June 27, 2013

Some interesting reads over the weekend

Why Britons should celebrate the American Declaration of Independence, Daniel Hannan

Neither Paul Revere nor anyone else could have shouted 'The British are coming' in 1775: the entire population of Massachusetts was British (what the plucky Boston silversmith actually yelled was 'The regulars are out!') The overall level of taxation in the colonies in 1775 was barely a fiftieth of what it was in Great Britain, and the levies to which Americans had objected had been repealed before the fighting began. The Boston Tea Party, which sparked the violence, was brought about by a lowering of the duty on tea. George Washington wasn't there when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The flag which the Patriots marched under was not, except on very rare occasions, the stars-and-stripes (which probably wasn't sewn by Betsy Ross); it was the Grand Union Flag, which incorporated the flag of Great Britain.

 Grand Union Flag.Svg

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The Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution that followed, distilled and fortified the principles on which British exceptionalism was held to have rested since the Great Charter. No Briton can be unmoved when he stands in the room where those sublime documents were signed. Their promise is why large parts of the world remain prosperous, free and self-governing. That is the gift of the English-speaking peoples to the rest of the human race. It is why, taking the bad along with the good, we none the less say, on this of all days, God bless America.

The Irish Hitler - the strange tale of Bridget Hitler and the Nazi leader.  Irish sister-in-law of Hitler and her son Patrick escaped to the US

In Slate: Ambivalence Is Awesome  Or is it awful? Sometimes it’s best to have conflicted feelings.

Ambivalence refers to the state of experiencing conflicting beliefs or feelings simultaneously. The prefix ambi means both; the suffix valence derives from the Latin for vigor and refers to the attraction or aversion felt toward something. Someone can feel a positive or negative valence. Or both.
Ambivalence is not the same as indifference, with which it is often confused. Someone in an ambivalent state of mind is experiencing an excess of opinion, not an absence of it. An ambivalent person may feel very strongly about the subject at hand without reaching anything like a coherent point of view on it.

In the New Yorker, How Caffeine Can Cramp Creativity

caffeine has a number of distinct benefits. Chief among them are that it boosts energy and decreases fatigue; enhances physical, cognitive, and motor performance; and aids short-term memory, problem solving, decision making, and concentration.

But all of that comes at a cost….creativity is notoriously difficult to study in a laboratory setting…Still, we do know that much of what we associate with creativity—whether writing a sonnet or a mathematical proof—has to do with the ability to link ideas, entities, and concepts in novel ways. This ability depends in part on the very thing that caffeine seeks to prevent: a wandering, unfocussed mind….Caffeine prevents our focus from becoming too diffuse; it instead hones our attention in a hyper-vigilant fashion.

In the NYT Magazine, The Rock 'n' Roll Casualty Who Became a War Hero

Jason Everman has the unique distinction of being the guy who was kicked out of Nirvana and Soundgarden, two rock bands that would sell roughly 100 million records combined. At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice.

Then again, he wasn’t remotely. What Everman did afterward put him far outside the category of rock’n’roll footnote. He became an elite member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, one of those bearded guys riding around on horseback in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban.

I've posted about the Louvre's Sculptures Dressed as Hipsters before.  Now there are more.  They are very amusing, the work of  photographer Léo Caillard and art director Alexis Persani.

 Hipster-Sculptures-Alexis-Persani-Leo-Caillard-4

Home and Heart Are Never Far Apart, Wendell and Me by Mary Berry

My brother and I grew up with stories, both oral and written. The stories were so compelling to me as a child that I thought, until I was pretty close to adulthood, that I could remember things that happened before I was born. This gave me the sense that I have never lost, of living partly in the past and of loving men and woman that I did not know. I expect, although I can’t know, that many of our stories would have been passed down whether or not we lived in Henry County. But I know that the daily reminders of sight, sounds and smells bring up those stories over and over again and so their power and influence has strengthened in our lives and my brother and I have passed them on to our children.
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What I have written so far sounds good and has been good but, as they say, “The devil is in the details.” I was asked once what it was like to be a Berry child. I answered that it was fine except for the constant humiliation. I believe that I went along with my father’s plans for us very agreeably until I was 12 or 13, the age when I think many children realize that their parents need guidance.

In the New Yorker The Mars500 Expedition: Five Hundred and Twenty Days of Solitude

Urbina said that when he heard he had been accepted to take part in Mars500, it sounded like a good opportunity to catch up on some reading….While he usually averages two books a year, in the course of the Mars500 experiment Urbina read twenty-seven. “That was really important for me,” he said. “In the end, what you are doing, it’s really cold, really repetitive. You need to stay in touch with your humanity. Books are a really good tool for that.”

Why the McWrap is So Important to McDonald's

The McWrap is a 10-inch, white-flour tortilla wrapped around 3 ounces of chicken (grilled or “crispy”), lettuce, spring greens, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and cheddar jack cheese. On top is ranch, sweet chili, or creamy garlic dressing. You could easily make it at home without a recipe in about five minutes, varying it with whatever hasn’t rotted at the bottom of the veggie drawer. At McDonald’s, it took almost two years to perfect.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:28 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Focus on food with dangerous chemicals, addictive food, food in the fridge, bananas and fixes for vitamin deficiencies

Shocking list of popular foods and drinks readily available in U.S. grocery stores that are BANNED in other countries because their chemicals are deemed 'dangerous'

Low-fat potato chips like Ruffles Lite, Lays Wow and Pringles fat-free chips all contain Olestra - which is shown to cause the depletion of fat-soluble vitamins. Different brands of fat-free ice cream and mayonnaise at one time also contain the chemical. Olestra has been banned in several countries, including the United Kingdom and Canada.
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Do you like citrus drinks, like Mt. Dew, Squirt or Fresca? Then you also like brominated vegetable oil, which is banned in more than 100 countries because it has been linked to basically every form of thyroid disease - from cancer to autoimmune diseases - known to man.
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Other products made from bromine: chemicals used to keep carpets from catching on fire and for disinfecting swimming pools.
Other food products made from brominated vegetable oil include New York brand flatbreads, bagel chips, Baja Burrito wraps and other bread products.
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Then there's things like Hungry Man frozen dinners, which will fill you up - with azodicarbonamide, a chemical used make things like bleach and rubber yoga mats.  Most frozen potato and bread products - like different varieties of McCain brand french fries - contain the chemical, as well as several store brand bread products.
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The final chemicals on the list - butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) - are found in everyday products like Post, Kellogs and Quaker brand cereals, as well as Diamond Nuts, Chex Mix and gum brands like Wrigley's, Trident, Bazooka and Bubble Yum.  Both BHA and BHT are waxy solids made from petroleum and are known to cause cancer in rats. It's banned in Japan, England and several other European countries.

 Mix-Of-Fresh-Foods

5 Signs That Your Body Is Starving For Vitamins

  1. Cracks at the corners of your mouth.
  2. A red, scaly rash on your face (and sometimes elsewhere) and hair loss.
  3. Red or white acnelike bumps, typically on the cheeks, arms, thighs, and butt.
  4. Tingling, prickling, and numbness in hands, feet, or elsewhere.
  5. Crazy muscle cramps in the form of stabbing pains in toes, calves, arches of feet, and backs of legs.

Click the link to find out the deficiency and the foods that can fix it.

Food really is addictive: Study finds brain activity similar to heroin users after eating certain processed foods

Researchers have found substance abuse and food with a high glycaemic index - such as white bread and potatoes - may trigger the same brain mechanism tied to addiction.

Eating highly processed carbohydrates can cause excess hunger and stimulate brain regions involved in reward and cravings, according to the study.

The findings suggest that limiting 'high-glycaemic index' foods could help obese people avoid overeating.  The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, investigated how food intake is regulated by dopamine-containing pleasure centres in the brain.

Storing vegetables in your fridge 'can take away goodness' because conditions do not mimic night and day

We’ve all been told that boiling vegetables for too long saps them of their goodness. But keeping them in the fridge could also be bad for our health.
Experts say that fruit and vegetables are alive even after they have been picked or dug up.  This means that they respond to changes in levels of light by producing different amounts of health-boosting chemicals.If ‘day’ follows ‘night’, as in the wild, the amount of the compounds rises and falls.
But kept in a dark place, such as the fridge, or in the constant light of a supermarket that is open 24 hours, the health-boosting chemicals never reach the same high.

Bananas are still the fruit of choice for tennis champions.

The bananas, by contrast, are serious athletic fuel. Their potassium replaces some of the nutrients sweated out in long baseline rallies, and they provide energy without weighing down the stomach, which is important when you have to leap up to serve seconds after eating….It was probably Martina Navratilova who turned bananas into the tennis food to defeat all others.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:29 AM | Permalink

Food Lies

10 Food Lies We've All Been Fed

1. Baby Carrots Are Actually Made from Grown Up Carrots

2. Portabello Mushroom is Actually Just Mature Brown Crimini Mushroom

5. You Haven't Tasted Real Wasabi

9. Chilean Sea bass isn't Chilean. It isn't even a Sea bass. Its real name is Patagonian toothfish
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:16 AM | Permalink

"Whatever happened to the intellectual depth of the serious atheists?"

I always pay attention when Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes.  His latest is in The Spectator

Atheism has failed.  Only religion can defeat the new barbariansThe West is suffering for its loss of faith. Unless we rediscover religion, our civilization is in peril

Future intellectual historians will look back with wonder at the strange phenomenon of seemingly intelligent secularists in the 21st century believing that if they could show that the first chapters of Genesis are not literally true, that the universe is more than 6,000 years old and there might be other explanations for rainbows than as a sign of God’s covenant after the flood, the whole of humanity’s religious beliefs would come tumbling down like a house of cards and we would be left with a serene world of rational non-believers getting on famously with one another.

Whatever happened to the intellectual depth of the serious atheists, the forcefulness of Hobbes, the passion of Spinoza, the wit of Voltaire, the world-shattering profundity of Nietzsche? Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?

A significant area of intellectual discourse — the human condition sub specie aeternitatis — has been dumbed down to the level of a school debating society. Does it matter? ….Why not leave it at that?

Fair enough, perhaps. But not, I submit, for readers of The Spectator, because religion has social, cultural and political consequences, and you cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his -latter-day successors fail to grasp at all.

Time and again in his later writings he tells us that losing Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality. No more ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’; instead the will to power. …

The history of Europe since the 18th century has been the story of successive attempts to find alternatives to God as an object of worship, among them the nation state, race and the Communist Manifesto. After this cost humanity two world wars, a Cold War and a hundred million lives, we have turned to more pacific forms of idolatry, among them the market, the liberal democratic state and the consumer society, all of which are ways of saying that there is no morality beyond personal choice so long as you do no harm to others.

Even so, the costs are beginning to mount up. Levels of trust have plummeted throughout the West as one group after another — bankers, CEOs, media personalities, parliamentarians, the press — has been hit by scandal. Marriage has all but collapsed as an institution, with 40 per cent of children born outside it and 50 per cent of marriages ending in divorce. Rates of depressive illness and stress-related syndromes have rocketed especially among the young. A recent survey showed that the average 18- to 35-year-old has 237 Facebook friends. When asked how many they could rely on in a crisis, the average answer was two. A quarter said one. An eighth said none.

None of this should surprise us. This is what a society built on materialism, individualism and moral relativism looks like. It maximises personal freedom but at a cost. As Michael Walzer puts it: ‘This freedom, energising and exciting as it is, is also profoundly disintegrative, making it very difficult for individuals to find any stable communal support, very difficult for any community to count on the responsible participation of its individual members. It opens solitary men and women to the impact of a lowest common denominator, commercial culture.’
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 AM | Permalink

June 26, 2013

What about same sex spinster sisters?

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, gay spouses may not only file joint taxes, they will be entitled to the same survivor benefits as straight spouses.

Are there other classes of people who ought to be afforded the same?  What about same-sex spinster sisters?  The push for the same treatment for relatives who live together for decades is beginning to happen  in the U.K.

Spinster sisters could win legal right to be treated as married couples,

The introduction of same-sex marriage could finally open the way for carers and relatives such as unmarried sisters who live together to be given the same legal status as married couples.

Baroness Deech, the leading lawyer, told Peers that, once the change in the marriage laws is enacted, the European Court of Human Rights would be likely to support a challenge to the current civil partnership restrictions unless they are opened up to those not in a sexual relationship.

Such a change would mean that relatives who live together for decades would not risk losing their home because of inheritance tax if one of them died, she said.

She highlighted the case of Joyce and Sybil Burden, two elderly sisters who lost their legal fight for the right to be treated as civil partners at the Strasbourg court six years ago.
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“Civil partners and married couples, gay or straight, will be treated in law far better than, for example, two elderly sisters who share a house or an elderly father and the daughter who cares for him.”

She added: “Why should consanguinity be any less important than the relationship between married and civil partners?

“The state should not prefer sexual relationships, which may be short-lived and serial, over blood relationships that have proved to have endured decades.

In their 2006 tax battle, two elderly spinster sisters argued, Treat us like lesbians

Inheritance tax concessions discriminate against some heterosexual couples, lawyers for two elderly sisters told the European Court of Human Rights yesterday.  Joyce Burden, 88, and her sister Sybil, 81, claim that they should enjoy the same tax advantages as a lesbian couple.  The sisters looked after their parents and two aunts at their home near Marlborough, Wilts, until their deaths.

They now care for each other. But when one of the sisters dies, the other will face a hefty bill for inheritance tax.  They fear that the home they inherited from their parents will then have to be sold. Inheritance tax is not payable on property passing on death from one spouse to another.

They lost their battle in 2008 when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that they do not face unfair discrimination under British inheritance tax rules

After losing the first case in 2006, Joyce Burden commented: “If we were lesbians we would have all the rights in the world. But we are sisters, and it seems we have no rights at all.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

Our broken security clearance system

The security clearance system of the country is completely broken.

• 87 percent of background checks are never fully completed
• There are no uniform guidelines across the government for different levels of clearance. This means that top-secret clearance at one agency means something completely different at another.
• USIS, a private contractor, conducts 65 percent of all U.S. government background checks.

USIS, which conducted a background check on Snowden, is now under investigation by OPM’s IG for failing to conduct proper background checks.
OPM has already paid USIS $200 million this year.
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Eighteen OPM investigators have been convicted of falsifying information contained in investigations they’ve conducted. Eleven work for OPM, while the other seven work for private contractors.
Forty other investigators are currently being investigated for falsifying background checks.

“I'm tired of this assumption that contractors are cheaper. I just think it's easier,” McCaskill then said.
With that, Thursday’s matinee of the absurd lowered its curtain.

John Hinderaker at Powerline asks the pertinent question:

"How in the world could the NSA allow a random employee of a contractor, Booz Allen, who had been on the “job” for only a couple of months, such unfettered and apparently uncharted access to secret materials? The fact that the NSA did so is the best argument against that agency’s being a trustworthy custodian of Americans’ secrets.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:52 AM | Permalink

‘How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick’

Saying Less and Doing More    ‘How to Be a Friend to a Friend Who’s Sick’ Can Be Harder Than It Sounds

Letty Pogrebin, a writer who, among other things, contributed to the founding of Ms., the feminist magazine, has produced a guide for people who have friends facing a wide range of troubles, including their own illness (or imminent death), the loss of a loved one, or the mental illness or drug addiction of a child.
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A lot of her advice is common sense, but some of it is surprising.

As Ms. Pogrebin notes, greeting someone with the seemingly innocent question “How are you?” can prompt all kinds of unwelcome thoughts. Better, she advises, is a simple “It is good to see you.” For sure, you should not ask “How are you really?” If you are close enough to merit that information, it will come to you.

Like Ms. Pogrebin, I found it irritating when people told me they were inspired by my “battle” with cancer. Military analogies are not appropriate. Most of the time, being ill is not a battle. It is just an unpleasant experience.
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But perhaps the best advice Ms. Pogrebin offers is the simplest: Listen. Take your cues from the sick person.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:15 AM | Permalink

'Digital Dementia' and a virtual dementia tour

Surge in 'digital dementia'

Doctors in South Korea are reporting a surge in "digital dementia" among young people who have become so reliant on electronic devices that they can no longer remember everyday details like their phone numbers.
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South Korea is one of the most digitally connected nations in the world and the problem of internet addiction among both adults and children was recognised as far back as the late 1990s.
That is now developing into the early onset of digital dementia – a term coined in South Korea – meaning a deterioration in cognitive abilities that is more commonly seen in people who have suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness.

"Over-use of smartphones and game devices hampers the balanced development of the brain," …"Heavy users are likely to develop the left side of their brains, leaving the right side untapped or underdeveloped," he said.
The right side of the brain is linked with concentration and its failure to develop will affect attention and memory span, which could in as many as 15 per cent of cases lead to the early onset of dementia.

What they have to look forward to 'isolating, debilitating, distressing' in the words of 24-year-old who took the virtual tour of dementia.

See what the world looks like through the eyes of a dementia sufferer: Virtual tour shows people the horrors that await so many of us

The Virtual Dementia Tour alters senses and perception to simulate the day-to-day experiences of people with neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s.
Users are given glasses which only allow tunnel vision and insoles which cause pins and needles. It also uses headphones which play constant background noise and gloves which hinder sense of touch.

They are then asked to complete five simple tasks - read the instructions on the wall, pair socks, pour a glass of water, tie a tie and write a note.

 Virtual-Dementia-Tour


Its inventors hope the resource will help care professionals increase their understanding of dementia and improve care.
Creators say the eight-minute-long disorientating experience will help carers and nurses understand how people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease see the world.
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Through the trials we have learnt things like the importance of the application of touch - placing a hand on a sufferers arm to show contact will mean they engage with the instructions better.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:12 AM | Permalink

Stereotype accuracy

Psychology Today  Why do so many psychologists emphasize stereotype inaccuracy when the evidence so clearly provides evidence of such high accuracy?

There may be many explanations, but one that fits well is the leftward lean of most psychologists.  If we can self-righteously rail against other people's inaccurate stereotypes, we cast ourselves as good, decent egalitarians fighting the good fight, siding with the oppressed against their oppressors.

Furthermore, as Jon Haidt has repeatedly shown, ideology blinds people to facts that are right under their noses.  Liberal social scientists often have assumed stereotypes were inaccurate without bothering to test for inaccuracy, and, when the evidence has been right under their noses, they have avoided looking at it.  And when something happens where they can't avoid looking at it, they have denigrated its importance.  Which is, in some ways, very amusing -- if, after 100 years of proclaiming the inaccuracy of stereotypes to the world, can we really just say "Never mind, it's not that important" after the evidence comes in showing that stereotype accuracy is one of the largest relationships in all of social psychology?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:00 AM | Permalink

IRS sends $46 million in refunds to 24,000 unauthorized aliens all at a single address

IRS Sent $46,378,040 in Refunds to 23,994 ‘Unauthorized’ Aliens at 1 Atlanta Address -

The IRS sent 11,284 refunds worth a combined $2,164,976 to unauthorized alien workers at a second Atlanta address; 3,608 worth $2,691,448 to a third; and 2,386 worth $1,232,943 to a fourth.
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TIGTA’s audit found that IRS management has not established adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the assignment of an ITIN to individuals submitting questionable applications,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. “Even more troubling, TIGTA found an environment which discourages employees from detecting fraudulent applications.”
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The IRS, according to TIGTA, also assigned ITINs to 15,028 unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Dallas, Texas, and 10,356 to unauthorized aliens presumably living at a single address in Atlantic City, N.J.


IRS Sent $7,319,518 in Refunds to One Bank Account Used by 2,706 Aliens

The Internal Revenue Service sent $7,319,518 in tax refunds in 2011 to what theoretically were 2,706 aliens who were not authorized to work inside the United States and who all used the same bank account, according to an audit report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
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The inspector general's audit report revealing this remarkable payout was spurred by two IRS employees who went to members of Congress "alleging that IRS management was requiring employees to assign Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) even when the applications were fraudulent.”

You mean to tell me that IRS has no controls that would prevent $46 million in refunds to a single address!  The IRS is an agency completely out of control.  It should be abolished and a flat tax instituted to prevent such corruption and blatant fraud.

Twelve different IRS units nationwide targeted conservatives

“We know that the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division in Washington, D.C. was involved, and that’s where Carter Hull and Lois Lerner were working. We have 14 letters directly from Lois Lerner,” French said. “When Lois Lerner said on May 10 that this was just a few agents in Cincinnati, we were literally holding in our hands 14 letters that she wrote to conservative groups.”

No wonder she took the 5th.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:58 AM | Permalink

What's better than the public education now on offer

Obama Wrong to Link Religious Education to Civic Division

A 2008 study by David Campbell compared civic engagement among students from Catholic, religious non-Catholic, secular-private, assigned public, and selective magnet schools and found that students at non-state schools—which are largely religious—performed better. This was particularly pronounced in the case of Catholic schools.
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Campbell’s results held even accounting for family factors like parental income, education, and religiosity and school-based factors like size and mandatory community service.
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“William Jeynes, a professor of education at California State University, recently analyzed multiple studies and data sets exploring the link between religious schooling and attainment and concluded that religious education helps all children academically, but particularly helps minority and low-socioeconomic-status students close the achievement gap.”

Many Studies Link Religious Education to Tolerance

The 2008 Campbell study is only one in a long line of empirical studies looking at how religious education (and also secular private education) affect tolerance for the rights of others, as well as other democratic values and practices such as voter participation and volunteer work. The positive impact of religious and private education on civic values and practices is confirmed across the body of studies, giving us a level of certainty that we can never have as the result of just one study. Moreover, some of the studies use random assignment methods, increasing the confidence we can have in the results.

Poor and Minority Communities Gain Big from Charter Schools  The updated study from Credo (Center for Research on Education Outcomes.

White students actually performed worse in charter schools, but black and Hispanic children from low-income communities saw big gains.

The Rise of Classical Education

Classical schools are less concerned about whether students can handle iPads than if they grasp Plato. They generally aim to cultivate wisdom and virtue through teaching students Latin, exposing them to great books of Western civilization and focusing on appreciation of "truth, goodness and beauty." Students are typically held to strict behavioral standards in terms of conduct and politeness, and given examples of characters from history to copy, ranging from the Roman nobleman Cincinnatus to St. Augustine of Hippo.

Parents like them, too; the number of classical schools - public and private - is growing. The curriculum has helped to boost enrollment at religious schools and inspired new public schools.
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Wisdom, eloquence and virtue – these are the aims of a classical education. The patriarchs of western civilization understood that education was more than the acquisition of basic skills and mere competency. The purpose of education was to transform, to elevate, and to refine the mind and the soul. This was the standard, not the exception. At the center of classical education is an emphasis on the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Because these universal values serve as the building blocks of classical learning, the classical arts are timeless and proven, and have been known to produce many eloquent confessors and wise leaders. Our communities today are in dire need of just these sorts of men and women. In an endless pursuit of the latest educational dogma, many schools no longer have the capacity to judge what is Good, True and Beautiful, much less teach it. In forsaking the soul for the mind, they have forgotten how to educate both. Classical Education is a holistic approach to education, and a return to excellence in teaching, curriculum and expectations.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:01 AM | Permalink

June 24, 2013

What can happen if you don't know you are a beneficiary of a life insurance policy

The eleven insurance companies, including AIG, Hartford, John Hancock, Met Life, Prudential, Transamerica and TIAA-CREF,  agreed to a whopping $763 million settlement, admit no wrong doing but say they have agreed to reforms.

Thousands of Americans being billed for life insurance AFTER they die: Loophole that means companies don't have to tell family… and kept one woman unaware for five years

Millions of Americans could continue being billed for their life insurance policies, even after they have died.

Because most policies require the beneficiary to file a claim, insurance companies are able to legally continue drawing on the policy's cash reserves until funds run out.

Several of the leading insurance companies, including AIG, Prudential and Transamerica, have now agreed to a multi-state settlement under which they will repay about $763 million owed to the families of deceased policy holders.
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To keep track on their policy holders, insurers have to keep a death master file based on Social Security details.

When a death is recorded, the insurers will know not to expect further premium payments. But, if the beneficiary does not make a claim, the insurers can continue to draw payments from the policy's cash reserves
, according to ABC.

'Once the cash reserves were depleted, the company would cancel the policy,' a statement from Mr Chiang's office said.

Many people are unaware that they have been named as a beneficiary for a life insurance policy.
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A recent Consumer Reports study found Americans had a one in 600 chance of being owed unclaimed life insurance.
'The average benefit that's waiting to be collected is only about $2,000. But some of them are up to $300,000,' Jeff Blyskal, author of the study, said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:44 PM | Permalink

Our education schools get an "F"

Massive Fail: Teaching Instruction An “Industry Of Mediocrity”  Walter Russell Mead

An important education story from earlier this week that we failed to note: a new study run by the National Council on Teacher Quality has called U.S. colleges of education an “industry of mediocrity” that churns out ill-prepared and under-qualified teachers.
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And meanwhile, teachers unions ensure that these incompetently prepared people are given lifetime tenure and protected evaluations. So not only are future educators prepared poorly for their jobs, but most receive job protection within one to seven years, consistently avoiding an evaluation that would allow parents to judge their effectiveness.

It’s a real nice system we have.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:23 PM | Permalink

Families and communities are the most helpful sources of assistance and support in disasters

Six months after Hurricane Sandy, an AP survey assessed the impact and recovery of the superstorm

• Only 16% of those affected contacted the federal government and of those only 19% said they were helpful.  Twice as many said FEMA was no help at all.
• 19% contacted their insurance companies for assistance; about half said they were helpful.
• 63% of three percent of those in the affected areas who turned to friends, family or neighbors within a mile of their homes, and
• 60 percent who sought help from first responders, said they helped quite a bit or a great deal.

In their hour of greatest need, families and communities — not the government— were the most helpful sources of assistance and support.

People overwhelmingly said the Oct. 29 storm brought out the best in their neighbors, who shared generators, food, water and other supplies. Far fewer said they found help from federal or state governments.

Stranded in her darkened 20th-floor apartment in Brooklyn's Coney Island with two small children, Irina Medvinskaya was feeling desperate in the bleak days after the storm. The elevators stopped working. The food in her refrigerator spoiled.

Without the help of friends and family — particularly her boyfriend, who lugged full water-cooler bottles up the stairs — she doesn't know how she would have survived.

"People who can bring you food and water, and walk up 20 floors?" she said. "That's family, not FEMA."
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In neighborhoods hit hardest by the storm, sharing of resources was even more common, with 67 percent saying their neighbors shared food or water, 63 percent taking in neighbors, and 59 percent sharing access to power.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:19 PM | Permalink

June 22, 2013

We'll work until we're 74 and then we'll sing

Walter Russell Mead, When It Comes to Working, 74 is the New 65

Workers aged 60-74 now command better wages on average than workers 25-59, according to a new Brookings Institution study:
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With innovations in health care it will become possible for workers to stay productively employed even later into life, as long as employers invest smartly and wisely in the physical health of their employees. This will be good for older Americans, because working is an essential part of a full human life and a key determinant of happiness. It will be good for younger workers as well; as the aging work force reshapes the economy, young and old alike will benefit from more flexible, service-based employment.

The demographic shifts we’re experiencing now present a huge policy challenge for the country in the short term, but in the long term they could be a source of strength for the US economy.

Singing for Old Folk A Search for Harmony

You may recall “Young@Heart,” the 2008 documentary about a Northampton, Mass., senior chorus of the same name. Going strong since 1982, the group rehearses twice a week, has released three CDs and has given concerts around the world, most recently in Belgium and Holland.

You might expect performers over age 73 — the minimum age — to stick with memory-fanning songs of their youth. But Young@Heart is currently working on tunes by Yo La Tengo and the Flaming Lips.

“It exercises the brain. You have to learn stuff,” the choir director Bob Cilman said. “People work hard to stay in and continue. It’s probably good for their health.”

There’s some evidence that he’s right. Choral singing has been shown to strengthen neural connections, fortify the immune system and reduce stress and depression. “It seems to tinker with the chemicals in the brain in just the right way to make people feel better,” said Stacy Horn, author of the new book “Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness Singing With Others.”

Opening this weekend is Unfinished Song with Vanessa Redgrave,  Terence Stamp and Gemma Atherton.  NYT film critic Stephen Holden says, "It may be hokum, but it gets to you."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:21 AM | Permalink

The Decline in American Entrepreneurship. "The pessimistic view is we've lost our mojo."

America Falls Behind in Creating Entrepreneurs

A new study from Barclays, "Origins and Legacy: the Changing Order of Wealth Creation," finds developing countries now lead the U.S. when comes to wealth creation by entrepreneurs.

Worldwide, 40 percent of millionaires (which is defined as those with investable assets of $1.5 million or more) cited a "business sale or profit" from their business as their source of wealth. Only a quarter of the millionaires cited inheritance as their wealth source.

In the U.S., only 21 percent of millionaires cited business sale or profit as their source of wealth. A much larger percentage cited saved earnings or personal investments as their sources of wealth.

Risk-Averse Culture Infects U.S. Workers, Entrepreneurs

Three long-running trends suggest the U.S. economy has turned soft on risk: Companies add jobs more slowly, even in good times. Investors put less money into new ventures. And, more broadly, Americans start fewer businesses and are less inclined to change jobs or move for new opportunities.

The changes reflect broader, more permanent shifts, including an aging population and the new dominance of large corporations in many industries. They also may help explain the increasingly sluggish economic recoveries after the past three recessions, experts said.

"The U.S. has succeeded in part because of its dynamism, its high pace of job creation and destruction, and its high pace of churning of workers," said John Haltiwanger, a University of Maryland economist who has studied the decline in American entrepreneurship. "The pessimistic view is we've lost our mojo."

Companies that gamble on new ideas are more likely to fail, but also more likely to hit it big. Entrepreneurs face long odds, but those that achieve success create jobs for many others.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:04 AM | Permalink

The Exorcist

It's been 40 years since the movie The Exorcist, the scariest movie ever made, was released.  It won 10 Academy awards and become one of the highest grossing movies of all time, grossing over $441 million worldwide.

 The Exorcist

William Peter Blatty who wrote the book in 1971 and adapted it for screen, rewrote the book for its 40th anniversary and said, "The 40th Anniversary Edition of The Exorcist will have a touch of new material in it as part of an all-around polish of the dialogue and prose. First time around I never had the time (meaning the funds) to do a second draft, and this, finally, is it. With forty years to think about it, a few little changes were inevitable -- plus one new character in a totally new very spooky scene. This is the version I would like to be remembered for."

He was inspired by the 1949 exorcism case of Roland Doe.  It began in Maryland, ended in St. Louis, and involved several Jesuits from Saint Louis University.  Father Raymond J. Bishop, S.J. kept a day-by-day account of the exorcism.  You can read his account here,

The young boy who was exorcised is still alive and living in the Washington, D.C. area.  It's believed Robbie would be 77 today.

"He's had several children," Waide said. "He's moved back to the Washington D.C. area. He was non-Catholic, Lutheran nominally, but he became a Catholic.  He was baptized during this whole episode."

It's been reported that Robbie named a son Michael. In the exorcism records, Robby tells the priests he was saved by St. Michael the Archangel.
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In a priest's diary about the exorcism, this is the final footnote entry on page 29:

"Follow up: August 19, 1951. R and his father and mother visited the Brothers. R, now 16 is a fine young man. His father and mother also became Catholic, having received their first Holy Communion on Christmas Day, 1950."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:19 AM | Permalink

Lackluster U.S. response to Christian persecution around the world

Finally a congressman speaks up about the lame and feeble response the U.S. is taking on Christian persecution around the world.

Rep. Frank Wolf, co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission,  criticized the U.S. government’s “anemic and at times outright baffling” response to the persecution of Christians in the Mideast, urging the appointment of an envoy to protect religious minorities.

“America has always been a friend to the oppressed, the persecuted, the forgotten. But, sadly, today, that allegiance is in question, as religious freedom and human-rights abuses around the globe increasingly go unaddressed and unanswered,”
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The congressman noted that the civil war in Syria has killed some 93,000. Its consequences for Syrian Christians are “largely unknown and, unfortunately, rarely addressed by Western media.”

According to Wolf, the plight of Coptic Christians has been neglected by successive U.S. administrations. They now face marginalization under Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government.
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The congressman lamented the decline in the Jewish population in countries such as Iraq and Egypt and the marginalization of the Baha’i community in Iran.  “It appears a similar fate may await the ancient Christian community in these same lands.
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The years-long vacancy of the United States’ ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom also gives the impression that religious freedom is not important, Wolf added.

He said that Congress should pass legislation to create an envoy dedicated to advocacy on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East and south-central Asia.

Some 100,000 Christians killed per year over faith, Vatican says

A staggering 100,000 Christians are killed annually because of their faith, according to the Vatican -- and several human rights groups claim such anti-Christian violence is on the rise in countries like Pakistan, Nigeria and Egypt…."Other Christians and other believers are subjected to forced displacement, to the destruction of their places of worship, to rape and to the abduction of their leaders,

Just in the past week:
Syria rebels 'beheaded a Christian and fed him to the dogs'

Putin backs Assad and berates west over proposal to arm rebels.  Russian president says backing 'those who kill their enemies and eat their organs' flouts Europe's humanitarian values.  "“You will not deny that one does not really need to support the people who not only kill their enemies, but open up their bodies, eat their intestines in front of the public and cameras. Are these the people you want to support? "

Iraqi MP: Syria collapse would endanger all Mideast Christians

Christian Beheaded for Refusing to Renounce Faith 

‘Pakistan Christian Women Abused For Faith In Christ’, reportedly beaten and forced to parade naked in a Pakistani village due to their faith in Christ.

Fifty-Two Churches Destroyed In Nigeria

Pakistan: A Christian Family plundered, Father abducted and tortured by Muslim Mob

Saudi Arabia declares destruction of all churches in region
Todd Nettleton, a spokesman for the Voice of the Martyrs USA, says, "The Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia--the top Islamic official in the country of Saudi Arabia--has declared that it is "necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.'" Nettleton goes on to note that the report hasn't surfaced anywhere except on the Council on Foreign Relations Web site, which was then picked up by The Atlantic.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:33 AM | Permalink

June 21, 2013

Catholic schools in the inner cities

A Lifeline for Minorities, Catholic Schools Retrench

Sonia Sotomayor lives in Washington, but she has never forgotten her roots in the Bronx. On a drizzly March afternoon, she returned to Blessed Sacrament School, where she began her celebrated, if improbable, journey from her South Bronx childhood to the Supreme Court. But instead of a joyous reunion, it was more of a valedictory for her and the children — the school is closing for good.
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Justice Sotomayor’s emotions are shared by a generation of accomplished Latino and black professionals and public servants who went from humble roots to successful careers thanks to Catholic schools. But they fear that a springboard that has helped numerous poor and working-class minority students achieve rewarding lives is eroding as Catholic schools close their doors in the face of extraordinary financial challenges and demographic shifts.
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According to archdiocesan figures, enrollment in elementary and high schools shrank to 75,875 this year from 95,837 in 2006. While the Latino percentage of total enrollment increased during that period, the proportion of black elementary school students dropped precipitously, to 17 percent of enrollment from 31 percent.

Catholic high schools, which routinely boast of near 100 percent college admissions for their graduates, are worried that they will face harder times with fewer parochial schools to feed their ranks. And minority alumni are increasingly alarmed that New York will be deprived of a future generation of professionals — like lawyers, doctors and executives — to contribute economic and cultural vitality.
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Having moved away from the old parish-based elementary school model, Catholic school officials have created regional districts where resources and help are more efficiently shared. And for the schools that are vulnerable, especially those in places like the South Bronx, the officials have established a $20 million annual fund to provide scholarships and a $6 million fund for operating expenses.

“The inner city is where we do our best work,” said Timothy J. McNiff, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools. “Why would we walk away from it?”

Only last week in Ireland President Obama said this, 'If Catholics Have Their Schools and Buildings and Protestants Have Theirs … That Encourages Division'

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 PM | Permalink

Spurge to fight off skin cancer

Pretty amazing. Garden weed that could help fight off skin cancer: Picato is fast-acting treatment for condition that causes one form of disease

A new treatment for skin damage that can lead to cancer has been created from the sap of a common garden weed.  Picato gel is a fast-acting treatment for actinic keratosis (AK), which appears as red, rough patches of skin often on the face, balding scalp, backs of hands and trunk of the body. 

Most people haven’t heard of the condition triggered by long-term sun exposure, or using sunbeds, although it affects two million people aged 40 and over.  However, the characteristic sandpaper patches, if left untreated, are responsible for two-thirds of cases of squamous cell carcinoma, a non-melanoma form of skin cancer.

Existing creams prescribed by doctors take between three weeks and three months to work, so many patients give up using them.
Picato is applied once daily over two or three days and in clinical trials almost all patients completed their treatment.

The active ingredient in the gel comes from the sap of the petty spurge plant, commonly known as milkweed, which has the botanic name Euphorbia peplus.  The plant sap has been used for centuries as a traditional medicine for sun damaged skin, but recent research shows the ancient sages were right about its benefits.

My grandfather's neighbors were Finnish and taught my grandfather and my father how petty spurge can cure warts.  Its sap is toxic and should never be taken internally but only applied carefully onto a sun spot or wart.

Goggling around for pictures of spurge, I came across Abraham's blog post discussing Purslane and spurge He's a forager who says both are wild plants that grow near each other.  I've summarized some of his points in this graphic.

 Purslane-Spirge

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:46 PM | Permalink

June 20, 2013

How Institutions Decay and Economies Die

""We are living through a profound crisis of the institutions that were the keys to our previous success—not only economic, but also political and cultural—as a civilization"

writes Niall Ferguson in his new book, The Great Degeneration, which is reviewed by George Melloan who calls it A Jeremiad to Heed.

Doomsayers are never popular, but sometimes they're right….That maxim applies to the writings of the economic historian Niall Ferguson.
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With a focus on the United States, "The Great Degeneration" warns that Western civilization has entered into a period of decline due mainly to the strangling of private initiative by the ever-encroaching state. "….

The threatened institutions are representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society. Mr. Ferguson is dismayed at the explosion of public debt, the destruction of markets by excessive regulation, the replacement of the rule of law by "a rule of lawyers," and the decay of civil society as represented in part by the decline of thousands of private, voluntary organizations (Rotarians, Elks, et al.) that have contributed so much to social order and progress in America.
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The most worrisome evidence of decline, he believes, is the "crisis of public debt," with government budgets out of control in the U.S. and Europe. He sees outsize debt as a symptom of the "betrayal of future generations: a breach of Edmund Burke's social contract between the present and the future."
[U.S. future obligations exceed future revenues by $200 trillion, and state and local governments face $38 trillion in unfunded obligations.]
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The French author Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the scope of American civil society in the 19th century, the many associations that owed their "birth and development" not to law but to individuals freely joining forces. Mr. Ferguson agrees with Tocqueville that "the state—with its seductive promise of 'security from the cradle to the grave'—was the real enemy of civil society."

Earlier this month, Ferguson wrote two op eds in the Wall Street Journal based on the premises of his new book.

How America Lost Its Way  It is getting ever harder to do business in the United States, argues Niall Ferguson, and more stimulus won't help: Our institutions need fixing.

If poor countries can get rich by improving their institutions, is it not possible that rich countries can get poor by allowing their institutions to degenerate? I want to suggest that it is.
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We used to have the rule of law. Now it is tempting to say we have the rule of lawyers, which is something different.
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The decline of American institutions is no secret. Yet it is one of those strange "unknown knowns" that is well documented but largely ignored.
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Each year, the World Economic Forum publishes its Global Competitiveness Index. Since it introduced its current methodology in 2004, the U.S. score has declined by 6%. (In the same period China's score has improved by 12%.) …In only one category out of 22 is the U.S. ranked in the global top 20 (the strength of investor protection). In seven categories it does not even make the top 50.

Niall Ferguson: The Regulated States of America  Tocqueville saw a nation of individuals who were defiant of authority. Today? Welcome to Planet Government.

In "Democracy in America," published in 1833, Alexis de Tocqueville marveled at the way Americans preferred voluntary association to government regulation. ...Unlike Frenchmen, he continued, who instinctively looked to the state to provide economic and social order, Americans relied on their own efforts. "In the United States, they associate for the goals of public security, of commerce and industry, of morality and religion. There is nothing the human will despairs of attaining by the free action of the collective power of individuals."
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Instead of joining together to get things done, Americans have increasingly become dependent on Washington.
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As the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Clyde Wayne Crews shows in his invaluable annual survey of the federal regulatory state, we have become the regulation nation almost imperceptibly…..The cost of all this, Mr. Crews estimates, is $1.8 trillion annually—that's on top of the federal government's $3.5 trillion in outlays, so it is equivalent to an invisible 65% surcharge on your federal taxes, or nearly 12% of GDP. Especially invidious is the fact that the costs of regulation for small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) are 36% higher per employee than they are for bigger firms.

Here are three recent examples of what Ferguson is talking about.

Department of Labor vs. me

What started as a small family business operating out of our home has grown to 22 states. Now, though, it might all turn out to be illegal, thanks to the bureaucratic thinking of the Department of Labor.

The business model that parents thought was an innovation, but that Labor sees as a menace, is simple but effective. You might have heard of it: cooperation.

Then there is the struggle to start  a charter school in Maryland using a classical curriculum and science that Charles Murray talks about in A case study in the government as enemy.   

Or the harassment experienced by one man who tried to start a non-profit to challenge the imagination of the rising generation by engaging them with the great books and America's moral and constitutional order.  The IRS targeted my organization.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:31 AM | Permalink

The State of the Nation is Depressing

We don't trust the government to serve us, the schools to teach our children, the media to tell us the truth, churches are emptying out, families are breaking down, most workers hate their jobs or have 'checked out', no wonder so many of are on anti-depressants or pain-killers.

Most workers hate their jobs or have 'checked out', Gallup says.    There are 100 million full time workers in the U.S.

30% or 30 million are engaged, involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their workplace
50% or 50 million are not engaged.  They are just going through the motions
20% or 20 million are actively disengaged and hate going to work.

Gallup estimates that workers who are actively disengaged cost the U.S. as much as $550 billion in economic activity yearly. The level of employee engagement over the past decade has been largely stagnant, according to researchers.

The report found that different age groups and those with higher education levels reported more discontent with their workplace. Millennials and baby boomers, for instance, are more likely to be "actively disengaged" than other age groups. Employees with college degrees are also more likely to be running on auto pilot at work.

Majority of Americans Don't Trust Newspapers and Television News says Gallup

Continuing a decades-long downward trend, fewer than one-fourth of Americans have confidence in newspapers, according to a recent Gallup poll.
The percentage of Americans saying they have "a great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in newspapers dropped to 23 percent this year from 25 percent last year, according to a report on the poll, which was released Monday….Confidence in television news has also been slipping — it's tied with newspapers this year at 23 percent, which is slightly up from last year's all-time low of 21 percent.
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College graduates are less likely to trust the media than those with only a high school diploma, for example. The poll also found that women are slightly more confident than men in both television news and newspapers….Conservatives remain the most critical of newspapers and television news, while liberals are the most supportive.

Boomer Victory: The Young Are Poor and Ignorant

Americans entering the workforce are less educated than those exiting it, according to a new report by the Council on Foreign Relations
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No other developed country in the world has dropped so many places. To go from first place to tenth place in high school graduation rate in one generation is serious and alarming…But the long term effects could be even scarier: a society that does a poor job educating its citizens is going to pay the price for decades to come. As a less educated workforce slowly replaces a more educated one, skilled labor decreases and the entire economy suffers:

Report: Too Many Teachers, Too Little Quality

The National Council on Teacher Quality review is a scathing assessment of colleges' education programs and their admission standards, training and value.
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The review finds they have become an industry of mediocrity, churning out first-year teachers with classroom management skills and content knowledge inadequate to thrive in classrooms" with an ever-increasing diversity of ethnic and socioeconomic students,

Study: 70 Percent Of Americans On Prescription Drugs

Researchers find that nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half receive at least two prescriptions.

Mayo Clinic researchers report that antibiotics, antidepressants and painkiller opioids are the most common prescriptions given to Americans. Twenty percent of U.S. patients were also found to be on five or more prescription medications.

“Often when people talk about health conditions they’re talking about chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes,” Dr. St. Sauver stated in a Mayo Clinic press release. “However, the second most common prescription was for antidepressants — that suggests mental health is a huge issue and is something we should focus on. And the third most common drugs were opioids, which is a bit concerning considering their addicting nature.”

According to the CDC, the percent of persons using at least one prescription drug in the past month increased nearly 50 percent between 2007 and 2010.

Zerohedge.  Rotting, Decaying And Bankrupt – If You Want To See The Future Of America Just Look At Detroit

Eventually the money runs out. …But what Detroit is facing is not really that unique.

In fact, Detroit is a perfect example of what the future of America is going to look like.  We live in a nation that is rotting, decaying, drowning in debt and racing toward insolvency.  Already there are dozens of other cities across the nation that are poverty-ridden, crime-infested hellholes just like Detroit is, and hundreds of other communities are rapidly heading in that direction.  So don't look down on Detroit.  They just got there before the rest of us.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:25 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: Women's symptoms different, the 'disease' obesity, diabetes, sweetener, air pollution and silver

Women's symptoms of cancer, heart disease and liver problems are significantly different to men's, experts warb

The study findings show that when men have a heart attack, chest pain that radiates down the left arm is the standard symptom.  However women under cardiac arrest display nausea and lower abdominal pain.

'Our research highlights evidence for considerable differences between the sexes in five domains - cardiovascular disease, cancer, liver diseases, osteoporosis, and pharmacology.
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'Although heart attacks in women are more severe and complicated, when complaining of these non-specific symptoms women often do not receive the necessary examination procedures, such as an ECG , enzyme diagnostic tests or coronary angiography.'

The study, published in the journal Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine also highlights how colon cancer affects women much later in life than men and the tumors appear in different areas.

American Medical Association officially classifies obesity as a disease in a decision that goes against expert opinion

The American Medical Association, the nation's largest physician organization, officially classified obesity as a disease on Tuesday that requires medical treatments.

The decision goes against the recommendation of a committee of experts that conducted a year-long study on the issue.  Opponents argue that considering obesity a disease removes an element of personal responsibility from the condition, and will encourage people to seek costly medical treatments instead of addressing the problem through diet and exercise.
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The decision has no legal authority, but experts say it could still lead to changes in how doctors treat obesity and how insurance companies cover those treatments.

Hectic week? A well-deserved weekend lie-in can PREVENT type 2 diabetes

Having a lie-in at the weekend might feel like a well-deserved luxury, but it could also be a necessity in preventing the onset of diabetes.
Doctors have found that sleeping longer on Saturdays and Sunday mornings can cut the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the variation that usually strikes in middle age.

Type 2 is known to be linked to lack of sleep and obesity, and can have complications that include strokes, heart attacks, blindness, kidney disease and nerve and circulatory damage, which can eventually require limb amputations.
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Test results revealed that the hormone insulin – which converts sugar into energy and which stops working properly in type 2 diabetes sufferers – functioned better after the subjects had had a weekend of lie-ins.  People with a decreased sensitivity to insulin are more at risk of developing diabetes.

Major Study Examines Meat-Diabetes Link

People who increased their consumption of red meat during a four-year period were more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes in a subsequent four-year period, according to an analysis involving about 150,000 people.

Common Sweetener Could Help Treat Parkinson's Disease

Mannitol, a plant-produced sweetener used in gum and candies, has proven effective at blocking production of a Parkinson's-related protein.

Autism Tied to Air Pollution, Brain-Wiring Disconnection

Researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health found that pregnant women exposed to high levels of diesel particulates or mercury were twice as likely to have an autistic child compared with peers in low-pollution areas. The findings, published today in Environmental Health Perspectives, are from the largest U.S. study to examine the ties between air pollution and autism.

Silver really COULD be the new weapon against superbugs: Adding it to antibiotics boosts the effectiveness by 1,000 times 

Silver could be used to help fight antibiotic resistance.  Can make bugs which are antibiotic resistant treatable
Works by making bacteria more ‘leaky’, allowing antibiotics to get inside them and kill them
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:12 AM | Permalink

June 18, 2013

"Free at Last"

Louisiana Senator Elbert Guillory, a former Democrat, explains why he is "abandoning the government plantation" and the "party of disappointment"  and joining the Republican party.  "So that we all may echo the words of one Republican leader who famously said, 'Free at Last. Free at Last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last'"

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

Your Government at work

IRS snooping.  IRS is collecting your electronic data, virtually everything you do online.  Via Patterico

The Internal Revenue Service is collecting a lot more than taxes this year — it’s also acquiring a huge volume of personal information on taxpayers’ digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it’s never gone before.
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It's well-known in the tax community, but not many people outside of it are aware of this big expansion of data and computer use," says Edward Zelinsky, a tax law expert and professor at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and Yale Law School. "I am sure people will be concerned about the use of personal information on databases in government, and those concerns are well-taken. It's appropriate to watch it carefully. There should be safeguards." He adds that taxpayers should know that whatever people do and say electronically can and will be used against them in IRS enforcement.

 Newyorker Cover Snoopingunclesam  Artist Richard McGuire

State Department Bullying. Foreign Policy's The Cable:  Exclusive: Whistleblower Says State Department Trying to Bully Her Into Silence

The State Department investigator who accused colleagues last week of using drugs, soliciting prostitutes, and having sex with minors says that Foggy Bottom is now engaged in an "intimidation" campaign to stop her.

Last week's leaks by Aurelia Fedenisn, a former State Department inspector general investigator, shined a light on alleged wrongdoing by U.S. officials around the globe. But her attorney Cary Schulman tells The Cable that Fedenisn has paid a steep price: "They had law enforcement officers camp out in front of her house, harass her children and attempt to incriminate herself."

Employers screening for criminals is racist. The EEOC now says screening potential employees for felonies is discriminatory.

We would have thought that criminal checks discriminate against criminals, regardless of race, creed, gender or anything else. Such criminal checks are legal and have long been part of the hiring process at many companies. You can argue that criminals deserve a second chance in life, or even a third or fourth, but business owners and managers ought to be able to decide if they want to take the risk of hiring felons.

The EEOC suit is part of the Administration's larger effort to redefine racism in America by using statistics, rather than individual intent or evidence.

Rampant Fraud.  Pigford: The Unexamined Obama Administration Scandal

Pigford began innocently enough: as a lawsuit to redress a perceived wrong against a group of 91 black farmers who were denied loans by the Agriculture Department.    But then the number climbed to 400….then 1,600…then… The number of black farmers has metastasized -- nay, exploded -- and the aggrieved group now includes not only blacks, but Hispanics, Native Americans, and females.  In fact over 90,000 people have filed claims seeking a payment under the terms of the original Pigford court ruling. … The total cost could top $4.4 billion.
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Claimants had only to file applications for a $50,000 payment by stating that they had  "thought about" applying for loans to become a farmer.  Proof of a claimant's intent to farm also included a statement from that petitioner saying he or she had attempted to farm by planting a batch of tomatoes in his or her backyard and having that statement verified by a family member.  In essence, the need to be a farmer at the time of the alleged discriminatory actions by the USDA was not a requirement to share in the financial redress. 
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Fraud was endemic to the claims process -- for example, every apartment in a New York City building received a settlement of at least $50,000.  Further, some families received checks of $50,000 for each family member (see the NYT's fraud identification narrative of 4-26-13).  These payments were dispensed by the judgment fund's monitor, whose management and control fell to the Executive Branch and Justice Department.

Rampant Fraud II  Hidden camera catches wireless company employees passing out 'Obama phones' to people who say they'll SELL them for drugs, shoes, handbags and spending cash

The 'Lifeline' free-cell-phone scheme cost $2.2 BILLION last year alone, all of it from fees added to the phone bills of paying customers
The biggest beneficiary other than low-income consumers is billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, whose TracFone has collected $1.5 BILLION to date

News reports have documented fraud in the Lifeline program for years.
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'I have six in my purse now,' Monique Crawford told him. 'Each and every one of these phones works. At home I know I have about 30 and all of them are on.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:11 PM | Permalink

Squandering an Inheritance

Do We Even Want to Learn from History

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been reading the last book of Rick Atkinson’s superb Liberation trilogy, Guns at Last Light, which tells the story the western front in WWII (Normandy through the end of the war).
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I have felt a deep sense of melancholy as I read about the great sacrifices of normal guys like my father and how America is doing all it can to squander their legacy .
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The great father of conservatism, Edmund Burke, said a lot of profound things, but my favorite is his observation about breaking the great continuum between the generations (losing our sense of the past and the future):  when “[n]o one generation could link to another,” then “[m]en would become little better than the flies of the summer.”

Many years ago, the Spanish philosopher Ortega y Gasset made the following observation about the mass of men in the twentieth century:

“For example: his propensity to make out of games and sports the central occupation of his life; the cult of the body—hygienic regime and attention to dress; lack of romance in his dealings with woman. . . ; his preference for living under absolute authority rather than under a regime of free expression.”

This is the phenomena that accompanies it:

“The bureaucratization of life brings about its absolute decay in all orders.  Wealth diminishes, births are few.  Then the State, in order to attend to its own needs, forces on still more bureaucratization of human existence.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

The Suicide of French historian Dominique Venner in Notre Dame Cathedral

Suicide at Notre Dame a Warning to the West

Dominique Venner was, from my understanding, neither Catholic nor formally pagan: his spiritual life was found in a kind of reverence for the heritage of Europe; that heritage includes both pagan and Christian religion, and so he admired both. His suicide in the cathedral was a final act of respect, as well as a powerful setting for the message he intended to convey. He saw the cathedrals of Europe as artistic manifestations of the genius of his people. In his suicide note, “Reasons for a Voluntary Death,” he explained,

I am healthy in body and mind… However, in the evening of my life, facing immense dangers to my French and European homeland, I feel the duty to act as long as I still have strength. I believe it necessary to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that plagues us. I give up what life remains to me in order to protest and to found. I chose a highly symbolic place, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, which I respect and admire: she was built by the genius of my ancestors on the site of cults still more ancient, recalling our immemorial origins.

Venner sees himself as the founder of something new, in defense of something old. This calls to mind another founding, born out of rape. That is the founding of the Roman Republic, which was inspired in large part by the suicide of a Roman woman, Lucretia….
This act inspired the revolution that overthrew the monarchy of Rome…. But the Roman founding was born out of suicide and shame—not the shame of Lucretia, but the shaming of her husband and father by the horrible acts done to her. So too, Dominique Venner’s suicide mirrors of the suicide of the West, and is meant to shame us.

The final piece that he wrote on his personal blog, “The May 26 Protests and Heidegger,” gives a clearer explanation of his death than does his suicide letter. It contains a warning and a call to arms. …Venner himself expressed horror at the notion of “gay marriage,” but his objection to the culture of relativism goes deeper than that. He relates the words of an Algerian blogger,

“In any case,” he said, “in 15 years the Islamists will be in power in France and will remove this law.” Not to please us, we suspect, but because it is contrary to Sharia (Islamic law)…..“The May 26 protestors cannot ignore this reality. Their struggle cannot be limited to the rejection of gay marriage. The ‘great replacement’ of the population of France and Europe, denounced by the writer Renaud Camus, is a far more catastrophic danger for the future.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:11 AM | Permalink

The Secret of Ancient Roman Concrete which is far superior to concrete today

We all have seen decaying concrete.

 Decaying-Concrete

So how did the Romans make the concrete Pantheon last over 2000 years?

 Pantheon

Ancient Roman Concrete Is About to Revolutionize Modern Architecture

After 2,000 years, a long-lost secret behind the creation of one of the world’s most durable man-made creations ever—Roman concrete—has finally been discovered by an international team of scientists, and it may have a significant impact on how we build cities of the future.

As anyone who’s ever visited Italy knows, the ancient Romans were master engineers. Their roads, aqueducts, and temples are still holding up remarkably well despite coming under siege over the centuries by waves of sacking marauders, mobs of tourists, and the occasional earthquake. One such structure that has fascinated geologists and engineers throughout the ages is the Roman harbor. Over the past decade, researchers from Italy and the U.S. have analyzed 11 harbors in the Mediterranean basin where, in many cases, 2,000-year-old (and sometimes older) breakwaters constructed out of Roman concrete stand perfectly intact despite constant pounding by the sea.

The most common blend of modern concrete, known as Portland cement, a formulation in use for nearly 200 years, can’t come close to matching that track record,
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The analysis, the scientists believe, reveals the lost recipe of Roman concrete, and it also points to how much more stable and less environmentally damaging it is than today’s blend.
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The secret to Roman concrete lies in its unique mineral formulation and production technique. As the researchers explain in a press release outlining their findings, “The Romans made concrete by mixing lime and volcanic rock. For underwater structures, lime and volcanic ash were mixed to form mortar, and this mortar and volcanic tuff were packed into wooden forms. The seawater instantly triggered a hot chemical reaction. The lime was hydrated—incorporating water molecules into its structure—and reacted with the ash to cement the whole mixture together.”

The Portland cement formula crucially lacks the lyme and volcanic ash mixture. As a result, it doesn’t bind quite as well when compared with the Roman concrete, researchers found. It is this inferior binding property that explains why structures made of Portland cement tend to weaken and crack after a few decades of use.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 AM | Permalink

June 17, 2013

A Great Speech

Yuval Levin's great speech

Gratitude and Seeing the Best Intentions of Your Brother Voicing an Opposing View

To my mind, conservatism is gratitude. Conservatives tend to begin from gratitude for what is good and what works in our society and then strive to build on it, while liberals tend to begin from outrage at what is bad and broken and seek to uproot it.

You need both, because some of what is good about our world is irreplaceable and has to be guarded, while some of what is bad is unacceptable and has to be changed. We should never forget that the people who oppose our various endeavors and argue for another way are well intentioned too, even when they’re wrong, and that they’re not always wrong.

But we can also never forget what moves us to gratitude, and so what we stand for and defend: the extraordinary cultural inheritance we have; the amazing country built for us by others and defended by our best and bravest; America’s unmatched potential for lifting the poor and the weak; the legacy of freedom—of ordered liberty—built up over centuries of hard work.

We value these things not because they are triumphant and invincible but because they are precious and vulnerable, because they weren’t fated to happen, and they’re not certain to survive. They need us—and our gratitude for them should move us to defend them and to build on them.
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Conservatives often begin from gratitude because we start from modest expectations of human affairs—we know that people are imperfect, and fallen, and weak; that human knowledge and power are not all they’re cracked up to be; and we’re enormously impressed by the institutions that have managed to make something great of this imperfect raw material. So we want to build on them because we don’t imagine we could do better starting from scratch.

Liberals often begin from outrage because they have much higher expectations—maybe even utopian expectations—about the perfectibility of human things and the potential of human knowledge and power. They’re often willing to ignore tradition and to push aside institutions that channel generations of wisdom because they think we can do better on our own.
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The American idea of progress is the tradition that we’re defending. It is made possible precisely by sustaining our deep ties to the ideals of liberty, and equality, and human dignity expressed in our founding and our institutions. The great moral advances in our history have involved the vindication of those principles—have involved America becoming more like itself.

And in any society, the task of sustaining those kinds of institutions for the next generation is the essential task—the irreplaceable precondition for everything else. That is the work first and foremost of families, and of communities. It can also be the work of educators, and of legislators. The work of democratic capitalism and of our constitutional order.

They are all connected by the need to sustain the great gift that is our country, and when we fail to see them as connected—when for instance we think we can advance our economic agenda at the expense of our concerns about the culture—we risk losing that gift altogether.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:44 PM | Permalink

June 16, 2013

For Fathers Here and Gone

Heartwrenching Photo of a Boy Spending Some Time with His Dad

 Boy-With-Picture-Of-Dead-Dad
The son of U.S. Army Special Forces Medic Benjamin Wise spending some time with his dad, as caught by his mom. The boy's father was killed in Afghanistan on January 15th.


What My Father Taught Me: Mike Rowe

The fact that we heated most of the old farmhouse with nothing but a wood stove was a source of great pride for my father, and the inspiration for endless witticisms. ( ("Chop your own wood—it'll warm you twice!")
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Hauling the wood back to the house was a full day's work. But splitting the larger chunks into pieces that fit the insatiable wood stove—that was a chore without end. Every day after school meant an hour in the woodpile with Dad. I can still hear his voice as I prepared to swing the ax: "Aim for the chopping block, Mike, not the wood. If you aim for the wood you'll hit nothing."
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But up there in the woodpile, the real gratification would be delayed. Because my dad was not just teaching me how to swing an ax—he was teaching me that work and play were two sides of the same coin. He was showing me how to enjoy the challenges of doing a hard thing. He was preparing me to become a perpetual apprentice—a role that eventually would define my unlikely career in television.

Everything My Father Taught Me

Whether we grow up to be movie stars, engineers, mechanics, or something entirely unexpected, we were shaped by what we learned from our fathers and mentors. Here, stars including Jennifer Lawrence, Brad Pitt, and Ty Pennington join PM editors, students, and everyday folks in compiling the ultimate collection of fatherly wisdom.

The Sheer Joy of Fatherhood

“To Forgive My Father” Children of Divorce and the Parable of the Prodigal Son

children of divorce tend to cast themselves in the role of the abandoned father.  They see their parent as the prodigal son who leaves the family because of some sin.  Children of divorce tend to hear this parable not so much as a comforting story of the abundance of God’s forgiveness and love, but as a command to forgive the prodigal parent.

Albert John ('Van') Van der Leun: A Sharp Man

My father liked sharp. He was a Gillette kind of man. He liked to look sharp, feel sharp and be sharp. I never saw him unshaven except very early in the morning before he’d had a chance to lather up. Beards? He was a child of the hard parts of the Depression and beards were for bums.
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My father was a sharp-dressed man. He liked the snap of a freshly laundered, starched and ironed white shirt. His suits were always cleaned and pressed and his shoes shined to a military gloss. I still have many of his gold and silver tie-tacks and cuff-links and although I seldom wear them, I do wear them. They make me feel sharp.

Always Be a Gentleman' and Other Fatherly Advice

• Always be a gentleman. To my father, a gentleman is someone who never offends another person needlessly. He lived that code. He stood when a woman entered the room. He tipped his hat when he wished to pay respect. He even kept his mouth shut even when his calls were challenged while he officiated football and baseball games. His sturdiest reply to insults was "Go peddle your papers."

• Always keep your shoes shined. QED.

• Save your money. It will be your best friend. Here my father reflected the Great Depression and his experience of graduating from Yale with every athletic honor—only to discover the sole job available was digging post holes for the local electric utility.

• Any week in which you do not put some money aside for a rainy day is a wasted week.

• If your boss or employer is not making money on you, you will eventually lose your job. Your work has to permit him to profit on what you produce. If you and the employer just break even you are not being properly productive. Get to work early and stay late if necessary.

'I'll never measure up to my dad'  Adrian Mourby's father had a dignity that few men show these days. He was a good husband, parent and grandfather. In short, he was a grownup

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:19 AM | Permalink

June 13, 2013

When I applied for a job at the NSA

A long time ago when I was a senior in college and wondering what I was going to do in my life, I took a number of tests - the GRE, the LSAT, a test for the Foreign Service and one for the NSA.    I remember distinctly the test for the NSA because it was so unusual and so much fun to take. 

I remember one example in particular.    We were given a fact situation of about 500 letters sent through the post office of a foreign country by individuals who were suspected of being members of a secret criminal conspiracy.  Based on the patterns revealed by the letters sent, we were asked to conclude who was the ringleader.

It all came rushing back to me when I read Jason Kottke's PRISM in the 18th century

In a clever article, Kieran Healy uses only the membership lists of various Boston-area organizations in the late 1770s to find out quite a lot about who might be the leaders of the nascent revolutionary cell. Even with this simple analysis, Paul Revere's name pops out of the data.

Using Metadata To Find Paul Revere

And then Kieran Healy's Using Metadata to find Paul Revere

Look at that person right in the middle there. ...He seems to bridge several groups in an unusual (though perhaps not unique) way. His name is Paul Revere.

Once again, I remind you that I know nothing of Mr Revere, or his conversations, or his habits or beliefs, his writings (if he has any) or his personal life. All I know is this bit of metadata, based on membership in some organizations. And yet my analytical engine, on the basis of absolutely the most elementary of operations in Social Networke Analysis, seems to have picked him out of our 254 names as being of unusual interest.

Ever since it's been around, NSA's been collecting metadata and analyzing patterns.    While I scored very high on the test and was asked to continue my application, I declined for other reasons.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 PM | Permalink

Human genes can not be patented

A great decision by the Supreme Court and unanimous too.  Human Genes cannot be patented

In Myriad Genetics, The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that companies cannot patent parts of naturally-occurring human genes

The court has said that laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable. 

"We hold that a naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," Thomas said.

Wesley Smith writes  Clarence Thomas Shows How It’s Done

….the ruling is a splendid example of how Supreme Court decisions should be crafted….how a Supreme Court decision should be written: Precise. Limited in scope. No bloviating. To the point. Applying, not creating law.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:05 PM | Permalink

Blind to Terror

Obama's Snooping Excludes Mosques, Missed Boston Bombers

The White House assures that tracking our every phone call and keystroke is to stop terrorists, and yet it won't snoop in mosques, where the terrorists are.   That's right, the government's sweeping surveillance of our most private communications excludes the jihad factories where homegrown terrorists are radicalized.

Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee. Who makes up this body, and how do they decide requests? Nobody knows; the names of the chairman, members and staff are kept secret.
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The FBI never canvassed Boston mosques until four days after the April 15 attacks, and it did not check out the radical Boston mosque where the Muslim bombers worshipped.  The bureau didn't even contact mosque leaders for help in identifying their images after those images were captured on closed-circuit TV cameras and cellphones.

This is particularly disturbing in light of recent independent surveys of American mosques, which reveal some 80% of them preach violent jihad or distribute violent literature to worshippers.  What other five-alarm jihadists are counterterrorism officials missing right now, thanks to restrictions on monitoring the one area they should be monitoring?

Barry Rubin explains how this came to be in Why Expanded Government Spying Doesn’t Mean Better Security Against Terrorism

Isn’t it absurd that the United States — which can’t finish a simple border fence to keep out potential terrorists; can’t stop a would-be terrorist in the U.S. Army who gives a PowerPoint presentation on why he is about to shoot people (Major Nidal Hasan); can’t follow up on Russian intelligence warnings about Chechen terrorist contacts (the Boston bombing); or a dozen similar incidents — must now collect every telephone call in the country?

Isn’t it absurd that under this system, a photo-shop clerk has to stop an attack on Fort Dix by overcoming his fear of appearing “racist” to report a cell of terrorists?

That it was left to brave passengers to jump a would-be “underpants bomber” from Nigeria, because his own father’s warning that he was a terrorist was insufficient?

Isn’t it absurd that terrorists and terrorist supporters visit the White House, hang out with the FBI, and advise the U.S. government on counter-terrorist policy, even while — as CAIR does — advising Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement? And that they are admiringly quoted in the media?

Meanwhile, a documented, detailed revelation of this behavior in MERIA Journal by Patrick Poole – ”Blind to Terror: The U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy” — a report which rationally should bring down the government, does not get covered by a single mass media outlet?

Rubin wrote earlier this month,  Make Room for Islamistgate: The Obama Administration’s Newest, (Biggest?) Scandal

For the last four years, the Obama administration has conducted a major “outreach” program to Islamic groups in the United States and in the Middle East. In a comprehensive article, investigative journalist and PJ Media contributor Patrick Poole now presents the full scoop and scope of what’s been going on. His article — “Blind to Terror: The U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Policy” — appearing in the new Summer issue of the MERIA Journal is a game-changer.

The majority of these groups and individuals promoted by the Obama administration have been radical Islamists, particularly Muslim Brotherhood cadre, and more than occasionally were people involved in terrorist activity.

Actual moderate Muslims have been neglected and isolated by this project, which has helped the radicals, Islamists, and pro-terrorists gain hegemony in the Muslim community in America.

Blind to Terror:  The U.S. Government's Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy

Why has the U.S. government called certain Islamic groups supporters of terror in federal court, and then turned around and called these same organizations “moderates” and embraced them as outreach partners? In a number of cases from the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, the leaders of these organizations (some of whom are now in federal prison) were under active investigation at the same time they were meeting with senior U.S. leaders at the White House and the Capitol and helping develop U.S. policy.

Now these same Islamic organizations and leaders have openly encouraged a purge of counterterrorism training that have effectively blinded law enforcement, homeland security, and intelligence agencies to active terror threats as seen in the inaction of the FBI concerning the Boston bombing suspects and other terror cases. This study poses serious questions as to the efficacy and even security concerns about U.S. government outreach to Islamic groups, which often turn out to be Islamist militants, enemies of Islamic moderation, and even supporters of terrorism.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:23 PM | Permalink

The Nine Factors of Mental Health

“Am I Crazy?” The 9 Components of Mental Health and How You Get Them by Dr Greg

When the human brain is working at its best, it is capable of doing 9 things that contribute to what we might commonly consider, “good mental health.”  They are:

1. Body Regulation—the ability to keep the organs of the body and the autonomic nervous system (e.g, heart rate, respiration, body temperature) coordinated and balanced.  Body regulation isn’t just about physical health.  Emotions begin as an embodied experience.  For example; a racing heart and shallow respiration often precipitate feelings of panic/anxiety.  Feelings of exhaustion or under-stimulation often precipitate depression.

2. Attuned Communication—the ability to pick up on the meaning of subtle, non-verbal, physical cues (facial expressions, tones of voice, posture) that indicate another person’s emotional states and degree of well-being.  People with Autism spectrum disorders especially have a difficult time with this.

3. Emotional Balance—the ability to maintain optimal emotional functioning.  That is, I know how to be emotionally stimulated enough to be aware and engaged in my circumstances and relationships but not so emotionally stimulated that I am regularly flooded by my feelings and carried away by them.

4. Response Flexibility—the ability to pause before acting on my impulses and willfully change the direction of my actions if doing so suits me better than my initial impulses.  People with ADHD, pathological anger, addictions, and other impulse control problems struggle with this skill.

5. Fear Modulation—reducing fear.  Self-explanatory.  People with anxiety and panic disorders, especially, have a difficult time modulating the brain’s fear responses.  They become easily flooded with anxiety where others might just experience nervousness or even excitement.

6. Insight—the ability to reflect on my life experiences in a way that links my past, present, and future in a coherent, cohesive, compassionate manner. In sight helps me make sense of both the things that have happened to me in the past and the things that are happening to me now.

7. Empathy—Essentially, empathy is the ability to have insight (as defined above) into other people.  Empathy is the ability to imagine what it is like to be another person, and to reflect on their experiences in a way that links their past, present, and future in coherent, cohesive. compassionate manner.  Empathy helps you make sense of other people’s lives, the way they think, and their feelings.

8. Morality—the ability to imagine, reason, and behave from the perspective of the greater good.  Includes the ability to delay gratification and find ways to get my needs met while understanding and accommodating the needs of others.

9. Intuition—having access to the input from the body and its non-rational ways of knowing that fuel wisdom.  One’s “gut sense” of things is actually based on a complex process by which  one’s right brain makes ”quick and dirty” global assessments of one’s feelings and circumstances.

We have seen from decades of research that the human brain, when it is experiencing optimal functioning, is able to do all of these things.  The degree to which you can say you are “mentally healthy” is the degree to which you can say these things are true about you.  The exciting thing about this definition of mental health is that a person does not have to wait until their life, work, or relationships are suffering before they get help. A person could reasonably look at this list and say, “I want to do a better job with this mental skill”  enabling them to seek professional help long before their marriage, work, or life begins to fall apart because of those deficits.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

Your government at work

One month into the investigation, FBI Director Testifies He Doesn't Know Who's Leading Investigation in IRS Case

Report: Internal Memo Reveals State Department Hired Thousands of Employees with 'Troubling Histories'

Internal documents from the Inspector General’s office obtained by the New York Post…The Post reported that a whistleblower leaked a December 2012 memo to State Deputy Inspector General Harold Geisel from a leader in the Inspector General’s Office, stating that about 2,000 employees within the State Department brought on during a “hiring surge a decade ago” have “troubling histories including criminal matters,” which prevent them from being able to assist prosecutors during trials. The whistleblower also told the Post that this information was intentionally removed from the Inspector General’s report.


Jim Treacher speaks from his own experience with the State Department.  Running me over and lying about it is how the State Dept does business, apparently

Thomas Lifson Top Egyptian pols caught on camera being their America-hating selves

It would be funny if it were not so grim. Thanks to the Obama-supported Arab Spring, Egypt has gone from ally to enemy.  We know this because the country's political leadership was caught on camera speaking in the belief that they were in private, and they let it all hang out. 
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Magdi Hussein, the leader of the Islamic Labor Party…I'm very fond of battles. With the enemies, of course, with America and Israel…Our battle is with America and Israel, not with Ethiopia.
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Meanwhile Secretary of State John Kerry last month approved $1.3 billion in annual US military aid to Egypt, despite concerns over democratic progress by the country's new government



NSA's PRISM, the IRS scandal: The U.S. Government gone wild

It is not just administrations and legislatures that are out of control. The government apparatus is so huge no person or group can control it. There are high level career bureaucrats who wield far more pure power than elected officials, including the president. Special interests know this, which is why they spend huge sums lobbying high level bureaucrats and appointees.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:06 PM | Permalink

"A paramilitary politicized bureaucracy is nuts. And, in fact, evil."

In When Your W-2 Meets an AR-15  Mark Steyn first quotes Politico

As chairman of the House Homeland Security oversight subcommittee, [Jeff] Duncan (R-S.C.) toured a federal law enforcement facility in late May and noticed agents training with the semi-automatic weapons at a firing range. They identified themselves as IRS, he said.

“When I left there, it’s been bugging me for weeks now, why IRS agents are training with a semi-automatic rifle AR-15, which has stand-off capability,” Duncan told POLITICO. “Are Americans that much of a target that you need that kind of capability..?

Then Steyn writes

A bureaucracy is bad. A politicized bureaucracy is worse. A paramilitary politicized bureaucracy is nuts. And, in fact, evil.

There is no reason in a civilized society why the Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Paperwork should have his own SEAL Team Six.
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As I wrote in the magazine last year:

By the way, I use the word “agents” rather than “officials” because, in the developed world, the paramilitarized bureaucracy is uniquely American. This is the only G7 government whose education minister has his own SWAT team — for policing student-loan compliance. The other day, the Gibson guitar company settled with the feds over an arcane infraction of a law on rare-wood importation — after their factories were twice raided by “agents” bearing automatic weapons. Like the man said, don’t bring a knife to a guitar fight. Do musical-instrument manufacturers have a particular reputation for violence?
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink

June 12, 2013

"I am only a public clown," Pablo Picasso

‘What happens to art in a society when belief in God has withered away?’

Pablo Picasso who had, however, his moment of honesty when he wrote to Giovanni Papini as long ago as 1952: “In art people no longer seek consolation and exaltation…they seek after whatever is new, odd, original, extravagant or scandalous. And since cubism and what followed, it is masters and critics such as these that I have sought to please with whatever bizarre extravagances entered my head, and the less they understood, the more they admired me. By dint of amusing myself with such fun and games and meaningless head-splitting riddles, I became a celebrity in no time. And fame for a painter means sales, gains, riches, a fortune. Today, as you know, I am both famous and rich.

“But when I am alone, alone with myself, I haven’t the courage to consider myself an artist in the former grand sense of the term. Giotto, Titian, Rembrandt, Goya, these were great painters. I am only a public clown who has understood his period and has exploited as best he could the imbecility, the vanity and the cupidity of his contemporaries.”

An elderly writer on Catholic subjects once told me “Art should elevate us.” In that he would have included the “consolation and exaltation” that Picasso mentioned: the inner journey towards truth, glimpsed through beauty, which is especially significant for those who have not (yet) encountered the God who is beauty himself. What happens to art in a society when belief in God has withered away? Or when you have prodigious gifts of draughtsmanship but no inner vision? I suppose Picasso is the answer. The story of Western art -including the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe – and its magnificent flourishing in the Christian centuries has been told by the late Lord Clark in the celebrated 1960s TV series “Civilization.” Significantly, the series ended with the 20th century – just when Picasso stepped into the circus ring.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:29 AM | Permalink

June 11, 2013

Scandalpalooza

There are so many scandals in Washington now coming to light, it's a scandalpalooza.  Beyond the scandals we know of, Benghazi, IRS, the DOJ and NSA, other scandals are erupting.    The common thread to all is abuse of power and the chilling of opposition to the party line by the bullying of the government.

There would probably be more if the Inspector Generals were appointed for State, Interior, Labor, Homeland Security and the Agency for International Development but the President has failed to appoint them.   Obama's Inspector General Negligence

All told, an IG has been missing in action at each of those cabinet departments and the AID agency for between 18 months and five years.

In the State Department

CBS:  U.S. State Department Cover-Ups Range from Prostitution Charges to Drug Rings
including allegations that a State Department security official in Beirut “engaged in sexual assaults” with foreign nationals hired as embassy guards and the charge and that members of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s security detail “engaged prostitutes while on official trips in foreign countries” — a problem the report says was “endemic.”
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investigators were told to stop probing the case of a U.S. ambassador who was suspected of patronizing prostitutes in a public park. The memo states that the ambassador was permitted to return to his post despite having, “routinely ditched…his protective security detail” in order to “solicit sexual favors from prostitutes.”

 Howard-Gutman-Belgium-Ambassador Howard Gutman, Ambassador to Belgium, identified as the U.S. diplomat accused of "soliciting sexual favors from both prostitutes and minor children" denies the charges.

After being called back to Washington, he met with Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy, but kept his job.    Gutman raised $500k for Obama and helped finance the inaugural.

DSS agents told the Inspector General's investigators that senior State Department officials told them to back off, a charge that Fedenisn says is "very" upsetting.

"We were very upset. We expect to see influence, but the degree to which that influence existed and how high up it went, was very disturbing," she said.

At the EPA.  Four separate scandals going on at the EPA  including making conservatives pay a fortune for FOIAs to be granted while waiving fees for liberal groups  and leaking confidential information on farmers and cattle facilities to environmental groups

At the FHA.  Yet Another Obama Cover-Up: FHA Bailout Fear

Subprime: For years, the administration has denied FHA troubles. But emails reveal it not only knew of them, but also withheld evidence of projected insolvency from Congress.
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The agency is letting lower-income borrowers get loans just three years after foreclosure with as little as 3% down and subprime-low credit scores. In fact, 40% of newer FHA-backed loans are subprime.

The risky lending has led to higher delinquencies. Now at 17%, delinquencies on FHA loans are so high the administration has extended the grace period for repayments on troubled loans to a full year.

Last year, the FHA secretly conducted a Fed-style stress test that found agency losses could hit $115 billion. Because the results were politically embarrassing, FHA chose to not disclose them.

At the GSA  According to the IG, Feds in the GSA Threw Contracts to Crony Companies

The stunning report shows that GSA managers routinely overruled contracting officers on certain accounts, including Carahsoft and two large IT contracts with Deloitte and Oracle. The contracts amounted to $900 million in 2011 alone. The IG found, according to the Federal Times, that “After GSA managers intervened in contracting officer decisions, the result was higher-than-appropriate prices for federal customers and a demoralized acquisition staff for GSA.”

At  HHS.  At least 436 Department of Health and Human Services employees Had Insider Tip of $8 Billion Medicare Decision that set private health insurers' stock soaring.  The Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) have launched a probe to investigate possible insider trading.

In the Army  Soldier Who Read Conservative Books Now Faces Charges

A member of the U.S. Army Band who said he was reprimanded for having anti-Obama bumper stickers on his personal car, serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at a party and reading books written by conservative authors like Sean Hannity is now facing Article 15 charges – which cropped up shortly after he went public with his complaints. 

Last summer he was reprimanded for reading David Limbaugh and Mark Levin  privately and silently backstage at a U.S. Army Band concert.  A superior officer told him he was causing "unit disruption" and offending other soldiers

At the Energy Dept.  Nepotism ‘open and widely accepted’ at Energy Department.    Despite the fact that Federal law prohibits  public officials from appointing, employing or even advocating for their children or relatives to work within their agencies

At NSA  Pat Cadell on the sordid revelations .  The Fuse Has Been Lit:  Seven Critical Points on Uncle Sam's Spying Program

If the IRS was so willing to share confidential information with favored private groups, we shouldn’t be surprised, in the end, to learn that NSA/PRISM material ended up in the hands of Obama friends and allies outside of the government.
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These communications companies put peepholes into all of our private lives, through which Uncle Sam could sneak a peek.  Every e-mail, every phone call, every text-message--the government knows about them all.  It’s now evident that all these wonderful digital services--many of them, such as Google’s Gmail, given away for free--were, in fact, a kind of Trojan Horse.

More at the IRSHouse panel to probe alleged seizure of medical records by IRS

A top House committee launched another probe of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tuesday after a lawsuit alleged that the agency improperly seized millions of personal medical records in California.

The IRS seized 60 million records of 10 million people  without a search warrant or subpoena

Why the IRS is not answering questions about who did what.  Wow: IRS Claims Law Protecting the Privacy of Taxpayer Information Also Protects the Privacy of Those Who Violate Taxpayer Privacy

When everything is a crime, government date mining matters  especially in a flourishing culture of intimidation directed at the Tea Party, traditional marriage supporters, conservatives and other opponents of Obama and his agenda

Losing America by Peter Kirsanow

The “fundamental transformation” of America proceeds apace. The erosion of our freedoms and traditions, once incremental and barely perceptible, accelerates daily.

Armies of bureaucrats commanded by political ideologues remarkable mainly for their galactic incompetence intrude on ever more aspects of our lives — aspects both large and small. They tell us what light bulbs we’re allowed to use and how much water we may flush. They stick swabs in our mouths to collect our DNA and order us to buy health insurance we don’t want. They can seize our land if they think they know how to use it better, or stop us from using our land because a favored amphibian might live there too.
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Trust us, they say, it’s for your own good; a sovereign imperative, essential for national security. This from a government that freely lets millions cross our borders illegally without bothering to find out even the slightest detail about them.

Roger Kimball  writes

the transformation of us citizens — formerly the employers of all those “public servants” (it sounds funny now, doesn’t it: “public servants” forsooth!) swanning about in Washington on our money — the transformation, I say, of us citizens into serfs, i.e., slaves working for a feudal master.

Via American Digest is  finem respice

If you live in the United States it may finally be dawning on you that you have something of a problem in the government to which you are now a Subject….In fact, given the manner you have quashed the opportunity- almost unique in the history of the species- created by an impossibly rare coexistence of liberty, private property, free markets, the rise of scientific method, and freedom of expression (to name just a few) there is more than a passing argument to be made that your society has squandered one of the greatest intellectual and individualistic fortunes in history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:59 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2013

Penn Station, yesterday and today

201306101705

Vincent Scully, the architectural historian, not to be confused with Vin Scully, the sports announcer,  said that arriving at the old Penn Station was very different from arriving at the new, “One entered the city like a god. One scuttles in now like a rat.”

 Ny-Penn-Station Today

Via Jay Nordlinger who wrote today in Paris Journal, Part 1,

By rights, the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est should be spaced far apart — the one somewhere near 12 o’clock in Paris, the other somewhere near 3. But no: They’re very close together. Beautiful structures, too.

Which makes me think of the train stations back home in New York. I was just discussing this with someone, the other day. Grand Central is just what it should be — glorious. But Penn Station? Quite possibly the ugliest train station in all the world. And many people’s introduction to New York — a shame.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:12 PM | Permalink

June 8, 2013

Surprising

Top FDR Aide Hopkins Was Soviet Agent

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s most powerful assistant was a “conscious Soviet agent,” according to a new book that details how Harry Hopkins and others in FDR’s administration revealed U.S. secrets — and influenced American policy — to help Josef Stalin‘s Communist dictatorship.

Hopkins went so far as to alert Soviet officials about FBI surveillance that had discovered a Communist agent’s role in what proved to be the U.S.S.R.’s plan to steal atom-bomb secrets from the Manhattan Project, author Diana West explains in her new book, American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character.

Rich, Catholic Countries Are The Most Accepting Of Gays See the Chart based on info from the Pew Research Center.

Best way to cut down on salt, cut out bread

Bread is the No. 1 source of sodium in Americans' diets. People get twice as much from bread and rolls as they do from snacks such as potato chips and pretzels, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Consider that a typical 1-ounce slice of bread has between 100 and 200 milligrams, depending on the type and brand; an ounce of potato chips has roughly 120 or more.

Religious Private Schools

A recent meta-analysis of 90 studies on religious private schools, traditional public schools, and charter schools shows that students perform best academically and behaviorally when they attend religious private schools.

The Bible topped the best seller lists in Norway in 2012.    A new translation in 2011 into Norwegian and available on the iPad made the Bible attractive and interesting in a country where only 1% of Norwegians attend church regularly.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 PM | Permalink

What the Middle Ages were really like

From Prager University with one of my favorite writers, Anthony Esolen

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:09 PM | Permalink

"When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well"

Mark Steyn on The All-Seeing State and the inevitable corruption of the permanent bureaucracy

So we know the IRS is corrupt. What happens then when an ambitious government understands it can yoke that corruption to its political needs? What’s striking as the revelations multiply and metastasize is that at no point does any IRS official appear to have raised objections. If any of them understood that what they were doing was wrong, they kept it to themselves. When Nixon tried to sic the IRS on a few powerful political enemies, the IRS told him to take a hike. When Obama’s courtiers tried to sic the IRS on thousands of ordinary American citizens, the agency went along, and very enthusiastically. This is a scale of depravity hitherto unknown to the tax authorities of the United States, and for that reason alone they should be disarmed and disbanded — and rebuilt from scratch with far more circumscribed powers.
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When the state has the power to know everything about everyone, the integrity of the civil service is the only bulwark against men like Holder. Instead, the ruling party and the non-partisan bureaucracy seem to be converging. In August 2010, President Obama began railing publicly against “groups with harmless-sounding names like Americans for Prosperity” (August 9th, a speech in Texas) and “shadowy groups with harmless-sounding names” (August 21st, radio address). And whaddayaknow, that self-same month the IRS obligingly issued its first BOLO (Be On the Look-Out) for groups with harmless-sounding names, like “tea party,” “patriot,” and “constitution.”
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When the state has the capability to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:43 PM | Permalink

June 7, 2013

Masters of Disguise

 Toad-Animal-Camouflage-12

 Owl-Animal-Camouflage

Amazing examples of animal camouflage

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:00 PM | Permalink

The continuing mystery

Obama: The Ghost of Columbia University

Why does no one attending the thirtieth reunion of Barack Obama's graduating class at Columbia University remember meeting him?  That's the intriguing question raised by Wayne Allyn Root in a piece published at the Blaze:

We shared the same exact major- Political Science. We were both Pre Law. It was a small class- about 700 students. The Political Science department was even smaller and closer-knit (maybe 150 students). I thought I knew, or met at least once, (or certainly saw in classes) every fellow Poly Sci classmate in my four years at Columbia.

But not Obama. No one ever met him. Even worse, no one even remembers seeing that unique memorable face. Think about this for a minute. Our classmate is President of the United States. Shouldn't someone remember him? Or at least claim to remember him? (snip)

No one that ever met Obama, let alone befriended him, was in attendance at our 30th class reunion.
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Keep in mind these people I spoke to are all- to a man and woman- dedicated liberal Democrats who voted for Obama. I’m guessing 90% are major Democrat contributors. My Columbia classmates are the crème of the crop of American society. Lawyers, doctors, billionaire hedge fund members, stars of the media. They adore Obama. But they all admit they never met him in their four years at Columbia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

Political correctness idiocies

Army Reprimands Soldier for Serving Chick-Fil-A at a Private Party

A soldier who served Chick-fil-A sandwiches at a party he threw to honor the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and his promotion to Master Sergeant has received a letter of reprimand.
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According to a Fox News report, the invitation to the soldier's party read: "In honor of my promotion and in honor of the Defense of Marriage Act, I'm serving Chick-fil-A sandwiches at my promotion party."

In response, the military went so far as to put a letter of reprimand in the soldier's file and "an investigation was initiated to see if he had violated any policy." Chaplain Alliance Executive Director Ron Crews said there was even "talk of bringing judicial punishment against" the soldier for a time.
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DOMA is the law of the land, and has been since it was enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1996. For honoring that law and serving sandwiches from a business that supports it, a Master Sergeant's career has been imperiled.

In order not to offend Muslims, schools in the U.K  are dropping the teaching of the Holocaust from history lessons

In an effort to counter ‘Islamophobia’ in British schools, teachers now are required to teach ‘key Muslim contributions such as Algebra and the number zero’ in math and science courses, even though the concept of zero originated in India.
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Muslim leaders are demanding that Islamic preachers be sent to every school in Scotland to teach children about Islam, ostensibly in an effort to counter negative attitudes about Muslims.
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In London, 85 of 90 schools have implemented “no pork” policies, reflecting a nationwide trend toward banning pork from lunch menus, all once again to avoid offending Muslim students.

Boy suspended from school just because he said the word 'gun'

Bruce Henkelman says his son was talking about the Sandy Hook shootings on the school bus and the driver immediately alerted his middle school principal and the sheriff. ….."

My son said 'I wish I had a gun to protect everyone,'" Henkelman said. "He wanted to be the hero." The boy was suspended for a day, and Henkelman had to fill out a four-page questionnaire issued by the sheriff's office. "My son was very scared," he said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:01 AM | Permalink

June 6, 2013

Malware on Facebook - Watch what you click

Computer virus found on Facebook steals bank details and money from accounts when users click on links

A computer virus that steals bank details and empties money from accounts has been found on Facebook.
Eric Feinberg, who controls the U.S National Football League Facebook page, discovered the malicious links were being posted on his brand's page by fake profiles.

The links are believed to be controlled by the Russian Business Network - an online criminal gang accused of stealing internet users' identities and private information.

The link discovered by Feinberg was for a page called 'Bring the N.F.L to Los Angeles'. The page has since been removed.
Security firm Trend Micro claim that there may be many more hidden on pages, or even being spread inadvertently by Facebook friends.

When a Facebook user clicks the links the Trojan - which gets its name from the Trojan horse the Greeks used to enter the city of Troy undetected - is installed on their computer.  It then scans all the personal files and steals any private information.

The malware is also able to collect login details, even if they aren't stored in documents on your PC, by using keystroke logging.  Keystroke logging, also known as keylogging, can record which keys on a keyboard are being pressed.  It can then wait until the user types in their online banking address and login details and steal them.
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Once they have the logins, the cybercriminals can enter your online accounts and steal your money.

It is a six-year-old malware program that has seen a resurgence recently on Facebook and other social network sites.  The Zeus Trojan, also known as ZBOT, has infected millions of computers worldwide - with reports claiming 3.6 million are in the U.S alone - and can sit in the background dormant and virtually undetected.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:36 PM | Permalink

Ft Hood shootings: Workplace violence or terrorism?

Workplace violence or terrorism?

Nidal Hassan, the Army Major faces court martial for the 2009 Fort Hood shooting during which he shouted Allahu Akbar , Allah is greater, while gunning down a slew of unarmed people, killing 13 and wounding 32.  He is being court-martialed charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of premeditated murder.  He has offered to plead guilty, a plea the U.S. Army can not accept because it is a death-penalty case.

He is not being charged with terrorism.  The Department of Defense classified the events as "workplace violence"  while the Senate released a report describing the mass shootings as the 'worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil since September 11, 2001. 

The DOD and federal law enforcement agencies have also declined requests from survivors and family members of the slain to categorize the shootings as act of terrorism, or motivated by militant Islamic religious convictions. In November 2011 a group of survivors and family members filed a lawsuit against the government for negligence in preventing the attack, and to force the government to classify the shootings as terrorism.

The spokesman for Al Qaeda praised Hassan, saying that, although he was not a member of Al Qaeda, the

"Mujahid brother … has shown us what one righteous Muslim with an assault rifle can do for his religion and brothers in faith … is a pioneer, a trailblazer and a role-model … and yearns to discharge his duty to Allah and play a part in the defense of Islam and Muslims against the savage, heartless and bloody Zionist Crusader assault on our religion, sacred places and homelands

Hassan had worked as an intern and resident at Walter Reed Medical Center where many of his colleagues were deeply concerned about his inappropriate behavior and comments.  During his senior year at Walter Reed, he made a presentation titled "The Koranic World View as it relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military" and suggested that the DOD should allow Muslim soldiers the option of being released as conscientious objectors.

Beginning in December 2008, Hassan carried on an extensive email correspondence with the late Anwar al Awlaki, an American Imam at a mosque in Falls Church where he  had presided over the funeral of Hassan's mother in 2001 before returning to Yemen in  2004 where he repeatedly called for jihad against the U.S.  He went to hiding in 2006.  Before he was killed by a drone attack in Yemen in 2011, Anwar al Awlaki was a talent recruiter for al-Qaeda,  described by a Saudi news station as the "bin Laden of the Internet". 

The FBI investigated Hassan and concluded that his emails with Awlaki including one in which he wrote "I can't wait to join you" in the afterlife were related to his professional research about Muslims in the armed forces.    He was reported depressed and anxious over his imminent deployment to Afghanistan.  Post-shooting examination of his computer revealed he had a blog where he espoused extremist views and likened a suicide bomber to soldiers who sacrifice their lives for a noble cause and that he attempted to contact al-Qaeda.

The Christian Science Monitor reported on Tuesday

The major, who is conducting his own defense, insists that he acted on behalf of “the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban.
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Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law in San Antonio, Texas. “He has now labeled himself as a jihadist Islamist murderer, a hardcore jihadist. It’s now clear…, in spite of our leadership in this country, including the Department of Defense and Obama, what his motives are.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:32 PM | Permalink

D-Day 69 years later

 Robertcapa Dday

When freedom came ashore: Stunning shots of Allied troops storming Omaha Beach in Normandy by war photographer Robert Capa and how they were almost lost forever

War photographer took 106 photos - but only 11 of them survived because of a blunder when processing the film.  Life magazine picture editor in London John Morris told staff to 'rush!' in the dark room.  In their haste, three whole rolls of film melted and over half of the fourth was destroyed
Robert Capa's images - later named The Magnificent Eleven - are the closest any photographer got to the action  Capa landed just off the beach in a US landing craft and took his pictures from the water.
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Capa was aboard a landing ship carrying Company E of 16th Regiment, First Infantry of the US Army which landed on Omaha beach in the early hours of June 6.
As machine guns were fired all around him, the troops - and the war photographer - waded towards the beach under heavy enemy fire.  Omaha beach proved to be the worst killing field of the first day of the invasion, with an estimated 3,000 US soldiers killed within a matter of hours.

He later wrote in his book, called Slightly out of Focus: 'The men from my barge waded in the water. Waist-deep, with rifles ready to shoot, with the invasion obstacles and the smoking beach in the background gangplank to take my first real picture of the invasion.
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'The boatswain, who was in an understandable hurry to get the hell out of there, mistook my picture-taking attitude for explicable hesitation, and helped me make up my mind with a well-aimed kick in the rear. The water was cold, and the beach still more than a hundred yards away.'

He dived for cover behind a steel object before heading onward in the water for a disabled American tank as he snapped away furiously.

The photographer held his camera high above his head to stop his precious film being damaged and later ran towards an incoming landing craft. He was hauled aboard and spirited away to England where most of his shots were inadvertently destroyed in the developing room.

What courage those men had.    Ronald Reagan gave one of his greatest speeches on the 40th Anniversary:

We're here to mark that day in history when the Allied armies joined in battle to reclaim this continent to liberty. For 4 long years, much of Europe had been under a terrible shadow. Free nations had fallen, Jews cried out in the camps, millions cried out for liberation. Europe was enslaved, and the world prayed for its rescue. Here in Normandy the rescue began. Here the Allies stood and fought against tyranny in a giant undertaking unparalleled in human history.
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Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: ``I will not fail thee nor forsake thee.''

Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their value [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

You can experience D-Day live and minute by minute here

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:11 PM | Permalink

June 5, 2013

The Barack H. Obama Foundation

Roger Kimball. The IRS Scandal: It Just Gets Worse and Worse

The Barack H. Obama Foundation is a 501©(3) entity was founded in 2011,  presided over by Malik Obama, the Kenyan-born half-brother of the President and best man at his wedding.   

Malik Obama is also  the executive secretary of the Islamic Da’wa Organisation, an entity that was created by the Sudanese government, which is considered by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist state.

It turns out that these last several years the IRS has not only been harassing groups whose descriptions include phrases like “tea party” and “patriot.” It has also been bending over backwards to give preferential service to certain groups with a different political complexion. Groups, that is, like the Barack H. Obama Foundation.

As The Daily Caller reports IRS official Lerner speedily approved exemption for Obama brother’s ‘charity’ 

Lois Lerner….signed paperwork granting tax-exempt status to the Barack H. Obama Foundation, a shady charity headed by the president’s half-brother that operated illegally for years.

According to the organization’s filings, Lerner approved the foundation’s tax status within a month of filing, an unprecedented timeline that stands in stark contrast to conservative organizations that have been waiting for more than three years, in some cases, for approval.

Lerner also appears to have broken with the norms of tax-exemption approval by granting retroactive tax-exempt status to Malik Obama’s organization. [three years worth ]

Mark Steyn summarizes  “American taxpayers are subsidizing the president’s brother to go and party with the genocidal butcher of Darfur in one of the only four terrorist states on the planet!”.   Audio at the link.

Walid Shoebat reports  Malik is the fourth Obama family member in Kenya who is now implicated in the spread (Da’wa) of Wahhabist Islam.

The three others are Step-Grandmother Sarah, Uncle Sayid, and Cousin Musa, who in 2011 (video translated below), told Al-Jazeera that the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation (MSOF) deceptively diverts its contributions toward scholarships for Kenyan students to attend the most virulent of Wahhabist schools… in Saudi Arabia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:12 AM | Permalink

A Potemkin Village Rises in Ireland for the G8 World Summit

Fake villages will greet President Obama and other G8 world leaders in Fermanagh Fake shop fronts and derelict buildings covered in billboards disguise economic plight

 Fake-Shop-Stickers+Shop+Fronts

Fake shop front - local councils have hired workers to paint fake shop fronts stocked with attractive but illusory produce for the pleasure of the G8 Summit meeting talking place in Fermanagh this month.

According to Ireland’s national broadcaster, RTE, local councils have hired workers to paint fake shop fronts stocked with attractive but illusory produce.

They have also been contracted to cover derelict buildings with colorful billboards, the better to hide the real economic hardship being felt in towns and villages close to the five star golf resort where G8 leaders will meet this month.

Critics have called the move a Potemkin village charade, named after the fake village created by Russian minister Grigory Potemkin to fool Empress Catherine II about the state of locality during her visit to Crimea in 1787.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:53 AM | Permalink

The "unprecedented" scandal at the IRS threatens the fundamental health of our political system

Seeing real people testify to the real treatment they suffered at the hands of the IRS brings the scandal to life.  It’s all quite chilling, from efforts to intimidate donors and illegally releasing tax returns, to pressuring pro-life groups not to protest outside of Planned Parenthood organizations, to demanding to know about the prayer activities of citizens.

This kind of abuse of power, used in this manner, is something I can’t recall having seen in my three decades in politics. And the Obama administration’s first line of defense, which is that this was being conducted by rogue elements within the IRS, is collapsing. It’s clear that the intimidation tactics were widespread, coordinated and not confined to a few mid-level bureaucrats.

An ordinary woman from Wetumpka, Alabama,  Becky Gerritson,  was the most eloquent .

“In Wetumpka, we are patriotic Americans. We peacefully assemble. We petition our government. We exercise the right to free speech. And we don’t understand why the government tried to stop us.

I’m not here as a serf or a vassal. I’m not begging my lords for mercy. I’m a born free American woman. Wife, mother, and citizen. And I’m telling my government that you’ve forgotten your place. It’s not your responsibility to look out for my wellbeing and to monitor my speech. It’s not your right to assert an agenda. Your post, the post that you occupy, exists to preserve American liberty. You’ve sworn to perform that duty, and you have faltered…

“What the government did to our little group in Wetumpka, Alabama is un-American. It isn’t a matter of firing or arresting individuals. The individuals who sought to intimidate us were acting as they thought they should, in a government culture that has little respect for its citizens. Many of the agents and agencies of the federal government do not understand that they are servants of the people. They think they are our masters. And they are mistaken.

“I’m not interested in scoring political points. I want to protect and preserve the America that I grew up in. The America that people crossed oceans and risked their lives to become a part of. And I’m terrified it is slipping away.

You can watch her emotional and powerful testimony here

John C. Eastman, the National Organization for Marriage's Chairman of the Board, accused the IRS of illegally leaking information about the organization's donors to liberal organizations for political purposes.  In testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday, he said the IRS leaked the information to the Human Rights Campaign, a pro-gay rights group. He noted the head of the HRC was a co-chair of the Obama campaign.
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NOM discovered another document with redactions that had been posted. A computer analysis, after removing the document's redaction layer, discovered the document had "originated from within the IRS itself."  He said the group found the header of each page read: “THIS IS A COPY OF A LIVE RETURN FROM SMIPS. OFFICIAL USE ONLY." And that was proof that the leak originated from the IRS.  He said this "unauthorized public disclosure" was "a violation of federal law" and a "serious felony."

Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), said the targeting at the IRS his probe discovered was "unprecedented,"

Peggy Noonan, Restoring public faith will require a full investigation of the IRS's politicization.

this scandal is different and distinctive. The abuse was systemic—from the sheer number of targets and the extent of each targeting we know many workers had to be involved, many higher-ups, multiple offices. It was ideological and partisan—only those presumed to be of one political view were targeted. It has a single unifying pattern: The most vivid abuses took place in the years leading up to the president's 2012 re-election effort. And in the end several were trying to cover it all up, including the head of the IRS, who lied to Congress about it, and the head of the tax-exempt unit, Lois Lerner, who managed to lie even in her public acknowledgment of impropriety.
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t wasn't a one-off. It wasn't a president losing his temper with some steel executives. There was no enemies list, unless you consider half the country to be your enemies….. What does it mean when half the country—literally half the country—understands that the revenue-gathering arm of its federal government is politically corrupt, sees them as targets, and will shoot at them if they try to raise their heads? That is the kind of thing that can kill a country, letting half its citizens believe that they no longer have full political rights.
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when a scandal is systemic, ideological and focused on political ends, it will not just magically end. Agencies such as the IRS are part of what Jonathan Turley this week called a "massive administrative state," one built with many protections and much autonomy.  If it is not forced to change, it will not.

Washington Examiner Editorial: IRS targeting of Tea Party is no mere political scandal

What the IRS has done during the Obama years far exceeds previous abuses of the tax agency and threatens the fundamental health of the nation's political system. It's one thing for the tax returns of a few politically powerful individuals to be scanned. But forcing hundreds of organizations representing millions of people to endure endless interrogation and other degrading harassment is typical of authoritarian regimes. It is, as Becky Gerritson put it so well, un-American. No effort should be spared to bring all of those responsible to a full accounting and just prosecution.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:24 AM | Permalink

Interesting links to a few science stories

BBC Centuries-old frozen plants revived  Plants that were frozen during the "Little Ice Age" centuries ago have been observed sprouting new growth, scientists say.

Russian scientists make rare find of 'blood' in a mammoth that died some 10,000 - 15,000 years ago

Chemists Grew Microscopic Crystal Flowers on a Razor Blade   Amazingly beautiful

World's oldest marijuana stash totally busted  Two pounds of still-green weed found in a 2,700-year-old Gobi Desert grave.

Ancient Egyptians wore jewelry made from 5,000 year old meteorites, Gifts from the gods

35 Scientific Concepts That Will Help You Understand The World.  Below are a few examples. Go to the link to see the authors responsible

Constraint satisfaction.  Too many choices can lead to indecision paralysis. 
Having constraints, or any sort of limits, is beneficial and leads to solution.

Cultural attractor.  We are attracted to ideas and concepts that are easy to accept or digest.

Cumulative error.  When information travels through multiple channels, it's easy for some elements of the message to get distorted —  by biases, or simple human error.

Failure liberates success

Fear of the unknown.  Our attachment to the familiar keeps us from taking risks and making real strides and breakthroughs. We often don't accurately assess the risk/benefit ratio; our irrational fears get in the way of real progress.

Holism.  'The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.' . Just look at DNA, and other much broader systems, like cities, that operate only if each individual element does its part.  "Holism does not come naturally. It is an appreciation not of the simple but of the complex."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 AM | Permalink

Some Tips

Eliminate Static Electricity with a Safety Pin

Asking for a raise?  The WSJ says Avoid Round Numbers   using more precise numbers in an initial request—or anchor, as it is known in negotiating parlance—generally results in a higher final settlement.

Return a Lost Driver's License By Dropping It In Any Mailbox

Kill Ants Safely with Cornmeal

Ditch the hand dryer: Paper towels are MORE hygienic because they remove more germs

 Paintbucket  Place a rubber band around an open paint can to wipe your brush on, and keep paint off the side of the can

The First Number You Should Look for When Choosing a Mutual Fund - the expense ratio.  Generally, the lower the fees, the greater the performance.

 Cheese Aluminumfoil Store your opened chunks of cheese in aluminum foil. It will stay fresh much longer and not mould

Improve Your Willpower by Reminding Yourself of Your Goals and Values Kelly McGonigal, author of The Willpower Instinct, breaks willpower into three different powers:

I Won't Power: what we normally think of as willpower (resisting temptation)
I Will Power: the ability to remember you want the consequences of doing that difficult thing (e.g., drinking more water instead of a big box of wine for a healthier future self)
I Want Power: the ability to keep a clear memory of what you care about most

When composing a professional e-mail, do not put in the person's e-mail address until you have typed the entire e-mail to avoid sending an incomplete email.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:23 AM | Permalink

Nearly 1 billion people have been taken out of extreme poverty in 20 years

The Economist proposes we do the same again.  Towards the end of poverty

The world’s achievement in the field of poverty reduction is, by almost any measure, impressive. Although many of the original Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) —such as cutting maternal mortality by three-quarters and child mortality by two-thirds—will not be met, the aim of halving global poverty between 1990 and 2015 was achieved five years early.

The MDGs may have helped marginally, by creating a yardstick for measuring progress, and by focusing minds on the evil of poverty. Most of the credit, however, must go to capitalism and free trade, for they enable economies to grow—and it was growth, principally, that has eased destitution.

The world now knows how to reduce poverty. A lot of targeted policies—basic social safety nets and cash-transfer schemes, such as Brazil’s Bolsa Família—help. ….. But the biggest poverty-reduction measure of all is liberalising markets to let poor people get richer.

The most important economic chart in Western civilization ---- and how it happened

 Economic Growth

AEI’s Values & Capitalism series has published a little book, Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing, that explores the benefits of growth and addresses common concerns regarding how growth impacts the poor, the environment, and culture. 

Governments seeking to unlock long-term growth should eschew command-and-control policies. Instead, they should craft economic institutions that reward all types of investment in physical and human capital, and that help markets function securely and inexpensively. For instance, an impartial judicial system that defines and enforces clear property rights gives firms and individuals the right incentives for work and investment; they know the courts will adjudicate property claims and contract disputes fairly, and uphold the rule of law.

Other key institutions include a stable, relatively corruption-free government, one that is able to provide for national defense and other public goods; a market system for the production and distribution of most goods and services, to provide monetary incentives for efficient allocation of resources and creation of jobs and incomes without need of government control or subsidy; and a financial system, modestly regulated for safety and economic growth paired with a sound currency, to encourage savings and to channel those savings into loans for large and small firms.

All good stuff, but I would boil it down to this: Respect and reward innovators and innovation. As Deirdre McCloskey has put it, the West became a business-admiring civilization and that changed everything:

At Benedictine College, Paul Ryan spoke on the Morality of Free Markets

[W]hy is there such resistance to free enterprise? It’s the old problem of greed. The critics say nothing good comes from commerce….Sure, free enterprise makes more stuff, they argue. But it relies on “greed”—on people pursuing their self-interest. And isn’t the love of money the root of all evil…or something to that effect…?

At some level, we all ask ourselves, “How can I make ends meet?” But the successful ask a better question: “What’s something people need?” Voluntary exchange is an act of good faith. It gives the buyer a good in exchange for something of equal value. It creates a culture of personal responsibility and good will. To attract customers, you must be trustworthy. To attract workers, you must treat them with dignity.

Free enterprise helps the workers themselves—because work gives people more than a paycheck. It gives them a sense of pride—a sense of purpose. It makes them a part of their communities. And when we share our gifts with other people, we show solidarity with each other. If farmers didn’t harvest, people would go hungry. If doctors and nurses didn’t practice, the sick would go untreated. We don’t think of ourselves as greedy—even though we take part in the economy. And we shouldn’t—because we’re working to help our families. We’re helping to put food on the table, to pay for our education, to save for retirement….

Free enterprise doesn’t reward greed. It rewards value—because competition checks greed. And there’s no greater opportunity for greed than government cronyism. Greed knows how to exploit the pages of regulations. It knows how to navigate the halls of power. So if we’re concerned about greed, we shouldn’t give it more opportunities to grow.

In the U.S, we have only a partially free market that's getting less so.  Crony capitalism, banks too big to fail, and over regulation destroy free markets.  Today's example
Stricter EPA Ozone Rules Could Put 'Entire Country' Out of Business, Industry Group Warns.  Or as Peter Robinson writes, "Greed knows how to exploit the pages of regulations and navigate the halls of power."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:28 AM | Permalink

Lets have some penalties for politicians

Another great idea from Glenn Reynolds

  Penalties for Politicians

Government officials are happy making and executing plans that affect the lives of millions, but when things go wrong, well … they're willing to accept the responsibility, but they're not willing to take the blame. What's the difference? People who are to blame lose their jobs. People who are "responsible," do not. The blame, such as it is, winds up deflected on to The System, or something else suitably abstract.

But when you cut the linkage between outcomes and experience, you make learning much more difficult. When you were a toddler learning to walk, you fell down a lot. This was unpleasant: shocking, at least, and often painful. Thus, you learned to fall down a lot less often.
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Given the low penalties for failure it faces, our political class is one for whom falling down is usually painless and even -- given the surprisingly common tendency of people who have presided over debacles to be given promotions rather than the boot -- actually pleasurable. The leaders move society's arms and legs, but we're the ones who collect the bruises.
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I'd favor some changes that put accountability back in. First, I'd get rid of judicially created immunities. The Constitution itself creates only one kind of immunity, for members of Congress in speech and debate. (Perhaps unsurprisingly, courts have interpreted this grant of immunity, explicitly in the Constitution, more narrowly than the judicially created ones).
I'd also cut all payments to members of Congress whenever they haven't passed a budget. If they can't take care of that basic responsibility, why should they get paid? Likewise, I'd ban presidential travel when there's not a budget. He can do his job from the White House.

In the past, he has suggested Taxing the revolving door

We see the "revolving door" in almost all industries and sectors of government, and it's a corrupting influence on both government and industry. 
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In short, I propose putting a 50% surtax -- or maybe it should be 75%, I'm open to discussion -- on the post-government earnings of government officials. So if you work at a cabinet level job and make $196,700 a year, and you leave for a job that pays a million a year, you'll pay 50% of the difference -- just over $400,000 -- to the Treasury right off the top. So as not to be greedy, we'll limit it to your first five years of post-government earnings; after that, you'll just pay whatever standard income tax applies.

This seems fair. After all, when it comes to your value as an ex-government official, it really is a case of "you didn't build that." Your value to a future employer comes from having held a taxpayer-funded position and from having wielded taxpayer-conferred power. Why shouldn't the taxpayers get a cut?

And Repeal the Hollywood tax cuts!

The first such proposal would be to restore the 20 percent excise tax on motion picture theater gross revenues that existed between the end of World War II and its repeal in the mid-1950s.
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The movie excise tax was imposed in response to the high deficits after World War Two. Deficits are high again, and there's already historical precedent. Of course, to keep up with technology, the tax should now apply to DVDs, downloadable movies, pay-per-view and the like. But in these financially perilous times, why should movie stars and studio moguls, with their yachts, swimming pools and private jets, not at least shoulder the burden they carried back in Harry Truman's day -- when, to be honest, movies were better anyway.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:35 AM | Permalink

How the French eat out

Fast Food Accounts for 54% of Restaurant Sales in France

As NPR reports, food consultancy firm Gira Conseil conducted its annual survey on restaurant spending in France and found that 54% of total sales belong to the likes of McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway. The new fan favorite increased 14% in consumption in the past year, shattering any notion that the French, known for world famous chefs and sophisticated palates, look down on the cheap and easy alternative to traditional restaurant dining.

McDonald’s racks up more than 1,200 locations in France, Subway has opened hundreds of stores in the past 10 years and Burger King, which shuttered its French locations 16 years ago, recently returned to the market.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:23 AM | Permalink

June 4, 2013

Health roundup: Donating blood good for you, high heels, vinegar against cancer, sunscreen works, when cancer brings a gift

Donating blood is as good for YOUR health as it is for the receiver

We all know giving blood provides an essential lifeline to those in need, but a growing body of research demonstrates that it could have health benefits for the donor too.
Findings have shown that donating blood reduces the risk of heart attacks and even cancer.  It even burns 650 calories for every pint given.
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It is thought that the benefits arise from lowering high iron levels.  Iron affects how thick and sticky the texture of the blood is.  High iron levels causes the blood to be thicker.  Raised iron levels also accelerate the oxidisation process of cholesterol.

This can affect blood consistency and create increased friction as it travels through blood vessels. As this increases wear and tear to the lining of arteries it could then contribute to cardiovascular disease.  Because donating blood removes some of its iron content, it may therefore have a protective benefit if done on a consistent basis by helping thin the blood.

Immune Protein Could Stop Diabetes in Its Tracks, Discovery Suggests

Melbourne researchers have identified an immune protein that has the potential to stop or reverse the development of type 1 diabetes in its early stages, before insulin-producing cells have been destroyed.

The discovery has wider repercussions, as the protein is responsible for protecting the body against excessive immune responses, and could be used to treat, or even prevent, other immune disorders such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

A simple vinegar test slashed cervical cancer death rates by one-third in a remarkable study of 150,000 women in the slums of India, where the disease is the top cancer killer of women.

Are high heels worth it? Most women are in pain in just over an hour and 90% have suffered problems from ill-fitting shoes  Study found that half of women put up with pain of high heels to look good.  Podiatrists say nearly all foot conditions are caused by poorly fitting shoes.

Slathering on sunscreen really works shows a study of 900 Australians.  They had noticeably more resilient and smoother skin.  Sunscreen can slow or prevent wrinkles and sagging skin

It took cancer surgery to see a more profound dimension of life

Suddenly–I don’t know if this was the result of my new diet–ordinary things I’d paid little or no attention to all my life sparkled with meaning. They made sense, seemed suddenly alive. I walked around the house smiling like an idiot.
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In this symphony, I was both instrument and player, sound and listener, individual and collective. I felt awake to a world that had always been there, but that I couldn’t access under ordinary circumstances.

I avoided examining or questioning this enthralling condition, for fear I’d see it dissolve under the microscope of rationality. I knew that I’d been granted not a religious experience but what formal religion often claims for itself: a sense of spiritual wonderment.

With great anxiety, a  general internist goes to the House of Death for the first time.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:39 PM | Permalink

June 3, 2013

More on what you don't know about Obamacare

IRS: Cheapest Obamacare Plan Will Be $20,000 Per Family

In a final regulation issued Wednesday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assumed that under Obamacare the cheapest health insurance plan available in 2016 for a family will cost $20,000 for the year.

Two-Thirds of Americans Don't Know If They Will Insure Under Obamacare

In Forbes, Coming Soon To America: A Two-Tiered, Canadian-Style Health Care System

The evolution toward a two-tiered system was already under way before Barack Obama became president. But ironically, the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is accelerating the pace of change. It is doing so in four ways….
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These four changes add up to one big problem: we are about to see a huge increase in the demand for care and a major decrease in the supply. In any other market, that would cause prices to soar. But government plans to control costs (even more so than in the past) by vigorously suppressing provider fees and the private insurers are likely to resist fee increases as well. That means we are going to have a rationing problem. Just as in Canada or Britain, we are going to experience rationing by waiting.
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Waiting times are going to be especially lengthy for anyone in a health insurance plan that pays providers below-market fees. The elderly and the disabled on Medicare, low income families on Medicaid, and (if the Massachusetts precedent is followed) people who acquire health insurance in the new health insurance exchanges will find they are financially less desirable to providers than other patients. That means they will be pushed to the end of the waiting lines.
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Those who can afford to will find a way to get to the head of the line. For a little less than $2,000 a year, for example, seniors on Medicare can contract with a concierge doctor. These doctors promise prompt access to care and usually talk with their patients by telephone and email. They serve as an advocate for their patients, in much the same way as an attorney is an advocate for his client.

But every time a doctor becomes a concierge doctor, he (or she) leaves an old practice serving about 2,500 patients and takes only about 500 patients into the concierge practice. (More attention means fewer patients.) That means about 2,000 patients now must find a new physician.
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Because the two tiers of health care will compete with each other for resources, the growth of the first tier will make rationing by waiting even more pronounced in the second tier.

Michael Barone, Another enormous ObamaCare ‘Oops’

Would you like to have a “skinny” health insurance policy? Probably not. But if you’re employed by a large company, you may get one, thanks to ObamaCare.
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That’s the conclusion of Wall Street Journal reporters Christopher Weaver and Anna Wilde Mathews, who report that insurance brokers are pitching and selling “low-benefit” policies across the country.

Wonder what a “skinny” or “low-benefit” insurance plan is? The terms may vary, but the basic idea is that policies would cover preventive care, a limited number of doctor visits and perhaps generic drugs. They wouldn’t cover things such as surgery, hospital stays or prenatal care.
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As Weaver and Mathews explain, ObamaCare’s requirement that insurance policies include “essential” benefits such as mental-health services apply only to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees. But larger employers “need only cover preventive service, without a lifetime or annual dollar-value limit, in order to avoid the across-the-workforce penalty.”

Low-benefit plans may cost an employer only $40 to $100 a month per employee. That’s less than the $2,000-per-employee penalty for providing no insurance.

“We wouldn’t have anticipated that there’d be demand for these type of Band-Aid plans in 2014,” the Journal quotes former White House health adviser Robert Kocher. “Our expectation was that employers would offer high-quality insurance.”

Oops.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

Marriage makes people happier

Marriage makes people happier than six figure salaries and owning a home

In the U.K., the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that

being married is 20 times more important to a person’s well-being than their earnings, and 13 times more important than owning a home.

The figures also indicate that having children has almost no impact on a person’s day-to-day happiness, although it does make them feel life is more “worthwhile”.

The ONS analysis was based on an survey of 165,000 people, in which they were asked to rate their life in four areas: their satisfaction with life, how worthwhile they thought their life was, how happy and how anxious they felt.
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Dawn Snape, one of the authors of the report, said: “It [marriage] gives people a sense of stability, and a greater sense that their life is worthwhile.
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The researchers said they made some unexpected findings. They found that people with degrees were significantly more anxious than those who had not been to university, while the top 10% of Britain’s earners were more anxious than those who earned less.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:56 AM | Permalink

"It is not Islam that makes young converts violent; it is the violence within them that causes them to convert to Islam"

Theodore Dalrymple's thoughts on the brutal beheading of Lee Rigby.  I should note he is a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist.

What these cases show is that it is not Islam that makes young converts violent; it is the violence within them that causes them to convert to Islam. The religion, in its most bloodthirsty form, supplies all their psychological needs and channels their anger into a supposedly higher purpose. It gives them moral license to act upon their rage; for, like many in our society, they do not realize that anger is not self-justifying, that one is not necessarily right because one is angry, and that in any case even justified anger does not entail a license to act violently. The hacking to death of Lee Rigby on a street in Woolwich tells us as much about the society that we have created, or allowed to develop, as it does about radical Islam preached by fat, middle-aged clerics.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:31 AM | Permalink

June 2, 2013

'You know, love is a great place to spend the rest of your life,'

Lab workers who met 60 years ago are reunited and get married after 90-year-old sent mystery love letter written in code they used to use

Love moves in mysterious ways, and that's certainly the case for 81-year-old Cynthia Riggs.  The divorced author from Martha's Vineyard became the central character in her own mystery after receiving a love letter written in code in the mail.

'I'm always looking for wonderful mysteries and this seemed to be one,' Ms Riggs said, adding that the only details the code came with was a set of co-ordinates.

It was a mystery that took the author back 60 years, to when she worked at a San Diego marine laboratory with a young man named Howard Attebery.  When Ms Riggs tracked Dr Attebery down in California he admitted to sending the note. In a final twist to the story, Dr Attebery confessed his love for Ms Riggs and the couple married last weekend.

Although they never dated when they worked together, the pair used to pass coded messages to each other at the laboratory, using a simple formula where A is substituted for B and so on.

 Cynthia Roggs Coded Letters
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And, after years of not knowing how to tell her how he felt, Dr Attebery's coded message read: 'I have never stopped loving you'.

The pair exchanged letters for about a year before meeting and, when they were finally reunited in California, he proposed within an hour.  'You know, love is a great place to spend the rest of your life,' he said.  While the couple were writing to each other they realized that despite their time apart they had plenty in common, including the heartbreak of losing a child.
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Ms Riggs, who comes from a family that has produced generations of Martha's Vineyard sea captains, was also married and has five children. She divorced after 25 years, and said her abusive husband stalked her for several years afterwards, before finally taking his own life.  'After that,' she said, 'I said never, never, never again. And then this appears out of nowhere. It is just plain magical.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink