December 31, 2013

Miscellaneous wonders

Friend's dad got a call from his buddy to go check the sky outside  from Imgur's best images of 2013

 Halo Sun

Halos are produced by the ice crystals in cirrostratus clouds. The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting sunlight between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions. These amateur sky-watchers were lucky enough to spot some outside their home in Finland, and in doing so, captured one of the most beautiful images this year.

Chinese scientists cultivate high-yield salt-resistant rice.  It could provide enormous economic benefits by enabling the cultivation of otherwise idle saline-alkali land.  Wang Cailin, chief scientist of the rice breeding program in Jiangsu, said more than one quarter of the world's land is saline-alkali soil and another 20 percent of farmland is at risk of salination.

Global warming scientists forced to admit defeat… because of too much ice: Stranded Antarctic ship's crew will be rescued by helicopter

They went in search evidence of the world’s melting ice caps, but instead a team of climate scientists have been forced to abandon their mission … because the Antarctic ice is thicker than usual at this time of year.

The scientists have been stuck aboard the stricken MV Akademik Schokalskiy since Christmas Day, with repeated sea rescue attempts being abandoned as icebreaking ships failed to reach them.  Now that effort has been ditched, with experts admitting the ice is just too thick. Instead the crew have built an icy helipad, with plans afoot to rescue the 74-strong team by helicopter.

Algae to crude oil: Million-year natural process takes minutes in the lab

Engineers have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil minutes after they pour in harvested algae — a verdant green paste with the consistency of pea soup.

The research by engineers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory was reported recently in the journal Algal Research. A biofuels company, Utah-based Genifuel Corp., has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

In the PNNL process, a slurry of wet algae is pumped into the front end of a chemical reactor. Once the system is up and running, out comes crude oil in less than an hour, along with water and a byproduct stream of material containing phosphorus that can be recycled to grow more algae.

Brain function improves for DAYS after reading a novel

U.S. researchers used fMRI scanners to identify brain networks associated with reading stories and found that changes in the brain linger for a few days after reading a powerful work of fiction. 

Scientists from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, said reading a novel can cause changes in the ‘resting-state’ of the brain, which can last for days.
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The neural changes that we found, associated with physical sensation and movement systems, suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist, ’Professor Berns said.

‘We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.’
He claims that the neural changes are not immediate reactions as they linger five days after the participants completed the novel.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:07 PM | Permalink

Data Milestones

From the Pew Research Center, 13 data milestones for 2013

1. Just over half (51%) of the public now favors same-sex marriage, while 42% are opposed.

2. A majority of Americans (52%) now favor legalizing the use of marijuana.

3. A majority agrees the U.S. should mind its own business internationally, the highest measure in nearly a half century of polling.

4. The share of Americans saying they do not want their own representative in Congress reelected – 38% – is at its highest point in two decades.

5. For the first time, a majority of the public (53%) says that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.

6. 36% of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31—the so-called Millennial generation— now live in their parents’ home, the highest share in at least four decades.

7. A record 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 include mothers who are either the sole or primary source of income for the family.

8. The U.S., which has a total population of 317 million, is now home to a record 40.4 million immigrants.

9. A record seven-in-ten (69%) Hispanic high school graduates in the class of 2012 enrolled in college that fall, two percentage points higher than the rate (67%) among their white counterparts.

10. The percentage of Americans who say the U.S. plays a more important and powerful role as a world leader than it did 10 years ago has fallen to a 40-year low of just 17%.

11. The percentage of American Catholics calling themselves “strong” Catholics is at a four-decade low.

12. For the first time since Pew Research Center began tracking smartphone adoption, a majority of Americans now own a smartphone of some kind.

13.  50% of the public now cites the internet as a main source for national and international news.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:30 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Man flu is real, statins, new treatment for heart failure, questioning statins, religion and depression, sleep

'Man flu': the truth that women don't want to hear

New study suggests that men may actually suffer more when they have influenza because high levels of testosterone can weaken immune response.

First major breakthrough in heart failure for 20 years thanks to pregnancy hormone

A pregnancy hormone could provide the first breakthrough in 20 years for treating acute heart failure. Doctors found that Serelaxin, a synthetic version of the hormone relaxin, can slash the death rate for people with the condition.

The new treatment is based on relaxin — levels of this rise dramatically during pregnancy in order to reduce strain on the mother’s heart.
The amount of blood circulating in a woman’s body increases by between 20-50 per cent in order to transport oxygen to the fetus via the placenta.

However, this means her heart needs to work 30 per cent harder.  Relaxin helps by opening up the blood vessels and reducing blood pressure, taking excess strain off the heart; relaxin also boosts kidney function, removing waste products from the blood.

A six-month international study found that Serelaxin reduced heart failure death rates by a third (37 per cent) compared to conventional treatments such as ACE inhibitors.  Serelaxin appears to help the heart itself, unlike existing treatments which simply improve symptoms, says Martin Cowie, professor of cardiology at Imperial College London.  He was not involved in the research but believes the new drug could mark ‘a seismic shift’ in the treatment of acute heart failure.

Millions of patients may be on statins needlessly

A study published in the European Heart Journal suggests millions of patients put on statins may be being “over treated” - exposing them to potential side effects - while other patients who are more likely to suffer a heart attack are not being targeted.

Most patients are put on statins because they have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or other conditions such as diabetes. But the study of almost 7,000 adults found that the risk factors were not an accurate way of predicting the likelihood of a heart attack or a stroke. Scans to examine the build-up of calcium in the arteries were far better at identifying patients who would suffer a cardiac event, researchers found.

The US study found that 35 per cent of those who were assessed as “very high risk” using conventional screening tools actually had an extremely low chance of having a heart attack.  Meanwhile, 15 per cent of those who were told they had a very low chance of such an event in fact were at far higher risk, which was indicated by high levels of calcium in the arteries.
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Researchers said coronary artery calcium (CAC) screening should play a more prominent role in helping determine a person’s risk for heart attack and heart disease-related death, as well as the need for angioplasty or bypass surgery.

People who are religious or spiritual have 'thicker' brains which could protect them against depression

Parts of the brain’s outer layer, the cortex, were found to be thicker in people who were religious, than in those who were not.  U.S. researchers studied people with a family history of depression and found the thickening related to religion could offer protection against the condition.
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Dr Myrna Weissman, a professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at Columbia University, told Reuters Health.
‘The brain is an extraordinary organ. It not only controls, but is controlled by our moods.’

A lack of sleep 'damages the brain in a similar way to being hit on the head'

Going without sleep damages the brain in a similar way to being hit on the head.  Healthy young men deprived of just one night’s sleep experienced a spike in the same chemicals that result from an injury, researchers found. ...

Scientists say the findings back previous research showing the brain uses sleep to clean itself of toxic substances. Professor Christian Benedict, of Uppsala University, Sweden, said the molecules NSE and S-100B are not poisonous in themselves - but are biomarkers for brain damage.
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The average person now sleeps for seven hours a night, compared with almost nine a few decades ago.  Many scientists believe irregular sleeping patterns lead to illnesses, ranging from aches and pains to heart disease.  Less than eight hours’ sleep a night can lower IQ the next day, while working night shifts increases the risk of diabetes, ulcers and divorce
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:28 PM | Permalink

December 26, 2013

Arthur Jones, the littlest shepherd

It's the sweetest story of the day.

Britain's littlest shepherd, aged two, a lamb called Twinkle - and a bond between boy and sheep that will melt your heart

 Arthur Jones

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:33 PM | Permalink

A Second Day of Christmas Stocking

Only after Christmas Day do I have the chance to enjoy links I didn't have time to explore before which is why I'm thankful there are 12 days of Christmas.  Here are some of them for you to enjoy at leisure. 

TIME crunches the merry numbers behind the most popular Christmas songs of the modern era and Silent Night is the most popular

The BBC gives us the real history behind some of our favorite Christmas carols

The best-selling Christmas album of all time.  Elvis' Christmas Album.  13 million copies sold.  Eight of the songs on the album were Christmas songs, both classic and new, and four were Gospel songs .

 Elvis' Christmas Album

Speaking of Gospel, Chanticleer is great in (Everywhere I Go) Somebody Talkin' 'Bout Jesus which was shot beautifully on a mobile phone during a rehearsal.

Why some reindeer actually have red noses.

A fraction of reindeer—the species of deer scientifically known as Rangifer tarandus, native to Arctic regions in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Russia and Scandinavia—actually do have noses colored with a distinctive red hue.  A group of researchers from the Netherlands and Norway found  that the color is due to an extremely dense array of blood vessels, packed into the nose in order to supply blood and regulate body temperature in extreme environments.

We can thank the Sami for  Reindeer racing which also plays a role in the not-to-be-missed second season of the Netflix original production of Lilyhammer.

 Young Sami

Photo gallery  by Erika Larsen of The People Who Walk with Reindeer in the National Geographic.

Mazel Tov, Christians

My favorite Christmas video of the year, "A Hallelujah Christmas" by Cloverton

A Christmas Miracle – by Dr. Joseph A. MacDougall as told to Douglas How

Finally, one day that December, I had to tell her. Medically, we were beaten. The decision lay with God. She took it quietly, lying there, wasting away, only 23 and the mother of a year-old child. Eleanor Munro (her name has been disguised) was a devout, courageous woman. She had red hair and had probably been rather pretty, but it was hard to tell anymore, she was so near to death from tuberculosis. She knew it now, she accepted it, and she asked for just one thing. “If I’m still alive on Christmas Eve,” she said slowly, “I would like your promise that I can go home for Christmas.”

A great story told by Bob Welsh about his times on the highway patrol, called My Christmas Eve on YouTube.

Always a favorite, In the Bleak Midwinter by the King's College Choir.  The beautiful lyrics are from a poem by Christina Rossetti and the music by Gustav Holst.

Santa Classics by artist Ed Wheeler.

 Santa Classics

Best Christmas advertisement I've seen this year is called the Journey by Jon Lewis.  You can watch it here

A lovely short fictional piece by Elizabeth Scalia  A Shepherd I Will Remain

Steve McCann, Saved by Christmas

Linus tells Charlie Brown What Christmas Is All About

The dying wishes of Laney Brown, only eight years old,  was to meet Taylor Swift and for some people to come by her house for a night of caroling.  She chatted with Taylor on Facetime and 10,000 people in Reading, PA, showed up to carol outside her window.

"I can hear you now!!! Love you!" she said through a photo her family posted to a Team Laney Facebook page showing the girl, two thumbs up despite a breathing mask, lying in bed.

She died on Christmas morning.

 Christmas-In-Christian-Art  Long, but good presentation on Christmas in Christian Art  on Vimeo

Ross Douthat on Ideas from a Manger

That’s what the Christmas story really is — an entire worldview in a compact narrative, a depiction of how human beings relate to the universe and to one another. It’s about the vertical link between God and man — the angels, the star, the creator stooping to enter his creation. But it’s also about the horizontal relationships of society, because it locates transcendence in the ordinary, the commonplace, the low.

It’s easy in our own democratic era to forget how revolutionary the latter idea was. But the biblical narrative, the great critic Erich Auerbach wrote, depicted “something which neither the poets nor the historians of antiquity ever set out to portray: the birth of a spiritual movement in the depths of the common people, from within the everyday occurrences of contemporary life.”

George Weigel, Three Meditations on The Nativity

For as Pope Benedict XVI preached at Midnight Mass on December 24–25, 2006, “God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that He makes Himself small for us. This is how He reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby — defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with His strength. He takes away our fear of His greatness. . . . God made Himself small so that we could understand Him, welcome Him, and love Him.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:44 PM | Permalink

December 20, 2013

The continuing story that largely goes untold

In the Catholic Church, December 26 is the Feast of St Stephen, the first martyr for Christianity who was stoned for blasphemy and whose  story is recounted in Acts, chapter 7 .    Remembering this first martyr "“dissolves a false image of Christmas: the fairy-tale, overly sentimental image that does not exist in the Gospel.”, Pope Francis said yesterday,

“The liturgy brings us back to the authentic meaning of the Incarnation, connecting Bethlehem to Calvary and reminding us that divine salvation involves the fight against sin; it passes through the narrow gate of the Cross,” he continued.

The Pontiff called for prayer for persecuted Christians, who “unfortunately are more numerous today than in the early days of the Church.”

In Syria, Christians are butchered, thrown into furnaces and children are slaughtered and tossed out windows.    Jihadists killed Christians in a bakery, in a police station, even in hospitals.

What is happening in Adra is unthinkable … Children are being slaughtered and thrown out of the windows. But no one is doing anything. The crisis in Syria continues in an environment where there is no international law, including those relating to the paramilitary operations…..

There was slaughter everywhere The eldest was only 20 years old; he was slaughtered. They were all children. I saw them with my own eyes. They killed fourteen people with a machete. I don’t know if these people were Alawites. I don’t know why they were slaughtered. They grabbed them by their heads and slaughtered them like sheep.

On December 28th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Holy Innocents to commemorate the children under two who were slaughtered in Bethlehem under the orders of King Herod after the visit of the Magi who told him  they were searching for 'newborn king' .  St Joseph, after a warning by an angel, fled with Mary and Jesus to Egypt.

 Feast Holy Innocents Childermaspainting

In the Central African Republic, Muslims Massacre At Least 700 Christians, In Just One Moment 

The streets of Bangui are littered with corpses. The Red Cross buried hundreds of bodies in mass graves.
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The Red Cross has put the death count at 400, but according to Open Doors, its much higher:

In reality we must speak of at least 700 dead. The Red Cross has not counted the people that have been slaughtered and thrown into the river or buried directly by relatives or by fishermen.


In Iraq, Christmas bombings kill 34, including a car bomb that exploded as worshippers were leaving a Christmas service

"A car parked near the church exploded when the families were hugging each other goodbye before leaving. The blast was powerful," he said.

"Bodies of women, girls and men were lying on the ground covered in blood. Others were screaming and crying while they were trying to save some of their wounded relatives."

Iraqi Catholic leader asks West, "If they kill us all, will you do something then?"

The only leaders in the West that have forcefully spoken out against the persecution of Christians are Pope Francis, Prince Charles and Vladimir Putin

London Telegraph:  Christians left by the world to suffer  by Douglas Alexander

Across the world, there will be Christians this week for whom attending a church service this Christmas is not an act of faithful witness, but an act of life-risking bravery.  That cannot be right, and we need the courage to say so.

In the UK today, perhaps through a misplaced sense of political correctness, or some sense of embarrassment at “doing God” in an age when secularism is more common, too many politicians seem to fear discussing any matters related to faith.  So the growing persecution of Christians around the world remains a story that goes largely untold, as does proper discussion of its complex roots and causes.  In some countries, this persecution is perpetrated in the name of a secular ideology, while in others it has its roots in religious intolerance.

Christian freedoms are worth fighting for  Before 2003, there were over one million Christians in Iraq. Today, there are as few as 200,000

In today’s paper we carry a welcome and, frankly, remarkable commentary by Douglas Alexander, the shadow foreign secretary. It stands out not just as a passionate plea for the human rights of Christians living overseas but also because it comes from a leading member of the Labour Party. It would seem that Labour has decided that it does “do God” after all.

Nevertheless, we agree very strongly that it is time to stand up for Christians facing violent intimidation. He points to research showing that Christians are perhaps the most terrorized religious group in the world. In 2011, religious groups were persecuted in 160 countries and Christians were harassed in the largest number of places. In Egypt alone, 207 churches were attacked this year and 43 Orthodox churches completely destroyed. It is not uncommon for churches to be covered in blasphemous graffiti or sprayed with bullets by men driving past. It has become an act of courage just to express one’s faith and, all too often, the Foreign Office has seemed reluctant to act or speak forcefully.

