July 30, 2013

More Classical Education, please

Anthony Esolen on Lessons Never Learned

Every big “reform” of the public schools for the last sixty years has been disastrousthe expunging of any trace of religion from the classroom; the replacement of small schools with hulking institutions; the consolidation of school boards to attenuate local control and personal oversight; the abandonment of geography; the shift from history to current events; the New Math; the basal reader; comic books to amuse the poorer students in high school; the war on boys; the expansion of health class to “sex education” (what the heck is so complicated?); the corruption of the latter; teaching to standardized tests; the absurdly biased textbooks; the abandonment of any systematic study of grammar; teaching foreign languages “conversationally,” which means, in effect, illiterately; the abandonment of math-based sciences such as physics and chemistry, in favor of biology, reduced to ecology, reduced to cuddles; what on earth would make us think that anything this system produces can do us any good? Homeschoolers enjoy their signal and mortifying success largely because they see everything that is done in school and then go and do precisely the opposite.

The Benefits of a Classical Education

The great Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt gave praise to the ancient Greeks by commenting that “all subsequent objective perception of the world is only elaboration on the framework the Greeks began. We see with the eyes of the Greeks and use their phrases when we speak.” European culture and civilization, of which our own country is a part, are rooted in ancient Greece. Their educational methodology, though more than 2,500 years old, is still as relevant now as it was in the time of Plato and is known as classical education.

First, let us consider the objectives of classical education. The first objective is to transmit to our progeny, that is, to future generations, the knowledge, culture, and traditions preserved and passed on to us by our forebears. This is in contrast to so-called progressive education, which focuses on the flaws of the past (e.g., slavery) while ignoring the progress (e.g., the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the elimination, in America, of an institution that had existed throughout human history).

Second, classical education aims to provide students with the tools that will enable them to become their own teachers throughout their lifetimes. A vast, inexhaustible world of learning is opened and, furthermore, the student is equipped to discern between that which is wholesome — contributing therefore to the uplifting of the mind — and that which is corrupting or debilitating. In other words, the student will be able to think critically and independently. Progressive-minded teachers in government education, of course, despite claiming to support diversity, prop­agandize instead on behalf of a humanist, statist doctrine.

Third, classical education is, by its very nature, broad-based. The renowned Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset and the American philosopher and historian Richard M. Weaver both decried the excessive specialization that, in modern education, produces men and women who are educated in one field only, and who are, in other fields, largely ignorant. Weaver referred to this as the “fragmentation” of knowledge. Classical education produced scholars who, he wrote, “stood at the center of things because [they] had mastered principles,” whereas “progressive education” produces people who have “acquired only facts and skills” and who are thus unable to achieve a general synthesis, that is, to integrate data from various fields into a cohesive whole.
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The trivium was the foundation of classical education. The Latin word “trivium” refers to “the three paths,” which are grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Grammar teaches us how to read and how to understand what we are reading, and it teaches us the rules for writing intelligibly, according to the rules of a particular language.  Logic teaches us how to think, how to reason analytically, so that we are not misled by fallacious arguments. Rhetoric teaches us how to express ourselves, to convey information accurately and, most especially, to be persuasive in discussions. … And so, the trivium arms the student with a thoroughgoing understanding of his language, the ability to reason critically, and the ability to express thoughts convincingly.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:31 PM | Permalink

Unspeakable connections to the world of jihad

Andrew McCarthy lays out the more disturbing side of Huma Abedin Weiner in Huma's Unmentionables, "the elephant in the room goes unnoticed, or at least studiously unmentioned"  While she was Hillary Clinton's aide, the State Department became remarkably cozy with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Ms. Abedin’s connections to prominent Islamic-supremacist figures and groups are deemed unsuitable for public discussion – Egyptians may be able to eject the Muslim Brotherhood, but in today’s Washington it is raising questions about the Muslim Brotherhood that gets you run out of town.
Diana West asks Why Won't the Media Cover Huma Abedin's Ties to the Global Jihad Movement?
It is not enough to analyze Huma Abedin as a "political wife." Abedin is also a veritable Muslim Brotherhood princess. As such, the ideological implications of her actions -- plus her long and privileged access to US policy-making through Hillary Clinton -- must be considered, particularly in the context of national security.

But talk about paradoxes. In an era when the most minute and lurid descriptions of her husband's anatomical and sexual details are common talk, Huma Abedin's familial and professional connections to the world of jihad are unspeakable.

IBD Under Sequester, U.S. Giving Islamists $500 Million

Circumventing Congress and with no fanfare, President Obama last week issued an executive order enabling him to send an additional $500 million directly to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank — much of which you can bet will wind up going to the Iranian-backed Hamas terrorist organization.

According to Obama, "it is important to the national security interests of the United States to waive the provisions of" Congress' legislative restrictions "in order to provide funds . .. to the Palestinian Authority."

At the beginning of his first term, Obama promised close to $1 billion in aid to the Palestinian Authority, with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pledging none of it would reach Hamas.

But there's not enough money to open the White House to tourists.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

Generation 'lightbulb'

This is very good news.

Generation 'lightbulb': Medical advances are enabling us to go on and on and on . . . until suddenly we 'go out'

People are not only living longer but they are staying much healthier in later in life too, according to a new study.

Until recently very poor health tended to strike in the last six or seven years of life, but now it is more likely to occur shortly before death.  Experts believe that this is thanks to medical advances that not only prevent us becoming ill in the first place, but also help us recover our health in the aftermath of a serious condition.

Professor David Cutler of Harvard University, said: 'With the exception of the year or two just before death, people are healthier than they used to be.
'Effectively, the period of time in which we're in poor health is being compressed until just before the end of life. 'So where we used to see people who are very, very sick for the final six or seven years of their life, that's now far less common.

The study is based on results from nearly 90,000 peopled surveyed between 1991 and 2009.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:09 PM | Permalink

They stole 160 million credit card numbers

U.S. Says Ring Stole 160 Million Credit Card Numbers

A prolific gang of foreign hackers stole and sold 160 million credit card numbers from more than a dozen companies, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, federal prosecutors charged on last Thursday in what they described as the largest hacking and data breach case in the country.

The scheme was run by four Russian nationals and a Ukrainian, said the United States attorney for the District of New Jersey, Paul J. Fishman, who announced the indictments in Newark.

The victims in the scheme, which prosecutors said ran from 2005 until last year, included J. C. Penney; 7-Eleven; JetBlue; Heartland Payment Systems, one of the world’s largest credit and debit processing companies; and the French retailer Carrefour.
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“It is a really potent reminder of what researchers have been saying: The bigger threat is coming from criminal gangs, most of which are coming from Russia,” said Fred H. Cate, director of the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University in Bloomington. “It’s far more immediately impactful than threats coming from China.”

The Hackers Who Stole 160 Million Credit Cards and Almost Got Away

In a scam that dated back to 2005, the suspects first targeted retailers, surreptitiously visiting their checkout counters and exploiting vulnerabilities in the payment systems they used. By 2007, they were hacking into the financial systems of Nasdaq, the largest US electronic stock market, and major corporations like 7-Eleven, France’s Carrefour SA, JCPenney and the Hannaford Brothers supermarket chain.

They hit the real paydirt, authorities allege, when they hacked directly into some of the biggest credit card payment processors themselves to steal literally oceans of personal financial data.
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Once inside the network, they used malware (malicious code) to create a “back door” that gave them return access, even after some companies identified breaches and thought they had fixed them. Then they installed “sniffers,” or programs to identify, collect and steal vast amounts of personal financial data, individually known as dumps, that they secreted in a network of computers around the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:38 PM | Permalink

The 'Intelligence-industrial complex' is spying on you and the prescient words of Sen Frank Church in 1975

CNET Feds tell Web firms to turn over user account passwords  Secret demands mark escalation in Internet surveillance by the federal government through gaining access to user passwords, which are typically stored in encrypted form.

 Digital-Big-Brother-Is-Watching

National Journal How America's Top Tech Companies Created the Surveillance State  They’ve been helping the government spy on people for a very long time. The cozy relationships go back decades.

Books have been written about President Eisenhower’s famous farewell warning in 1961 about the “military-industrial complex,” and what he described as its “unwarranted influence.” But an even greater leviathan today, one that the public knows little about, is the “intelligence-industrial complex.”
The saga of the private sector’s involvement in the NSA’s scheme for permanent mass surveillance is long, complex, and sometimes contentious. Often, in ways that appeared to apply indirect pressure on industry, the NSA has demanded, and received, approval authority—veto power, basically—over telecom mergers and the lifting of export controls on software. The tech industry, in more than a decade of working-group meetings, has hashed out an understanding with the intelligence community over greater NSA access to their systems, including the nation’s major servers.

Angelo M. Codevilla, The Domestic Roots of International Contempt

The U.S. government did not have to spend billions to record metadata on every American’s phone calls and to access the rest of our electronic communications. It chose to do this because it had decided to deal with the threat of terrorism primarily by policing Americans rather than by forcing the Muslim world’s despots (that world is run exclusively by despots) to suppress anti-American incitement and activities rather than fostering them.

Moreover, the U.S. government crafted its “Homeland Security” on the basis of the counterfactual assumption that every American is as likely as any other American to be or not to be a terrorist – that to decide that any set of persons deserves any more scrutiny than any other, i.e. to “profile,” is impermissible. Hence, because “Homeland Security” is willfully agnostic not to say congenitally dumb, it must spy on everybody. The NSA’s universal elimination of the privacy of Americans’ communications is neither more nor less than the electronic version of the universal virtual undressing and palpating of passengers at airports.

NYReview of Books  They Know Much More Than You Think
The documents released by Edward Snowden show that the NSA does have a large-scale program to gather the telephone records of every Verizon customer, including local calls, and presumably a similar agreement with AT&T and other companies. These are records of who called whom and when, not of the content of the conversations, although the NSA has, by other methods, access to the content of conversations as well. But the NSA has, on a daily basis, access to virtually everyone’s phone records, whether cell or landline, and can store, data-mine, and keep them indefinitely. Snowden’s documents describing the PRISM program show that the agency is also accessing the Internet data of the nine major Internet companies in the US, including Google and Yahoo.
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According to a slide released by Snowden, the cable-tapping operation is codenamed “UPSTREAM” and it is described as the “collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past.” It also appears to be both far more secret and far more invasive than the PRISM program revealed by Snowden….Through UPSTREAM, however, the agency does get direct access to fiber-optic cables and the supporting infrastructure that carries nearly all the Internet and telephone traffic in the country.
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In the end, both UPSTREAM and PRISM may be only the tips of a much larger system. Another new document released by Snowden says that on New Year’s Eve, 2012, SHELLTRUMPET, a metadata program targeting international communications, had just “processed its One Trillionth metadata record.” Started five years ago, it noted that half of that trillion was added in 2012. It also noted that two more new programs, MOONLIGHTPATH and SPINNERET, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”
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One man who was prescient enough to see what was coming was Senator Frank Church, the first outsider to peer into the dark recesses of the NSA. In 1975, when the NSA posed merely a fraction of the threat to privacy it poses today with UPSTREAM, PRISM, and thousands of other collection and data-mining programs, Church issued a stark warning:

That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology…. I don’t want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:37 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup" IDLE conditions, cat allergies, gum disease and Alzheimers, ice for migraines, surviving melanoma

NYTimes:  Scientists Seek to Rein in Diagnoses of Cancer

The recommendations, from a working group of the National Cancer Institute, were published on Monday in The Journal of the American Medical Association..They say, for instance, that some premalignant conditions, like one that affects the breast called ductal carcinoma in situ, which many doctors agree is not cancer, should be renamed to exclude the word carcinoma so that patients are less frightened and less likely to seek what may be unneeded and potentially harmful treatments that can include the surgical removal of the breast.

The group, which includes some of the top scientists in cancer research, also suggested that many lesions detected during breast, prostate, thyroid, lung and other cancer screenings should not be called cancer at all but should instead be reclassified as IDLE conditions, which stands for “indolent lesions of epithelial origin.”
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“We need a 21st-century definition of cancer instead of a 19th-century definition of cancer, which is what we’ve been using,” said Dr. Otis W. Brawley, the chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, who was not directly involved in the report.

The impetus behind the call for change is a growing concern among doctors, scientists and patient advocates that hundreds of thousands of men and women are undergoing needless and sometimes disfiguring and harmful treatments for premalignant and cancerous lesions that are so slow growing they are unlikely to ever cause harm.

Urine stem cells used to create teeth  Stem cells obtained from urine could allow us to regrow lost teeth, according to scientists.  Works in mice.

BBC:  Cat allergy research offers new clues

Researchers led by Dr Clare Bryant of the University of Cambridge studied proteins found in particles of cat skin, known as cat dander, which is the most common cause of cat allergy.  They found that cat allergen activates a specific pathway in the body, once in the presence of a common bacterial toxin.  This triggers a large immune response in allergy sufferers, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, sneezing and a runny nose.

Gum disease and poor dental health  could be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease    Another reason to floss.

The bacteria caused by poor oral hygiene can kill off nerve cells once they reach the brain, causing the confusion and memory loss associated with dementia.
Researchers who examined the brains of ten dead Alzheimer’s patients found signs of the bug P. gingivalis.    Scientists at the University of Central Lancashire suspect that the microbe leads to the death of brain cells by triggering a chemical immune response.

Despite the findings, reported in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, it ‘remains to be proven’ whether poor dental hygiene can lead to dementia in healthy people.  ‘It is also likely that these bacteria could make the existing disease condition worse,’ said Professor StJohn Crean, of the university’s School of Medicine & Dentistry...

However, Dr Sim Singhrao, of the University of Central Lancashire, said: 'We are working on the theory when the brain is repeatedly exposed to bacteria or their debris from our gums, subsequent immune responses may lead to nerve cell death and possibly memory loss.  'Continued visits to dental hygiene professionals throughout one's life may be more important than currently envisaged with inferences for health outside of the mouth only.'

A blast of ice up your nose could be a new way of easing migraines.. Using an Ice pack on the forehead and a heating pad on the shoulders gave me the best relief back when I was suffering migraines,

A device that cools the brain by blasting ice cold liquid into the nostrils could be a radical new treatment for migraine.  The gadget, which manufacturers say may also help treat a severe type of headache called cluster headache, comes in the wake of anecdotal reports from some patients that eating ice cream reduces or even cures their headache.

Research shows that migraines and cluster headaches can be triggered when blood vessels in the brain expand. The idea behind the device, which sprays liquid into the nostrils for 20 minutes and is operated by doctors in a clinic, is that it cools these vessels, making them shrink to a normal size.
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The team decided to investigate the use of this device after noting that ice packs and cold foods seem to ease the painful headaches.

Meet the woman who survived five melanomas Recent advances mean that most people now survive melanoma, but it is still the leading killer of younger women

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:25 PM | Permalink

July 25, 2013

Obamacare data hub a "honey pot" for ID thieves

John Fund reports on Obamacare’s Branch of the NSA  Community organizers will use a Federal Data Hub to sign up people for subsidies — and even ballots.

The Department of Health and Human Services is about to hire an army of “patient navigators” to inform Americans about the subsidized insurance promised by Obamacare and assist them in enrolling. These organizers will be guided by the new Federal Data Hub, which will give them access to reams of personal information compiled by federal agencies ranging from the IRS to the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. “The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic,” Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute and Stephen T. Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor, wrote in USA Today. No wonder that there are concerns about everything from identity theft to the ability of navigators to use the system to register Obamacare participants to vote.
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This spring, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lawyers were also told by HHS that, despite the fact that navigators will have access to sensitive data such as Social Security numbers and tax returns, there will be no criminal background checks required for them. Indeed, they won’t even have to have high-school diplomas. Both U.S. Census Bureau and IRS employees must meet those minimum standards, if only because no one wants someone who has been convicted of identity theft getting near Americans’ personal records. But HHS is unconcerned. It points out that navigators will have to take a 20–30 hour online course about how the 1,200-page law works, which, given its demonstrated complexity, is like giving someone a first-aid course and then making him a med-school professor.
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Indeed, voter registration is among the goals of the folks hawking Obamacare. The People’s World newspaper reports: “California’s Secretary of State Debra Bowen is designating the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange, Covered California, as a voter registration agency under the National Voter Registration Act. That means Covered California will be incorporating voter registration into every transaction — online, in-person and by phone — it has with consumers.” It seems as if some Obama supporters have found a new way to fill the void left by the bankruptcy of ACORN, the notorious left-wing voter-registration group that saw dozens of its employees in multiple states convicted of fraud.
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“Giving community organizers access to the Federal Data Hub is bad policy and potentially a danger to civil liberties,” House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan told me recently. “But it’s one of the most underreported stories I’ve seen. If people only knew about this Data Hub program, it would touch off a huge public outcry.”

Obamacare data hub a 'honey pot' for ID thieves, warn critics

"It's the greatest collection of private identification information ever assembled on Americans that will be put into one place," said Rep. Patrick Meehan, who chairs a House cybersecurity subcommittee. "It is every bit of sensitive information one would need to know to completely take over the identification of a person," said the Pennsylvania lawmaker.

The Obamacare data hub, he added, "creates a honey pot and the day that it goes online it is going to be a target for hackers and others and they are unprepared to protect the system."

Doctors are skeptical and confused about Obamacare, survey finds

To combat wide spread skepticism, ‘Obamacare’ National Marketing Campaign To Cost Nearly $700 Million

Study: Obamacare could cause 1 million low-income Americans to move from work to welfare 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:02 PM | Permalink

See Your Folks

“We believe that increasing awareness of death can help us to make the most of our lives,  The right kind of reminders can help us to focus on what matters, and perhaps make us better people.”

That's from the British designers who used WHO data to determine life expectancy and create the app See Your Folks which calculates how many times you'll see your parents before they die

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:56 PM | Permalink

The Great Persecution

Christian Tragedy in the Muslim World by Bruce Thornton

Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero. Estimates of the numbers of Christians under assault range from 100-200 million. According to one estimate, a Christian is martyred every five minutes. And most of this persecution is taking place at the hands of Muslims. Of the top fifty countries persecuting Christians, forty-two have either a Muslim majority or have sizeable Muslim populations.

In Crucified Again, Ibrahim performs two invaluable functions for educating people about the new “Great Persecution,” to use the label of the Roman war against Christians. First, he documents hundreds of specific examples from across the Muslim world. By doing so, he shows the extent of the persecution, and forestalls any claims that it is a marginal problem. Additionally, Ibrahim commemorates the forgotten victims, refusing to allow their suffering to be lost because of the indifference or inattention of the media and government officials.

Second, he provides a cogent explanation for why these attacks are concentrated in Muslim nations. In doing so, he corrects the delusional wishful thinking and apologetic spin that mars much of the current discussion of Islamic-inspired violence.

