February 28, 2015

Miscellany 6

What would Ken Burns produce about the 2015 Boston Snow Storms?
 Boston Snow + Sad Fiddle MusicYouTube link

The girl who gets gifts from birds
Lots of people love the birds in their garden, but it's rare for that affection to be reciprocated. Eight-year-old Gabi Mann in Seattle is luckier than most. She feeds the crows in her garden - and they bring her gifts in return.  She sets a bead storage container on the dining room table, and clicks the lid open. This is her most precious collection….
Inside the box are rows of small objects in clear plastic bags. One label reads: "Black table by feeder. 2:30 p.m. 09 Nov 2014." Inside is a broken light bulb. Another bag contains small pieces of brown glass worn smooth by the sea. "Beer colored glass," as Gabi describes it.


Most writers love words. This one loves letters. Review of "Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story" by Michael Rosen
Michael Rosen knows his ABCs. A poet, novelist and host of the BBC radio show “Word of Mouth,” he has spent a lifetime pondering and deciphering this “cunning code,” as he calls it. In “Alphabetical,” he doesn’t just explore the creation, evolution, pronunciation and uses of each letter throughout the centuries, but digresses into delightful tales of the personalities who shaped the English alphabet into what it has finally become. Though I shouldn’t say “finally.” In Rosen’s telling, letters are born, grow, fight, change or die. Don’t count on these 26 letters being the last word.

“Alphabetical” is organized into 26 chapters (surprise), each devoted to one letter….In “J is for Jokes,” he explains why the alphabet has only 25 letters at Christmastime (“No-el, no-el, no-el, no-e-e-el”). And in “U is for Umlaut,” he destroys my faith in ice cream by explaining that the corporate name Häagen-Dazs “doesn’t mean anything to anyone anywhere in any language.”

Lost Sherlock Holmes Story Discovered in Attic
In 1902, a flood destroyed a wooden bridge in the town of Selkirk, Scotland. Residents tried to raise money to build another one. One proposal was to print and sell a collection of short stories called The Book o’ the Brig. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author who created the famous detective character Sherlock Holmes, enjoyed visiting the town. So he contributed an original story called “Sherlock Holmes: Discovering the Border Burghs and, by deduction, the Brig Bazaar.”The project was a success and Selkirk got a new bridge. Doyle’s story helped. But it was never published anywhere else. Walter Elliot, a historian, received a copy of The Book o’ the Brig about 50 years ago. He placed it in his attic and forgot about it.  It was only recently that Elliot found the book and Doyle’s story in it. The world now has fresh, original Sherlock Holmes. You can read the entire story here.

Five guys built “Icehenge” on a lake and it is beautiful!


Comparing genomes: Killer whales are more Cow, Walruses more in common with dogs and wolves, Manatees more closely related to elephants.

Medieval Cathedrals Used to Be Full of Brilliant Colors


"For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few" said the New York Times in 1995
On the whole, people don't want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so….But the real future of the laptop computer will remain in the specialized niche markets.  Because no matter how inexpensive the machines become, and no matter how sophisticated their software, I still can't imagine the average user taking one along when going fishing.

Astonishing childhood pictures of celebrities
 George Clooney Today, he's considered a hunk.

Ten Reasons People Still Need Cursive
While some argue cursive writing belongs in the archives and Common Core ushers it out of schools, the evidence shows we need it as much as ever.

School lunches around the world

 Schoollunch Spain

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:49 AM | Permalink

February 27, 2015

Camille Paglia, an interview with the "Catholic Pagan"

In America magazine,  The Catholic Pagan: 10 Questions for Camille Paglia, abbreviated

Although raised Catholic in an Italian-American family, Professor Paglia left Catholicism in her youth and embraced the sexual revolution. Nevertheless, she still cites Italian Catholicism as the strongest influence on her personal identity. On Feb. 22, I conducted the following email interview with Professor Paglia about her secular work and its Catholic influences.

Q. You’ve been teaching at University of the Arts since 1984. What do you love most about your job?

C.P. There is no doubt that my commitment to the vocation of teaching is part of my Catholic heritage. I view classroom teaching as a discipline and duty, a responsibility to convey the legacy of the past to the next generation. As I strictly monitor attendance and enforce order, I sometimes ruefully feel like a teaching nun from the over-regulated era of my upstate New York youth…..My faith in that nurturing continuity is certainly diametrically opposed to the cynically subversive approach of today's postmodernist theorists, who see history as a false or repressive narrative operating on disconnected fragments.
Q. In your view, what’s wrong with American feminism today, and what can it do to improve?

C.P. After the great victory won by my insurgent, pro-sex, pro-fashion wing of feminism in the 1990s, American and British feminism has amazingly collapsed backward again into whining, narcissistic victimology. As in the hoary old days of Gloria Steinem and her Stalinist cohorts, we are endlessly subjected to the hackneyed scenario of history as a toxic wasteland of vicious male oppression and gruesome female suffering. College campuses are hysterically portrayed as rape extravaganzas where women are helpless fluffs with no control over their own choices and behavior. I am an equal opportunity feminist: that is, I call for the removal of all barriers to women's advance in the professional and political realms. However, I oppose special protections for women, which I reject as demeaning and infantilizing. My principal demand (as I have been repeating for nearly 25 years) is for colleges to confine themselves to education and to cease their tyrannical surveillance of students' social lives.  If a real crime is committed, it must be reported to the police.  College officials and committees have neither the expertise nor the legal right to be conducting investigations into he said/she said campus dating fiascos.  Too many of today's young feminists seem to want hovering, paternalistic authority figures to protect and soothe them, an attitude I regard as servile, reactionary and glaringly bourgeois. The world can never be made totally safe for anyone, male or female: there will always be sociopaths and psychotics impervious to social controls. I call my system "street-smart feminism":  there is no substitute for wary vigilance and personal responsibility.

Q. what is post-structuralism and what is your opinion of it?

C.P.  Post-structuralism is a system of literary and social analysis that flared up and vanished in France in the 1960s but that became anachronistically entrenched in British and American academe from the 1970s on. Based on the outmoded linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and promoted by the idolized Jacques Derrida, Jacques Lacan, and Michel Foucault, it absurdly asserts that we experience or process reality only through language and that, because language is inherently unstable, nothing can be known. By undermining meaning, history and personal will, post-structuralism has done incalculable damage to education and contemporary thought. It is a laborious, circuitously self-referential gimmick that always ends up with the same monotonous result. I spent six months writing a long attack on academic post-structuralism for the classics journal Arion in 1991, "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf" (reprinted in my first essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture). Post-structuralism has destroyed two generations of graduate students, who were forced to mouth its ugly jargon and empty platitudes for their foolish faculty elders. And the end result is that humanities departments everywhere, having abandoned their proper mission of defending and celebrating art, have become humiliatingly marginalized in both reputation and impact.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:25 PM | Permalink

February 25, 2015

Recent advances in medical and health technology

Apple's Health Kit Apple is taking over healthcare: Firm's HealthKit tracking system now being trialled in more than HALF of top US hospitals

Apple's HealthKit which acts as a repository for patient-generated data Health information like blood pressure, weight or heart rate stored

Printing prosthetic hands. Hand of a Superhero  3-D Printing Prosthetic Hands That Are Anything but Ordinary
The proliferation of 3-D printers has had an unexpected benefit: The devices, it turns out, are perfect for creating cheap prosthetics. Surprising numbers of children need them: One in 1,000 infants is born with missing fingers, and others lose fingers and hands to injury. Each year, about 450 children receive amputations as a result of lawn mower accidents, according to a study in Pedatrics..

E-nable, an online volunteer organization, aims to change that. Founded in 2013 by Jon Schull, the group matches children like Dawson in need of prosthetic hands and fingers with volunteers able to make them on 3-D printers. Designs may be downloaded into the machines at no charge, and members who create new models share their software plans freely with others.  The materials for a 3-D-printed prosthetic hand can cost as little as $20 to $50, and some experts say they work just as well, if not better, than much costlier devices. Best of all, boys and girls usually love their D.I.Y. prosthetics.

Thought-controlled robotic hands  Researchers Find Way to Harness Brain to Control Bionic Hands

Fitted With Robotic Hands, Three Austrian Men Are Able to Perform Tasks Such as Buttoning a Coat

Man-made blood?  A major component of blood has been grown in the laboratory by scientists, bringing man-made blood transfusions a step closer.
Biomedical engineers have for the first time produced functional blood platelets - the cells that cause clots to form - from human bone marrow grown in the laboratory.
The achievement raises hopes that it will soon be possible to produce fully functional blood in a similar way.

Scientists hope that by using a patient's stem cells, it should be possible to grow blood that is a perfect match.  The new research demonstrates that it is possible to use human stem cells to grow bone marrow on a matrix of porous silk, which then create blood cells.  The scientists from Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, and the University of Pavia in Italy were able to produce millions of human platelets.

New chocolate reduces wrinkles. Anti-aging chocolate which reduces wrinkles developed by Cambridge University spin-off
A daily 7.5g bar of the chocolate can change the underlying skin structure of a 50 year old to that of someone in their 30s, say developers

Map of human epigenomes. Recipe for the human body revealed could lead to personalized medicine
Epigenome differentiates cells, telling heart muscle cells to not make brain chemicals, for instance.  The human genome is the blueprint for building an individual person.
The epigenome can be thought of as the cross-outs and underlinings of that blueprint: if someone's genome contains DNA associated with cancer but that DNA is 'crossed out' by molecules in the epigenome, for instance, the DNA is unlikely to lead to cancer.

Scientists have for the first time mapped out the molecular 'switches' that can turn on or silence individual genes in the DNA in more than 100 types of human cells.  The groundbreaking accomplishment,  that reveals the complexity of genetic information and the challenges of interpreting it . Researchers unveiled the map of the 'epigenome' in the journal Nature, alongside nearly two dozen related papers. The mapping effort is being carried out under a 10-year, $240 million U.S. government research program, the Roadmap Epigenomics Program, which was launched in 2008.

'The only way you can deliver on the promise of precision medicine is by including the epigenome,' said Manolis Kellis of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the mapping that involved scientists in labs from Croatia to Canada and the United States.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:08 PM | Permalink

"Feminism…is...a terribly deformed but profoundly felt protective reaction to the sexual revolution itself."


Mary Eberstadt, "Beneath the swagger and snarl of jailhouse feminism is something pathetic: a search for attention (including, obviously, male attention) on any terms at all".

Feminism has become something very different from what it understands itself to be, and indeed from what its adversaries understand it to be. It is not a juggernaut of defiant liberationists successfully playing offense. It is instead a terribly deformed but profoundly felt protective reaction to the sexual revolution itself. In a world where fewer women can rely on men, some will themselves take on the protective coloration of exaggerated male characteristics — blustering, cursing, belligerence, defiance, and also, as needed, promiscuity.

After all, the revolution reduced the number of men who could be counted on to serve as protectors from time to time, and in several ways. Broken homes put father figures at arm’s length, at times severing that parental bond for good. The ethos of recreational sex blurred the line between protector and predator, making it harder for many women to tell the difference. Meanwhile, the decline of the family has reduced the number of potentially protective men — fewer brothers, cousins, uncles, and others who could once have been counted on to push back against other men treating mothers or sisters or daughters badly. In some worse-off neighborhoods, the number of available men has been further reduced by dramatic rates of incarceration. And simultaneously, the overabundance of available sexual partners has made it harder to hold the attention of any one of them — as has the diminished social and moral cachet of what was once the ultimate male attention-getter, marriage.

It’s a predator’s market out there. The fact that there’s no cottage industry related to “stud-shaming,” or even such a word, says it all. Many women are now exactly what feminists say they are: victims — only not in the way that feminism understands. They are captives behind enemy lines, but the enemy is not patriarchy or gender-norming. It’s the sexual revolution itself. And like other people held hostage for too long by a hostile force, these women are suffering from a problem that has had a name for some time. It’s Stockholm syndrome.

Women are less satisfied and more unhappy since the sexual revolution The paradox of declining female happiness....

Sexuality and the Land

Modern sexual existence, frightened as it is of a life it does not control, implements techniques of power – pornography, menstrual suppression, abortion, surgery, systematic gender theory, and all the rest – to strip sexuality of its otherness, rendering it absolutely subject to our desires….. the price of trans-mutating our dominant relationship with our own sexuality into a relationship of the controlling and the controlled has been, paradoxically, an increased dependence on structures of power to maintain this control.

The independence that contraception, sterilization and abortion give us from our fertility is achieved by a simultaneous dependence upon pharmaceutical companies, surgeons, abortionists. The independence pornography gives our sexual arousal from actual encounters with another is achieved by an increased dependence on the pornography industry, on its stars, producers — and slaves. The freedom the ever-growing system of gender theory gives us from binary sexual identities is bought at the price of a dependence on academics to define and validate the pansexual from the omnisexual, the nonsexual from the asexual, the biromantic or the two-spirited from the polyamorous and bisexual. The freedom of divorce is a dependence on the legal system, and the independence surgery gives us from our bodies is simultaneously a dependence on surgeons — and the cash we owe them. Every liberating innovation in the erotic sphere has trailed the chain of an increased dependence on impersonal structures of power behind it. The will to power has made us powerless.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:22 PM | Permalink

You are a likely a "potential terrorist"

Michael Snyder has the list with linked sources of the 72 Types of Americans That Are Considered "Potential Terrorists"  in Government Documents 

Are you a conservative, a libertarian, a Christian or a gun owner?  Are you opposed to abortion, globalism, Communism, illegal immigration, the United Nations or the New World Order?  Do you believe in conspiracy theories, do you believe that we are living in the “end times” or do you ever visit alternative news websites (such as this one)?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you are a “potential terrorist” according to official U.S. government documents.

At one time, the term “terrorist” was used very narrowly.  The government applied that label to people like Osama bin Laden and other Islamic jihadists.  But now the Obama administration is removing all references to Islam from terror training materials, and instead the term “terrorist” is being applied to large groups of American citizens.

Let me add from the list, anti-abortion, anti-nuclear, against illegal immigration, have a negative view of the United Nations, suspicious of centralized federal authority, believe in the right to bear arms, exhibits fear of communist regimes, is reverent of individual liberty, is a returning veteran or  an evangelical Christian.

Good Lord.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:32 AM | Permalink

February 24, 2015

"They’re getting divorced, and they’ll do anything NOT to get custody of the kids.”

In the WSJ, Nicolas Eberstadt on The Global Flight From the Family
It’s not only in the West or prosperous nations—the decline in marriage and drop in birth rates is rampant, with potentially dire fallout.

"They’re getting divorced, and they’ll do anything NOT to get custody of the kids.” So reads the promotional poster, in French, for a new movie, “Papa ou Maman” (“Daddy or Mommy”), plastered all over Paris during my recent visit there. The movie sounds like quintessential French comedy, but its plot touches on a deep and serious reality—and one not particular to France.

All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

Yet in infancy and childhood and then again much later, in feebleness or senescence, people need more from others. Whatever else we may be, we are all manifestly inconvenient at the start and end of life. Thus the recasting of the family puts it on a collision course with the inescapable inconvenience of the human condition itself—portending outcomes and risks we have scarcely begun to consider.
Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

"The breakdown of family in ever new ways and directions."  in what the Europeans call The Second Demographic Transition.

Economist Milton Friedman wrote,   "We tend to talk about an individualist society, but it really isn’t, it’s a family society. And the greatest incentives of all, the incentives that have really driven people on, have largely been  the incentives of family. “.  No free society has ever existed that was constituted primarily of individuals pursuing their own interests as isolated individuals. It is stable, successful families, and communities of families, that make a free society possible.  The only real world alternative to a society built upon the state, is a society built upon the family."

Some of this was foreseen by Daniel Patrick Moynihan who warned about family breakdown in the black community 50  years ago.  Jason Riley in the Wall Street Journal Still Right on the Black Family After All These Years . Will liberals ever forgive him?

History has proved that Moynihan was onto something. When the report was released, about 25% of black children and 5% of white children lived in a household headed by a single mother. During the next 20 years the black percentage would double and the racial gap would widen. Today more than 70% of all black births are to unmarried women, twice the white percentage.