The Guardian:  Persecution of Christians in the Middle East is a crime against humanity

It is a bitter irony that the invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched under the aegis of two devoutly Christian leaders, George Bush and Tony Blair, should have heralded what threatens to be the final ruin of Christianity in the Middle East. It was Iraqi Christians, trapped between the militancy of their Muslim compatriots and the studied disinterest of their western co-religionists, who bore the initial brunt of the savagery. Extortion, kidnapping and murder became their daily fare…..

Since 2003, so it has been estimated by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), almost a million Christians have left Iraq. Those few that remain face an ongoing martyrdom. The warning given in 2010 by an al-Qaida front group, that "the doors of destruction and rivers of blood will be opened upon them", threatens to become all too real.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:08 PM | Permalink

"A firm and unshakable belief that all human distress arises from malfunctioning serotonin metabolism"

Theodore Dalrymple hates the DSM (the American Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) and tells you why  in Everyone on the Couch.  It undermines self-reliance and morality and lacks all common sense…

…..the quality that psychiatrists, perhaps more than any other kind of doctor, need. The manual’s lack of common sense would be amusing were it not destined to be taken with superstitious seriousness by psychiatrists around the world, as well as by insurers and lawyers.
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To call the habit of losing one’s temper and destroying things or hurting people a medical condition (from which, according to the DSM-5, 2.5 percent or so of the adult population suffers in a given year) empties it both of meaning and moral content, all in the service of a spurious objectivity.
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Among the thousands of patients who consulted me over a period of 15 years, only three whom I can recall ever used the word “unhappy” (and one was a prisoner, who told me, “I’m not happy in this prison, Doctor”). By contrast, thousands said that they were “depressed.”

The semantic change is significant. The word “unhappy” is an implicit call to self-examination; the word “depressed” is, at least nowadays, a call to the doctor. It is no coincidence that the age of the DSM should coincide with a tenth of the population’s taking antidepressants—drugs that, for the most part, are placebos when not outright harmful. None of this excludes the possibility, of course, that some diagnoses will run afoul of pressure-group politics by the time the DSM-6 comes out. How long, for example, can gender dysphoria disorder survive every right-thinking person’s moral duty to celebrate transsexualism?

He concludes:

The DSM is ultimately an instrument for weakening human resilience, self-reliance, fortitude, and resolve. It turns human beings into mechanisms, deprives their conduct of meaning, and makes them prey to entrepreneurs of human misery. The authors, one could say, suffer from PNOD—psychiatric nosology overvaluation disorder—the criteria for which are as follows:

A: The grandiose belief that all human weakness can and should be divided into valid diagnostic categories.

B: At least two of the following: a firm and unshakable belief that all human distress arises from malfunctioning serotonin metabolism; a firm and unshakable belief that functional MRI scans will soon teach humans how to live; a firm and unshakable belief that the seven deadly sins have been scientifically superseded by psychiatric diagnoses.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 PM | Permalink

Health roundup: Vitamins, MS, chicken, frankincense, dogs, and diet cola belly

The biggest health news of the week is the ineffectiveness of multivitamins.  Multivitamin researchers say "case is closed" after studies find no health benefits 

“Enough” with the multivitamins already.  That’s the message from doctors behind three new studies and an editorial that tackled an oft-debated question in medicine: Do daily multivitamins make you healthier?  After reviewing the available evidence and conducting new trials, the authors have come to a conclusion of “no.”

“We believe that the case is closed -- supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful,” concluded the authors of the editorial summarizing the new research papers, published Dec. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine. “These vitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention. Enough is enough.”

“The ‘stop wasting your money’ means that perhaps you're spending money on things that won't protect you long term,” editorial co-author Dr. Edgar Miller, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, told CBS News’ chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. “What will protect you is if you spend the money on fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, low fat dairy, things like that ..exercising would probably be a better use of the money.”

This finding does not speak to the importance of vitamin D in northern countries and the omega3 fatty acids in fish oil and flaxseed.

Vitamin D 'can fight MS' by blocking path of destructive cells to the brain

Vitamin D may be able to combat multiple sclerosis, researchers said yesterday.  They discovered that it can block the migration of destructive cells to the brain, which causes the condition. This could help explain anecdotal reports that the ‘sunshine vitamin’ prevents or eases symptoms.

MS is most commonly found far from the equator, where there is less sunshine to trigger production of vitamin D in the skin.
The disease is caused by the body’s own immune defenses damaging myelin, a fatty insulating sheath that surrounds nerve fibers and is vital to the proper transmission of nerve signals.  Destruction of myelin leads to symptoms ranging from numbness to blurred vision and paralysis.

Researchers simultaneously gave mice the rodent form of MS and a high dose of vitamin D.  They found symptoms of the disease were suppressed.

‘Vitamin D might be working not by altering the function of damaging immune cells but by preventing their journey into the brain,’ said lead scientist Anne Gocke, of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Be careful when you handle raw chicken and always wash your hands, cutting board and knife immediately after.  Consumer Reports finds Report finds 97% of chicken breasts sold at grocery stores across the US are contaminated with 'potentially harmful bacteria'.    Admittedly, it's a fairly small sample.

A recent study conducted by Consumer Reports magazine found that 97 per cent of raw chicken breasts sold at grocery stores nationwide contained potentially harmful bacteria.  - the magazine sampled 316 raw chicken breasts in 26 different states for the article. 
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About half of the raw chicken breasts in a nationwide sampling carried antibiotic-resistant "superbug" bacteria, a U.S. consumer group said on Thursday, calling for stricter limits on use of the medicines on livestock.

Frankincense, the aromatic resin and one of the gifts borne the Wise Men when they visited the baby Jesus, could be used to treat ovarian cancer.

Leicester University researchers found that a chemical in frankincense killed cells from hard-to-treat tumors. Ovarian cancer is symptomless in the earliest stages and usually not diagnosed until it is too late, making it the deadliest gynecological cancer.  Frankincense, the resin of the Boswellia sacra – a small tree found in Oman, Yemen and Somalia – is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and has long been used in folk medicine, along with resin from other types of Boswellia.
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The Leicester University researchers said: ‘Frankincense is taken by many people with no known side-effects.  'This finding has enormous potential to be taken to clinical trial in the future and developed into an additional treatment for ovarian cancer.’

How Dogs Might Protect Kids Against Asthma: Gut Bacteria

Exposing Mice to Dust From Households With Dogs Allowed Outside Changed Mouse Gut Microbes, Study Finds.

No evidence antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps actually prevent spread of germs… and they could even damage health, watchdog finds

The Food and Drug Administration said today there is no evidence that antibacterial chemicals used in liquid soaps and washes help prevent the spread of germs, and there is some evidence they may pose health risks.  The agency said it is revisiting the safety of chemicals like triclosan in light of recent studies suggesting they can interfere with hormone levels and spur the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.

The government's preliminary ruling lends new credence to longstanding warnings from researchers who say the chemicals are, at best, ineffective and at worst, a threat to public health.  Under its proposed rule released Monday, the agency will require manufacturers to prove that their antibacterial soaps and body washes are safe and more effective than plain soap and water.

Diet cola belly.  Why diet cola could be making you FATTER and WRINKLIER: Low-calorie drink could be to blame for spare tyre and withered skin

Some health experts now believe the chemicals in the drink could actually be causing your body to lay down fat deposits around your middle - dubbed 'diet cola belly' … And that's not all: some experts also believe diet cola’s mix of carbonated water, colorings and sweeteners such as aspartame and acesulfame K could also speed up the aging process, and have disastrous health consequences.
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The fructose, artificial sweeteners, and sugar alcohols (another type of low-calorie sweetener) present in diet colas can all interfere with natural gut bacteria, according to Amanda Payne of Switzerland’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health which published a paper in the journal Obesity Reviews.

This messes up your metabolism and disrupts the body’s way of signaling to you that you’re full and satisfied.   As a consequence, the body pumps out insulin, the hormone that controls sugar levels and fat storage, so that you lay down what Toribio-Mateas calls 'diet cola belly in the form of more fat around the midriff' - just where you wanted to shed fat.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:25 PM | Permalink

Dementia rates down; the protein NAD could slow down aging process

As More People Live Longer Why Are Rates of Dementia Falling? Theodore Dalrymple

The New England Journal of Medicine: “in 1993, 12.2% of surveyed adults 70 years of age or older [in America] had cognitive impairment, as compared with 8.7% in 2002.”

One of our present concerns in the western world is the rapid aging of the population. Never have so many people lived to so ripe an old age, and this at a time when the birth rate is falling. Who is going to support the doddering old fools who will soon be more numerous than the energetic and productive young?

A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine points out that something unexpected has happened to confound the gloomy prognostications of epidemiologists and demographers. As the percentage of people surviving into old age increases, so the proportion of them who suffer from dementia decreases. People are not only living longer, but living better. This is a phenomenon that has happened across the western world.
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The explanation favored by the authors is first that the general level of education of the population has increased and second that the prevalence of risk factors for the development of small blood vessel disease, which causes dementia, has declined. Old people have healthier lifestyles and do more exercise than they used to. The decline in smoking (oddly enough once thought to be protective against dementia, but now thought to promote it) may have had a marked effect.

The authors do not tell us why or how education should be a protective effect against dementia. Are neurons like muscles that atrophy if not used? Surveys have repeatedly shown that the educated are less susceptible to dementia than the uneducated, though we must always remember that statistical association is not causation.

However, pessimists need not despair, as there are grounds for thinking that improvement may not last. The authors warn that the huge increase in obesity and type II diabetes may reverse the trend. The fatties of today will be the dements of tomorrow, or at least of the day after tomorrow.

Found: The secret of looking up to 40 years younger is chemical that rewinds the effects of old age and can make you look 20 again

Experts believe they may be able to turn back the clock as much as 40 years after identifying a natural compound proven to rewind the effects of old age in mice.  A protein found in all living cells called NAD could be the key to slowing down the aging process or reversing it altogether.

Tests on two-year-old mice who had been given the NAD-producing compound for just one week had body tissue which resembled that of a six-month old. Professor David Sinclair, an expert in genetics at Harvard Medical School said: 'In human years, this would be like a 60-year-old converting to a 20-year-old in these specific areas.'

The compound works by restoring communication between energy cells within the body which have broken down as we get older.

Prof Sinclair added: 'The aging process we discovered is like a married couple - when they are young, they communicate well, but over time, living in close quarters for many years, communication breaks down. 'And just like with a couple, restoring communication solved the problem.

'There’s clearly much more work to be done here, but if these results stand, then many aspects of aging may be reversible if caught early.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:05 PM | Permalink

Giving it all away

Hats off to the Canadian man who won $40m on lottery… and who will give it all away to charity in memory of his wife he lost to cancer

When Tom Crist's mobile rang on his way to play golf in May, the last thing he was expecting was a call to say he'd just won $40million (£24.5m) on the lottery.

Not knowing what to do with the money, Crist kept the win a secret even from his own four children, hung up the phone, and finished his round.  But yesterday 64-year-old went public, saying that he will donate every single cent to cancer charities after his wife Jan died from the disease in February last year, aged just 57.

Speaking to CBC News, the former company CEO said: 'I’ve been fortunate enough, through my career, 44 years with a company.  'I did very well for myself. I’ve done enough that I can look after myself, for my kids, so they can get looked after into the future. I don’t really need that money.'

He added that his wife would be ecstatic to know he was donating the win, and says he will start with the Tom Baker centre who helped treat Jan during her illness.

The family, who are backing Crist's plan, will then set up a trust fund which will parcel out the rest of the money to various cancer causes over the years.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:32 AM | Permalink

Kitchen skills

 Kitchen Skills Chopping-Onions

Everyone can benefit from Lifehacker's The Essential Kitchen Skills No One Taught (but Everyone Should Know)

How to Peel Peaches, Nectarines, or Tomatoes
How to Properly Dispose of Frying or Cooking Oil
How to Properly Clean (and Care for) a Garbage Disposal
How to Clean Your Washer, Dryer, and Dishwasher
How to Break a Chicken or Turkey Down into Parts
How to Properly Clean Your Knives
How to Care for a Cutting Board
When to Use Salted or Unsalted Butter
How to Store and Rescue Hardened Brown Sugar
How to Frost a Cake

and more.  Among them:  How to cut onions without crying and The right way to sauce pasta

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

December 19, 2013

Why people wait 5 years for a dinner at this restaurant

Meet The Restaurant With The Five-Year Waiting List 

It's not Spago, nor Per Se. It isn't located on Rodeo Drive or in Columbus Circle. The restaurant with the longest waiting list, five-years to be precise, is a small, nondescript, 12-table basement located in Earlton, N.Y., named simply enough Damon Baehrel after its owner and chef.  Its guests come from 48 countries and include such celebrities as Jerry Seinfeld, Martha Stewart and Barack Obama himself.  However what makes Baehrel's restaurant the most exclusive restaurant in the world is not the decor, nor the patrons, some who fly overnight from Manhattan to pay $255 for dinner (before wine and tip), nor the hype (although all the advertising is through word-of-mouth), but the food, which is all cultivated, grown, prepared, cooked and served from and on the property, and where Baehrel is literally the only employee. "I’m the chef, the waiter, the grower, the forager, the gardener, the cheesemaker, the cured-meat maker, and, as I will explain, everything comes from this 12-acre property."
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He has no staff, unless you count his wife and a tech-savvy friend, who help him manage the reservation e-mail address posted on his website. He spends no money on marketing and doesn’t have a business manager cultivating endorsement deals.  There have been no profiles of him in major food magazines nor write-ups of his restaurant in any newspapers.  In spite of this, or possibly because of it, the wait time just keeps getting longer.
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This hyperlocal, hyperunderground strategy is paying off. Baehrel won’t provide exact numbers but says he serves a few thousand guests each year and generates annual revenue of at least $750,000.  By contrast, a successful restaurant in Manhattan’s crowded West Village might break the $1 million mark, though the business model is much different. Baehrel’s expenses are less predictable each season; they can include one-off big-ticket items such as a $5,000 trailer or a $10,000 hauling cart.  But with no payroll or mortgage, and no food vendors except for his wine, seafood, and meat, which is from a local farm stand, he can stay both small and successful. “The biggest risk,” he says, “is that it’s just me there.”
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Perhaps that’s why the mainstream food world has finally started to take notice. Earlier this year, Damon Baehrel earned one of the country’s highest Zagat ratings: 29 for food and 28 for service, out of a possible 30. Baehrel also won his first James Beard nomination, as best chef in the Northeast in 2013. As it stands, the wait list for dinner stretches well into the back half of this decade. As the once-secret restaurant becomes less so, a new puzzle emerges: How does one score a table before Baehrel retires?
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Baehrel's example shows that one can lead a self-contained life of near gastronomical perfection with zero needs for 99 cent meals, and merely a few acres in which to grow and raise one's food. All it takes, of course, is a lot of work...
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:17 AM | Permalink

December 18, 2013

More Obamacare surprises and what polls show about Americans' trust in government

ObamaCare May Devastate the Real Estate and Travel Industries

Americans are among the most mobile people on earth, but ObamaCare may soon start freezing them in place. Millions are losing their health insurance policies and being forced onto the ObamaCare exchanges, where most plans only provide local medical coverage. As Americans realize they must pay for all non-emergency medical care when they leave their home county, their decisions may have a profound impact on the real-estate market, particularly the second home sector, and on the travel business.

Obamacare Escapes the Chains of Law writes Mickey Kaus

You Want to Sell Obamacare You’ve Got to Take Care of Obama: Megan McArdle notes that Obama’s HHS has “reached the limits of its November strategy of using last-minute rule-making to implement on-the-fly changes to the law.” No more rules! Now insurance companies are being “encouraged” and “strongly encouraged” to extend deadlines, accept late payments, pay for some out-of-network doctors and out of plan prescriptions. Many of these things violate the formal terms of the deal the government had made with insurers and will cost the latter money. “They’re asking insurers to pay for the mistakes” the administration made in the launch of the program, complains Avik Roy. The key word is “asking.” But, as Roy notes, there’s a club HHS is holding behind its back–the threat that if insurers don’t play along HHS will be “considering” that factor in the “renewal process.”

It would be hard to frame this policymaking process as a rule. How about: “Insurance companies will have access to Obamacare’s exchanges if they’ve sacrificed a reasonable portion of their expected profits to cover for our screw-ups, as determined by us, and haven’t said anything too nasty about us in the press.”

HHS has pretty clearly escaped the rule of law and entered a world of corporatist haggling, where political leaders and a few big industry types sit around the table and work everything out.

No wonder Seventy-two percent of Americans say big government is a greater threat to the U.S. in the future than is big business or big labor, a record high in Gallup's  nearly 50-year history of this question.

64% of Americans think we're on the wrong track

A Pew study finds that just 19% trust the government to do what's right most of the time

Here's another interesting Gallup poll on Party Differences in Honesty and Ethics Ratings of Professions.  Lowest rated are lobbyists, then Members of Congress..  Ad men, car salesmen, lawyers, newspaper and TV reporters are only slightly higher.    Top rated are nurses followed by pharmacists, doctors and military officers.

Finally, from Zerohedge,  83 Numbers from 2013 that are almost too crazy to believe

#1 Right now an all-time record 102 million working age Americans do not have a job.  That number has risen by about 27 million since the year 2000.

#23  According to Consumer Reports, the number of children in the United States taking antipsychotic drugs has nearly tripled over the past 15 years.

#32 In November 2000, 64.3 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  When Barack Obama first entered the White House, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job.  Today, only 58.6 percent of all working age Americans have a job.

#56 Wal-Mart recently opened up two new stores in Washington D.C., and more than 23,000 people applied for just 600 positions.  That means that only about 2.6 percent of the applicants were ultimately hired.  In comparison, Harvard offers admission to 6.1 percent of their applicants.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:02 PM | Permalink

Life lessons you learn in your twenties

27 Shocking And Unexpected Facts You Learn In Your Twenties
Spoiler alert for life: You were wrong about literally everything.

4. There is nothing in the world more annoying than teenagers, and you’re deeply apologetic for everything you did during the last decade of your life.

8. If you don’t do your dishes, they stay dirty. If you don’t do your laundry, you have no underwear.
It is shameful that this took over two decades to learn.

17. At some point you have to begrudgingly admit that keeping track of your finances is probably a good idea.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:23 PM | Permalink

A Peacock in Full Flight

 Peacock Full Flight

We never imagined that it could be so magnificent - like a phoenix in a fairy tale!

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:21 PM | Permalink

IBM's predicts the future five years from now

IBM reveals its five predictions for our world in 2018

The classroom will learn you - smarter classrooms will use cloud data to learn about students and identify learning disorders immediately.

Buying local will beat online -  shops will combine the convenience of online shopping in physical stores and same-day delivery will improve.

Doctors will routinely use your DNA to keep you well -  By using advancements in DNA research, doctors will be able to uniquely identify how a certain cancer or disease will affect a person. Treatments and medications will become more tailored and waiting times will drop.

A digital guardian will protect you online - Passwords will be replaced by devices that learn who a person is, how they behave and what sites they use. They will grant access automatically to that person, but also be able to identify unusual or suspicious activity automatically.

The city will help you live in it - Governments will be able to use data about its residents movements, needs and more to improve cities and towns, including schools and transport routes.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:15 PM | Permalink

Miscellany of links on surprising studies of older people

OMG: Adults Far More Likely Than Teens To Use Phones, Text While Driving

The report, done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, reveals that adult drivers (25-59) are by far the likeliest age group to admit to using their phone while driving…..Adults 60 and older were the least likely to report using their cell phones while driving.

Surprising study: Older adults less fatigued than younger generations

According to research from the London School of Economics, older adults are actually less tired than their younger counterparts.  The data, which came from the 2010 American Time Use Survey of 13,000 adults, shows that fatigue actually appears to decrease with age. People over the age of 65 reported being almost one full point on the 0-6 scale (with 6 being “very tired”) less tired than people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Pew Study Living to 120 and Beyond: Americans’ Views on Aging, Medical Advances and Radical Life Extension

Asked whether they, personally, would choose to undergo medical treatments to slow the aging process and live to be 120 or more, a majority of U.S. adults (56%) say “no. But roughly two-thirds (68%) think that most other people would. And by similarly large margins, they expect that radically longer life spans would strain the country’s natural resources and be available only to the wealthy.

BBC  How certain 'Memories' pass between generations

Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations. A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their "grandchildren". Experts said the results were important for phobia and anxiety research.

The animals were trained to fear a smell similar to cherry blossom. The team at the Emory University School of Medicine, in the US, then looked at what was happening inside the sperm. They showed a section of DNA responsible for sensitivity to the cherry blossom scent was made more active in the mice's sperm.

Both the mice's offspring, and their offspring, were "extremely sensitive" to cherry blossom and would avoid the scent, despite never having experienced it in their lives. Changes in brain structure were also found.

"The experiences of a parent, even before conceiving, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations," the report concluded.


Kottke, The Invention of Old People

Old people, like those who live to be older than 30, didn't exist in great numbers until about 30,000 years ago. Why is that? Anthropologist Rachel Caspari speculates that around that time, enough people were living long enough to function as a shared cultural hard drive for humans, a living memory bank for skills, histories, family trees, etc. that helped human groups survive longer.
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Old people are repositories of information, Caspari says. They know about the natural world, how to handle rare disasters, how to perform complicated skills, who is related to whom, where the food and caves and enemies are. They maintain and build intricate social networks. A lot of skills that allowed humans to take over the world take a lot of time and training to master, and they wouldn't have been perfected or passed along without old people. "They can be great teachers," Caspari says, "and they allow for more complex societies." Old people made humans human.

What's so special about age 30? That's when you're old enough to be a grandparent. Studies of modern hunter-gatherers and historical records suggest that when older people help take care of their grandchildren, the grandchildren are more likely to survive.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:18 AM | Permalink

Hodgepodge of links on finances and the economy

Millennials today are financially worse off than their parents were at the same age

 Chart Age Group Networth

Simon Black on Zerohedge

According to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, just 33% of Americans think their children will have a better life than they did. On the other hand, 62% believe their children will be worse off.

They’re likely to be right.  The typical American family has seen its real income (adjusted for inflation) fall for 5 consecutive years now, and it earns less in real terms that it did in 1989.

According to the Census Bureau, median household income fell in 2012, and it languishes 8.3% below the pre-crisis peak in 2007.
The Brookings Institution, meanwhile, calculates that real incomes for working-age men in the US have fallen by 19 per cent since 1970.

80 is the new 60 when it comes to retirement

Running out of money in retirement is scaring the hell out of record numbers of older workers, forcing them to stay in the workforce.
Now 80 is the new 60 when it comes to retirement. Many older workers who finally clock out have sharply underestimated their financial needs in retirement, raising the specter of personal financial disaster.

Nearly half of older workers are on the job longer than they had planned to be — on average, by three more years than they estimated at age 40, according to a recent survey of Americans 50 and over by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Handsome Is as Handsome Gives writes Arthur Brooks in the Wall Street Journal

Donors to charity aren't merely generous souls. They're happier, healthier and better looking too

Camden, New Jersey: One Of Hundreds Of U.S. Cities That Are Turning Into Rotting, Decaying Hellholes

All over America, formerly prosperous communities are being transformed into crime-infested wastelands of poverty and despair.  …… Jobs and businesses are leaving our cities at a staggering rate, and what is being left behind is poverty, crime and extreme desperation. 

In Camden

-"In September, its last supermarket closed, and the city has been declared a "food desert" by the USDA. The place is literally dying, its population having plummeted from above 120,000 in the Fifties to less than 80,000 today."

-"Their home is a city with thousands of abandoned houses but no money to demolish them, leaving whole blocks full of Ninth Ward-style wreckage to gather waste and rats."

-"With legal business mostly gone, illegal business took hold. Those hundreds of industries have been replaced by about 175 open-air drug markets, through which some quarter of a billion dollars in dope moves every year."

-"On January 18th, 2011, the city laid off 168 of its 368 police officers, kicking off a dramatic, years-long, cops-versus-locals, house-to-house battle over a few square miles of North American territory that should have been national news, but has not been, likely because it took place in an isolated black and Hispanic ghost town."

-"After the 2011 layoffs, police went into almost total retreat. Drug dealers cheerfully gave interviews to local reporters while slinging in broad daylight."

-"The carnage left Camden's crime rate on par with places like Haiti after its 2010 earthquake, and with other infamous Third World hot spots, as police officials later noticed to their dismay when they studied U.N. statistics."

A glimmer of good news. Crime Rate in Camden, NJ Going Down After Unionized Police Force Sacked

The reorganization increased the amount of police on the streets and incorporated cutting edge technology such as ShotSpotter rooftop monitors. The initiative has already gotten results, according to city leaders.

Over the summer months this year, the murder rate fell by 22 percent and crime overall was down 15 percent, according to data provided by Camden County officials.

The Census Bureau calculates that there are 46.5 million people living in poverty in the United States, or 15% of the population

"Experts" in the Federal government assure us the unemployment rate is 7%. But if we include the 91.5 million people of working age who could be working (and would be working in a work-fare economy), then the real unemployment rate is double the official rate: 14% or even higher.
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We want to believe the fake unemployment rate of 7% rather than the real rate of 14+% because the officially sanctioned forgery feeds our belief that our bloated, corrupt Empire of Debt is sustainable, fair and working well. To accept that we've been bamboozled, ripped off, taken advantage of and ultimately cheated out of an authentic economy and life by swindlers is too painful.


What If There's A Recession In 2014?  Gonzalo Lira speculates.

If policymakers were gunfighters, they’d be out of bullets: They have run out of effective policy tools to improve the economy.
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Before facing up to a possible 2014 recession, let’s ask ourselves: What happened during the last recession?…To stave off what looked like financial and economic Armageddon, the Treasury Department first under Henry Paulson and then under Timothy Geithner, and the Federal Reserve under Ben Bernanke, basically threw money into the economy…..   

Rather than take the hit, work out the bad loans, and organically regrow the economy, the Treasury and Fed measures were essentially morphine—or heroin—to dull the pain of the Global Financial Crisis: They made us feel great, but the disease is still there…. Overindebtedness. Bad debts piled on top of bad debts……
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So to weather it, you’d have to know what’s going to happen. A basic outline is pretty clear:

Stocks will take the brunt of the beating,…Bonds won’t do so well either, at least not corporate issuance…Real estate? Forget it—….The only store of value will be commodities. Not just precious metals, but all commodities: Industrials, agros, and fossil fuels…..If there is such a rotation from equities and bonds into commodities, then the prices of food and transportation will rise—precipitously.

Thus we will have inflation, possibly severe inflation. But the Fed will be loathe to rein in inflation via interest rate hikes….The Fed cannot conceive of any way in which to help the economy that does not involve keeping interest rates low.

In other words, the government will not be able to save the economy…The Federal government and the Federal Reserve are out of bullets.
Which means we are on our own come a recession. And we’ll be paying not only for the recession of 2014, but also for the recession of 2007-09, which was deferred, but not worked out.

Here are some of America’s most famous brands currently held in foreign hands:

Budweiser, now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V., which is based in Leuven, Belgium
Alka-Seltzer, now owned by German company Bayer Schering Pharma AG
Ben & Jerrys, now owned by British-Dutch Unilever
AMC theaters, now owned by the Chinese
7-Eleven, now owned by the Japanese company, Seven & I Holdings
Woman’s Day Magazine, now owned by the French company,  Hachette Filipacchi Médias, S.A
Purina, now owned by the Swiss company, Nestle
Gerber, now owned by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis
Firestone, now owned by the Japanese Bridgestone Corporation
Citgo, now owned by the government of Venezuela
French’s Mustard, now owned by Reckitt Benckiser, a British conglomerate
Frigidaire, now owned by Sweden’s AB Electrolux
The Plaza Hotel in New York City, now owned by Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva’s El-Ad Group
Trader Joes, now owned by German billionaires Karl and Theo Albrecht
Dial soap, now owned by Henkel KGaA, based in Dusseldorf, Germany
Sunglass Hut, now owned by Italian eyewear seller Luxottica Group
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 AM | Permalink

December 17, 2013

Facebook, Google and Privacy

Gizmondo offers advice on How to Erase Yourself from the Internet, especially from the four largest social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn

Facebook's rule change may help pedophiles to target 13-year-olds

Until now 13 to 17-year olds barred from making posts visible to all users. But Facebook removed that protection and images can be shared publicly.  Move condemned as a 'disaster' by campaigners.

Study: Facebook Use Predicts Decline In Happiness

A new study shows that Facebook may help people feel connected, but it doesn’t make them any happier.  In fact, according to the research, which was conducted by the University of Michigan, Facebook use actually predicts a decline in a person’s well-being.

Facebook users are committing 'virtual identity suicide' in droves and quitting the site over privacy and addiction fears

Report suggests Facebook recently lost active users in the U.S and UK.  The majority of people quitting the site blamed concerns over privacy.    Other reasons included fear of addiction, and shallow conversations

Facebook tracks everything you type even if you DON'T post the update or comment

A Facebook data scientist studied the HTML code of 3.7 million profiles to discover 71% of users regularly type comments and statuses before deciding not to post them. The study, also found men are more likely to abandon a post on the social network site, than women.

From Neatorama  Facebook Security Simulator

Most epic read of our time?  Google's terms and conditions, say scientists

Google's latest terms and conditions are more difficult to understand than Anglo-Saxon saga Beowulf, say researchers

Google will soon put your face, name, and content in its ads

If you always wanted to see your shining face next to Google ads, your wish will soon be granted. Today Google announced plans to roll out “shared endorsements,” which will augment its own advertisements with information from users who rated, reviewed, or gave a +1 to the service or location in question.

The move echoes Facebook’s “sponsored stories,” where the social network started turning users’ likes or check-ins into ads on its site, all without asking permission or even notifying them. A public outcry, class-action lawsuit, $20 million settlement, and limitations on the use of users’ content followed.

Google revealed its shared endorsements scheme in a change to its terms of service. The updates state that going forward, friends, family, “and others” may see a user’s Google profile name, photo, and any endorsement they’ve created for a company alongside ads for that company.
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Users are opted in to Google's new scheme by default. In the past, Google gave itself permission to use users’ +1s alongside advertisements unless the user specifically opted out. The new “shared endorsements” are an extension of that setting, wherein Google gives itself permission to take even more of a user’s content and place it alongside ads.
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To opt out of being a shared endorsement, Google users must go to the “shared endorsement” settings page, which is currently not linked anywhere from either their Google+ account or privacy settings (the ads have yet to go into effect, so Google may be waiting to integrate the page until the feature is live). At the bottom of the page is a checkbox next to the phrase “Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads.”