In Afghanistan, for example, where American blood and treasure liberated Afghans from murderous fanatics, a court order in March 2010 led to the destruction of the last Christian church in that country. In Iraq, also free because of America’s sacrifice, half of the Christians have fled; in 2010, Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad was bombed during mass, with fifty-eight killed and hundreds wounded.

In Kuwait, likewise, the beneficiary of American power, the Kuwait City Municipal Council rejected a permit for building a Greek Catholic church. A few years later, a member of parliament said he would submit a law to prohibit all church construction. A delegation of Kuwaitis was then sent to Saudi Arabia––which legally prohibits any Christian worship–– to consult with the Grand Mufti, the highest authority on Islamic law in the birthplace of Islam, the Arabian Peninsula.

The Mufti announced that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region,” a statement ignored in the West until Ibrahim reported it. Imagine the media’s vehement outrage and condemnation if the Pope in Rome had called for the destruction of all the mosques in Italy. The absence of any Western condemnation or even reaction to the Mufti’s statement was stunning. Is there no limit to our tolerance of Islam?

it is in Egypt––yet another beneficiary of American money and support–– that the harassment and murder of Christians are particularly intense.
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Contrary to the apologists who attribute these attacks to poverty, political oppression, the legacy of colonialism, or the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict, Ibrahim shows that intolerance of other religions and the use of violence against them reflects traditional Islamic theology and jurisprudence.
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Both Islamic doctrine and history show the continuity of motive behind today’s persecution of Christians. As Ibrahim writes, “The same exact patterns of persecution are evident from one end of the Islamic world to the other––in lands that do not share the same language, race, or culture––that share only Islam.”

David French comments on Our Pathetic Support for Muslim Oppression

It is a sign that we have utterly lost our minds that many Americans worry far more about “Islamophobia” than they do about this very real oppression, and many Americans will mock critics of the Muslim world as bigots or extremists for condemning conduct that should shock the conscience of any civilized person.    It’s one thing to be so blinded by multicultural nonsense (failing to appreciate that it is the Muslim world — not America — that desperately needs to embrace “diversity”) that we can’t clearly identify evil, it’s another thing entirely to subsidize oppression on a grand scale.
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we subsidize oppressive Muslim governments to the tune of roughly $8 billion per year — collectively far more than we give our closest Middle Eastern ally (and vibrant Democracy), Israel.
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For too long — through Republican and Democratic administrations — we’ve turned away from abuse of women, ignored the persecution of Christians, made excuses for terrorism, and attached few meaningful conditions to our billions upon billions of dollars in aid. Instead, we’ve wrung our hands about our own “imperialism,” vigilantly policed our alleged Islamophobia, and kept writing checks to intolerant regimes — even as extremism flourished.

At some point this policy moves from naïve, to foolish, to pathetic, and — ultimately — to evil. Right now, we’re pathetic. If we keep paying for this oppression, we’ll be complicit in evil.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:52 PM | Permalink

What the rich do and the poor don't

From Dave Ramsey  20 Things The Rich Do Every Day

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble. 

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically 4 days a week. 23% of poor do this. 

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% for poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% for poor. 

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read 2 or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% for poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% for poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make hbd (Happy Birthday) calls vs. 11% of poor

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% for poor
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17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% for poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% for poor.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Diagnosis yourself before you see your doctor

When the average doctor visit is only 20 minutes long, diagnosing your symptoms before hand makes sense .

In the Wall St Journal  A Better Online Diagnosis Before the Doctor Visit As Internet Symptom-Checkers Improve, Health-Care Providers Say It's OK to Search.

With an abundance of websites and apps offering similar services, consumers are increasingly acting as their own diagnosticians when they experience a new health problem. That can be alarming for doctors, especially if patients show up armed with a scary list of unlikely maladies from the Internet, demanding expensive and unnecessary tests. It can also be dangerous for patients if they fail to seek expert medical advice for a problem after mistakenly concluding they don't need a doctor.

Now more health-care providers are turning the tables, steering patients to new and improved computerized symptom-checkers that make it easier for them to get reliable information about possible diagnoses, research their condition and even connect directly to a doctor. Doctors are adding these tools to their websites and incorporating them into electronic medical records, encouraging patients to use them before office visits to save time and make consultations more productive. Another benefit: Results turned up by a symptom-checker may actually help doctors think of something they hadn't considered.
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"Patients are experts on their symptoms and doctors are experts in working out their probable causes," and need to work together to formulate a list of possible diagnoses, says Jason Maude, chief executive of Isabel Healthcare, launched in 2001 as a professional online diagnostic checklist for doctors.

Here are sites mentioned in the article:

Isabel Symptom Checker  Using the latest searching technologies, the system can take a pattern of symptoms in everyday language and instantly compute from our vast database of 6,000 diseases, the most likely ones.

WebMD Symptom Checker

Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker 

Healthchildren.org  Powered by pediatricians.  Trusted by parents 
 
If you got your pills mixed up, here's a handy app to identify them.  MedSnapID

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:16 AM | Permalink

July 24, 2013

On Lawyers: "You can't imagine the terror when the money dries up"

An absolutely devastating piece in The New Republic, The Last Days of Big Law  You can't imagine the terror when the money dries up

Of all the occupational golden ages to come and go in the twentieth century—for doctors, journalists, ad-men, autoworkers—none lasted longer, felt cushier, and was all in all more golden than the reign of the law partner.
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“Stable” is not the way anyone would describe a legal career today. In the past decade, twelve major firms with more than 1,000 partners between them have collapsed entirely. The surviving lawyers live in fear of suffering a similar fate, driving them to ever-more humiliating lengths to edge out rivals for business. “They were cold-calling,” says the lawyer whose firm once turned down no-name clients. And the competition isn’t just external. Partners routinely make pitches behind the backs of colleagues with ties to a client. They hoard work for themselves even when it requires the expertise of a fellow partner. They seize credit for business that younger colleagues bring in.

Becoming A Banker Instead Of A Lawyer Was The Best Life Choice I Ever Made

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:52 PM | Permalink

More on Detroit

Michael Barone When people ask me why I moved from liberal to conservative, I have a one-word answer: Detroit.

Daniel Hannan in London Statism is turning America into Detroit

The Observer, naturally, quotes a native complaining that ‘capitalism has failed us,’ but capitalism is the one thing the place desperately needs. Detroit has been under Leftist administrations for half a century. It has spent too much and borrowed too much, driving away business and becoming a tool of the government unions.

Of Detroit’s $11 billion debt, $9 billion is accounted for by public sector salaries and pensions. Under the mountain of accumulated obligations, the money going into, say, the emergency services is not providing services but pensions. Result? It takes the police an hour to respond to a 911 call and two thirds of ambulances can’t be driven. This is a failure, not of the private sector, but of the state.

He quotes Mark Steyn on the Downfall of Detroit

Like Detroit, America has unfunded liabilities, to the tune of $220 trillion, according to the economist Laurence Kotlikoff. Like Detroit, it’s cosseting the government class and expanding the dependency class, to the point where its bipartisan “immigration reform” actively recruits 50–60 million low-skilled chain migrants. Like Detroit, America’s governing institutions are increasingly the corrupt enforcers of a one-party state — the IRS and Eric Holder’s amusingly misnamed Department of Justice being only the most obvious examples. Like Detroit, America is bifurcating into the class of “community organizers” and the unfortunate denizens of the communities so organized.

Charles Krauthammer responds to leftist who claim GOP policies led to Detroit's ruin

Detroit is not really an example of the failure of GOP economic policy. It’s been run by the Democrats for 60 years, and you can cite all the studies about how bad austerity is, all you have to do is look at Detroit and you get an idea of how bad the absence of austerity is, it’s a city in ruin,”

Tyler Burden at ZeroHedge has compiled  25 Facts About The Fall Of Detroit That Will Leave You Shaking Your Head

9) An astounding 47 percent of the residents of the city of Detroit are functionally illiterate.

11) If you can believe it, 60 percent of all children in the city of Detroit are living in poverty.

15) 40 percent of the street lights do not work.

16) Only about a third of the ambulances are running.

17) Some ambulances in the city of Detroit have been used for so long that they have more than 250,000 miles on them.

18) Two-thirds of the parks in the city of Detroit have been permanently closed down since 2008.

19) The size of the police force in Detroit has been cut by about 40 percent over the past decade.

20) When you call the police in Detroit, it takes them an average of 58 minutes to respond.

21) Due to budget cutbacks, most police stations in Detroit are now closed to the public for 16 hours a day.

22) The violent crime rate in Detroit is five times higher than the national average.

23) The murder rate in Detroit is 11 times higher than it is in New York City.

24) Today, police solve less than 10 percent of the crimes that are committed in Detroit.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:35 PM | Permalink

Reading Makes Us More Human

 Man Reading John Singer Sargent    In the Atlantic Reading Makes Us More Human by Karen Swallow Prior

A debate has erupted over whether reading fiction makes human beings more moral. But what if its real value consists in something even more fundamental?

What good literature can do and does do -- far greater than any importation of morality -- is touch the human soul.

Reading is one of the few distinctively human activities that set us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. …Reading, unlike spoken language, does not come naturally to human beings. It must be taught.
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...the books I have read over a lifetime have shaped my worldview, my beliefs, and my life as much as anything else. From Great Expectations I learned the power the stories we tell ourselves have to do either harm and good, to ourselves and to others; from Death of a Salesman I learned the dangers of a corrupt version of the American Dream; from Madame Bovary, I learned to embrace the real world rather than escaping into flights of fancy; from Gulliver's Travels I learned the profound limitations of my own finite perspective; and from Jane Eyre I learned how to be myself. These weren't mere intellectual or moral lessons, although they certainly may have begun as such. Rather, the stories from these books and so many others became part of my life story and then, gradually, part of my very soul.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Write your recovery, Kite patch, the 'misery' molecule, growing retinas, adding iodine, ankle sprains

Write your own recovery: How documenting medical issues could help you get better

Writing about your emotional traumas speed up healing by three times  Just 20 minutes of writing per day helps skin heal, study finds

Patch which claims to make humans 'invisible' to mosquitoes could save millions of lives by stopping the spread of malaria

The Kite Patch uses non-toxic compounds that disrupt mosquitoes' ability to find people through CO2 for up to 48 hours.  The Patch can be stuck on clothing, bags or anything else which needs protection

Scientists discover brain's 'misery molecule' which affects stress, anxiety and depression

Scientists have found the brain's 'misery molecule' believed to be responsible for all of our feelings of stress and anxiety.  Researchers believe that the protein - named CRF1 - could also be linked to depression.

A team from Heptares Therapeutics, a medical company based in Hertfordshire, used one of the world's most powerful x-ray machines to study the brain's pituitary gland.  It has long been known that the gland controls stress, depression and anxiety by releasing stress chemicals, the Sunday Times reports.
Now, scientists have discovered the response is triggered by CRF1 - which is found in the outer membranes of pituitary cells.
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CRF1 sits in pituitary cells and detects the stress molecules detected by the hypothalamus, a portion of the brain which produces hormones that control, body temperature, hunger and moods - among others.

Could cell transplant give sight to millions? Scientists grow retinas in the lab to create crucial connections to the brain

British scientists have made a major leap forward in efforts to treat blindness.  They have grown part of an eye in the laboratory and raided it for the  light-sensitive cells which are the key to vision.

These cells were injected into mice, where they seemed to grow normally and formed the crucial connections between the eye and brain.
It is hoped the first human patients could be treated in as little as five years – paving the way for a treatment which could eventually give millions back their sight….Those who could benefit include men and women with age-related macular degeneration – the most common cause of blindness in the elderly.

How Adding Iodine To Salt Resulted In A Decade's Worth Of IQ Gains For The United States

According to a new study, its introduction in America in 1924 had an effect so profound that it raised the country's IQ.

Jane Brody writes A Twisted Ankle Isn’t Just a Simple Sprain

Ankle sprains usually need more rehabilitation and take longer to heal than most people allow for.  Undertreatment means that “30 to 40 percent of people with simple ankle sprains develop chronic long-term joint pathology,”
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“Most research is showing that with any ankle sprain, the ankle should be immediately immobilized to protect the joint and allow the injured ligaments to heal,” ... “At least a week for the simplest sprain, 10 to 14 days for a moderate sprain and four to six weeks for more severe sprains.”
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R for rest, I for ice, C for compression, E for elevation. In other words, get off the foot, wrap it in an Ace-type bandage, raise it higher than the heart and ice it with a cloth-wrapped ice pack applied for 20 minutes once every hour (longer application can cause tissue damage).

This should soon be followed by a visit to a doctor, physical therapist or professional trainer, who should prescribe a period of immobilization of the ankle and rehabilitation exercises. An anti-inflammatory drug may be recommended and crutches provided for a few days, especially if the ankle is too painful to bear weight.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:56 PM | Permalink

July 22, 2013

"Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family"

Rhetoric, race and reality in America  The biggest threat to black youths is other young blacks, not white bigots.

During the week since the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin, the responses to the tragic event, the trial and the verdict have been predictable.
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What isn't reasonable or appropriate is the hysterical response of some civil rights leaders and advocates who have peddled a dishonest and hyperbolic analysis of the tragedy. Unfortunately, their message has been repeated ad nauseam and has become the settled wisdom for some: Young black males are at physical risk in this country, and it is the bigotry of whites that has put a target on their backs.
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What is so insidious about this message of victimhood and division is its dishonesty. Despite the tragic death of Martin under circumstances that no one will ever know the true nature of, there is no "big business" of killing blacks in America. There is no wave of bigotry directed at blacks. All this talk is demagogic posturing, and it's dangerous…..

These leaders know, even if many of their adherents might not, that the biggest threat to the lives of young blacks is other young blacks, not white bigots. Between 2000 and 2010, 4,607 black murder victims 17 or younger were killed by other blacks (4,441 of the killers were 17 or younger), according to the Wall Street Journal. There were 340 black victims 17 or younger killed by (non-Latino) whites. That means black youths were 13 times more likely to be killed by a black person than by a white one.

The more recent data haven't changed much. In 2011, according to the FBI, 2,695 blacks (of all ages) were killed, and the killers were nearly 13 times more likely to be black as white (2,447 to 193).
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It is clear that the Sharptons and Jacksons have a vested interest in keeping tension alive. Their relevance, audiences and fundraising are contingent on there being a perception that racial barriers remain, that fears persist and that their role as firemen is needed. The biggest threats to their continued viability is tolerance and an acknowledgment that inter-group relations are improving, that there is no war on black youth and that the country that elected Barack Obama to the presidency twice isn't demonizing kids who look like the first family.

Shelby Steele, The Decline of the Civil-Rights Establishment    Black leaders weren't so much outraged at injustice as they were by the disregard of their own authority.

Today's black leadership pretty much lives off the fumes of moral authority that linger from its glory days in the 1950s and '60s. The Zimmerman verdict lets us see this and feel a little embarrassed for them. Consider the pathos of a leadership that once transformed the nation now lusting for the conviction of the contrite and mortified George Zimmerman, as if a stint in prison for him would somehow assure more peace and security for black teenagers.
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One wants to scream at all those outraged at the Zimmerman verdict: Where is your outrage over the collapse of the black family? Today's civil-rights leaders swat at mosquitoes like Zimmerman when they have gorillas on their back. Seventy-three percent of all black children are born without fathers married to their mothers. And you want to bring the nation to a standstill over George Zimmerman?

There are vast career opportunities, money and political power to be gleaned from the specter of Mr. Zimmerman as a racial profiler/murderer; but there is only hard and selfless work to be done in tackling an illegitimacy rate that threatens to consign blacks to something like permanent inferiority. If there is anything good to be drawn from the Zimmerman/Martin tragedy, it is only the further revelation of the corruption and irrelevance of today's civil-rights leadership.

 Shelbysteele (125X140)  Shelby Steele is the author of A Dream Deferred in which he argues

that blacks have been twice betrayed: first by being oppressed by slavery and segregation, second by government-mandated group preferences that rob blacks of their self-esteem. Such programs he sees as rooted more in white guilt than in a desire to help blacks become more competitive in our society. He points out that blacks relying on their own initiative have managed to excel in music, sports and literature. On the other hand, he sees programs of affirmative action, set-asides, group preferences or welfare payments as the product of white assumptions of black inferiority. Steele's solution to problems such as inner-city joblessness, teenage pregnancy and high crime rates is devotion among blacks to principles of personal accountability, hard work, delayed gratification and other forms of individual effort.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:27 PM | Permalink

July 19, 2013

What can we learn from Detroit's Bankruptcy

Kevin Williamson at NR, Detroit Goes Down

In 1960, Detroit had the highest per capita income in the United States; today, it is the poorest large city in the United States….

Detroit has suffered the usual problems associated with large, Democrat-dominated cities. Its spending has long been out of control, and former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and one of his cronies are prison-bound on 31 counts of extortion, bribery, and racketeering….

The city has for years proved unable or unwilling to provide the basic services people expect from municipal authorities: While political cronies got fat, the people of Detroit were left with some of the worst schools in the country, some of the most dangerous streets in the country, and a mass-transit system that is a non-functioning mess. Not that you’d want to start a business there, but if you did, its licensing and regulatory agencies run the gamut from incompetent to corrupt.

So the people of Detroit went on strike…..They packed up and left, taking their businesses, their innovation, and their tax dollars with them. The powers that be in Detroit can rob people blind, but they cannot make them stay.
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Detroit is the victim of a vicious circle: Failing municipal institutions mean that without the allure of a high-paying job, Detroit is an undesirable place to live, while the unions have helped to drive away a great many of those high-paying jobs. A city that already was corrupt and incompetent saw its tax base evaporate, meaning that it quickly became a city that is corrupt, incompetent, and broke. Of its $11 billion in unsecured debt, the great majority — $9 billion — is owed to pensions and health-benefit plans for the same public-sector incompetents who helped bring the city to its knees in the first place. Detroit’s ruling class is a parasite that has outgrown its host.

Tim Stanley views Detroit  from the U.K., This is what happens if you vote Democratic for 51 years.

I’ve been to Detroit and I won’t be hurrying back. I’ve never been surrounded by such appalling poverty in a Western country – rows and rows of public housing, every window broken, every door barred. I was advised to take a cab everywhere and to avoid the sidewalk at all costs. The gas station near my motel was a notorious hangout for crack dealers. The only way to get any food was to order it in, and the pizza guy refused to enter the motel itself. I had to come out to the freeway and nervously exchange money for food in the middle of the road.
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But it’s surely no coincidence that Detroit has also been run by the same people for 51 years. Since 1962, the city has always returned Democratic mayors and, lacking in any real political competition, they’ve been allowed to run the city into the ground. High minded liberal rhetoric covers up for incompetence corruption. ….