For decades research has shown that the likelihood of teen pregnancy, drug abuse, dropping out of school and many other social problems grew dramatically when fathers were absent. One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on juvenile delinquency—by William Comanor and Llad Phillips of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2002—concluded that “the most critical factor affecting the prospect that a male youth will encounter the criminal justice system is the presence of his father in the home.”
Ultimately, the Moynihan report was an attempt to have an honest conversation about family breakdown and black pathology, one that most liberals still refuse to join. Faulting ghetto culture for ghetto outcomes remains largely taboo among those who have turned bad behavior into a symbol of racial authenticity. Moynihan noted that his goal was to better define a problem that many thought—mistakenly, in his view—was no big deal and would solve itself in the wake of civil-rights gains. The author’s skepticism was warranted.

Later this year the nation also will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which some consider the most significant achievement of the modern-day civil-rights movement. With a twice-elected black man now occupying the White House, it might be difficult for younger Americans to appreciate this milestone. However, in 1964, three years after Barack Obama was born, black voter registration in Mississippi was less than 7%, the lowest in the South. By 1966 it had grown to 60%, the highest in the South.
But even as we note this progress, the political gains have not redounded to the black underclass, which by several important measures—including income, academic achievement and employment—has stagnated or lost ground over the past half-century. And while the civil-rights establishment and black political leaders continue to deny it, family structure offers a much more plausible explanation of these outcomes than does residual white racism.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:12 PM | Permalink

Meanwhile, back in Boston



A team of diggers spent ten hours digging a tunnel (pictured) to make the Wellington T station in Medford, Massachusetts, accessible to bikers and commuters


When the tunnel through the snow was completed, it was about 40-feet long and big enough to bike through

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:58 PM | Permalink

"The future of the entire internet at stake" Net neutrality is Obamanet

Doesn't the government have enough to do?  Why fix what isn't broken?  It's nothing but a grab for power and control

Republican FCC Commissioners Ask Wheeler To Delay Net Neutrality Vote, Release Proposal

Three days before the Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote on the most significant Internet regulations in history, two commissioners are asking Chairman Tom Wheeler to delay the vote and release his proposal to the public.
“With the future of the entire Internet at stake, it is imperative that the FCC get this right,” the commissioners said. “And to do that, we must live up to the highest standards of transparency. Transparency is particularly important here because the plan in front of us right now is so drastically different than the proposal the FCC adopted and put out for public comment last May.” (

Obama's regs will make Internet slow as in Europe, warn FCC, FEC commissioners

Bottom line, they warned: “Internet freedom works. It is difficult to imagine where we would be today had the government micromanaged the Internet for the past two decades as it does Amtrak and the U.S. Postal Service. Neither of us wants to find out where the Internet will be two decades from now if the federal government tightens its regulatory grip. We don’t need to shift control of the Internet to bureaucracies in Washington. Let’s leave the power where it belongs — with the American people. When it comes to Americans’ ability to access online content or offer political speech online, there isn’t anything broken for the government to “fix.”

In the Wall Street Journal From Internet to Obamanet by L. Gordon Crovitz
Critics of President Obama’s “net neutrality” plan call it ObamaCare for the Internet.  That’s unfair to ObamaCare.

Both ObamaCare and “Obamanet” submit huge industries to complex regulations. Their supporters say the new rules had to be passed before anyone could read them. But at least ObamaCare claimed it would solve long-standing problems. Obamanet promises to fix an Internet that isn’t broken.
The permissionless Internet, which allows anyone to introduce a website, app or device without government review, ends this week. On Thursday the three Democrats among the five commissioners on the Federal Communications Commission will vote to regulate the Internet under rules written for monopoly utilities.
The more than 300 pages of new regulations are secret, but Mr. Wheeler says they will subject the Internet to the key provisions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, under which the FCC oversaw Ma Bell…..This week Mr. Obama’s bureaucrats will give him the regulated Internet he demands. Unless Congress or the courts block Obamanet, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it.

Senator Obama: ‘Irresponsible’ For FCC To Vote On Rules Unreleased To The Public

Richard Fernancez, Losing the Internet

The specifics of the grab don’t matter as much as the direction in which things must inevitably move. Regulation is an absorbing state  like the Hotel California.  You can try to check out any time you like, but once inside you can never really leave.  Three hundred pages of regulation will become 301 … 302 … A new administration might slow down the rate of growth, but it can never reverse it.
Lawfare, the use of sanctions — in fact every application of  ”smart” policy — implicitly depends on information dominance.  Information is the key to the Western elite’s power. It is probably the administration’s idea that possession of tech will open the gates to this new World Order….There Lawfare is waiting to defend the West with surveillance.  Homeland Defense doesn’t really rely on screeners at airports or border crossings who are there only to impress the rubes. The real defense of the realm depends on ever increasing amounts of domestic monitoring.  The cracked encryption on your SIM; the data retained on your ISP, the real-time machine monitoring of conversations, the proposed sharing of data collected by Silicon Valley these are all bricks in the wall that keep the Jihadis out. They are also bricks in the invisible prison that surrounds you. But a brick is a brick and the information sharing the president proposes will naturally enough be put under Homeland Security rather than the NSA.
The actual effect of government control is to institutionalize incompetence. The more Obama controls, the more he destroys.  Take Obamacare. Hardly a day goes by when we don’t read that 80 million records have been stolen by Chinese hackers from Obamacare provider Anthem;  or that Obamacare itself is sharing information with third party providers.  Only the other day the public learned that 800,000 wrong tax forms were mailed to Obamacare policy holders because they used the wrong year in the computation; that after 3 years the backend isn’t finished.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:49 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Coffee, slumping, saunas, Vit D + diabetes, statins, anti-depressants, donating eggs risky, new anti-HIV drug

Britain's National Health Service is rationing hearing aids. - To save money, patients are getting only one device to to be worn on left OR right ear.

Government panel recommends FIVE CUPS of coffee a day to ward off heart disease, liver cancer and Parkinson's
A panel of experts from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which convenes every five years, did a detailed assessment of the caffeinated beverage for the first time. They recommend drinking three to five cups a day or 400 mg.For pregnant women, the report suggests limiting coffee consumption to two cups a day

SLUMPING could be causing your headaches: Increased pressure on the neck not stress or dehydration is to blame, experts say
But experts suggest most headaches are actually caused increased pressure on the neck, made worse by bad posture.  Experts say 80 per cent of all tension-type headaches - the most common type of headache - are caused by muscles in the neck.

Regular SAUNAS could save your life: Getting sweaty even once a week halves the risk of dying from heart disease
Regular sessions appear to protect against early deaths from any cause and those who visit saunas most often get the greatest benefit.
Study: 'Time spent in the sauna is time well spent, but it's not clear why'

The vanishing cream for TATTOOS: Lotion offers pain-free alternative to laser removal by targeting pigmented blood cells  created by a Alec Falkenham, a PhD student in Pathology at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Lack of sunshine increases the risk of diabetes MORE than being obese
The new Spanish study, published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, found it was a deficiency in vitamin D - dubbed the 'sunshine vitamin' - rather than what a person weighs that increased their risk of diabetes.  This is because there was a direct link between low vitamin D levels and how the body metabolized glucose.  Dr Manuel Macías-González, of the University of Malaga, Spain, said: 'Our findings indicate that vitamin D is associated more closely with glucose metabolism than obesity.

Pill that could help tell if you have CANCER: Scientists hope drug will allow blood tests to replace painful biopsies
The latest research by John Ronald and Sanjiv Gambhir is to be published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences……The Stanford team’s approach involves giving people a drug containing circular pieces of DNA which are to break into tumor cells.  The DNA - called minicircles - prompts the cancerous cells to secrete a specific protein into the bloodstream.

The benefits of taking statins have been exaggerated, two leading experts claim.
Although they can dramatically cut cholesterol levels, they have ‘failed to substantially improve cardiovascular outcomes’, says an analysis of data in clinical trials….The two authors say in the analysis, published in the Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology: ‘The adverse effects suffered by people taking statins are more common than reported in the media and at medical conferences…‘Increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairments and musculoskeletal disorders more than offset the modest cardiovascular benefits of statin treatment.’…Statin advocates have used statistical deception to create the illusion that statins are “wonder drugs,” when the reality is that their modest benefits are more than offset by their adverse effects’, they claim.

The science behind commonly used anti-depressants appears to be backwards, researchers say

The authors of the paper, published by the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, combed existing research for evidence to support the theory that has dominated nearly 50 years of depression research: that depression is related to low levels of serotonin in the gaps between cells in the brain.

The low-serotonin theory is the basis for commonly prescribed serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) anti-depressant medications which keep the neurotransmitter's levels high by blocking its re-absorption into the cells that release it.  Those serotonin-boosting medications actually make it harder for patients to recover, especially in the short term

Young women Don’t donate your eggs for research. The risks are too great
Young women are being exploited. Clinics are offering hefty compensation to donors despite the fact that donating for mitochondrial research offers NO medical benefit to the donor.  Even the tiniest risk of complication needs to be taken seriously especially when dealing with perfectly healthy young women, who have no need to undergo a potentially life-threatening procedure. Procedures with risk are performed on sick patients with the understanding that the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks or the consequences of doing nothing. But in egg donation for mitochondrial research there is no medical benefit, only risk.
In the U.S. Dr Suzanne Parisian, former Chief Medical Officer at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warns, in this short, two minute video, about the harms, risk and lack of studies done on egg donors, from both the drugs and the procedures to get the eggs: ‘There are no numbers. [The donor] doesn’t appear anywhere, in the medial literature, tracking or Government oversight…The studies have never been done.’
In England The Government admits that there is no definitive data on the number of women who have been hospitalized for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) after egg donation. But we do know that just under half of 864 reported clinical incidents between 2010-2012 were due to OHSS. And: ‘Each year approximately 60 instances of severe OHSS and 150 cases of moderate OHSS are reported to the HFEA.’

Scientists say they have created an anti-HIV drug so powerful that it could work as a vaccine.
Macaque monkeys given the drug were able to fend off high, repeated doses of the simian version of the disease.
The protein-based drug (ECD4-LG} has been 'astonishingly effective' at blocking every major strain of HIV tested, marking a major step towards a cure for AIDS, the researchers claim.  The technique works by using gene therapy to introduce a new section of DNA inside healthy cells.  How the ECD4-LG Drug Works

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:41 AM | Permalink

February 23, 2015

How Coptic Christians react to the "flowing river of Christian blood in the Middle East"

 Icon 21Coptic Martyrs Tony Rezk
Tony Rezk is the iconographer

The Coptic Martyrs

The Coptic Orthodox Church has declared “martyrs” the 21 Copts slaughtered by ISIS for being Christians. Their feast day will be February 15, the day they died on the beach in Libya. From Radio Vaticana:

In an interview with Christian channel SAT-7 ARABIC on Wednesday, Beshir Kamel, brother of two of the Coptic martyrs, even thanked the Islamic State for including their declaration of faith in the videos before killing them. “ISIS gave us more than we asked when they didn’t edit out the part where they declared their faith and called upon Jesus Christ. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith,” he said. Beshir said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy and Samuel, saying that their martyrdom was “a badge of honor to Christianity.”

Heaven in the Face of Hell  The families of 21 Coptic Christians martyred in Libya showed a gratitude not of this world.

Twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christians were slaughtered on a beach in Libya a week ago. And even in his mourning, the brothers of two of them gave thanks. Beshir Kamel, brother of both Bishoy Astafanus Kamel, who was 25, and Somaily Astafanus Kamel, who was 23, thanked their murderers for not editing out the name of their Savior when disseminating the video of their beheadings. Appearing on an Arabic Christian television station, Kamel said that the families of the men, laborers who were working in Libya in order to provide for their families — 13 of them from the same small, impoverished village — were congratulating one another. “We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he explained.

Who would have an ounce of gratitude at such a moment? The answer: one who has hope — hope of something real and eternal.
It sounds crazy to a modern secular society, one that tends to view religious faith as sentiment, comfort, and milestone ritual. Kamel said: “Since the Roman era, Christians have been martyred and have learned to handle everything that comes our way. This only makes us stronger in our faith because the Bible told us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.” And he relayed what his mother had said, when asked what she would do if she ever met the man who had beheaded her son. “My mother, an uneducated woman in her sixties, said she would ask [him] to enter her house and ask God to open his eyes because he was the reason her son entered the kingdom of heaven.”
The Christianity of the men who were martyred for their faith, is “the most important aspect of the story,” said Samuel Tadros, the author of a book on Christians in Egypt, Motherland Lost, and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom. “ISIS gunmen chose these men from among other Egyptians living there because they were Copts,” he said. “This was no random choice. ISIS holds deep hostility to say the least towards Middle Eastern Christians. Its goal is quite simply the eradication of their existence

WATCH The Amazing Copts Filled With Joy For The 21 Martyred Copts

Harrowing scenes of the murders have been seen around the world. The last words of some of those killed were “Ya Rabbi Yasou” (My Lord Jesus Christ).   Imagine thanking the killers of two of your brothers who were beheaded and video taped for the whole world to watch the barberic cruelty. Yet, this is exactly what the brother of two of the 21 Coptic Christians did when ISIS murdered both of them in Libya last week. With amazing grace comes amazing faith. Speaking on a live prayer and worship program Beshir Kamel said that he was proud of his brothers Bishoy Estafanos Kamel (25) and Samuel Estafanos Kamel (23) because they were “a badge of honor to Christianity”.

The amazing faith of Beshir Kamel even gave thanks, not just to God and Christ, but also to ISIS for not editing out the men’s declaration of belief in Christ because he said this had strengthened not only his own faith but the families of the ex-patriate workers were “congratulating one another” and not in despair: “We are proud to have this number of people from our village who have become martyrs,” he told the program.
“When we saw the video we were filled with joy. They were like lions, none of them left their faith. We thank God…..We are so glad. They are with Christ. We thank the Lord….  They went to the eternal joy. We were tired when we did not know, but we were filled with joy when we found out they were heroic”…..Lam’i said “It is as if Christ has opened the heavens for them and He said ‘come up hither’ or why else they would all be kneeling firmly with joy and firmness in their faith."

Bad Catholic on The Difference Between a Martyr and a Victim

The martyr is not glorified for the abuse, torture, or deprivation she suffers, as if we held her up in awe of what was taken from her. No, the martyr is something essentially positive, from the Greek martur – a witness, a pointing-towards, an icon and profound evidence of the immense value and the unspeakable worthiness of that for which she dies.

The martyr, then, is not the victim. The victim is referred to some enemy (a victim of a freak boating accident, of the measles, of terrorism) while the martyr is referred to some friend (a martyr for God, for country, for peace). The victim is referred to a moment in the past (she was a victim of gang violence) while the martyr is a martyr by virtue of a quality she has in the present moment, even after she is dead (she is a martyr). The victim is held up to direct our negative attention towards the cause of her victimhood (look at what evil has wrought!) while the martyr is held up to direct our positive attention towards the reason for her martyrdom (look at her incredible faith, her courage, her commitment, her love for God, etc.). The victim’s death works against her life, coming in the form of a homicide, a buffalo stampede, a car crash, all without any meaningful, harmonious relationship to the content of her existence. The martyr’s death, on the other hand, is in profound harmony with the content of her existence. It does not end her life, pulling down the curtain in the midst of Act II, so much as it crowns her life, a fruit and reasonable consequence of its direction and intention — she lived as a Christian and died for it.

Isis in Libya: Tripoli Catholic Bishop defies beheading threat refusing to leave

The head of the Catholic Church in Libya has refused to flee the country amid crumbling security, saying he would rather risk being beheaded by jihadist militants than abandon his shrinking flock.  Italy evacuated all its nationals from the northern African country at the weekend, as Islamist militants were taking sway, also posting a gruesome online video depicting the slaughter of 21 Coptic Christians on a beach near Tripoli.  Father Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the bishop of Tripoli, however decided to stay back.  "My community is here. How could I give up? ….It would be a betrayal."

Coptic Catholics consecrate first church in Sinai, against backdrop of martyrdom

For Coptic Christians, threat of martyrdom is part of daily life

“These 21 victims, they were not the first and they will not be the last. There is a flowing river of Christian blood in the Middle East,” said Mina Abdelmalak, one of the organizers of a D.C. candlelight prayer vigil outside the White House on Ash Wednesday.
“Most people living in those areas, really every day they live by the grace of God,” explained Fr. Anthony Messeh of the St. Timothy and St. Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Church in Arlington, Va.  "They’re not as shaken by these things as we are, because they count every day as a gift from God.” Their public faith could mean “the end of their life,” he told CNA.
Faith for the Copts is everything, “a life that they’re willing to lose for the sake of their faith.” This is why the “extreme bravery” of the Coptic martyrs is so compelling, . “They’re doing the stuff that we’re preaching,” he said.