MIT Technology Review  The Real Privacy Problem

As Web companies and government agencies analyze ever more information about our lives, it’s tempting to respond by passing new privacy laws or creating mechanisms that pay us for our data. Instead, we need a civic solution, because democracy is at risk.

Too much information

Our instincts for privacy evolved in tribal societies where walls didn't exist. No wonder we are hopeless oversharersm‘.  Thinking about online privacy doesn’t come naturally to us,’ Loewenstein told me when I spoke to him on the phone. ‘Nothing in our evolution or culture has equipped us to deal with it.’

When a boy hit puberty, he disappeared into the jungle, returning a man. In today's digital culture this is precisely the stage at which we make our lives most exposed to the public gaze
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The need for privacy remains, but the means to meet it — our privacy instincts — are no longer fit for purpose.
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Over time, we will probably get smarter about online sharing. But right now, we’re pretty stupid about it. Perhaps this is because, at some primal level, we don’t really believe in the internet. Humans evolved their instinct for privacy in a world where words and acts disappeared the moment they were spoken or made. Our brains are barely getting used to the idea that our thoughts or actions can be written down or photographed, let alone take on a free-floating, indestructible life of their own. Until we catch up, we’ll continue to overshare.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:50 PM | Permalink

Americans are losing trust in each other as we hunker down in more diverse communities

Two-thirds of Americans no longer trust each other says poll conducted last month

We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy - trust in the other fellow - has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question. Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say 'you can't be too careful' in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.
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Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.

What's known as 'social trust' brings good things. A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.

Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher.  'It's like the rules of the game,' Clark said. 'When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil.'
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In fact, some studies suggest it's too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person's lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

People do get a little more trusting as they age. But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than those who came before them.
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How can you make sense of  Americans' loss of trust ?

The best-known analysis comes from 'Bowling Alone' author Robert Putnam's nearly two decades of studying the United States' declining 'social capital,' including trust.

Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the 'long civic generation' that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality.
Trust has declined as the gap between the nation's rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They've lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

After 30,000 detailed interviews, the guru of social capital, Harvard Professor Robert Putnam found The downside of diversity 

Higher diversity meant lower social capital. In his findings, Putnam writes that those in more diverse communities tend to "distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television."

"People living in ethnically diverse settings appear to 'hunker down' -- that is, to pull in like a turtle," Putnam writes.
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In more diverse communities, he says, there were neither great bonds formed across group lines nor heightened ethnic tensions, but a general civic malaise. And in perhaps the most surprising result of all, levels of trust were not only lower between groups in more diverse settings, but even among members of the same group.

"Diversity, at least in the short run," he writes, "seems to bring out the turtle in all of us."
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"The extent of the effect is shocking," says Scott Page, a University of Michigan political scientist.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 PM | Permalink

If what you know about CPR is from TV shows, you're wrong

The number of lives saved by CPR isn't as many as TV shows would have you believe.

 Cpr Chicagohope Tv

Un-extraordinary measures: Stats show CPR often falls flat

In his 20 years of practicing emergency medicine, Dr. David Newman says, he remembers every patient who has walked out of his hospital alive after receiving CPR.

It's not because Newman has an extraordinary memory or because reviving a patient whose heart has stopped sticks in his mind more than other types of trauma. It's because the number of individuals who survive CPR is so small.

In fact, out of the hundreds of CPR patients who have come to the New York hospitals where he has worked, Newman recalls no more than one individual a year making a full recovery.
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Exact survival rates are difficult to come by, as studies generally look at specific populations. A 2012 study showed that only about 2% of adults who collapse on the street and receive CPR recover fully. Another from 2009 (PDF) showed that anywhere from 4% to 16% of patients who received bystander CPR were eventually discharged from the hospital. About 18% of seniors who receive CPR at the hospital survive to be discharged, according to a third study (PDF).

So when did the misconception about the effectiveness of CPR begin? Some researchers argue that television created the myth. Between 1994 and 1995, researchers from Duke University watched 97 episodes of "ER," "Chicago Hope" and "Rescue 911," taking note of when CPR was administered during each show.  In these dramas, 75% of patients survived immediate cardiac arrest, and two-thirds were discharged from the hospital with full brain function, a stark contrast to the much smaller percentage found by medical studies.
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Newman says the few who do survive after CPR are what physicians describe as the "healthy dead": i.e. "a boy who drowned moments before," "a man who collapses while running a marathon" or someone experiencing a mild heart attack.

More common are the "unhealthy dead": those with terminal illnesses, the chronically ill and patients who do not receive CPR within five to 10 minutes of cardiac arrest.

"In these cases, (CPR) is unnecessarily burdensome, invasive and arguably cruel, with little to no chance of benefit," Newman said. Many survivors suffer abdominal distention or broken rib cages; some have severe brain damage from being without oxygen for so long.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:53 PM | Permalink

Cutting the pensions of disabled military veterans, leaving pensions of federal civilian workers intact

In what world is this just and fair?

Disabled military veterans not exempt from pension cuts in budget deal

The Free Beacon previously reported that military retirees under the age of 62 would receive 1 percentage point less in their annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in the plan crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D., Wash.).

The section of the U.S. code that has been altered also applies to disabled service members, many of whom have been wounded in combat…

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, called the change “unthinkable.”…I was deeply troubled when my staff and I discovered that even individuals who have been wounded and suffered a service-related disability could see their pensions reduced under this plan.”

Only the military is affected.  There are no such cuts for federal civilian workers.

Can the money be found elsewhere?  Of course.  And easily, by requiring illegal immigrants who file and claim the child tax credit submit a  social security number.

The ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee has put forward a budget amendment to avert proposed cuts to veterans’ benefits by closing a loophole that allows illegal immigrants to collect child tax credits.

Even though federal law bars illegal immigrants from collecting tax benefits like the earned income tax credit, the current child tax credit provision does not require a tax return to include a Social Security number, which means it’s possible for illegals to claim and get the benefits.
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The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration noted in a 2011 report that millions of people without valid Social Security numbers received $4.2 billion in the additional child tax credit in 2010 – up from $924 million in 2005.

Senate GOP fails in final bid to restore military pension cuts to budget bill

Here's an example of what Sessions wanted to eliminate.  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.

Perhaps the most remarkable act of the IRS was this: It assigned 6,411 ITINs to unauthorized aliens presumably using a single address in Morganton, North Carolina….According to the 2010 Census, there were only 16,681 people in Morganton. So, for the IRS to have been correct in issuing 6,411 ITINS to unauthorized aliens at a single address Morganton it would have meant that 38 percent of the town’s total population were unauthorized alien workers using a single address

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:54 PM | Permalink

"The secret to happiness through work is earned success"

Arthur Brooks in the New York Times on A Formula for Happiness

After 40 years of research, they attribute happiness to three major sources: genes, events and values. Armed with this knowledge and a few simple rules, we can improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We can even construct a system that fulfills our founders’ promises and empowers all Americans to pursue happiness.
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If about half of our happiness is hard-wired in our genes, what about the other half?….studies suggest that isolated events do control a big fraction of our happiness — up to 40 percent at any given time.  But while one-off events do govern a fair amount of our happiness, each event’s impact proves remarkably short-lived.
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That leaves just about 12 percent. That might not sound like much, but the good news is that we can bring that 12 percent under our control. It turns out that choosing to pursue four basic values of faith, family, community and work is the surest path to happiness
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I learned that rewarding work is unbelievably important, and this is emphatically not about money. …

Work can bring happiness by marrying our passions to our skills, empowering us to create value in our lives and in the lives of others. Franklin D. Roosevelt had it right: “Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.”

In other words, the secret to happiness through work is earned success.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

Tips to make life easier

The Easiest Way to Thread a Needle. You'll never do it the old way again.

Aspirin is the best remedy for a sore throat, scientists say  Tablets dissolved and gargled reduce sore throat pain.

To remember more, pay attention to what you're experiencing and don't take so many pictures

The data showed that participants were less accurate in recognizing the objects they had photographed compared to those they had only observed. Furthermore, they weren't able to answer as many questions about the objects' visual details for those objects they had photographed.  Henkel calls this the "photo-taking impairment effect":

"When people rely on technology to remember for them — counting on the camera to record the event and thus not needing to attend to it fully themselves — it can have a negative impact on how well they remember their experiences," she explains.

Culled from various posts on Best of stories

 Frozen Sponge

Prevent-Pizza-Toppings-From-Shifting-While-Driving-Life-Hack

Use-Paper-Clips-To-Find-The-End-Of-A-Tape-Roll

Life-Hacks-How-To-Make-Your-Life-Easier-7

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 AM | Permalink

It's a Man's World

With more sense in her little finger than a flock of feminists, Paglia writes It’s a Man’s World, And It Always Will Be

A peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second- and third-wave feminism. Men’s faults, failings and foibles have been seized on and magnified into gruesome bills of indictment. Ideologue professors at our leading universities indoctrinate impressionable undergraduates with carelessly fact-free theories alleging that gender is an arbitrary, oppressive fiction with no basis in biology.

Is it any wonder that so many high-achieving young women, despite all the happy talk about their academic success, find themselves in the early stages of their careers in chronic uncertainty or anxiety about their prospects for an emotionally fulfilled private life? When an educated culture routinely denigrates masculinity and manhood, then women will be perpetually stuck with boys, who have no incentive to mature or to honor their commitments. And without strong men as models to either embrace or (for dissident lesbians) to resist, women will never attain a centered and profound sense of themselves as women.
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It was always the proper mission of feminism to attack and reconstruct the ossified social practices that had led to wide-ranging discrimination against women. But surely it was and is possible for a progressive reform movement to achieve that without stereotyping, belittling or demonizing men. History must be seen clearly and fairly: obstructive traditions arose not from men’s hatred or enslavement of women but from the natural division of labor that had developed over thousands of years during the agrarian period and that once immensely benefited and protected women, permitting them to remain at the hearth to care for helpless infants and children. Over the past century, it was labor-saving appliances, invented by men and spread by capitalism, that liberated women from daily drudgery.
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After the next inevitable apocalypse, men will be desperately needed again! Oh, sure, there will be the odd gun-toting Amazonian survivalist gal, who can rustle game out of the bush and feed her flock, but most women and children will be expecting men to scrounge for food and water and to defend the home turf. Indeed, men are absolutely indispensable right now, invisible as it is to most feminists, who seem blind to the infrastructure that makes their own work lives possible. It is overwhelmingly men who do the dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks, tarring roofs, hanging electric wires, excavating natural gas and sewage lines, cutting and clearing trees, and bulldozing the landscape for housing developments. It is men who heft and weld the giant steel beams that frame our office buildings, and it is men who do the hair-raising work of insetting and sealing the finely tempered plate-glass windows of skyscrapers 50 stories tall.

Every day along the Delaware River in Philadelphia, one can watch the passage of vast oil tankers and towering cargo ships arriving from all over the world. These stately colossi are loaded, steered, and off-loaded by men. The modern economy, with its vast production and distribution network, is a male epic, in which women have found a productive role—but women were not its author. Surely, modern women are strong enough now to give credit where credit is due!

From American Digest,  Something wonderful:  Luciano Pavarotti & James Brown - It's a man's world



This is a man's world
But it wouldn't be nothing
Not one little thing
Without a woman or a girl

He's lost in the wilderness
He's lost in bitterness
He's lost
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:02 AM | Permalink

December 16, 2013

"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

An astonishing and a very welcome medical advance.  Congratulations.

Kidney grown from stem cells by Australian scientists
Australian scientists grow world's first kidney from stem cells in a breakthrough that could alleviate the demand for organ transplants

"This is the first time anybody has managed to direct stem cells into the functional units of a kidney," Professor Brandon Wainwright, from the University of Queensland, told The Telegraph.

"It is an amazing process – it is like a Lego building that puts itself together."

The engineered kidney was developed by a team of Australian scientists led by the University of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

Obama people meet the reality of Obamacare

House Report:  Ill-trained Obamacare Navigators Encouraging Fraud, Jeopardizing Private Info

The Obama administration decided that Obamacare Navigators, tasked with helping Americans enroll in a health insurance plan, would not undergo mandatory background checks.
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Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said at a Congressional hearing that it was “possible” for convicted felons to become Navigators.
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The Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), and HHS actually learned that "poorly-trained Navigators gave consumers incorrect information about the health care exchanges, violated HHS rules and procedures, and even encouraged applicants to commit tax fraud in some instances."  Moreover, this was learned from various news reports due to the complete lack of any internal oversight.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tells a national audience, "You are better served by using a navigator".

Paper Fail.  Over 50,000 paper Obamacare applications haven't been touched yet.

As of Monday, consumers have one week — until Dec. 23 — to enroll in a health care plan through the Obamacare exchanges to ensure coverage beginning Jan. 1.

With Affordable Care Act, Canceled Policies for New York Professionals

Many in New York’s professional and cultural elite have long supported President Obama’s health care plan. But now, to their surprise, thousands of writers, opera singers, music teachers, photographers, doctors, lawyers and others are learning that their health insurance plans are being canceled and they may have to pay more to get comparable coverage, if they can find it.
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But under the Affordable Care Act, they will be treated as individuals, responsible for their own insurance policies. For many of them, that is likely to mean they will no longer have access to a wide network of doctors and a range of plans tailored to their needs. And many of them are finding that if they want to keep their premiums from rising, they will have to accept higher deductible and co-pay costs or inferior coverage.

“I couldn’t sleep because of it,” said Barbara Meinwald, a solo practitioner lawyer in Manhattan.
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But while those policies, by and large, had been canceled because they did not meet the law’s requirements for minimum coverage, many of the New York policies being canceled meet and often exceed the standards, brokers say. The rationale for disqualifying those policies, said Larry Levitt, a health policy expert at the Kaiser Family Foundation, was to prevent associations from selling insurance to healthy members who are needed to keep the new health exchanges financially viable.

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It is not lost on many of the professionals that they are exactly the sort of people — liberal, concerned with social justice — who supported the Obama health plan in the first place. Ms. Meinwald, the lawyer, said she was a lifelong Democrat who still supported better health care for all, but had she known what was in store for her, she would have voted for Mitt Romney.

It is an uncomfortable position for many members of the creative classes to be in.

“We are the Obama people,” said Camille Sweeney, a New York writer and member of the Authors Guild. Her insurance is being canceled, and she is dismayed that neither her pediatrician nor her general practitioner appears to be on the exchange plans. What to do has become a hot topic on Facebook and at dinner parties frequented by her fellow writers and artists.

“I’m for it,” she said. “But what is the reality of it?”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:00 PM | Permalink

Boy trouble, male friendship, the daughter theory and Harry Potter vs the Hunger Games

In City Journal, Boy Trouble by Kay Hymowitz

Family breakdown disproportionately harms young males—and they’re falling further behind.

Whatever Happened to Male Friendship?  and a gorgeous ad for Irish whiskey

these four young men represent i a challenge to the common portrayal of male friendship in our popular culture.  It is difficult to find, especially on television, an example of male friendship (outside of the military or law enforcement) that is neither transactional nor idiotic.  For cheap beer, it’s the wingman trope.  In sitcoms, it’s stupid men doing stupid things in stupid attempts at liberation from wives or girlfriends.  Male friendships, we’re taught, are about finding or fleeing women; they are not valuable in themselves.
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The implicit promise that is so appealing is not that this whiskey will bring you a beautiful wife, but that it will bring you worthy friends to see you off on that marital journey.

And most men desire this friendship—this tender, warm, (dare we say it?) loving friendship—but that desire receives no affirmation in our culture. 

The Daughter Theory by Ross Douthat

“Study: Having daughters makes parents more likely to be Republican.”
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Things are more complicated than you thought, liberals! You can love your daughters, want the best for them, and find yourself drawn to … conservative ideas! Especially if you’re highly educated, which is where the effect was strongest!
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But as a father of girls and a parent whose adult social set still overlaps with the unmarried, I do have a sense of where a daughter-inspired conservatism might come from, whatever political form it takes.

It comes from thinking about their future happiness, and about a young man named Nathaniel P.

This character, Nate to his friends, doesn’t technically exist: He’s the protagonist in Adelle Waldman’s recent novel of young-Brooklynite manners, “The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.”

But his type does exist, in multitudinous forms, wherever successful young people congregate, socialize, pair off. He’s not the worst sort of guy by any means — not a toxic bachelor or an obnoxious pick-up artist. He’s well intentioned, sensitive, mildly idealistic. Yet he’s also a source of immense misery — both short-term and potentially lifelong — for the young women in his circle.

“Contrary to what these women seemed to think,” Waldman writes of Nathaniel P.’s flings and semi-steady girlfriends, “he was not indifferent to their unhappiness. And yet he seemed, in spite of himself, to provoke it.”

He provokes it by taking advantage of a social landscape in which sex has been decoupled from marriage but biology hasn’t been abolished, which means women still operate on a shorter time horizon for crucial life choices — marriage, kids — than do men. In this landscape, what Nate wants — sex, and the validation that comes with being wanted — he reliably gets. But what his lovers want, increasingly, as their cohort grows older — a more permanent commitment — he can afford to persistently withhold, feeling guilty but not that guilty about doing so.

“Remember Who the Real Enemy Is” by Peter Blair

There’s a popular feeling in the air that America has become decadent. Contrasting Harry Potter to the Hunger Games shows what a difference a decade can make.
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The moral universe of Harry Potter might best be summed up by a quote from the movie version of JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit. In that movie, one of the characters say that some believe “it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness, and love.”
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The political system is broken in Harry Potter, and only by working as renegades outside it can our heroes ultimately save it. But revolution or rebellion is never seriously considered; the state isn’t the enemy to be fought as much as it is an impediment to achieving righteous goals.
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With the Hunger Games, we’re in a much darker and more complicated universe. Harry Potter features scenes of torture and death, but in the Hunger Games the violence has systematic, state backing from beginning to end. The state isn’t just hidebound and inefficient; rather, it’s the very actor that sets up and sustains structures of violence (the eponymous “hunger games,” deadly contests in which children are forced to fight to the death in order to remind defeated rebels of the government’s power).
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In the larger context of the series, the real enemy isn’t just one particular tyrant, but political authority in general.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:57 PM | Permalink

On being a saint

Kathryn J. Lopez interviews Emily Stimpson about her wonderful book, These Beautiful Bones: An Everyday Theology of the Body,

Q. How can we all possibly be called to be saints?

Stimpson.  I ask God the same thing every day. Sometimes it seems like if he wanted me to be a saint, he should have given me some better raw material to work with. But the call remains. Understanding how that’s possible becomes easier if you spend time with the saints. The more you read their actual words or the stories of their lives, the more you stop thinking of saints as consumptive 14-year-old virgins and start seeing them as real men and women—men and women who sinned and struggled their way to perfect love of God in their own wild, singular, and often downright quirky way. Besides, all it means to be a saint is to be the person God made you to be. It means to be you, uniquely and perfectly you, free from all the fears and sins and lies that keep you from being the person you’re supposed to be and from loving God as he made you to love him. Becoming that person isn’t easy. But it is simple.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:49 PM | Permalink

Globe Cooling Not Warming

Five years ago  Al Gore predicted the North Polar Ice Cap would be completely ice free in five years. Gore made the prediction to a German audience in 2008. He told them that “the entire North ‘polarized’ cap will disappear in 5 years.” 

He wasn't the only one.  The BBC reported in 2007 that global warming would leave Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013

The North Polar ice cap has grown by 29% this year.  533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year.

Over 2000 cold and snow records set in the USA this past week.

Cairo sees its first snowfall in 112 years.  Historic snowstorm in Jerusalem with over 15 inches of snowfall

Fire And Ice — Volcanoes, Not CO2, Melt West Antarctic

Researchers have discovered a chain of smoldering active volcanoes under the West Antarctic ice sheet — which happens to be the ice sheet that climate hysterics say is proof of man-caused global warming.
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If West Antarctic ice melt were caused by man-induced climate change, why is the rest of the continent gaining ice? In fact, while the alarmists obsess about ice sheets breaking off, Antarctic sea ice has grown to a record-large extent for a second straight year.

In 2013, the ice extent reached 19.51 million square kilometers, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center website. That number topped the record-high level set in 2012 of 19.48 million square kilometers.

Massive corruption by 'greens' in the U.K.The fatcat ecocrats exposed: Web of 'green' politicians, tycoons and power brokers who help each other benefit from billions raised on your bills

Four of nine-person Climate Change Committee, official watchdog that dictates green energy policy, are, or were until recently, being paid by firms that benefit from committee decisions.

Other industries would stand accused of damning conflicts of interest but when it comes to global warming, anything goes…

The Mail on Sunday today reveals the extraordinary web of political and financial interests creating dozens of eco-millionaires from green levies on household energy bills. A three-month investigation shows that some of the most outspoken campaigners who demand that consumers pay the colossal price of shifting to renewable energy are also getting rich from their efforts.

Prime Minister David Cameron, 'We've got to get rid of all this green crap'.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:40 PM | Permalink

December 14, 2013

"Faith is the great life-giving force, and the loss of faith is death-dealing"

David Warren writes about demography and faith and the Blessed Virgin Mary in  Cherchez la femme

….the extraordinary role of faith itself in the sequences of history . Faith is the great life-giving force, and the loss of faith is death-dealing. By this we do not mean only Christian faith, for the same principle applies in all cultures, and has applied since time out of mind.

The classical example is “the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.” As the pagan Romans lost faith in their own civilization, they stopped having babies. They rehearsed almost all the features of our modern West in their own later decadence: the sophisticated rejection of religious observances; the confident smugness of the half-educated; the degradation of family life; the acceptance of public pornography, and openly perverse liaisons; couch-potato obsessions with circus and professionalized gladiatorial sports; the shift from pride in productivity, to a shameless consumerism; the aesthetic decline in all manufactures; the spread of dishonorable trade practices; the inflation of money, and in all other kinds; debt crises; the growing dependence upon immigrant slaves and other cheap labour for all unpleasant work, including everything required of the Roman armies; the appeasement of enemies, and extravagant buying off of the tribal savages, now being let inside their frontiers. In a word, “individualism,” or in another, “atomization.” Stage by stage, we watch the implosion, until finally we have that wonderful spectacle conveyed in the painting of Delacroix: “Attila the Hun, followed by his hordes, trample Italy and the Arts.”

A more careful historian would not present this decline as continuous, however. As we focus, we see the Roman hesitation. After taking steps back, they take steps forward. There were decades of recovery, when one could imagine the sage pundits of Rome saying, “What were we so worried about?” and boasting of the new Roman hyperpower after winning obscure bush wars. The sense of invincibility would seem to be returning, along with faith in Roman institutions. Then it falters again, because in prosperity the old Roman chests had been emptying out. They no longer believed in their own future, let alone in their gods. They had no mission any more, and could barely cope with even minor disasters. Still, they put off their fate for centuries, until the last legions scattered or ran home.
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He concludes by referencing, an mass apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary  in Zeitoun, Egypt  beginning in 1968.  Zeitoun is on the path the Holy Family took when visiting Egypt.

And again, it strikes me, cherchez la femme. A woman comes into this in the figure of Mary, commonly venerated by the grace of God not only through what remains of Christendom, but also what remains of the Dar al-Islam. I think on Fatima, but more especially upon Our Lady of Zeitoun (near Cairo, 2nd April 1968, and multiple subsequent apparitions, before immense crowds, photographed and video-recorded from so many angles and by so many cameras as to obviate any possibility of a hoax). It is she, above all, in her own light as “Our Lady of Light,” upon the roof of her own church at Zeitoun — along with those “bursts of diamonds” and “explosions of incense” to which hundreds of thousands of witnesses attested — who calls upon this world. Before Muslim and Christian alike, she was seen standing, and kneeling, alone; then again and again, presenting the Child, cradled in her arms. It is she, to us all, who, I believe, points the only viable way forward.

 Our Lady Zeitoun

I would bet that most readers never heard of Our Lady of Zeitoun.    Here is a YouTube video that tells the story in 8 ½ minutes.  Here is another page on the apparitions of Zeitoun

Thousands of people from different denominations and religions, Egyptians and foreign visitors, clergy and scientists, from different classes and professions, all observed the apparitions. The description of each apparition as of the time, location and configuration was identically witnessed by all people, which makes this apparition unique and sublime.  Two important aspects accompanied these apparitions: The first is an incredible revival of the faith in God, the other world and the saints, leading to repentance and conversion of many who strayed away from the faith. The second are the numerous miracles of healing which were verified by many physicians to be miraculous in nature.
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Report of General Information and Complaints Department, Cairo, Egypt, 1968

"Official investigations have been carried out with the result that it has been considered an undeniable fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary has been appearing on Zeitoun Church in a clear and bright luminous body seen by all present in front of the church, whether Christians or Moslems."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:30 AM | Permalink

December 13, 2013

" Attention, perhaps, is the antidote to narcissism"

is the Distracted Life Worth Living?

Philosophy is something close to a national pastime in France, a fact reflected not just in the celebrity status of its big thinkers but also in the interest its media show in the subject.  So perhaps it’s not surprising that several French publications recently sent correspondents, interviewers, and even philosophers to the Richmond, Va. motorcycle repair shop of Matthew Crawford, mechanic, philosopher, and a senior fellow at the University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.
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Jean-Baptiste Jacquin of Le Monde… pressed Crawford on what specific things people might do to counter the endless demands being put on our attention.  Having a fuller cultural consciousness of the problem is one thing that may help, Crawford suggested.  And engaging in activities that structure our attention is another:

I think manual work, almost any form of manual work,  is a remedy.  Cooking, for example. To prepare a fine meal requires a high level of concentration.  Everything you do at each stage of preparation depends directly on the activity itself and on the objects, the ingredients.
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In a dialogue between Crawford and French philosopher Cynthia Fleurry arranged by Madame Figaro , Crawford got into the question of autonomy and its connections with attention:

We have a vision of autonomy that is overly liberal,  almost a caricature of itself, in that we take it to imply a kind of self-enclosure. Attention is precisely the faculty that pulls out of our own head and joins us to the worldAttention, perhaps, is the antidote to narcissism….

The ironic and toxic result of advertising and other information saturating the environment is, Crawford explained, to isolate the self, to flatter it with delusions of its autonomy and agency.  Children grow up pressing buttons and things happen, he elaborated, but they never acquire real mastery over the world of things.  They can only make things happen by clicking buttons. ”And there you have it,”  said Crawford , “an autonomy that is autism. ”

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In the November issue of Philosophie Magazine,  Crawford exchanged thoughts with philosopher Pascal Chabot,…

Crawford nicely summed up what might be lost to all those symbol-manipulators who think of themselves as master of the universe even as they lose a fundamental knowledge of their world:

What anthropology, neurobiology, and common sense teach us is that it’s difficult to penetrate to the sense of things without taking them in hand. …It is not through representations of things but by manipulating them that we know the world.  o say it another way, what is at the heart of human experience is our individual agency:  our capacity to act on the world and to judge the effects of our action….

But the organization of work and our consumerist culture increasingly deprive us of this experience. American schools,  beginning in the 1990s, dismantled shop classes–which for me had been the most  intellectually stimulating classes—in favor of introductory computer classes, thus fostering the idea that the world had become a kind of scrim of information over which it was sufficient to glide.

But in fact dealing with the world this way makes it opaque and mysterious, because the surface experience doesn’t require our intervention but instead cultivates our passivity and dependence.  That has political consequences.  If you don’t feel you can have a real effect on the world, then you don’t believe you have any real responsibility for it. I believe that the depoliticization we are witnessing in the modern world comes from this sense of a lack of agency. The financial crisis is another alarming symptom of the problem:  A trader makes a choice that will have an effect in three years and thousands of miles away.  The consequences of his action are a matter of indifference to him.

By contrast, repairing a motorcycle doesn’t allow you to have that kind of detachment.  If it doesn’t start, your failure jumps out at you and you know who is responsible.  In teaching you that it is not easy to ignore consequences, manual work provides a kind of moral education which also benefits intellectual activity. 

I am very much looking forward to his new book on the political economy of attention.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:56 PM | Permalink

Chivalry and Husbands

Is Chivalry Dead?

Not to be excessively glib, but codes of behavior are one of the better ways to show respect. Obviously, chivalric codes involve gender identity: they are a way for men to show respect for women, but also to show that they want to protect and provide for women.

 Modern Chivalry

In many cases today’s independent woman finds this notion repugnant. But, what is the alternative? In the absence of a code of gentlemanly behavior men have learned how to disrespect women. No longer wanting to be gentlemen, they become scoundrels.

Perhaps that is not the message that feminists wanted to convey, but that is the message that has been received.

Why women still need husbands

According to Pew Research, “Dads are much more likely than moms to say they want to work full time. And when it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule.”

That women prefer part-time work is simply irrefutable. It was true back in 2007, and it’s even true among Ivy League graduates! Study after study, both here and abroad (the majority of women in the UK, Spain and other countries seek some combination of paid work and family work) shows women as a whole (the Sheryl Sandbergs notwithstanding) want multifaceted lives. They want balance.

And there’s only one way to get it: rely on a man’s more linear career goals. Unlike women, a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck. That’s how most men feel a sense of purpose. Indeed, research shows men see it as their duty to support their families even when their wives make as much money (or more) as they do!

Perhaps that’s because men can’t produce life the way women can—let’s face it: those are some serious shoes to fill—but they can produce the means to make a child’s life secure. As a nation, we dismiss this integral part of masculinity. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 PM | Permalink

Two studies on Brain Wiring: the differences between the sexes and paternal deprivation

Once again, science demonstrates what we already knew.  Men and women are very different and they complement each other.  That is unless you are one of those who believe that  'social constructs' and personal preference trump biology.  What neuroscience can give us is a fresh start to understanding how diseases affect the two sexes differently.

By far the most interesting study in this past week is the last one:  the first research showing that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring.’

Science News Brain Connectivity Study Reveals Striking Differences Between Men and Women

A new brain connectivity study from Penn Medicine published today in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences found striking differences in the neural wiring of men and women that's lending credence to some commonly-held beliefs about their behavior.
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"These maps show us a stark difference--and complementarity--in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others," said Verma.

For instance, on average, men are more likely better at learning and performing a single task at hand, like cycling or navigating directions, whereas women have superior memory and social cognition skills, making them more equipped for multitasking and creating solutions that work for a group. They have a mentalistic approach, so to speak.
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"It's quite striking how complementary the brains of women and men really are," said Dr. Ruben Gur.

The Anchoress comments So, Science Supports Complementarity? Why…YES!

How politically incorrect of science to suggest that men and women are not only different, but — egad! — apparently designed to complement each other. Almost as though they are meant to fulfill each other.

Men's and women's brains: the truth! As research proves the sexes' brains ARE wired differently

Neurologists used magnetic resonance imaging (radio-wave scans that produce detailed images of the inside of the body) to study the brains of almost 1,000 volunteers.  The differences between the genders were so profound that men and women might almost be separate species.

Men generally have more connections within each hemisphere and between the front and back of the brain.  In women the stronger connections usually run from side to side, between the left and right hemispheres.

In essence, what this means is that men are more logical and better at coordination and spatial awareness. Women are more intuitive, have greater 'emotional intelligence' and better memories for words and faces.

WSJ  Differences in How Men and Women Think Are Hard-Wired
Recent Studies Raise the Possibility That Male Brains Are Wired for Focus, Female Brains for Multitasking

"It certainly is incendiary," said Paul Thompson, a professor of neurology and director of the University of Southern California's Imaging Genetics Center. He is directing an effort to assemble a database of 26,000 brain scans from 20 countries to cross-check neuroimaging findings. "People who look at findings about sex differences are excited or enraged," he said.

 Male Female BrainscansCombined brain scans of 949 subjects, ages 8 to 22, show how neural connections differ by gender. Male brains, top, have more connections within hemispheres (blue lines). Female brains, bottom, have more between hemispheres (orange lines). Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences/University of Pennsylvania

Researchers are looking at the variations to explain the different ways men and women respond to health issues ranging from autism, which is more common among men, and multiple sclerosis, which is more common among women, to strokes, aging and depression. "We have to find the differences first before we can try to understand them," said Neda Jahanshad, a neurologist at USC who led the research while at the University of California, Los Angeles.
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"In childhood, we did not see much difference" between male and female, Dr. Verma said. "Most of the changes we see start happening in adolescence. That is when most of the male-female differences come about."

Growing up without a father can permanently alter the BRAIN: Fatherless children are more likely to grow up angry and turn to drugs
Canadian scientists believe growing up in a fatherless household could have a greater impact on daughters than on sons.

Growing up without a father could permanently alter the structure of the brain and produce children who are more aggressive and angry, scientists have warned.  Children brought up only by a single mother have a higher risk of developing ‘deviant behavior’, including drug abuse, new research suggests.
It is also feared that growing up in a fatherless household could have a greater impact on daughters than on sons.
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Dr Gabriella Gobbi, who carried out the research with colleagues at the medical faculty at McGill University in Canada, said: ‘This is the first time research findings have shown that paternal deprivation during development affects the neurobiology of the offspring.’

The research, which was carried out on mice, compared the social behavior and brain anatomy of youngsters with two parents to those growing up with mothers alone.  The team said the findings had direct relevance to human society.  They used California mice, which, like humans, are monogamous and raise their offspring together.

Mice studies in the laboratory may therefore be clearer to interpret than human ones, where it is impossible to control all the influences during development.’
The brains of the fatherless mice developed differently, Dr Gobbi said, with the main impacts seen in the prefrontal cortex - the part of the brain which controls social and cognitive activity.
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Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:00 PM | Permalink

The Appalling Scandals in the ATF

What in God's name is going on in the e U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, otherwise known as the ATF?  Is this our government at work?

For those of you who have forgotten, Fast and Furious or Gunwalking was an ATF  operation run out of the Arizona Field Office which purposely allowed licensed firearms dealers to sell weapons to illegal straw buyers in the hopes it would lead them to the leaders of the Mexican drug cartels.  Despite the protests of many ATF agents and senior officials, thousands of guns, some bought by ATF officials, were allowed to cross the border to Mexico thereby violating international arms trafficking agreements.  U.S. Border patrol  agent Brian Terry was shot and killed by a rifle  linked to a Phoenix store where a sniper rifles, AK-47s were allowed to 'walk'.  Only 710 of the weapons were recovered

The Mexican government was never informed about the operation.  Weapons tied to the gunwalking operation were found at numerous crime scenes in Mexico where at least 150 Mexican civilians were killed.  Diplomatic relations between the US. and the furious Mexican government were damaged

President Obama evoked executive privilege to block Congressional investigation of the affair.  Attorney General Eric Holder initially testified he knew nothing about the operation, but later was forced to admit to it.  He was held in contempt of Congress for his refusal to hand over some 1300 documents in response to a Congressional subpoena

ATF Caught Using Felons, Teens, and the Mentally Handicapped to Systematically "Manufacture" Gun Crimes

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) is probably best known these days for the failure of its disastrous Fast and Furious scheme — a botched initiative that aimed to give American guns to Mexican cartels first and to ask questions later. Under pressure, the administration was quick to imply that the mistake was an aberration. But a watchdog report, published last week by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, suggests that the caprice, carelessness, and downright incompetence that marked the disaster was no accident. In fact, that it is endemic in the ATF.

Among the tactics they discovered ATF agents employing were using mentally disabled Americans to help run unnecessary sting operations; establishing agency-run “fronts” in “safe zones” such as schools and churches; providing alcohol, drugs, and sexual invitations to minors; destroying property and then expecting the owners to pick up the tab; and hiring felons to sell guns to legal purchasers. Worse, perhaps, in a wide range of cases, undercover agents specifically instructed individuals to behave in a certain manner — and then arrested and imprisoned them for doing so. This is government at its worst. And it appears to be standard operating procedure.

The series in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:58 AM | Permalink

December 12, 2013

"ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million "

I'm posting so much about Obamacare because it is simply the worst implementation of one of the worst laws ever passed by Congress that will effect every American in some way.

'A public safety disaster': Obamacare could force THOUSANDS of volunteer fire departments to close

The Affordable Care Act forces companies with more than 50 workers to buy them all health insurance or pay hefty fines.  The IRS says volunteer firefighters are 'employees,' even though the Department of Labor says they're 'volunteers'.    Out of more than 1 million fire departments in the U.S., 87 per cent are staffed entirely or mostly by life-saving volunteers.  Members of Congress are weighing in, but the Obama administration hasn't taken any action yet to carve out a fire-fighting exception

In the Washington Post, Obamacare's biggest losers -

Gisler wanted to purchase a plan for his 45-year-old son, who has a rare degenerative condition affecting his coordination and speech. His current coverage through Utah’s high-risk insurance pool plan ends Dec. 31. By that time, the Obama administration expects enrollees to transition into health plans sold through the new health-care law.

But so far, Gisler hasn’t succeeded in purchasing coverage -- but not for a lack of effort.

“We’ve had three separate applications that failed to make it through,” Gisler says. “I have a notebook with all the calls I’ve made, maybe 50 or 100. It just goes on and on.”
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He gave up and bought an individual plan through an insurance broker.

These are Obamacare's biggest losers: People whose current plans have been canceled but who are having trouble getting through HealthCare.Gov to purchase coverage by Dec. 23 -- the deadline for buying insurance that begins Jan. 1.The concern is particularly acute for patients with expensive medical conditions, who rely on their coverage for doctor visits and drug refills that would otherwise break the bank.

Juking the Obamacare stats in the WSJ

A charitable reading suggests that ObamaCare's net enrollment stands at about negative four million. That's the estimated four million to five and a half million people who had their individual health plans liquidated as ObamaCare-noncompliant—offset by the 364,682 who have signed up for a plan on a state or federal exchange and the 803,077 who have been found eligible to receive Medicaid.

The larger problem is that none of these represent true enrollments. HHS is reporting how many people "selected" a plan on the exchange, not how many people have actually enrolled in a plan with an insurance company by paying the first month's premium, which is how the private insurance industry defines enrollment. HHS has made up its own standard.

Insurers know that the hardest part of doing business in the individual market is getting customers to write a check….

HHS also hasn't built the tools that would allow people to pay through the exchange. Customers must contact their putative insurer, who may not be aware of their existence because the federal exchanges continue to produce corrupted data on the "back end" that are crucial for insurers.

After stonewalling for weeks about the error rate, HHS now says it is down to 10%, which we suppose is good enough for government work. But some insurers are still processing applications by hand, not least because one of five customers are submitting them on paper, not electronically.

Oregon signs up just 44 people for Obamacare despite spending $300 million

In the Fiscal Times,  The Many Disrupted Lives Under Obamacare

Congressional staffers told not to trust ObamaCare site info

Rep. Issa accuses HHS of criminally obstructing probe into ObamaCare website  HHS told web site contractors not to release documents to Congressional investigators.

Helen Alvare in USA Today, Obamacare attacks religion, but hurts women

The White House insists that its heavy-handed approach is needed to protect women because it thinks contraceptives are "essential to women's health." That is, to say the least, a highly dubious claim. Women get sick and die, for the most part, of things like heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Their long list of ailments rarely calls for free contraceptives to solve a health problem. In fact, as Judge Janice Rogers Brown recently noted, there are credible medical sources (like the World Health Organization) who now classify some hormonal contraceptives as carcinogens.

Obamacare marketplace violates federal security law

The bureaucracy tasked with Obamacare implementation may be violating a law that requires government agencies to keep private information safe.

Sebelius: People Who Lost Plans ‘Thrilled with the Choices Now Available to Them’

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:58 PM | Permalink

The Damage Caused by Green Policies

Corruption, crony capitalism and lots of dead birds

Solar power.  Solar Panels Frying Birds Along Major Migration Path

A recent article by Vice author Lex Berko notes that dead birds are being found with "singed wings" around several California solar energy facilities.
It happens that many of California's solar plants are, the article claims, in the path of "the four major north-to-south trajectories for migratory birds" called "the Pacific Flyway."

Birds are dying in one of two ways. In some cases, they imagine the shining solar panels to be bodies of water and dive straight into them. There they die when they smash into the panels from the sky.  Others "feel the wrath of the harnessed sunlight." The ultra polished solar mirrors bounce sunrays strong enough to burn the feathers off birds that quickly crash to the ground, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Many of the fowl dying as a result of their unfortunate flight paths over solar facilities are birds protected by the federal government under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Wind Turbines

Wind Farms Killed 67 Eagles in 5 years

The president of the American Bird Conservancy, Mike Parr, said the tally was "an alarming and concerning finding."

A trade group, the American Wind Energy Association, said in a statement that the figure was much lower than other causes of eagle deaths. The group said it was working with the government and conservation groups to find ways to reduce eagle casualties.

Still, the scientists said their figure is likely to be "substantially" underestimated, since companies report eagle deaths voluntarily and only a fraction of those included in their total were discovered during searches for dead birds by wind-energy companies. The study also excluded the deadliest place in the country for eagles, a cluster of wind farms in a northern California area known as Altamont Pass. Wind farms built there decades ago kill more than 60 per year.

Now official policy in the Obama Administration:  Wind-energy companies can now kill or injure bald and golden eagles for the next 30 years without penalty.

I remember the tens of millions of dollars spent to save the bald eagle in a program run by the Fish and Wildlife service that was so successful the bald eagle 'graduated' after 30 years from the federally protected species list. 

James Delingpole who calls wind turbines  'bat-chomping, bird-slicing eco-crucifixes'  writes

In the US, according to some estimates, wind turbines are responsible for slaughtering between 13,000,000 and 39,000,000 birds and bats every year. And no, that is not a misprint.
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whenever I write about the astonishing bird and bat morbidity rates resulting from wind farms, some greenie smartass will always come back with the line: "And you know how many birds and bats are killed every year by cats? How many by cars? How many flying into office buildings? You gonna ban those too?"

But there's a difference. Cats make nice pets. Office buildings are useful for working in? Cars get you places.

Wind farms on the other hand achieve absolutely zilch, other than allowing a subsidized few to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone else, while despoiling the view for miles around.

Ethanol

The shocking damage 'green' ethanol leaves behind as Obama's push for renewable energy eats up millions of acres of land set aside for conservation

the ethanol era has proven far more damaging to the environment than politicians promised and much worse than the government admits today.

As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and contaminated water supplies, an Associated Press investigation found.

Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have been converted on Obama's watch.

Landowners filled in wetlands. They plowed into pristine prairies, releasing carbon dioxide that had been locked in the soil.  Sprayers pumped out billions of pounds of fertilizer, some of which seeped into drinking water, polluted rivers and worsened the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico where marine life can't survive.

Don't forget how it's increased food prices all over the world leaving millions on the brink of starvation

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:29 PM | Permalink

" No husbands and wives, only baby-mothers and baby-fathers"

In Some to Misery Are Born Theodore Dalrymple in TaKi's Magazine describes the horror of a girl born to a drug addict and abused for years by live-in boyfriends and whose education never equipped her with even basic skills that would enable her to get a job.  He concludes:

These questions would at least reflect the reality of the terrible world in which the woman lived. This is a world which is quite extensive in England, where it is normal for a woman’s grandchildren to be older than her children, where uncles and aunts are often younger than their nieces and nephews, where practically all siblings are half-siblings and have different surnames, where when you try to understand the family relationships of the children it makes you dizzy, and where there are no husbands and wives, only baby-mothers and baby-fathers.

There is no new thing under the sun, and no doubt there are historical precedents for all this. Yet the sheer extent of this world in England is new, if by “new” we mean something that has happened in the last half-century at the most. It has been created with the blessing of intellectuals who saw the destruction of conventions as a blow against hypocrisy and with the encouragement of politicians who saw in social breakdown an opportunity to remain permanently important.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:42 PM | Permalink

December 11, 2013

"Teach us to number our days"

Michael Gerson writes about Seeing mortality in the near distance

In my mid-20s, I had a new bride, a plum job on Capitol Hill and, apparently, the beginnings of a cancerous tumor on my right kidney. For 20 or 25 years — the best estimate of my doctors — it accompanied me at birthdays and on holidays and at the delivery of my children. It was quiet and kept to itself. Undiscovered, it would have donned camouflage and killed me in the end.
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I was fortunate to see mortality in the near distance. Stepping outside that experience, as writers tend to do, it had elements of a physics experiment. As I awaited to learn my fate, I noticed an effect on matter — an odd intensification of physical experience. Things around you offer more friction and hold your attention longer. Commonplace things like the bumps on tree bark. The light filtering through floating dust. The wetness of water. A contrast knob is turned, revealing the vivid pleasures of merely existing.

This heightened awareness applies to strangers in the street, who suddenly have faces. An unsolicited smile, the obvious creases of worry or pain, engage your emotions. There is nothing more democratic than mortality. Even if we are insects, we are insects (said Dickens) on the same leaf.

All of this is a function of a shifting perception of time. When the days seem limited, we more fully inhabit them. The arrow of time makes decay inevitable — and each moment unrecoverable. So we gain in appreciation for things as they are when we realize they will eventually be otherwise.

I’m sorry to report these effects are temporary. Perhaps they fade when you stop taking the Percocet. But I don’t think the impressions are illusions. The healthy (rather than morbid) recognition of our mortality is realism. Cancer is a horror, but it is also a metaphor. Each of us is conceived with a seed of mortality that can’t be surgically removed. It grows until it kills us, hopefully after a long life that honors the incredible, temporary privilege of living. We are, as W.B. Yeats harshly put it, “fastened to a dying animal.”

That, but not only that. At every stage, even in the manner of their dying, people can demonstrate they are something more. I recall my Italian, New Yorker grandmother — full of years and full of cancer (the result of a lifelong smoking habit) — telling me through some of her last, gasping breaths: “You have made me so very happy.” Such are the gifts human beings can give each other, even when there is nothing else to give.

It was not my time, thank God, to demonstrate such generosity. I’m left, for the moment, to experience some additional moments and to hope there is a plot behind random and witless events. But I’ve gained — along with many given a cancer diagnosis — a greater appreciation for the familiar words of the psalmist: “Teach us to number our days.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:48 AM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Alzheimer's, exercise, aspirin, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and singing in a choir

Exercise 'significant role' in reducing risk of dementia, long-term study finds

Exercise throughout a person's life plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing dementia, a study spanning 35 years has found.

The Cardiff University study …found the five factors that were integral to helping avoid disease were regular exercise, not smoking, low bodyweight, healthy diet and low alcohol intake…..However exercise had the single biggest influence on dementia levels. People in the study who followed four of these had a 60% decline in dementia and cognitive decline rates, with exercise named as the strongest mitigating factor.

As time has gone on, the Cardiff study has moved to looking at the effects of dementia and strokes.  Over 400 research papers in the medical press have been produced from its findings.  One of the contributions was the discovery that aspirin helped prevent heart attacks. The study has been funded by the Medical Research Council, the Alzheimer's Society and the British Heart Foundation.

Could Alzheimer's be Type 2 diabetes? Scientists claim extra insulin produced by those with disease disrupts brain chemistry

Alzheimer's and diabetes may be the same disease, scientists claim.  They have uncovered evidence that the debilitating form of dementia may be late stages of type 2 diabetes.  The discovery would explain why nearly three quarters of patients with this form of diabetes go on to develop Alzheimer’s.
Researchers from Albany University, New York State, believe the excess insulin they produce gets into the brain and disrupts key chemicals.  Eventually masses of amyloid proteins - which poison brain cells - are created because of the excess which leads to Alzheimer's, they say.

An aspirin a day could help stop dementia say scientists as they launch huge study into benefits of the pill

Australian researchers also think the drug could ward off stomach cancer.  They are about to carry out clinical trial of 15,000 over-70s
It is already known to reduce risk of a heart attack by 23 per cent

Research has shown regular users have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the main form of dementia.  Scientists believe its protective effect may be due to its anti-clotting action helping blood flow to the brain.

Long-term use of commonly prescribed heartburn drugs increases the likelihood B vitamin deficiency, a study has shown.

Researchers from Kaiser Permanente, a leading U.S. health provider, compared data on almost 26,000 patients diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency in northern California with more than 184,000 ‘control’ patients who were not B12 deficient.

‘Patients who took PPI medications for more than two years had a 65 per cent increase in their risk of B12 deficiency,’ said study leader Dr Douglas Corley, a gastroenterologist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research. ‘Higher doses also were associated with an increased risk, compared with lower doses.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency is linked to increased risk of dementia, nerve damage and anaemia

Vitamin D supplements 'don't ward off ill health': Little evidence pills lower risk of cancer, strokes or other conditions

For decades, scientists assumed that the mineral, one of the most popular supplements in Britain, had numerous health benefits.  But a review of 462 studies involving more than a million adults has concluded that a lack of vitamin D is not a trigger for many common illnesses.

The main reason scientists thought vitamin D could protect against disease was that patients with cancer, heart disease or Alzheimer’s had very low levels of the nutrient.  But the French researchers now suspect that, rather than vitamin D deficiency leading to disease, these illnesses stop the body from producing vitamin D, so sufferers have lower levels.
Lead author Professor Philippe Autier, from the International  Prevention Research Institute  in Lyon, France, said: ‘What this  discrepancy suggests is that decreases in vitamin D levels are a marker of deteriorating health. Aging and inflammatory processes involved in disease occurrence . . . reduce vitamin D concentrations, which would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.’

But his study – published in The Lancet – did not cast doubt on the supplement’s effect on the bones. The mineral is known to protect against bone thinning and the bone disorder rickets.

Join a choir and keep your emotional well-being finely-tuned

People who sing with others are happier with their lives than those who simply sing around the house, a study found.  Choir members are also more satisfied with their lot than people who play team sports.  The findings suggest that there is something special about being in a choir, over and above benefits of singing and taking part in a group activity.
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Oxford Brookes University psychologist Nick Stewart … said: ‘Choral singers also reported perceiving their choirs to be a more coherent or meaningful social group than team sport players considered their teams.’  It is thought that moving and breathing in synchrony may contribute to this enhanced sense of togetherness.
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Previous studies have provided evidence that singing with others provides a wealth of health benefits from strengthening the immune system and reducing stress to improving the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Importantly, you don’t have to be a wonderful singer to benefit.  This is because improvements to health come from being part of a team, working in synchrony and exercising the lungs, diaphragm and other parts of the body – rather than from singing in tune.

Scientists find gene that spurs on tumors

The treatment of thousands of cancer patients could be dramatically improved after British scientists identified a gene that fuels almost all types of tumour.
The ‘needle in a haystack’ find offers hope to at least one in 100 cancer patients
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Within just a few years, cancer patients could be tested for the gene and then given drugs that slow the progress of the disease.
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Unusually, the breakthrough doesn’t just apply to one cancer type – the rogue gene feeds many different types of cancer.
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The researchers from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge analyzed genetic data from more than 7,500 cancer patients from around the world.
This flagged up a gene called CUX1 that was found in almost all cancer types, including breast cancer.  It was also particularly common in a particularly hard-to-treat type of leukemia.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:45 AM | Permalink

Abortion and breast cancer

New study from China helps to prove the Abortion-Breast Cancer Link

In the US we are used to abortion advocates claiming that the risk of elective abortion is relatively trivial, and major medical organizations denying any link between abortion and breast cancer. Now a powerful new study from China published last week by Yubei Huang and colleagues suggests otherwise.  The article, a meta-analysis pooling 36 studies from 14 provinces in China, showed that abortion increased the risk of breast cancer by 44% with one abortion, and 76% and 89% with two and three abortions.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:08 AM | Permalink

December 10, 2013

Hooking Up

Intercollegiate Review Why Hooking Up Is Letting You Down  by J. Budziszewski

In the ’80s, if I suggested in class that there might be any problem with sexual liberation, they said that everything was fine—what was I talking about? Now if I raise questions, many of them speak differently. They still live like libertines, sometimes they still talk like libertines, but it’s getting old. They are beginning to sound like the children of third-generation Maoists. My generation may have ordered the sexual revolution, but theirs is paying the price.

I am not speaking only of the medical price. To be sure, that price is ruinous: At the beginning of the revolution, most physicians had to worry about only two or three sexually transmitted diseases, and now it is more like two or three dozen. But I am not speaking only of broken bodies. Consider, for example, broken childhoods. What is it like for your family to break up because dad has found someone new, then to break up again because mom has? What is it like to be passed from stepparent to stepparent to stepparent? What is it like to grow up knowing that you would have had a sister, but she was aborted?
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We human beings really do have a design, and I mean that term in the broadest sense: not merely mechanical design (this part goes here, this part goes there) but also what kind of being we are. Because the design is not merely biological but also emotional, intellectual, and spiritual, the languages of natural law, natural design, natural meanings, and natural purposes are intertranslatable, and most of the time interchangeable. Some ways of living comport with our design. Others don’t.

The problem with twenty-first-century Western sexuality is that it flouts the embedded principles and the inbuilt meanings of the human sexual design.
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Mutual and total self-giving, strong feelings of attachment, intense pleasure, and the procreation of new life are linked by human nature in a single complex of meanings and purpose. For this reason, if we try to split them apart, we split ourselves. Failure to grasp this fact is more ruinous to our lives, and more difficult to correct, than any amount of ignorance about genital warts. It ought to be taught, but it isn’t.

The problem is that we don’t want to believe that these things are really joined; we don’t want the package deal that they represent. We want to transcend our own nature, like gods. We want to pick and choose among the elements of our sexual design, enjoying just the pieces that we want and not the others. Some people pick and choose one element, others pick and choose another, but they share the illusion that they can pick and choose. Sometimes such picking and choosing is called “having it all.” That is precisely what it isn’t. A more apt description would be refusing it all—insisting on having just a part—and in the end, not even getting that.

Time magazine 9 Reasons ‘Hookup Culture’ Hurts Boys Too  Boys get hurt as much as, if not more than, girls

Rosalind Wiseman, the mother of two boys, spent two years of research for her new book, Masterminds and Wingmen, delving into the world of boys.

she interviewed hundreds of boys across the country — individually, in groups, over the course of extended e-mail correspondences — and their stories are really quite striking.

As Wiseman writes, we assume that boys are the perpetrators and beneficiaries of hookup culture — and thus we tend to ignore its effects on them. But those effects, it turns out, can be rather rough.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:45 PM | Permalink

Mistaking Words and Movies for Reality

Ace on The MacGuffinization of American Politics

In a movie or book, "The MacGuffin" is the thing the hero wants.  Usually the villain wants it too, and their conflict over who will end up with The MacGuffin forms the basic spine of the story.
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Alfred Hitchcock noted -- counterintuitively, when you first hear this -- that the specifics of the MacGuffin don't really matter at all to a movie. He pointed out that the audience doesn't care at all about the MacGuffin. The hero in the movie itself cares, but the audience doesn't.
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A MacGuffin only has one requirement: That it be important-sounding, so that the audience understands he hero isn't engaged in some trivial matter, but that the Stakes Are High
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And that, of course, explains all you need to know about the abnormal political situation we find ourselves in, and the Cult of Barack Obama.

For Obama's fanbois, this is not politics. This isn't even America, not really, not anymore.  This is a movie. And Barack Obama is the Hero. And the Republicans are the Villains. And policy questions -- and Obama's myriad failures as an executive -- are simply incidental. They are MacGuffins only, of no importance whatsoever, except to the extent they provide opportunities for Drama as the Hero fights in favor of them.
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As with a MacGuffin in the movie, only the Hero's emotional response to the MacGuffin matters.  Again and again, Matthews and his panel focused not on weighty questions of state, but on what toll these important-sounding MacGuffins took upon the Star of the Picture, Barack Obama.

Matthews was not terribly interested in hearing about the problems with Obamacare, or how Obama planned to address them.  But he was very interested in learning how Obama was coping with the challenges.

Peggy Noonan made a similar point in Low Information Leadership

It’s a leader’s job to be skeptical of grand schemes. Sorry, that’s a conservative leader’s job. It is a liberal leader’s job to be skeptical that grand schemes will work as intended. You have to guide and goad and be careful.

And this president wasn’t. I think part of the reason he wasn’t careful is because he sort of lives in words. That’s been his whole professional life—books, speeches. Say something and it magically exists as something said, and if it’s been said and publicized it must be real. He never had to push a lever, see the machine not respond, puzzle it out and fix it. It’s all been pretty abstract for him, not concrete. He never had to stock a store, run a sale and see lots of people come but the expenses turn out to be larger than you’d expected and the profits smaller, and you have to figure out what went wrong and do better next time.
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Here I will say something harsh, and it’s connected to the thing about words but also images.

From what I have seen the administration is full of young people who’ve seen the movie but not read the book. They act bright, they know the reference, they’re credentialed. But they’ve only seen the movie about, say, the Cuban missile crisis, and then they get into a foreign-policy question and they’re seeing movies in their heads. They haven’t read the histories, the texts, which carry more information, more texture, data and subtlety, and different points of view. They’ve only seen the movie—the Cubans had the missiles and Jack said “Not another war” and Bobby said “Pearl Harbor in reverse” and dreadful old Curtis LeMay chomped his cigar…
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

The Root Sources of Inequality

Walter Russell Mead hits the mark again with Obama Flubs Inequality Message

Obama, and those who think like him, focus so much on socio-economic causes of inequality that they tend to overlook the impact of cultural factors like the breakdown of the family and the decline of strong community institutions.
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Actually, there’s plenty of evidence that unwed childbearing, father absence and fraying kinship and community networks exacerbate the problems of low-income people and make it incredibly hard for them to gain a foothold in the middle class. These are thorny problems that aren’t easily solved by the kinds of government measures Obama champions. So his speech says very little about the ways that strong marriages, family stability, or a robust role for churches in helping struggling Americans improve their lives can all improve economic mobility in this country. These social and cultural factors are arguably root causes of inequality, and it’s a pretty conspicuous omission to ignore that in a presidential speech on the subject. We’re glad people are talking more about about the yawning gap between rich and poor, but this troubling reality deserves a better treatment than Obama gave it.

Obama can't solve the jobs problem  Glenn Reynolds

Last week, President Obama gave a much-touted speech on "income inequality." But while inequality is a valid concern, it's not so clear that unequal incomes are the biggest problem America faces.

More troubling -- as figures as distinct as Slate's Matthew Yglesias and National Review's Mark Steyn both noted -- is the growing divide between an America where people have jobs, and an America where people live off of government benefits.
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So why is President Obama less interested in the shortage of jobs and more focused on mere "income inequality?" I think there are two reasons. First, while expanding the dependency class might be bad for America (and for the dependents), it's good for the political party that passes out the pork. And second -- and this is more troubling -- I think that Obama has no idea how to address the underlying jobs problem.

Mark Steyn on The Post-Work Economy

Consider Vermont. Unlike my own state of New Hampshire, it has a bucolic image: Holsteins, dirt roads, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company, Ben & Jerry’s, Howard Dean . . . And yet the Green Mountain State has appalling levels of heroin and meth addiction, and the social chaos that follows.  Geoffrey Norman began a recent essay in The Weekly Standard with a vignette from a town I know very well — St. Johnsbury, population 7,600, motto “Very Vermont,” the capital of the remote North-East Kingdom hard by the Quebec border and as far from urban pathologies as you can get. Or so you’d think. But on a recent Saturday morning, Norman reports, there were more cars parked at the needle-exchange clinic than at the farmers’ market. In Vermont, there’s no inner-city underclass, because there are no cities, inner or outer; there’s no disadvantaged minorities, because there’s only three blacks and seven Hispanics in the entire state; there’s no nothing. Which is the real problem.  Large numbers of Vermonters have adopted the dysfunctions of the urban underclass for no reason more compelling than that there’s not much else to do. Once upon a time, St. Johnsbury made Fairbanks scales, but now a still handsome town is, as Norman puts it, “hollowed out by the loss of work and purpose.”


“Work” and “purpose” are intimately connected: Researchers at the University of Michigan, for example, found that welfare payments make one unhappier than a modest income honestly earned and used to provide for one’s family. “It drains too much of the life from life,” said Charles Murray in a speech in 2009. “And that statement applies as much to the lives of janitors — even more to the lives of janitors — as it does to the lives of CEOs.” Self-reliance — “work” — is intimately connected to human dignity — “purpose.”

So what does every initiative of the Obama era have in common? Obamacare, Obamaphones, Social Security disability expansion, 50 million people on food stamps . . . The assumption is that mass, multi-generational dependency is now a permanent feature of life. A coastal elite will devise ever smarter and slicker trinkets, and pretty much everyone else will be a member of either the dependency class or the vast bureaucracy that ministers to them. And, if you’re wondering why every Big Government program assumes you’re a feeble child, that’s because a citizenry without “work and purpose” is ultimately incompatible with liberty. The elites think a smart society will be wealthy enough to relieve the masses from the need to work. In reality, it would be neo-feudal, but with fatter, sicker peasants. It wouldn’t just be “economic inequality,” but a far more profound kind, and seething with resentments.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

December 9, 2013

"'None of us needs to live the saddest part of our lives 24/7"

The forgiveness of the Amish was an amazing story in 2006 and it continues today with the example of the mother of the mass murderer

Mother of Amish schoolhouse shooter shares her story of forgiveness

Once a week, Terri Roberts spends time with a 13-year-old Amish girl named Rosanna who sits in a wheelchair and eats through a tube. Roberts bathes her, sings to her, reads her stories. She can only guess what's going on inside Rosanna's mind because the girl can't talk.

Roberts' son did this to her.    Seven years ago, Charles Carl Roberts IV barricaded himself inside an Amish schoolhouse near Lancaster, tied up 10 girls and opened fire, killing five and injuring five others before committing suicide as police closed in.
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The Amish responded by offering immediate forgiveness to the killer - even attending his funeral - and embracing his family.

    Terri Roberts Amish Grieving
Terri Roberts forgave, too, and now she is sharing her experience with others, saying the world needs more stories about the power of forgiveness and the importance of seeking joy through adversity.

'I realized if I didn't forgive him, I would have the same hole in my heart that he had. And a root of bitterness never brings peace to anyone,' Roberts said. 'We are called to forgive.'
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One of her sons is making a documentary - called Hope - about her remarkable journey from heartbroken mother to inspirational speaker.  Zachary Roberts originally conceived the film to help his mother. But it's also proving to be cathartic for him.

'It was like a step toward getting this off my shoulders and being able to speak about it,' said Roberts, 35, who lives in Sweden.'I have a kid now, and I don't want this to be one of those dark family secrets that nobody talks about. I want to be OK with it, and I want my daughter to be OK with it.'

Roberts appears in the trailer and doesn't mince words about the challenge that faced his mother after his 32-year-old brother's rampage: 'How does the mother of a mass murderer move forward in life?'

Terri Roberts' path toward healing and reconciliation began, surprisingly enough, that very first afternoon.  Her husband, Chuck, had wiped away so many tears that he'd rubbed his skin raw. The retired police officer hung his head, inconsolable.

'I will never face my Amish friends again,' he said, over and over.

An Amish neighbor named Henry told him otherwise. 'Roberts, we love you. We don't hold anything against you or your son,' Terri Roberts recalled Henry saying as he massaged Roberts' slumped shoulders. 'We're a forgiving people.'

It was an extraordinary gesture, one that gave Terri Roberts her first glimmer of hope. She calls Henry her 'angel in black'. That same day, a counselor helped her realize that 'we do not need to live in our sorrow'.

'I can't tell you what that did for me. That was just so helpful for me, and I feel now that it's helped many other people,' Roberts said.
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Rosanna wasn't expected to survive after being shot in the head. She laughs, cries and responds to stimuli, and King said she is mentally alert. But she requires constant care.

Terri Roberts' weekly visits with Rosanna force her to confront the damage her son caused. But Roberts also finds peace as she spends time with Rosanna and provides some relief to the teen's family, if only for a few hours.

'Beautiful young woman, but life is not as it should've been for this little girl. So my mind will never forget the hardship that day has caused in many people's lives,' Roberts said.

'And yet,' she said, 'none of us needs to live in the saddest part of our lives 24/7.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:04 PM | Permalink

Murphy's Law at work in Obamacare and how you can opt out

Margaret Wente Obamacare, where the liberal dream crashes and burns

The biggest threat to Obamacare is not Republicans. The biggest threat is Murphy’s Law, along with its corollary, the Law of Unintended Consequences. These are the most powerful laws in the world. They are even more powerful than the Affordable Care Act, and they are the nemesis of all master plans. Evidently, the President and his merry band of wonks had never heard of them.

"New Affordable Care US health plans will exclude top hospitals

In a bid to cut costs, insurers selling cover on the new exchanges in states including New York, Texas and California will not offer patients access to two renowned cancer centers - Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, according to The Financial Times.
Access to Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, one of the top research and teaching hospitals, may also be limited, as the insurers attempt to steer customers away from hospitals or doctors they consider too expensive.
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Some hospital officials are worried about what they call an unintended consequence of the new law.

'We're very concerned. (Insurers) know patients that are sick come to places like ours,' Thomas Priselac, president and chief executive officer of Cedars-Sinai Health System in California told the FT.  'What this is trying to do is redirect those patients elsewhere, but there is a reason why they come here. These patients need what it is that we are capable of providing.'

Obamacare dumps unpaid bills on providers

But the bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decided to issue a rule in March making insurers responsible only for paying claims during the first 30 days of the debtors’ grace period. Who’s on the hook for the other two months? Well, customers are entrusted to foot the bills for additional services. But if they blow off the payments, it’s up to physicians and hospitals to collect.
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As one hospital rep told me: “It’s potentially catastrophic.” Private practices are already being hit hard with slashed reimbursements, the electronic-medical-records mandate, ICD-10 medical-diagnostic-code changes, and increasing federal intrusions on how they provide care.

-Attention Patients


The Phishing Scam on Healthcare.gov

New problems emerged on Friday, with a Capitol Hill source drawing attention to an apparent scam in the system. The source detailed how, after telling the user the password was incorrect, the site directed the individual to a “forgot password” page — which then asked for highly personal information.

“On that page I was asked for my check card number and my ATM pin,” the source said. “I was fairly confident this was a scam so I called customer service. After a 103 minute hold time, I was told that this was indeed a scam.”

The explanation is not exactly reassuring:

Some shoppers are being directed from the insurance website to an outside site that appears nearly identical to the real exchange, officials confirmed Friday. The fraud is widespread enough that they’re considering adding disclaimers to its website to warn users against divulging their check card or PIN numbers.

The Federalist offers advice on How to Opt Out of Obamacare  Know your options and become savvy self-pay patients

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:49 AM | Permalink

Groom's first look at his beautiful bride

24 Grooms Blown Away By Their Beautiful Brides

 Groom Blown Away By Bride

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:26 AM | Permalink

December 5, 2013

Other things about Obamacare

WSJ  ObamaCare's Plans Are Worse  How the Affordable Care Act raises prices and limits medical choices.

...the rules ObamaCare imposes to create a supposedly superior insurance product are resulting in an objectively inferior medical product. The new mandates and rules raise costs, so insurers must compensate by offering narrow and less costly networks of doctors, hospitals and other providers in their ObamaCare products. Insurers thus restrict care and patient choice of physicians in exchange for discounted reimbursement rates, much as Medicaid does.

Rigging the Future.  Obamacare Creates 50 New State Databases With No Function Beyond Gathering Potential Voter Information, Real or Fraudulent

Some are losing coverage.  Boy with cancer loses coverage after Obamacare launch.  Bureaucrats won't help unless pregnant or illegal alien..

Others who complained are now getting audited.  Cancer Patient Who Spoke Out Against ObamaCare Now Being Audited

Bill Elliot was a cancer patient who lost his insurance due to ObamaCare and couldn’t pay the expensive new premiums. He was talking about paying the ObamaCare fine, going without health insurance and “letting nature take its course.”

He went on FOX News where his story was picked up by C. Steven Tucker, a health insurance broker who helped him keep his insurance.  Now suddenly Bill Elliot is being audited for 2009 with an interview only scheduled in April 2014. Assuming he lives that long. That might be a coincidence, but Tucker is being audited back to 2003.

In New Jersey, 741 have  signed up for Obamacare while 50,000 signed up for N.J.'s online gambling sites.

Medicaid Is Latest Health-Site Victim. States Refuse to Sign Up Enrollees Due to Incomplete Information from HealthCare.gov

So far, the federal government has been unable to transfer full Medicaid applications to states, potentially leaving people who sought to sign up for Medicaid through HealthCare.gov without coverage.

Millennials Abandon Obama and Obamacare  A majority of America's youngest adults would vote to recall the president.

Over a long weekend followed by some supplemental tweaking,

the three guys who built the working Affordable Care Act policy search web site known as TheHealthSherpa.com for free accomplished what Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s assembled contractors and bureaucrats couldn’t get done with a 42-month head start and hundreds of millions of dollars.

Looks as though Obama turned down an offer by IBM's CEO Samuel J. Palmisano  turned down a free offer to hunt out health care abuse in 2010..

In a 2010 interview, IBM’s CEO said: “We could have improved quality and reduced the costs of the health-care system by $900 billion. … I said we would do it for free to prove that it works. They turned us down.”

Speaking with FOX News’ Stuart Varney, Mort Zuckerman, Editor-in-Chief of US News & World Report, said, “

It’s a little bit puzzling because I think there is a huge amount of both fraud and inefficiency that American business is a lot more comfortable with and more effective in trying to reduce. And this is certainly true because the IBM people have studied this very carefully.

When Palmisano went to the White House and made that proposal, it was based upon a lot of work and it was not accepted. And it’s really puzzling…These are very, very responsible people and don’t have a political ax to grind.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:43 PM | Permalink

December 4, 2013

Health roundup: Aspirin, health-care apps, hangovers, arthritis and the 13 health benefits of coffee

Could an eye test be used to diagnosed Alzheimer's? Study shows disease kills eye cells as well as brain cells

Currently Alzheimer's disease can only be diagnosed for certain by studying a patient's brain after their death - other techniques involve memory tests
Layers of the retina are 49% thinner in mice with Alzheimer's disease which suggests processes occurring in a brain with dementia also occur in the eye
If the same is true in humans, an eye test could indicate if a person has dementia and whether drug treatments are working

WSJ Health-Care Apps That Doctors Use  Programs range from diagnostics to hand-washing trackers.

Take your aspirin before you go to bed. Bedtime aspirin 'wards off heart attacks': Blood cells least likely to bind dangerously together if taking drug in the evening

Drinking After 40: Why Hangovers Hit Harder  The Reasons Moderate Alcohol Consumption Gets More Complicated in Middle Age.

"A lot of older people are borderline dehydrated. They have less body water just from the natural effects of aging," Dr. Blackwelder says. It helps to drink water and have a full stomach when knocking one back.
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The majority of alcohol is metabolized by the liver, which changes when people hit their 50s. (A small amount is metabolized in the stomach and mouth.) The liver gets bigger as people get older, but the organ becomes less efficient. Blood flow decreases, as do the number of hepatocytes, the liver's functional cells,
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Certain enzyme levels dip, too, including one type of the enzyme alcohol dehydrogenase, which breaks down alcohol. Women of all ages tend to have lower levels of this enzyme in the stomach. But between the ages of 50 and 60, men see their levels slide, too.
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Particularly beginning in the 50s and 60s, the brain is more sensitive to alcohol. Booze basically enhances normal age-related cognitive decline. Neurons lose speed. Specifically, the insulating myelin sheaths around the axons of neurons—the parts responsible for transmitting information to other neurons—get smaller. As people age, "neurons are not as efficient. So you impair them with a little bit of alcohol, they are that much more inefficient,"
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Older people are also more affected by alcohol's impact on sleep, a fact that can turn a mild hangover into a must-stay-in-bed-all-day affair. "Alcohol in all ages wrecks our REM sleep,"

Scientists hail breakthrough arthritis drug which slows down the condition and improves mobility

Scientists carried out a year-long study on 1,200 patients with active, moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis, who have not benefited from or been able to tolerate the side effects of current frontline treatment methotrexate.  They found Sarilumba improved their condition by up to 20 per cent.

Developed by French drugmaker Sanofi and Regeneron, the new drug works by blocking an inflammation-causing protein called interleukin 6.
Patients given a 200 mg dose of Sarilumba every other week - on top of methotrexate - saw a 66 percent improvement in the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis after six months.

Google Helpouts will bring telehealth to the masses


Top 13 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Coffee

1. Coffee Can Improve Energy Levels and Make You Smarter
2. Coffee Can Help You Burn Fat
3. The Caffeine Can Drastically Improve Physical Performance
4. There Are Essential Nutrients in Coffee
5. Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Type II Diabetes
6. Coffee May Protect You From Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
7. Caffeine May Lower The Risk of Parkinson’s
8. Coffee Appears to Have Protective Effects on The Liver
9. Coffee Can Fight Depression and Make You Happier
10. Coffee Drinkers Have a Lower Risk of Some Types of Cancer
11. Coffee Does Not Cause Heart Disease and May Lower The Risk of Stroke
12. Coffee May Help You Live Longer
13. Coffee is The Biggest Source of Antioxidants in The Western Diet
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

December 3, 2013

Security at the HealthCare.gov website is worse than before

With less than three weeks to sign up for insurance or pay a penalty, problems with the healthcare.gov website are still unresolved.  It is impossible to imagine the anxiety and suffering of the millions who lost their health care policies and who don't want to put their identities at risk by going online to healthcare.gov.

Expert: Healthcare.gov Security Risks Even Worse After ‘Fix’

“It doesn’t appear that any security fixes were done at all,” David Kennedy, CEO of the online security firm TrustedSec, told the Washington Free Beacon.

Kennedy said fundamental safeguards missing from Healthcare.gov that were identified by his company more than a month ago have yet to be put in place.
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After warning Americans when testifying before Congress on Nov. 19 to stay away from Healthcare.gov, Kennedy now says the situation is even worse.

“They said they implemented over 400 bug fixes,” he said. “When you recode the application to fix these 400 bugs—they were rushing this out of the door to get the site at least so it can work a little bit—you’re introducing more security flaws as you go along with it because you don’t even check that code.”

Get this.  The Federal Government doesn't have to notify anyone if the site is hacked.

“States are required to notify in the event of a breach, the federal government is not,” he added. “So in the event that Healthcare.gov gets compromised and all their information gets taken out of it they don’t have to notify anybody.”

Kennedy said the team working on Healthcare.gov is more likely to hide its security flaws than address them. When it was revealed that the most popular searches on the website were hack attempts—confirmed by entering a semicolon in the search bar—the website simply removed the tool.

The White House won't even give classified briefings to Congress about the security problems of healthcare.gov.  Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Mike Rogers said,

“They could not even provide someone — CMS and HHS, the two folks responsible for the HealthCare.gov website — in a classified setting to come up and talk about the breaches that they know have happened. That’s just unconscionable.”

He warned that there is currently no coordinated effort within the administration to test the website’s newly-written code which was completed over the past two months of repairs, leaving it vulnerable to breaches. “You’re encouraging people to go to a site that our own government knows doesn’t meet safety standards when it comes to security of private information.”

78% Fear ObamaCare Site Security, Could Deter Signups

The latest IBD/TIPP Poll finds that 78% say Americans should be worried about the security of the ObamaCare exchange website, and 53% say they should be "very concerned." This view was shared across parties, with 69% of Democrats saying security concerns are warranted.

More worrisome for the law's success, 82% of those aged 18-24 say concern is justified. These are among the people ObamaCare most desperately needs to enroll to keep overall premiums from spiraling out of control.

John Podhoretz writes in Commentary,  No, Healthcare.Gov Isn’t Working.    Much of the backend hasn't been constructed yet. 

There is no such thing as a functioning website if the “back end” isn’t working. The “back end” is the catchall phrase for everything you don’t see when you visit a website. It refers to the software that translates pictures and words into what you see here. It refers to the software that mediates the relationship between 1) users who enter information, 2) the servers that store the website’s information, and 3) third parties hired to take some (but not all) of the information and process it on their servers and computers. It refers to the security systems put in place so that the website cannot be disabled by an outside attack and so that the data entered cannot be stolen or otherwise compromised.
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In other words, the back end is the website. What many people are seeing now at healthcare.gov is a visual demonstration of a sign-in. If the sign-in data are not transferred to a database, nothing has happened. It’s like taking a practice test; it’s not scored and it’s not registered and it means nothing.

New Obamacare Headache: Is Your Enrollment Real?

Obama administration officials acknowledged today that some of the roughly 126,000 Americans who completed the torturous online enrollment process in October and November might not be officially signed up with their selected issuer, even if the website has told them they are.
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While the front-end of the website has been vastly improved, the back-end glitches remain a serious concern, IT experts and industry officials say.
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For those who thought they enrolled in a plan through the federal exchange since October, the Obama administration now advises that individuals contact their insurance company to verify coverage and if none exists, to start all over again.

Errors plague one third of Obamacare online enrollees

The Washington Post is reporting the bad news for Obama; about of consumers enrolled through healthcare.gov have serious errors in the plans they chose.

The mistakes include failure to notify insurers about new customers, duplicate enrollments or cancellation notices for the same person, incorrect information about family members, and mistakes involving federal subsidies.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:18 PM | Permalink