So what you have is a toxic combination of stupidity and malice, all enabled by a one party system. This is what all of America would look like if only Democrats governed it for fifty years. You won’t read this often, but thank goodness for the Republican Party.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:05 PM | Permalink

Former head of BLS says real unemployment rate is above 10% , "A very slow, very bad recovery"

The Jobs Number Is BS Says Former Head Of BLS

Keith Hall believes the US economy is a lot sicker than the 7.6 percent unemployment rate would lead you to believe. And he should know.

Hall was, from 2008 until last year, the guy in charge of Washington’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that compiles that rate. “Right now [it’s] misleadingly low,” says Hall, who believes a truer reading of those now wanting a job but without one to be more than 10 percent.

The fly in the ointment is the BLS employment-to-population ratio, which is currently at 58.7 percent. “It’s lower than it was when the recession ended. I think that’s a remarkable statistic,” says Hall, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

That level tells Hall the real unemployment rate is actually about 3 percentage points higher than the BLS number. If the jobless rate is unacceptable at 7.6 percent, it’d be shockingly bad if he is right and the true rate is 10.6 percent.

Hall reckons there are millions of U-6 people on top of the 4.5 million long-term unemployed.  "This has been a very slow, very bad recovery,” he says. “And I think the numbers have really struggled as a result. In fact, I’ve been very disappointed in the coverage of the numbers."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

PandoraViruses: Possible "Fourth Domain" of Life

From Inside Science, Jumbo Viruses Hint At 'Fourth Domain' of Life

The discovery of two new jumbo-sized viruses is blurring the lines between viral and cellular life and could point to the existence of a new type of life, scientists suggest.

The two large viruses, detailed in this week's issue of the journal Science, have been dubbed "Pandoraviruses" because of the surprises they may hold for biologists, in reference to the mythical Greek figure who opened a box and released evil into the world.

The discovery of Pandoraviruses is an indication that our knowledge of Earth's microbial biodiversity is still incomplete, explained study coauthor Jean-Michel Claverie, a virologist at the French National Research Agency at Aix-Marseille University. "Huge discoveries remain to be made at the most fundamental level that may change our present conception about the origin of life and its evolution," Claverie said.

Claverie's lab found one of the viruses, Pandoravirus salinus, in sediments collected off the coast of Chile. The other, Pandoravirus dulcis, was lurking in mud in a freshwater pond near Melbourne, Australia.

 Pandoravirus

Both of the new viruses are so massive that they can be seen using a traditional light microscope. Their genomes are also super-sized: the genome of P. salinus is 1.91 million DNA bases long, while that of P. dulcis is 2.47 million DNA bases. For comparison, the size of the previous viral genome record holder, Megavirus chilensis, is 1.18 million bases…..A typical flu virus can have as few as 10 genes, and M. chilensis has only about 1,000 genes.

What's more, scientists don't know what most of the Pandoravirus genes do
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According to a theory preferred by Claverie and his team, the ancient ancestors of Pandoraviruses were once free-living cells that gradually lost most of their genes as they became parasites. Some scientists think this hypothetical ancestral cell could have constituted a so-called "fourth domain" of life — that is, a previously unknown branch of life that is distinct from the accepted three domains: Bacteria; Archaea, another type of single-celled organism; and Eukaryotes, the domain that animals and plants belong to.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:52 AM | Permalink

Warning sign to clear out

In Cluttered Home, a Dark Secret 3 Decades Old.  He beat his wife to death and hid her body in a garbage bag behind a false wall of his house and continued living there until his death 30 years later.

“I’m still upset,” said Mary Feron, a longtime neighbor. “I mean, he wrapped her up and put her in the wall and lived there and went out to church suppers and went out to IHOP and Perkins and all the time….” She shook her head. “I hate that.”

But there were warning signs.  Only to a next-door neighbor and close co-workers did Ms. Nichols hint that her husband’s oddities bothered her, too. She told Mary Jo Santagate, a teachers’ aide at her school, that she disliked the house’s clutter and wished that her husband had not kept their dead cat frozen in their refrigerator: she dreaded opening it to cook.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:41 AM | Permalink

July 18, 2013

Some interesting reads for the weekend

At Quora, Why does Superman wear red underwear over his costume?

In the New York Times, a profile of Jack Handey, the Envy of Every Comedy Writer in America.  Yes, he's a real person, 64, who lives with his wife of 36 years in Santa Fe.

The humorist Ian Frazier, a friend of Handey’s, told me, “I see Jack as in the tradition of Mark Twain or Will Rogers. He writes jokes that just keep on going. They’re not gonna crash and burn because they’re about Don Johnson, and people forget who Don Johnson was. Jokes are by their nature perishable. If you can write a timeless joke, that’s an incredible thing.
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“Deep Thoughts” made its debut on Jan. 19, 1991, in an episode hosted by Sting. It was this gem: “To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time when I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.”

“Deep Thoughts” wound up being the perfect distillation of Handey’s comedic temperament. He was no longer constrained by the format of the sketch — he was free to create koans, tiny polished gems of comedy. Like: “If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying.’ And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.’ ”
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I asked if there’s any joke of his that stands out as his favorite.

“Brevity is a big factor for me in a stand-alone joke. To get a laugh with the fewest number of words possible. Which is why ‘Take my wife, please’ is such a great joke. The closest I’ve ever come is probably ‘The crows seemed to be calling his name, thought Caw.’ ”

In the American Scholar, Playing at Violence  Having grown up amid the horrors of Burundi’s civil war, a young man is bewildered by the American lust for warlike video games.

Over the next few months, I realized I was wrong about Luke. He and my other dorm mates who liked playing violent video games weren’t gangsters at all. They were just young, inexperienced, innocent. It took me some time to realize that the shooting wasn’t real to them. They were just playing. For them the games were “mindless,” as one friend told me. Many kids at the school played the same kinds of games. So there was nothing unusual about Luke. He was just doing what many American kids did. I felt relieved, but I was also puzzled by what seemed to me like an odd sort of entertainment. How could violence so easily be turned into a game? How could companies invent such games in the first place? And how could parents buy them for their children?

In the Smithsonian CSI: Italian Renaissance  Inside a lab in Pisa, forensics pathologist Gino Fornaciari and his team investigate 500-year-old cold cases

But no one has made more important and striking finds than Gino Fornaciari. Over the past half-century, using tools of forensics and medical science as well as clues from anthropology, history and art, he and his colleagues have become detectives of the distant past, exhuming remains throughout Italy to scrutinize the lives and deaths of kings, paupers, saints, warriors and castrati opera stars. Fornaciari himself has examined entire noble populations, including the Medici of Florence and the royal Aragonese dynasty of Naples, whose corpses have been, in effect, archives containing unique clues to the fabric of everyday life in the Renaissance.

The Australian Village that Invented a Language All Its Own

There are many dying languages in the world. But at least one has recently been born, created by children living in a remote village in northern Australia…..The language, called Warlpiri rampaku, or Light Warlpiri, is spoken only by people under 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village of about 700 people in Australia’s Northern Territory. In all, about 350 people speak the language as their native tongue.
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The development of the language, Dr. O’Shannessy says, was a two-step process. It began with parents using baby talk with their children in a combination of the three languages. But then the children took that language as their native tongue by adding radical innovations to the syntax, especially in the use of verb structures, that are not present in any of the source languages.

The Strange Death of Fascist Europe. And How the Left Wants to Revive It

Lefties, I guess, might claim that the Fascist intellectuals are simply hiding. And, on consideration, I believe they are halfway correct. The Fascists are here – but hidden in plain sight.

The day I quit Rovereto I read the Anatomy of Fascism by Robert Paxton, of Columbia University. Here’s his definition (slightly truncated) of the “mobilizing passions” of Fascism:
1. A sense of overwhelming crisis
2. The primacy of the group
3. The belief one’s group is a victim
4. The need for closer integration of a purer community
5. The need for authority by natural leaders (always male)
6. The beauty of violence
7. The right of the chosen people to dominate others

It’s the “always male” phrase that gives it away. Fascism IS alive and well in Europe, only nowadays it goes under the name Islamism, or Jihadism. These creeds are not just vaguely similar to Fascism, as some would aver, they are quintessentially Fascist, with a capital "F". Look at the war cry of the jihadists: “we love death more than you love life”; then compare it with the Spanish Fascist slogan: Viva la Muerte. Long live death.

Who profits from the sale of Mein Kampf?  Mein Royalties

Mental Floss How Cereal Transformed the American Culture

In many ways, the cereal flake is the perfect consumer product. It's easy to produce, easy to sell, and surprisingly lucrative. To this day, cereal comes with an eye-popping profit margin of 50 percent.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:43 PM | Permalink

Chief Counsel, one of only 2 political appointees in IRS, implicated in IRS Scandal

Noonan: A Bombshell in the IRS Scandal

The IRS scandal was connected this week not just to the Washington office—that had been established—but to the office of the chief counsel….
The chief counsel of the IRS is one of only two Obama political appointees in the entire agency.
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What was the chief counsel's office looking for? The letter to Mr. Werfel says Mr. Hull's supervisor, Ronald Shoemaker, provided insight: The counsel's office wanted, in the words of the congressional committees, "information about the applicants' political activities leading up to the 2010 election." Mr. Shoemaker told investigators he didn't find that kind of question unreasonable, but he found the counsel's office to be "not very forthcoming": "We discussed it to some extent and they indicated that they wanted more development of possible political activity or political intervention right before the election period."

It's almost as if—my words—the conservative organizations in question were, during two major election cycles, deliberately held in a holding pattern.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:39 PM | Permalink

Why the Rise of Zombies in Our Culture

Spengler on The Zombie Apocalypse

Sometime in 2011 the total number of film plots with the keyword “zombie” passed the number of film plots with the keyword “cowboy,” according to the Internet Movie Database. One might argue that the zombie has become the great American archetype of the postmodern era, as the cowboy was the American archetype a century ago. With the release of Brad Pitt’s $200 million zombie epic World War Z, what used to be the stuff of low-budget shockers has entered the American cultural mainstream. Therein lies a lesson.

“The history of the world is the history of humankind’s search for immortality,” I argued in my 2011 book Why Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too). Human beings can’t tolerate life without the hope of some existence beyond our brief mortal span of years. Cultures that know they have made it past their best-used-by date tend to die for lack of interest.
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Dying cultures are the living dead. Half of the world’s 6,000 languages will disappear by the end of this century. They are zombie cultures. But we Americans are gestating a zombie culture inside what used to be a “country with the soul of a church,” as G.K. Chesterton put it. The hedonistic narcissism that took over popular culture during the 1960s produced a spiritual deadening like nothing in American history. That’s why we are so fascinated with zombies. We identify with them.
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We think of ourselves as rational folk. And yet we find almost 10 million pairs of eyes glued to the television screen each week when a new episode airs of “The Walking Dead,” enthralled by the same images, but in reverse: the walking dead in place of the dead awaiting resurrection, animated corpses instead of wholesome priests or uncorrupted saints, a terrified band of survivors huddled against encroaching death instead of the happy procession of God’s people to the source of eternal life.

Father Barron on the hand liked World War Z..  Brad Pitt's Story of Salvation

First, it was a competently made thriller and not simply a stringing together of whiz-bang CGI effects. Secondly, it presented a positive image of a father. In a time when Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin are the norm for fatherhood in the popular culture, Brad Pitt's character, Gerry Lane, is actually a man of intelligence, deep compassion, and self-sacrificing courage.

But what intrigued me the most about World War Z is how it provides a template for thinking seriously about sin and salvation.
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But if it [sin] is more like a disease, then sin can be fully addressed only through the intervention of some medicine or antidote that comes from the outside. Moreover, if sin were just a bad habit, then it wouldn't reach very deeply into the structure of the self; but were it more like a contagion, it would insinuate itself into all the interrelated systems that make up the person. The fathers of Trent specify that sin causes a falling-apart of the self, a disintegration of mind, will, emotions, and the body, so that the sinner consistently operates at cross-purposes to himself.

Do you see now why the zombie -- a human being so compromised by the effects of a contagion that he is really only a simulacrum of a human -- is such an apt symbol for a person under the influence of sin?

Richard Fernandez The Rediscovery of Monsters

Dylan Charles says zombies are what we have instead of Homer. “Myth and metaphor play an important role in constructing our culture and creating purpose in our lives. They are tools that help the subconscious mind to digest the happenings of a world that is too complex for our five senses alone. … When we hear tales of Homer and his Odyssey we also receive cues we need to uncover the strength and perseverance required to face personal challenges.”

Today these challenges are mostly posed by ourselves. Charles enumerates them: nearly Unconscious Plebs on the Loose, an army of nearly undead pharmaceutical users, media hypnotized automatons, violence as the solution for everything and every man for himself. These are what we mean by ‘zombies’. In that sense we’re in World War Z already and have been for a long time. And no, the smooth flow of mental traffic will not return momentarily.

The Atlantic Wire, writing in a much more sober vein, says: “The zombie apocalypse has emerged as the metaphor of the decade for all sorts of things, from emergency preparedness to estate planning, and for good reason: It’s a catch-all for the end of humanity and an uninhabitable world, with none of the political ramifications of real scenarios like terrorism or global warming.”
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It sounds like a survivalism that has gone mainstream. But more importantly it suggests  the authorities and even Hollywood secretly agree with the Tea Partiers: yes we do have a reason to worry. Yes there is a crisis. And Zombies and Kaiju are our way of sending you this subliminal signal even if on the talk shows we’ll tell you that the sun is shining, the birds are singing, employment has never been so good and traffic will return to normal in a few hours
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:35 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Down Syndrome breakthrough, water, music, Bluetooth hearing aids, exercise in a pill, iKnife sniffs our tumors, lung cancer

“Ethical” Stem Cells Bring Down Syndrome Breakthrough

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts medical school have reportedly made a breakthrough in learning how to silence the extra chromosome that causes Down syndrome. Down syndrome is also known as trisomy 21, as it is caused by the inheritance of an extra copy of chromosome 21 beyond the normal pair received from the mother and father. The researchers used a natural “off switch” for shutting down an X-chromosome in women, which when inserted into the extra chromosome caused it to be coated in material so that its function dropped to near-normal levels of chromosomal activity.
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The UMass researchers performed their experiments using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) derived from a Down syndrome patient. iPS cells “turn back” adult somatic cells to become similar to the potential-rich stem cells researchers previously could only obtain from destroyed embryos.
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In their efforts to get the word out that an extra chromosome is not a tragedy, parents and advocates describe the incredible warmth and social gifts that their child with Down syndrome brought into their lives. Indeed, they can sometimes risk idealizing distortions, as when “one astonished woman was informed by her mother-in-law that her daughter is the Bodhisattva.” Nicol notes, ”putting people on a pedestal, however well intended, makes them seem not quite human. But, as Avery’s grandmother notes, the special talents of people with Down syndrome may lie in what is most human — ‘they seem to bring out the good in people,’ she says.”

How drinking a glass of water can make your brain 14% faster

Drinking could be freeing up parts of the brain 'telling' the body it is thirsty, researchers say

Forget the mood-boosting benefits of music: Listening to a melody reduces PHYSICAL pain

Music decreases people's perceived sense of pain. It can also reduce distress during medical procedures

To Make Hearing Aids Affordable, Firm Turns On Bluetooth

On average, a set of hearing aids rings up a tab of about $4,000. Most insurance policies don't cover them.  A company called Sound World Solutions is trying to do something about the limited reach of hearing aids by creating a high-quality hearing device that costs less than a tenth the normal price.
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Besides cost, one of the big hurdles to the use of hearing aids is the number of visits required to get the devices adjusted properly. Sound World Solutions addresses that problem by making its device adjustable through a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone.

Could we one day get our daily dose of exercise from a PILL? Scientists design compound that mimics exercise in muscles

A study has shown that a compound affected levels of a protein called REV-ERB in muscles - which has been shown to boost metabolism, normalize cholesterol levels and affect how much we sleep.  Experts hope that the compound could one day help disabled people get the benefits of exercise without having to move.
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The study, published this week by researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in Florida, found that when their compound was injected into obese mice, it helped them lose weight - even if they were on a high-fat diet - and improved their cholesterol levels, according to a New York Times report.    The treated mice also began using more oxygen throughout the day and expending about 5 per cent more energy than untreated mice, even though they were not moving about more than the other animals.  This in effect means the compound boosted their metabolism.

Magic scalpel that sniffs out tumors in an instant is set to revolutionize cancer surgery

A ‘smart’ scalpel that instantly sniffs out cancerous tissue has been created by scientists.  By accurately distinguishing between healthy tissue and tumors, the ‘magic wand’ could revolutionize cancer surgery.  Patients would have to undergo fewer operations, be left with smaller wounds, and have a greater chance of survival.
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Dr Takats’ solution is the iKnife, a combination of two existing pieces of equipment, which tells the surgeon as he cuts through the flesh if it is diseased.  The first piece of equipment, an electric scalpel, is already routinely used in operations to sear through flesh. As it does this it produces smoke, which is usually sucked away by extractor fans.

Dr Takats realized the smoke is valuable because it contains information about the flesh that was burnt away. So he used a tube to collect the smoke and pass it to a mass spectrometer. It analyses the smoke and by comparing its chemical make-up with the make-up of known tumors, it can tell if the tissue was cancerous or not.  The results then flash up on a screen next to the surgeon. Some analyses take less than a second. In a study involving operations on 91 cancer patients, it proved to be 100 per cent accurate, the journal Science Translational Medicine reports.

Lung cancer is no longer just a 'smokers' disease', claims leading doctor

Dr Harpal Kumar said that while the number of smokers is falling, which is leading to an overall reduction in the number of those developing lung cancer, there are still a steady 6,000 people developing the disease who do not smoke.
Of those, causes of the cancer include asbestos exposure and air pollution.
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Dr Kumar went on to explain that there has been no real improvement in lung cancer survival figures since the 1970s because it is often diagnosed late.

Anti-wrinkle cream that claims to REVERSE signs of aging discovered by accident while testing drugs to cure liver disease

Many medical breakthroughs - including those that unearthed Viagra, Quinine and Botox - have been made completely by accident, while scientists were searching for cures for another ailment entirely.  And it's happened again, this time when researchers at Cambridge University were looking for a cure for liver damage and accidentally created a cream they feel certain will be a powerful anti-aging product.

MitoQ - which claims to soften the skin while lightening and actually reversing the signs of aging - is a patented blend of unique ingredients, which scientists Mike Murphy and Rob Smith stumbled across while trying to find a cure for liver disease.

The pair's work culminated in the discovery of a delivery system that floods cells with antioxidants - health-giving molecules that inhibit oxygenation of cells - straight into the mitochondria, the source of free radicals, which are responsible for aging and tissue damage.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 PM | Permalink

"Instead of investigating the militant Boston mosque where the bomber brothers were radicalized, the FBI partnered with it for political "outreach."

The PC-ification Of The FBI

Homeland Insecurity: If there's any doubt the FBI's gone soft on Islamic terror and may be overlooking more Boston-style plots, witness the bureau chief's recent Hill testimony.

In a testy exchange with Republican lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Robert Mueller reluctantly acknowledged FBI counterterrorism training materials have been purged of references to "jihad" and "Islam" and that counterterrorism agents have been restricted from doing undercover investigations at mosques.

These outrageous policies likely contributed to the FBI missing signs of radicalization in the Muslim community — including that of the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston. The marathon bombers operated in plain sight of the FBI before killing three and wounding 260.
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Mueller confirmed that instead of investigating the militant Boston mosque where the bomber brothers were radicalized, the FBI partnered with it for political "outreach."

Asked if he was aware the mosque was co-founded by a convicted terrorist cited by the Treasury Department as an al-Qaida fundraiser, Mueller sheepishly replied, "I was not."
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The same mosque also has graduated several other convicted terrorists. The FBI helped put all these terrorists behind bars, yet didn't tie them back to the mosque. If the bureau had, it would have seen something rotten with the leadership there
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Mueller wasn't always Mr. Magoo. Who put the PC blinders on him? Eric Holder.  In October 2011, the attorney general quietly put in force two policies that have made the nation far more vulnerable to homegrown terrorism.

For one, he set up a special review committee to curb mosque investigations, classifying the names of the reviewers, who reportedly may include outside parties.  Also that month he ordered a review of all FBI counterterrorist training manuals "to identify and correct any material that may be construed as offensive to someone of the Islamic faith," according to a directive sent to all FBI field offices.
Reviewers proceeded to purge references to "jihad" and "Islam" in connection to terrorism.

Instead, they are spying on us.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:57 PM | Permalink

When searching for information about healthcare, use these sites

How to evaluate health websites by Kenneth Lin, MD

A recent survey found that 60 percent of adults have gone online at least once in the past year to look up health information. Unfortunately, finding high-quality health websites is a challenge. Several years ago, a review of 79 studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that online health information for consumers is frequently flawed, inaccurate, or biased. Based on my experience, the situation isn’t any better today.
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Because advising my patients to make an appointment every time they have a health-related question isn’t a practical solution, I refer them to websites that I trust or that have been certified by an independent, quality rating organization such as the Health on the Net Foundation. This organization’s search engine only retrieves results from websites that have agreed to provide objective, scientifically sound information.

One such website— —Healthfinder.gov,  which is a clearinghouse on a variety of general health topics— links to the latest health headlines, and provides interactive health tools that give personalized advice about screening tests and other preventive health issues. Content on Healthfinder.gov is periodically reviewed by U.S. government health experts to assure its accuracy and consistency with results from the latest scientific studies.

When I want to give patients a handout about the basics of a preventive test or newly diagnosed health condition, I turn to FamilyDoctor.org, a nonprofit website supported by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:50 PM | Permalink

July 17, 2013

What government run health care looks like in Britain

NHS inquiry: Thousands of patients died amid 'fundamental breaches of care'

Eleven NHS hospitals are being placed under special measures after thousands of patients died [13,000] amid "fundamental breaches of care", Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary has said.

He told MPs: "No statistics are perfect but mortality rates suggest that since 2005 thousands more people may have died that would normally be expected at the 14 trusts reviewed.

"Worryingly, in half of those trusts, the Care Quality Commission - the regulator specifically responsible for patient safety and care - failed to spot any real cause for concern, rating them as 'compliant' with basic standards."
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The review identified disturbing patterns across many of the hospitals, including professional and geographic isolation, failure to act on data or information that showed cause for concern, the absence of a culture of openness, a lack of willingness to learn from mistakes and ineffectual governance and assurance processes. In many cases Trust Boards were unaware of problems discovered by the review teams.

NHS inquiry: Shaming of health service as care crisis is laid bare

The shocking conditions in Britain’s hospitals have been laid bare by an official report which disclosed that failings uncovered in NHS wards were so bad that inspectors felt compelled to abandon their impartial roles and step in to alleviate patient suffering.
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Inspectors visited 21 hospitals, run by 14 NHS trusts, which had the highest recent mortality rates in England. They found that some of the risks to patients were so severe that they were forced to step in immediately.

During the visits, decisions were taken urgently to close operating theatres, suspend unsafe “out of hours” services for critically ill patients, order changes to staffing levels and to force hospitals to tackle major backlogs of scans and X-rays that had gone unexamined.
During one inspection, a senior nursing official was so dismayed by the shortage of staff that she stepped in to comfort one patient physically because they had been ignored by staff.
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Clear links were found between shortages of staff and the high death rates that had triggered the investigation.  At Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, junior doctors described a “frightening” workload which left them responsible for up to 250 patients at weekends. Elderly patients were left on the lavatory with the door open, while others were left on trolleys for hours on end. At one of the trust’s community hospitals, nurses were forced to call 999 because there were not enough doctors.
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Dirt and dust was found to be “ingrained” on the wards at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust and two operating theatres were shut immediately due to poor hygiene.
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Mr Hunt said 11 of the trusts would be put into “special measures” for “fundamental breaches of care” and external experts would be sent in to improve patient care. All 14 trusts have been ordered to make changes.

The NHS claims it doesn't have enough money,  but then the  NHS pays THIRTY TIMES more for cod-liver oil than high street cost: Capsules being bought for up to £89.50  Identical versions available to consumers on the high street for just £3.50 but doctors prescribing the fish oil, available in shops, on prescription.    There are two many cozy contracts with preferred vendors and the state covers them up.

Daniel Hannan, When I criticized the NHS, my elderly mother was harassed – which helps explain the mess we're in

Any organization that is treated as being beyond reproach is bound in time to become flabby, self-serving and producer-centered. It happened to the mega-charities. It happened to the United Nations. It would be surprising if the NHS were an exception.
In today’s Guardian, Simon Jenkins writes, "Lobbyists for the NHS have resisted reform by appealing to public emotion since its foundation. It has served them well – especially the consultants."
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For a fair chunk of the British Left, a state-run NHS is beyond criticism. It is not a question on which different parties may reasonably disagree (‘Stop treating the NHS like a political football!’) Rather, it is seen, as in Andy Burnham’s formulation, or in Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony, as a test of patriotism. The same people who are quick to deplore the sentiment ‘my country right or wrong’ often take precisely such an attitude to the NHS.
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When I pointed out that the NHS fared badly by most international comparisons four years ago, my since-deceased mother was harassed by Left-wing journalists. I suppose I should be grateful that her grave has not been vandalized – as happened to the mother of the woman who drew attention to the barbarities in Mid Staffs.

Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sibelius said yesterday that Opposing ObamaCare is like Opposing Civil Rights in 1964

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:28 PM | Permalink

Profumo, Weiner and Spitzer

Last week Peggy Noonan wrote about How to Find Grace After Disgrace and in particular John Profumo.

What a scandal it was. It had everything—beautiful women, spies, a semi-dashing government minister married to a movie star, a society doctor who functioned, essentially, as a pimp. And the backdrop was an august English country estate where intrigue had occurred before.

Unlike modern political sex scandals, which are cold and strange, it was what a scandal should be: dark, glamorous. Human. No furtive pictures of privates sent to strangers, no haggling over the prostitute's bill.
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Profumo—humiliated on every front page as an adulterer, a liar, a man of such poor judgment and irresponsibility that he mindlessly cavorted with enemy spies—was finished. Alistair Horne, in his biography of Macmillan, wrote of Profumo after the scandal as a "wretched" figure, "disgraced and stripped of all public dignities."
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Because Profumo believed in remorse of conscience—because he actually had a conscience—he could absorb what happened and let it change him however it would. In a way what he believed in was reality. He'd done something terrible—to his country, to his friends, to strangers who had to explain the headlines about him to their children.

He never knew political power again. He never asked for it. He did something altogether more confounding.

He did the hardest thing for a political figure. He really went away. He went to a place that helped the poor, a rundown settlement house called Toynbee Hall in the East End of London. There he did social work—actually the scut work of social work, washing dishes and cleaning toilets. He visited prisons for the criminally insane, helped with housing for the poor and worker education.

And it wasn't for show, wasn't a step on the way to political redemption. He worked at Toynbee for 40 years.
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He didn't give interviews, never wrote a book, didn't go on TV. Alistair Horne: "Profumo . . . spent the rest of his life admirably dedicated to valuable good works, most loyally supported by his wife.
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When he died in 2006, at 91, the reliably ironic Daily Telegraph wore its heart on its sleeve. "No one in public life ever did more to atone for his sins; no one behaved with more silent dignity as his name was repeatedly dragged through the mud; and few ended their lives as loved and revered by those who knew him."

She concluded that New York's politicians could learn from this Englishman's example.  I doubt it.  Weiner disgraced the House of Representatives and his wife, Spitzer was forced to resign as governor for his tawdry transactions with prostitutes and he humiliated his wife.  That both are just a few years later campaigning to be elected again to public office only demonstrates that they know no shame and feel no humiliation.  I suspect that they look on John Profumo as crazy.  Atonement? That's medieval. 

 Nymag Weiner Spitzer Cover

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:25 PM | Permalink

The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks To Solve Modern Day Problems

Who knew that cognitive behavioral therapy was based on the philosophy of the Greek Stoic Epictetus?

Anxious? Depressed? Try Greek philosophy
Crippled by social anxiety and burnt out after a decade of hedonism, Jules Evans eventually found inspiration from the ancient Greeks. Here he tells how 2,000-year-old words of wisdom transformed his life and equipped him to help others solve their modern-day problems.

Growing up in the Nineties, my friends and I were amateur neuroscientists. Every weekend, we conducted experiments on our brains with various chemicals, to see what happened: marijuana, LSD, MDMA, amphetamine, mushrooms, all tossed into our system like ingredients in a cauldron. We had some hilarious, beautiful, even spiritual times. Then I noticed my friends beginning to burn out.

My best friend had a psychotic breakdown when he was 16. He’s been in and out of mental care homes ever since (he’s now 35, like me). Other friends developed paranoia, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety. In my first year at university, I started to get panic attacks, too. My body would be filled with mortal terror, in the most un-mortal of situations. I lost confidence in my ability to know myself or to steer a coherent course through life. I started to distrust myself, to avoid social situations. I was terrified that I had permanently damaged myself before the age of 21.
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I investigated these disorders on the internet, and found they could apparently be treated by something called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT….. I also found there was a CBT support group for people suffering from social anxiety … For 10 weeks, we listened to the course, practised the exercises, and did the “homework”. And for me, it worked. The panic attacks stopped after a few weeks, and I gradually got back my confidence in my ability to steer a course through life. I steered a course to Russia, where I worked as a foreign correspondent for four fun, vodka-soaked years.

When I came back to the UK in 2007, I decided to research CBT. I went to New York to interview the psychologist who’d invented it, Albert Ellis, and asked him where he’d got the idea for it. He told me he’d been directly inspired by ancient Greek philosophy, particularly by a line from the Stoic philosopher Epictetus: “Men are disturbed not by events but by their opinion about events.”

 Epictetus

Ellis, like the Greeks, suggested that our emotions always involve beliefs or interpretations of the world. Our interpretations may often be inaccurate, irrational or self-destructive, and this will make us emotionally sick.
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The Stoics were aware of how little we control in life. None more so than Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher of the first century AD, who grew up a slave in the Roman Empire (his name means “acquired”). He divided all of life into two categories: the things we control and the things we don’t. We don’t control the economy, the weather, other people, our reputation, our own bodies. We can influence these things, but we don’t have complete control over them. The only thing we do have control over is our own thoughts and beliefs, if we choose to exercise control.
Epictetus suggested that emotional problems arise when we try to exert complete control over something external. When I had social anxiety, for example, I rested all my self-esteem on others’ judgments of me. This made me feel very helpless, anxious and paranoid.
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The good news is that we can change our habits. Epictetus said “there is nothing more malleable than the psyche”, and contemporary neuroscience agrees. Every day, we have a choice to either reinforce a habit, or challenge it. The Greeks understood the importance of habits to the good life – their word “ethics” comes from “ethos”, meaning habit – and they developed some great techniques for habit-formation.
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Today, CBT is available free on the NHS. It has brought some of the Greeks’ ideas to millions of people. Many people have used it to learn to “take care of their souls”, as Socrates put it – which is where the word “psychotherapy” comes from. I hope some of them might go back to the original source in philosophy, because CBT leaves a lot out – Greek philosophy wasn’t just a feel-good therapy, it was also a road map for the good life, and the good society.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:58 PM | Permalink

Coober Pedy worth $20 Trillion

Massive Oil Discovery Challenges Saudi Reserves

An intelligence brief said that a small Australian town called Coober Pedy has A$ 20 trillion worth of shale oil--the biggest find in 50 years.  The oil deposit is estimated to be six times larger than the Bakken, 17 times the size of the Marcellus formation, and 80 times larger than the Eagle Ford shale.

The recently discovered Arckaringa Basin, located just outside the sleepy Australian town, contains more oil more than in all of in Iran, Iraq, Canada, or Venezuela.  With current estimates at 233 billion barrels, its just 30 billion shy of the estimated reserves in all of Saudi Arabia.

 Cooper Pedy Map

Coober Pedy is an inhospitable speck on the map in Southern Australia. Founded in 1915, Coober Pedy had long been the home to 1,700 people who lived in residences literally carved out in its caves.

Now another 20,000 people have suddenly flocked there, making it one of the hottest real estate markets in all of Australia.

Encompassing an area in excess of 30,000 square miles, what's buried within the Arckaringa basin is enough black gold to completely change the global oil landscape-not to mention the lives early investors.

Analysts now believe ground zero will be much like is was in Saudi Arabia in the 1950's. And according to the inner circle briefing below by Dr. Moors, there's one little company that controls the whole thing.

 Coober Pedy Photo

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:04 PM | Permalink

Fungi in your dishwasher

We've learned that handbags may have more bacteria than a toilet seat and that your cellphone may harbor ten times more bacteria than a toilet seat (One poor guy in Uganda stole a cellphone and contracted the Ebola virus). 

Lots of things have more bacteria than a toilet seat like ice in restaurants and restaurant menus,  your BBQ grill, motel and hotel bedspreads , ATM keypads,  your computer keyboardkitchen faucets, gym equipment and steering wheels.  Yet somehow we survive.

All of which is to set the context for this story :

 Inside Dishwasher

More than 60% of dishwashers contain potentially harmful fungi that can cause lung problems and skin infections

Dishwashers are a breeding ground for potentially harmful fungi. Researchers found that the warm, damp environment in dishwashers is ideal for the growth of fungi including Exophiala, Rhodotorula, and Candida parapsilosis – yeast-like species that can be harmful to people.

The study, published in the journal Medical Mycology, saw dishwashers across the world tested for fungi and revealed that 62 per cent contain the species. If inhaled, these fungi can colonize the lungs and cause infections that can be difficult to treat.  The researchers found that the rubber seals in dishwasher doors are a perfect breeding ground for fungi and that some types, such as Exophiala.

There are, however, things that you can do to reduce the amount of fungi in your dishwasher. The website reports that baking soda, vinegar, and bleach can all help to eliminate the fungi.

However, this is not a new story.  In 2011  Dishwashers – A man-made ecological niche accommodating human opportunistic fungal pathogens

So, spray off the icky rubber seal now and then. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:51 AM | Permalink

Is the cure for cancer as simple as turning off the RLIP?

City Of Hope Researchers May Have Found Key To Cure Cancer, End Obesity

A study by Drs. Sanjay Awasthi and Sharad Singhal, released in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, discovered that deleting the gene that produces protein RLIP76 in mice kept the rodents from developing cancer and packing on the pounds.

Awasthi said RLIP works like a fan, with an exhaust sucking out toxins from cells. He said normal cells have a little RLIP, but cancer cells have a lot, which is why researchers got the idea to turn off the RLIP-producing gene in mice.

So far, 10 types of cancer have been tested on the animals.

“These mice are almost completely resistant to those cancers. You can’t even take a cancer and implant it into their skin because the cancer fails to grow,” Awasthi said.

The researchers realized that blocking RLIP production prevented mice in the study from gaining excess weight, even when given a high-fat diet.  Awasthi said they also came across another surprising side effect.

“Inhibiting (the gene) causes the blood sugar to drop, the cholesterol to drop and triglycerides to drop,” he said.

Singhal said in all the mice they studied, turning off the gene had no adverse impact because regular cells have all the RLIP they need.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:24 AM | Permalink

Science, Fate and Free Will

Brendan O'Neill Standing up to the white-coated gods of fortune  Science has replaced Fortuna in fancying itself as the revealer of men's fates.

We use and abuse neuroscience to claim certain people are ‘born this way’. We claim evolutionary psychology explains why people behave and think the way they do. We use phrases like ‘weather of mass destruction’, in place of ‘gods’, to push the idea that mankind is a little thing battered by awesome, destiny-determining forces. Fate has been brought back from the dead and she’s been dolled up in pseudoscientific rags.

The intellectual challenge to the idea of fate was one of the most significant things about the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. There had always been an inkling of a belief within mankind that it was possible for individuals to at least influence their destiny, if not actually shape it. The Romans, for example, believed Fortuna would be kinder to brave, virtuous men. If you did good and took risks you had a better chance of being smiled upon by Fortuna. ‘Fortune favors the brave.’ But it wasn’t until the Renaissance that the idea that men could make their own fortunes really took hold. It’s then we see the emergence of the belief that by exercising his free will, a man can become master of his fate.
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But the new determinism isn’t religious or supernatural, as it was in the pre-Enlightened era - it’s scientific determinism, or rather pseudo-scientific determinism.

There’s neuro-determinism, the idea that we’re fundamentally products of the accidental shape or chemical liveliness of our brains. Everything from our criminal instincts to our musical giftedness to our political orientation is now said to have been bestowed on us by the grey matter in our heads. A recent study on the ‘neurobiology of politics’ claimed that whether a person becomes a liberal or a conservative depends on his ‘brain circuits’, particularly the circuits that deal with conflict. So now, we can’t even choose our political outlook, apparently; we’re not even in control of our voting destinies.

Then there’s evolutionary determinism - the idea that we’re compelled by what one author calls our ‘evolutionary wiring’.
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These modern determinisms are far worse than the old pre-modern belief in fate. At least ancient communities, like the Romans, believed that by being brave and virtuous an individual could offset the harshest judgements of the gods of fortune. The new determinism offers no such scope for the exercise of bravery or autonomy. Instead it demands that we be meek and apologetic in the face of awesome powers like angry nature. It demands that we accept that tiny cliques of experts – whether brain-scanners, parenting gurus or climatologists – are the only ones who can reveal to us our fate and advise us on how to prepare for its inevitable playing out. It tells us we’re not really the subjects of history, but the objects of history, tossed about by this and that powerful force.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:16 AM | Permalink

Shocking news from France

French restaurants acknowledge serving factory-frozen food

In a survey conducted for the National Union of Hotel, Restaurant and Cafe Operators, a third of French restaurants acknowledged serving such factory-frozen products to clients. Restaurant owners estimated that the real number is substantially higher, as many chefs were embarrassed to admit the short cuts that, in effect, hoodwink their customers.

Aside from the element of fraud, serving factory-prepared dishes, chefs pointed out, amounts to betraying the national heritage of fine eating and undermining one of the main reasons that France is the world’s top tourist destination. After all, they recalled, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has declared the classic French meal part of the world patrimony.

At Had Enough Therapy? Stuart Schneiderman explores The French Malaise

Approximately, 33% of France’s best educated young people are leaving their native land in search of fame, fortune, and most especially, unemployment elsewhere.
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It happens that a sclerotic French economy has nothing to offer France’s young:

… a country that has tolerated a youth unemployment rate of 25 percent for nearly 30 years isn’t a place where the rising generations can expect to rise to much of anything.
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Dowd offers an historical perspective that deserves serious attention. After World War II, France was counted among the Allies, but in fact most of the country was occupied by Nazis during the war. Many French citizens actively collaborated with the Nazi regime.

The dissonance meant that the French were never quite sure whether they had won or lost. This produced a feeling of dislocation and disconnection, a sense of not knowing where the nation belonged. I would call it a pervasive anomie.
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Often, a nation or a community suffering from anomie will turn to psychoanalysis. ….Psychoanalysis seemed to offer a way to understand France’s problems. And, to some extent it did. Unfortunately, it did not offer a solution. It could only offer another way to get in closer touch with one’s anomie.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

The Silver Lining as Dementia rates fall

Many boomers are still working past 65.  Some never saved enough to retire; others lost much of their retirement savings in the Great Recession.  But there is a silver lining.

Baby boomers take note: For every year you put off retirement, your chances of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia are cut by 3%.

The findings are the result of a massive French study, which looked at the records of 429,000 workers. The scientists presented their results Monday at the Alzheimer's Assn. International Conference in Boston.

"For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2%," Carole Dufoil, a scientist at INSERM, the French government's health research agency, told the Associated Press.

Even better news: Dementia Rate Is Found to Drop Sharply, as Forecast

A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies.

Another recent study, conducted in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who had reached their 90s a decade earlier. Nearly one-quarter of those assessed in 2010 scored at the highest level, a rate twice that of those tested in 1998. The percentage of subjects severely impaired fell to 17 percent from 22 percent.
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Experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

Jobless recovery. The number of people who have left the workforce is 3 times the number of people who found a new job

A Jobless Recovery Is a Phony Recovery says Mort Zuckerman  More people have left the workforce than got a new job during the recovery—by a factor of nearly three.

The longest and worst recession since the end of World War II has been marked by the weakest recovery from any U.S. recession in that same period.

The jobless nature of the recovery is particularly unsettling….The government's …household survey … includes part-time workers who want full-time work but can't get it, as well as those who want to work but have stopped looking. That puts the real unemployment rate for June at 14.3%, up from 13.8% in May.

The 7.6% unemployment figure so common in headlines these days is utterly misleading. An estimated 22 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed; they are virtually invisible and mostly excluded from unemployment calculations that garner headlines.
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ObamaCare is partially to blame. The health-insurance law requires employers with more than 50 workers to provide health insurance or pay a $2,000 penalty per worker. Under the law, a full-time job is defined as 30 hours a week, so businesses, especially smaller ones, have an incentive to bring on more part-time workers……

These businesses' hesitation to hire is part of a larger caution among employers unsure about the direction of government policy—and which has helped contribute to chronic long-term unemployment that shows no sign of easing.
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That brings us to a stunning fact about the jobless recovery: The measure of those adults who can work and have jobs, known as the civilian workforce-participation rate, is currently 63.5%—a drop of 2.2% since the recession ended. Such a decline amid a supposedly expanding economy has never happened after previous recessions. Another statistic that underscores why this is such a dysfunctional labor market is that the number of people leaving the workforce during this economic recovery has actually outpaced the number of people finding a new job by a factor of nearly three.

74% of small businesses will fire workers, cut hours under Obamacare  according to a sobering survey released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:38 AM | Permalink

July 16, 2013

Self-Control is the Key to Happier Living

Study: People With a Lot of Self-Control Are Happier    Improbably enough, people who are better able to resist impulses report being more satisfied with their lives.

"Among humankind's most valuable assets" is self-control, according to Wilhelm Hofmann and his team of researchers at the University of Chicago. They define it as "the ability to override or change one's inner responses" and to refrain from acting on impulses.

The more self-control people reported having, the more satisfied they reported being with their lives. And contrary to what the researchers were expecting, people with more self-control were also more likely to be happy in the short-term. In fact, when they further analyzed the data, they found that such people's increased happiness to a large extent accounted for the increased life satisfaction.

How exercising self-control is 'the key to happier living', another report on the same University of Chicago study.

Instead of agonizing over whether to indulge in something, those with strong willpower simply found it easier to make the right choices while those who gave into vices were plagued with regret.
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Study co-author Kathleen Vohs, a professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota, said people with greater self-restraint are, in essence setting themselves up to be happy.  This is apparently because they learn how to 'avoid problematic desires and conflict.'

Self control predicts success better than IQ

Dozens of studies show that willpower is the single most important keystone habit for individual success.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:51 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Milk prevents tooth decay, new cancer and obesity drugs soon, heartburn drugs, walk away stress

How milk zaps tooth decay by cancelling out the effect of sugary foods

Got milk? Having a glass of milk with sugary snacks or at the end of a meal can neutralize the effect sweet foods have on the enamel  By stopping the bacteria from churning out acid, tooth enamel is protected, meaning decay and caries are less likely to develop over time.

The researchers said: ‘Eating dairy products in combination with other sugary snacks or at the end of a meal may be an effective means of caries prevention.’

Exclusive: Cancer - A cure just got closer thanks to a tiny British company - and the result could change lives of millions

A revolution is brewing on an English business park as scientists harness our natural-born killers – the T cells – to target malign tumors.

--. In the past three weeks, the company has signed contracts with two of the biggest players in the pharmaceuticals industry which could lead to hundreds of millions of pounds flowing into the firm's unique research on cancer immunotherapy – using the body's own immune system to fight tumor cells….Immunocore is probably the only company in the world that has developed a way of harnessing the power of the immune system's natural-born killer cells: the T-cells of the blood which nature has designed over millions of years of evolution to seek out and kill invading pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria.

Obesity drug could end need for gastric bypass surgery

The researchers have created long lasting hormones which trick patients’ brains into thinking they have eaten enough food.  The approach mimics what happens when morbidly obese patients undergo gastric bypass operations to help them lose weight.
Scientists, based at Imperial College London, have just finished the first tests in patients with positive results and are now preparing to start larger trials.
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Professor Bloom and his colleagues have also developed versions of these hormones that can last up to a week before they start breaking down. This means patients could take a single weekly injection to control their appetite.

Animal Study Raises Safety Questions About Heartburn Drugs

An extremely popular class of drugs taken by millions of people with acid reflux, heartburn, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), may raise the risk of heart disease and heart attack, according to a new study published in the current issue of Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association .
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stomach acid-suppressing proton pump inhibitors (brand names Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid) may cause blood vessels to constrict, reducing blood flow….the researchers found that PPIs led to an approximately 25 percent increase in a chemical messenger called ADMA (asymmetric dimethylarginine), considered a cardiovascular risk factor.

ADMA suppresses blood vessels’ ability to produce nitric oxide, a relaxant that protects artery walls. Nitric oxide is so important to cardiovascular health that its discovery was honored with a Nobel Prize in 1998.
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If you have a family history of GERD, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal cancer, then PPIs are probably a good idea. But if you have heart disease risk factors or a family history of heart disease, then you might reconsider using PPIs.

It's official - you CAN walk away stress: Scientists discover how a stroll can soothe the brain

Walking briskly or jogging activates soothing neurons in the brain  These neurons help dull feelings of stress, anxiety and even depression

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:48 AM | Permalink

July 13, 2013

The Nuclear Family

Michael Barone on the Nuclear Family. With Its Roots in the Nuclear Family, the Nation Evolves Into America 3.0

The roots of American exceptionalism,  our penchant for liberty and individualism, stretching far back -- more than 1,000 years -- beyond 1776. Back to the Anglo-Saxon invaders of England after the fall of the Roman Empire.  Historians… . and contemporary scholars ... argue that the Anglo-Saxons brought with them a unique institution, the absolute nuclear family, "the continuous core of our distinct American culture."

In nuclear families, individuals, not parents, select spouses; women have comparative freedom and equality; children have no rights of inheritance; grown children leave parents' homes and are not bound to extended families.  On each point this is contrary to longstanding family patterns in the rest of the world.

This enduring family pattern has consequences. It has made Americans liberty-loving, individualistic, keen for equal opportunity but not equal outcomes, venturesome, mobile and suspicious of big government.

From early on in England and then in America, the absolute nuclear family fostered a market economy, property ownership and the common law, which evolves through individual court cases rather than a rigid code like Europe's Roman law.  These mores have promoted economic growth and enabled societies to adapt to economic changes.

I’m Sorry, But Your Utopia is Just a Little Creepy

David Thompson begins by quoting  Lowry on ‘progressive’ parenthood before reporting how certain leftists' call for the dismantling of the family structure that is “riven by power, patriarchy, conflict and the unequal distribution of resources and respect.”

As the ultimate private institution, the family is a stubborn obstacle to the great collective effort. Insofar as people invest in their own families, they are holding out on the state and unacceptably privileging their own kids over the children of others. These parents are selfish, small-minded, and backward. “Once it’s everybody’s responsibility,” [MSNBC host, Melissa] Harris-Perry said of child-rearing, “and not just the households, then we start making better investments.”

This impulse toward the state as über-parent is based on a profound fallacy and a profound truth. The fallacy is that anyone can care about someone else’s children as much as his own. The former Texas Republican senator Phil Gramm liked to illustrate the hollowness of such claims with a story. He told a woman, “My educational policies are based on the fact that I care more about my children than you do.” She said, “No, you don’t.” Gramm replied, “Okay: What are their names?”
The truth is that parents are one of society’s most incorrigible sources of inequality. If you have two of them who stay married and are invested in your upbringing, you have hit life’s lottery. You will reap untold benefits denied to children who aren’t so lucky. That the family is so essential to the well-being of children has to be a constant source of frustration to the egalitarian statist, a reminder of the limits of his power.
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Buoyed by her own imagined radicalism, Ms Schwartz went on to claim, again based on nothing, that ‘nuclear’ family structures “isolate” people, rather than, say, introducing them to a potential support network of aunts, uncles, sisters-in-law, etc. You see, raising a child without a partner - and therefore without at least half of that familial support structure - isn’t isolating at all.  Because somehow the “community” will fill in the gaps. Or more typically, the state and its bureaucracy, at other people’s expense. And gosh, how radical is that?

This rickety barge is kept afloat by the kindness of strangers.

The terrible toll of making divorce easier: Children are more likely to be violent, take drugs and have underage sex

Children who encounter family break-up are far more likely to be violent, unhappy and feel unfulfilled throughout their lives, according to an NHS study.  Researchers found that the turmoil endured by youngsters has a crucial influence on nearly every facet of their later life.
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The chances of suffering a difficult childhood leapt for those born after 1971, when the law changed to make divorce easier. This generation was found to be significantly more likely to smoke, drink heavily, take drugs, fight, be mentally ill and have sex underage.

Norman Wells of the Family Education Trust, a campaign group which researches the causes and consequences of family breakdown, said: ‘Casting aside traditional patterns of family life carries a high price tag in terms of the health, education and employment prospects of the next generation.
‘The relaxation of divorce laws  – along with the increasing proportion of births outside marriage – has resulted in a growing number of children lacking the benefit of being raised by both their natural parents in a stable unit.’

ZeroHedge.  27 Facts That Prove That The Family in America is in The Worst Shape Ever

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 PM | Permalink

The Amazing Lyre Bird

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:22 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Omega 3, shopping, 'smell' test, anesthesia, salt, cancer inhibits Alzheimers and blood test predicts how you will age

Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements may increase the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by 70%

Fish-oil supplements are said to protect against heart attacks and strokes, stave off arthritis, boost brain power and prevent behavior disorders in children.

However, scientists found that those with the highest levels of omega-3 in their blood were 71 per cent more likely to develop fast-growing, hard-to-treat prostate tumors. They were also more likely to contract the slower, less deadly form of the disease, with the overall prostate cancer risk raised by 43 per cent.

Who knew?  Women burn 15,000 calories a year shopping: Annual retail therapy sessions equate SEVEN marathons (but one in ten shoppers polishes off 1,000 calories per trip)

How having cancer can protect you from Alzheimer's: Risk of the brain disease is 35% lower

Older people with Alzheimer's disease are less likely to develop cancer, and those with cancer are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, scientists have discovered.

A study of more than 200,000 people - the largest of its kind - showed the risk of an Alzheimer’s patient developing cancer was half that of an elderly person without the condition.  They also found that having cancer made a person 35 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

The test that can 'smell' bladder cancer long before symptoms develop and is 100% accurate

Bladder cancer can now be detected long before symptoms develop - after scientists created a device that can smell the disease.
Responding to chemicals in a patient’s urine, the sensor is able to give an accurate diagnosis within 30 minutes.

The revolutionary blood test that could predict how long you'll live, what ailments you'll get - and how fast you'll age

A revolutionary new blood test could tell you how long you will live, and how quickly you will age.  Scientists have discovered a chemical ‘fingerprint’ in the blood that may provide clues to an infant's health and rate of aging near the end of life.
The discovery raises the prospect of a simple test at birth that could help doctors stave off the ravages of disease in old age.
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It could lead to the development of powerful new treatments for age related conditions such as bone problems and heart disease.
Scientists identified 22 metabolites, small molecules linked to metabolism, that may be useful indicators of how we can expect to grow old.

One in particular, linked to a range of traits including lung function, bone density, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, was singled out by the researchers.

How a general anesthetic could harm your memory for life: Research finds that three quarters of older patients develop memory loss after surgery

Significant numbers of patients have long-lasting behavior changes. A study shows that general anesthesia may increase the risk of dementia and it could even weaken the immune system. The longer the surgery and the older you are, the more you're at risk

Rare Mutation Ignites Race for Cholesterol Drug

The discovery of the mutation and of the two women with their dazzlingly low LDL levels has set off one of the greatest medical chases ever. It is a fevered race among three pharmaceutical companies, Amgen, Pfizer and Sanofi, to test and win approval for a drug that mimics the effects of the mutation, drives LDL levels to new lows and prevents heart attacks. All three companies have drugs in clinical trials and report that their results, so far, are exciting.

CDC says Americans still consume too much, but studies show no benefit in reducing salt

Basically, the report says that consuming anything between 1-½ and 3 tsp of salt per day is just fine, and there were adverse effects from eating more than that or less than that.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

Interesting weekend reads

The Forbidden Island

Ever heard of North Sentinel Island? Probably not …even thought's one of the most unusual places on Earth. What makes it so odd? The people -they've been there a long time, completely cut off from the rest of the world.

Wimbledon winner Andy Murray, The Product of High Expectations, He won by going against the grain of contemporary British culture – and with the help of an unfashionably pushy parent.

The Case of the Missing Human Ancestor  DNA from a cave in Russia adds a mysterious new member to the human family.

Krause himself recalls that Friday as “scientifically the most exciting day of my life.” The tiny chip of a finger bone, it seemed, was not from a modern human at all. But it wasn’t from a Neanderthal either. It belonged to a new kind of human being, never before seen.
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“Denisova is magical,” said Pääbo. “It’s the one spot on Earth that we know of where Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans all lived.”

Riddle of the script: how the world's most difficult puzzle was solved Linear B, the mysterious language discovered on Bronze Age tablets unearthed in 1900, had baffled linguists for decades. Then along came a 21-year-old graduate named Alice Kober

It was one of the most captivating mysteries of the modern age, requiring three detectives and 52 years to solve. Along the way, there was magnificent obsession, bitter disappointment, world-shaking triumph and swift, unexplained death.  At the centre of the mystery lay a set of clay tablets from the ancient Aegean, inscribed more than 3,000 years ago and discovered at the dawn of the 20th century amid the ruins of a lavish Bronze Age palace.

The Colorful Stories of 5 Obsolete Art Pigments  Maya Blue, Tyrian Purple, White Lead, Lapis Lazuli, Dragon’s Blood, Mummy Brown, Indian Yellow and Scheele’s Green

Obsolete Pigments Part 2  Orpiment, Hartshorn, Ivory Black, Paris Green, Iris Green, Sepia Ink, Smalt, Uranium Yellow, Gamboge and Verdigris

Charles McCarry’s unbearable masterpiece.  Long one of my favorite American writers, his novel The Tears of Autumn written 40 years ago gives an utterly believable explanation of JFK's assassination that you've never heard before

What Is Nostalgia Good For? Quite a Bit, Research Shows

Nostalgia has been shown to counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety. It makes people more generous to strangers and more tolerant of outsiders. Couples feel closer and look happier when they’re sharing nostalgic memories. On cold days, or in cold rooms, people use nostalgia to literally feel warmer.

Nostalgia does have its painful side — it’s a bittersweet emotion — but the net effect is to make life seem more meaningful and death less frightening. When people speak wistfully of the past, they typically become more optimistic and inspired about the future.

“Nostalgia makes us a bit more human,” Dr. Sedikides says. He considers the first great nostalgist to be Odysseus, an itinerant who used memories of his family and home to get through hard times
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

July 11, 2013

"Through the stories we tell, we come to understand who we are and what we are to do"

A society without good stories has no conscience, no heroes and no dreams.

The Problem: For over a century, the undisputed engine of global storytelling, Hollywood is now in a crisis….Most grown-ups rarely go to the movies any more. Fewer and fewer films become beloved of the broad cross-section of peoples and places that used to be the hallmark of Hollywood’s golden mystique. The Los Angeles-New York based entertainment industry has not only lost the love of the country and the world beyond, but more often, their offerings are met with derision and disgust.  The truth that is obvious to everyone inside Hollywood and out is that 21st Century culture has forgotten how to tell good stories.
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Bad storytelling is more than just a problem for a handful of artists and media elites. Good stories provide the journeys that lead all of us into wisdom and solidarity with others. Their subtext is always that men have a transcendent destiny, and that what we see is never all that we are. Aristotle noted twenty-five hundred years ago in his Poetics that it is through stories that men acquire compassion and the healthy fear of evil.
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Remotely, the loss of good stories can be attributed to the pervasive cancer of cynicism that has infected the increasingly secular creative class. As artists pursue materialism and celebrity and move away from spirituality, their source of authentic creativity dries up.
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Contributing to the problem is the near complete absence of Christian storytellers in the mainstream culture. As a secular journalist noted to me years ago, “Even if you people are wrong, we need you in this business because you bring a note of hope.”

That's Barbara Nicolosi in Towards a Cultural Solution: A Proposal for The Story Institute

Rod Dreher Story Lines, Not Party Lines is how a culture is reborn

Argument has its place, but story is what truly moves the hearts and minds of men. The power of myth—which is to say, of storytelling—is the power to form and enlighten the moral imagination, which is how we learn right from wrong, the proper ordering of our souls, and what it means to be human.
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Through the stories we tell, we come to understand who we are and what we are to do. This is true for both individuals and communities.

Stories, as carriers of ideas, have consequences. Lincoln, upon meeting Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe, supposedly remarked, “Is this the little woman who made the great war?”

Kirk understood that the world might be won or lost on front porches, in bedrooms at night, around family hearths, in movie theaters and anywhere young people hear, see, or read the stories that fill and illuminate their moral imaginations. If you do not give them good stories, they will seek out bad ones.

“And the consequences will be felt not merely in their failure of taste,” Kirk said, “but in their misapprehension of human nature, lifelong; and eventually, in the whole tone of a nation.”
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Stories work so powerfully on the moral imagination because they are true to human experience in ways that polemical arguments are not. And because the moral imagination often determines which intellectual arguments—political, economic, theological, and so forth—will be admitted into consideration, storytelling is a vital precursor to social change.

“We need to learn to tell stories—‘To bend the ear of the outer world,’ in O’Hara’s line—to change culture not today, but in a hundred years,” says Mattix.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:30 PM | Permalink

"Wow, it's a really different conversation when you're talking with someone and listening to them"

"Wow, it's a really different conversation when you're talking with someone and listening to them"  -Students at Hofstra University

The New Illiteracy

There is some evidence that young people are even starting to lose the ability to accurately read facial expressions and tone of voice in their fellow man because they primarily relate through screens and texting than through interpersonal communication.  This shouldn't be too shocking, you've probably seen groups of young people all face down in their own device and shut off from speech by ear buds.  They might be communicating with each other, but smiley faces and so on only work in text.  It takes a different skill set to learn, display, and read facial expressions and tone of voice.
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It isn't that technology is all bad, its that our use of it tends to find the most comfortable, immediately rewarding, personally beneficial, and selfish results.  And in this case, its causing serious problems with the basic ability of humanity to communicate.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:04 PM | Permalink

Christians tortured and killed in Egypt and Nigeria

Tortured in the Sinai: 'I Was Hanged for Days'

From the West Coast of Africa to the deserts of Sinai, Bedouin tribes are conducting a human trafficking trade on a massive scale.  It's no secret. The trade reaps millions of dollars and deals with human misery. It could be stopped but so far no one has dared.

"By that time I had lost sense [sensation] in both my hands," an Eritrean torture victim told CBN News. "It was a result of the accumulated torture but mainly because [both] of my wrists were tied up so tightly, [and I was] hanged up from the ceiling for three days, the blood was cut off from my hands and the flesh started to literally drip from my hands."

This man is just one victim of this widespread modern-day slavery, kidnapping, and torture trade in the Sinai desert.
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"In some cases, we were tortured simply because we were Christians," he told us, his chest trembling slightly as he spoke.

"Sinai was always a place for human smuggling, but since around two years ago—even a bit more—it started also to be a place of human torture," Shahar Shoham, director of Physicians for Human Rights, told CBN News.

Shorham has documented more than 1,300 cases of torture in the Sinai. Those survivors, like Philip, made it to Israel. But most of the cases of torture are not documented.
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The location of these torture camps is no secret.

"Their location and whereabouts is known already by many high officials," human rights activist Majed El Shafie told CBN News.

"The only way out of this problem is for the international society or the international community to put pressure on the Egyptian government to release the victims, to stop these human traffickers," he said.

Anti-Christian sentiment widespread in Egypt

Christian merchant abducted and decapitated, the second Christian killed in northern Sinai in the past week.  Coptic Christian priest Mina Abboud Sharobeen was gunned down by suspected militants last Saturday as he walked in an outdoor market.
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Here's another story. 
The mob’s rampage through the village of Nagaa Hassan, burning dozens of Christian houses and stabbing to death three other Christians as well, came two days after the military ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi from power. It was no coincidence the attackers focused on Naseem and his family: He was the village’s most prominent campaigner calling for Morsi’s removal.

The radical Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram (meaning Western education is sin) is continuing its reign of terror in Nigeria. It attacked a boarding school before dawn, killing 29 students and a teacher, many of whom were burned alive.  Yet Western media is not telling the full story as Mollie Hemingway points out in A Newtown massacre in Nigeria, with ghosts.

it completely avoids mention of the Christian victims of Boko Haram. Laat year Boko Haram ordered all Christians to leave the north in 72 hours and began killing them arbitrarily in a major genocidal campaign that led to hundreds of deaths. By year’s end, more Christians had been killed for their faith in northern Nigeria than in the rest of the world combined according to reports from World Watch Monitor and Jubilee Campaign.

I get that reporters are more interested in politics than religion, but such omissions are seriously problematic.

Burning Books and Children

Boko Haram is a mutant: part indigenous group, part Islamist group, part motorcycle gang, founded by a virulently anti-Western cleric with a graduate degree, good English, and a Mercedes-Benz. Some analysts describe it as a cult. But we should not dismiss the group’s own words: It is an organization for Islamic proselytism and jihad, and its aim is, among other things, to forbid education. 
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What we can do is be honest, at least with ourselves, about the nature of the problem. The world is shrinking, and the two main contenders for global cultural hegemony are Islam and Western liberalism. Islam is a serious underdog but, at its edges, is serious enough about prevailing that it is willing to declare education itself a sin and to enforce injunctions against it by burning children alive. President Bush got a lot of things wrong, but he got that much right: They do hate us for our freedom.

The U.K. Bans Islamic Terror Group Boko Haram.  Will the U.S?

The group’s serial killing sprees have caused the deaths of over 3,000 Nigerians since 2009.  In an attack last October, members of the group executed a suicide bombing at St. Rita Catholic Church during Mass that killed ten congregants and wounded at least 145.

Sadly, the U.S. and its allies have largely yawned at Boko Haram’s blood-soaked campaign to create an Islamic-dominated region in northern Nigeria. The al-Qaeda-linked Boko Haram has neither been listed by the U.S. government nor by the European Union as a foreign terrorist organization. Plainly put, the West’s counterterrorism indifference to one of Africa’s most lethal Islamic terror entities is shocking.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:54 PM | Permalink

Oliver Sachs turns 80

Oliver Sachs on The Joy of Old Age. (No Kidding.)

LAST night I dreamed about mercury — huge, shining globules of quicksilver rising and falling. Mercury is element number 80, and my dream is a reminder that on Tuesday, I will be 80 myself.
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Eighty! I can hardly believe it. I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over. My mother was the 16th of 18 children; I was the youngest of her four sons, and almost the youngest of the vast cousinhood on her side of the family. I was always the youngest boy in my class at high school. I have retained this feeling of being the youngest, even though now I am almost the oldest person I know.
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At 80, the specter of dementia or stroke looms. A third of one’s contemporaries are dead, and many more, with profound mental or physical damage, are trapped in a tragic and minimal existence. At 80 the marks of decay are all too visible. One’s reactions are a little slower, names more frequently elude one, and one’s energies must be husbanded, but even so, one may often feel full of energy and life and not at all “old.” Perhaps, with luck, I will make it, more or less intact, for another few years and be granted the liberty to continue to love and work, the two most important things, Freud insisted, in life.
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When my time comes, I hope I can die in harness, as Francis Crick did. When he was told that his colon cancer had returned, at first he said nothing; he simply looked into the distance for a minute and then resumed his previous train of thought. When pressed about his diagnosis a few weeks later, he said, “Whatever has a beginning must have an ending.” When he died, at 88, he was still fully engaged in his most creative work.

My father, who lived to 94, often said that the 80s had been one of the most enjoyable decades of his life. He felt, as I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too. One has seen triumphs and tragedies, booms and busts, revolutions and wars, great achievements and deep ambiguities, too. One has seen grand theories rise, only to be toppled by stubborn facts. One is more conscious of transience and, perhaps, of beauty. At 80, one can take a long view and have a vivid, lived sense of history not possible at an earlier age. I can imagine, feel in my bones, what a century is like, which I could not do when I was 40 or 60. I do not think of old age as an ever grimmer time that one must somehow endure and make the best of, but as a time of leisure and freedom, freed from the factitious urgencies of earlier days, free to explore whatever I wish, and to bind the thoughts and feelings of a lifetime together.

I am looking forward to being 80.

He's had a most interesting life as you can read at Wikipedia

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

Parents should know some netspeak and about 'chore apps'

The average teen-ager spends 4 hours online.  Know what LMIRL, POS and ASL mean? The netspeak you really should know if you want to keep on top of what your children are up to online

On average only one in three parents know the most common terms.

LMIR: Let's meet in real life
POS: Parent over shoulder
ASL: Age, sex, location
YOLO:  You only live once

Apps That Help Kids Like Chores

Few parents see digital games as a promising way to pry kids off the couch—much less inspire them to be useful around the house. But a new generation of chore apps, designed primarily for the under-12 set, aims to turn kids into bed makers, laundry folders and toy picker-uppers by offering rewards ranging from funny collectible monsters to redeemable digital coins.

Brooke Wise of Dallas says a $3.99 smartphone app called You Rule Chores has her three children, Justin, 12, Rafaela, 9, and Will, 4, actually competing to see who can do more housework. The children were involved from the start, helping their mom enter the list of chores, including laundry, cleaning up after the family dog and loading and unloading the dishwasher.
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For chores completed—and approved by Ms. Wise—the app doles out digital coins the kids can redeem for rewards, such as TV time or a trip to the yogurt store. The siblings compete to see who wins the most coins and like seeing their avatars earn new strengths and skills each time they finish a job. Rafaela says she loves playing with her kitty avatar, and "it's fun getting paid" in rewards.

For Ms. Wise, who says she was concerned about keeping the kids busy this summer, the results have been surprising: "They make their bed, pick up their rooms, and my daughter goes out in the yard and picks up the dog poop! I'm like, 'Who are these children?'
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App designer Brian Linder says he and his business partner Nathan Clark launched You Rule Chores in 2011 because "we knew it was always a pain in the butt to get our kids to do work around the house." They wanted to motivate kids without "the nagging and the repeating yourself over and over until you sound like an insane person and end up doing the chores yourself," says Mr. Linder, of Dallas, whose own sons are 9 and 12.
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Chores teach kids self-control and self-regulation, says Jim Fay, co-founder of the Love and Logic Institute, a Golden, Colo., provider of parent training and resources. Research shows self-regulation—learning to invest effort and persist in finishing difficult tasks—is a powerful predictor of academic and career success. It's best to start instilling the habit early,

Other chore apps:

ChoreMonster
Epic Win, a role-playing to-do list manager
iRewardChart
Chore Pad
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:25 PM | Permalink

NFP and Clue

RealLiveScience asks Is Catholic Birth Control or Natural Family Planning (NFP)  Based on Science?  And the surprising answer is Yes.

And it's that same science that's now being used in a new app called Clue.

Could an app REPLACE the contraceptive pill (and warn us when the dreaded PMT will strike)?

An entrepreneur has claimed that her new app could replace the contraceptive pill, and even warn women when to expect premenstrual tension.
Company owner Ida Tin, 34, said that she wants to change the family planning industry and that there has been no innovation since the invention of the Pill 60 years ago.

The free iPhone app, called Clue, tracks the user's menstrual cycle and can predict the times they can have sex without the risk of getting pregnant.

It can also be used for women trying for a baby because the app tells them when they are most fertile and when the chances of getting pregnant are at their highest. 
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‘One of the things I have heard again and again from women over the last few years is that many have concerns about taking hormones every day for contraception,’ says Tin.

‘Millions of women cannot take the Pill because of severe side effects. For these women, Clue can help them decode their cycles so they can make good decisions.’

If you use this app, you are using natural family planning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:08 PM | Permalink

Typewriters and DuckDuckGo

To Avoid Cyber Espionage, Russia's Switching Back to Typewriters

Hackers aren't going anywhere any time soon, so Russian spies are wising up and taking their most sensitive intelligence offline. Not offline like off the internet. Offline like off computers altogether.

The Russian state procurement agency FSO recently announced that it was interested in spending up to 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) on at least 20 old fashioned typewriters to handle top secret documents. After all, cyber security isn't an issue when ink and tree are involved.

Little known search engine that refuses to store data on users doubles web traffic amid NSA tapping scandal

Web-users who want to protect their privacy have been switching to a small unheard of search engine in the wake of the 'Prism' revelations.
DuckDuckGo, the little known U.S. company, sets itself aside from its giant competitors such as Google and Yahoo, by not sharing any of its clients' data with searched websites. This means no targeted advertising and no skewed search results.

Aside from the reduced ads, this unbiased and private approach to using the internet is appealing to users angered at the news that U.S. and UK governments (the National Security Agency (NSA) in the U.S. and GCHQ in the UK), have direct access to the servers of big search engine companies, allowing them to 'watch' users.

Entrepreneur Mr Weinberg had the idea for the company in 2006….From there he had the idea to develop a 'better' search engine, that does not share any user information with any websites whatsoever.

Search data, he told the paper, 'is arguably the most personal data people are entering into anything. You're typing in your problems, your desires. It's not the same as things you post publicly on a social network.'

DuckDuckGo, named after an American children's tag game Duck Duck Goose (though not a metaphor), was solo-founded by Mr Weinberg in 2008, in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  He self-funded it until 2011 when Union Square Ventures, which also backs Twitter, Tumblr, Foursquare and Kickstarter, and a handful of angel investors, came on board.
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The 33-year-old CEO, who lives in Paoli, a suburb of Philadelphia, PA, with his wife and two children, explains that when other search engines are used, your search terms are sent to that site you clicked on; this sharing of information is known as 'search leakage'.

'For example, when you search for something private, you are sharing that private search not only with your search engine, but also with all the sites that you clicked on (for that search),' he points out on his website.

'In addition, when you visit any site, your computer automatically sends information about it to that site (including your User agent and IP address). This information can often be used to identify you directly.

'So when you do that private search, not only can those other sites know your search terms, but they can also know that you searched it. It is this combination of available information about you that raises privacy concerns,' he says.

I'm switching.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:02 PM | Permalink

July 8, 2013

Health roundup: drink water to lose weight, exoskelton for broken bones, exercise alters DNA, give children whole milk and how aspirin might stem cancer

The cheapest way to diet? Drink  at least a litre of WATER a day.  That's a quart a day or 4 cups.

Adults who drank two cups before a meal lost 4 pounds more than a group that didn't drink the water
It may be because drinking water 'increases the energy expenditure of the body' or because water helps us feel fuller.

Designer uses 3D printing to create tailor-made exoskeleton to help heal broken bones

 Next-Generation-Cast

A designer has created a 3D-printed exoskeleton for broken bones that could one day replace traditional casts made of plaster or fiberglass.

Unlike old-fashioned, bulky casts, the new prototype called the Cortex, is lightweight, ventilated, washable and thin enough to fit under a sleeve.
The concept uses X-ray and 3D scans of a patient to generate a 3D model in relation to the point of fracture.

Computer software then determines the optimum bespoke shape, with denser support focused around the fracture itself.
The next generation cast provides a 'highly technical and trauma zone localized support system' that will support a person's specific injury.

Exercise can alter your DNA, study claims, cutting the risk of obesity and diabetes,

Although inherited DNA genes cannot be changed, the way that that genes express themselves can be altered by individual actions….A work out can positively affect the way cells interact with fat stored in the body, a new study published in the journal PLOS Genetics found.

The genes have attached 'methyl groups' which affect what is known as 'gene expression'. These can be influenced in various ways, such as exercise, diet and lifestyle.
Lead author Charlotte Ling, Associate Professor at Lund University Diabetes Centre, in Sweden, said: "Our study shows the positive effects of exercise, because the epigenetic pattern of genes that affect fat storage in the body changes."

Researchers looked at the DNA of 23 slightly overweight but healthy men aged around 35, who didn't regularly exercise, after attending spinning and aerobics classes for six months.  They found that changes had taken place in 7000 genes, over a third of the average total of 20,000.  A closer look revealed genes linked to diabetes and obesity, also connected to storing fat, had also been altered.

Could SKIMMED milk be contributing to obesity epidemic? Low-fat dairy can encourage weight gain, say experts

Study found that children who drank skimmed milk in childhood grew up to be larger than those brought up on whole milk.  Reduced-fat milk products are often pumped with sugar to make them taste better - 1 glass of low-fat chocolate milk contains 158 calories. Full-fat milk only contains three to four per cent fat

How Aspirin Might Stem Cancer

The use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs significantly reduces the risk for cancer, but no one has been able to explain why. Now researchers have found that these drugs slow the accumulation of a type of DNA change called somatic genome abnormalities, or S.G.A.’s, that lead to uncontrolled cell growth.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:21 PM | Permalink

Worst 'recovery' from recession ever

Obamacare Strikes: Part-Time Jobs Surge To All Time High; Full-Time Jobs Plunge By 240,000

In June, the household survey reported that part-time jobs soared by 360,000 to 28,059,000 - an all time record high. Full time jobs? Down 240,000.  And looking back at the entire year, so far in 2013, just 130K Full-Time Jobs have been added, offset by a whopping 557K Part-Time jobs.

Since the start of the depression, America has lost 9.1 million full time jobs, offsetting this by a gain of 2.3 million part time jobs. No need to outsource to Asia any more: America now outsources jobs to temp agencies.

America's second-largest employer is a temp agency - Kelly Services

Temp jobs made up about 10 percent of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, but now make up a tenth of the jobs in the United States. In fact, nearly one-fifth of all jobs gained since the recession ended have been temporary.

It's a sad state of affairs for our country. While part-time and temp jobs reached highs last month, full-time jobs decreased by another 240,000. The recovery, or lack thereof, is being fueled by a shift from full-time to part-time work.

101 Million Americans Get Food Aid from Federal Gov’t; More Than the Number of Private Sector Workers

101 million is the estimate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture which runs 15 food programs at a cost of $114 billion in fiscal year 2012.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were only 97 million full-time workers in 2012.

Immigrants account for all job gains since 2000: native-born workers’ employment has fallen

The Center for Immigration Studies report,  released last Wednesday, says 22.4 million immigrants of working age held jobs at the beginning of this year, up 5.3 million over the total in 2000. But native-born workers with jobs dropped 1.3 million over that same period, from 114.8 million to 113.5 million.

Federal regulations have lowered real GDP growth by 2% per year since 1949 and made America 72% poorer

In a research paper that appears in the June 2013 issue of The Journal of Economic Growth titled “Federal Regulation and Aggregate Economic Growth,” economists John Dawson (Appalachian State University) and John Seater (North Carolina State University) examine the relationship between the growth in regulations (measured by the pages of federal regulations) since 1949 and economic performance (measured by real GDP growth).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:40 PM | Permalink

Zealotry in the Government

zealotry: fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political or other ideals.

The HHS Mandate Fraud Exposed James C. Capretta Obama’s phony “accommodation” on contraception.

The administration’s final rule on the subject exposes the fraudulence of the entire “accommodation” exercise. In response to the concerns expressed by insurers, the rule drops the fig leaf of a separately issued insurance plan and instead simply requires insurers and third-party administrators to provide the items and products covered by the mandate for free to workers and their families, even if a religious employer elects to exclude those products and services from the insurance contract.  In other words, these products and services are covered in every insurance plan sponsored by employers (with the exception of a narrowly drawn list of churches and houses of worship), whether or not it says so in the insurance contract. Amazingly, the administration asserts that this is an “accommodation” to take seriously.
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As usual, the administration issued this rule when it hoped to generate the least media attention, on a Friday before a congressional recess. The irony — undoubtedly lost on the administration — is that this recess is devoted to the nation’s birth, which was motivated heavily by the pursuit of genuine religious toleration.

The fight is not over, and can still be won. Those opposed to the mandate are exercising their constitutional rights and are suing the administration. And there’s reason to believe the courts will ultimately defend and honor the religious-liberty traditions of this country in a way the administration would not.

Moreover, this issue can and should be contested in the political arena. There is no public-policy rationale for the HHS mandate, because the products and services covered by it are already widely and readily available, and heavily subsidized by the government for those with low incomes. The administration is imposing this requirement for entirely ideological reasons.


In Spiked, Gay marriage's echoes of the Cultural Revolution by Sean Collins.

The campaign for gay marriage in the US is starting to resemble the Cultural Revolution in Mao’s China. Politicians denouncing their own prior beliefs, people hounding others to recant, the young being upheld as morally superior to the ‘backward’ older generation… it all feels worryingly familiar.

According to the new orthodoxy, we will not have a gay-marriage debate, because you don’t argue with bigotry and homophobia. The most prominent supporters of same-sex marriage (SSM) in the US today - establishment voices from the New York Times to Democratic Party politicians - do not engage with views from the other side; they dismiss them as hateful. Pro-SSM campaigners are trying to make expressions of support for traditional marriage, or the questioning of full marriage rights for gays, appear as beyond the pale as Jim Crow and Holocaust denial.

With its decisions last week, the US Supreme Court added its considerable weight to the movement to silence those who uphold the historical understanding of marriage. In striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Court’s 5-4 majority divined that the only motive for the act was a ‘bare… desire to harm a politically unpopular group’. In other words, in passing this act Congress was driven by irrational hostility to gays, nothing more.

In addition to quashing dissent, what makes the gay-marriage campaign a dark kind of Cultural Revolution is its white-washing and distortion of history. SSM advocates face an obstacle in their attempt to make ‘traditional marriage equals bigotry’ an unquestioned dogma: it flies in the face of the historical record and experience. It was not so long ago that many reasonable people espoused a conventional view of marriage, and in no way could they be said to be animated by hatred towards gays. And so today’s gay-marriage campaigners are forced, like Maoists of the past, to rewrite history to have it conform with today’s new party line.

The Anchoress, Antonin Scalia, Bad Person

Scalia spends part of his Windsor dissent arguing in defense of what used to be considered a most “liberal” notion: that human beings have a right to express their point of view without fear of reprisal; a right to dissent from conventional wisdom; a right, even, to be wrong. It is a sentiment that free-thinkers (of even the recent past) would often express by quoting Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s summary of Voltaire’s thinking: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Kennedy’s opinion makes it clear that the days of defending the freedom of others to think and speak outside of the ever-narrowing corridors of what is permissible are numbered; the line of delineation he sketches out is stark, bare, and singular: there will be one (correct) thought or there will be Bad People.

What an illiberal notion!

From Scalia's dissent in Windsor 

The majority concludes that the only motive for this Act was the “bare . . . desire to harm a politically unpopular group.” … Bear in mind that the object of this condemnation is not the legislature of some once-Confederate Southern state, but our respected coordinate branches, the Congress and Presidency of the United States. Laying such a charge against them should require the most extraordinary evidence….. 
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In the majority’s judgment, any resistance to its holding is beyond the pale of reasoned disagreement. [It is to] “dis-parage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” our fellow human beings, our fellow citizens, who are homo-sexual. All that, simply for supporting an Act that did no more than codify an aspect of marriage that had been unquestioned in our society for most of its existence—indeed, had been unquestioned in virtually all societies for virtually all of human history. It is one thing for a society to elect change; it is another for a court of law to impose change by adjudging those who oppose it...enemies of the human race. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:31 PM | Permalink

Save yourself from choking

With more and more people living alone, it's important to learn how to save yourself from choking when you are alone.  It just might save your life.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:41 PM | Permalink

"Evil is suffering passed on to someone else"

A very interesting post at Quora, Why do certain people derive pleasure from doing cruel things to their fellow human beings?

Especially the post by Diane Meriwether, Kinder than necessary.

Part one - suffering in. ….. Part Two - suffering out…….

When suffering is upon us we have two options.  We can process and digest it or we can pass it on. …My definition of evil is suffering passed along to someone else.  In the process, whatever started the pain is lost and the energy moves as revenge or cruelty until someone else can bring it to ground.

In July 1995, 8000 men and boys were massacred in Srebrenica.  Later, there was an interview where a man justified his part in the murder.  He explained that his son had been killed by Bosnian Muslims.  I remember being floored.  How could it be that someone who had suffered the loss of a child could ever want anyone else to feel that way?  But of course, what he was hoping to do was to not feel the loss, to turn it into heat and blast it on to someone else's heart. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:51 PM | Permalink

July 6, 2013

"The Greatest Runner of All Time"

A  most impressive man you never heard of who some think is responsible for "the most phenomenal moment in Olympics history".  A what-is question posed by Quora.

A lone figure comes into view, barreling down the home stretch. Gasping with effort.

The crowd stands. And roars with encouragement. Every. Single. Person. From every nation. They drown out the cheers of his fellow countrymen. Like Seabiscuit some two decades earlier, this under dog had become something more.

 Emil Zatopek

He crossed the finish line in clear first. He had also broken the world record. His team mates tried to push through the crowd to congratulate him. But by the time they reach the finish line, he's no longer there. The Jamaican team had hoisted him onto their shoulders and were parading around the infield. To the sound of ecstatic applause.

Who was this man who had captured the hearts and imaginations of millions? Who was so beloved that even his rivals delighted at his accomplishments?

His name was Emil Zatopek.

He was, quite simply, the most passionate runner the world had ever seen and one of the most exemplary human beings I have ever heard of.
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So perhaps it comes with no surprise that he was self coached. And he became quite famous for his brutal training regiments.

He was also well known for his awkward form. The Guardian has this to say about his form. "Watching him run, one commentator said, "He looks like a man wrestling with an octopus on a conveyor belt."…..And so he managed to break the Czech record for the 2000, 3000, and 5000 meter runs at twenty two. He won the 10km in the 1948 Olympics.

But the real magic though would come in 1952….
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He was named The Greatest Runner of All Time by Runner's World Magazine in 2013
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:19 AM | Permalink

July 5, 2013

Who's Racist Today

Best of the Web's James Taranto, Who's the Most 'Racist'?

When Rasmussen Reports asked some of its polling subjects to conduct an odd exercise in racial stereotyping, the results were counterintuitive, or at least counterstereotypical:

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American Adults think most black Americans are racist, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Just 15% consider most white Americans racist, while 18% say the same of most Hispanic Americans.
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Among black Americans, 31% think most blacks are racist, while 24% consider most whites racist and 15% view most Hispanics that way….And blacks are 3 points less likely than liberals to think most whites are racist.

All of which suggests that the people likeliest to believe most whites are racist and most blacks are not are those who are both liberal and white. Which reinforces a point we've made often in this column: that a lot of what drives the futile debate over race in America is white liberals' psychological need to feel morally superior to other whites.

Saxophone player attacked in the street by three black women 'who said a white girl shouldn't play an old jazz song'

Cassandra Struve, 26, was performing in the street outside the Summerfest grounds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin around 11pm on June 26 when the three women approached her.  'I was playing Minnie the Moocher, classic Blues Brothers song,' Struve told WITI. 'A lady with a child in her hand came up to me, smacked me in my face and said, "Don’t play that".'

They added that a white girl could not play the song, she said. After she was hit, she said she was 'instantly upset' and broke down in tears. As a reaction, she pushed the woman who had hit her away, but was then punched twice in the side of the face by a second woman, she said.

'As they walked away, they were saying" white saxophone playing B word",' said Struve. 'I was upset and crying instantly because I knew that when she hit me, she hit me with only racial hate.'

Just Don't Hire the White Guy

Mecklenburg County, North Carolina commissioner Kim Ratliff, the board’s vice chair, told a local television station in Charlotte that when it comes to replacing the current manager (a black man), it can be a “black female or a Hispanic female or a Hispanic male”—“just someone who is not a white male.”

In Minding the Campus, Diversity After Fisher

Anyone living in the real world knows that those admissions policies are nothing but racial balancing schemes. The coral reef of "diversity" happens to be where, under force of legal circumstances, they are forced to play out this game, but achieving a vibrant intellectual community on campus in which diverse ideas are welcome is the last thing on the minds of campus administrators.  If they were concerned about actual viewpoint diversity, we would have campuses in which conservative ideas are robustly represented, where gay marriage is debated and not just acclaimed, where doubts about racial preferences themselves could be openly expressed, where those who have reservations about the current "climate change" models could present their case, etc.

Higher education is cemented into orthodoxies of its own devising that leave students ill-prepared for the actual diversity of views in the larger society. These orthodoxies are pernicious in a number of ways, but let's stick with just one of them:  they breed in students contempt for those who depart from the "consensus" on any given topic.  The ideals of open-mindedness and tolerance are reduced to merely slogans.
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Americans overwhelmingly hate the preference regime that our colleges and courts have created. When the public gets a chance to vote on the matter, it typically gives an emphatic "NO!" to preferences.  Even preference supporters these days often pivot to class-based rather than race-based preferences. The louder the higher education establishment asserts that "DIVERSITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION REMAINS AN ESSENTIAL NATIONAL PRIORITY," the more we should wonder "Why?"  Asking that simple question will go a long way towards ending the preference regime.

Investors Business Daily.  While Supremes Downplay Race, Obama Mandates It in Decision-Making

His race-obsessed administration is bringing racial preferences and affirmative action back with a vengeance.And it's doing so outside the legislative process, largely behind the scenes, through executive orders, regulations and prosecutions, effectively expanding existing civil-rights law.
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To boost minority hiring, the EEOC recently warned employers they could be considered guilty of "race discrimination if they choose law-abiding applicants over applicants with criminal convictions." The predictable result: hiring quotas for felons.
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The agency also advised that all FDIC-insured banks must develop and implement an "affirmative action program" for hiring.
The administration, moreover, has adopted an interagency "Policy Statement on Discrimination in Lending" that makes it "permissible" (and strongly advisable) for banks to apply more favorable lending terms for minority borrowers "to address past discrimination."
It has also formalized the use of a lower standard of proof — "disparate impact" liability — for enforcing anti-discrimination laws in housing and lending.
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For the first time, disparate impact is woven through all civil-rights enforcement of the federal government.
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The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.  Yet this president is injecting race into just about every decision made in our merit-based society.

Most depressing read of the day.  Before It's Deleted, Essay by a teacher in a black high school

Once I asked my students, “What do you think of the Constitution?” “It white,” one slouching black rang out. The class began to laugh. And I caught myself laughing along with them, laughing while Pompeii’s volcano simmers, while the barbarians swell around the Palatine, while the country I love, and the job I love, and the community I love become dimmer by the day.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:39 PM | Permalink

Parenting: Why women don't want to be CEOs, infants' automatic response to being carried, the 'cognitive reserve of childhood reading

Giving up a husband, children and friends? No thanks! Why 75% of today's women don't want to be CEOs

Marketing firm, Zeno Group quizzed more than 1,000 female respondents aged between 21 and 33, and found that only 15 per cent yearned to be number one at a 'large or prominent organization.'

The remainder saw high-powered roles as a block to settling down, starting a family and maintaining friendships. Instead, they looked to positions that would allow them to achieve a work-life balance.

Almost half (49per cent) didn't think perks, such as seven-figure paychecks, company cars and free gym memberships, were worth scaling the career ladder.And 90 per cent agreed that women business executives have to make more sacrifices than their male counterparts.

Why Does Infant Carrying Soothe Babies when Other Things Fail?

It turns out that carrying an infant triggers a three-way mechanism in the brain that suppresses involuntary muscle movements & struggling while also dramatically reducing the infant’s heart rate.  These changes happen almost immediately.  In fact, this process is such an automatic response to being carried that it could almost be considered a previously undiscovered reflex.  The study noted that merely holding a baby does not stimulate this reflex.  Only carrying does.

Moreover, this relaxing response to being carried by one’s parent is not just found in humans, it is consistent across mammals–from mouse pups to lion cubs–indicating that this response is a deeply ingrained part of mammalian brain programming.

Childhood readers stay sharper in old age, brain study says published this week in the journal Neurology

If you have one of those kids who always has a nose buried in a book, here’s a reason to be happy: Scientists  say activities at any age that stimulate the brain may help preserve brain power into old age.
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It’s not that those activities will keep the brain from decline, but that the rate of decline is slowed, the scientists said. That was true independent of common neuropathic conditions, such as plaques and tangles, they said. Mental activities through life seem to provide a “cognitive reserve,” the scientists said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:20 PM | Permalink

"Our crumbling 'rule of law'

The Obamacare employer mandate delay is another symptom of our crumbling ‘rule of law’

In what sense do we live under the rule of law if the Congress can pass a bill, the president can sign it, and then the president can unilaterally announce that it is not going to be implemented as planned? Telling me that this kind of discretionary power is routinely exercised by the executive branch is not an answer. In what sense is legislation that permits such discretion the “rule of law”? Isn’t the essence of the rule of law that ordinary citizens can know what the rules are? Can be confident that the rules are not guidelines but, you know, The Law?

We live in a country where the law has not only become unintelligible, written in thousand-page chunks, but has morphed into a giant mass of silly putty that can be reshaped as our rulers find convenient.

Employer Mandate? Never Mind  Obama decides not to enforce the heart of his health-care law.

The employer mandate is central to ObamaCare's claim of providing universal coverage. Companies with 50 or more "employee equivalents" must pay a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee if they don't provide government-approved health insurance. The provision was supposed to start in January, and delaying it is like Ford saying its electric car is ready to go, except the electric battery doesn't work
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This is more than a typical government snafu. It relates directly to the design of the law, which was thoughtlessly written and rammed through Congress with instructions for the bureaucracy to figure it all out.

And, lo, over eight interim final rules, three final rules, 20 requests for comment, 21 proposed rules, one information collection request, two amendments to the interim final rules, six requests for information and one frequently-asked-questions document, the Administration has created an employer-mandate system that, for example, requires business to track and report every full-time employee's hours of service on a monthly basis.
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The Affordable Care Act's Section 1513 states in black-letter law that "(d) Effective Date.—The amendments made by this section shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013." It does not say the Administration can impose the mandate whenever it feels it is politically convenient.

This selective enforcement of laws has become an Administration habit. From immigration (the Dream Act by fiat) to easing welfare reform's work requirements to selective waivers for No Child Left Behind, the Obama Administration routinely suspends enforcement of or unilaterally rewrites via regulation the laws it dislikes. Now it is doing it again on health care, without any consultation from, much less the approval of, Congress. President Obama probably figures business and Republicans won't object because they don't like the law anyway.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:08 AM | Permalink

"In the best and long-lasting marriages, couples ignore their conflicts"

Why Marriage Counseling so often Fails

Most marriage counselors believe, as an article of faith, that conflict should be addressed, not avoided.

Thus, they promote and encourage dramatic conflict. Since these conflicts tend to undermine martial harmony, the results are often not very good.

Time Magazine explains the conventional approach:

It’s a familiar mantra that marriage counselors rely upon in advising their couples — talk about conflicts and try to resolve them, rather than letting suppressed feelings fester until they poison a relationship beyond repair.

This implies that a spouse who does not want to have a serious conversation about a conflict is not doing his or her part to heal the marriage.

As you might imagine, the conventional wisdom is wrong. New research has shown that in the best and long-lasting marriages, couples ignore their conflicts. They put them aside, unresolved, and move their conversation to more neutral ground: they discuss what they are going to have for dinner.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:40 AM | Permalink

Getting in on the spying game

White House collecting personal financial records of 5 million Americans without warrants or due process

Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained records from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealing that the agency has spent millions of dollars for the warrantless collection and analysis of Americans’ financial transactions. The documents also reveal that CFPB contractors may be required to share the information with "additional government entities."
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The panel shall include 5 million consumers, and joint borrowers, co-signers, and authorized users [emphasis added]. The initial panel shall contain 10 years of historical data on a quarterly basis [emphasis added]…

The CFPB data collection program has been highly controversial since the April 2013 hearing, when Cordray disclosed elements of the venture at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. At the time, the US Chamber of Commerce accused the CFPB of breaking the law by demanding the account-level data without a warrant or National Security Letter.

Motorola Is Listening  Ben Lincoln

In June of 2013, I made an interesting discovery about the Android phone (a Motorola Droid X2) which I was using at the time: it was silently sending a considerable amount of sensitive information to Motorola, and to compound the problem, a great deal of it was over an unencrypted HTTP channel.

Now TWITTER wants to start tracking you on the web

Twitter has announced it plans to start tracking users and the websites they visit.
The site plans to use browser cookies - small files that are placed on people's computers each time they visit a web page  - to track online movements.
Advertising partners will then be able to target customers by either anonymously matching email addresses of users, or by using the cookies collected, to serve more personalised adverts.

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The Twitter tracking will be turned on by default, but users will be able to opt out.
It site also said that users who have the Do Not Track (DNT) feature enabled on their browsers will not be affected by the plans.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:35 AM | Permalink

July 4, 2013

Amazing old photos for the 4th of July

 Oldtime Firecracker Boy
18 Vintage Photos of People Celebrating Independence Day

Popular photography began in the early 1840s, just in time to capture the images of old men who had fought in the Revolutionary War.

