism, traveled to London, hired to work with the governor of Newfoundland, back to London and a return to his home in Plymouth to only to find his entire village annihilated by smallpox and then he met the Pilgrims.

Squanto, the Worldly Indian Who Dazzled the Pilgrims

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

What George Vaillant has to teach us about aging happily

David Brooks,  The Heart Grows Smarter

But as this study — the Grant Study — progressed, the power of relationships became clear. The men who grew up in homes with warm parents were much more likely to become first lieutenants and majors in World War II. The men who grew up in cold, barren homes were much more likely to finish the war as privates.

Body type was useless as a predictor of how the men would fare in life. So was birth order or political affiliation. Even social class had a limited effect. But having a warm childhood was powerful. As George Vaillant, the study director, sums it up in “Triumphs of Experience,” his most recent summary of the research, “It was the capacity for intimate relationships that predicted flourishing in all aspects of these men’s lives.”
In case after case, the magic formula is capacity for intimacy combined with persistence, discipline, order and dependability. The men who could be affectionate about people and organized about things had very enjoyable lives.

But a childhood does not totally determine a life. The beauty of the Grant Study is that, as Vaillant emphasizes, it has followed its subjects for nine decades. The big finding is that you can teach an old dog new tricks. The men kept changing all the way through, even in their 80s and 90s.

The secret to a longer life? A puppy, a happy marriage and plenty of good friends

Owning a dog, and having a happy marriage and plenty of good friends are key to longevity, according to a landmark study.

The Grant study found all these are more important than where you were born, whether you were born into a wealthy or poor family or what social class you are in.
George Vaillant,  "Having a loving family is terribly important, but from 70 to 90 years old you'd be surprised at the people who, despite enormous deprivation, manage to find love later on.    If you want to be happy, and don't have a six-month-old baby to trade smiles with, get yourself a puppy.  The finding on happiness is that happiness is the wrong word. The right words for happiness are emotional intelligence, relationships, joy, connections and resilience."

At Amazon Triumphs of Experience: The Men of the Harvard Grant Study

For Older Adults, Close Connections are Key to Healthy Aging

The study shows that relationships are the key to healthy aging, said Dr. Vaillant, who advised cultivating younger friends for their energy and fresh perspective. “You must have somebody outside yourself to be interested in — not hobbies or crossword puzzles or your stock account — but flesh and blood,” he said. “That’s why volunteerism is so important — the only way to stop thinking of your own unique wonderful self is to think of others.”
“In the same way you exercise, pay your taxes and eat a healthy diet, you need to start replacing friends as soon as you lose them, particularly around retirement age,”

At the Harvard University Press, a short video of George Vaillant and his new book

Begun in 1938, the Grant Study of Adult Development charted the physical and emotional health of over 200 men, starting with their undergraduate days. The now-classic Adaptation to Life reported on the men’s lives up to age 55 and helped us understand adult maturation. Now George Vaillant follows the men into their nineties, documenting for the first time what it is like to flourish far beyond conventional retirement.

Reporting on all aspects of male life, including relationships, politics and religion, coping strategies, and alcohol use (its abuse being by far the greatest disruptor of health and happiness for the study’s subjects), Triumphs of Experience shares a number of surprising findings. For example, the people who do well in old age did not necessarily do so well in midlife, and vice versa. While the study confirms that recovery from a lousy childhood is possible, memories of a happy childhood are a lifelong source of strength. Marriages bring much more contentment after age 70, and physical aging after 80 is determined less by heredity than by habits formed prior to age 50. The credit for growing old with grace and vitality, it seems, goes more to ourselves than to our stellar genetic makeup.

Andrew Stark reviews in The Wall Street Journal

If a lifetime of achievement is your goal, then it is better to have had an emotionally supportive childhood than a socially privileged upbringing. Pragmatic and practical men are more likely to be politically conservative, while sensitive and intuitive men lean liberal. Other findings upset conventional wisdom (Republican men are no less altruistic than Democratic men) or proved to be just downright confounding: The longer-lived a man's maternal grandfather, the more likely it is that he will enjoy mental health.
Gradually, though, the study acquired a more literary quality as the men's lives and characters unfolded in deeply individual ways. And with this change came another: Instead of trying to predict the futures of the study's subjects, attention turned to how well they were coming to terms with their lengthening pasts.

The surviving men are now all around 90. For them, the question of the moment is "so—what'd you think?" And the answer is surprisingly complex. Harvard psychiatry professor George Vaillant tells us in "Triumphs of Experience"—the latest installment in the series of Grant Study books he has written since taking leadership of the project 40 years ago—that what a man thinks at a late stage of life much depends on how successfully he has come to terms with life's regrets.

Christopher Caldwell reviews the book in The Weekly Standard

The study does deliver surprises in describing the effects of alcoholism. Vaillant may be boasting when he writes that his work was able “to disprove the illusion that securely diagnosed alcoholics can return to successful social drinking” since that illusion had been long-dispelled by the 1980s. But he is right that alcoholism is “the most ignored causal factor in modern social science.” In this study, alcoholism is the most important factor in divorce. (Certainly it causes marital problems; it may also cause problem marriages in the first place.) Booze also affects longevity considerably more than total cholesterol, frequent exercise, and obesity do.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:19 AM | Permalink

November 20, 2012

Medical breakthroughs: talking glove, dog hope for spinal injuries, radio pill, cancer stem cells found

Helping people with strokes or deafness Grandfather left mute after a stroke speaks again with help of revolutionary glove that turns gestures into words

73-year-old has so far learnt to articulate 20 different words and phrases
Glove has integrated sensors and computer and is programmed to express 1,000 words

This testing on animals will benefit many humans.  Time for walks! Pet dogs paralyzed by spine damage are able to walk again following pioneering treatment

One owner described her previously paralyzed pet 'whizzing around the house' following the treatment.

What's the best time of day to take your medication? Gene that predicts what time of day we'll die: Discovery could help determine when stroke or heart patients should take medication

Scientists have discovered a gene variation that affects the human body clock so profoundly that it even predicts the time of day when an individual is most likely to die.  Researchers hope the findings could eventually be used to determine when heart or stroke patients should take medication to make it most effective, or when hospital patients should be monitored most closely.

The US team discovered the gene variation by accident when they were investigating the development of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Strange but true, a lot of people don't take their medication.  New technology develops A Pill That Tells When It's Taken

It took the team seven years to create the centerpiece of the Feedback System, a pill that doubles as a radio. “The biggest question was, What types of materials would the FDA allow us to use?” Zdeblick says. “So we decided to use [ones from] a vitamin.” Small amounts of copper and magnesium conduct enough electricity (1.5 volts) to power a one-millimeter chip. When a pill containing the chip hits the stomach, the metals interact with stomach fluid to generate a current. The current transmits to a 2.5-inch patch on the patient’s torso, which relays the signal as binary code to his phone over Bluetooth. An app will determine the pill’s serial number, manufacturer, and ingredients, and saves that data to the cloud. Doctors will eventually be able to set up automatic alerts when adherence problems arise.

Who knew cancer cells had their own stem cells? Found: The cells that make cancer run riot. Kill them and you could destroy the disease...

The traditional view among oncologists is that cancerous tumors are the result of genetic mutations within ordinary cells that cause them to divide uncontrollably and then spread. 

However, evidence has been mounting that small numbers of stem cells within tumors actually orchestrate their growth and proliferation. But these types of cell are difficult to eradicate with traditional chemo and radiotherapy — they actually come equipped with pump-like mechanisms on their surface that filter medicines away — and they can re-grow even after the primary tumor has been destroyed or removed.

--- ‘We’ve found both types of cell in head and neck tumors, and others have found them in breast, colon and several other types of cancer.  'If we could find ways to target them, we might have an elegant solution to the problem of cancer and its growth.

‘The question is, how can you target cancer stem cells without damaging normal stem cells? We don’t know yet.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:51 PM | Permalink

Why electronic medical records (EMR) are not good for patients

EMR (Electronic Medical Records)  has finally passed the 50% adoption mark; yet "fully functional" usage is still in the teens.  So why is there an almost 4-fold discrepancy between “any EMR” and “fully functional EMR”?

Don’t get me wrong, EMRs (electronic medical records) are inevitable. Over the long-run they are almost certainly good for physicians, patients and the healthcare industry. However, their origin and the ulterior motives currently driving their adoption is sowing the seeds of their failure.

If EMRs are so great, why does the government have to essentially “bribe” physicians to adopt them through incentives such as the meaningful use incentive program?  Why is this so important to them that they didn’t even wait for the healthcare affordability act to implement this “incentive”? (They put it in the stimulus package after Obama had only been in office a few months.)

  Why EMR is a dirty word to doctors

One reason that incentives and threats of decreased payment are necessary for EMR adoption is that the industry and physicians have known for years that EMRs do not improve productivity and that it is highly questionable that EMRs lead to better patient outcomes.  So why is all this taxpayer debt being accrued by throwing borrowed money at the healthcare industry to drive EMR adoption, if the end users are so disenchanted?

As Jonathan Bush, the Founder-CEO of AthenaHealth (a major EMR supplier) famously said, “It’s healthcare information technology’s version of cash-for-clunkers,” and because it is actually all about control.

The goal of EMRs is to wrestle control of healthcare away from the doctor-patient relationship into the hands of third parties who can then implement their policies by simply removing a button or an option in the EMR.  If you can’t select a particular treatment option, for all intents and purposes the option doesn’t exist or the red tape to choose it is so painful that there is little incentive to “fight the system.”

For patients, this means that they will only be able to consume the healthcare that they “qualify” for or be forced to find another way to obtain the care that they want and need.  It is the second outcome that is the most intriguing, because as “shoppers,” patients will want to be informed and have choices as they take on more responsibility for the cost and quality of their own care.

For physicians … well, it isn’t hard to figure out where this is all heading.  EMRs are quickly becoming the instrument by which we are controlled and managed.  As an example, many organizations are already starting to restrict diagnostic testing and therapies via EMR.

Having left the guidelines vague and largely written by a small group of industry insiders, most products have become a Tower of Babel with atrocious user interfaces and user experiences that … well, I don’t blame my fellow physicians for not wanting to use them. In addition to being expensive, they are complex, inefficient, and do not make physicians or their staff more productive.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:11 PM | Permalink

November 19, 2012

Administrators grow like kudzu

In Oklahoma, Market-based, low overhead medical care with transparent pricing as an antidote to Obamacare

To understand how deeply discounted the Surgery Center’s fees are, consider that a nearby local hospital in Oklahoma City, Integris Baptist Medical Center, charges more than $33,000 for a “complex bilateral sinus procedure.”  When the same surgeon performs the same surgery at the Surgery Center, the total cost is less than $6,000. Reasons? The hospital is receiving payment from a third party (insurance company or government), and not the patient, who therefore has no incentive or reason to question or monitor the price. Another reason that the hospital charges 5 times more than the Surgery Center for the same procedure is the huge difference in administrative overhead.  Reason explains:

Except for the clerical staff, every employee at the Surgery Center is directly involved in patient care. For example, both human resources and building maintenance are the responsibility of the head nurse. “One reason our prices are so low,” says Smith, “is that we don’t have administrators running around in their four or five thousand dollar suits.”

When I was in law school one professor after another would call a new law that required regulations to flesh it out, the "full-employment for  lawyers act."  The point is evergreen when you consider how many people called  Sarbanes Oxley, the "full-employment for accountants act"

What I didn't see was how stealthily grew '"administrators" until, in most school districts and colleges, they now outnumber the teachers and professors.  Same thing in hospitals, in unions, in municipal and state governments.  Administrators  grew like kudzu and they didn't need any law to do so.  Lots of regulations helped.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 PM | Permalink

A grab bag of interesting stuff

The inventor of the canning process, Nicholas Appert, was hailed as having “made the seasons stand still.”

He also won a prestigious and very lucrative prize the French military offered in 1795 for a safe way to preserve food that could easily be transported.    Napoleon, who famously said "An army marches on its stomach", knew how starvation and sickness could weaken an army.  Only a food preservation breakthrough would give him and his troops the needed edge over the Austrian, Dutch, English and Spanish armies

Invention of the canning process was food revolution           History of military nutrition in the United States

Best title ever for a book on prayer,  Help, Thanks, Wow by Annie LaMott.  She talks about it here

Life imitating art.  Jonathan Trappe takes to the skies in a house by tying hundreds of balloons to it… just like character in Pixar film

A cluster-balloonist who became the first person to fly the English Channel has launched a house into the sky just like in the Disney movie 'Up'. Intrepid Jonathan Trappe, 38, took off just like the 78-year-old character Carl Frederickson in the hit movie.
Trappe, from Raleigh, North Carolina, stepped into the cartoon themed home before soaring above the Leon International Balloon festival in Mexico yesterday.

He was the first to cross the English Channel with balloons, now he wants to cross the Atlantic in a seven foot lifeboat carried by 365 giant helium balloons.

 Up Balloons House Az

The dirty secrets of the hospitality industry, Heads in Beds  Yuck.

A long leftover link: US Nuclear 'Fort Knox' Cracked By 82-Year-Old Nun  At least the government ended the security contract following the nun's break-in.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:10 PM | Permalink

November 17, 2012

'I'm not in pain"

Vegetative patient Scott Routley says 'I'm not in pain'

A Canadian man who was believed to have been in a vegetative state for more than a decade, has been able to tell scientists that he is not in any pain.

It's the first time an uncommunicative, severely brain-injured patient has been able to give answers clinically relevant to their care.

Scott Routley, 39, was asked questions while having his brain activity scanned in an fMRI machine.

His doctor says the discovery means medical textbooks will need rewriting.

the British neuroscientist Prof Adrian Owen - who led the team at the Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario - said Mr Routley was clearly not vegetative.

"Scott has been able to show he has a conscious, thinking mind. We have scanned him several times and his pattern of brain activity shows he is clearly choosing to answer our questions. We believe he knows who and where he is."

Prof Owen said it was a groundbreaking moment.
Scott Routley's parents say they always thought he was conscious and could communicate by lifting a thumb or moving his eyes. But this has never been accepted by medical staff.

Extraordinary that we are now able to communicate with those in such a profound, paralyzed state.    I wonder what Terry Schiavo would have said.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

Word of the year

The Oxford English Dictionary chooses two words of the year; one for the British and one for the Americans.

American word of the year:  gif

'gif,' short for graphics interchange format, a common format for moving images on the Internet.    The editors said 'gif' was being recognized for making the crucial transition from noun to verb, 'to gif': to create a gif file of an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event. And, inevitably, to share it online.

British word of the year:  omnishambles

It is defined as "a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations".

With institutions like the BBC in meltdown, the EU struggling to deliver a budget, and PR gaffes from the Government including Andrew Mitchell's row with policemen, many in Britain might not argue with the choice of phrase, the Daily Mail reported.

A wonderful word and very useful on this side of the pond as well.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:11 PM | Permalink

November 16, 2012

Spontaneous order

What we ought not to forget, but too often do

The exquisite wonder of spontaneous order - of markets,  traffic, language and the internet.

No great mastermind,  no central authority is behind it, just free people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:08 PM | Permalink

November 15, 2012

"It's wonderful being old"

'It's wonderful being old' says Pope at care home for elderly

Presenting himself as “an elderly man visiting his peers”, Pope Benedict XVI visited a Rome residence for the elderly today, urging the residents to see their age as a sign of God’s blessing and urging society to value their presence and wisdom.

“Though I know the difficulties that come with being our age, I want to say, it’s wonderful being old,” the 85-year-old Pope said during a morning visit to the residence run by the lay Community of Sant’Egidio.
The Pope told those gathered at the residence on the Janiculum Hill that in the Bible a long life is considered a blessing from God, but often today society, which is “dominated by the logic of efficiency and profit, doesn’t welcome it as such”.

“I think we need a greater commitment, beginning with families and public institutions, to ensure the elderly can stay in their homes” and that they can pass on their wisdom to younger generations.

“The quality of a society or civilization can be judged by how it treats the elderly,” he said.

Pope Benedict also insisted on recognition of the dignity and value of all human life, even when “it becomes fragile in the years of old age”.

“One who makes room for the elderly, makes room for life,” the pope said. “One who welcomes the elderly, welcomes life.”
the Pope said, “life is wonderful even at our age, despite the aches and pains and some limitations”, he said.

“At our age, we often have the experience of needing other’s help, and this happens to the Pope as well,” he told the residents.

Pope Benedict said they need to see the help they require as a gift of God, “because it is a grace to be supported and accompanied and to feel the affection of others”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 AM | Permalink

November 13, 2012

Sandy Aftermath worsens in Coney Island and Long Island

Occupy Sandy Volunteer Sounds Alarm on 'Humanitarian Crisis,' Near-Complete Absence of Government Aid in Coney Island Projects

Moed says all of the supermarkets on Coney Island have been flooded or looted.

The result is what Moed describes as a "humanitarian crisis." Sick or older people may be vulnerable to death without heat, or food and water.

Moed routinely meets elderly residents who have been trapped alone in their dark, cold apartments since the storm hit. The elevators often do not work, and residents willing to brave the stairwells face darkness, human waste, and even crime.

"Just three hours ago I was speaking with seniors for whom I was the first person they talked to since the storm," Moed says. "I asked someone if I could use their bathroom and they told me they were going in a bucket. It was a 70-80 year-old woman. And not only do they have to shit in a bucket, they have to bring it down the stairs themselves."

Moed also describes meeting children who had gone several days without food, and a mother who ran out of her asthma medication.

Mormon Volunteers Outperform the Government in New England Sandy Aid

In Milford, Connecticut, for example, where entire expanses of beach homes have been destroyed by the storm, one family member reports to us that FEMA and the Red Cross were nowhere to be seen. What she did see, however, were “dozens of people in yellow vests helping to gather up all the debris that residents were putting out in the road.” Our observer tells us that these individuals assisted homeowners in clean-up, helping to load town trucks to remove destroyed decks, furniture, siding, and other debris.

Recalling that she saw the same group of people “in yellow vests” helping out after Hurricane Irene last year, she later discovered that the helpers were Mormon Helping Hands volunteers.

Toxic mess in hard-hit communities causing serious health effects

The waterfront neighborhoods of Lindenhurst on Long Island have become a toxic wasteland since Hurricane Sandy hit.
Toxic fumes hang in the air, the ground is covered in mud and oil. Homes are gutted and the streets are barely visible; garbage is strewn about.

Jill Vaneck, who lives on Arctic Street, said she has been coughing since the storm hit, and she’s had a constant headache. " I’m concerned over mold, but definitely the oil – it’s everywhere, in the streets, in our homes,” Vaneck said. “The smell of oil has given me a headache every day, and I have this bad cough. So, yes, I’m concerned. I’m worried about the water . . .not only for the plumbing in my house, but there is water all around us. It’s toxic down here.”

Over on Staten Island, residents are concerned about hypothermia, frost bite, dysentery and respiratory infections, said Mike Hoffman, 33, a volunteer relief coordinator in the New Dorp area.

“Volunteers are getting sick, spitting up black mucous, getting respiratory infections – some just after two to three days,” Hoffman said. “Victims have been exposed much longer.”
One resident said, “Is this going to plague us for years to come?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:54 PM | Permalink

Odd bits from the science world

Life really is a roller coaster: Researchers say the universe is expanding as if we were 'rushing downhill' on a fairground attraction

Astronomers at the University of Portsmouth have been involved in a project examining how the universe has evolved since the big bang occurred 13.75 billion years ago.  Dr Mat Pieri, Marie Curie research fellow at the University of Portsmouth and co-author of the study, ...explained that the universe's growth when it was young was slowed by the effects of gravity but in the past five billion years it has begun to rapidly expand because of a mysterious force which scientists have called dark energy.

Dr Pieri likened this slow rise then rapid expansion to a roller coaster….'If we think of the universe as a roller coaster, then today we are rushing downhill, gaining speed as we go.

BBC's star science presenter Brian Cox's search for alien life was nixed by BBC health and safety tsars'

Cox, the former pop star turned particle physicist, wanted to use the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire to listen in to a newly discovered planet in search of alien life for his BBC2 series Stargazing Live.
"The BBC actually said, 'But you can't do that because we need to go through the regulations and health and safety and everything in case we discover a signal from an alien civilization'.

"You mean we would discover the first hint that there is other intelligent life in the universe beyond Earth, live on air, and you're worried about the health and safety of it?    "It was incredible. They did have guidelines. Compliance."

Corridors of the Mind. Could neuroscientists be the next great architects?

 Basilica Assisi
The design of the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi, in Italy, helped prompt the polio vaccine.

Early in his career, when he was still struggling to find a cure for polio, Jonas Salk retreated to Umbria, Italy, to the monastery at the Basilica of Assisi. The 13th-century Franciscan monastery rises out of the hillside in geometric white stone, with Romanesque arches framing its quiet courtyards. Salk would insist, for the rest of his life, that something about this place—the design and the environment in which he found himself—helped to clear his obstructed mind, inspiring the solution that led to his famous polio vaccine.

Four teenagers build a urine-powered generator

The 2012 Maker Faire Africa held in Lagos, Nigeria this week brought together people who build things, from traditional crafts to modern inventions. Four teenage girls made a particularly lasting impression at the event with their generator that is powered by urine.  Amazingly, the generator, built by Duro-Aina Adebola (14 years of age), Akindele Abiola (14), Faleke Oluwatoyin (14) and Bello Eniola (15), needs only about a quart of urine to provide up to six hours of electricity.

It works by adding urine to an electrolytic cell to separate the hydrogen. The hydrogen moves into a water purification filter and is then pushed into a gas cylinder. This forces the hydrogen into a cylinder of liquid borax, removing the moisture from the gas and from there, it is pushed into the generator. Voila! Pee-powered energy.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:43 PM | Permalink

The dismaying evidence of voter fraud in the election



I'm not a conspiracy nut, but nothing troubles me more than voter fraud because tampering with the electoral process undermines the very nature of our democracy.    I and most people want fair elections.  It should be easy to vote, but hard to cheat.  It's more like, easy to vote, easy to cheat.  If people don't have trust in the integrity of electoral system, they won't trust their leaders.    As of this morning, petitions seeking White House approval to 'secede' from the nation now come from 47 states.  In Texas and Louisiana both, the petitions have gathered more than 25,0000 signatures, triggering White House review.  It is very dismaying to see the nation fracture when we have so many enormous problems that require both parties to solve.  Thankfully, neither Romney or Ryan are contesting the results.

The presidential election was decided by a mere 407,000 votes in four states reports Jim Geraghty

Florida: 73,858

Ohio: 103,481

Virginia: 115,910

Colorado: 113,099

Below are the articles I came across while reading about the election result that questioned the integrity of the voting process.


Colorado counties have more voters than people
Using publicly available voter data and comparing it to U.S. Census records reveals the ten counties having a total registration ranging between 104 to 140 percent of the respective populations.


Obama won county in Ohio with 108% voter registration

What Luck! Obama Won Dozens of Cleveland Districts with 100% of the Vote

One out of five registered Ohio voters is bogus reports the Columbus Dispatch in September

“in two counties, the number of registered voters actually exceeds the voting age population: Northwestern Ohio’s Wood County shows 109 registered voters for every 100 eligible, while in Lawrence County along the Ohio River it’s a mere 104 registered per 100 eligible.”

Odd?  Romney got zero votes in 59 precincts in Philly, and 9 precincts in Ohio
Two Election Judges Replaced after Illegal Activity in Ohio
In Hamilton County, the area that houses Cincinnati, two election judges — one Republican and one Democrat — were replaced after illegally allowing unregistered voters to cast their ballots.


St. Lucie County, Florida Had 141.1% Turnout; Obama Won County
Out of 175,554 registered voters, 247,713 vote cards were cast in St. Lucie County, Florida on Tuesday. Barack Obama won the county.

In Florida: Obama Got Over 99% in Broward County Precincts

More ballots turn up in Broward: Seven days after the election ended, and two days after the results were unofficially certified.
Broward elections workers Monday said they had found 963 unaccounted-for ballots in a warehouse. They were put in the wrong place, members of the Broward County Canvassing Board were told on Monday.

"How can you lose them? This is terrible,'' said Dania Beach candidate Chickie Brandimarte, whose close race won't be called until at least Tuesday.


Police investigating Rep. Moran's son over possible voter fraud
"The Arlington County Police Department has initiated a criminal investigation of this matter."

Released Wednesday by Project Veritas — a conservative organization headed by the Republican activist James O’Keefe — the video showed Patrick Moran perusing ways to help a man he thought was a campaign volunteer cast ballots on behalf of 100 people the operative said weren't planning to vote.

Fraud: Some told they already voted, others brag about voting multiple times

Obama Lost in Every State With Photo ID Law

A list of closely contested state elections with no voter ID, which narrowly went to Obama include: Minnesota (10), Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), Nevada (6), Colorado (9), New Mexico (5) and Pennsylvania (20). This amounts to a total of 66 electoral votes.
Romney also likely had the states of Florida and Ohio stolen from him, which don’t require photo IDs. Ohio requires a non-photo ID. Would a library card do? Florida “requests” a photo ID, but doesn’t require it.

John Fund writes Voter Fraud Is No Myth

We should clean up our voter rolls, require those casting absentee ballots to provide a driver’s license or Social Security number and make photo ID mandatory at the polls. Photo ID will not just stop the voter impersonation liberals claim doesn’t exist, but will cut down on multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.

Those states that do want a voter id, that do want to clean up their voting rolls have met opposition from the Department of Justice.

I agree with the U.N election observers who were amazed that voter ID isn't a national requirement.

The most often noted difference between American elections among the visitors was that in most U.S. states, voters need no identification. Voters can also vote by mail, sometimes online, and there's often no way to know if one person has voted several times under different names, unlike in some Arab countries, where voters ink their fingers when casting their ballots.

The international visitors also noted that there's no police at U.S. polling stations. In foreign countries, police at polling places are viewed as signs of security; in the United States they are sometimes seen as intimidating.

Which puts me in the company of nearly 75% of Americans who believe the same thing.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:20 PM | Permalink

November 12, 2012

Haunting photographs of Les Miz cast by Annie Leibovitz


Anne Hathaway lost 25 lbs by eating oatmeal paste to look "near death" for her role as the factory worker turned prostitute Fantine in the upcoming, much anticipated movie Les Miserables.

Photographer Annie Leibovitz has some remarkable photographs of the cast which you can see here - They may be miserable, but they are stunning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

The First Evangelization

Last month, Pope Benedict XVI opened up a new Year of Faith and called for a re-evangelization, a pilgrimage in the spiritual desert of the contemporary world. 

Pope Benedict said, it’s by using this desert as a our starting point that we can once again re-discover the joy of believing and the value of what is essential for life. In our contemporary world “there are numerous signs of that thirst for God” and the ultimate meaning of life.

The focus of the New Evangelization

calls all Catholics to be evangelized and then go forth to evangelize. In a special way, the New Evangelization is focused on 're-proposing' the Gospel to those who have experienced a crisis of faith.Pope Benedict XVI called for the re-proposing of the Gospel "to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.

So how did it go in the early days?  Mike Aquilina in an interview by MercatorNet, Early Christianity: a tough gig

For believing Christians the re-evangelization of Europe looks like a tough job. How long did the first evangelization take?

If you look at the odds against Christianity in the first, second, and third centuries, there was really no chance the Church would survive. Rome had brute power. And it controlled everything -- the jobs you wanted, the media and entertainment, travel. And even if Rome had somehow managed to lose its grip, its enemies were no warmer toward Christianity. It's not like the Church could have played the Persians against Rome.

The first evangelization took place at a time when Christians really had no advantages. They were outcast by everyone. Their religion was a capital crime. They were denied a voice in the public square.  Yet Christianity prevailed, and the empires died. I suppose you could say it took just shy of three hundred years,
What were the obstacles faced by the first Christians in the world ruled by the Roman Empire?

The criminalization of Christianity was a big deterrent. Remember, executions were public, and they were enhanced for entertainment value.
What was the moral climate at the time?

It was a pornographic culture. Entertainment was all about sex and spectacular violence. Abortion and infanticide were considered a normal part of family life. Adultery was so common that private investigators were among the few growth industries in third-century Rome. It was legal to sexually abuse a slave. It was socially acceptable to sexually abuse children. All the emperors did it. Domitian was considered moderate because he kept only one boy lover.

There was great material prosperity in Rome, but no hope, really.
What was the appeal of Christianity to the citizens of the Empire? The background of the first Christians was Jewish and alien; the doctrines were strange; you had to give up the baths and circuses… It doesn’t seem like a good deal.
The "good things in life" are just things. They bring momentary pleasure, but never satisfaction. If you're living for pleasure -- and that was the assumption of Roman imperial culture -- you've condemned yourself to dissatisfaction and misery. If you're just living for the next thrill, you're not really living.

Christians had love, so they had peace. They had happiness, even when they were ostracized, insulted, when they lost their jobs. Whatever. They had it all, even when they were put to death. So many of the early Fathers were converted because they saw Christians martyred, they saw Christians put to death. Christians had something to die for, so they had something to live for. The pagans had no such purpose in life, and they found life hardly worth living and not at all worth passing on to the next generation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:25 PM | Permalink

The Aftermath of Sandy: “You are only as good as the knots you make”

It is always true that the best help you will receive in a disaster is from neighbors, churches, and volunteer groups.  Never depend on the government to help you in  the immediate aftermath.

Highlands, the New Jersey town that Sandy wiped off the map, destroying all but 300 homes and 150,000 STILL without power

 Edith Perez Hurricane Sandy

A majority of the tight-knit town's residents are now taking shelter in the local high school, including Highlands Mayor Frank Nolan, who said he and his family 'lost everything.'

The gymnasium has become sleeping quarters and volunteers have been making three meals a day for everyone in need. In the meantime, Nolan is trying to obtain temporary shelters from the federal government so the school can reopen.
Though New York and New Jersey bore the brunt of the destruction, at its peak, the storm reached 1,000 miles across, killed more than 100 people in 10 states, knocked out power to 8.5 million and canceled nearly 20,000 flights. More than 12 inches of rain fell in Easton, Md., and 34 inches of snow fell in Gatlinburg, Tenn. Damage has been estimated $50 billion, making Sandy the second most expensive storm in U.S. history, behind Katrina.

The Anchoress highlights the work of Team Rubicon with a moving video, showing combat veterans responding to the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and saving themselves in service to others. 

"Disaster is chaos….what combat veterans do best is chaos management, personnel management and logistical management…This is war…full out combat on the front lines without the violence."

Donate to

A fine rant and a Featured Comment at small dead animals

FEMA, while it is a clusterfrig of titanic proportions, could not cause this much misery on its own. Although they FAILED to have emergency generators at key fuel distribution points (read gas stations) and although they FAILED to have any kind of plan to move food and fuel to the affected areas, and although they FAILED to even have a forward based supply of bottled water and ran out last Friday
SIX YEARS AGO, which found that Long Island Power Authority had not done the basic maintenance required to secure the power grid from weather damage. The maintenance they're talking about here is tree cutting mostly, and replacing bad power poles.
Its because every time they go to cut down a tree, some local Greenies get up a petition or a court order to make them stop. So they stop. So the trees break and knock down the power lines.
But don't get me wrong, there's a ton of corruption and scamming going on too. Paying off inspectors, hockey tickets for town council, that sort of thing. That's why all those flooded switching stations were within reach of a flood in the first place, because the money to move them was skimmed off by graft.
now that there's been a disaster the LIPA wankers are screaming for crews. And they aren't getting them. You know why Davenport? Because volunteer crews from as far away as Florida showed up Monday -before- the storm and cooled their heels until Friday, didn't get any assignments because they WERE NOT UNION, and then those volunteer crews went the hell back home.

Some of the people displaced by the flooding are still in tents. FEMA is supposed to find or make housing for these people, its been a week and a half now, and they are in tents. Looked out the window today? Its cold. People are going to -die- in tents this time of year. It is reported today that some of these cold tent dwelling people started calling the news media, and the FEMA types running the camps started confiscating cameras and refusing to charge up cell phones. No power, they said.
The only organizations in this whole farce that showed up like they meant it have been churches. Not seeing much of that covered in the MSM are we?

Fisherman, who saved lives with knot-tying in Rockaways during Hurricane Sandy, to teach youngsters survival skills

With just four minutes and a series of well-tied knots, Michael McDonnell saved himself and his Belle Harbor neighbors the night Hurricane Sandy hit.

The experienced fisherman and surfer from the Rockaways fashioned a lifeline from electrical wire and twine to ferry a half-dozen people to safety from raging waters and fire.

“You are only as good as the knots you make,” he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

November 11, 2012

Veterans Day: "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Born in England, Wilfred Owen, a soldier in World War I and a poet, was killed in action on November 4, 1918, one week before the Armistice.  He is one of 16 of the Great War poets commemorated in Westminster Abbey's Poet Corner.  The inscription on the slate is Owen's, "My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity."

Pat Barker's novel Regeneration, the first of a trilogy of novels on the First World War, describes the experience of British army officers being treated for shell shock at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh.  Dr. William Rivers, an army psychiatrist, treats the traumatized officers so they can be returned  to battle, among them Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, both poets.

In an interview referenced in the Wikipedia article about the book,  Pat Barker said, "The trilogy is trying to tell something about the parts of war that don't get into the official accounts".


Barker states that she chose to write about World War I "because it's come to stand in for other wars, as a sort of idealism of the young people in August 1914 in Germany and in England. They really felt this was the start of a better world. And the disillusionment, the horror and the pain followed that. I think because of that it's come to stand for the pain of all wars." 

The book was made into a fine film, titled Behind the Lines, which you can find on Netflix.  It closes with this stirring rendition of a poem Wilfred Owen wrote.

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went,
And took the fire with him, and a knife.
And as they sojourned both of them together,
Isaac the first-born spake and said, My Father,
Behold the preparations, fire and iron,
But where the lamb for this burnt offering?
Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,
And builded parapets and trenches there,
And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.
When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,
Saying, Lay not thy hand upon the lad,
Neither do anything to him. Behold,
A ram, caught in the thicket by its horns;
Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him.

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:02 AM | Permalink

November 10, 2012

No gas, no heat, no food within 6 miles, the aftermath of Sandy

"A lot of us out here are fighting for our lives,” said Feliciano, 51. “A lot of people are desperate. They don't know where they are getting their next meal.

After traveling six miles by foot and by bus to bring food home to her five children in Brooklyn’s Coney Island neighborhood, Cherry Barnett broke down in tears.

"I've had it,” she said. “I don't want to live here anymore. We can't live like this."

Gas rationing begins in New York City

 Gas Rationing Nyc

No Heat Until Christmas

When I called Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office to ask why so much of the relief effort had been left to volunteers, I got immense pushback.
Before the storm hit, Mayor Bloomberg said that New York City didn’t need FEMA’s help because the city had “everything under control.” You don’t have to spend much time in Queens to realize that New York City needs all the help it can get. It is extremely fortunate that it is getting so much help from volunteers.
When I asked one FEMA official what his workers were doing, he said they were mainly trying to make sure that residents applied for assistance. That is not insignificant, of course, but it’s not exactly leading the charge.

What do we know about how older adults fare, emotionally, in a disaster like that devastating storm, which destroyed homes and businesses and isolated older adults in darkened apartment buildings, walk-ups and houses?

“They’re afraid of being alone,” she said in a telephone interview a few days after the storm. “They’re worried that if anything happens to them, no one is going to know. They feel that they’ve lost their connection with the world.”

“In geriatrics, we have this idea of the ‘geriatric cascade’ that refers to how a seemingly minor thing can set in motion a functional, cognitive and psychological downward spiral” in vulnerable older adults, said Dr. Mark Lachs, chief of the division of geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College. “Well, the storm was a major thing — a very large disequilibrating event — and its impact is an enormous concern.”
Be mindful of worrisome signs like unusual listlessness, apathy, unresponsiveness, agitation or confusion. These may signal that an older adult has developed delirium, which can be extremely dangerous if not addressed quickly, Dr. Nathanson said.

After Sandy, parish unites to save a couple’s wedding

The damage was so severe and so universal there can be little doubt plans for scores of weddings scheduled for the first weekend in November unraveled including Amanda and Michael’s.

On Nov. 1, Amanda and her mom, Stephanie, turned to their pastor, Msgr. Sam A. Sirianni, telling him that even though the wedding reception was cancelled by the venue because of the hurricane, the couple very much wanted their Church wedding. Despite the fact that the church was without light or heat, Msgr. Sirianni quickly agreed.

And, when Mrs. Santoro asked Msgr. Sirianni if it would be alright to bring in a sheet cake for a very small reception after the wedding, it set off a chain of events that soon escalated into a full-scale parish effort to give the young couple the closest thing they could to the reception of their dreams.

Walter Russell Mead, Hurricane Sandy and the Perils of Nanny State Governance

Here in New York we have a very busy government. It’s worried about the kinds of fats we eat and the size of the soft drinks we buy, and there is no shortage of regulations affecting businesses, street vendors, and individuals. But in all this exciting fine tuning, nobody seems to have bothered to think about the much greater task of keeping floodwaters out of the subway system. Admittedly, getting public support and finding the money for flood protection would be hard, but it is exactly that kind of hard job that governments are supposed to do. Leadership is getting the important things done, not looking busy on secondary tasks while the real needs of the city go quietly unmet.

William McGurn, Sandy and the Failures of Blue-Statism

The irony is that modern American liberalism has become a movement grounded less in practical politics than a sort of religious fervor—and often requiring the same strong faith in the face of disappointment and failure. The difference, of course, is that while religions often promise to deliver in the next world, government is supposed to do it in this one.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

Friends in the real world

Human nature doesn't change; people need other people.  Bonding with a friend is not the same as connecting on Facebook and more and more teenagers don't know how to do it. 

Mark Tapson explores the phenomenon and several new books about it in Alone, together

She relates to her friends through the network, while practically ignoring whomever she is with at the moment. She relates to the places and people she is actually with only insofar as they are suitable for transmission to others in remote locations. The most social girl in her class doesn’t really socialize in the real world at all.

In this era of easy worldwide connectedness, our youth are suffering an unprecedented degree of emotional detachment, depression and loneliness. “The more connected we become, the lonelier we are,” argues Atlantic writer Stephen Marche.
These kids have grown up barely experiencing friendship without an online component, and that element actually detracts from rather than supplements their real human interaction. “It’s hard to know how to act around people now,” says Phil Gibson, a sophomore at University of San Francisco, “because the only thing kids know is how to act on Facebook.”

A surprising percentage of teenagers are beginning to get this and want out. A study by Common Sense Media found that 43 percent of teens wished they could unplug from their technology. Nearly half of teens say they get frustrated with friends for texting, surfing the net, or checking their Facebook when they hang out together.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:14 AM | Permalink

Katrina on the Hudson

Forgotten by FEMA: Staten Island's Sandy Victims vent over lack of aid

Already without power for more than a week in the wake of Sandy, hard-hit residents of the borough's South Shore braved a winter storm Wednesday night, with many -- perhaps hundreds -- huddling in condemned homes and ignoring orders to evacuate out of fear looters would take what little Mother Nature has left them.

"FEMA packed up everything yesterday and left the area," said MaryLou Wong, whose home in the Midland Beach neighborhood was destroyed. "They haven't come back."
One group of residents, calling themselves the "Brown Cross," is patrolling the devastated streets, armed with walkie-talkies, and helping residents clear debris and pump water from their flooded homes.

“We’ve done more for our community than FEMA, the Red Cross and the National Guard combined, directly hitting houses and people in need,” Frank Recce, the 24-year-old longshoreman and Iraq Army veteran who organized the group, told
Green and yellow placards signify the home is safe to re-enter, but for homes with red placards, the city advises residents to “hire a New York State-licensed professional (Registered Architect or Professional Engineer) to file plans with the department and a hire a contractor to make the necessary repairs.

Hiring an architect was not on the immediate horizon for residents who were simply trying to survive.

11 days without power, Sandy victims want answers

On Friday LIPA reported 163,029 customers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and the Rockaway Peninsula were still without power. That figure includes thousands who had lost power in this week's nor'easter, many of whom have had service restored. Families, the elderly and the disabled have no heat or electricity.
"It's a nightmare, and I'm just living each minute. We don't know what's gonna happen the next minute," Schwartz said.

Homeowner Richard Feldman called the recovery effort a failure. "There are tens of thousands of people out there, like me, with no home," Feldman said.

Disaster doesn't protect against the bitter cold

Brian Sotelo is a man who finally has reached his breaking point.

Anger drips from every word as he peers at the tops of white tents rising over the trees in the distance. The depth of despair in his eyes is difficult to fathom.
The Seaside Heights, N.J., resident was at a Toms River, N.J., arena with his wife and three kids a half hour before the shelter opened as superstore Sandy approached last week. On Wednesday, Sotelo was part of a contingent shifted to this makeshift tent city in a parking lot across the road from a racetrack about 30 miles north.

"Sitting there last night you could see your breath," Sotelo said. Outside temperatures hovered below freezing, in the upper 20s and low 30s. "At (the arena) the Red Cross made an announcement that they were sending us to permanent structures up here that had just been redone, that had washing machines and hot showers and steady electric, and they sent us to tent city. We got (expletive).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:13 AM | Permalink

November 5, 2012

Take a break


In this last day before  the election, take a break from all the breathless commentary and doom-mongers and take a look at this Charismatic Animal Portraits by Tim Flach


Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:45 PM | Permalink

Vote NO on Question 2 in Massachusetts

On the Massachusetts ballot this year is Question 2 which would allow physician-assisted suicide.  The sponsor behind the bill is the former Hemlock Society which has renamed itself Death with Dignity.  Corrupting not only language,  the initiative, if it became law, would corrupt the medical profession and pharmacists making them accomplices in suicide.    There is no reason why pain by dying patients can not be treated with medications.

It's an extremely poorly written law with no safeguards against abuse, not even a requirement that the death certificate shows suicide as the cause of death.  Families do not have to be notified nor are patients requesting such assistance required to have a psychiatric evaluation to ensure they are of sound mind.  We should be devoting our efforts to improving palliative care and promoting hospice so that those at the end of life can have a good death, a death with real dignity.  Dying alone after ingesting 100 seconal is not a death with dignity. 

Along with those listed below, I urge a vote NO on Question 2.

The Massachusetts  Medical Society

The proposed safeguards against abuse are insufficient.  Enforcement provisions, investigation authority, oversight, or data verification are not included in the act. A witness to the patient’s signed request could also be an heir.
Assisted suicide is not necessary to improve the quality of life at the end of life. Current law gives every patient the right to refuse lifesaving treatment, and to have adequate pain relief, including hospice and palliative sedation. 
Predicting the end of life within six months is difficult; sometimes the prediction is not accurate. From time to time, patients expected to be within months of their death have gone on to live many more months — or years. In one study, 17 percent of patients outlived their prognosis.
Doctors should not participate in assisted suicide. The chief policy making body of the Massachusetts Medical Society has voted to oppose physician assisted suicide.
“Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer. “Instead of participating in assisted suicide, physicians must aggressively respond to the needs of patients at the end of life. …  Patients must continue to receive emotional support, comfort care, adequate pain control, respect for patient autonomy, and good communication.”

Boston Globe

Authorizing assisted suicide is “not, in itself, an answer to the far deeper question of how to help patients make end of life decisions.”

Boston Herald

Dr. Barbara Rockett, President of American Medical Association’s Foundation

Centuries ago the physician Hippocrates wrote the Hippocratic Oath, which many of us took when we became physicians and guides us in the ethical practice of medicine. It states that when treating patients, physicians will “First do no harm.” It goes on to state that “I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked nor suggest any such counsel.” Physician-assisted suicide is in direct conflict with this statement which, when followed, has protected the patient, physician, society and the family, and at the same time has committed doctors to compassion and human dignity.

Lahey Clinic Medical Ethics Lecture Series: The Arguments Against Question 2 and Physician-Assisted Suicide

Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians.

Joseph Gravel, president of the MassAFP, said in a statement. “This certainly includes end-of-life care. It is clear that we need to continue to work to provide those suffering from serious illnesses, depression, and other conditions that can lead to hopelessness highly effective palliative and hospice treatments that are now available.

Committee Against Physician-Assisted Suicide

American Medical Association

Allowing physicians to participate in assisted suicide would cause more harm than good. Physician-assisted suicide is fundamentally incompatible with the physician’s role as healer, would be difficult or impossible to control, and would pose serious societal risks.

Suicide is Always a Tragedy

Cardinal Sean O'Malley to Catholics:  It would bring spiritual death, a cheapening of human life, and a corrupting of the medical profession. It means making the pharmacists, doctors, nurses, family members, friends and society itself, accomplices in a suicide. Our task is to help prevent suicide and provide the very best palliative and hospice care for our terminally ill loved ones.

Cardinal O'Malley to non-Catholics:  Suicide is never a dignified way to die.  Suicide always impacts others beyond the individual.  Doctors strongly oppose.  Disability advocates strongly oppose.  Terminal diagnoses are often wrong.  Question 2 is strongly flawed (ingestion of 100 pills of Seconal without a doctor present;  no witnesses need be present; no oversight of drug after dispensed; no enforcement provisions, investigative authority, oversight or data verification).  No requirement for psychiatric evaluation.  Complex issues like this should be decided in a legislative context not by ballot initiative.

Vicky Kennedy, widow of Ted Kennedy in CapeCodOnline

The language of the proposed law is not about bringing family together to make end of life decisions; it's intended to exclude family members from the actual decision-making process to guard against patients' being pressured to end their lives prematurely. It's not about doctors administering drugs such as morphine to ease patients' suffering; it's about the oral ingestion of up to 100 capsules without requirement or expectation that a doctor be present. It's not about giving choice and self-determination to patients with degenerative diseases like ALS or Alzheimer's; those patients are unlikely to qualify under the statute. It's not, in my judgment, about death with dignity at all.
My late husband Sen. Edward Kennedy called quality, affordable health care for all the cause of his life. Question 2 turns his vision of health care for all on its head by asking us to endorse patient suicide — not patient care — as our public policy for dealing with pain and the financial burdens of care at the end of life. We're better than that. We should expand palliative care, pain management, nursing care and hospice, not trade the dignity and life of a human being for the bottom line.
When my husband was first diagnosed with cancer, he was told that he had only two to four months to live, that he'd never go back to the U.S. Senate, that he should get his affairs in order, kiss his wife, love his family and get ready to die.

But that prognosis was wrong. Teddy lived 15 more productive months. During that time, he cast a key vote in the Senate that protected payments to doctors under Medicare; made a speech at the Democratic Convention; saw the candidate he supported elected president of the United States and even attended his inauguration; received an honorary degree; chaired confirmation hearings in the Senate; worked on the reform of health care; threw out the first pitch on opening day for the Red Sox; introduced the president when he signed the bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act; sailed his boat; and finished his memoir "True Compass," while also getting his affairs in order, kissing his wife, loving his family and preparing for the end of life.

Physician-Assisted Suicide Is Not Progressive  Ira Byock in the Atlantic

Right to die" is just a slogan. No civil right to commit suicide exists in any social compact.
it's fair to say that most social conservatives ardently oppose assisted suicide, while a clear majority on the political left support legalization. That's the case in Massachusetts where Question 2 is on November's ballot, and according to recent polling is very likely to pass.

I am an outlier, in that I am a registered Democrat and progressive, as well as a physician who has cared for people with life-threatening conditions for more than three decades. I support universal health care, voting rights, disability rights, women's rights, Planned Parenthood, gay marriage, alternative energy, and gun control. I yearn to see an end to the war on drugs and the war in Afghanistan. And, I am convinced that legalization of physician-assisted suicide is something my fellow progressives should fear and loathe.
In today's "Newspeak" the Hemlock Society morphed into Compassion and Choices, which promotes "death with dignity" and objects to the word "suicide," preferring "aid-in-dying" and "self-deliverance." These terms sound more wholesome, but the undisguised act is a morally primitive, socially regressive, response to basic human needs.
America is failing people who are facing the end of life and those who love and care for them. Giving licensed physicians the authority to write lethal prescriptions is not a progressive thing to do.

When Your Doctor Is Your Executioner

It was a short step from there to deciding that illness and suffering needed a quick and “merciful” end. Rather than use the pain medications we have and care for those who are elderly or infirm, we quickly moved to the argument that killing them was the “moral” and “humane” thing to do. First we called it “mercy killing.” When that gentle phrase became tainted, the advertising folks supplied a new one. Today we call it “death with dignity.”  Somewhere along the line, we lost the understanding of just how dangerous a doctor who no longer feels a responsibility to be a healer can be.

Suicide by Choice?  Not so fast

NEXT week, voters in Massachusetts will decide whether to adopt an assisted-suicide law. As a good pro-choice liberal, I ought to support the effort. But as a lifelong disabled person, I cannot.
My problem, ultimately, is this: I’ve lived so close to death for so long that I know how thin and porous the border between coercion and free choice is, how easy it is for someone to inadvertently influence you to feel devalued and hopeless — to pressure you ever so slightly but decidedly into being “reasonable,” to unburdening others, to “letting go.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:37 PM | Permalink

Pulling together in Sandy's aftermath and Get up and Go

 Composite Sandy Comingtogether

The Kindness of Strangers:  Pulling together in Sandy's aftermath

A heart-warming collection of photographs and tweets has captured the myriad acts of kindness from the past week, as the hardships of Hurricane Sandy brought devastated communities across the tri-state area together.

From the Mayor of Newark inviting constituents into his home to charge their phones and watch DVDs to an East Village doctor offering free treatments and kids selling cookies to raise money for the relief effort, the stories encapsulate how, in their time of need, people were helping each other.
There have been so many altruistic acts during the storm and its aftermath that a Facebook page called 'Hurricane Sandy Acts of Kindness' has been set up, giving those who received help the opportunity to thank their saviors and share their stories.
One image shows Staten Island resident Emily Ellington on Friday as she handed out one of 40 pizzas to locals devastated by the storm.

Scores of restaurants including The Dutch in Manhattan and Lonestar Taco served up free food to the many residents who were left for five days without power, food or fresh water, tweeting the news to their followers.
Many of those who still had electricity offered up their power plugs so passers by could charge their phones and contact loved ones.

Newark Mayor Cory Booker used Twitter to invite Hurricane Sandy victims to his house to charge their electronics, watch movies, and even get a free lunch, warming the hearts of his constituents.

East Village doctor Dave Ores offered his services to anyone in need of help, posting on his tumblr, 'I'm open today if I can help anyone. Until 6pm Spread the word. Thanks. 189 east 2nd street btw A and B.'

And then there's just plain Get up and Go

Today, my husband witnessed a wondrous act of resourcefulness. A man with a horse trailer hitched to his truck was filling up individual 5 gallon jugs of gas in order to transport them back to New Jersey.

He went out into the wide world of American plenty that lies just beyond disaster. He didn't wait like a hopeless fool in a line of idling cars for gasoline that is rationed by the spoonful. His neighbors hired him because he had a big, gas eating truck, and gave him money and jugs and sent him to Lancaster County to go shopping. He brought back not only gasoline, but food, water, clothing, blankets, batteries, and other things they might need. Those people are heroes, because they used their God-given talents and brains and didn't go crying to the cameras, asking for the government to come and help.

Volunteers Flock to Disaster Areas, Overwhelming City Relief Centers

Surfers with shovels fanned out in the Rockaways in Queens, helping residents clear their homes of mud and sand. An army of cyclists strapped packages of toilet paper to their backs and rode into Belle Harbor, Queens. Children broke open piggy banks, bought batteries and brought them to the parking lot of the Aqueduct Racetrack and Resorts World Casino, where a police inspector and his family set up a donation center for blankets, bottled water and other goods.

Many New Yorkers graced with power and heat in their homes on Sunday found it difficult to sit still as images of homeless and desolate city residents filled their television screens. They streamed into the hardest-hit sections of the city, at times nearly colliding with other would-be volunteers and overwhelming city relief centers.

“It feels like we all had the same impulse: This is my city and I want to do something to help it,” said Esther Pan Sloane, of Roosevelt Island, who drove a carload of supplies from Jackson Heights to a post office on Rockaway Beach where food and clothing were being handed out.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 AM | Permalink

Health round-up: Boosting brain power, LMTZ for Alzheimer's, Diagnosing cancer in 20 minutes, Redheads and melanoma

Taking up sport in middle age boosts brain power

‘You can give someone a cholesterol-lowering pill, you can give someone blood sugar-lowering medicine, but they have no impact on cognitive function.  But exercise can do all of that – and more.’

Exercise Prevents Dementia in Some Seniors

Older people who are living independently but have signs of cerebral damage may lower their risk of having progressive cognitive impairment or dementia if they remain physically active, researchers found.

Everyday drugs 'can help fight dementia as developing new medicines is too costly and slow

Experts believe antibiotics, acne pills and other routine treatments already in bathroom cabinets could double as dementia drugs.  They said it is time to re-examine medicines already in circulation as cheaper, quicker alternatives to new treatments.
Professor Clive Ballard said: ‘Defeating dementia is one of the biggest challenges facing both  medicine and society as a whole. Developing new drugs is incredibly important but it comes with a huge price tag and, for those affected by dementia, an unimaginable wait.  Everyday drugs will have passed multiple tiers of expensive safety tests and so could be prescribed for dementia in five to ten years."

Some of the drugs they are looking at.
• Diabetes medications eventide and liraglutide, which have been shown to stimulate the brain.
• Minocycline, an antibiotic for acne, and acitretin
• Acitretin, a drug used to treat psoriasis which researchers found modifies the way proteins linked to dementia form.
• High blood pressure medications including Nilvadipine, from the calcium channel blockers family.

Pill that halts Alzheimers could be here in four years

A pill said to halt the devastating onset of Alzheimer’s disease could be on the market within four years, scientists said yesterday.  Believed to be more than twice as good as anything already available, it could greatly slow or even halt the progression of the cruel illness.  Given early enough, it could stop Alzheimer’s from ever developing, an international dementia conference was told yesterday.

A version of the twice-a-day pill – developed by British scientists – has already been tested on patients, with ‘unprecedented’ results.  Its inventor, Professor Claude Wischik, of Aberdeen University, said: ‘It flatlines the disease. If you get in early, you can pull people back from the brink.’
The new drug, known only as LMTX, works in a different way to current treatments and to many of the Alzheimer’s tablets and jabs in development, which target the brain’s chemistry or the build-up of a brain-clogging protein called beta-amyloid.  LMTX, in contrast, dissolves the ‘tangles’ of protein that are a hallmark of the disease and spread through the brain like an infection, stopping them working from within.

An earlier version of LMTX, called Remember, has already been tested on patients with promising results.  Given to men and women with mild to moderate dementia, the Remember capsules slowed the progression of the disease by 90 per cent for two years.

The groundbreaking device that diagnoses cancer in just 20 minutes - AND tells doctors which drug will treat it

A groundbreaking device that can diagnose cancer in just 20 minutes is being developed by British scientists.  The world's first tumor profiler, as it is known, will allow doctors, nurses and pharmacists to quickly identify all known types of cancer while the patient waits.
Scientists say the Q-Cancer device will have a dramatic impact on the rapid and accurate diagnosis of cancer….The device makes use of advanced nanotechnology, analyzing submicroscopic amounts of tissue to work out the type of cancer, its genetic make-up and how far it has developed.
'As far as we are aware, QuantuMDx’s current underlying technologies, which can break up a sample and extract the DNA in under five minutes represents a world first for complex molecular diagnostics.

Redheads at a higher risk of melanoma even without the sun

It is well-known that redheads and others with fair skin have a higher risk of developing skin cancer, because they have less natural protection against the damaging effect of the sun.  Now researchers have found another cancer risk factor apart from being sensitive to UV radiation. Redheads have a pigment in their skin that can actively contribute to the development of melanoma.
The study, published in the journal Nature, explains that several types of the pigment melanin are found in the skin. A dark brown or black form called eumelanin is usually found in people with dark hair or skin while a blond-to-red pigment called pheomelanin is predominant in people with red hair, freckles and fair skin.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

November 3, 2012


Those of us on  the East Coast  were warned for days about the coming "Frankenstorm" so it is beyond my understanding how FEMA didn't hear about it.

How else can you explain the fact the Federal Emergency Management Agency ran out of water for the storm victims?

In contrast to its stated policy, FEMA failed to have any meaningful supplies of bottled water -- or any other supplies, for that matter -- stored in nearby facilities as it had proclaimed it would on its website. This was the case despite several days advance warning of the impending storm.

Why didn't they stockpile water, food and gasoline ?

FEMA only began to solicit bids for vendors to provide bottled water for distribution to Hurricane Sandy victims on Friday - 4 days after the storm -  for delivery on Monday.

Meanwhile, Nestle Waters donates more than 775,000 bottles of water and looks as it was awarded the FEMA contract for 5 million bottles of water.

 New-York-Magazine-Cover Sandy

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:03 PM | Permalink

"We are ordinary people and our mission is a simple one"

Daniel Greenfield We Are Those Who Stand for the Day

We are ordinary people and our mission is a simple one. We are the preservers of the present. Our task is to stand against the destroyers, the dislocated in mind and body, drawing up their plans for mutant civilizations, their distorted visions of the past and future set in ideological dogmas, for the plain and simple things of the present. While they seek to take away our nations, our beliefs and our children away from us, we fight to preserve them and to keep our world with us.

We have no grand schemes or manifestos, no glorious visions of caliphates and socialist republics, our vision is of our homes and our stores, our families and our friends, the communities that we have built and the small things that we have done every day of our lives for the sake of all these things. These small things, the little uncounted freedoms and the self-chosen responsibilities are our manifestos, they are our battle cries and they are what we fight for. They are our world and we hold them now in the light of day against the destroyers who would bring against us the fall of night.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:32 PM | Permalink

November 2, 2012

Generators for Marathons, Not Victims; It's worse than you think

 Nypost Abusepower

Michael Bloomberg Wants People To Run Over The Dead Bodies Of Sandy's Victims

"We're gonna die! We're gonna freeze! We've got 90-year-old people!"-A Staten Island resident who doesn't appreciate how important the NYC Marathon is.

There are no words to describe Michael Bloomberg's decision to allow the NYC Marathon to be run as scheduled this Sunday. If there were they would include, callous, despicable, contemptible and criminal. But those words do not convey the level of stupidity and cruelty involved.

Each year the NYC Marathon starts its five borough tour of the city on Staten Island. Right now Staten Island is a disaster area in every sense of the term. The majority of the deaths in NYC from Sandy happened on Staten Island and vast swaths of the Island (which is essentially a barrier island for Manhattan) are still flooded, homes have been destroyed, people are missing (door to door searches for the dead haven't begun yet) and survivors have been left with out food, water and shelter.

Just yesterday the bodies of two young boys who were ripped from their mother's arms by raging floodwater were discovered.

It's much worse than we knew in NYC.  Outrage In The Powerless Zone: A Dispatch From Downtown Manhattan

I just returned from Manhattan. I ran for 5 hours with stops, covering 12 miles in total, scoping the island from west to east. You will not hear these stories from the Mayor or Governor; these are my observations, informed by discussions with real people who live in lower Manhattan:

1) Virtually every retailer, restaurant and grocery store south of 38th street is CLOSED. This is in an area covering 8 square miles. I only observed a handful of bodegas in Soho and the East Village, along with Ben’s Pizza on W3rd and MacDougal serving customers. Whole Foods Union Square had a sign reading “because there is no electricity, we cannot open.” There is no food, other than what you have in your refrigerator.

2) To that point, there are close to 400,000 people living below 38th street without power. The mayor earlier said it could be 3 days without power; some Con Ed guys I spoke with in the East Village think it could be longer. Nobody knows.
4) For now, this is an economic crisis - hourly workers cannot be paid, freelancers have no clients, small businesses have no sales, office buildings are shuttered. In my estimate, the lost output is $1 billion dollars EVERY SINGLE DAY that goes by without power for lower Manhattan. Included in this number is the shutdown of our major airports and transportation system. (Note that NYC’s economy generates $2.8 bn daily and over $1 trillion annually - which makes it the world’s 17th largest economy, if it was a country).

5) There is no running water or flushing toilets for people living in the Jacob Riis Houses and surrounding NYCHA buildings on the Lower East Side. In my estimate, this is roughly 20,000 people. One family I spoke with is packing their bags and moving to Brooklyn until services are restored. But it did not appear that all residents were evacuating, even as their toilets did not flush.

6) I did not witness a single Red Cross Truck or FEMA Vehicle or in lower Manhattan. Recall the assistance these agencies provided after 9/11 - this is NOT HAPPENING. There are bound to be hundreds of elderly people, rich and poor, who live on the upper floors of buildings with elevators that are now disabled. IF POWER IS NOT RESTORED, THIS WILL MOVE FROM BEING AN ECONOMIC DISASTER TO A HUMANITARIAN DISASTER.

7) If you think Chinatown normally has an unpleasant odor, imagine what it smells like 24 hours following no refrigeration. Street vendors were trying to unload perishables at bargain prices. I saw a fish weighing roughly 20 pounds and spanning 3 feet from head to tail go to a buyer for $1 dollar. $1 dollar!!!!!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:47 PM | Permalink

November 1, 2012

Signs of the Times

Using IVF/Surrogacy to Create Anchor Babies  Wesley J. Smith

What a scam. IVF clinics connecting Chinese couples with American surrogate mothers to create new U.S. citizens.

Move to grant personhood rights to great apes, cetaceans, and elephants  while denying personhood rights  to developing humans.

"Plant rights" on NPR

The environmental movement is growing increasingly radical and anti human.  Taking a beat from the animal rights movement, we have seen increasing advocacy for human-stifling agendas such as “nature rights” (now the law of two countries and nearly 30 U.S. municipalities) ”plant dignity” (in Switzerland’s constitution), “river personhood” (recently enacted in New Zealand) and “ecocide,” which would make any and all large scale human uses of the land and exploitation of resources a “crime against peace” akin to genocide and ethnic cleansing. These are not promoted in odd Internet sites, but rather are discussed earnestly and with great respect in such liberal outlets such as the New York Times. Latest example, on NPR:
I have been pounding the drum that plant rights, nature rights, etc. are inimical to our thriving and liberty because they undermine human exceptionalism and treat rights as something that are ubiquitous and common.  I mean, if everything has rights, really nothing does.

Lesbian TV producer loses custody of her biological daughter in legal first after judge rules ex-lover is 'more responsible parent'

Brook Altman and Allison Scollar had a child six years ago after a friend donated sperm.  When couple split, there was a bitter battle over who should have custody.  Altman fled with daughter to California and accused Scollar of child abuse.  Judge ruled Scollar was more responsible and had child's best interests at heart.

Man sues wife over ugly baby and wins, then a DNA test proved the baby was his and his wife confessed to $100,000 worth of plastic surgery in Korea before they met.

"I married my wife out of love, but as soon as we had our first daughter, we began having marital issues," he told the Irish Times. "Our daughter was incredibly ugly, to the point where it horrified me."

Progressive experts: Please, don’t bother us with the facts

“Experts” say gays can’t change, and they do so despite the actual evidence of men who claim to have changed (or maybe just subordinated their homosexual desires).  There it is, in one paragraph:  Thousands of men assert that they have changed — and experts claim that they’re lying because their claims run counter to theory.
Ex-Gay’ Men Fight Back Against View That Homosexuality Can’t Be Changed
in California, their sense of siege grew more intense in September when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law banning use of widely discredited sexual “conversion therapies” for minors — an assault on their own validity, some ex-gay men feel….But many ex-gays have continued to seek help from such therapists and men’s retreats, saying their own experience is proof enough that the treatment can work.

Scientists Turn Stem Cells into Sex Cells

This week, researchers working with mice reported in the journal Nature that they had successfully used stem cells to create oocytes (egg cells) for the first time. A similar approach could presumably be developed eventually for human oocytes.
Employing adult stem cells to treat infertility and avoid the use of donated eggs could actually be a way to restore the integrity of the family and of human reproduction. Ensuring that technologies like this are used in ways that serve the human good rather than demean human dignity is a central task of bioethics, a task that calls for not just a clear understanding of the science but also public deliberation and, if necessary, regulation.

'Three people, one baby' public consultation begins 
after UK scientists created "designer embryos" containing DNA from a man and two women

California Multiple Parents Bill: Proposed Legislation Would Allow Children To Have Three Or More Parents

The measure doesn't expand the current definition of what qualities as a "parent." It simply allows for that definition to apply to three or more people--something that could easily become an issue in cases of surrogate parents or if a non-blood relative voluntarily signs a legal statement of parenthood.

Making babies to make ends meet

I’ve given birth to three girls. I cannot imagine carrying a child for a stranger. When people say, “That’s so much money!” I say, “This is not a job where you take a break, lie down and rest, go on vacation for a week. She’s pregnant 24-7. Oh, and there’s the part where she could die.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:52 PM | Permalink

Superstorm Sandy

I have been at a loss of words as I try to process the enormous amount of destruction that Hurricane Sandy wrought.  I've found that the Daily Mail has been the best for coverage and photos though I am laid low by some of the stories.  It is impossible to imagine the devastation brought to so many lives.

Mother whose two boys were swept out of her arms in superstore was left screaming on street for 12 hours by neighbors who refused to help her

Police find bodies of Glenda Moore's sons Connor, 4, and Brandon, 2.

'Even momma got outta house to loot new shirt': Looters brag on Twitter

The tragic faces of Sandy's young victims.

• Off-duty NYPD officer Artur Kasprzak drowned saving seven family members, including 15-month-old son .
• Two friends in Brooklyn, Jessie Streich-Kest, 24, and Jacob Vogelman, 23, struck by tree while walking their dog - but bodies were not discovered until next day.
• Two-year-old and four-year-old feared dead after mother's SUV flipped, while at least three children killed by falling trees.
• Elderly residents also succumbed to storm's strength including Herminia St John, 75, who died when her respirator stopped during power cut.
• Lauren Abraham, 23, was electrocuted by a downed power cable having gone out to take photographs.
• Tony Laino, 29, was killed in his bed when a tree crashed through his house.
• Richard Everett, 54, and his wife Elizabeth killed in their car by falling tree in Mendham, New Jersey as their children looked on.

On Staten Island, Where is the Red Cross?

Whenever there’s a drive in Staten Island, we give openly and honestly. Where are they? Where are they? I was at the South Shore yesterday, people were buried in their homes. There the dogs are trying to find bodies. The people there, the neighbors who had no electricity, were making soup. Making soup. It’s very emotional because the lack of a response. The lack of a response. They’re supposed to be here….They should be on the front lines fighting, and helping the people.”
We’re talking about getting water of the tunnel. Let’s get the water out of the tunnel tomorrow, let’s get the people out of the water today. There’ve been thousands of people who have been displaced. There are people who are cold, who are hungry, who are without a place to go, and looking for warmth. There are people still trapped. Yet we’re talking about marathons and tunnels. I walked on the rooftop of a house yesterday, I stepped on it because the debris that surrounded it was level with the rooftop. That’s what happened here on Staten Island.”

I leave it to Walter Russell Mead in Nature and Nature's God

While the lights went out across Manhattan tonight, and the city that calls itself the capital of the world was cut off from the mainland as flood waters thundered through its streets, many people around the world watched the spectacle and were reminded just how fragile the busy world we humans build around us really is.
Into this busy, self involved world Hurricane Sandy has burst. Sharks have been photographed (or at least photo shopped) swimming in the streets of New Jersey towns; waves sweep across the Lower East Side; transformers explode on both sides of the Hudson as salt water surges into the tunnels and subways. For a little while at least, New Yorkers are reminded that we live in a world shaped by forces that are bigger than we are…
The strongest walls, the sturdiest retirement plans stuffed with stocks and CDs, the best doctors cannot protect us from that final encounter with the force that made and will someday unmake us.  Coming to terms with that reality is the most important thing that any of us can do. A storm like this one is an opportunity to do exactly that. It reminds us that what we like to call ‘normal life’ is fragile and must someday break apart. If we are wise, we will take advantage of this smaller, passing storm to think seriously about the greater storm that is coming for us all.
That is something we all need to do. It involves a recognition of our helplessness and insufficiency before the mysteries and limits of life. Like the First Step in the Twelve Step programs, it begins with an acknowledgment of failure and defeat. We each try to build a self-sufficient world, a sturdy little life that is proof against storms and disasters — but none of us can really get that done.  Strangely, that admission of weakness opens the door to a new kind of strength. To acknowledge and accept weakness is to ground our lives more firmly in truth, and it turns out that to be grounded in reality is to become more able and more alive. Denial is hard work; those who try to stifle their awareness of the limits of human life and ambition in the busy rounds of daily life never reach their full potential.
To open your eyes to the fragility of life and to our dependence on that which is infinitely greater than ourselves is to enter more deeply into life. To come to terms with the radical insecurity in which we all live is to find a different and more reliable kind of security. The joys and occupations of ordinary life aren’t all there is to existence, but neither are the great and all-destroying storms. There is a calm beyond the storm, and the same force that sends these storms into our lives offers a peace and security that no storm can destroy. As another one of the psalms puts it, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Accepting your limits and your dependence on things you can’t control is the first step on the road toward finding that joy.

Mead again on the Perils of Nanny State Governance

The New York Times notes that scientists and flood experts have been warning about the risks of flooding in New York for years and have suggested everything from levees to floodgates in New York Harbor to minimize potential damage. Yet neither the city nor the state government has taken serious steps to act on these suggestions:
The problem with nanny state governance isn’t just that it’s intrusive. It isn’t just that it stifles business with over-regulation, and it isn’t just that it empowers busybodies and costs money. It’s that it distracts government from the really big jobs that it ought to be doing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink