February 28, 2013

Pope Benedict Leaves the Vatican

I couldn't agree more with William Oddie who wrote We have all now grown used to the idea of the Pope’s abdication: the reality will be harder to take in. It remains a great sorrow to have to live through


But his departure is still a terrible blow. As I wrote after the announcement, “Catholics love their pope; and for the pope simply to disappear, for this beloved person to say, in effect, that after the end of this month we will never see him or hear from him again is like a kind of bereavement without a death and the final closure that a good death brings.”
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Queen sent a very powerful message, read out by the British Ambassador at a memorial service in St Thomas’s Church, Fifth Avenue: it included an unforgettable sentence: “grief is the price we pay for love”. Don’t misunderstand me: this isn’t of course a tragedy on anything like the same level of desperate horror. But the premature end of this particular pontificate, all the same, still feels to me to be not without its tragic dimension
This has been a very great pope; and part of his greatness has been his unique combination of great intellect with a very real and visible fatherly tenderness for all his people. Intellect and love, reason and faith; his has been a genius unique in its power to bring together means of perception and understanding which are often thought to operate in quite distinct ways, even to be incompatible.  In many of his addresses, writes Professor Tracey Rowland, in a brilliant assessment of his pontificate, “Benedict … emphasized that love and reason are the twin pillars of all reality. The relationships between love-and-reason and faith-and-reason were themes to which he often returned. One sensed that he was trying to reconcile the Thomist and Franciscan traditions in a higher synthesis: rather than a system which gives a typically Thomist priority to truth, or one which gives a typically Bonaventurian priority to love, he insisted that love and reason are equally foundationally significant – hence the image of ‘twin pillars’.”

He won't be the Holy Father anymore, Oddie writes, but the Holy Grandfather

The Anchoress calls the Pope's resignation, the supernatural gambit

Benedict, having faced it, realized that the Church’s disorientation—and thus the world’s—would not be righted by yet another professorial speech, or another pilgrimage. A ship in profound danger requires a profound action, and Benedict has taken it. He is throwing all of us into the arms of the Lord in the belief that, as he said after his announcement, “the Church belongs to Christ, whose care and guidance will never be lacking.”

You might call it a supernatural gambit as in one move Benedict is both teaching by example and subverting the world in a way perhaps only the evil one understands; the prayers and penances of a Vicar of Christ, unimpeded by the trappings and distractions of an office, will be powerfully efficacious.  Those who think Benedict has simply lain down his staff do not understand that he lays it down to pick up a flamethrower of sorts. For however long he lives as a monastic, he will be a conduit of prayer, praise, adoration and supplication for the rest of the world. He is taking on huge duty.

 Popeb16 Window Candle

The Pope's Final General Audience

Speaking on life after his resignation goes into effect, the Pope stated that he could not return to a private life, nor spend his time travelling or attending meetings and conferences. “I am not abandoning the cross,” he said, “but remain in a new way with the Crucified Lord. I no longer carry the power of the office for the government of the Church, but in the service of prayer I remain, so to speak, within St. Peter's bounds.”

Pope's Final Tweet

"Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives."

Benedict XVI Leaves Vatican

During his last general audience Wednesday, Benedict XVI invited firm trust in the Lord, "like children in the arms of God."  The serenity of that trust has been reflected on his face today, the last of his pontificate. This morning, he addressed the cardinals for the last time, and then greeted each of them personally.

Pope's Address to Cardinals on last day of his pontificate.

"Among you, among the College of Cardinals, there is also the future Pope, to whom already today I promise my unconditional reverence and obedience"

 Pope Leaves Vatican

From Castel Gandolfo, Pope's Final Farewell

"I wish still with my heart, my love, my prayer, my reflection, with all my inner strength, to work for the common good and the good of the Church and of humanity"
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

Thou shalt report, not distort.

Elizabeth Lev has done a smash-up job in The Ten Commandments of Reporting on the Vatican

Make no mistake, information is power and those who wield it are accountable.

1)    Thou shalt leave your personal prejudices at the door. I have often seen Al Qaeda treated with more respect than Pope Benedict and the Roman Catholic Church. While you may disagree with the Church’s teaching on any number of things, there is no excuse to let your personal agenda define your coverage. In reporting on other world events, it is unthinkable to insert one’s personal ideas, so why is it acceptable when reporting on the Church? If all you can focus on is birth control, gay marriage and abortion and how the papacy should change its teaching, you should probably just go home. Whether you agree or disagree isn’t really the question. Your job is to understand and to report, to give background and help viewers and readers to get a sense of the bigger picture. Pope Benedict XVI has led the 1.2 billion members of the Catholic Church for 8 years, drawn crowds of millions in gatherings worldwide and brought a message of hope and love to the farthest reaches of the earth. The Pope’s CV is impressive to say the least, and he deserves respect.
4)  Thou shalt report, not distort. Millions are unable to follow these events in person, many more will not have the option of channel surfing or perusing myriad blogs for news.  It is the responsibility of those who are present to report with clarity and accuracy. Many people deeply care about what is going on, and would be grateful for an unbiased account of this event.
8)    Thou shalt not resurrect anachronistic terminology. …. Constant reference to a sex abuse “crisis” is another expression that now makes no sense. Crisis is a critical event or a turning point. The crisis in  clerical sex abuse took place in 2001, over 10 years ago. Since then the Church has instituted guidelines and screening so that from an average of 50 cases per year in the 70s and 80s there were only 7 credible accusations of abuse in 2010 out of 39,000 priests in the US. If any institution has shown the world how to turn things around, it is the Catholic Church.  Talk of a “crisis” can only stem from disingenuousness or lack of imagination.

9)    Thou shalt not apply ecclesiastical affirmative action. The Church is universal but doesn’t need to fill quotas. There are Catholics all over the world. Just walk into a Pontifical University and the colors, languages and cultures are as numerous and varied as Raphael’s pigments. The Church elected popes from Africa (Milziade 311-314), and Asia (John V from Syria 685-686) long before the Americas were even discovered. The idea that the Church should select a new pope merely based on skin color or somatic features is absurd and unnecessary.

10) Thou shalt not dismiss age or beauty. The Church has been around for a very long time and has weathered arrested, disgraced and murdered popes, invasions, persecutions and the complete loss of their lands. It has survived a reformation and a Risorgimento and is still here. For every disaster, the Church has produced something beautiful to show for it, whether it be a work of art, a spectacular structure or the glorious life of a saint. St Peter’s was made during the reformation, the Pietà carved during one of the most corrupt reigns of the Renaissance, and St Maximilian Kolbe flowered in the Holocaust. The Church knows that hardships come to an end, but in the moments of greatest pressure our finest diamonds are forged.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

Washington Post openly confesses bias in reporting on social issues

The Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton is leaving and will not be replaced.  His column Is the Post 'pro-gay'? reveals the astonishingly bigotry of an anonymous reporter when it comes to social conservatism in a three-way dialogue including a reader who wrote in to say

that Post stories too often minimize the conservative argument: “The overlooked ‘other side’ on the gay issue is quite legitimate, and includes the Pope, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, evangelist Billy Graham, scholars such as Robert George of Princeton, and the millions of Americans who believe in traditional marriage and oppose redefining marriage into nothingness. … Is there no room in The Post for those who support the male-female, procreative model of marriage?”
Replied the reporter: “The reason that legitimate media outlets routinely cover gays is because it is the civil rights issue of our time. Journalism, at its core, is about justice and fairness, and that’s the ‘view of the world’ that we espouse; therefore, journalists are going to cover the segment of society that is still not treated equally under the law.”
The reader: “Contrary to what you say, the mission of journalism is not justice. Defining justice is a political matter, not journalistic. Journalism should be about accuracy and fairness.

Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion gives the Post what-for in WPost: Yes, we fear and loath religious traditionalists.

Why, we all know how much the Washington Post cares about civil rights, right? I couldn’t even begin to quantify how much ink has been spilled advocating for an entire class of humans deemed not deserving of even the most fundamental right to life. Why, sometimes I think the Washington Post almost cares too much about the scourge of abortion, don’t you? Oh wait, that’s right, they actually don’t care about that civil right at all. What’s more, they don’t even agree that the unborn human’s right to life *is* a civil rights issue — at least for the unborn children involved.

And guess what, unnamed reporter and your army of close-minded scribes: Whether or not there *is* a civil right to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples or other groupings is precisely — precisely — the debate at hand.
Refusing to learn the arguments of those who oppose changing the law must end. It simply must end. The ignorance and bigotry with which reporters have covered this topic is a scandal. It’s destroying civil political discourse, it’s embarrassing and can’t continue.

Reporters don’t need to change their deeply-held biases in favor of changing marriage law. But they do need to learn even a little bit about the arguments of those who oppose such a change.
Failure to understand the basic (and, frankly, not even that difficult to understand) arguments of those who oppose redefining marriage is inexcusable bigotry, particularly after years of witnessing what happens in the coverage of this debate. Reporters close their eyes, slam their fingers in their ears and shout “racist!” anytime a traditional marriage defender opens his or her mouth. -
Pexton’s column becomes something of an embarrassment, too. He reveals himself as blind as the reporter to any angle on this story other than the one advanced by advocates of redefining marriage. The only “fairness” story he can see is from the perspective of same-sex couples wanting to change marriage law. He can’t even imagine how redefining marriage law would affect marriage norms, business law, religious liberty, the rights of children, or any of the other myriad “fairness” stories that a truly diverse and open-minded press might be able to stumble upon in the midst of the cheerleading for change.
Pexton’s statement reveals just how blind he and his colleagues are to how changes in law have many intended and unintended consequences that affect everyone’s freedom.

To sum up then, Pexton and the unnamed Post reporter refuse to hear the arguments of those who oppose redefining marriage, make incorrect claims as to what those arguments are, issue slurs of racism and religious zealotry against those who disagree. 

George Neumayr comments in Equating Christians with Racists

Last Sunday, the Washington Post’s ombudsman casually revealed that the official policy of reporters at the paper is to treat opponents of gay marriage as the moral equivalent of racists.
In other words, reporters don’t cover debates but decide them. On the basis of their notions of “justice and fairness,” they tailor all coverage and determine in advance the winners of debates. This admission—that there is no difference between the paper’s front page and editorial page—would have been bad enough on its own. But then the reporter dug the hole deeper by telling the reader that opponents of gay marriage are no more legitimate than segregationists: “As for accuracy, should the media make room for racists, i.e. those people who believe that black people shouldn’t marry white people? Any story on African-Americans wouldn’t be wholly accurate without the opinion of a racist, right?”

Rod Dreher sums it up.  WaPo: ‘Error Has No Rights’

In a nutshell, when it comes to reporting on the debate and events around the same-sex marriage issue, the Post feels it has no responsibility to report fairly and accurately on people who oppose same-sex marriage, because they are morally wrong.
To the extent this opinion informs the Post‘s coverage — and I would bet my paycheck it does — it is a gross abdication of professional responsibility. The reader isn’t asking the Post to take the side of traditionalists; he or she is simply asking the Post to report the news in an evenhanded way. And the reporter refuses to do so……the reporter lays it right out there, saying that bigotry in news reporting against orthodox Christians and other marriage traditionalists is an act of virtue.
The contempt with which so many within newsrooms hold social conservatives and traditional Christians is real. Stories like this one temper my sorrow over the demise of my profession. They really do hate people like me, and consider us not worthy of the basic fairness they would use in approaching their reporting on criminals and terrorists.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 AM | Permalink

20 years since the War on America Began

Twenty years ago on Tuesday, the first attack on the World Trade Center killed six and injured more than a thousand people. 

Jonathan Tobin writes The Day the War on America Began.

Unlike in 1993, the problem is no longer whether our intelligence and security establishment is serious about fighting terror, but rather whether we as a nation have the will and the patience to go on doing so. The willingness of the Obama administration to embrace the Brotherhood and to go on, as it did after Benghazi, pretending that the war on terror is over, is a sign that our will may be faltering.

It is no small thing that the Islamist government of Egypt that the U.S. has embraced has called for the freeing of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called “blind sheik” who was the al-Qaeda mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center attack.

Al-Qaeda in the United States

Perhaps most troubling is the fact that, as Jonathan points out, “here in the U.S., cases of home-grown Islamist terror continue to crop up.” My colleague Jessica Zuckerman has chronicled the 54 terrorist plots against domestic targets that have been thwarted since 9/11…It is hard to believe that a country which has thwarted about a plot every other month for over a decade, watched the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egypt, and seen an anniversary attack on its consulate in Benghazi could become complacent.

Recent Spate of Killings in the U.S of non-Muslims by Muslims.  Daniel Pipes asks  Was it Jihad or Criminality?  Just one example.

February 5: Yusuf Ibrahim, 27, Egyptian born and living in Jersey City, stands accused of shooting, then cutting off the heads and hands of two Copts, Hanny F. Tawadros and Amgad A. Konds, and burying them in Buena Vista Township, N.J. He is charged with two counts of murder and with desecrating human remains.

And in England 'Boom, boom, boom everywhere… kill': Chilling words of British Muslim terrorists' ringleader as he plotted to murder 2,000 people in Al-Qaeda-backed atrocity in supermarkets and town centres

The leader of an Al Qaeda-backed British Muslim gang who plotted the deadliest terror attack on British soil boasted of a nailbomb attack that could kill 2,000 people, shouting: 'Boom, boom, boom everywhere…kill.'

Chilling police recordings capture Irfan Naseer saying Westerners deserve to be 'terrorised' because 'they wanna have sex like donkeys on the street'.
He adds: 'Why shouldn't we terrorise them, tell me that? You think about it, if someone came in your house, yeah, and started dancing and throughout the night and started basically having orgies and smoking drugs and stuff…you would terrorise them, innit.'  In one sick exchange, another of the terrorists compared the gang to Formula One drivers, saying: 'It's the four suicide bombers driving around ready to take on England.'

'Little Irfan': Birmingham born Irfan Khalid travelled to Pakistan for terror training.  Irfan Naseer, 31, Irfan Khalid, 27, and Ashik Ali, 27, all from Birmingham, were convicted of plotting the 'spectacular campaign' designed to claim as many lives as the 2005 London Underground bombs that killed 52 innocent people

The War is not over and will not be over in our lifetimes

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:39 AM | Permalink

Piero della Francesca

Peter Schjeldahl's article about the Piero della Francesca exhibition at the Frick makes me want to dash to New York to see what he calls Heaven on Earth

The supreme early-Renaissance master Piero della Francesca is like no other artist in my experience: not better, exactly, but loftily apart, defying comparison

Writing of Piero’s “Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels” (circa 1460-70)

The work is only three and a half feet high, but it feels monumental and, at the same time, intimate, as if it were addressing you alone. It’s a kind of art that may change lives
One hot August, when I was twenty-three, I traversed Tuscany on the back of a Vespa driven by a painter friend, George Schneeman….Then we stopped at a tiny cemetery chapel, in the hill town of Monterchi, to see Piero’s highly unusual “Madonna del Parto.” An immensely pregnant but delicately elegant young Mary stands pensively in a bell-shaped tent, as two mirror-image angels sweep aside the flaps to reveal her. One angel wears green, the other purple. Here was the circumstantial drama of a ripeness with life in a place of death…

In another age, the experience might have made me consider entering a monastery. Instead, I became an art critic.

-Piero Della Francesca Madonna Del Parto

The Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Ark of the Covenant
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 AM | Permalink

February 27, 2013

"No one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind."

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished

In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.”
Pope Benedict XVI

In Massachusetts, the Department of Education has issued a directive on the handling of 'transgendered' students and Students Who Refuse to Affirm Transgender Classmates Face Punishment.

Last week the Massachusetts Department of Education issued directives for handling transgender students – including allowing them to use the bathrooms of their choice or to play on sports teams that correspond to the gender with which they identify.

The 11-page directive also urged schools to eliminate gender-based clothing and gender-based activities – like having boys and girls line up separately to leave the classroom.
Schools will now be required to accept a student’s gender identity on face value.
The new rules would also prevent teachers and administrators from telling parents with which gender their child identifies.
“School personnel should speak with the student first before discussing a student’s gender nonconformity or transgender status with the student’s parent or guardian,” the directive states.
The Massachusetts Family Institute denounced the new rules calling them a violation of privacy.

“Fundamentally, boys need to be using the boys’ room and girls need to be using the girls’ rooms, and we base that on their anatomical sex, not some sort of internalized gender identity,” said Andrew Beckwith, the institute’s general counsel.

Beckwith told Fox News the new policy has a “very broad standard that is ripe for abuse.”
The policy allows students to have one gender identity at home and another at school,” he said. “And it refuses to let teachers and administrators tell parents what gender their child is at school.”

Another part of the directive that troubles parents deals with students who might feel comfortable having someone of the opposite sex in their locker room or bathroom.
The state takes those students to task – noting their discomfort “is not a reason to deny access to the transgender student.”

And any student who refuses to refer to a transgendered student by the name or sex they identify with could face punishment.

For example – a fifth grade girl might feel uncomfortable using the restroom if there is an eighth grade transgendered boy in the next stall.
Under the state guidelines, the girl would have no recourse, Beckwith said.  “And if the girl continued to complain she could be subjected to discipline for not affirming that student’s gender identity choice,” he told Fox News.  “It should not be tolerated and can be grounds for student discipline,” the directive states.

Gunner Scott, of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, praised the directive – and said punishing students who refuse to acknowledge a student’s gender identity is appropriate because it amounts to bullying.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:34 PM | Permalink

Is Coffee "The healthiest beverage on the planet?"

The Science Behind Coffee and Why it’s Actually Good for Your Health.  Lifehacker summarizes the reasons and links to the scientific studies.

Coffee Can Make You Smarter
Bottom Line: Caffeine potently blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, leading to a net stimulant effect. Controlled trials show that caffeine improves both mood and brain function.

Coffee Can Help You Burn Fat and Improves Physical Performance
Bottom Line: Caffeine raises the metabolic rate and helps to mobilize fatty acids from the fat tissues. It can also enhance physical performance.

Coffee May Drastically Lower Your Risk of Type II Diabetes
Bottom Line: Drinking coffee is associated with a drastically reduced risk of type II diabetes. People who drink several cups per day are the least likely to become diabetic.

Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's

Bottom Line: Coffee is associated with a much lower risk of dementia and the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

Coffee May be Extremely Good For Your Liver

Bottom Line: Coffee appears to be protective against certain liver disorders, lowering the risk of liver cancer by 40% and cirrhosis by as much as 80%.

Coffee May Decrease Your Risk of Dying
Bottom Line: Coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of death in prospective epidemiological studies, especially in type II diabetics.

Coffee is Loaded With Nutrients and Antioxidants
Bottom Line: Coffee contains a decent amount of several vitamins and minerals. It is also the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet.

Take Home Message
Even though coffee in moderate amounts is good for you, drinking way too much of it can still be harmful. I'd also like to point out that many of the studies above were epidemiological in nature. Such studies can only show association, they can not prove that coffee caused the effects. To make sure to preserve the health benefits, don't put sugar or anything nasty in your coffee! If it tends to affect your sleep, then don't drink it after 2pm. At the end of the day, it does seem quite clear that coffee is NOT the villain it was made out to be. If anything, coffee may literally be the healthiest beverage on the planet.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 PM | Permalink

February 26, 2013

The "Recovery" has a long way to go when it comes to jobs

US has 13 million more people since 2007 — and 3.2 million fewer jobs

Another 5 to 7 million new jobs would need to be created at this moment just to return the economy to a fully-employed state. Of course, that is above and beyond the 1,500,000 new jobs needed every year going forward to accommodate new job seekers.

We need even more jobs to support the costs of social security and medicare, especially given this report:  Human longevity has improved so rapidly over the past century that 72 is the new 30, scientists say.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, said progress in lowering the odds of death at all ages has been so rapid since 1900 that life expectancy has risen faster than it did in the previous 200 millennia since modern man began to evolve from hominid species. The pace of increase in life expectancy has left industrialized economies unprepared for the cost of providing retirement income to so many for so long
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, looked at Swedish and Japanese men – two countries with the longest life expectancies today. It concluded that their counterparts in 1800 would have had lifespans that were closer to those of the earliest hunter-gatherer humans than they would to adult men in both countries today. Those primitive hunter gatherers, at age 30, had the same odds of dying as a modern Swedish or Japanese man would face at 72.

Healthcare and medicine extends keep us younger for longer

The increase in human life expectancy had been largely achieved 'by removing environmental shocks, by making injuries and illnesses less fatal with medical technology, and by enhancing health at older ages by improving nutrition and reducing disease at younger ages'.  The findings are published in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink

Sleep, Mediterranean diet and Calcium

Just ONE WEEK of disrupted sleep could play havoc with your health

Scientists say that just one week of poor sleep can disrupt hundreds of genes, increasing the risk of a host of life-threatening illnesses linked to stress, immunity and inflammation.
The discovery could explain why lack of sleep is so bad for the health, they say.
The researchers wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: ‘Insufficient sleep is increasingly recognised as contributing to a wide range of health problems.

'Multiple studies have shown self-reported short sleep duration - defined in most studies as less than six hours - is associated with negative health outcomes such as all-cause mortality, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and impaired vigilance and cognition.' Indeed, sleep deficiency is associated with a host of conditions including obesity, heart disease and mental impairment.

Lack of sleep 'switches off' genes

One week of bad sleep can "switch off" hundreds of genes and raise the risk of a host of illnesses including obesity and heart disease, scientists claim.

Oily fish 'could help protect against skin cancer'

Regularly taking fish oil supplements could help protect against skin cancer, according to a study that suggests omega-3 fats help boost the immune system.

Eating nuts and olive oil can reduce the risk of a heart attack as much as statins

Eating a Mediterranean-style diet can cut heart attacks, strokes and death rates in people at high risk of heart disease by as much as a third, research shows.
Changing the balance of foods in a diet can lessen the risk even before heart-related illness strikes, according to a major clinical trial.

Previous studies have compared the effects of the diet on people after they have suffered a heart attack or stroke – with many showing improved heart health.
But this research was the first to rigorously test the effects on a high-risk group.  In fact, the study of around 7,500 people was halted early, after almost five years, because the results were so clear it would have been unethical not to recommend the diet to all those taking part.

Mediterranean Diet Shown to Ward Off Heart Attack and Stroke.  Finding publishes in the New England Journal of Medicine

About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals, a large and rigorous new study has found.
“Really impressive,” said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. “And the really important thing — the coolest thing — is that they used very meaningful endpoints. They did not look at risk factors like cholesterol or hypertension or weight. They looked at heart attacks and strokes and death. At the end of the day, that is what really matters.”

No Vitamin D and Calcium for Older Bones

The United States Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of experts in prevention and primary care, based its recommendations on extensive reviews of more than a hundred studies. They characterized low doses as 400 international units or less of vitamin D and 1,000 milligrams or less of calcium.

Taking those amounts daily, the task force wrote in its recommendations, “has no net benefit for the primary prevention of fractures.” But there is good evidence, the group said, that taking them could increase the likelihood of kidney stones.
The recommendations, however, do not apply to people with osteoporosis or vitamin D deficiencies, the task force said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

February 25, 2013

Quotes of Note: The Iron Law of Bureaucracy

Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy via Ace

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

The disaster of legalized prostitution

Why even Amsterdam doesn’t want legal brothels  The Dutch experiment in legalized prostitution has been a disaster.

Legalization has imposed brothels on areas all over Holland, whether they want them or not. Even if a city or town opposes establishing a brothel, it must allow at least one — not doing so is contrary to the basic federal right to work. To many Dutch, legality and decency have been irreconcilably divorced. It has been a social, legal and economic failure — and the madness, finally, is coming to an end.

The brothel boom is over. A third of Amsterdam’s bordellos have been closed due to the involvement of organized criminals and drug dealers and the increase in trafficking of women. Police now acknowledge that the red-light district has mutated into a global hub for human trafficking and money laundering. The streets have been infiltrated by grooming gangs seeking out young, vulnerable girls and marketing them to men as virgins who will do whatever they are told. Many of those involved in Amsterdam’s regular tourist trade — the museums and canals — fear that their visitors are vanishing along with the city’s reputation.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:28 AM | Permalink

"“All the prices are too damn high.”

Much discussed is Steven Brill's piece on A Bitter Pill, Why Medical Bills are Killing Us

I got the idea for this article when I was visiting Rice University last year. As I was leaving the campus, which is just outside the central business district of Houston, I noticed a group of glass skyscrapers about a mile away lighting up the evening sky. The scene looked like Dubai. I was looking at the Texas Medical Center, a nearly 1,300-acre, 280-building complex of hospitals and related medical facilities, of which MD Anderson is the lead brand name. Medicine had obviously become a huge business. In fact, of Houston’s top 10 employers, five are hospitals, including MD Anderson with 19,000 employees; three, led by ExxonMobil with 14,000 employees, are energy companies. How did that happen, I wondered. Where’s all that money coming from? And where is it going? I have spent the past seven months trying to find out by analyzing a variety of bills from hospitals like MD Anderson, doctors, drug companies and every other player in the American health care ecosystem.

One example The $21,000 Heartburn Bill

One night last summer at her home near Stamford, Conn., a 64-year-old former sales clerk whom I’ll call Janice S. felt chest pains. She was taken four miles by ambulance to the emergency room at Stamford Hospital, officially a nonprofit institution. After about three hours of tests and some brief encounters with a doctor, she was told she had indigestion and sent home. That was the good news.

The bad news was the bill: $995 for the ambulance ride, $3,000 for the doctors and $17,000 for the hospital — in sum, $21,000 for a false alarm.

Overuse of technology like CAT scans

“We use the CT scan because it’s a great defense,” says the CEO of another hospital not far from Stamford. “For example, if anyone has fallen or done anything around their head — hell, if they even say the word head — we do it to be safe. We can’t be sued for doing too much.”

His rationale speaks to the real cost issue associated with medical-malpractice litigation. It’s not as much about the verdicts or settlements (or considerable malpractice-insurance premiums) that hospitals and doctors pay as it is about what they do to avoid being sued……. When Obamacare was being debated, Republicans pushed this kind of commonsense malpractice-tort reform. But the stranglehold that plaintiffs’ lawyers have traditionally had on Democrats prevailed, and neither a safe-harbor provision nor any other malpractice reform was included.

Follow the Money

Put simply, with Obamacare we’ve changed the rules related to who pays for what, but we haven’t done much to change the prices we pay.  When you follow the money, you see the choices we’ve made, knowingly or unknowingly.
Over the past few decades, we’ve enriched the labs, drug companies, medical device makers, hospital administrators and purveyors of CT scans, MRIs, canes and wheelchairs. Meanwhile, we’ve squeezed the doctors who don’t own their own clinics, don’t work as drug or device consultants or don’t otherwise game a system that is so gameable. And of course, we’ve squeezed everyone outside the system who gets stuck with the bills.

We’ve created a secure, prosperous island in an economy that is suffering under the weight of the riches those on the island extract.

And we’ve allowed those on the island and their lobbyists and allies to control the debate, diverting us from what Gerard Anderson, a health care economist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, says is the obvious and only issue: “All the prices are too damn high.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:01 AM | Permalink

Quotes of Note "Who Needs the Family"

Sultan Knish, Who Needs the Family

Socialism has left behind a terrible bill and there is no one left to pay it. The population is crashing in every Western country. The elderly are losing their generous benefits, the men and women of middle age worry for the future and the youth no longer believe in the future at all. The streets are full of angry foreign teenagers, grinning and glaring, cutting and smashing, and the veiled women shop for goat in small dirty butcher shops. The old native men and women, of the stock that once made world empires, dream of leaving it all behind for Greece or Spain where they hope for a familiar foreignness, rather than the foreign foreignness that has overwhelmed their countries and made their cities no longer their own.

The state replaced the family. It told men and women that they no longer needed to make permanent commitments to each or to their parents and children. So long as they paid their taxes, the state would bear the burden of their commitments. And so men and women gave up on each other, parents gave up on their children and children gave up on their parents, the family fell apart and now the state that took its place is also falling apart.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: red wine, too much calcium, fish oil and aspirin for arthritis, effectiveness of this year's flu vaccine

Red wine isn't just good for your heart - now experts say it may even prevent HEARING LOSS  .  Red wine appears to reduce the damage caused by loud noise, an effect attributed to resveratrol, the chemical found in red grapes and red wine.

Silence is golden when dealing with jerks.  Ignoring obnoxious people is more effective at shutting them up than than speaking to them or trying to engage them in a discussion,.  Plus  it's healthier and less mentally draining on you .

What Will Happen If I Consume Too Much Calcium?  The same thing as if you don't get enough. You'll be more likely to die sooner.  if you consume a lot of dairy in milk, yoghurt, and cheese, don't take calcium supplements.

The cure for arthritis? Fish oil AND aspirin, according to a breakthrough discovery The two work together to combat inflammation that causes pain of arthritis.

Flu vaccine protected barely HALF of Americans who got it… and only 9% of seniors

The flu vaccine protected just 56 percent of Americans who received it and completely failed to shield the elderly against the most deadly strain of the virus, the U.S. government announced today.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the findings underscore the need for more effective weapons in the fight against influenza, which kills between 3,000 to 50,000 people a year, depending on the severity of the flu season.
'We simply need a better vaccine against influenza, one that works better and lasts longer,' CDC Director Dr Thomas Frieden said in a statement Thursday.

Experts generally estimate the effectiveness of flu vaccines to be between 50 percent and 70 percent, but this vaccine appears to have fallen on the low side of that range.

New hi-tech devices for the elderly.  Home monitors, lifeline devices that sense falls, mobile alert systems, and devices to help old people deal with medication management 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:04 AM | Permalink

February 19, 2013

"“In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished" UPDATED

In the U.K., William Oddie on Pope Benedict's  warnings on secularism and religious liberty

One of the most central insights of Pope Benedict’s pontificate was summed up in his phrase “the dictatorship of relativism”. In his now famous conversation with the German journalist Peter Seewald (the same one on which he said that popes can abdicate), he said this, in explanation: “In the name of tolerance, tolerance is being abolished; this is a real threat we face. The danger is that reason – so-called Western reason – claims that it has now really recognized what is right and thus makes a claim to totality that is inimical to freedom. I believe that we must very emphatically delineate this danger. No one is forced to be a Christian. But no one should be forced to live according to the ‘new religion’ as though it alone were definitive and obligatory for all mankind.”
There can be little doubt that this secularist dictatorship is being rolled out in this country today, notably in the education system, where in certain key areas, certain forms of behaviour must be presented as being valid and acceptable whether or not teachers believe they are.
Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury spoke out about the implications for religious liberty of the vote last Tuesday on the same sex “marriage” bill now being pushed (probably irresistibly) through the Commons by the “Conservative” Prime Minister, David Cameron. Bishop Davies last week told married couples gathered from all over his diocese to celebrate landmark anniversaries at an annual Mass of Thanksgiving for Marriage that it was possible to “see the absurdity of changing the identity of marriage in the name of a false understanding of equality by the desire to even strike out the cherished names of ‘mother’ and ‘father’”.

That was a predictable enough criticism. But he also repeated a warning he has given before: having said that recognising the truth of marriage was not “an injustice to be remedied” he went on to predict that soon it could even become an offence to repeat “the beautiful teaching of Christ” that marriage is the lasting union of one man and one woman which forms the foundation of the family.

Update:  Today's example.  Andrew Cuomo’s Radical Abortion Regime

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seeks to impose a radical new abortion regime on the state, one that goes far beyond the euphemistic byword “choice.” The bill would in fact limit many choices, for instance the choice of Catholic hospitals and other institutions with moral objections to decline to allow abortions to be performed in their facilities. It would limit the choices of organizations that counsel pregnant women if their counseling were held to be insufficiently enthusiastic about abortion. It would limit the choices of organizations that seek to help women in crisis without involving themselves in the politics of abortion.
Governor Cuomo’s bill is not about easing access to abortion — those bloody skids already are well-greased. The issue is political domination. The abortion party does not brook resistance, and it steadfastly seeks to ensure that everybody has a hand in its grisly business: taxpayers, employers, priests. All must be implicated. If a religious hospital declines to provide abortions, then it must be forced to do so. If a counseling center treats adoption as preferable to abortion, it will either change its mind or have its mind changed for it by the gentle persuasion of the State of New York.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:19 PM | Permalink

If we valued what geriatricains do, we could transform what it's like to age

Doctors who treat the elderly are in short supply  and Instapundit comments

“The nation’s shortage of geriatricians is no secret. The prestigious Institute of Medicine highlighted the shortage in a 2008 report, and the American Geriatrics Society has projected the nation will need 25,000 geriatricians by 2025, or about three times the 7,000 geriatricians currently certified.”

Well, once the Death Panels get rolling, they won’t be needed much.

Atul Gawande interview about  Geriatricians

Does anybody clamor for geriatricians? We’ve had a drop from 1998 to 2004 in the number of geriatricians in our country, by one-third. At a time when the number of elderly are increasing enormously. In just a decade we’re going to be a 20% of the population being over the age of 65.

Now part of the reason people don’t clamor for the geriatrician is what the geriatrician does. What the geriatrician does is they don’t make your life longer, they help figure out how to be attentive to your nutrition, and whether your toenails are clipped and whether you have good balance and whether your strength is there, and whether you’re exercising, and whether your eyes are doing well. All the things that you need in order to stay independent, to have control over your life.
And so there was a randomized trial in Minnesota that showed that the likelihood that under geriatricians’ care, as opposed to the usual primary physician for these elderly patients, the likelihood that they would have a disability dropped by 25%. The likelihood they developed depression dropped by 50%. But they didn’t live any longer. And so what we’ve had is the gradual disappearance of geriatrics as a profession and almost no outcry about that.

And so my answer to what do we do about it? Well the reasons why geriatricians are disappearing is in part because we don’t pay them very well, it’s one of the lowest-paid professions compared to becoming a radiologist, becoming a surgeon like I am. Another reason is because it’s not glamorous work, taking care of older people with lots of different problems, arthritic knees, a tumor they might have developed, bad back pain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and them somehow helping them live and stay at home as long as possible.

But if we value it, we actually would transform what it’s like to age.

His 2007 article on The Way We Age Now in The New Yorker is the best article you will ever read on the subject

Americans haven’t come to grips with the new demography. We cling to the notion of retirement at sixty-five—a reasonable notion when those over sixty-five were a tiny percentage of the population, but completely untenable as they approach twenty per cent. People are putting aside less in savings for old age now than they have in any decade since the Great Depression. More than half of the very old now live without a spouse, and we have fewer children than ever before—yet we give virtually no thought to how we will live out our later years alone.

Equally worrying, and far less recognized, medicine has been slow to confront the very changes that it has been responsible for—or to apply the knowledge we already have about how to make old age better. Despite a rapidly growing elderly population, the number of certified geriatricians fell by a third between 1998 and 2004. Applications to training programs in adult primary-care medicine are plummeting, while fields like plastic surgery and radiology receive applications in record numbers. Partly, this has to do with money—incomes in geriatrics and adult primary care are among the lowest in medicine. And partly, whether we admit it or not, most doctors don’t like taking care of the elderly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:07 PM | Permalink

The Future of Medicine

The Doctor’s In…Your Computer - Walter Russell Mead

Patients may soon get cheap, fast, and effective health care right from their desks, according to recent experiments with virtual doctor visits.
So far Virtuwell has handled about 40,000 cases, so its success is big news. Virtual visits are an example of how technology can enable new care distribution systems to bring down the skyrocketing cost of health care. No single innovation will be a panacea, and every new development has its own costs and complications. But we need to make the most of potential breakthroughs like this. The status quo is unsustainable.

New 'alcohol busting' drug that sobers you up in seconds being developed by scientists

Party animals could soon be able to sober up in an instant just by popping a pill.

Researchers have developed a cocktail of alcohol metabolizing enzymes that speedily reduces blood alcohol levels in drunk mice.  The treatment, which has been compared to having 'millions of liver cells inside your stomach,' could have far-reaching implications for drinkers.

MIT Technology Review: Nanocapsules Sober Up Drunken Mice

Wrapping alcohol-digesting enzymes in a nanoscale polymer allows them to quickly reduce blood alcohol content.

The Bank Where Doctors Can Stash Your Genome

A new company offers a “gene vault” for doctors who want to add genomics to patient care.

Bionic Eye Implant Approved for U.S. Patients

The sight-restoring implant made by Second Sight is the most advanced prosthetic to date.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

"Family, church, and school are the three basic people-forming institutions'

The Wealth of Nations Depends on the Health of Families  by  Patrick Fagan

Family, church, and school are the three basic people-forming institutions, and it is no wonder that they produce the best results—including economic and political ones—when they cooperate.
When men get married, their sense of responsibility and drive to provide gives them the incentive to work much harder. This translates into an average 27-percent increase in their productivity and income. With the retreat from marriage, instead of this “marriage premium,” we get more single men (who work the least), more cohabiting men (who work less than married men), and more divorced men (who fall between the singles and cohabiters).
Adding all this together, the conclusion (visible in the federal data) is that married families with children are the main source of the higher income, education, and productivity that grows the economy and its capital.

Interestingly, and today controversially, chastity—sexual abstinence until marriage and lifelong monogamy thereafter—significantly strengthens marriages and therefore the economy. Research on the pathways to divorce shows this.
Thus the core strategy for forming great workers for the economy is growing intact married families who are united in worship through their community of belief and send their children to schools that inculcate those values and beliefs. Not only does that produce the greatest average human capital for the marketplace; it also produces the best citizens for the polis and the common good.

And from this strong family, other benefits abound: marriage, education, health, income, savings, longevity, and a society shielded from the many costs and sufferings of crime, addictions, sexual perversions, bad health, poverty, and abuse. While strong families will not fully obliterate all societal weakness, they massively reduce them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:03 AM | Permalink

"Youth, the best time of your life? What rot. Being old is far more fun!"

Virginia Ironside on aging:  Youth, the best time of your life? What rot. Being old is far more fun!

What a relief it is to reach the autumn of one’s years and not have the future suspended in front of you like an intimidating cloud throwing out tormenting dilemmas.
Being old means that instead of facing a daunting future, you have a rich past stretching back behind you, which you can plunder and enjoy as you wander down memory lane. My own memory lane is as long as the M1: young people’s stretch no further than a short mews.

With each day that dawns when you’re young, you’re learning something — you’re making mistakes, being hurt, hurting others and stumbling through life.  When you are older, however, you’ve learned from your experiences, and the passage through life becomes far smoother.
The confidence that comes with age means anxiety and insecurity is swept away, and in its place there is a carte blanche to be eccentric and outspoken
The fact that my life feels finite gives every day new poignancy. I can cut to the chase: walk out of bad films and refuse invitations from disappointing friends.
What’s more, I can start new ventures with no fear of failure, since nothing matters very much  any more.
Most seem to regard being old as some kind of downward slide. In some ways this is true, but it’s worth remembering that the view as you hurtle down the hill is far more spectacular than when you’re trudging up it.
I prefer to think of old age as entirely new, uncharted territory, where my fellow oldies and I are intrepid explorers, hacking our way through the jungle and discovering treats along the way.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:58 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2013

George Washington was politically incorrect

When I heard of Pope Benedict's resignation, one thing that came to mind is . what King George III said about George Washington.

When King George III of England heard that Washington had willingly relinquished power after the war, he said, “If true, then he is the greatest man in the world.”\

When I googled to find out the exact quote, I came across this article about Washington by the historian Peter Lilliback

In these politically correct times, George Washington isn’t the hero he once was.

Children don’t read about him in school as much as their parents did. They’re much more likely to learn about African-American, Native American or female heroes.

New Jersey, in fact, issued new history standards a few years ago that omitted any mention of Washington.
Washington’s stature has diminished so much that a recent Washington College Poll found that Americans had a higher respect for Bill Clinton’s job performance as president than they did for George Washington’s.

What Maj. Gen. Henry Lee said at Washington’s funeral

First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere; uniform, dignified and commanding, his example was edifying to all around him, as were the effects of that example lasting.”

He may have been, in today's terms the most politically incorrect president we've ever had.  Is that why the greatness of the man is no longer taught?

 Backside Mt Rushmore
The Backside of Mt Rushmore from Miss Cellania

Freedom of Speech

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.


The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference - they deserve a place of honor with all that's good.

Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth.


The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.

Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.

It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.

Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.


To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.


Happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected.

It is  the peculiar boast of our country, that her happiness is alone dependent on the collective wisdom and virtue of her citizens, and rests not on the exertions of any individual


The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.


To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.


I can only say that there is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.


My observation is that whenever one person is found adequate to the discharge of a duty… it is worse executed by two persons, and scarcely done at all if three or more are employed therein.


Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.

The Constitution

The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.


I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is the best policy.

His Mother

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:37 AM | Permalink

February 17, 2013

Ignore Mainstream Nutrition. Eat meat, butter, cheese and eggs

Authority Nutrition claims an evidence-based approach, so here goes with their Top 11 Biggest Lies of Mainstream Nutrition with footnotes to published studies. 

1. Eggs Are Unhealthy
There’s one thing that nutrition professionals have had remarkable success with… and that is demonizing incredibly healthy foods.
Bottom Line: Eggs do not cause heart disease and are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. Eggs for breakfast can help you lose weight.

2. Saturated Fat is Bad For You
A massive review article published in 2010 looked at 21 prospective epidemiological studies with a total of 347.747 subjects. Their results: absolutely no association between saturated fat and heart disease (6).

The idea that saturated fat raised the risk of heart disease was an unproven theory that somehow became conventional wisdom (7).

Eating saturated fat raises the amount of HDL (the “good”) cholesterol in the blood and changes the LDL from small, dense LDL (very bad) to Large LDL, which is benign (8, 9).

Meat, coconut oil, cheese, butter… there is absolutely no reason to fear these foods.
5. Low-Fat Foods Are Good For You
Bottom Line: Low-fat foods are usually highly processed products loaded with sugar, corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. They are extremely unhealthy.
7. Carbs Should Be Your Biggest Source of Calories
Bottom Line: The low-fat, high-carb diet is a miserable failure and has been proven repeatedly to be vastly inferior to lower-carb, higher-fat diets.

Check out how Modern Nutrition Policy is Based on Lies and Bad Science which has several YouTube videos supporting the title's claim.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:32 PM | Permalink | TrackBack

On ice, walk like a penguin

Black ice abounds now in New England, so this is timely advice

 How To Walk On Ice

Via Tai-wiki-widbee

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:00 PM | Permalink

February 15, 2013

Ignore the 'Council of the Media' when it comes to Catholicism

“There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.” —Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Michael Walsh on The Clueless Media

The instant Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement, the American media went into politics mode — and got even that wrong.

No, the focus instead was on whether the church — despite centuries of fidelity to a well-defined set of moral precepts — will take this opportunity to “expand its appeal” by compromising its teachings on birth control, homosexuality and divorce.  And, given the church’s decline in Europe but its dramatic rise in the Third World, whether the next pope would better “represent” the demographic shift if he were black or Hispanic.

Translation: Will the Catholic Church finally start imitating the Democratic Party? Why no
But nothing makes lefties madder than Benedict’s deaf ear toward their petulant insistence that the Church “modernize” — in other words, destroy the moral foundation of the world’s longest surviving institution.  It never seems to occur to the critics that the church’s explosive growth outside Europe and North America is precisely due to the steadfastness of its moral teachings — and that its decline in the West is a result of a loss of faith in those very principles among intellectuals. (You see the same decline in Reform Judaism and liberal Protestantism.)

Media Waste No Time to Display Ignorance

Our faith remains a mystery.  No time has been wasted stirring up a frenzy of speculation about what will happen next in the Catholic Church, not from the perspective of its place in the hearts and lives of 1.1 billion Catholics around the globe, but through the prism of the mainstream media’s political priorities.

In the Washington Post The Catholic Church can’t change

Sorry to be a wet blanket, but the Catholic Church is not going to change its teaching on any of the fun stuff (contraception, female “ordination,” homosexuality, abortion, etc.) with the next pope.  Nor will it ever.

When news of the pope’s retirement broke, Nicholas Kristof pondered on Twitter: “At some point, the church will accept contraception and female and non-celibate priests. Could it be in the next papacy?” Countless groups issued press releases clamoring for a “progressive” pope. The Rainbow Sash Movement called for the next pope to stop emphasizing “purity.” The Women’s Ordination Conference announced it would hold vigils and raise pink smoke to raise awareness of the need for “female priests.” I can’t wait to see what Maureen Dowd will say.

Tim Stanley Pope Benedict XVI resigns: the mainstream media just doesn't get God or Catholicism

For Lent, I’m giving up. How can anyone of faith not feel like surrendering after this week’s largely bad media coverage of the papal abdication?… The Guardian’s ideal Pope is someone who isn’t a Catholic.    Let’s name and shame a few media sins:

1. Defining Pope Benedict as a “conservative”. In Catholicism there is no Right or Left but only truth and error. A Pope is there to articulate doctrine, not to “turn the clock back” or “embrace progress.
3. Giving excessive air time to the Church’s critics. If someone retired at work, who would you invite to give the farewell speech? Someone who liked and understood them, or someone who hated or never even met them? Parts of the media seem to overwhelmingly favor the latter,
4. Insisting that the Church needs to reform to survive. Whether it does or not, it won’t happen because the Catholic Church doesn’t do change….In a world where everything seems to be up for negotiation, religion offers stability and certainty. The Catholic Church is like your dad: you might not agree with all his prejudices, but there’s reassurance in trusting that he believes what he believes and he’s always there for you.

The Anchoress Media Uses Assault Weapons of Ignorance on Benedict

Weigel does a good job of gently informing his host that no one is forced to be a Catholic, that the Catholic church is not a democratic republic whereby the Pope/President can issue an “executive action” decreeing that “yeah, everything we’ve thought through and taught for 2,000 years is nonsense in the face our enlightened progressive age…”. Time constraints, however, preclude his addressing the (to me) most obnoxious lie — because it’s one that utterly betrays MSNBC’s incuriosity and their unwillingness to do the barest research — the “pope hates stem cell research” lie.

Yes, the old “church hates science” narrative, promulgated by people who do not know, or care to know, that the scientific method originated with her, as did the idea of a university. It takes precisely a minute to google “Pope Benedict Stem Cell Research” do you know the first news story one finds?  At a recent conference on stem cells endorsed by and held at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI announced the Catholic Church’s support for adult stem cell research.  The next headline found: Vatican to Fund Adult Stem Cell Research.

Brendan O'Neill Catholic-bashers have embellished the truth about abuse in Catholic institutions. It's time to put the record straight

In the Irish mind, and in the minds of everyone else who has seen or read one of the many films, plays and books about the Magdalene laundries, these were horrific institutions brimming with violence and overseen by sadistic, pervy nuns. Yet the McAleese Report found not a single incident of sexual abuse by a nun in a Magdalene laundry. Not one. Also, the vast majority of its interviewees said they were never physically punished in the laundries. As one woman said, "It has shocked me to read in papers that we were beat and our heads shaved and that we were badly treated by the nuns… I was not touched by any nun and I never saw anyone touched." The small number of cases of corporal punishment reported to McAleese consisted of the kind of thing that happened in many normal schools in the 1960s, 70s and 80s: being caned on the legs or rapped on the knuckles. The authors of the McAleese Report, having like the rest of us imbibed the popular image of the Magdalene laundries as nun-run concentration camps, seem to have been taken aback by "the number of women who spoke positively about the nuns".

Even the Pope took the opportunity to set the record straight this week when he met with the parish priests and clergy from the Diocese of Rome to talk about his experience of the real council of Vatican II and the "Council of the media"

I would now like to add yet a third point: there was the Council of the Fathers - the true Council - but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council in and of itself, and the world perceived the Council through them, through the media. So the immediately efficiently Council that got thorough to the people, was that of the media, not that of the Fathers….the Council of journalists did not, naturally, take place within the world of faith but within the categories of the media of today, that is outside of the faith, with different hermeneutics. It was a hermeneutic of politics. The media saw the Council as a political struggle, a struggle for power between different currents within the Church. It was obvious that the media would take the side of whatever faction best suited their world.
And we know that this Council of the media was accessible to all. So, dominant, more efficient, this Council created many calamities, so many problems, so much misery, in reality: seminaries closed, convents closed liturgy trivialized … and the true Council has struggled to materialize, to be realized: the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real strength of the Council was present and slowly it has emerged and is becoming the real power which is also true reform, true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that 50 years after the Council, we see how this Virtual Council is breaking down, getting lost and the true Council is emerging with all its spiritual strength.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:58 AM | Permalink

When all antibiotics fail, pour sugar


Pouring granulated sugar on wounds 'can heal them faster than antibiotics'

A study found granulated sugar poured directly into bed sores, leg ulcers and even amputations promotes healing when antibiotics and other treatments have failed.

The study is headed by Moses Murandu, a senior lecturer in adult nursing at Wolverhampton University, who grew up in Zimbabwe where his father used sugar to heal wounds and reduce pain when he was a child.
So far 35 patients receiving treatment have seen their condition improve, with no adverse effects reported, compared with 16 patients who did not have the treatment.  The treatment works because bacteria need water to grow, so applying sugar to a wound draws the water away and starves the bacteria of water. This prevents the bacteria from multiplying and they die.

Honey works too.  Honey heals wounds and it's not bad on toast.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:53 AM | Permalink

Parenting roundup: Violin lessons, fruits, veggies and folic acid, hovering parents and depressed kids


Those violin lessons weren't a waste of time after all: Learning an instrument 'makes children grow up smarter'

Research shows that sending youngsters to music classes from age seven will speed the development of motor skills - the part of your brain that plans and carries out movement.  There is a special window of learning between the ages of six and eight when musical training interacts with motor development, producing long term changes to the brain, according to the study.

'Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli,' said lead researcher Virginia Penhune, professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. 'Importantly, the younger a musician started, the greater the connectivity.
The findings were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Pregnant women who take folic acid could reduce their child's risk of autism by 40%

Women who take folic acid supplements early in their pregnancy may reduce their child’s risk of autism by 40 per cent, a study found.

But mothers-to-be should start taking them four weeks before conceiving and eight weeks afterwards to get the full benefit for their unborn child. The timing of taking prenatal supplements is critical, scientists warn.

Folic acid - Vitamin B9 - is required for DNA synthesis and repairs. It’s naturally occurring form, folate, is found in leafy vegetables, peas, lentils, beans, eggs, yeast, and liver.  Folic acid is known to protect against spina bifida and other neural tube defects in children but the latest research, which looks at more than 85,000 babies born in Norway between 2002 and 2008, shows that it may offer protection against Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Unborn babies get taste for fruit and vegetables from their mothers

The parental crusade to get children to eat fruit and vegetables should begin before birth, researchers said.

Babies are more accepting of foods their mothers eat often while pregnant  Study indicates they get also get a taste for novel foods through breast milk.

The research was carried out by the Monell Centre in Philadelphia

Children with controlling 'helicopter parents' are more likely to be depressed

Researchers warn that the overbearing parenting style, known as 'helicopter parenting' - where parents hover over their children and become too involved in their lives - affects a child's ability to get on with others.

While some parental involvement helps children develop, too much can make them more likely to be depressed and less satisfied with their lives, they say.  The findings also suggested that children of over controlling parents feel less competent and less able to manage life and its stressors. 

The research, from the University of Mary Washington in the U.S., involved 297 American graduate students aged 18 to 23.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:23 AM | Permalink

" 'Downton Abbey' and 'Girls' serve as bookends in an era defined by a growing cult of the self"

 Downton V Girls

In the New York Times , Freedom has its own constraints

“Downton” and “Girls” serve as bookends in an era defined by a growing cult of the self. “Downton” is about the flourishing of selfhood in a rigid, early-20th-century society of roles. “Girls” is about the chaos and exhaustion of selfhood in a fluid, early-21st-century society that says you can be anything but does not show you how.
What begins on “Downton” as a new liberty to follow your heart, to dare love that others find unwise, has culminated in “Girls” in romantic pursuits that are dully mercenary and often unwise.
What begins on “Downton” as a welcome questioning of age and status roles has snowballed by the “Girls” era into grave role confusion: parents who cannot teach their children how to live because they feel guilty about parenting, or want to be friends more than guides, or still dress like teenagers and call their offspring “prude.”

Nowhere is this overshooting truer than with the roles of the sexes. If “Downton” shows a world in which women are starting to claim their own sexuality, “Girls” portrays a sexual dystopia in which those women seem to have negotiated poorly: Men now reliably get what they want, while women must often content themselves with scraps, as when the character Hannah celebrates “almost” satiation in bed as the best she is likely to get.
“Girls” is about atoms that desire in vain to form molecules; about sex lives that breed more confusion than excitement; about people with the liberty to choose every day, on various dimensions, whom to be — and who grow very tired of the choosing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:41 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Drink tea to stay mentally alert with tomato juice, beer or chocolate milk best after a workout

Drinking three cups of tea a day can keep you mentally alert in old age

Analysis of six different studies found drinking tea helped the brain to stay sharper
Scientists believe some compounds such as theanine could protect against Alzheimer's

Walking 'is better than the gym': Long periods of gentle exercise are more beneficial than a high-intensity workout

Low intensity exercise improves insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels, which are indicators of diabetes and obesity

Taking vitamin C DOES reduce the risk of a cold - but only if you exercise

But in those who work out, it can HALVE the risk of a cold and help speed up recovery, say Finnish experts
Children are more responsive to the vitamin than adults

Women with high levels of calcium are at twice the risk of dying from heart disease

New research adds to evidence that calcium supplements could be doing more harm than good in people with adequate intakes by overloading the body
Researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden studied 61,443 Swedish women aged 50 and over for an average of 19 years, including their calcium intake from diet and supplements….women with calcium intakes at least double the recommended level are at high risk of death from all causes, particularly cardiovascular disease.

Saved by the drug she helped to develop, the 39-year-old researcher suffering from cervical cancer

Dr Hayley Farmer, 39, works for Cancer Research UK as part of a team responsible for clinical trials on new medicines and vaccines.
She was part of the office that was working on Cisplatin - a chemotherapy drug being tested on different types of cancer.
But as she carried out her work, Dr Farmer had no idea she might need the treatment herself - until a routine smear test in 2007 revealed she had cervical cancer.  The cancer was already too advanced for surgery and Dr Farmer was treated with radiotherapy followed by Cisplatin.  Dr Farmer, from Bristol, was given the all clear from cancer last year thanks to the pioneering drug.

Forget energy drinks - TOMATO juice could be the key to recovering from a workout

Tomato juice could be better than energy drinks at helping the body recover from exercise, new research suggests.
Experts  say tomatoes provide vital chemicals to help muscles recover and blood levels return to normal after being stretched and strained.  Experts from a number of health institutions in Greece conducted tests on 15 athletes over a period of two months, looking at vital signs before, during and after exercise….Those drinking tomato juice had quicker levels of muscle recovery and their glucose levels returned to normal faster after strenuous exercise.

The study, led by researchers at the General Chemical State Laboratory of Greece, was published in journal Food and Chemical Toxicology.

And a pint of beer is better for you after a workout than water say scientists

Their research has shown that a glass of beer is far better at rehydrating the body after exercise than water….Researchers suspect that the sugars, salts and bubbles in a pint may help people absorb fluids more quickly.  …Professor Manuel Garzon, of Granada's medical faculty, made his discovery after tests on 25 students over several months.

Better than gatorade, chocolate milk is great after a workout.  Men's Health says

Nutritionists have long touted milk as a magical muscle-building drink—by ingesting protein after a strength training workout, your muscles have the proper fuel to recover and grow. Add sugar to the mix (in this case, chocolate) and protein is digested even faster, meaning your muscles bounce back—bigger and stronger than ever—even more quickly than after drinking regular milk. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 AM | Permalink

February 14, 2013

"But I wanted it so damn bad! I wasn’t going to give up no matter what"

'I had to wait a lifetime to be the real me': Woman, 68, achieves her childhood dream of becoming a firefighter after years of being told she could not do 'a man's job'

A 68-year-old woman who first hoped to become a firefighter when she was saved from a burning building at the age of five has finally achieved her dream six decades later.

 Firefighter Andrea Peterson 68

Andrea Peterson, from Hartford, Vermont has proven she is mentally and physically tougher than many men a third of her age by passing the gruelling tests to join her local station.  The petite widow, who stands just 5 foot 5 and weighs 122 pounds, began working as firefighter after years of being deterred from the profession because it was a 'man's job'.
She first dreamed of becoming a firefighter after becoming trapped in a burning building in Los Angeles as a child, when a fire erupted as her mother cooked in the kitchen.  They were rescued by firefighters and she recalled the exhilaration she felt when she was thrown from the window - as well as the certainty that firefighting was her future career.
Her family also deterred her from doing 'a man's work' and after she left college, she had many jobs - ballerina, model, air stewardess, prescriptionist - but they were never the right fit.

'I had to wait a lifetime to be the real me,' she said.

While attending college for aviation technology - where she was the only woman in the class - she met a young man named Dennis and, after four years of dating, they married in 1979.  He served in Vietnam as a pilot transporting Agent Orange, and when he returned home he was diagnosed with cancer, and given just months to live.  But Peterson devoted her life to ensure that didn't happen - and the couple enjoyed 31 years together. Throughout that time, she was his around-the-clock carer as his body slowly shut down.

When he passed away six years ago, she said she was left mentally and physically exhausted, but it also allowed her to realize that 'it's now or never'.
Despite her classmates and teachers expecting her to drop out, she persevered through the physical training, the studying and the 10 pounds of muscle gain.

'I didn't have a great deal of support,' she remembered. 'But I wanted it so damn bad! I wasn’t going to give up no matter what.'
When she found out she had passed the tests, she collapsed in tears.

'It was better than my wedding day!' she said. 'It was the happiest day of my life.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:27 PM | Permalink

February 13, 2013

I failed at this too

Can YOU see the dancing gorilla? New study reveals 83% of radiologists FAIL to spot it.

A new psychological study from Brigham and Women's Hospital has demonstrated how 83 percent of radiologists fail to spot the gorilla that is in the image below - despite running their eyes over it four times on average.

Demonstrating the potentially life-threatening consequences of 'inattentional blindness' - missing something that is right in front of you - the gorilla test was conducted on 24 credentialed radiologists at the world-famous Boston hospital.

 Lung Scan Dancing Gorilla

I tried to see it, but couldn't until it was pointed out to me.  Now, of course, I see it every time I look at it.  Click on the link to see where it is.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:57 AM | Permalink

February 12, 2013

Reflection and roundup on Pope Benedict's resignation

 Cartoon-You're Giving-Up-What-For-Lent

" I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…. in today’s world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the barque of Saint Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me. " - Pope Benedict XIV's announcement of resignation.

The Pope has had a pacemaker for years.  He reportedly suffered strokes in 1991 and 2005.  He has arthritis in his hips, knees and ankles making it difficult to walk.  He has problems with balance and has frequently fallen, most recently last summer when he broke his wrist.  And for the past 8 years, he's  been carrying  a schedule of meetings, ceremonies and global  travel that would exhaust a 40-year-old.

If the number of Catholics are declining in Europe,  the number is booming in South America, Africa and Asia.  Today, the Church with over 1.2 billion members is a global ministry requiring a global presence necessitating frequent travel.  The increasing persecution of Christians around the world demands a strong response almost daily.    In the 20th century the Papacy has been a bulwark against the tyranny of Nazism and Communism.  In the 21st century, the strongest defense of Western values and Christianity against radical Islamism and aggressive secularism has come from Pope Benedict.  For that, I began reading closely to what Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict had to say.

When Cardinal Ratzinger gave his speech on the dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires, I was struck to the heart because I recognized myself and how shallow my life was.  That's when I decided to explore the God thing in a serious way.  Ultimately, Pope Benedict brought me back into the Church.  As I began reading Ratzinger and other theologians, I became so impressed with their intelligence, openness, moral seriousness and intellectual coherence, I had to be at least open enough to try it out.  So I did and then I experienced extraordinary grace and surrendered to the Great Mystery.  For that, I have profound gratitude to Benedict personally. 

I admired Pope John Paul II, but I loved Pope Benedict.  For the clarity of his teaching,  for his intellectual fearlesssness, for his emphasis on reason and for showing the mind is a way to God,  for bringing back the Latin Mass and more and better sacred music,  indeed for showing us that art and the saints are the greatest evangelists,  for his ecumenism and the ordinates for Anglicans, for his delight in the young, for embracing the digital world to evangelize the culture, and for his calm joy, spiritual simplicity and great love.

I was first dumbfounded, then saddened when I learned of Benedict's resignation.  The shock was like learning of a sudden death.  But, a day later, I'm grateful and happy that he will live on in monastic seclusion where he will have plenty of rest and time for prayer, more writing and playing his piano.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals,  was present at the consistory when Pope Benedict announced his resignation and responded,  “We have heard you with a sense of astonishment, almost in disbelief…"Your Pontificate Will Shine Like a Star".

Startled by his resignation, Timothy Cardinal Dolan said

"The Holy Father brought the tender heart of a pastor, the incisive mind of a scholar and the confidence of a soul united with His God in all he did. His resignation is but another sign of his great care for the Church. We are sad that he will be resigning but grateful for his eight years of selfless leadership as successor of St. Peter." —

The Anchoress has the best roundups.  Her first  Benedict Announces Retirement (It’s what he WOULD do!)

If John Paul went out like the sustained note of a grand organ, fading into silence, Benedict simply senses his tiredness and the hour, closes up his piano, and bids us adieu. Ratzinger, in the end, is still Ratzinger: he does his work, kisses it all up to the Holy Spirit and moves on, not particularly concerned about the peripheral yakking of man or media.

Her second. First — best comment of the day; “Pope joins Twitter. Loses interest in job.”

I think part of the reason some people have had trouble processing what Benedict is doing — aside from the fact that we’ve never seen this in our lifetimes — is that we have become so habitually ironic that we don’t know how else to be. But even irony has grown stale. Only authenticity can still surprise us, and being shaken from our torpor today suggests that authenticity has been in short supply. That can’t be a good thing.

Wall Street Journal's Andrew Nagorski: The Pope Who Made History in His Leaving

This fundamentally conservative pope has taken a bold step that is truly exemplary. Not only his successors but any number of religious and secular leaders would do well to keep his precedent in mind as they contemplate how long they should stay in office.

In The London Telegraph  The pope who was not afraid to say sorry

Pope Benedict XVI was a  courageous pontiff who made a sincere attempt to restore the good name of the Church.
In January 2009, for instance, he wrote to every Catholic bishop in the world to confess to his own mishandling of the case of Bishop Richard Williamson

The Reason Benedict Resigned William Fahey

Benedict XVI has marked his pontificate by humility.  If anything, he has tried to depersonalize the use of authority, even that uniquely personal authority, the Petrine Office.  Yet we must always remember that the “person” of the Papal ministry is St. Peter, who with his successors acts in the person of Christ.  The papacy is a lived authority and a living authority and one that must respond to the needs of the Age.
The Holy Father’s reasons for resignation spring from a grave sense of office and a faithful belief in what that office truly is. He has remained through his pontificate faithful and true to his vocation of father and teacher. Both father and teacher must daily put aside themselves to be true to their calling.

President Obama,

"I have appreciated our work together over these last four years.."

Samuel Gregg in the National Review

Ever since I started writing about Joseph Ratzinger in the late 1990s, two qualities about the man impressed me. The first was his quiet but clear love of Christ as a living Person rather than the vague abstraction of liberal, often atheist theologians.  The second was Ratzinger’s genuine humility.
Which brings me to what I think will be this great Pope’s last legacy….. arguably the most intellectual pope to sit in Peter’s Chair for centuries…..As Benedict spelt out in four key addresses that repay careful re-reading—the famous 2006 Regensburg lecture, his 2008 address to the French intellectual world, his speech to the Bundestag in 2011, and his remarks to the world of British politics in 2010 in Westminster Hall (the site, not coincidentally, of St Thomas More’s show-trial in 1535)—man, especially Western man, has lost confidence in reason’s power to know more-than-empirical truth.

And what’s the result? It means very basic discussions in the realms of politics and universities are no longer conducted along the lines identified long ago by figures such as Aristotle and Aquinas. Instead it’s all about power, who is stronger, and who can evoke the highest degree of sentimental humanitarianism from people looking for guidance in increasingly incoherent societies.

David Goldman, ‘I Have a Mustard Seed, and I’m Not Afraid to Use It’

Pope Benedict's commitment to theological truth as he understood it at the expense of political correctness is unique among today's religious leaders….The West has lost a great spiritual leader. We will be hard put to find another like him.

Andrew Klavan, Turn Out the Lights of Europe When You Leave, Pope

I think Joseph Ratzinger — aka Pope Benedict XVI — is one of the greatest men of the age — possibly the only great man of the age — and almost certainly the last great man Europe will produce. As far as I’m concerned, he should turn the continent’s lights out as he steps down at the end of the month.

The Vatican Insider The Opus Dei and Benedict XVI’s “silent clean-up" operation

Richard Fernandez discusses the possibility the new Pope will be a non-European in After Benedict

the identification of Christianity with Europe is over now. And perhaps Benedict will be remembered a herald of that sea-change.

One immediate effect of the broken linkage is that it will no longer be possible to depict Christianity as a “white man’s” or “colonial” religion. The only people who will continue to parrot that line will be those on the Left who after all live mostly in the past. But more importantly it will allow Christianity to sharpen the distinctions between itself and the only indigenous world-religion of Europe: Marxism and its derivatives.

For Christianity is fundamentally at philosophical opposition to the zeitgeist of the PC West. Thus, newly freed, the way will lie open to a debate over such things as the nature of truth, the sacredness of human life, the possibility of transcendence. Such questions can be openly discussed again
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink

February 11, 2013

Where u at UPDATED

Far too many young people driving around in cars have died in horrific crashes because they took their eyes off the road to answer or send a text message.    They've lost their lives and the pain of their families is heart-breaking.

AT&T has a ten-minute documentary Don't Text While Driving which should be compulsory watching for any teen-ager with a license.  Something to shatter their illusionary sense of invincibility.

Your last words should come at the end of a long life and may they never be, "where u at"

UPDATE;  The National Safety Council estimates a minimum of 24% of all crashes involve drivers talking and texting on cell phones.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:28 PM | Permalink

"I just couldn’t look mother after mother in the eye and deny their children the opportunity I wanted for my own children"

The purpose of teachers' unions is to represent the job interests of their members.  They do no represent the best interests of children.
Which is why all the school reforms of the past 30 years haven't worked.  And it's why they will fight school choice to the death.

From Prager University, a 5 minute video on How Teachers Unions Hurt Schools

Michelle Rhee: My Break With the Democrats

As a lifelong Democrat, controversial education reformer Michelle Rhee never thought she’d support school vouchers. Until she did. In Radical, she details her transformation.

As a lifelong Democrat I was adamantly against vouchers. Vouchers provide public funds to parents who need help in paying tuition for private or parochial schools.
I just couldn’t look mother after mother in the eye and deny their children the opportunity I wanted for my own children. It would have required me to say, “Gee, I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to suck it up. I know your elementary school is a failing school, and your child will probably not learn how to read, but I really need five more years to fix the system. And while I’m fixing the system, I need you and your neighbors to be really patient. Hang in there with me. Things will get better. I promise.”

If someone said that to me, I’d have said, “You may need more time to fix the system but my kid doesn’t have time. She has only one chance to attend first grade, and if she can’t learn to read by the end of first grade, her chances for success in life will be compromised. So with all due respect—heck no!”
Here’s the question we Democrats need to ask ourselves: Are we beholden to the public school system at any cost, or are we beholden to the public school child at any cost?
Think about it this way. Say your elderly mother had to be hospitalized for life-threatening cancer. The best doctor in the region is at Sacred Heart, a Catholic, private hospital. Could you ever imagine saying this? “Well, I don’t think our taxpayer dollars should subsidize this private institution that has religious roots, so we’re going to take her to County General, where she’ll get inferior care. ’Cause that’s just the right thing to do!”

Simple Justice: Kids Deserve School Choice

Rather than cave to self-interested protests against school choice from teachers unions, we should do what we can to make Catholic schools a viable school option for low-income children.
The steady loss of Catholic schools is not only a crisis for the mission and ministry of the Catholic Church in America. It also threatens to detour, and in many cases to dead-end, that “road of opportunity.” What’s more, as new research by law professors Margaret Brinig and Nicole Stelle Garnett demonstrates, Catholic school closures in urban neighborhoods are associated with decreases in social cohesion and increases in disorder (see “Catholic Schools and Broken Windows”). Along with other scholars, Brinig and Garnett have reminded us of the importance of “social capital” and the anchoring, mediating institutions that strengthen communities and character alike. In our history, few institutions have played this role as successfully as Catholic schools have.

What’s more, for more than 150 years, and often despite bias and bigotry, Catholic schools have relieved governments of huge financial burdens while providing communities with immeasurable civic benefits. Indeed, America’s Catholic schools represent one of the most dramatic donations of time, talent, and treasure to the common good in our history. Perhaps instead of making the “heartbreaking” choice to close Blessed Sacrament School, Cardinal Dolan should call a press conference and present to the American people a sizable bill for services rendered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:38 PM | Permalink

February 10, 2013

A genius at impressions

Kevin Spacey is not just a wonderful actor, he's also a genius at impressions. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:31 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Sunbeds, Prozac, Diet drinks, butter better, in the near future

The shocking invisible damage done to a woman's face after 14 years of sunbed use.

 Sunbed Damage

A UV scanner shows the sun damage in stark detail.  Using a sunbed just once a month increases risk of skin cancer by 50%

Originally used as a blood pressure medication, Prozac has been prescribed for depression for 25 years.  The Jekyll and Hyde happy pill: It's brought relief to millions but is linked to suicide, low libido and birth defects, and we still don't know how Prozac works.

It may be the artificial sweeteners. Diet carbonated drinks make you 60% MORE likely to get diabetes than regular, 'full fat' version

Findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

Diet mixers also make you drunker.  Sugary mixers slow the passage of alcohol into the bloodstream
Study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Swapping the butter for margarine 'may be bad for your health'. U.S. scientists claim polyunsaturated fat 'doubles heart risk'

Study reanalyzed data from the 60s and 70s in Sydney Australia and published in the British Medical Journal.

Taking vitamin C every day DOUBLES the risk of painful kidney stones
The findings appear in the journal JAMA Internal medicine.

Watching TV for too long 'cuts male fertility by half'. Laziness leads to a drop in sperm quality
Study from the Harvard School of Public Health.

In the near future

A gold and silk tattoo that calls for help when you fall ill

The tech-savvy tats come embedded with antennae that would wirelessly alert nearby computers to your malady and help you receive prompt help.

 Silk, Gold Tattoo Calls For Help

The key to better health care may lie in smartphones

Dr. Eric Topol is  the chief academic officer of Scripps Health, a prominent cardiologist and the foremost figure in the field of wireless medicine. He believes the future of health lies in our own hands, namely in our smart phones and other portable electronic devices.  According to Topol, “the smart phone will be the hub of the future of medicine.  And it will be your health-medical dashboard.”  “These days, I’m prescribing a lot more apps than I am medications,” he continued.

Topol points to a growing number of apps and devices, none of which he is paid for using or endorsing, that are capable of measuring vital signs and then transmitting that data to smartphones. Whether it’s your blood sugar levels, your heart rate or your sleep habits, Topol believes we should track our own conditions through our phones and use that data to see patterns and warning signs of illness.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:23 PM | Permalink

February 5, 2013

"Deference to presumed feelings has prevailed for a long time"

How do you change the culture?  Family Ties

Mitch Pearlstein, founder and president of the Center of the American Experiment, is the author of From Family Collapse to America’s Decline: The Educational, Economic, and Social Costs of Family Fragmentation.

PEARLSTEIN: My guess is that for every person like me in public or publishing life who dwells on reviving marriage, there are dozens who see the quest as Quixotic and instead focus precisely on making single parenthood work better than it routinely does. How else, for instance, can you explain why government devotes infinitely more money — by way of TANF, SNAP, WIC, and the like — to making single-parenthood a viable proposition than it does to helping low-income men and women achieve healthy marriages? How else can you explain how a person can attend day-long academic conferences on families and never once hear the word “marriage” uttered? Or how else can you explain why it’s considered some kind of success whenever the importance of fatherhood is publicly acknowledged, even if accompanying words are never spoken about fathers actually being married to the mothers of their children?

As for “making single mothers feel bad,” it’s essential that both courage and grace be watchwords whenever talking or writing about single parents. But given the state of the debate, it’s clear that deference to presumed feelings has prevailed for a long time.
Millions of American kids growing up in fatherless families are doing great, and millions of American kids growing up in seemingly perfect homes are doing poorly. The problem is that, generally speaking and on average, young people coming of age in fragmented families do less well than other young people by every conceivable measure.
PEARLSTEIN: My aim in From Family Collapse to America’s Decline has been to focus on what I see as the biggest threat to marriage, family stability, and child well-being in the United States: nonmarital birth rates and divorce rates that are much too high.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

Not Since the French Revolution Have the Bells at Notre Dame Rung in Harmony

Ever since the French Revolution,  the bells at Notre Dame have been discordant, out-of-tune, but that is about to change.

 New Bells2 Notre Dame

The chimes they are a-changin': Nine new bells arrive at Notre Dame cathedral to mark its 850th anniversary

The Hunchback of Notre Dame would be jumping for joy at the news.

Nine new enormous bronze bells have arrived at the Paris cathedral to replace the old ones that had been discordant for decades, and to help the landmark rediscover its historical harmony.

The bells, named after saints, and prominent Catholic figures, will be on display at Notre Dame from Saturday until February 25 when they will be hoisted to its iconic twin towers.
The old bells, which dated from different periods throughout Notre Dame's history, were out of tune with each other and with Emmanuel, which has hung in the cathedral since the 17th century, according to cathedral officials.

 New Bells Notredame

The arrival of the bells ‘is historic precisely because since the 18th century, we haven't experienced such an event,’ said the cathedral's rector, Patrick Jacquin.  ‘During the French Revolution, they (the bells) were all brought down and broken except the great bell, Emmanuel, which is here and four other bells that were recast in the middle of the nineteenth century…. This will complete in a definitive manner the entire set of 10 bells as conceived … in the Middle Ages.’

The €2 million (£1.7 million) bell-casting project was funded via donations, cathedral officials say.

‘Historically the idea of this project was to recreate the old bells of Notre Dame in terms of power, in terms of tune, which means that there will be again 10 bells ringing into the cathedral as it used to be in the Middle Ages and up until the French Revolution,’ said Paul Bergamo, president of the Cornille-Havard Foundry in Villedieu-les-Poeles.

The new bells will be installed in time to ring out for Palm Sunday (March 23) and Easter.  If you want to hear the clear tone of one of the bells, watch this short video of the blessing of the bells.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 AM | Permalink


Smothered by Safety by Lenore Skenazy

• An upstate New York school district outlawed soap in its pre-school bathrooms for fear that children might suddenly start drinking it. Now kids must come out and ask an adult to squirt some soap in their hands.

•  Unaccompanied children under age 12 were banned from the Boulder, CO, library, lest they encounter “hazards such as stairs, elevators, doors, furniture…and other library patrons.”

• The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a recall of certain fleece hoodies sold at Target because of lead paint on the zipper, which presumably could raise blood lead levels if the zippers are eaten.

•  A New Canaan, CT, mom was charged with “risk of injury to a minor,” for letting her 13-year-old babysit the three younger children at home for an hour while the mom went to church.

• A Tennessee mother was thrown in jail for letting her kids, aged 8 and 5, go the park without her, a block and half away from home.

* A Hazmat crew was summoned to Seminole High School in Florida after a science student brought in a mercury thermometer
When rational parenting decisions become criminalized, parents are forced to think irrationally. I hear from parents all the time who’d like to let their kid walk to school, or play outside, but worry they could be cited for negligence.
Welcome to the world of “dangerism.” That’s a term coined by Gever Tulley, author of 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Kids Do). He uses it to describe the way normal, everyday objects and activities can be reclassified as dangerous when seen through the worst-case-scenario lens. That’s why, for instance, federal playground safety guidelines propose removing “tripping hazards, like tree stumps and rocks.”
When the government declares that we must live in a zero-risk world, it is free to outlaw almost any product or parenting practice it decides to set its sights on. And we have no recourse but to toss the toys we trust, the heirlooms we loved, and the age-old belief that if we train our kids to be brave and smart, we can gradually let them out to embrace the world, risk and all.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

February 4, 2013

Communism, Fascism and liberals

John Gray reviews Vladimir Tismaneanu's The Devil in History, Communism, Fascism, and some lessons of the twentieth century
in Communism, Fascism and liberals now featured in The Times Literary Supplement.

Writing about Tismaneanu's belief that

in important respects Communism and Fascism were at one. He is clear that “Communism is not Fascism, and Fascism is not Communism. Each totalitarian experiment has its own irreducible attributes”. Even so, the two were alike in viewing mass killing as a legitimate instrument of social engineering.
Tismaneanu’s account of Communist totalitarianism will be resisted by those who want to believe that it was an essentially humanistic project derailed by events – national backwardness, foreign encirclement and the like. But as he points out, the Soviet state was founded on policies which implied that some human beings were not fully human. Lenin may have held to a version of humanism, but it was one that excluded much of actually existing humankind. …. If radical evil consists in denying the protection of morality to sections of humankind, the regime founded by Lenin undoubtedly qualifies.
In its predominant forms, liberalism has been in recent times a version of the religion of humanity, and with rare exceptions – Russell is one of the few that come to mind – liberals have seen the Communist experiment as a hyperbolic expression of their own project of improvement; if the experiment failed, its casualties were incurred for the sake of a progressive cause. To think otherwise – to admit the possibility that the millions who were judged to be less than fully human suffered and died for nothing – would be to question the idea that history is a story of continuing human advance, which for liberals today is an article of faith. That is why, despite all evidence to the contrary, so many of them continue to deny Communism’s clear affinities with Fascism. Blindness to the true nature of Communism is an inability to accept that radical evil can come from the pursuit of progress.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 AM | Permalink

"The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows"

In the Economist, Northern lights  The Nordic countries are reinventing their model of capitalism, says Adrian Wooldridge

THIRTY YEARS AGO Margaret Thatcher turned Britain into the world’s leading centre of “thinking the unthinkable”. Today that distinction has passed to Sweden.  The streets of Stockholm are awash with the blood of sacred cows. The think-tanks are brimful of new ideas. The erstwhile champion of the “third way” is now pursuing a far more interesting brand of politics.

Sweden has reduced public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today. It could soon have a smaller state than Britain. It has also cut the top marginal tax rate by 27 percentage points since 1983, to 57%, and scrapped a mare’s nest of taxes on property, gifts, wealth and inheritance. This year it is cutting the corporate-tax rate from 26.3% to 22%.

Sweden has also donned the golden straitjacket of fiscal orthodoxy with its pledge to produce a fiscal surplus over the economic cycle. Its public debt fell from 70% of GDP in 1993 to 37% in 2010, and its budget moved from an 11% deficit to a surplus of 0.3% over the same period. This allowed a country with a small, open economy to recover quickly from the financial storm of 2007-08. Sweden has also put its pension system on a sound foundation, replacing a defined-benefit system with a defined-contribution one and making automatic adjustments for longer life expectancy.

Most daringly, it has introduced a universal system of school vouchers and invited private schools to compete with public ones. Private companies also vie with each other to provide state-funded health services and care for the elderly.
Why are the Nordic countries doing this? The obvious answer is that they have reached the limits of big government. “The welfare state we have is excellent in most ways,” says Gunnar Viby Mogensen, a Danish historian. “We only have this little problem. We can’t afford it.” The economic storms that shook all the Nordic countries in the early 1990s provided a foretaste of what would happen if they failed to get their affairs in order.

Policy makers would do well to study the Nordic model.  Using competition and market forces to improve the delivery of governmental services, the Nordic countries also live within their means.  Here at home, we can't even get a President to submit a budge or Senate to pass one, much less to address the very real problems of entitlements and debt.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

Go ahead and chew

Chewing gum is GOOD for the brain and can boost alertness by 10% says a report in the Journal of Brain and Cognition

The newly published research suggests as many as eight different areas of the brain are affected by the simple act of chewing.
One theory to explain the increased performance is that it increases arousal and leads to temporary improvements in blood flow to the brain.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:20 AM | Permalink

February 1, 2013

Debunking myths and finding a shoulder to cry on

7 Common Weight-Related Myths Debunked in the New England Journal of Medicine

Sex burns between 100 to 300 calories.    Nope, only about 21

Small changes in diet or exercise lead to large, long-term weight changes.  Nope, the body adapts to changes.

School gym classes have a big impact on kids’ weight. Nope, they are not long enough or intense enough to make much difference.

Losing a lot of weight quickly is worse than losing a little slowly over the long term.  Nope, dieters who lose a lot of weight to start with lose more weight.

Snacking leads to weight gain.  Nope, no high-quality studies support that.

Regularly eating breakfast helps prevent obesity.   Nope, two studies found no effect 

Setting overly ambitious goals leads to frustration and less weight loss.  Nope, people do better with high goals.

Leafy green vegetables are the top source of food poisoning and can be deadly. Study

While more people may have gotten sick from plants, more died from contaminated poultry, the study also found. The results were released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
….Many of the vegetable-related illnesses come from norovirus, which is often spread by cooks and food handlers. So contamination sometimes has more to do with the kitchen or restaurant it came from then the food itself, Griffin noted.

CDC estimated 277 poultry-related deaths in 1998-2008, compared to 236 vegetable-related deaths.

Delinquency rates on student loans reach 'unsustainable' 15%   Another credit bubble about to pop.

The double squeeze on seniors.  Low interest rates mean Incomes from investments is way down and costs are up.

Since the financial crisis hit, we have borrowed and spent $5.7 trillion, or 41% of 2008 GDP (7.8% of total GDP over the period). That is an enormous sum. ….–and yet it has left us with unemployment in the range of 8%, and per-capita GDP that is still below the pre-crisis trend

Cry on Nigella's shoulders.
-Nigella Lawson  Women in their 50s have have the most empathy, study claims

For no one else, male or female, has as much empathy as women of this generation, according to a study of more than 75,000 adults. They will listen more other people's problems and also react better to their needs, showing sympathy, concern and emotion, the research claims.

Even a baby can sympathize. Research shows one-year-olds can guess thoughts through empathy

Infants as young as 18 months old can guess what other people are thinking, a new study claims.  A study of children from rural China, Ecuador and Fiji found that their ability to see the world from others' perspectives emerges much earlier than previously thought.

It was previously thought that this ability to empathize only emerges in children between the ages of four and seven, but children from different countries develop it at different ages.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

How to find your stolen car

Kottke passes on this advice from a former cab driver

If your car is ever stolen, your first calls should be to every cab company in the city. You offer a $50 reward to the driver who finds it AND a $50 reward to the dispatcher on duty when the car is found. The latter is to encourage dispatchers on shift to continually remind drivers of your stolen car. Of course you should call the police too but first things first. There are a lot more cabs than cops so cabbies will find it first -- and they're more frequently going in places cops typically don't go, like apartment and motel complex parking lots, back alleys etc. Lastly, once the car is found, a swarm of cabs will descend and surround it because cabbies, like anyone else, love excitement and want to catch bad guys.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 AM | Permalink