Faces of the American revolution: Amazing early photographs of the heroes of the War for Independence in their later years

 Images Men In Revolutionary War

The majority have been compiled by Utah-based journalist Joe Baumam, who spent three decades researching and compiling the images.
Digging through a myriad of sources - 18th and 19th century battle accounts, muster rolls, genealogical records, pension files, letters, period newspapers, town and county histories - he was able to flesh out the stories of these veterans.

Bauman found and bought eight daguerreotypes, plus five paper prints from the era - considered the largest known collection of Revolutionary War veteran daguerreotypes to date.  The men included a shoemaker, two ministers, a doctor who later managed a vast mercantile empire, a tavern-keeper, a settler of the Ohio frontier, a blacksmith and the captain of a coastal vessel.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:00 PM | Permalink

Disaster plans for bunnies: UPDATED

Another government idiocy

Two years ago,  the USDA insisted that Marty Hahne,  a magician based in Ozark, MO, needed a license from the USDA to have a rabbit in his act.  The so-called 'Rabbit Police' from the USDA insist that a hand-washing station be installed  within sight from where the rabbit is displayed,  and that the magician and any audience member must wash their hands  before petting the rabbit.  'Rabbit police' from the USDA Stalk Magicians

~Magician-Pulls-Rabbit-Out-Of-Hat

USDA Tells Magician to Write Disaster Plan for His Rabbit.

An Ozark, Mo.-based magician whose story about being harassed by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service agents (a.k.a., “Rabbit Police”) was one of three stories highlighted in an article two years ago, Marty Hahne contacted me today with an update.

“You won’t believe what the USDA has come up with now,” Hahne wrote in an email message late Friday afternoon.  “If this wasn’t so stupid, it would be funny!”

He went on to share details about his continued harassment by the USDA — all for using a three-pound rabbit in his magic act:

My USDA rabbit license requirement has taken another ridiculous twist. I just received an 8 page letter from the USDA, telling me that by July 29 I need to have in place a written disaster plan, detailing all the steps I would take to help get my rabbit through a disaster, such as a tornado, fire, flood, etc. They not only want to know how I will protect my rabbit during a disaster, but also what I will do after the disaster, to make sure my rabbit gets cared for properly.  I am not kidding–before the end of July I need to have this written rabbit disaster plan in place, or I am breaking the law.

In his email message, Hahne also explained the timeline via which he must comply: 1) the new regulation became effective Jan. 30, 2012; 2) the written plan must be completed by July 29, 2013; 3) Hahne and his wife, Brenda, must be trained to implement the plan as written; and 4) the written plan must be available for review by USDA inspectors by Sept. 28, 2013.

UPDATED:  What the disaster plan must include:    With the July 29 compliance deadline looming, the USDA recently sent Marty the Magician (aka Marty Hahne of Springfield, Missouri) an eight-page communiqué detailing requirements for the plan, which must:

  • Identify common emergencies most likely to occur,
  • Outline specific tasks required to be carried out in response to each of the identified emergencies,
  • Identify a chain of command and who (by name or by position title) will be responsible for fulfilling these tasks, and
  • Address how response and recovery will be handled in terms of materials, resources, and training needs.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:36 PM | Permalink

Why the Founders succeeded

The Americanness of the American Revolution by Myron Magnet.  Why the Founders succeeded.

The American Revolution, then, was doubly limited in its aims: limited to making only a political change without altering social or economic arrangements, and determined to set strict limits to its new government, fearful that any governmental power beyond the barest minimum necessary to protect liberty too easily could become a threat to liberty itself.  So apprehensive were the Founders on this score that the governmental structure they erected after the Declaration of Independence proved too weak to perform its essential function of protecting their lives, liberties, and properties adequately, prolonging the Revolutionary War and increasing the hardships of the men who fought it.  With great misgivings, the Founders had to create a new constitution to give government the necessary powers, but their most urgent concern was to make those powers limited and enumerated, hedged around with every check and balance they could think of to prevent tyrannical abuse.
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With similar prudence and modesty, when they wrote the new constitution, the Founders nursed no grandiose illusions that they were going to change human nature by altering the structure of government. …They had a very clear-eyed assessment of human nature. After all, their social-contract theory rested on a psychology that acknowledged what Patrick Henry called, conventionally enough, “the depravity of human nature,” with its lusts, aggression, and greed no less inborn than its rights. They tried to create a republic that would flourish with human nature as it is, with all its cross-grained passions and interests. They never forgot, as Alexander Hamilton cautioned, “that men are ambitious, vindictive, and rapacious.”

Still, they weren’t cynics. Despite human nature’s failings, they believed men capable of virtue, as history, literature, observation, and introspection taught them. Not all men, and not all the time; but if “there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government,” Madison observed in Federalist 55, only “the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring each other.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:22 AM | Permalink

Still revolutionary

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,……

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes….

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.-…

The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world…..

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good...

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance….

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice….

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance…..

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:….

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:….

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:55 AM | Permalink

July 3, 2013

Growing trend of baby-hating

At special session of the Texas state legislature. Pro-abortion protestors chant 'Hail, Satan' to drown out pro-life protestors singing Amazing Grace. 

The Anchoress comments

“Amazing Grace” is a psycho-spiritual weapon. When it is deployed, people cannot be shocked at what weapons others will use in response.

The Anchoress writes, "Simcha Fisher speaks truth" ( in The Earth is a Nursery )    "Only Bad Guys Hate Babies"  Succinct.  To the point. 

increasingly people feel entitled to publicly demonstrate their hatreds, not just for people who think differently (“enemies of the human race!”), or on political issues (“I hope your daughter gets raped!”); they feel okay about hating little kids.

Active baby-hating is not a sign of a healthy society.

And in another post, on the growing trend of adults expressing displeasure at the public  existence of children and their parents

— as one contributor to the New York Times Magazine put it — “These wan goons. . .bringing their squealing offspring to brunch or for clogging up the sidewalk…”

[The New York Times Magazine] featured this letter to the editor, written by “Carolyn” in Maryland:

Five years ago I faced an unwanted pregnancy. At the time, I had a 2 year-old and a 4 year-old, and I was working full time as a college professor and living an upper-middle-class life. When I found out I was pregnant at eight weeks, I consulted with my husband (who supported either decision) and we scheduled an abortion the following week. I was overwhelmed at the thought of caring for another child. Had I been turned away, I’m sure that I would be able to report that I loved that third child, that our family was doing well and that there were no notable negative impacts or issues as a result of bearing and raising the child from an unwanted pregnancy. I can, however, say the same thing now, having not had that child.

The blood runs cold. Break it down to its essentials, and it’s “Yeah, I could have had the kid and we’d have still been fine, but what’s the difference? This way I wasn’t inconvenienced.”

Or, put another way: “I just sacrificed my child to the idol of I. The idol of myself. I can’t even claim he was sacrificed for the idol of future plans, or that she was sacrificed to the idol of a career. No, I just sacrificed my child to me. To the idea of me: Ms. Personal Autonomy. I am like a god! I decide who lives and dies; didn’t feel like having another baby, so I killed it. Because I could. My other two kids only breathe and live by my grace, alone.”
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It is precisely because a baby brings the unconditional love of God to us in a renewed way that evil cannot abide it, and works so desperately to prevent it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:56 PM | Permalink

"Final Hours" in Egypt

The largest protest in Egypt's history continues day after day as millions take to the streets to protest the Morsi government.  More than 22 million Egyptians have signed a petition calling for the country's Islamist president to step down.

 Egyptian-Largest Protest

Egyptians are gathering nationwide.  11 Powerful Images From the Largest Protest In Egypt's History

The 'final hours' showdown

The military chiefs, wanting to restore order in a country racked by protests over Mursi's Islamist policies, issued a call to battle in a statement headlined "The Final Hours". They said they were willing to shed blood against "terrorists and fools" after Mursi refused to give up his elected office.

Mursi said, "The price … is my life."

 Egypt-Obama-Morsi

For ordinary Egyptians, fixing the economy is key.

They are demanding a functioning economy that works under the rule of law. Particularly, the young in Egypt have been increasingly frustrated about their country’s outmoded economic system and discouraging reality. The continuing lack of economic reforms has fueled discontent since 2011, with state finances left drained by extensive subsidies on food, energy, and other key commodities…..President Mohamed Morsi has been more focused on expanding his own power and consolidating the control of the Muslim Brotherhood than in advancing the declared goals of Egypt’s democratic revolution and reviving Egypt’s worsening economy.

Let's not forget that earlier this month Morsi appointed a hardline Islamist to govern Luxor who is a member of the militant group responsible for the 1997 Luxor massacre that killed 58 tourists.

In Luxor itself, Morsi's move was met with anger. "How is this guy from this group [Gamaa Islamiya] going to encourage tourism?" asked Alaa Mahmoud, the owner of Magic Horizon, a tourism company in the city. "No one in Luxor wants him. It's like Morsi wants to finish the country."

The NSF's Abdel Ghany said: "It sends a very bad message to the tourist industry and the families of those killed … Morsi is destroying the image of Egypt as a tourist destination and a civil society in favour of satisfying the Salafist groups."

So much furor erupted that Adel Khayat, the newly appointed governor of Luxor had to resign.

Spengler writes Egypt Falls Back on the Military

The population has had enough. Beans (not to mention animal protein) have been priced out of the budget of the poorer half of Egypt’s citizens for weeks, and the country is nearly out of fuel — which means, in the middle of the wheat harvest, nearly out of bread. There isn’t much to hope for here, but there are best and worst case scenarios.

The worst case scenario is the status quo: chaos in politics, violence in the streets, complete cessation of tourism, and economic breakdown. This is not an economy with a lot of buffer. Nearly a fifth of Egyptians were suffering from malnutrition when the World Health Organization surveyed the country in 2011. WFO estimates that two of five Egyptian adults are mentally and physically “stunted” by inadequate diet. The slow starvation of Egyptians under successive military regimes is gradually turning into actual hunger.

Muslim Brotherhood offices destroyed

The scene at the headquarters was a microcosm of the extreme polarisation affecting Egyptian society, which is divided between those who may be religious, but do not seek an Islamic state – and Islamists like the Brotherhood, which seeks to use the concepts of Islamic law to govern Egypt. Even state institutions appear to have been drawn into the division. The police, who defended the same building during a similar attack in March, did not intervene on Sunday.

One little reported connection of the Muslim Brotherhood to the death of Americans. The Muslim Brotherhood's Connection to Benghazi

"Written solely as a perfunctory after-action report …an interdepartmental memo from the Libyan National Security offices in Tripoli to the Ministry of the Interior…details several confessions of the six Egyptians in Libyan custody for the 9.11.12 bombing of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi….
details the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as being involved with and in the funding, support, planning, and execution of the attack.
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It was prepared by Mahmoud Ibrahim Sharif, the Director of National Security of Libya
.  In his report Sharif conveys that the Libyan investigation unearthed an Egyptian (terror) cell that had been involved in the planning and execution of the attack. Six confessions from those arrested at the scene--all of them Egyptian--and all connected to the U.S. terror watch listed group Ansar al-Sharia.
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"during interrogations, these Egyptian jihadi cell members 'confessed to very serious and important information concerning the financial sources of the group and the planners of the event and the storming and burning of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi…. And among the more prominent figures whose names were mentioned by cell members during confessions: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi…'"

The investigation also seems to have unearthed a video taken the night of the attack in which members of the jihadists identify themselves as being sent personally by "Dr. Morsi."

It's time to Overthrow Morsi and end the Muslim Brotherhood's dictatorial rule in Egypt

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:11 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: lack of sleep bad for your heart, skip the fruit juice for the fruit, test for post-natal depression, working at night, living near the ocean

A lack of sleep increases increases the risk of heart disease as much as SMOKING

A healthy diet, exercise and moderate alcohol reduced the chance of cardiovascular disease.  However, when combined with sufficient sleep, the results improved by up to 22 per cent, as much as it did with those who didn’t smoke.
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These benefits were even greater when all five lifestyle  factors were observed, resulting in a 65 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and an 83 per cent lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease.

'Drinking fruit juice is the fastest way to gain weight': Nutritionist reveals the so-called healthy foods that can ruin a diet

Catherine Matthews, nutritionist at Tesco Diets, said that fruit juice is ‘the fastest way to gain weight’.  She said: ‘It takes less than a minute for most people to drink 150 calories.’

Another issue is fruit juice's lack of fibre. When we eat fruit, fibre forms a protective layer that acts as a barrier to the intestine. This slows absorption of sugar, so the liver can to deal with the sugar steadily.

In fizzy drinks, fruit juices and smoothies, the barrier has gone, which leads to the liver being overloaded.
This triggers two things: Firstly, this overload provides a sudden burst of energy which very quickly tapers off, leading to what many experts describe as a 'sugar crash'. This can cause many people to end up feeling lethargic, irritable and even more hungry than they did before.  Secondly the high levels of fructose - fruit sugar - that are not burned off are converted to fat.

Breakthrough test  for mothers-to-be that can warn of post natal depression

A £10 test that gives advance warning of post-natal depression has been created by British scientists.  It will allow women to have early treatment that may even stop the illness taking hold.  One in seven new mothers suffers from depression, which can have a serious impact on both them and their child.
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The test, which is a world first, could be in widespread use within five years. Given early in pregnancy, it uses a few drops of blood to tell whether a woman has faulty genes that put her at risk.
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Professor Grammatopoulos’s study of 200 pregnant women found that those with flaws in two stress genes were three to five times more likely to develop post-natal depression.  This is because they are less able to restore their normal hormonal balance after pregnancy.
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‘Post-natal depression is a preventable disorder in most cases.’ Despite tens of thousands of patients having the illness every year, there has been no reliable way of spotting it early.
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Mothers usually receive help only if their symptoms – which include irritability, appetite loss, sadness and feelings of worthlessness – are severe.
Their children can suffer because lack of attention and affection in the first year puts them at higher risk of learning and emotional difficulties in later life.

Feeling good after a day at the beach? Study proves benefits of spending time near the ocean

'It's not going to be any great surprise to you that people relax,' said study researcher Michael White. The more complex question was how being near the beach impacted people's health. The researchers studied census data in England and found that those who lived near the coast reported better health.
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While one could argue that this may have something to do with wealthier people being able to afford living on the coast, the researchers actually found that it was the lower socioeconomic communities that reported the greatest health benefits.

Women who work night shifts for more than 30 years 'are twice as likely to get breast cancer'

The researchers believe artificial lighting at night interferes with chemicals in the body, and this process can trigger the growth of tumors.

The Canadian team studied the careers of 1,134 women with breast cancer and compared them with 1,179 who had never been diagnosed with the illness.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:07 AM | Permalink

Non-traditional career advice for the young

The Strongest Careers Are Non-Linear  Penelope Truck. 

Some of her suggestions:

1. Skip college
2. Focus on internships instead of school
3. Start a company instead of writing a resume

I’m struck by Marissa Mayer (number 3 on Fortune’s list) whose announced acquisition strategy is buying small, cheap companies. Which is, in effect, buying the team. Silicon Valley calls these acqui-hires. She is looking at young people who start companies that are not necessarily successful in terms of product or sales but successfully market the founders as visionaries, self-starters, and hard workers. You can’t show those traits in school, so if you have those traits, you slow yourself down by going to school

Interview with Laszlo Bock, SVP for people operations at Google

On the hiring side, we found that brainteasers are a complete waste of time.
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One of the things we’ve seen from all our data crunching is that G.P.A.’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless — no correlation at all except for brand-new college grads, where there’s a slight correlation. Google famously used to ask everyone for a transcript and G.P.A.’s and test scores, but we don’t anymore, unless you’re just a few years out of school. We found that they don’t predict anything.

What’s interesting is the proportion of people without any college education at Google has increased over time as well. So we have teams where you have 14 percent of the team made up of people who’ve never gone to college.
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After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow, you think about things differently.

Another reason is that I think academic environments are artificial environments. People who succeed there are sort of finely trained, they’re conditioned to succeed in that environment.

College Insurrection. 85% of college students are wasting their time and money

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:31 AM | Permalink

July 2, 2013

IRS to gather "the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic" ObamaCare Hub

Somehow I don't think the White House delay in enforcing the employer mandate until 2015 will have any effect on ObamaCare Hub.

Think NSA Spying Is Bad? Here Comes ObamaCare Hub

The Health and Human Services Department earlier this year exposed just how vast the government's data collection efforts will be on millions of Americans as a result of ObamaCare.

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., asked HHS to provide "a complete list of agencies that will interact with the Federal Data Services Hub." The Hub is a central feature of ObamaCare, since it will be used by the new insurance exchanges to determine eligibility for benefits, exemptions from the federal mandate, and how much to grant in federal insurance subsidies.

In response, the HHS said the ObamaCare data hub will "interact" with seven other federal agencies: Social Security Administration, the IRS, the Department of Homeland Security, the Veterans Administration, Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Defense and — believe it or not — the Peace Corps. Plus the Hub will plug into state Medicaid databases.

And what sort of data will be "routed through" the Hub? Social Security numbers, income, family size, citizenship and immigration status, incarceration status, and enrollment status in other health plans, according to the HHS.

"The federal government is planning to quietly enact what could be the largest consolidation of personal data in the history of the republic," noted Stephen Parente, a University of Minnesota finance professor.

Not to worry, says the Obama administration. "The hub will not store consumer information, but will securely transmit data between state and federal systems to verify consumer application information," it claimed in an online fact sheet .

But a regulatory notice filed by the administration in February tells a different story.

That filing describes a new "system of records" that will store names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, taxpayer status, gender, ethnicity, email addresses, telephone numbers on the millions of people expected to apply for coverage at the ObamaCare exchanges, as well as "tax return information from the IRS, income information from the Social Security Administration, and financial information from other third-party sources."

They will also store data from businesses buying coverage through an exchange, including a "list of qualified employees and their tax ID numbers," and keep it all on file for 10 years.

In addition, the filing says the federal government can disclose this information "without the consent of the individual" to a wide range of people, including "agency contractors, consultants, or grantees" who "need to have access to the records" to help run ObamaCare, as well as law enforcement officials to "investigate potential fraud."

IRS workers used corporate credit cards to splurge $493,000 of taxpayer money on pornography, wine, diet pills and romance novels and WEREN'T disciplined

Greg Rosen, an IRS employee involved in procurement for the agency, is pleading the 5th to avoid testifying before Congress about his  allegedly improper influence to steer a $500 million contract to his friend's fledging company formed in 2011.

100% of Tea Party Groups Targeted by the IRS  concedes the IRS, yet, the FBI, charged with investigating the IRS,  has yet to contact a single tea party group.

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.

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.

Incompetence and Abuse Call for a Clean Sweep of the IRS

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 PM | Permalink