In 2013, the late Bob Simon reported on The Copts .

Heba Morayef, who headed Human Rights Watch in Egypt, says the pope's support of the military was denounced at Muslim Brotherhood rallies which often blamed Christians for conspiring to overthrow Morsi…..Accusations that Christians were responsible for the coup. Chants that would call Christians the Pope's dogs. ,,,, It all came to an abrupt end last August 14th -- when the army crushed two huge Muslim Brotherhood encampments. Close to a thousand protestors were killed.  The dispersal of the two sit-ins on August 14th were the most bloody incidents of police violence we've ever seen in Egypt.    As word of the killings spread all across Egypt, Muslim mobs began attacking Christian churches.

… In a town called Kerdasa, a mob broke down the gate of another Coptic church complex.  Redha Girgis, a caretaker, "They looted everything from chairs to pews. They stole anything that could be carried, what they couldn't carry, they destroyed….They set the whole place on fire, with Molotov cocktails and gasoline. And, on their way out, the attackers left behind a calling card: graffiti saying that Egypt is Islamic. The whole complex was gutted. Everything was incinerated: pews, paintings, Bibles.

The Copts had supported the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood rule, were overjoyed when the army took over. But when they saw their churches in flames, they realized they were paying a price for siding with the military and that they were on their own. No one was going to help them.  But martyrdom has always been at the core of the Coptic religion. Suffering, Copts believe, deepens their faith. The day we were in Kerdasa - they held a service in the only place that hadn't been destroyed. But we were surprised there was no anger, no call for revenge.

Recent attacks against the Copts

2010 Nag Hammadi massacre.  As Coptic Christians were leaving midnight Christmas mass, Muslim gunmen killed 8 Copts and one Muslim bystander and injured 9 Copts 
2011 Alexandria bombing of the Saint Mark and Pope Peter Coptic Orthodox Church where several thousand Copts were attending a New Year's service. 23 Copts were killed and 197.
2011 Imbaba church attacks.  St Mina and the Virgin Mary Church in Imbaba, a working class area in Cairo, attacked and burned by Salafi Muslims.  15 people killed, 232 injured, and many Christian-owned houses and businesses destroyed.   
2011 The Maspero Massacre. Video.  Thousands of protestors peacefully marched on the Maspero TV tower demonstrating against the military's silence over the burning of a church and the armed forces recent attacks on a similar protest a few days earlier. That day the military killed twenty-eight civilians, injured hundreds, and arrested thirty.

You can see the spirit, the strength and the joy of the Copts in this video shortly after the Maspero Massacre, Coptic Christians cry out Jesus for 10 minutes.

 Copts Call Out Jesus  YouTube link

Turmoil in Egypt - Who was in power and when

2011 Revolution.  Amid the Arab spring and the discontent over the 30 year autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak, protests broke out across Egypt.  Two days later, the Muslim Brotherhood threw its support behind the protests.  18 days later, Mubarak resigns.  The Armed Forces assume control and promise free elections
June 2012,  Elections  held: 
Mohammed Morsi , a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood wins 51.7% of the vote and took office
Nov 2012: Morsi grants himself unlimited powers to 'protect' the nation, including the power to legislate without judicial review. 
Dec  2012  Constitution of 2012 includes many elements of Sharia law as defined by Sunnis. Massive protests and violent action throughout the country follow
Early 2013.  Massive protests and violent action throughout the country and calls for Morsi to resign
July 3, 2013 Egyptian coup d'etat
led by the Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi removed the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, from power and suspended the Egyptian constitution.  Arrests and detention of Muslim brotherhood members and closure of their medial outlets, their party (Freedom & Justice) banned.
May 2014.  Former army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi  elected as President in new elections with 47% turnout and 96% of the vote.
El-Sisi also became the first Egyptian president in the entire Egyptian history to attend the Christmas Mass and gave a speech at the Coptic Orthodox Christmas service in Cairo in January 2015 calling for unity and wishing the Christians a merry Christmas.  He has  greatly improved relations with Israel, and donated half his salary and half his inheritance to help rebuild the Egyptian economy, called for a year long fast track  to double the size of the Suez Canal and so increase its revenues.    He is overwhelmingly popular.

Glimmers of Hope.  As the leader of the largest Arab nation, on New Year's Day before an audience of leading imans,  he gave an extraordinary speech on Islam

It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma [Islamic world] to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.  Impossible!

That thinking—I am not saying “religion” but “thinking”—that corpus of texts and ideas that we have sacralized over the years, to the point that departing from them has become almost impossible, is antagonizing the entire world.  It’s antagonizing the entire world!

Is it possible that 1.6 billion people [Muslims] should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live? Impossible!

I say and repeat again that we are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world, I say it again, the entire world is waiting for your next move… because this umma is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our  hands.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:03 PM | Permalink

February 21, 2015

What ISIS says about beheading of 21 Christian Copts

What ISIS says about beheading of 21 Christian Copts

 21 Coptic Holy Martyrs

Raymond Ibrahim watched the video.  I could not.
The disputed fate of the 21 Coptic Christians abducted in Sirte, Libya is now clear and visible for all to see on video: while holding them down, Islamic State members shove their fingers in the Christians’ eyes, crane their heads back, and slice away at their throats with knives—all in the name of Allah and Islam, all as the slaughtered call out on the “Lord Jesus Christ.”...

The lead executioner waves his dagger at the camera while boasting of the Islamic State’s savagery: “Oh people, recently you have seen us on the hills of as-Sham and Dabiq’s plain [Syrian regions], chopping off the heads that have been carrying the cross for a long time.  And today, we are on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya, sending another message.”

He adds: “We will fight you until Christ descends, breaks the cross and kills the pig” (all eschatological actions ascribed to the Muslim “Christ,” Isa).

They had "grievances"
An article in Dabiq, the Islamic State’s online magazine in English titled “Revenge for the Muslimat [Muslim women]: Persecuted by the Coptic Crusaders of Egypt” claims that 21 Christians were slaughtered in “revenge” for two Coptic women who, back in 2010 and according to Islamic propaganda, were compelled by Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church to recant their conversion to Islam and return to Christianity.

Great reward” for killing Coptic Christians
In other words, due to the 2010 “good deed” of killing nearly 60 Christians during church service in Iraq, Allah has allowed the Islamic State to grow and kill more Christians in Libya and elsewhere. …“there is no doubt in the great reward to be found on Judgment Day for those who spill the blood of these Coptic crusaders wherever they may be found…

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:00 PM | Permalink

How ISIS is funded

Self-funded and deep-rooted: How ISIS makes its millions

Matthew Levitt, director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C., calls ISIS "the best-financed group we've ever seen…..Besides revenue from oil smuggling, the group receives money through donations from wealthy sympathizers in countries including Qatar and Kuwait. But the group has another method of funding itself: through organized crime within the territories it has vanquished and now controls. The group, says Levitt, was born among crooks and thugs from a broken Iraq, and at its root it is a criminal enterprise.
ISIS can demand money from people wherever it has established control. Want to do business in ISIS-controlled territory? You pay a tax. Want to move a truck down an ISIS-controlled highway? You pay a toll. Villagers in ISIS territory reportedly are charged and pay for just about everything…. They also control sort of the breadbasket of Syria, in terms of Raqqa (their defacto capital). They've got the cotton and the wheat and all these other things. All of these serve as sort of economic and powerhouse or funding for ISIS."


The terrorist group relies on a relatively complex system to manage its far-reaching networks. Its currencies of choice—cash, crude oil and contraband—allow it to operate outside of legitimate banking channels. Turkey’s southern corridor, Iraq’s northwestern corridor and Syria’s northeastern corridor are key weak spots, well away from the prying eyes of outside investigators.

Royal Donors in the Gulf.
ISIS has accepted funding from government or private sources in the oil-rich nations of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait—and a large network of private donors, including Persian Gulf royalty, businessmen and wealthy families.  Until recently, all three countries had openly given hefty sums to rebels fighting Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime, among them ISIS.
A couple of factors are frustrating attempts to dam these rivers of cash. First, the relatively open banking systems of Qatar and Kuwait are being skillfully exploited by ISIS, since, unlike Saudi banks, they do not automatically raise red flags when money is siphoned to Islamist causes. Second, Qatar and Kuwait are loath to limit the activities of highly influential ISIS donors due to the political fallout such intervention may cause.

Fake Humanitarian Aid.  These donations, Newsweek has learned, are also routinely laundered through unregistered charities in the form of “humanitarian aid,” with terrorists coordinating geographical drop-off points for payments using cellphone applications such as WhatsApp and Kik.  WhatsApp, bought by Facebook last month for $19 billion, would not respond to Newsweek questions about whether it was aware ISIS operatives were using its mobile-messaging platform or whether it had a policy to flag, monitor or report to U.S. authorities the communications of known terrorists.

Captured oil wells and oil smuggling.
Oil-smuggling operations involving millions of barrels have recently been uncovered.
The oil comes from wells and refineries that ISIS has taken over inside northern Iraq and northern Syria, and until very recently it was easy to smuggle it into this quiet part of southern Turkey. One reason is that cheap, smuggled oil is a much-prized commodity in Turkey, where oil is so expensive that it almost doesn't matter who is selling it, even if it's your enemy.

Organ trafficking
ISIS Selling Human Organs Harvested From Dead Soldiers And Alive Hostages To Generate Huge Profits, Fund Terror Group

For months, foreign doctors have allegedly been recruited by ISIS commanders to harvest internal organs not only from the bodies of their own dead soldiers, but also from living hostages - including children - taken from minority villages in Iraq and Syria, according to a report by al-Monitor news website.

"Surgeries take place within a hospital and organs are quickly transported through networks specialized in trafficking human organs," the report's author wrote.  "The organs come from fallen fighters who were quickly transported to the hospital, injured people who were abandoned or individuals who were kidnapped."

But according to doctor Siruwan al-Mosuli, an extensive organ trafficking system, which is already beginning to generate huge profits, is currently being run by hired foreign doctors from a hospital in the captured city of Mosul, northern Iraq, Western Journalism reported…"[Al-Mosuli] said that lately he noticed unusual movement within medical facilities in Mosul Arab and foreign surgeons were hired, but prohibited from mixing with local doctors," the report said. "Information then leaked about organ selling."

After completing operational procedures at the hospital, the human hearts, livers and kidneys are transferred to a specialist organ-smuggling division whose sole responsibility is to sell the internal organs on the lucrative international black market, the Iraqi ear, nose and throat doctor said. Then, a majority of the organs are smuggled out of Syria and Iraq into neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia or Turkey where criminal gangs sell them on to shady buyers across the globe, the Assyrian International News Agency reported.

UN urged to investigate ISIS's bloody trade in human organs after Iraqi ambassador reveals doctors are being executed for not harvesting body parts The shocking news of ISIS trade in human organs was first revealed in a report by al-Monitor news website in December, citing an Iraqi ear, nose and throat doctor named Siruwan al-Mosuli.  He told the site that ISIS commanders hired foreign doctors to run an extensive organ trafficking system from a hospital in Mosul that is already beginning to generate huge profits.

Drug smuggling Drug smuggling, supplying half of Europe's heroin market.   Al Monitor's report claims that IS traffics Afghan heroin into Europe from the city of Nineveh, which the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (RFDCS) says is generating 'significant revenues.'
Its drug business has become so successful in recent months that the RFDCS claims that IS now supplies half of Europe's entire heroin market.

Looting and selling antiquities Looted from ancient buildings in ISIS strongholds, such as the group's de facto capital city Raqqa, the antiquities are up to 10,000-years-old and can exchange hands for more than $1 million each….The finer points of ISIS trade in antiquities was uncovered in an investigation by the BBC.  It revealed that ISIS militants charge smugglers 20 per cent on the sale of ancient items found or looted in territory under its control. If the smugglers decide not to buy the items, they are promptly smashed to pieces as examples of idolatry, regardless of their historic significance

Human trafficking  A report by OHCHR confirmed that more than 25,000 women and children have been imprisoned, sexually violated and sold by IS….The Times of London exposed “a human trafficking network established by ISIS in Mosul, where women and children were sold for money. This also constitutes a funding source for the fighters. According to the newspaper, women and children of Yazidi, Christian and other minority backgrounds are also sold through a networking hub in Syria’s Raqqa.”

Human smuggling The sixth funding source is human smuggling rings, especially for families who wish to emigrate to other countries. One family reached Turkey after reportedly paying $8,000 for each individual that escaped

Kidnapping for CashRansoms from kidnappings make up about 20 percent of ISIS’s revenue, says Integrity’s Jiyad. The U.S. Treasury estimates ISIS has received $20 million in ransoms so far this year. 

Sale of passports and counterfeit goods. Foreign Affairs: Blood Money - How ISIS Makes Bank
Still more funding comes from the sale of counterfeit cigarettes, pharmaceuticals, cell phones, antiquities, and foreign passports. The trafficking of some of these commodities into Turkey from Syria has risen dramatically. For example, cigarette smuggling has increased, fuel smuggling is estimated to have tripled, and cell phone smuggling has risen fivefold. ISIS is also taxing black market antiquities at 20–50 percent, depending on the region and type of antiquity. Meanwhile, foreign fighters sell their passports for thousands of dollars in Turkey before entering Syria, where the proceeds help fund them and ISIS. These particular forms of illicit trade are attractive to terrorists because there is less competition, less regulation, and limited law enforcement in these markets compared to others, such as the arms and narcotics trades.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:57 PM | Permalink

'What could be more useful than a road that would give my fellow villagers the opportunities that I had?'

Creating and realizing his legacy gives his last days meaning, passion and purpose

Dying man chooses to spend his life savings building a road to the impoverished village where he grew up rather than treat his liver cancer

Hollywood icon Audrey Hepburn once said 'it's a wonderful idea that others come first and you come second.'  Nowhere is this better embodied than by the deeds of Huang Yuanfeng, a southern-Chinese man who has sacrificed his life for the residents of an isolated village.

 Selfless Chinese-Man
Still directing his project though too weak to stand
The 45-year-old suffers from debilitating liver cancer. But rather than funding the costly treatment for his disease which will give him the chance to live, Mr Huang has instead resolved to use his life-savings on building a road through the previously impassible mountains that lead into his home town of Xiaojiangtun.  Mr Huang hope his legacy will be renewed trade and tourism to the impoverished town,

Xiaojiangtun sits on the far south of China, bordering Vietnam. For generations, locals have endured days of arduous trekking to get out of the village, which is hemmed in by towering rivers and cliffs.  Mr Huang moved from the village as a teenager and spent twenty years as a migrant worker in Guilin, a popular tourist destination. It was here he amassed his savings.

As was one of few locals to escape the severely remote village, he knows how vital the road is for the locals.
'What could be more useful than a road that would give my fellow villagers the opportunities that I had?' Mr Huang told Mirror.
The four-kilometre-long Xiaojiangtun road, completed this month, steers through cliffs, forests and rivers to connect the town to a national highway.

Despite being too weak to stand on his feet most of the time, Mr Huang oversaw the entire process, directing the workers from a chair as he took his medicine through eight hour days….Thankfully, he did not have to brave the task alone: his father, wife and daughter have stood by Mr Huang throughout the selfless venture.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:29 PM | Permalink

"The dream has become a nightmare… billions of network users are victims, not beneficiaries"

Andrew Keen in an article adapted from his new book  The Internet is Not the Answer

How the internet is destroying us: Its pioneers hoped the web would transform society. Now a devastating new book says it has - in a way that diminishes humanity 

The dream has become a nightmare, in which I fear we billions of network users are victims, not beneficiaries.

In our super-connected 21st-century world, rather than promoting economic fairness, the net is a central reason for the growing gulf between rich and poor and the hollowing out of the middle classes.  Rather than generating more jobs, it is - as I will explain - a cause of unemployment. Rather than creating more competition, it has created immensely powerful new monopolists such as Google and Amazon in a winner-takes-all economy.

Its cultural ramifications are equally chilling. Rather than creating transparency and openness, it secretly gathers information and keeps a watch on each and every one of us.

And thanks to the explosion in social media, rather than creating more democracy, the internet is empowering mob rule.

This month, after years of social networks being scarred by appalling personal abuse and bullying - leading to several suicides - Twitter, which has 288 million users a month, finally admitted there was ‘no excuse’ for its failure to stop its users sending vile messages to the targets of their hatred.
The company’s boss, Dick Costolo, admitted: ‘I’m frankly ashamed at how poorly we’ve dealt with this issue. It’s absurd.’
The internet has also unleashed a seemingly unstoppable flow of increasingly hardcore sexual materials. Only this week it emerged that half a million pornographic images are posted on Twitter every day.  Pornography is so ubiquitous on the internet, and controls denying access so inadequate, that many parents rightly feel their children are at serious risk.

And when people are not looking online at other people with no clothes on, they are looking at themselves. Rather than fostering an intellectual renaissance, the internet has created a selfie-centred culture of voyeurism and narcissism.

Far from making us happy, it is provoking and channelling an outpouring of anger at the world around us.
Of course, the internet is not all bad. It has done tremendous good in connecting families, friends and work colleagues around the world.
Yet for our input in adding intelligence to Google, or content to Facebook, we are paid nothing, merely being granted the right to use the software free. And that’s what is driving the new ‘data factory’ economy.
The whole point of the free Instagram app is to mine its users’ data. Our photos reveal to Instagram more and more about our tastes, our movements, our friends. The app in effect reverses the camera lens.
Google and Facebook boast that they know us more intimately than we know ourselves. They know what we did yesterday, today and, with the help of predictive technology, what we will do tomorrow.
And it is, frankly, our fault for choosing to live in a crystal republic where cars, mobile phones and televisions — hooked up to the internet — watch us.  Far from being the answer to our problems, the internet, whose pioneers believed it would save humanity, is diminishing our lives.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:02 AM | Permalink

"Intimidation on the quad, multiplied over many years and campuses, is an unseen engine of secularization."

In the Intercollegiate Review Mary Eberstadt writes From Campus Bullies to Empty Churches

The question of secularization—or how it is that societies once markedly religious become less so, particularly the societies of what’s known as Western civilization—has been much studied in modern times. Urbanization, rationalism, higher education, industrialization, feminism: these are just some of the possible causal agents debated by sociologists when they try to figure out why some people stop going to church.

Yet one highly significant social fact that rather obviously bears on the question of secularization has gone unnoticed. That is the relationship between the well-documented decline in Western churchgoing, especially among Millennials, and the simultaneous rise of a toxic public force on campuses across the Western world: the new intolerance.

“The new intolerance” is shorthand for the chilled public atmosphere in which religious believers now operate……An atheist or other nonbeliever might say students lose religion because college is where they learn higher reasoning, and higher reasoning drives out the superstition of faith. That kind of answer might seem to make perfect sense—except that it’s refuted by the facts. In fact, social science points to the opposite conclusion: better-educated people are actually more likely than those with less education to be found in church.
the campus these days is ground zero of the new intolerance…..The intimidation varies from one campus to another, from one department to another, and from one protest to another. But while the decibels of ferocity may change, the negative posture toward religious believers ­themselves—or for that matter toward anyone who finds anything of value in the Judeo-Christian tradition and bothers to defend it—remains the same.
It’s time to air the idea that college students do not stay out of church or synagogue because their education leads them to enlightened conclusions about the big questions. No, the more likely dynamic is that thanks to the new intolerance, the social and other costs of being a known believer in the public square mount by the year—and students take note. Hence intimidation on the quad, multiplied over many years and campuses, is an unseen engine of secularization.

Sometimes there's blowback.  David French  in How Political Correctness Improved My Life

From that point forward — in class after class — I had a simple choice: be silent or face the strong probability of insults, shout-downs, cat-calls, and other lame efforts at intimidation. In extreme instances, conservative students had their faces pasted on gay porn and posted in the halls. Other students endured activists calling future employers and demanding their termination. While I didn’t face the full wrath of campus activists, I endured more than my share of intensely personal backlash. The shout-downs were routine, so were the insults.
And the entire experience made me a better, wiser person.  I felt at the time that I’d faced and passed a test — that I’d proven to myself that my convictions were worth more to me than social acceptance.
Political correctness demystified the Left. I saw amongst the radical students a herd mentality more rigid and unthinking than I’d ever seen in an entire life growing up in a fundamentalist church (yes, fundamentalist — our little sect believed only its members merited eternal life). The herd conventional wisdom hardened virtually overnight, debate was minimal to nonexistent, and condescension and anger substituted for reason and thought.
I don’t pretend to believe that PC is the sole reason for national division, but political correctness is changing America, and not always in the direction that the Left desires. I’m living proof — and so are the conservatives across the country who’ve faced political correctness and emerged more convinced, not less, in the rightness of their cause.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 AM | Permalink

February 20, 2015

Miscellany 5

I live outside Boston and it's really, truly the worst winter ever.  Below are my 2 favorite snow storm photos.

 Boston Snowstorm Fav

When a black German woman discovered her grandfather was the Nazi villain of 'Schindler's List'  An odd series of events led Jennifer Teege to discover that her grandfather was none other than the notorious Nazi Amon Goeth.

Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium Despite the pain, millions of Chinese women stood firm in their devotion to the tradition

"A small foot in China, no different from a tiny waist in Victorian England, represented the height of female refinement. For families with marriageable daughters, foot size translated into its own form of currency and a means of achieving upward mobility. The most desirable bride possessed a three-inch foot, known as a “golden lotus.” It was respectable to have four-inch feet—a silver lotus—but feet five inches or longer were dismissed as iron lotuses. The marriage prospects for such a girl were dim indeed.
 Footbinding Golden Lotus
"Foot-binding, which started out as a fashionable impulse, became an expression of Han identity after the Mongols invaded China in 1279. The fact that it was only performed by Chinese women turned the practice into a kind of shorthand for ethnic pride. Periodic attempts to ban it, as the Manchus tried in the 17th century, were never about foot-binding itself but what it symbolized. To the Chinese, the practice was daily proof of their cultural superiority to the uncouth barbarians who ruled them. It became, like Confucianism, another point of difference between the Han and the rest of the world. Ironically, although Confucian scholars had originally condemned foot-binding as frivolous, a woman’s adherence to both became conflated as a single act.
"The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women. Though utterly rejected in China now—the last shoe factory making lotus shoes closed in 1999—it survived for a thousand years in part because of women’s emotional investment in the practice."

20 years later, two men united by Sonoma County DUI crash reflect on shared path. A  remarkable story of forgiveness and its ripple effect.

The moment I heard a human voice for the first time, aged 39: How a woman born deaf took the gamble of her life and escaped a world of silence

"Are you ready for me to switch the implants on now?’ she asks. My heart leaps to my throat. This is it. Every hair on my body is standing up, a feeling like electricity is pulsing through me. There’s a tingling inside me, a ringing in my ears, my arms, my legs, like no sensation I’ve ever felt before.  It goes all through my body, this tingle, all the way from my head to my toes, and then is swallowed up into the floor.  Every letter and syllable bounces off the walls, the ceiling, the doors, ringing out around the room, in my ears, and rattling round my brain.

"The audiologist stopped speaking seconds ago, and yet sound lingers in the room, long after her lips have stopped moving.
‘Caaaaan . . . yoooooou . . . heeeeear . . . meeeeeeeeee?’  The first words I’ve ever heard."

The Gorgeous Typeface That Drove Men Mad and Sparked a 100-Year Mystery

"Cobden Sanderson and his partner, Emery Walker, founded the Doves Press in 1900. Walker was a businessman, with plenty of other concerns in the world, but Cobden Sanderson was a creative perfectionist—a man obsessed with authenticity and craft. …….Their type was created in 1899, and the duo would use it to print indescribably beautiful books, bound by hand and designed with the perfect balance of craftsmanship and modern utility. Cobden Sanderson was a bit of a snob in the sense that he only wanted to commit his designs to the finest literature, the "most beautiful words." They printed Paradise Lost. They printed the English Bible. Today, copies of these books are extremely rare, and they command thousands of dollars at auction.

Aeon video Forgotten Things. Going to the movies in January 1940,  The impact of WWII newsreels showing the icy fields of the Maginot Line and Shirley Temple’s smile.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:20 PM | Permalink

February 19, 2015


Our government has been wrong about cholesterol for 40 years and is finally admitting it. The U.S. government is poised to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol

The nation’s top nutrition advisory panel has decided to drop its caution about eating cholesterol-laden food, a move that could undo almost 40 years of government warnings about its consumption.

The glorious return of the egg: Why Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist

The story of the changing American diet over the last 60 years is a story of junk science funded by both government and corporate interests, as well as a cascade of health panics and regulations aimed at one "demon" ingredient after another. The result is an unhealthier, more obese population than the one that ate more dairy and nearly three times as much red meat a century ago.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:39 PM | Permalink

"The goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism"

U.N. Official Reveals Real Reason Behind Warming Scare

At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.

"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution," she said.

The UN Climate End Game

A draft document out of Geneva gives details of the UN plan to rule the world….The purpose of the latter conference was to produce the negotiating text for the climate conference to be held in Paris in December. The Geneva meeting was conducted in a rush with no opening statements, even by the head of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. Ms. Figueres expectation of the climate treaty coming is that it will be “a centralised transformation” that “is going to make the life of everyone on the planet very different”.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:10 PM | Permalink

"Europe's Jews are living history rather than reading it."

Mark Steyn on Living History.  When you're living history as opposed to reading it, the trick is knowing when to head for the exit.

Europe's Jews are living history rather than reading it. They are living through a strange, freakish coda to the final solution that, quietly and remorselessly, is finishing the job: the total extinction of Jewish life in Europe - and not at the hands of baying nationalist Aryans but a malign alliance of post-national Eutopians and Islamic imperialists…..

This is Europe now, 2015. What will 2016 bring, and 2020, 2025? And yet France or Denmark is all you've ever known; you own a house, you've got a business, a pension plan, savings accounts… How much of all that are you going to be able to get out with? These are the same questions the Continent's most integrated Jews - in Germany - faced 80 years ago. Do you sell your home in a hurry and take a loss? Or maybe in a couple of years it'll all blow over. Or maybe it won't, and in five years the house price will be irrelevant because you'll be scramming with a suitcase. Or maybe in ten years you won't be able to get out at all - like the Yazidi or those Copts.

If you're living history as opposed to reading it in a sophomoric chatroom with metrosexual eunuch trustiefundies, these are the calculations you make - in Mosul, in Raqaa, in Sirte, in Sana'a, in Donetsk, in Malmö, Rotterdam, Paris…
Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:23 AM | Permalink

February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday

For practicing Christians, the  40 days of Lent are devoted to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.


Entering the time of ashes

Just as we are on the verge of emerging from winter’s darkness, stowing blankets and gloves, we are pulled back into the deep. Dust to dust.

There are first things and last things, and dust is one of those last things that never ends, it seems, either in housework or in the work of the soul.
Life gives us many passes at dust. Frustrations, humiliations, sudden loss. Ash Wednesday invites us to do more than deflect these as best we can. It asks that we take the reality of dust into ourselves with space enough — the next 40 days — to walk around in it. To enter the time of ashes is to enter our own wilderness and to take a look around.

Henri Nouwen teaches that our time in the wilderness can focus our attention on the importance of dying well — not surprisingly, a challenge that is all tied up in the way we live out our days. The question, he says, is this: How can we make our lives “fruitful for those we leave behind?”
Ash Wednesday reminds me of the difference between the sometimes desirable and the enduring real. It is a gift of realignment
It is hard and a magnificent thing to die well in the midst of life. We all know someone like Frances who has done so. As the funeral procession leaves the intersection and the police escort signals that it is time to re-enter the “reality” of schedules and obligations, I wonder what, in me, calls out to be buried, so that new life can rise.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:17 AM | Permalink

“A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross”

 Red Blood Christians
Red with the blood of 21 Coptic Christians decapitated by ISIS

Could ISIS come to Italy?  It's not just Italians that are afraid of that. 

Italy Fears ISIS Invasion From Libya

As ISIS makes inroads into Libya, officials in Rome are panicking about an Islamic State just across the sea—but have no idea how to combat the crisis.

Last weekend in Italy, as the threat of ISIS in Libya hit home with a new video addressed to “the nation signed with the blood of the cross” and the warning, “we are south of Rome,” Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi shuttered up the Italian embassy in Tripoli and raised his fist with the threat of impending military action.  Never mind that Italy has only 5,000 troops available that are even close to deployable, according to the defense ministry. Or that the military budget was cut by 40 percent two years ago, which has kept the acquisition of 90 F-35 fighter jets hanging in the balance and left the country combat-challenged to lead any mission—especially one against an enemy like the Islamic State.
there is no question that there is a palpable tension in Italy over the ISIS threat—Libya is just 109 miles away from the island of Lampedusa and 300 miles from Sicily—made worse by a 64 percent increase in illegal migrant arrivals by sea since last year.  In all of 2014, more than 170,000 people arrived from Libya and Turkey, the highest number ever recorded. ….

Anti-immigration politicians have argued for months that it would take little for jihadi fighters to infiltrate a migrant boat and effectively end up taxied into Italy by rescue ships and the Italian navy.

ISIS Threat puts Rome on High Alert: "Never So Exposed'

Rome has dramatically stepped up its security in the wake of last weekend’s slaughter of Christians in Libya and the Islamic State’s overt threat to the city. Outside of Rome’s US embassy on Via Veneto, increased security has been stationed, and machine guns have appeared in the hands of guards. A special security taskforce has been convoked to plan Rome’s response to escalating ISIS threats.

According to reports, “the ISIS threat against Italy is now real and direct,” and intelligence analysts are saying that Italy “has never been so exposed.”  Italy closed its embassy in Tripoli on February 15, and Italy’s defense minister Roberta Pinotti said that the possibility of jihadists reaching Italy from Libya “cannot be ruled out.”

The Islamic State released a video on Sunday showing the Islamic militants beheading 21 Egyptian Christians, in which the masked leader twice mentions Rome.  Rome’s police chief Giuseppe Pecoraro already requested an extra 500 military personnel earlier this year, and the city mayor Ignazio Marino has called for reinforced security for the city’s major monuments and churches.

The video is titled “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross,” and the leader identifies their position as “on the south of Rome, on the land of Islam, Libya.” After the beheading, the leader says: “And we will conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet, peace be upon him.”

This is not the first time that ISIS has identified Rome as its primary target. Representing the center of global Christianity, Rome has long been in ISIS’ sights.
Along with the possibility of direct terrorist attacks, ISIS has threatened to send “500 thousand immigrants into Italy from the Libyan coast” in the case of a military intervention in Libya. According to reports, the news comes from intercepted phone calls between jihadists, who would use immigration as a psychological weapon. One objective would reportedly be to provoke mass deaths at sea and thus destabilize the country.

Islamic State 'planning to use Libya as gateway to Europe'  Exclusive: Jihadists hoping to use Libya as a "gateway" to wage war across the whole of southern Europe, plans by Isil supporters reveal

Islamic State militants are planning a takeover of Libya as a "gateway" to wage war across the whole of southern Europe, letters written by the group's supporters have revealed.  The jihadists hope to flood the north African state with militiamen from Syria and Iraq, who will then sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people trafficking vessels, according to plans seen by Quilliam, the British anti-extremist group.

The fighters would then run amok in southern European cities and also try to attack maritime shipping.  The document is written by an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) propagandist who is believed to be an important online recruiter for the terror in Libya, where security has collapsed in the wake of the revolution that unseated Colonel Gaddafi in 2011.
Yesterday, Nasser Kamel, Egypt's ambassador to London, warned Britain brace itself for 'boats full of terrorists' unless action was taken in Libya. He spoke after 2,164 migrants were rescued at sea in a 24-hour period over the weekend in what has been described as an 'exodus without precedent'.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:24 AM | Permalink

February 16, 2015

Sea Red with Martyrs' Blood by Genocidal ISIS

Released last night, a new video by ISIS showed the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians on a beach in Libya

The 21 men, who were Egyptian migrant workers kidnapped last month, are then seen being forced onto their knees before they are beheaded simultaneously by the militants standing behind them.

-Seas Red Martyrs' Blood
Pope Francis has today condemned the beheading of 21 Coptic Egyptians by ISIS militants, saying all Christians 'be they Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Lutherans' are one faith, proclaiming the murdered men martyrs.

The Pope unexpectedly went off script following a meeting with a representative of the Church of Scotland in the Vatican, making a short speech in his native Spanish in which he claimed the murdered Egyptians' last words were 'Jesus help me'.
Pope Francis has today expressed 'profound sadness' at hearing of the brutal murders of the 21 Christian Egyptians. 

'Today I read about the execution of those twenty-one or twenty-two Coptic Christians,' the Pope said in his native Spanish according to Breitbart. 'Their only words were: "Jesus, help me!" 'They were executed for nothing more than the fact that they were Christian. The blood of our Christian sisters and brothers is testimony that cries out [to us].
The Egyptian government declared a seven-day mourning period after the release of the video and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addressed the nation late Sunday night……Tens of thousands of Egyptians work in Libya, mainly in the construction sector, and they have been targeted as the country has descended into chaos.
The killings raise the possibility that the Islamic militant group - which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq in a self-declared caliphate - has established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy.  One of the militants in the video, speaking English, makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to 'conquer Rome.' 

Charles Krauthammer In the wake of the murders of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians,:

“[ISIS] is not just Islamic radicalism anymore, or Islamic terrorism, which is only a tactic. This is really Islamist supremacy. And in that sense, it is akin to Nazism. That was racial supremacy; here it’s Islamist.”

“The ideology of ISIS is clearly supremacist,” said Krauthammer on Monday’s Special Report, “in the sense that anybody who is not Islamic in their understanding is to be either enslaved or eradicated.

This is a genocidal movement. You kill Christians, you kill Jews, you kill Yazidis (but you may in certain circumstances enslave them). That’s what we’re up against, and we have an administration that will not even admit that there’s a religious basis underlying what’s going on.”

The Anchoress: Holy Martyrs of Egypt, pray for us and for your ISIS killers

And in the must-read article in the Atlantic What ISIS Really Wants by Graeme Wood The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. …Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:54 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: probiotics, drinking, chronic fatigue now SEID, best yoga post, and pot

What friendly bacteria really CAN do for you… but probiotic makers are banned from telling us about -easing IBS, improving mood, soothing eczema, boosting immunity and more. 

We're taking much better care of ourselves and it shows.  Turning 60 no longer means that you're getting old: Number being affected by age-related illnesses almost halves in a decade

Drinking is only good for you if you are a woman over 65: Sobering study finds medicinal qualities of a daily tipple have been overstated - except in older females and then only a small glass of wine each day.

Chronic fatigue IS 'a real and serious disease': Doctors draw up new guidelines on how to diagnose the condition

A panel from the U.S. Institute of Medicine. panel sought to redefine chronic fatigue syndrome, setting five main symptoms as simple criteria for doctors to use in making a diagnosis.  Experts also called for a new name for the condition, ... they argue it should be called Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease, or SEID, to reflect that symptoms worsen after exertion.

Its hallmark is persistent and profound fatigue where, on a bad day, a simple activity like grocery shopping can put someone to bed.
It is often accompanied by memory problems or other symptoms. These include joint and muscle pain, incapacitating headaches, food intolerance, a sore throat or enlarged lymph nodes and sensitivity to light.  However there is no specific treatment and the IOM found less than a third of medical schools teach about the disease.
Last year Stanford University researchers revealed the brains of those diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome are distinctly different to those of healthy people.  First, an MRI scan showed that overall white matter content of CFS patients' brains was reduced compared to that of healthy participants' brains.  Using advanced imaging techniques, they identified a consistent abnormality in a particular part of a nerve tract in the right hemisphere of CFS patients' brains.  The tract, which connects the frontal lobe with the temporal lobe, assumed an abnormal appearance in CFS patients.  Furthermore, the study identified a strong link between the degree of abnormality in the patient's tract and the severity of their CFS.

The NEW health rules: Get your hands dirty, be unproductive and do something you love for 10 minutes every day

The New Health Rules is a new wellness book offering 175 tips to readers covering eating habits, healing, energizing the body and getting active.  Dr Frank Lipman, co-author, said the aim is to help people improve their health and wellbeing in small, easily achievable steps with bite-size nuggets of information designed to be adopted gradually .

Like this one: IF YOU ONLY LEARN ONE YOGA POSE…. . . let it be supta baddha konasana.
It’s a heart-opening, lung-stretching, deeply restorative posture you can do with or without props - a chance to get a sense of the magic of yoga without straining yourself.  Whether you spend your days at a computer, or working with your hands, or on the floor playing with kids, you’re likely to be closed and tight in the front of your body (most of us are).  This pose helps.
 Yoga Restorative Pose
With a bolster under your shoulder blades, and your choice of folded blankets, firm pillows, or yoga blocks supporting knees, spine, and head, you’ll feel a gentle (and gradually deepening) release in your hips, chest, shoulders, and throat.
Stay for five minutes; it’s an amazing way to start or end your day.

'This pose to me, is like the best chill out pill you can ever get,' Dr Lipman told MailOnline.
'It is better than any drugs. Whenever I am stressed I will take myself off and go into supta baddha konasana. 'There is something amazing about opening up your chest and hips completely at the same time, while being supported.
'If you can lie there for five to 10 minutes in the pose, it is truly incredible. 'It is another of those things, that once you have tried it for yourself, you will understand.'

Study Shows Heavy Adolescent Pot Use Permanently Lowers IQ.

A study more than thirty years in the making found that smoking marijuana permanently lowers intelligence, or IQ.  Frequent pot smokers (even those who had given up marijuana) tended to have deficits in memory, concentration, and overall IQ. The reduction in IQ for those who smoked pot heavily prior to age 18 was most pronounced: an average of eight points.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:09 PM | Permalink

Another great argument for all male and all female colleges -UPDATED with more

Ann Althouse February 16, 2015

"I recently assisted a young man who was subjected by administrators at his small liberal arts university in Oregon to a month-long investigation into all his campus relationships…"
"… seeking information about his possible sexual misconduct in them
(an immense invasion of his and his friends’ privacy), and who was ordered to stay away from a fellow student (cutting him off from his housing, his campus job, and educational opportunity) — all because he reminded her of the man who had raped her months before and thousands of miles away. He was found to be completely innocent of any sexual misconduct and was informed of the basis of the complaint against him only by accident and off-hand. But the stay-away order remained in place, and was so broadly drawn up that he was at constant risk of violating it and coming under discipline for that. When the duty to prevent a 'sexually hostile environment' is interpreted this expansively, it is affirmatively indifferent to the restrained person’s complete and total innocence of any misconduct whatsoever."
From a Harvard Law Review Forum piece called "Trading the Megaphone for the Gavel in Title IX Enforcement/  Backing off the hype in Title IX enforcement"by lawprof Janet Halley. (Boldface added.)

I'm with every one of the commenters who urged suit against the college for such an egregious violation of that young man's rights.

David Thompson reports on a short film of  Professor Janice Fiamengo of the University of Ottawa talks about the assumptions and effects of doctrinaire feminism and the censorious tactics of self-imagined radicals.

I began to wonder what it must be like to be a young man at university, sitting through course after course after course, whether it was an English course, a history course, a philosophy course, or sociology, whatever, and just hearing about how the whole history of humanity had been a history of men oppressing women. And how, even now, supposedly, he should feel bad about his ‘privileges’.

Hearing over and over again about how they’re responsible for all the bad things in the world, that if there were fewer men or they were just less manly, somehow we wouldn’t have any more war and everyone would live abundant, peaceful lives, and if women were more collectivist oriented and egalitarian… All these things demonstrably not true if anyone has ever spent time in a women’s organization or lived with a bunch of women.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:17 PM | Permalink

February 14, 2015

Apple CEO on human right to privacy

Apple CEO Tim Cook made a bold pitch for his company's commitment to user privacy at a White House summit on Friday, taking implicit shots at Apple's Silicon Valley rivals as well as the federal government. …. Cook described privacy online as a human right and linked it to the struggle for freedom for LGBT people.

“Too many people do not feel free to practice their religion or practice their opinion or love who they choose,” said Cook, who is gay.  “In a world where that information can make the difference between life and death,” he continued, “if those of us in positions of responsibility fail to do everything in our power to protect the right of privacy, we risk something far more valuable than money. We risk our way of life.
"We don't sell advertisers information from your email content or your web browsing history," Cook told the audience at Stanford University. "We don't try to monetize the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud … We set the industry's highest standards and we are deeply committed to living up to them."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink

Good advice for 30-something women

Meghan McArdle advice for women hoping for a proposal that doesn't come, Happy Valentine's Day! Now Cut Your Losses

I'm talking to you, 30-something woman who has been dating the same guy for a couple of years (or more), maybe already moved in together and started picking out that furniture. The one who is ready for those babies, or at least a joint tax return, and would like to get the matter settled as soon as possible. The one who is anxious that her partner doesn't seem as eager as she is but is afraid to deliver an ultimatum for fear the answer will be "OK, bye." 

Here's the thing, though: The guy who leaves you because you deliver an ultimatum is probably also the guy who is going to leave you a couple of years later, having wasted more of your prime dating years on his dithering. Pardon the sexism, but most men aren't operating on the same timetable for having kids, and also, at least in my experience, they don't tend to stay silent and hopeful for so long.
…..  take it from me, it will feel even more catastrophic after you've invested several more years. If you're in your 30s, both of you already pretty much know who you are. And after a couple of years, you also know whether this is someone you want to spend your life with. You're not going to get any new information by sticking around -- except "My God, I wasted five years on this man."….

People tend to make the same sort of mistakes over and over. This particular mistake is so common that economists have a name for it: the sunk cost fallacy.

A sunk cost is, well, like a sunken ship: It's gone, and you cannot retrieve it, or you can only retrieve it at immense expense. The correct and rational way to deal with a sunk cost is to ignore it -- to make decisions without thinking about the money or time you've already invested……

Set a deadline for having the talk, and also set a deadline for when he needs to fish or cut bait. Then focus all your energy on keeping those deadlines.

I know, he's great, he's exactly what you wanted in a husband, breaking up a household and friend networks and the whole tidy life you've built as a couple is going to be shattering. And as someone who's been there, I agree: It will be shattering. All I can tell you is that it will be even worse if it happens two years from now.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

Love Letters

The British life insurance company Beagle Street commissioned a poll to encourage Brits to be more romantic on February 14 and to discover people's favorite romantic messages.  Surprisingly, men came out on top with nearly one in four (24 per cent) saying they have sent a love letter within the last year. But after 38 per cent of women admitted that they had never written a love letter, 46 percent declared the tradition outdated.
Londoners proved the most romantic in the country with 74 percent claiming to have penned a love note,

Beagle Street's managing director Matthew Gledhill says that a hand-written note is still appreciated even in the modern age.
'A well-written love letter can stand the test of time and be a permanent record of affection so it is important the tradition doesn't die out. 'We hope our research inspires people who have never written a love letter to take some time out and write down and share exactly how they feel with a loved one.'

I couldn't agree more. 


1. Johnny Cash wishes wife June Carter Cash a happy 65th birthday (1994)
'We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in awhile, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.'

2. Winston Churchill tells wife Clementine Churchill of his undying love (1935)
'My darling Clemmie, in your letter from Madras you wrote some words very dear to me, about having enriched your life. I cannot tell you what pleasure this gave me, because I always feel so overwhelmingly in your debt, if there can be accounts in love.'

3. John Keats tells next door neighbour Fanny Brawne he can not live without her (1819)
'I cannot exist without you - I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again - my Life seems to stop there - I see no further. You have absorb'd me.'

4. Ernest Hemingway professes his love to Marlene Dietrich (1951)
'I can't say how every time I ever put my arms around you I felt that I was home.'

5. Napoleon Bonaparte sends his love to Josephine de Beauharnais (1796)
'Since I left you, I have been constantly depressed. My happiness is to be near you. Incessantly I live over in my memory your caresses, your tears, your affectionate solicitude. The charms of the incomparable Josephine kindle continually a burning and a glowing flame in my heart.'

6. Richard Burton tells Elizabeth Taylor of her beauty (1964)
'My blind eyes are desperately waiting for the sight of you. You don't realize of course, E.B., how fascinatingly beautiful you have always been, and how strangely you have acquired an added and special and dangerous loveliness.'

7. King Henry VIII expresses his love for Anne Boleyn (1527)
'I beg to know expressly your intention touching the love between us. Necessity compels me to obtain this answer, having been more than a year wounded by the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail or find a place in your affection.'

8. Beethoven pens his love for his 'Immortal Beloved' whose true identity remains a mystery (1812)
'Though still in bed, my thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved, Be calm-love me-today-yesterday-what tearful longings for you-you-you-my life-my all-farewell. Oh continue to love me-never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.'

9. Gerald Ford reminds wife Betty Ford of his and their family's love for her shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer
'No written words can adequately express our deep, deep love. We know how great you are and we, the children and Dad, will try to be as strong as you. Our Faith in you and God will sustain us. Our total love for you is everlasting.'

10. Jimi Hendrix tells his 'little girl' to spread her wings (date unknown)
'Happiness is within you*. so unlock the chains from your heart and let yourself grow like the sweet flower you are*..I know the answer-Just spread your wings and set yourself FREE'

Colorado woman finds Wprld War II love letter and returns it to couple's daughter

When a woman purchased a record at her local thrift store in Colorado she never imagined she'd find a letter written from a soldier in 1944 during World War II to his love back at home to whom he was later married for 63 years.  Ilene Ortiz of Westminster bought the old record, though she can't remember which one, six months ago and when she found the letter tucked inside she felt determined to find its rightful owner.
I thought, "This is such a romantic letter and someone should have it."'  Ortiz contacted ABC affiliate KMGH for help in finding the relatives of the subjects of the letter and together they located the deceased mother Bernadean and elderly father Bill's  daughter Melinda Gale, 48.  Bill and Bernadean were married and moved to Colorado with their three children not far from where the letter was found.

'My darling, lovable, alluring, Bernadean,' said the letter, written on December 29, 1944.
'It's just when I get so horribly, terribly lonely for you that I write letters like this,' the letter continues.
'I have never been so homesick for anyone in my life as I am for you.'
My hands were shaking when I finished reading it,' Gale said emotionally.  'It’s truly was a window into how deep their love was. And obviously, they were married for almost 63 years. We knew they loved each other very, very much, but as children you don’t see that. Where it came from, that deep connection, and this was a window into their story. He was a mechanical engineer. I cannot believe he shared these deep emotional words with her,' she shared.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:17 PM | Permalink

February 12, 2015

Miscellany of the week

Lead, Mercury And Death: Beauty’s Historically High Cost

"Life is Short Even on Its Longest Days. Transcript of Bob Dylan's MusiCares Person of Year Award

I'm glad for my songs to be honored like this. But you know, they didn't get here by themselves. It's been a long road and it's taken a lot of doing. These songs of mine, they're like mystery stories, the kind that Shakespeare saw when he was growing up. I think you could trace what I do back that far. They were on the fringes then, and I think they're on the fringes now. And they sound like they've been on the hard ground.

The Photographers Behind Their Most Well-Known Images

The 600 year old butt song from Hell - Listen at the link

Luke and I were looking at Hieronymus Bosch’s painting The Garden of Earthly Delights and discovered, much to our amusement, music written upon the posterior of one of the many tortured denizens of the rightmost panel of the painting which is intended to represent Hell. I decided to transcribe it into modern notation, assuming the second line of the staff is C, as is common for chants of this era.

 Bosch Butt Song

Found in a Swiss bank vault, the £90million long-lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece that vanished TWICE

 Da Vinci Portrait Isabella D"Este

A long-lost Leonardo da Vinci masterpiece thought to be worth £90million and discovered in a bank vault is finally being returned to Italy.  The painting of Renaissance socialite Isabella d’Este, attributed by experts to da Vinci, was seized by police after being found in a bank vault in Switzerland in 2013.  Investigators said the piece had been exported illegally and was in danger of being sold on to an investment fund in the UK.

The portrait, which had been missing for centuries, was uncovered among 400 pieces of art stored in the vault. But in a further twist, when art police ruled the painting had been exported illegally and went to the vault to seize it, they found it had gone missing again.
Incredibly, it surfaced for a second time last year during a car insurance fraud, when Italian police discovered a lawyer was trying to negotiate its sale for £90million.

Prosecutor Manfredi Palumbo said: ‘As part of a separate insurance fraud investigation came to know that an Italian lawyer in Pessaro had been made the agent to tell a painting attributed to da Vinci for no less than 95 million euros (£70m).
‘Just before we seized it we discovered that the lawyer was in negotiations to sell the painting to a UK fund for 120 million euros (£90m).’

Daniel Silva writes an convincing and exciting thriller, The Heist,  about the world of international art theft

Legendary spy and art restorer Gabriel Allon….embarks on a daring gambit to recover a stolen Caravaggio and learn the identity of the collector. His search will take him on an exhilarating hunt—from the shimmering boulevards of Paris and London to the gritty criminal underworlds of Marseilles and Corsica, and finally to a small private bank in Austria where a dangerous man stands guard over the ill-gotten wealth of a brutal dictator.  At his side is a brave young woman who survived one of the worst massacres of the twentieth century. Now, with Gabriel's help, she will be given a chance to strike a blow against a dynasty that destroyed her family.

How To Pronounce The Names of 24 Famous Places You‘ve Mispronounced Your Entire Life


In Wired, This Incredible Hospital Robot Is Saving Lives. Also, I Hate It by Matt Simon

Eating the Enemy. In Massachusetts, green crabs are an invasive species that is feasting on clams.
" I’ve been stepping on these pesky buggers at the beach for years,” says Legal Sea Foods executive chef Rich Vellante. “Who knew what a pure, clean, sweet crab stock they produce?”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:22 PM | Permalink

"In public policy, as in medicine, a prescription is only as good as the diagnosis."

In the WSJ  Notable & Quotable: What Really Caused the Financial Crisis?

From economist Peter J. Wallison ’s new book “Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again” (Encounter Books):

In public policy, as in medicine, a prescription is only as good as the diagnosis. The first question policy makers should have asked is how the U.S. mortgage market came to be dominated by loans that failed in such unprecedented numbers as soon as housing prices stopped rising. Instead, the government and those that have an ideological stake in denying its role in the crisis asked no questions; despite the insolvency of both Fannie and Freddie, the government-backed firms that dominated the mortgage market, they simply asserted that the private sector, and particularly “Wall Street,” was responsible. That narrative, later endorsed by the majority report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), has not only remained largely unchallenged in the media but has become the principal conceptual underpinning for the restrictive regulatory legislation—the Dodd-Frank Act—that has since been enacted in the United States.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:27 PM | Permalink

"This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care"

Brain Stents Show Big Promise for Certain Stroke Patients

Stroke experts are reporting a major advance: Stents similar to the ones used to open clogged heart arteries also can be used to clear a blood clot in the brain, greatly lowering the risk a patient will end up disabled.

Patients treated with these brain stents were far more likely to be alive and able to live independently three months after their stroke, doctors said Wednesday at an American Stroke Association conference in Nashville. The treatment was so successful that three studies testing it were stopped early, so it could be offered to more patients. One study also found the death rate was cut almost in half for those given the treatment.

"This is a once-in-a-generation advance in stroke care," said the head of one study, Dr. Jeffrey Saver, stroke chief at the University of California, Los Angeles.

An independent expert, Dr. Lee Schwamm of Massachusetts General Hospital, called it "a real turning point in the field." For many patients, "this is the difference between returning home and not returning home," although only certain types of patients can be offered it, he said.

Stroke care "needs to be completely changed" to make the treatment more widely available, said Dr. Walter Koroshetz, acting director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "This has taken stroke therapy to the same place that heart attack therapy is now," he said.
Most of the 800,000 strokes in the U.S. each year are caused by a blood clot lodged in the brain. The usual treatment is clot-dissolving medicine called tPA. When that doesn't work, doctors sometimes try devices pushed through blood vessels to pluck out the clot, but several studies found they didn't help.

However, newer devices — metal mesh cages called stent retrievers — open an artery much faster and with less damage to the blood vessel. Unlike heart stents, which stay in place to prop the artery open, the brain stents flatten the clot, trap it and are removed with it.
 Stroke Survivor Don Sadoway in foreground

Don Sadoway, 64, a chemistry professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was having a holiday lunch on Dec. 23, 2012, at a Boston restaurant when he suddenly found he couldn't lift his wine glass for a toast. His wife was perplexed.

"I said something unintelligible to her and all of a sudden my right side collapsed," he said.

Doctors at Massachusetts General gave him tPA but it didn't work, so they tried a Solitaire stent.

"Two hours later I was sitting up, talking to my kids," said Sadoway, who is fine now except for small problems with memory and fine motor skills.
The warning signs of a stroke are sudden onset of any of these: numbness or weakness on one side, severe headache with no known cause, confusion, and trouble walking, speaking or seeing.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:07 PM | Permalink

“I Put the Device Face Down If My Daughter Wants To Talk or Physically Turn from the Screen”

This great advice for parents today comes from the Happiness interview Gretchen Rubin did with Ron Lieber who writes "Your Money" a personal finance column every week in the New York Times as well as for the Times Motherlode blog

He has a new book that’s just hitting the shelves this week. The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money, which is an essential guidebook for any parents who want to talk sensibly with their children about money — and about good values related to money. This subject is very interesting and important, and I was particularly intrigued by the title, because I’ve often asked myself, what makes a person spoiled?
Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded?
Ron: That there’s an epidemic of silence around money in families, no matter how much they have and no matter where they live. Somewhere along the way, we decided that talking honestly with children about money is impolite or age-inappropriate or will scare them or cause them to be money grubbers. But having money or talking about it doesn’t subvert values. In fact, having the right conversations about it over a decade or two can actually imprint good habits like modesty, generosity and perseverance.

Given what you’ve learned, what habits do you think are most important for parents to try to instill in children?
…. Patience is good; it’s the foundation of saving, after all. Plus if kids have to wait a while before they buy and get things, the yearning just may pass……And let’s not forget curiosity. The primary job of a child is to learn how the world works, and it’s parents’ job to answer their questions. All of them.  Including the hard ones about money.

Do you have any habits that continually get in the way of your happiness?
Holding a device or facing a computer screen while my daughter is trying to talk to me. It makes me feel like a bad dad. I now put the device face down if my daughter wants to talk or physically turn from the desktop screen and lock eyes with her to make sure she knows I’m fully present.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

February 9, 2015

Why the reality show "The Apprentice" flopped in Russia

The unbearable heaviness of being Russian  a review of Peter Pomerantsev's new book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia

Mr. Pomerantsev’s specialty was producing documentaries and “reality” television that adapted American, British and other western forms to fit a Russian audience. He has some interesting observations to make on what worked and what didn’t. One of the networks he dealt with tried to remake Western reality shows like “The Apprentice.” But the Russian versions flopped. Why? Mr. Pomerantsev has a plausible answer:

The premise for most Western shows is what we in the industry call “aspirational”: Someone works hard and is rewarded with a wonderful new life. The show celebrates the outstanding individual, the bright extrovert. But in Russia that type ends up in jail or exile. Russia rewards the man who operates in the shadows, the gray apparatchik — the shows that worked here were based on a different set of principles. By far the biggest success was “Posledny Geroi” (“The Last Hero”), a version of “Survivor,” a show based on humiliation and hardship.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:39 PM | Permalink

"There is no luxury in war quite like toilet paper. Its surplus value is greater than gold's." "

One smart way to consider what you need to be prepared in the event of an emergency is The 100 items that will disappear first.

1. Generators - Good ones cost dearly; diesel generators are the best - more run time per fuel volume. Fuel storage is risky; and a generator's noise attracts thieves.

2. Water Filters/Purifiers

3. Portable Toilets

4. Seasoned Firewood. Wood takes about 6 - 12 months to become dried, for home uses.

5. Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps (First Choice: Buy CLEAR oil. If scarce, stockpile ANY!)

6. Coleman Fuel. Impossible to stockpile too much.

7. Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots.

8. Hand-can openers, & hand egg beaters, whisks.

9. Honey/Syrups/white, brown sugar

10. Rice - Beans - Wheat

11. Vegetable Oil (for cooking) Without it food burns/must be boiled etc.,)

12. Charcoal, Lighter Fluid (Will become scarce suddenly)

From a Sarajevo War Survivor:

Living near a well with a manual pump is like being in Eden.

After awhile, even gold can lose its luster. But there is no luxury in war quite like toilet paper. Its surplus value is greater than gold's.

If you had to go without one utility, lose electricity - it's the easiest to do without.

Canned foods are awesome, especially if their contents are tasty without heating. One of the best things to stockpile is canned gravy - it makes a lot of the dry unappetizing things you find to eat in war somewhat edible. Only needs enough heat to "warm", not to cook. It's cheap too, especially if you buy it in bulk.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink

"Key to financial success: cheap housing"

Jonathan Clements gives us his parting words of wisdom in the WSJ. How to Live a Happier Financial Life 

With my final 750 words, here are five notions that—I believe—are indispensable to a happier financial life.

Biggest time waster: commuting.  I have come to view the classic trade-off—accepting a long commute as the price of a big house in the ’burbs—as a pact with the devil. Indeed, research suggests commuting is terrible for happiness. One example: A study in Sweden found that a long commute increases the risk that a couple will separate by 40%.

Best investment attribute: humility.  ….If you want to notch decent returns, put your ego aside and put your money in broadly diversified index funds with rock-bottom annual expenses.

Key to financial success: cheap housing.  A third of the money spent by the typical household goes toward housing. Add car payments and other transportation costs, and you’re at more than half. My advice: Try to keep those two costs well below 50% of your income, especially in your early adult years.

The less you spend each month on housing, cars, utilities and other fixed costs, the less financial stress you’ll suffer. You’ll also have more money for discretionary “fun” spending, be in better shape if you lose your job, and need less income to sustain your standard of living once retired…..

Best way to spend money: experiences.  My advice: Use your spare cash for experiences, not possessions. Pay for the family vacation. Go to a concert. Head out to dinner with friends. This will strike many as counterintuitive. Possessions seem appealing, because they have lasting value, while experiences leave us with nothing tangible.

But this is also the reason experiences can bring more happiness: We have not only the event itself, but also the anticipation before and the fond memories after—and those memories aren’t soiled by the messy reality of some object that gets dirty, breaks down and is eventually discarded.

Top financial goal: not working for money.  Avoid the acquisition treadmill of bigger homes and better cars, and instead save like crazy in your 20s and 30s. Do that, and you could buy yourself the freedom to spend the rest of your life on your terms, rather than one dictated by car leases, credit-card bills and mortgage payments.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:16 PM | Permalink

Continuing cyberwar on many fronts affects your identity, security and privacy

It's not just your your medical records that may be insecure, the cyberwar continues on many fronts.

Attacks on state databases. Massive Utah cyberattacks — up to 300 million per day — may be aimed at NSA facility

Five years ago, Utah government computer systems faced 25,000 to 30,000 attempted cyberattacks every day.  At the time, Utah Public Safety Commissioner Keith Squires thought that was massive. "But this last year we have had spikes of over 300 million attacks against the state databases" each day: a 10,000-fold increase.  Why? Squires says it is probably because Utah is home to the new, secretive National Security Agency computer center, and hackers believe they can somehow get to it through state computer systems.

Or in your carsReport Sees Weak Security in Cars’ Wireless Systems

In addition to finding “a clear lack of appropriate security measures to protect drivers against hackers who may be able to take control of a vehicle” or hackers who wish to “collect and use personal driver information,” the report expressed concerns over how automakers track drivers’ behavior and collect, transmit and store that information…..The report found that large amounts of data on driving histories are harvested, frequently without consumers being explicitly aware that the information is being collected or how it will be used.

Is your smart TV spying on you? Samsung warns users its smart sets can capture every word. If you enable voice recognition. In its privacy policy, the South Korean firm has warned users that if their conversations contain 'personal or other sensitive information', this will be captured and transmitted to an unidentified third party.

Facebook can follow you just about everywhere and you probably agreed to it. Now Facebook can follow you on other sites: Social media network has started harvesting data on links you click and searches you make

Facebook has started collecting information about the other websites users visit, the links they click on and their searches.
The social media site already harvests details people share on their profiles, including where they went to school, their interests and where they live.  But under a new privacy policy – to which anyone who has signed into Facebook since Friday has been opted in automatically – it can track activity outside the website, including online searches and some of the details users share with retailers.

A Facebook spokesman said: ‘It takes into account pages and places visited on Facebook, alongside browsing on the internet.’
She added that the changes help Facebook 'to better serve more relevant advertising to you.'
The site uses cookies – small files which it places on your web browser or device – to collect information which can then be transmitted back to Facebook.  The new terms were introduced as part of a wider update to Facebook's privacy policy, which - the social network claimed - was designed to make the rules easier to understand.  However, most users remain unaware of the radical change they have signed up for.

Using stolen identities to file fraudulent tax returns and claim refunds.  TurboTax halts e-filing for state returns due to fraud, stealing of refunds

Intuit, the parent company of TurboTax, has stopped e-filing all state tax returns due to increased suspicion of fraud. The company says it is investigating criminal attempts to use stolen data to file fraudulent returns and claim refunds, after hearing concerns from a handful of states, Intuit spokeswoman Diane Carlini told MarketWatch. After a preliminary examination with security experts, Intuit believes its systems weren’t breached, but crooks may have used TurboTax software to file fraudulent returns after stealing identities, she said.

Intuit said in a release that “the information used to file fraudulent returns was obtained from other sources outside the tax preparation process.” The company called pausing e-filings to states a “precautionary step.”

In light of this breach, Paul Bleeg, CPA and Partner, EisnerAmper LLP argues that you should go back to snail-mail to file your taxes this year.

E-filing isn't mandatory. Taxpayers may elect not to e-file their federal return, and all but a handful of states also allow an "opt-out" of e-filing, including California. So why would you want to choose the inconvenience of mailing paper tax returns?

1. E-filed returns have a higher rate of being chosen for examination (audit) by the IRS…..
2. E-filed returns are at-risk for identity theft. The South Carolina Department of Revenue reported that 3.9 million e-filed tax returns were exposed in a hacker attack. That means that the names and social security numbers of every parent and child listed on those tax returns, as well as investment account details and other personal information, are now in the hands of hackers, who may be connected with organized crime. The South Carolina Department of Revenue is paying the cost of credit-monitoring services for all those taxpayers exposed, including the children of taxpayers. Each state has different e-file security measures that should be considered.
3. Fraudulent e-filed returns using real taxpayers' names and Social Security numbers is a rapidly growing problem…With the correct name and social security number of the victim, criminals are e-filing tax returns that report zero income. When they e-file, the IRS and many of the states just issue refunds of the taxpayers' withholdings and estimated tax payments since there are no tax liabilities reported on these fraudulent returns. These refunds are direct-deposited into the criminal's bank account, or issued as a debit card and sent to the criminal's P.O. Box. When the real taxpayers try to file their tax return, they receive a rejection message, saying a return has already been e-filed.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:10 PM | Permalink

February 8, 2015

How secure is your personal information with your medical insurer?

Health insurer Anthem hit by massive cybersecurity breach

Health insurer Anthem Inc , which has nearly 40 million U.S. customers, said late on Wednesday that hackers had breached one of its IT systems and stolen personal information relating to current and former consumers and employees.
The No. 2 health insurer in the United States said the breach did not appear to involve medical information or financial details such as credit card or bank account numbers.

The information accessed during the "very sophisticated attack" did include names, birthdays, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data, the company said.
Anthem said that it immediately made every effort to close the security vulnerability and reported the attack to the FBI. Cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc said it had been hired to help Anthem investigate the attack.
Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by patients or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected.

Anthem didn't encrypt data stolen in hack

Health insurer Anthem Inc. did not encrypt the 80 million Social Security numbers stolen by hackers last week, but that's probably more common than you think….The Wall Street Journal explained, and though it appears Anthem  encrypted data moving out of its database, it didn't do so for information simply being stored.  Instead, a spokesperson told the WSJ, the company used other security measures to protect that information.

Security experts say cyber criminals are increasingly targeting the $3 trillion U.S. healthcare industry, which has many companies still reliant on aging computer systems that do not use the latest security features. 

Anthem said it would send a letter and email to everyone whose information was stored in the hacked database. It also set up an informational website, www.anthemfacts.com, and will offer to provide a credit-monitoring service.  The company said on the website's FAQ page that 'The impacted (plan/brand) include Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Caremore, Unicare, Healthlink, and DeCare.' 

New York Times. What Anthem Customers Should Do Next After Data Breach

Although Anthem says the attackers did not get any medical records, they did get access to medical identification numbers found on insurance cards. ….. “You don’t need a complete medical record to commit medical identity theft if you have the correct name and Social Security number,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of World Privacy Forum. “The chief harm for medical identity theft is that your medical record will change without your knowledge.”

THEFT TYPES In large-scale breaches like the one at Anthem, experts said the criminals could pose as medical billers and fraudulently charge consumers’ insurance companies for medical services and drugs. Not only is your insurer paying for something that you didn’t ask for, but the fraudsters can also alter your medical record, Ms. Dixon said.
WHAT TO DO Consumers should try to create their own copy of their medical file so they have an accurate version of their history should a fraudster make any changes, said Ms. Dixon, who has worked with many medical identity theft victims. Think about any significant or chronic medical conditions, surgeries or accidents — particularly for the last few years — and get a record from your doctors’ offices, hospital or other provider. Also get a record of your blood type and any drug allergies. If you have access to an online patient portal, try to print out or save a copy of those files elsewhere.

“You want to print a baseline record so that if it is altered without your knowledge by fraudulent activity,” Ms Dixon said, “you have something that is really clean.” That will help prove your case, she said, and rebuild an accurate history.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:49 PM | Permalink

"One who desires power will suppress the truth in a blink in order to secure it." "

Kevin O'Brien on Jean-Luc Marion's The Erotic Phenomenon wrote "Marion defines ideology as love of power defeating love of truth.  An ideology is thus a parody of a philosophy, for one who desires power will suppress the truth in a blink in order to secure it."   

Doesn't that explain a lot in the world today, especially with respect to  Global Warming.  It's called scientific fraud.

Christopher Booker writes, The Fiddling with Temperature Data is the Biggest Science Scandal Ever

When future generations look back on the global-warming scare of the past 30 years, nothing will shock them more than the extent to which the official temperature records – on which the entire panic ultimately rested – were systematically “adjusted” to show the Earth as having warmed much more than the actual data justified.
Of much more serious significance, however, is the way this wholesale manipulation of the official temperature record – for reasons GHCN and Giss have never plausibly explained – has become the real elephant in the room of the greatest and most costly scare the world has known. This really does begin to look like one of the greatest scientific scandals of all time.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts on ‘adjusted’ U.S. temperature data: ‘In the business and trading world, people go to jail for such manipulations of data’

Climatologist Dr. Pat Michaels suggests feds altering temperature data for political reasons: ‘The raw temperature data is continually adjusted to show more warming’

Two weeks ago, Booker first reported on Climategate the sequel.How we are STILL being tricked with flawed data on global warming  Something very odd has been going on with the temperature data relied on by the world's scientists.

First, Massive tampering with temperatures in South America uncovered by Paul Homewood

But when Homewood was then able to check Giss’s figures against the original data from which they were derived, he found that they had been altered. Far from the new graph showing any rise, it showed temperatures in fact having declined over those 65 years by a full degree. When he did the same for the other two stations, he found the same. In each case, the original data showed not a rise but a decline.
One of the more provocative points arising from the debate over those claims that 2014 was “the hottest year evah” came from the Canadian academic Dr Timothy Ball when, in a recent post on WUWT, he used the evidence of ice-core data to argue that the Earth’s recent temperatures rank in the lowest 3 per cent of all those recorded since the end of the last ice age, 10,000 years ago.  In reality, the implications of such distortions of the data go much further than just representing one of the most bizarre aberrations in the history of science. The fact that our politicians have fallen for all this scary chicanery has given Britain the most suicidally crazy energy policy (useless windmills and all) of any country in the world.

Union of Concerned Scientists chooses power over truth Is Global Warming Linked to Severe Weather?

As the Earth warms, the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has risen nearly 20 percent on average in the United States—almost three times the rate of increase in total precipitation between 1958 and 2007.

Real Science says this is  A Classic Example Of Climate Fraud By The Union Of Concerned Scientists

Look what these UCS crooks did. They cherry picked starting their graph at the minimum during the drought of the late 1950’s, because the earlier years wrecked their claim. So they simply threw the other data out.  This is blatant fraud by an organization calling themselves scientists.

Screenhunter 6371-Jan-24-15-42

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:31 PM | Permalink

"One key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology .. and social psychology …: political diversity."


“Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity”

“Psychologists have demonstrated the value of diversity—particularly diversity of viewpoints—for enhancing creativity, discovery, and problem solving. But one key type of viewpoint diversity is lacking in academic psychology in general and social psychology in particular: political diversity.

This article reviews the available evidence and finds support for four claims:

1) Academic psychology once had considerable political diversity, but has lost nearly all of it in the last 50 years;

2) This lack of political diversity can undermine the validity of social psychological science via mechanisms such as the embedding of liberal values into research questions and methods, steering researchers away from important but politically unpalatable research topics, and producing conclusions that mischaracterize liberals and conservatives alike;

3) Increased political diversity would improve social psychological science by reducing the impact of bias mechanisms such as confirmation bias, and by empowering dissenting minorities to improve the quality of the majority’s thinking; and

4) The underrepresentation of non-liberals in social psychology is most likely due to a combination of self-selection, hostile climate, and discrimination.

Over at The New Yorker, yes, The New Yorker, Maria Konnikova asks Is Social Psychology Biased Against Republicans?  Yes.

As the degree of conservatism rose, so, too, did the hostility that people experienced. Conservatives really were significantly more afraid to speak out. Meanwhile, the liberals thought that tolerance was high for everyone. The more liberal they were, the less they thought discrimination of any sort would take place.
The lack of political diversity in social psychology in no way means the resulting research is bad or flawed. What it does mean is that it’s limited. Certain areas aren’t being explored, certain questions aren’t being asked, certain ideas aren’t being challenged—and, in some cases, certain people aren’t being given a chance to speak up.
“We’re social psychologists,” Haidt said. “We’re in the best possible position to understand and address hidden bias. And, if you care about psychological science, that’s what we have to do
Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:45 PM | Permalink

Health Diagnostic Dongle on a Smartphone

A remarkable advance in medical technology.

Now HIV and syphilis can be diagnosed in just 15 minutes: Revolutionary smartphone app 'could save millions of lives'

A new smartphone app that tests blood samples for HIV and syphilis in just 15 minutes could save millions of lives across the world, scientists claim.  The software, developed by biomedical experts at Columbia University, analyses blood samples taken with a finger-prick dongle.  The kit, which attaches to any smartphone or computer, replicates a lab test and can give a diagnosis in the field in just 15 minutes. The device is nearly 540 times cheaper than current lab testing machines, and has already been tested on patients in Rwanda during a pilot study.

How Science magazine explains it.  Lab on a chip turns smart phones into mobile disease clinics

Researchers have designed a cheap, easy-to-use smart phone attachment (shown above) that can test patients for multiple deadly infectious diseases in 15 minutes. All it takes is a drop of blood from a finger prick. Pressing the device’s big black button creates a vacuum that sucks the blood into a maze of tiny channels within its disposable credit card–sized cartridge. There, several detection zones snag any antibodies in the blood that reveal the presence of a particular disease. It only takes a tiny bit of power from the smart phone to detect and display the results: A fourth-generation iPod Touch could screen 41 patients on a single charge, the team says.

The researchers conducted a field test of the device at three Rwandan community clinics, where health care workers rapidly screened 96 patients for HIV and active and latent forms of syphilis. Compared with gold standard laboratory tests, the dongle was 96% as accurate in detecting infections, missing just one case of latent syphilis, the team reports online today in Science Translational Medicine. Despite a 14% false alarm rate, the researchers say the device’s high sensitivity and ease of use make it a powerful tool for diagnosing these deadly diseases in the field, particularly among pregnant women. The researchers are now preparing a larger scale trial for the $34 device, which they hope will let mobile clinics and health workers provide rapid and reliable disease screening in the remotest areas of the world.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:14 AM | Permalink

February 7, 2015

Miscellany 4

Lars Anderson takes Archery to a whole new level.  What he can do is absolutely amazing

Bill Whittle in Number One with a Bullet.  A devastatingly effective video that shows while the U.S. is number one in gun ownership per capita, it is one of the safest places to be in the world.

Neil Bromhall films a Mesmerizing Time-Lapse Video of an Acorn Growing into an Oak Seedling Over the Course of Eight Months

The Amazing Video that takes you INSIDE the Largest Photograph Ever Taken is awesome and mind-blowing.

 Nasa Andromeda

Earlier this month, NASA and ESA released the biggest and highest resolution image of our galactic neighbor, Andromeda, that has ever been taken. The 1.5 billion pixel image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Each tiny dot of light in the picture represents one of 1 trillion stars in the galaxy; many with their own expansive planetary systems.

As you watch this video and contemplate Andromeda’s mind-boggling size, remember that this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the universe. As large as this galaxy is, it is only one out of 200 billion galaxies in the known universe

Source of Van Gogh's Starry Night
 Vangogh Parsons

Van Gogh likely based his famed Starry Night on this scientific illustration of the Whirlpool Galaxy by one William Parsons that appeared in a 19th century popular astronomy tome, according to Michael Benson's new book Cosmigraphics, a history of our efforts to illustrate the universe.

Why Cary Grant's suit in North by Northwest  is iconic and still looks so good

12 Enjoyable Names for Relatively Common Things

4. The string of typographical symbols comic strips use to indicate profanity ("$%@!") is called a grawlix.
7. What do you call a group of rattlesnakes? A rhumba.
8. To waste time by being lazy is to dringle.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:46 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: fizzy drinks bad, grow your own bones, probiotic pill for diabetes, green tea, 'Ow'

Why fizzy drinks (and even sparkling water) are WORSE than you thought They speed up aging, trigger sugar cravings, may damage bones, cause bloating, attack your teeth, increase cancer risk and more.

Goodbye hip replacements… hello grow-your-own bones: Doctors claim jab can regenerate damaged tissue after one injection  A pioneering stem cell treatment could avoid thousands of hip replacements – by helping patients 'regrow' damaged bone. Avascular Necrosis (AVN) is a joint condition where bone tissue dies and collapses due to loss of blood.  The cause is unknown but triggers include injury and rheumatoid arthritis. It can also be a side effect of treatments such as steroids, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Five NHS hospitals will trial the jabs, which doctors claim can regenerate damaged tissue after just one injection.  Bone marrow is extracted from the patient.  Stem cells are cultivated from it and injected back into the patient at the site of the AVN such as the hip.  Damaged bone tissue in the joint 'regrows', meaning the patient does not need invasive surgery.
And a leading specialist says it has the potential to be 'life-changing' for those with bone disease avascular necrosis (AVN). Patients often face years of pain before being considered for a hip replacement.

Both types of diabetes could be CURED by a daily probiotic pill that 'rewires' the body, scientists claim
Researchers at Cornell University discovered a probiotic, commonly found in the human gut, can 'rewire' the body to help combat diabetes. It shifted control of blood sugar levels from pancreas to the upper intestine.  The pancreas controls glucose levels by secreting insulin in healthy people; in diabetics the organ produces no insulin or not enough of the hormone.  The treatment lowered diabetic rats' blood glucose levels by up to 30%.  Scientists say higher doses could reverse both type 1 and 2 diabetes

How saying 'ow' can ease your pain by interfering with signals to the brain
Vocalizing in and of itself is potentially analgesic. We found that a simple vocal act such as saying "ow" helps individuals cope with pain.' Exactly how the process works is not clear, but they think the automatic messages traveling to the vocal part of the brain interfere with the pain messages.

How green tea can KILL cancer cells: Compound destroys disease while leaving healthy cells unscathed
Compound EGCG kills mouth cancer cells leaving healthy ones alone . Past studies revealed the drink could help fight the disease
Scientists at Penn State University explored the specific mechanism by which the green tea compound is able to target the diseased cells.

Is depression caused by inflammation in the brain? Findings could reveal why sufferers experience physical symptoms
Canadian psychiatrists took brain scans from 20 patients and 20 controls.  Depressed patients showed a third more brain inflammation than controls.  Those with the most severe forms of depression also had the most inflammation.
The finding may help to explain why depression can cause physical symptoms such as loss of appetite and poor sleep.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:44 PM | Permalink

February 5, 2015

Foreign workers winning jobs over Americans

Fewer US-Born Americans Have Jobs Now Than In 2007

Report from t.  Fewer Americans born in the U.S. have jobs now than were employed to November 2007, despite a working-age population growth of 11 million. The amazing drop in employment highlights President Barack Obama’s slow recovery from the deep 2008 shock, but also spotlights many companies’ growing reliance on foreign migrant labor. Almost one in every two jobs added since 2009 have gone to foreign-born workers reports the Center for Immigration Studies
“All of the net gain in employment since 2007 has gone to immigrants (legal and illegal). … Native [aged 16 to 65] employment has still not returned to pre-recession levels, while immigrant employment already exceeds pre-recession level,” said a Dec. 19 statement from the group.
Since January 2010, 5.4 million foreign-born people have gained jobs in the recovery. That’s almost equal to the 6.9 million Americans who gained jobs since January 2010, even though the U.S-born working age population is five times larger than the immigration population.

What does that look like?  Southern California Edison (SCE) announced a “transition effort” that will dump 500 employees and replace them presumably cheaper H-1B visa holders imported from India. Many laid-off employees are complaining that in a demoralizing betrayal, some laid-off workers are being assigned to train their India replacements on how to do their jobs.

In an unprecedented column on the Gallup website, Gallup CEO Jim Clifton rips into the government's jobs data in a piece not so subtly titled: "The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment."

In it, Clifton calls the Labor Department jobs data "extremely misleading" and scores the White House, Wall Street and the media for their incessant cheerleading on the official decline in unemployment from around 10% to the current 5.6%.
"Right now," says Clifton, "as many as 30 million Americans are either out of work or severely unemployed.
He defines a good job as one that provides 30-plus hours of work each week and a regular paycheck. By that measure, just 44% of the adult population have jobs that meet those very basic criteria.  Even to get that up to 50%, he says, we need "a bare minimum of 10 million new, good jobs to replenish America's middle class."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:36 AM | Permalink

February 3, 2015

"Self and Soul"

KC Mulville mulls over Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind  in Self and Soul

One argument is that the modern world has done away with the Soul and has replaced it with the Self. That’s a quick way of describing a conviction I’ve held for a long time. A soul is an individual connected to God and the rest of the universe, striving to find harmony with all of it. A self has no such connection; it’s just a command center (with little control) over a sea of conflicting and confusing interior psychic currents. Or, as Bloom suggests, a soul is on the roof pondering the mysteries of the heavens, but a self is in the basement snooping around in the dark for Freudian rats.

Bloom describes the modern self who scorns religion and yet seeks salvation in psychology; but that’s a circle that can’t be squared. You can’t have both. I could understand an atheist who believes that life was a cosmic accident and has no meaning. On the other hand, I could understand a believer who believes that we were created, and therefore we have whatever purpose our creator intended (that’s my view). If you were created, it only seems logical that your purpose is anchored in the creator’s intention. What cannot square is being both an atheist and also seeking meaning to life. And yet, that would be a working description of a mere “self.”

Bloom portrays the American culture as being increasingly driven and shaped by an education system which is nihilist, relativist, functionally atheist, and therefore a disaster for the American soul. A soul, in the Christian understanding, is oriented to God and a higher purpose; if you dismiss that dimension of life, all you have remaining is an unremarkable and uninteresting self. Our educational system, and eventually our culture as a whole, is producing just such uninteresting “selves.”

Lately there has been some concern about what would happen if robots took over. Would soulless machines abandon any concern for humanity and pursue their own interests at the expense of human souls?

Well, hell, isn’t that what’s happening now?

It's time for me to re-read it too

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:34 PM | Permalink

"Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life"

In the New Yorker, This Old Man by Roger Angell won the 2105 Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism.  It's a beautiful essay and well worth reading in its entirety.

 Roger Angell
Photo of Roger Angell and Andy in Central Park, January, 2014, by Brigitte LaCombe

Here in my tenth decade, I can testify that the downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news. Living long means enough already. When Harry died, Carol and I couldn’t stop weeping; we sat in the bathroom with his retrieved body on a mat between us, the light-brown patches on his back and the near-black of his ears still darkened by the rain, and passed a Kleenex box back and forth between us. Not all the tears were for him. Two months earlier, a beautiful daughter of mine, my oldest child, had ended her life, and the oceanic force and mystery of that event had not left full space for tears. Now we could cry without reserve, weep together for Harry and Callie and ourselves. Harry cut us loose.

A few notes about age is my aim here, but a little more about loss is inevitable. “Most of the people my age is dead. You could look it up” was the way Casey Stengel put it. He was seventy-five at the time, and contemporary social scientists might prefer Casey’s line delivered at eighty-five now, for accuracy, but the point remains. We geezers carry about a bulging directory of dead husbands or wives, children, parents, lovers, brothers and sisters, dentists and shrinks, office sidekicks, summer neighbors, classmates, and bosses, all once entirely familiar to us and seen as part of the safe landscape of the day. It’s no wonder we’re a bit bent. The surprise, for me, is that the accruing weight of these departures doesn’t bury us, and that even the pain of an almost unbearable loss gives way quite quickly to something more distant but still stubbornly gleaming. The dead have departed, but gestures and glances and tones of voice of theirs, even scraps of clothing—that pale-yellow Saks scarf—reappear unexpectedly, along with accompanying touches of sweetness or irritation.
Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love. We oldies yearn daily and hourly for conversation and a renewed domesticity, for company at the movies or while visiting a museum, for someone close by in the car when coming home at night. This is why we throng Match.com and OkCupid in such numbers—but not just for this, surely. Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson’s words: “Rowing in Eden— / Ah—the sea”) isn’t reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor—you’ve had your turn—is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:52 PM | Permalink

Misconduct and fraud by Department of Justice attorneys

It's impossible to keep track of all the scandals at the Department of Justice.  Just last week, I learned  about misconduct and fraud on the part of DOJ attorneys in two egregious cases.  If what the judges say is true, these lawyers should be fired, disbarred and sent to prison. 

California Fire vs Sierra Pacific which John Fund summarizes

The misconduct was so egregious that California Superior Court judge Leslie Nichols threw out the state’s case. Last year, he further ruled that the government’s case was “corrupt and tainted. Cal Fire failed to comply with discovery obligations, and its repeated failure was willful.” The judge charged that the state hid key photographs and tried to “steamroll the truth” in order to pin the fire on the company. Investigators lied under oath about what they knew, and federal prosecutors allegedly knew about their perjury and did nothing.”  When Sierra Pacific lawyers questioned the bulldozer driver, he denied making a statement about the blaze’s origins, and he couldn’t have properly signed a document given to him by prosecutors because he can’t read. The U.S. Forest Service had evidence that one of its fire spotters may have been high on pot and missed the fire’s start. His supervisor wanted to fire him, but the supervisor’s superiors covered it all up by insisting the spotter get a satisfactory performance rating and stay on the job.

“The misconduct in this case is so pervasive,” Judge Nichols wrote, “that it would serve no purpose to attempt to recite it all here.” ….Judge Nichols then ordered the state to pay Sierra Pacific a whopping $32 million in damages and expenses.
Another federal prosecutor, Eric Overby, left the Midnight Fire probe in 2011 because he was shocked at the conduct of his colleagues. In Sierra Pacific’s brief he is quoted as saying: “In my entire career, yes, my entire career, I have never seen anything like this. Never.” He says that as he left he told his colleagues: “It’s called the Department of Justice. It’s not called the Department of Revenue.”

The backstory.  In This could blow the Obama regime apart,  Dr. John tells the story of Jay Dobyns, a highly decorated Firearms Special Agent of the ATF who penetrated the Hells Angels gang as an undercover operative in Operation Black Biscuit .  As a result of his work, a number of gang members were sent to prison.  Then began violent death threats against federal agent Dobyns and his family.  Dobyns reported these threats and asked for protection for his family.  The death threats were ignored.  When his house was set on fire at 3 AM in the morning with his wife, son and daughter sleeping inside,  Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Phoenix Field Division William Newell refused to investigate but instead attempted to frame Dobyns, by destroying and fabricating evidence and accusing Dobyns of purposely burning his own house down with his family inside.   

Federal judge blasts DOJ lawyers in case of ATF whistle-blower

In a newly unsealed, Dec. 1, 2014, court ruling that legal experts said was highly unusual, Judge Allegra accused seven Justice Department lawyers of "fraud upon the court, banned them from making any further filings in the case and took the unusual step of directly notifying Attorney General Eric Holder.

“In 40 years of legal practice, government and private, I've never seen that done,” said David Hardy, a constitutional law expert who formerly worked in the U.S. Solicitor General’s Office.

Reporter Sharyl Attkinsson, a former CBS investigative correspondent testified at the confirmation hearing for Attorney General  Loretta Lynch and said,

In 2013, Reporters Without Borders downgraded America's standing in the global free press rankings, rating the Obama administration as worse than Bush's. It matters not that when caught the government promises to dial back or that [FOX News'] James Rosen gets an apology. The message has already been received. If you cross this administration with perfectly accurate reporting they don't like, you will be attacked and punished. You and your sources may be subjected to the kind of surveillance devised for enemies of the state.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:01 PM | Permalink

The federal government was the real cause of the 2008 Financial Crisis. "A corrupt investigation led to corrupt reforms."

You can't solve a problem if you don't tell the truth about it.  When you look at how corrupt the investigation of the 2008 subprime mortgage scandal was, you can understand why the government hasn't taken the right steps towards solving the problem but is rather is building toward another mortgage meltdown.

"Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again" by Peter Wallison, ex-commissioner  in the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) reveals that the Democrat-led panel buried key data proving that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other federal agencies pushed the housing market over the subprime cliff.  The final FCIC report put the blame squarely on Wall Street.

Whistleblower: Pelosi Covered Up Role In Crisis

In 2009, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed her California pal Phil Angelides, a long-time Democrat operative, to lead the commission. The fix seemed to be in, and Wallison's account of the inner workings of the 10-member body confirms it. Here's what took place during the FCIC's 18-month, $10 million probe:

Angelides provided no staff to help Wallison and other Republicans interview witnesses, conduct research or draft the report. But commission Democrats were assigned almost 80 staffers to help formulate their single theory that bank risk-taking and greed unleashed by deregulation caused the crisis.

Angelides never notified Wallison or other commissioners about the hundreds of witnesses he called to testify in closed-door interviews with his staff, denying them the chance to cross-examine the witnesses.

Staffers failed to put these private witnesses under oath, even though the final report was based almost exclusively on their testimony with little or no documents or data to back up their statements, which simply validated the Democrat narrative.

Angelides buried evidence revealing that by 2008, three in four high-risk mortgages wound up on the books of HUD-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac or agencies such as the Federal Housing Administration. A data-rich memo by former Fannie Mae chief credit officer Ed Pinto proved that government, not the private sector, drove risky lending. But Pinto's research "was never formally made available by the chair or staff to the other members of the FCIC," Wallison writes.

• Angelides withheld the final draft of the report from Wallison and other commissioners until eight days before sending it to the printer, never giving them the time they needed to go over the wording or content of the almost 900-page draft.

• After Wallison filed a 43,000-word dissent, Angelides removed all but 9,000 words of it from the report widely distributed in bookstores.
Angelides effectively censored any hard evidence that the government's housing policies were the predominant cause of the financial crisis. The best-selling report was cooked up from the start.

Democrats passed the Dodd-Frank Act in July 2010, six months before the FCIC released its report — "a clear demonstration that the Democratic Congress knew well in advance exactly what this well-controlled commission would say." After Dodd-Frank shockingly left Fannie and Freddie untouched, the FCIC excused the glaring oversight by exonerating the toxic twins and their affordable-housing masters at HUD.

As a result, Fannie and Freddie, now under full federal control, are back making low down payment loans to low-income borrowers, and the Dodd-Frank-mandated Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is forcing banks to ignore credit risks in the name of affordable housing.
A corrupt investigation led to corrupt reforms.

Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) is doing his best to correct the historical record without much help from Republicans.  WSJ, Hensarling's Housing History Lesson

Here’s a sample of the Texas congressman’s straight talk, from a Tuesday committee meeting: “Contrary to the fable told by the left, the root cause of the financial crisis was not deregulation but dumb regulation. Regulations and statutes that either incented or mandated financial institutions to loan money to people to buy homes they ultimately could not afford to keep. Exhibit one, Fannie and Freddie’s affordable housing goals. Seventy percent of all troubled mortgages were backstopped by Fannie, Freddie and other federal agencies.”

In the name of ‘affordable’ loans, the White House is creating the conditions for a replay of the housing disaster.  WSJ: Building Toward Another Mortgage Meltdown by Edward Pinto

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:32 PM | Permalink

Your federal government at work

Obamacare program costs $50,000 in taxpayer money for every American who gets health insurance, says bombshell budget report

Stunning figure comes from Congressional Budget Office report that revised cost estimates for the next 10 years
Government will spend $1.993 TRILLION over a decade and take in $643 BILLION in new taxes, penalties and fees related to Obamacare
The $1.35 trillion net cost will result in 'between 24 million and 27 million' fewer Americans being uninsured – a $50,000 price tag per person at best.  The law will still leave 'between 29 million and 31 million' non-elderly Americans without medical insurance
Numbers assume Obamacare insurance exchange enrollment will double between now and 2025

The Obama administration is allowing corporations to data mine from healthcare.gov.

“A little-known side to the government’s health insurance website is prompting renewed concerns about privacy, just as the White House is calling for stronger cybersecurity protections for consumers,” the AP wrote. “It works like this: When you apply for coverage on HealthCare.gov, dozens of data companies may be able to tell that you are on the site. Some can even glean details such as your age, income, ZIP code, whether you smoke or if you are pregnant.”

The AP also wrote that the so-called “data firms” have “embedded connections on the government site,” and “ever-evolving technology allows for individual Internet users to be tracked, building profiles that are a vital tool for advertisers.”“Connections to multiple third-party tech firms were documented by technology experts who analyzed HealthCare.gov, and confirmed by The Associated Press,

FOIA request reveals 'shadow' work permit system not authorized by law adding millions to labor force

In a stunning report based on data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, The Center for Immigration Studies has revealed that the Obama administration has been flooding the United States with work permits not authorized by law for millions of people.

Government data reveal that about 5.5 million new work permits were issued to aliens from 2009 to 2014, above and beyond the number of new green card and temporary worker admissions in those years. This is a huge parallel immigrant work authorization system outside the limits set by Congress that inevitably impacts opportunities for U.S. workers, damages the integrity of the immigration system, and encourages illegal immigration.

On the one hand, the Obama administration drives down wages, particularly for the lower end of the education spectrum, while on the other hand it blames capitalism and Republicans for the rise in income inequality.  It is a hypocritical con game of the highest order.

State Department admits it lied about Muslim Brotherhood visit

The State Department admitted on Monday that it misled reporters about a recent delegation of Muslim Brotherhood leaders and allies who were hosted for a meeting with officials at Foggy Bottom.

State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki claimed last week that the controversial delegation of key Brotherhood leaders and allies had been “organized and funded by Georgetown University.”….The Muslim Brotherhood is the central Sunni coordinating mission for jihad, the conquest and subjugation of the world to the dictates of sharia law, and the supremacy of Muslims over infidels.  The Egyptian government has identified the MB as a terrorist organization.

Egyptian government officials expressed anger at the Obama administration for hosting representatives of a group they consider to be terrorists.

By falsely claiming that Georgetown University sponsored and funded the delegation, the State Department attempted to legitimize its visit with a veneer of academic respectability, making it seem like a courtesy call since they were already in the neighborhood.

No wonder trust in the federal government is at an all-time low

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:14 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: To reduce the risk of Alzheimer's avoid hay-fever pills and drink beer. Fight Parkinson's with exercise.

Hay-fever pills in Alzheimer's link Over-the-counter sleeping aids and hay-fever treatments can increase the risk of Alzheimer's, a study has found.

The sleeping aid Nytol and anti-allergy pills Benadryl and Piriton all belong to a class of medication highlighted in a warning from researchers.
Each of these drugs has "anticholinergic" blocking effects on the nervous system that are said to raise the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia significantly at higher doses over several years. Other drugs on the risk-list include older "tricyclic" antidepressants such as doxepin, and the bladder control treatment Ditropan.

Anticholinergic drugs block a nervous system chemical transmitter called acetylcholine, leading to side effects that may include drowsiness, blurred vision and poor memory. People with Alzheimer's disease are known to lack acetylcholine.

US study leader Professor Shelly Gray, director of the geriatric pharmacy program at the University of Washington School of Pharmacy, said: "Older adults should be aware that many medications - including some available without a prescription, such as over-the-counter sleep aids - have strong anticholinergic effects. And they should tell their health-care providers about all their over-the-counter use.

The scientists tracked the health of 3,434 men and women aged 65 and over for around seven years while monitoring their use of anticholinergic drugs. For those taking the highest doses of anticholinergic drugs over the study period, the relative risk of dementia was increased by a statistically significant 54% compared with no use. The risk of Alzheimer's alone was raised by 63%.

To fight Parkinson's, Exercise May Be the Best Therapy

Dr. Daniel Tarsy, director of the Parkinson's disease program at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston sees meaningful change in a lot of patients who go into these exercise program.  "I'm a believer," Tarsy says. "Patients look a lot different walking out an hour later than they did walking in. They literally have a bounce to their step."  Tarsy says patients often report that their movements become more fluid. That's the opposite of the rigid, jerky movements typical of Parkinson's…..

Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination.",,,Among more than 43,000 Swedes followed for nearly 13 years, the risk of Parkinson's was almost cut in half for those who engaged in moderate levels of exercise.  One clue is that animals with a form of the disease have higher levels of dopamine — the brain chemical deficient in Parkinson's — if they're made to exercise.

Beer could help 'protect brain against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's'  Researchers in China have found that a compound in hops could help fight off degenerative brain diseases.

A team of researchers at Lanzhou University have published a study which claims that xanthohumol, a type of flavonoid found in hops, could help protect the brain against the onset of diseases such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and dementia.  According to Jianguo Fang, who led the research, xanthohumol [Xn], known for its antioxidant properties, helps guard the brain against oxidative stress, an imbalance that occurs as the body metabolises oxygyen, which is believed to be a contributing factor in the development of neurodegenerative conditions…..

"In traditional Chinese medicine, hops have been used to treat a variety of ailments for centuries," said Dr Fang.  "Xn has attracted considerable interest because of its multiple pharmacological functions, including anti-oxidation, cardiovascular protection, anti-cancer and cancer chemoprevention, antivirus, anti-obesity, and anti-inflammation," he added.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:29 PM | Permalink

February 2, 2015

Groundhog Day

Because Groundhog Day is one of my favorite movies of all time, I want to quote from Jonah Goldberg's classic column on A Movie for All Time Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, Groundhog Day scores.

A far more important one is why the day repeats itself and why it stops repeating at the end. Because the viewer is left to draw his own conclusions, we have what many believe is the best cinematic moral allegory popular culture has produced in decades — perhaps ever.

Interpretations of this central mystery vary. But central to all is a morally complicated and powerful story arc to the main character. When Phil Connors arrives in Punxsutawney, he’s a perfect representative of the Seinfeld generation: been-there-done-that. When he first realizes he’s not crazy and that he can, in effect, live forever without consequences — if there’s no tomorrow, how can you be punished? — he indulges his adolescent self. He shoves cigarettes and pastries into his face with no fear of love-handles or lung cancer. “I am not going to play by their rules any longer,” he declares as he goes for a drunk-driving spree. He uses his ability to glean intelligence about the locals to bed women with lies. When that no longer gratifies, he steals money and gets kinky, dressing up and play-acting. When Andie MacDowell sees him like this she quotes a poem by Sir Walter Scott: “The wretch, concentrated all in self / Living, shall forfeit fair renown / And, doubly dying, shall go down / To the vile dust, from whence he sprung / Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”

Connors cackles at her earnestness. “You don’t like poetry?” She asks. “I love poetry,” he replies, “I just thought that was Willard Scott.”

Still, Connors schemes to bed Rita with the same techniques he used on other women, and fails, time and again. When he realizes that his failures stem not from a lack of information about Rita’s desires but rather from his own basic hollowness, he grows suicidal.
The point is that Connors slowly realizes that what makes life worth living is not what you get from it, but what you put into it. He takes up the piano. He reads poetry — no longer to impress Rita, but for its own sake. He helps the locals in matters great and small, including catching a boy who falls from a tree every day. “You never thank me!” he yells at the fleeing brat. He also discovers that there are some things he cannot change, that he cannot be God. The homeless man whom Connors scorns at the beginning of the film becomes an obsession of his at the end because he dies every Groundhog Day. Calling him “pop” and “dad,” Connors tries to save him but never can.

By the end of the film, Connors is no longer obsessed with bedding Rita. He’s in love with her, without reservation and without hope of his affection being requited. Only in the end, when he completely gives up hope, does he in fact “get” the woman he loves. And with that, with her love, he finally wakes on February 3, the great wheel of life no longer stuck on Groundhog Day. As NR’s own Rick Brookhiser explains it, “The curse is lifted when Bill Murray blesses the day he has just lived. And his reward is that the day is taken from him. Loving life includes loving the fact that it goes.”
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:30 PM | Permalink