March 31, 2015

Dead crows did not die from Avian Flu

From my brother

Dead crows did not die from Avian Flu

Researchers for the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority found over 200 dead crows near greater Boston recently, and there was concern that they may have died from Avian flu.

A bird pathologist examined the remains of all the crows, and, to everyone's relief, confirmed the problem was definitely NOT Avian flu. The cause of death appeared to be vehicular impacts.

However, during the detailed analysis it was noted that varying colors of paints appeared on the bird's beaks and claws. By analyzing these paint residues it was determined that 98% of the crows had been killed by impact with trucks, while only 2% were killed by an impact with a car.

MTA then hired an ornithological behaviorist to determine if there was a cause for the disproportionate percentages of truck kills versus car kills.

He very quickly concluded the cause: When crows eat road kill, they always have a look-out crow in a nearby tree to warn of impending danger. They discovered that while all the lookout crows could shout "Cah", not a single one could shout "Truck."

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:03 PM | Permalink

Health Roundup: Anger, power naps, milk, spinach, chocolate and a 1000 year old remedy for MRSA

WSJ Angry Outbursts Really Do Hurt Your Health, Doctors Find From heart disease to sleep problems, medical researchers increasingly are finding just how toxic anger can be

New evidence suggests people increase their risk for a heart attack more than eightfold shortly after an intensely angry episode. Anger can also help bring on strokes and irregular heartbeat, other research shows. And it may lead to sleep problems, excess eating and insulin resistance, which can help cause diabetes.
Over time, chronic anger can cause long-term damage to the heart, according to Dr. Williams of Duke.
Strong anger releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream, which can trigger an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and sugar metabolism. This is useful if the body requires a burst of energy to mount a physical attack…..But too much anger can be harmful, especially for people already at risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Cosmic radiation exposure, an atmosphere drier than a desert and the dangers of DVT: The scary ways air travel affects your health

Yes! A power nap of just 45 minutes can boost the memory five-fold, according to new research

The scientists, from Saarland University in Germany, said that during sleep, bursts of brain activity known as sleep spindles play an important role in consolidating newly learned information.

Three glasses of milk a day 'to beat dementia': People who drink large amounts of the white stuff have higher levels of antioxidant that helps protects brain cells

A new US study shows a link between milk consumption and higher levels of a naturally-occurring antioxidant called glutathione in the brain in older, healthy adults.  The powerful antioxidant may minimize damage to brain cells from free radicals, destructive groups of atoms made as a by-product of metabolism that can damage cells.
A study from Oxford University suggested milk drinking might mitigate neurological damage leading to diseases such as Alzheimer’s due to its vitamin B12 content.  A randomized, controlled trial that seeks to determine the precise effect of milk consumption on the brain is still needed and is a logical next step, the researchers said.

1,000-year-old onion and garlic eye remedy kills MRSA

Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach.
They were "astonished" to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA…..They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.
"We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,"

Popeye was right. Eat spinach to stay sharp: Two helpings a day knocks 11 YEARS off your brain age

Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger….Men and women who had just one or two helpings a day had the brainpower of people 11 years younger.
The researchers, from Rush University in Chicago, quizzed 950 men and women about their diet.  The volunteers, who had an average age of 81, then did a battery of mental tests every year for up to ten years.  The brains of those who ate leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, aged more slowly, the Experimental Biology conference in Boston heard…..It is thought that vitamin K, folate or vitamin B9, and the natural colourings lutein and beta-carotene were behind the effects.

Chocolate is so good and good for you. New study reveals that eating chocolate doesn't affect your Body Mass Index … and can even help you LOSE weight!

This research only adds to the reputation amongst medical studies that now suggest chocolate is good for you in a myriad of ways. It's been found to help your heart by reducing the risk of atherosclerosis (thickening and hardening of the arteries), boost your brain power by enhancing blood flow to the brain (associated with enhancing memory) and also reduces stress levels by correcting chemical imbalances related with stress.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:11 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: New drugs for cholesterol, heart failure, leukemia and Alzheimer's

NYT Tests of Cholesterol Drugs Offer Hope of Reducing Heart Attacks and Strokes

A new class of experimental cholesterol drugs might sharply reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, researchers reported on Sunday, citing what they described as preliminary evidence.  The drugs, one being developed by Amgen and the other by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, are already known to sharply reduce so-called bad cholesterol, sometimes to levels lower than those achieved by statins like Lipitor, the mainstay lipid-lowering medicines.

How stem cells can fix a broken heart – with just one jab 15-minute procedure could transform lives of patients with heart failure

The 15-minute procedure involves cells taken from a patient’s own body, which are then re-injected into their heart to repair damaged muscle.  It is hoped that the procedure could improve the quality of life for patients suffering from heart failure, the condition caused by the heart failing to pump enough blood around the body at the right pressure because the heart muscle has become too weak or stiff to work properly.
First, bone marrow is removed from the patient – via a needle inserted into the hip bone – from which it is possible to separate stem cells. These cells have the unique ability to change into different cell types. The cells are processed in a laboratory before being injected back into the patient’s heart to repair the damaged tissue. The procedure is carried out under general anesthetic.

Alzheimer's Drug Shows Startling Promise

Biogen Idec's drug aducanumab has been shown to slow mental decline in patients with early or mild Alzheimer's disease in a small drug trial…the drug proved to be the first to both ease plaque and slow cognitive decline.

Pill Used To Treat Parkinson's Disease Makes People More Empathetic

Researchers at UC Berkley and UCSF say Tolcapone prolongs the effects of dopamine, a chemical in the brain associated with reward and motivation in the prefrontal cortex

A miracle cancer vaccine? Scientists hail breakthrough cancer treatment as a 'game changer'

Scientists have worked out how to teach the body’s immune system to identify cancer cells, allowing patients to be primed to destroy cancer.  In one case an American woman given just weeks to live  was cleared of advanced blood cancer. She is still alive three years later, and her doctor says she is not a one-off.

British and American researchers are working on two related approaches …Both methods involve taking T-cells, which fight infection, and giving them the ability to recognize a special tag on the surface of cancer cells, called the WT1 protein. ..
The research is being carried out on patients with leukemia.

Doctors hail drug that can 'turn off cancer' : Once-a-day tablet could spare blood cancer patients effects of traditional chemotherapy

Ibrutinib has shown to be 'extremely effective' in treating mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia after 2 trials in 28 British hospitals.  Professor Stephen Devereux, consultant hematologist at King’s College Hospital in London, says it is a new class of targeted medications, known as a Bruton’s tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It works by targeting and switching off a protein in the cancer cells.

‘Chemotherapy kills cancer cells but it also kills normal cells and therefore has lots of side effects,’ he says.
‘As this drug is targeted at the B-cells, the side effects are minor. In addition, patients don’t have to go into hospital to have it administered.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:48 AM | Permalink

March 30, 2015

Miscellany 9

From London to the U.S. by car New proposed superhighway

 London Us Superhighway

Washington Post. There are more museums in the U.S. than there are Starbucks and McDonalds – combined

Comfort Food - The taste of home, in 10 countries

In Canada, it's poutine, French fries in brown gravy, topped with melted cheese curds.

16 famous brands that started off as products for the military like M&Ms, Ray-bans, Superglue, Silly Putty, Duct tape.

What ‘Justified’ Really Says About Modern Manhood And Westerns.  The FX series 'Justified,' like Westerns themselves, is not about personal morality. It's about the kind of men who civilize barbarism.

Things I can't get my head around
That being nice to women is sexist -  in a way more insidious and treacherous than hostile sexism
That eating three meals a day is racist
That a father became the brother of his own son
That it costs  $30 million to open an existing lane on a bridge
That DEA agents allegedly had 'sex parties' in Columbia with prostitutes hired by drug cartels
That clapping triggers anxiety.  Women's conference says use jazz hands instead
That another once prestigious college is not afraid of looking ridiculous  Wesleyan Now Offering LGBTTQQFAGPBDSM Housing
That an online dating service encourages false representations.  OKCupid Allowing Users to Identify as Five Sexual Orientations at Once

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:09 AM | Permalink

March 26, 2015

Roundup of Alzheimer's news

Unconscionable. Most Alzheimer's patients not given diagnosis by their doctors say 55% of patients and their caregivers.

The reasons doctors give range from diagnostic uncertainty and fear of causing emotional distress to time constraints, lack of support, and stigma…

Alzheimer's advocates stress the importance of giving a patient all the facts, as early as possible, so they can work with their family to organize legal and health directives and have time to fulfill life-long desires. It's just as important for the caregiver…. "Right now, the big studies that are underway in prevention are really looking at people in the early stages of Alzheimer's, so by waiting, they can lose out on clinical trials as well."


A large Mayo Clinic study has found that when it comes to what causes Alzheimer’s disease, researchers may have been barking up the wrong tree.

Every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s, and it remains an elusive, incurable disease for now. However, a new breakthrough in Alzheimer’s research may make the path clearer for diagnosing and even preventing the disease one day. 

Amyloid – a sticky, toxic protein found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients — has been the focus of research and diagnosis for decades. But a new Mayo Clinic study published in the journal Brain shows that another toxic protein, called tau, may be a bigger culprit in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s over the lifetime of the disease.  Researchers say the discovery could lead to better diagnosis, treatments, and prevention tools.

Biogen's Alzheimer's drug slows mental decline in early study

An experimental drug from Biogen Idec Inc became the first Alzheimer's treatment to significantly slow cognitive decline and reduce what is believed to be brain-destroying plaque in patients with early and mild forms of the disease, according to a small study likely to reignite hopes of a treatment…..
…"It's a bigger treatment effect than we had hoped for,"  said Alfred Sandrock, Biogen's chief medical officer
The Biogen treatment led to reductions in brain amyloid and the plaque reduction was more pronounced as the dose of the drug increased and over time.

Biogen will begin enrolling patients later this year for a large Phase III trial, whose results could be used to seek approval of its drug.  The Biogen drug faces years of testing and would not reach the market much before 2020, even if all goes well, analysts said.

More on that new treatment - New Alzheimer’s treatment fully restores memory function Of the mice that received the treatment, 75 percent got their memories back.

Australian researchers have come up with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that clears the brain of neurotoxic amyloid plaques - structures that are responsible for memory loss and a decline in cognitive function in Alzheimer’s patients.

If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually the result of a build-up of two types of lesions - amyloid plaques, and neurofibrillary tangles. Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons and end up as dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together and forms plaques.

Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain, and they’re caused by defective tau proteins that clump up into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to get all twisted, which disrupts the transportation of essential materials such as nutrients and organelles along them, just like when you twist up the vacuum cleaner tube.

Publishing in Science Translational Medicine, the team describes the technique as using a particular type of ultrasound called a focused therapeutic ultrasound, which non-invasively beams sound waves into the brain tissue.  By oscillating super-fast, these sound waves are able to gently open up the blood-brain barrier, which is a layer that protects the brain against bacteria, and stimulate the brain’s microglial cells to move in. Microglila cells are basically waste-removal cells, so once they get past the blood-brain barrier, they’re able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps before the blood-brain barrier is restored within a few hours.

The team reports fully restoring the memories of 75 percent of the mice they tested it on, with zero damage to the surrounding brain tissue. They found that the treated mice displayed improved performance in three memory tasks - a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:55 PM | Permalink

March 24, 2015

“The worst prison break in American history.”

That/s what Congressman Lamar Smith said as reported by Judicial Watch:

New Documents Show Homeland Security Released 165,900 Convicted Criminal Aliens throughout U.S. as of April 26, 2014

Judicial Watch today released 76 pages of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents revealing that as of April 26, 2014, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) had released 165,900 convicted criminal aliens throughout the United States, including many convicted of such violent crimes as homicide, sexual assault, kidnapping, and aggravated assault. (Reports recently detailed that ICE released another 30,000 in the most recent fiscal year, which brings the grand total of known criminals released by the Obama administration to 195,900.)
“It’s appalling that we’ve had to sue in federal court to get key information about the Obama administration’s release of 165,950 convicted criminal aliens,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These documents show the Obama administration is lying when it says that its ‘enforcement priorities’ include deporting illegal aliens who have committed heinous crimes. And lawless localities that help protect illegal alien rapists and other criminals show that politicians at all levels put politics above the rule of law and the public safety.  Where do the innocent victims of the illegal alien criminals this president’s appointees have set free go for justice?”

Appalling indeed. It brought to mind an article I read last night in Imprimis, a monthly speech digest of Hillsdale College.

Heather MacDonald's  February  speech  - Practical Thoughts on Immigration -

The lesson from the last 20 years of immigration policy is that lawlessness breeds more lawlessness. Once a people or a government decides to normalize one form of lawbreaking, other forms of lawlessness will follow until finally the rule of law itself is in profound jeopardy.
Obama’s executive amnesty is the most public and egregious example of immigration lawlessness to date. But beneath the radar screen has been an equally telling saga of cascading lawlessness that is arguably as consequential: an ongoing attack on the Secure Communities program and on deportation more generally. Because of this attack, the rallying cry of so many conservatives that we must “secure the borders” is a naïve and meaningless delusion.
The Secure Communities program is a commonsensical response to illegal alien criminality. Whenever an illegal alien is booked into a local jail on suspicion of a crime, an alert is automatically sent to federal authorities in the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. ICE agents can then ask that the jail or prison briefly hold the illegal alien after he has served his time rather than releasing him, so that ICE can pick him up and start deportation proceedings. This is known as a detainer……..

Yet Secure Communities has been the target of incessant protest from illegal alien advocates since its inception. Those advocates make the astonishing claim that it is unfair to remove an illegal alien who commits other crimes.

Even more astonishing, nearly 300 jurisdictions agree, including New York State, California, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. They have openly refused to honor ICE’s requests for detainers, but instead have released tens of thousands of criminals back on to the streets where they easily evade detection. Not that ICE would be likely to try to pick them up! Indeed, the irony regarding the agitation against Secure Communities is that ICE rarely uses its power under the program. In 2012—the last year for which we have complete figures—the agency was notified of over 400,000 illegal jail detainees, but removed only 19 percent of them. And about 50 percent of the criminal illegal aliens whom ICE chooses not to deport reoffend upon release.

…deportation has basically disappeared from the interior of the country. The removal rate in 2014 for illegal aliens who were not explicit ICE priorities was one-half of one percent. If aliens cannot be removed for illegal entry, then there is no more immigration law. Deportation is the only remedy for illegal entry that corrects and deters the original lawbreaking. That is why Mexico, along with virtually every other country, practices it unapologetically. Lose deportation, as we are doing, and the U.S. will have formally ceded control of its immigration policy to people living outside its borders. National sovereignty will have become meaningless.

The erosion of the rule of law is bad enough. But the social consequences of mass illegal immigration are equally troubling. We are importing poverty and educational failure. If you want to see America’s future, look no further than my home state of California, which is a generation ahead of the rest of the country in experiencing the effects of unchecked low-skilled immigration.
Immigration policy should be forged with one consideration in mind: America’s economic self-interest. Immigration is not a service we provide to the rest of the world. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants and will continue to be one. No other country welcomes as many newcomers. But rewarding illegal immigration does an injustice to the many legal immigrants who played by the rules to get here. We owe it to them and to ourselves to adhere to the law.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:58 PM | Permalink

March 21, 2015

Miscellany 8

How to Become Gluten Intolerant  A wise and very funny guide to this year's food fad fascism.

The Top 10 Secrets of Grand Central Terminal
9. Grand Central houses a hidden bar. The Campbell Apartment, in Grand Central, serves as a testament to the grandiosity of another era. If appropriately attired, you can enter the room and sip on cocktails from the fin de siècle in this virtual museum to the opulence of New York’s high society of the past. ….


PBS How not to raise a narcissist    Children whose parents told them they were “special” and “superior” grew more narcissistic over time… short, jerks.

Entire Neighborhood Secretly Learns Sign Language To Surprise Deaf Neighbor
Muharrem, a deaf man living in Istanbul, just received a huge surprise when, one morning, everyone he bumped into in his neighborhood responded to him with sign language!
A team of people from Samsung and the Leo Burnett ad agency spent a month setting up cameras and teaching people throughout his neighborhood sign language. On the appointed day, Ozlem went for a walk with her deaf brother, who was stunned to meet so many signing people in a world where those who can communicate in sign are often few and far between.
The ad was designed to raise awareness about Samsung’s new call center for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Turkey.

In Fortune, How Ikea took over the world
With €3.3 billion ($4.5 billion) in net income, up 31% in the past five years, the chain is more profitable than behemoths Target and Lowe’s. And it has gotten that way by mastering one of the hardest challenges in the retail universe: selling high volumes of inventory at a consistently low price in vastly different marketplaces, languages, and cultures. Ikea is a model for retail regeneration—though, ahem, some assembly is required.....Ikea printed 217 million copies of its most recent annual tome—which the company claims is the biggest run of any publication of its kind in the world
There’s an internal nickname for products that take too long to put together. “Sometimes,” Dickner says, “we call it a ‘husband killer.’ ”

33 Hilariously Vandalized Signs

 Vandalized-Sign Bacon

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:52 PM | Permalink

March 20, 2015

The long-lasting effects of a class policy mistake

Ross Douthat For Poorer and Richer

"SOME arguments are hard to settle but are too important to avoid. Here is one: whether the social crisis among America’s poor and working class — the collapse of the two-parent family, the weakening of communal ties — is best understood as a problem of economics or of culture.

Nicholas Kristof in the NYT: When Liberals Blew It Fifty years ago this month, Democrats made a historic mistake.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, at the time a federal official, wrote a famous report in March 1965 on family breakdown among African-Americans. He argued presciently and powerfully that the rise of single-parent households would make poverty more intractable. “The fundamental problem,” Moynihan wrote, is family breakdown…. a community that allows large numbers of young men to grow up in broken families … never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future — that community asks for and gets chaos.”

Liberals brutally denounced Moynihan as a racist…..Scholars, fearful of being accused of racism, mostly avoided studying family structure and poverty….The taboo on careful research on family structure and poverty was broken by William Julius Wilson, an eminent black sociologist. He has praised Moynihan’s report as “a prophetic document,” for evidence is now overwhelming that family structure matters a great deal for low-income children of any color.
So let’s learn from 50 years of mistakes. A starting point is to acknowledge the role of families in fighting poverty. That’s not about being a moralistic scold, but about helping American kids.

Kay Hymowitz: The Black Family: 40 Years of Lies  Rejecting the Moynihan report caused untold, needless misery.

Read through the megazillion words on class, income mobility, and poverty in the recent New York Times series “Class Matters” and you still won’t grasp two of the most basic truths on the subject: 1. entrenched, multigenerational poverty is largely black; and 2. it is intricately intertwined with the collapse of the nuclear family in the inner city.
More than most social scientists, Moynihan, steeped in history and anthropology, understood what families do. They “shape their children’s character and ability,” he wrote. “By and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child.” What children learned in the “disorganized home[s]” of the ghetto, as he described through his forest of graphs, was that adults do not finish school, get jobs, or, in the case of men, take care of their children or obey the law.
If change really is in the air, it’s taken 40 years to get here—40 years of inner-city misery for the country to reach a point at which it fully signed on to the lesson of Moynihan’s report. Yes, better late than never; but you could forgive lost generations of ghetto men, women, and children if they found it cold comfort.

Gil Troy in the Daily Beast on The Last Sane Liberal

Daniel Moynihan predicted the breakdown of everyday American values in black families 50 years ago. Why are so many of us still unwilling to admit that what he said applies to all families?
By 1993, mourning the “manifest decline of the American civic order” Moynihan complained in The American Scholar that Americans were “defining deviancy down.”
Every day the media burlesque spotlights an American with too much binge-drinking, drug abuse, sexual violence, family breakdown, celebrity worship, and psychic pain. America’s soul hurts partially because we lack moral anchors in our new, ultra-liberal and libertine Republic of Nothing. Modern liberalism remains too entwined with media-fueled, and now Internet-operated, nihilism. Millions of us, and some of our leading thinkers, may have started rediscovering the value of tradition, but have yet to embrace the traditional values that anchored and guided our parents and grandparents—or a valuable new tradition.

David Brooks on The Cost of Relativism

We now have multiple generations of people caught in recurring feedback loops of economic stress and family breakdown, often leading to something approaching an anarchy of the intimate life.

But it’s increasingly clear that sympathy is not enough. It’s not only money and better policy that are missing in these circles; it’s norms. The health of society is primarily determined by the habits and virtues of its citizens. In many parts of America there are no minimally agreed upon standards for what it means to be a father. There are no basic codes and rules woven into daily life, which people can absorb unconsciously and follow automatically.

Reintroducing norms will require, first, a moral vocabulary. These norms weren’t destroyed because of people with bad values. They were destroyed by a plague of nonjudgmentalism, which refused to assert that one way of behaving was better than another. People got out of the habit of setting standards or understanding how they were set-…….
Next it will require holding people responsible…..Next it will require holding everybody responsible.
History is full of examples of moral revival, when social chaos was reversed, when behavior was tightened and norms reasserted. It happened in England in the 1830s and in the U.S. amid economic stress in the 1930s. It happens through organic communal effort, with voices from everywhere saying gently: This we praise. This we don’t.

Stuart Schneiderman American Anomie

Brooks defines the problem clearly. He does not use the word “anomie,” but the word means normlessness or rulelessness.  …One understands that the “plague of non-judgmentalism” was foisted upon us by the therapy culture. One recalls that when Freud came to America a century ago he confided: “They don’t know that we are bringing them the plague.”

Rod Dreher on The Broken Social Contract and poses the Benedict Option

I am pessimistic about the ability to turn this culture around in the short term. It will require religious revival; of that I am certain. And it will require families and communities of like-minded families seeing themselves and their collective institutions — their churches, their religious schools — as consciously and joyfully countercultural institutions. These institutions have to be open to any who wish to join them and live by their life-giving moral vision of a sacred order higher than the Self. This is how society will eventually be renewed, though none of us alive today may be alive to see it.

A commenter: Today the Greek-Roman-Christian-Romantic “narrative” is completely gone. The replacement is the scientistic-positivistic narrative of liberation (from superstition, from repression etc), which has proven completely unable to provide common people with reasons to live, to have a family etc.  And in fact it cannot provide such reasons, since it implicitly denies that the universe has any objective meaning, and it explicitly affirms that human being are JUST highly evolved animals.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:23 PM | Permalink

"The United States is the Wild West of the fertility industry"

If there is one industry that cries out for regulation it is the fertility industry, which today, unlike almost every other country, is completely unregulated.  "The United States is the Wild West of the fertility industry"  is a fair description.

Joy Pullman asks some important questions.  4 Questions About The Fertility Industry’s Lack Of Oversight

Meet the industry that conjures life and often causes death yet argues, with a straight face, for 'professional self-regulation.'

1. What’s the Relationship Between Selling Body Parts and Big Data?
Our bodies import and embed history in them at the very moment our parents’ egg and sperm unite to create our unique DNA. And not knowing this history, even just the biological part of it, disadvantages children later in life who have no knowledge of their medical proclivities. As D.C. McAllister has noted here, children conceived through mechanical processes also feel a spiritual void, akin to that adopted children feel, from not knowing their family’s culture, its stories, and personalities.

So it’s at least a small measure of sanity to give people access to possibly life-saving information. But it also raises more questions. Would laws like require tracking sperm donors their whole lives to fill out their medical history as it accumulates? …..Who is going to ensure that these donors are tracked, for their kids’ good? Through what means? What would be the appropriate penalties for forgetting or deliberately ignoring one’s responsibility to provide his children with life-saving medical data?

2. Is Abortion Producing Another Set of Terrible Unintended Consequences?
Look, people. We are talking about buying and selling human body parts, and buying, renting, and selling human bodies. Literally. Depending on the fertility treatment or avenue, unborn babies are created, frozen, and obliterated; women are paid to embed other people’s body products into their own to incubate it, with who knows what medical and emotional effects for these women
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion business, has sold body parts from babies its providers have aborted. Abortion providers still sell the products of their operations to research organizations, both within and outside the United States. Even without the direct connection here of selling body parts, both industries commercialize human reproduction. Abortion providers earn money to scrape babies from their mothers’ wombs; fertility clinics earn money by scraping eggs from women’s wombs, fertilizing some, and implanting the “product.”

3. Why Is Self-Regulation Impossible for Education and the Internet, But Cool for Baby Factories?
Sex seems to be the only issue liberals believe should be self-regulated, by which they mean unregulated, by the self or communities or religion or anything else. They have it backwards. Sex necessarily involves two, and perhaps three people (no, I don’t mean a threesome, I mean man, woman, and their potential child)
Besides, as Stella Morabito has been convincingly chronicling, progressives don’t really want unregulated sex. They want government-regulated sex, instead of privately regulated sex. They want to use tax dollars to experiment on poor women by keeping them infertile from the moment they hit puberty. They want government to define relationships, rather than individuals.

4. Do Children Have Any Rights?
Artificial reproduction treats children like consumer goods. I know our society already does that to an extent, even to kids conceived the old-fashioned way, but at least that way the child results from a genuine, meaningful, and serious personal interaction with another human being

Dear Gay Community: Your Kids Are Hurting

I loved my mom’s partner, but another mom could never have replaced the father I lost.

I grew up surrounded by women who said they didn’t need or want a man. Yet, as a little girl, I so desperately wanted a daddy. It is a strange and confusing thing to walk around with this deep-down unquenchable ache for a father, for a man, in a community that says that men are unnecessary….. But by and large, the best and most successful family structure is one in which kids are being raised by both their mother and father.
There are so many of us. Many of us are too scared to speak up and tell you about our hurt and pain, because for whatever reason it feels like you’re not listening. That you don’t want to hear. If we say we are hurting because we were raised by same-sex parents, we are either ignored or labeled a hater.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:22 PM | Permalink

On demand passwords

Yahoo announces on demand passwords so users 'never have to remember a password again'

Yahoo has introduced a new "on demand" password system that allows you to log into your account anytime using an individually generated unique code that the company will text to your phone.

It's essentially two factor authentication without the first step.

The feature is an inevitable move towards making user accounts more secure. Google and Apple have both dealt with high-profile security flaws and consumers are notoriously bad at practicing good password hygiene. Despite warnings, many still rely on easy to remember personal information or family names rather than unique codes generated by a password manager.

Yahoo explains this new simple way to log-in

Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:06 PM | Permalink

Americans are different

How do Americans stand out from the rest of the world?

Americans’ emphasis on individualism and work ethic stands out in surveys of people around the world. When Pew Research Center surveyed people in 44 countries last spring, 57% of Americans disagreed with the statement “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside our control,” a higher percentage than most other nations and far above the global median of 38%.
Americans are more likely to believe that hard work pays off. When asked, on a scale of 0 to 10, about how important working hard is to getting ahead in life, 73% of Americans said it is was a “10” or “very important,” compared with a global median of 50% among the 44 nations.

Americans also stand out for their religiosity and optimism, especially when compared with other relatively wealthy countries.


Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:31 PM | Permalink

March 19, 2015

Cheap, mobile and drug-free way to treat Alzheimer's in the works

Let's hope this works.  Hope for Alzheimer's sufferers with scientists developing a treatment to RESTORE memory loss

Australian scientists have made a major breakthrough in treating Alzheimer's with a new drug-free method that can restore memory loss.  Researchers at the University of Queensland's Brain Institute hope to be able to trial their new 'cheap and mobile' ultrasound device within two years on humans.

The treatment attacks the neurotoxic amyloid plaques that cause memory loss and cognitive failure with ultrasound waves.

Research director Professor Jürgen Götz hopes the new method will revolutionize Alzheimer's treatment by restoring memory for sufferers.

'We're extremely excited by this innovation of treating Alzheimer's without using drug therapeutics,' Professor Götz said, according to The Australian. 'The word 'breakthrough' is often misused, but in this case I think this really does fundamentally change our understanding of how to treat this disease, and I foresee a great future for this approach.'
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:34 AM | Permalink

March 18, 2015

Chores and Life Skills

For several days running, the most emailed article from the Wall Street Journal has been Why Children Need Chores  which has several tips on how to get your children properly motivated.

“Parents today want their kids spending time on things that can bring them success, but ironically, we’ve stopped doing one thing that’s actually been a proven predictor of success—and that’s household chores,” says Richard Rende, a developmental psychologist in Paradise Valley, Ariz., and co-author of the forthcoming book “Raising Can-Do Kids.” Decades of studies show the benefits of chores—academically, emotionally and even professionally.

Giving children household chores at an early age helps to build a lasting sense of mastery, responsibility and self-reliance, according to research by Marty Rossmann, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota…..

Chores also teach children how to be empathetic and responsive to others’ needs, notes psychologist Richard Weissbourd of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  ….. 

And why not bring Home Economics up-to-date and  back home economics to schools and colleges?  Maybe you have to rename it as well and call it "Life Skills."   


Jennifer Doverspike writes  Five Elements Of An Excellent Home Economics Class

Unlike Betty Crocker-inspired quick meals, though, this class would be an overall life skills class, and would need five basic units.

1. The Pinterest Unit: Cooking, Sewing, and Shop

2. Household Management, Cleaning, and Maintenance

3. Nutritional, Financial, and Sexual Literacy

4. Child Development, Education, and Health

5. Etiquette, Dress, and Habit
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:37 PM | Permalink

"Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears"

Post-Communist Traumas East and West  Recovering from Soviet Terror Is Not Easy

During an international conference on political theory several of us were sitting in a restaurant in Tallinn, Estonia. Among us was a participant from Bucharest, Romania, a young woman, who listened as some from the West poked fun at the evident inefficiency of the Russians who still have a significant presence in the Baltic countries and who happened to be running this establishment. We noted the drabness of the decor, the ineptness of the help, the slowness of the service, and reminisced about the even worse olden days when the gray-looking Russians who dominated the Communist culture would run roughshod over everyone in sight.

Suddenly we saw our friend from Bucharest in tears. She was apologizing but unable to keep herself from sobbing.  We were stunned—we didn’t know what we did to upset her. We all searched our minds for what we might have said but could not come up with a sensible answer. In a while she calmed down a bit and told us.

All of this amusing banter called to our friend’s mind not only what she had been living with for all of her life but what in her country is still largely the case, namely, the complete control of the Soviet-type bureaucracy over the society.  She then went on to recount, in halting English and tearfully, how the daily lives of her family and friends had been utterly trapped in the abyss that so many in the West championed as the promising wave of the future. She gave example after example of how people suffered, from moment to moment how every ounce of some modicum of joy and pleasure, never mind genuine happiness, was rendered utterly impossible and inconceivable for them. She noted that people simply lost the will to live, that they could not even smile, not to mention laugh heartily, and how the most minute matters, such as the way in which parents played and talked with their children, suffered from this totalitarian impact.

It is often only when one finds oneself facing the facts directly, inescapably, that one can appreciate their meaning.
People are not simply changing from one game to another when they finally are able to leave the Soviet system behind. They are undergoing recovery from massive and prolonged injury to their whole beings. They and everyone they know and love had been beaten and derided and terrorized by thugs for decades on end. When finally they are left alone, they are expected to, as the song says, just pick themselves up, brush themselves off, and start all over again with cheer in their hearts.

We are seeing some extremely painful recovery as well as relapses in the lives of those who had been the victims of the Soviet experiment that so many of our comfortable intellectuals watched with vile neglect. We will see normal imperfect human beings undergo a slow convalescence or stand around hesitatingly coping with new problems and nearly forgotten ones as well.

For the many people who have given their support to socialism and Communism over the years—if only by not being brutally honest about them on such grounds as that, well, these systems were motivated by compassion for the poor and downtrodden, the failure to see all this is a blatant confession of hypocrisy. The victims of the Soviet vision of human life deserve compassion and caring and yet all they seem to be getting is the callous disregard for their plight and the quick judgment that they are, after all, unable to handle freedom, aren’t they? What the yearning for self-justification will not permit some people to do in the face of the gravest of human tragedies!
Posted by Jill Fallon at 7:40 PM | Permalink

Hope in The Dropbox

‘The Drop Box,’ Where Disabled Babies Go to Live  A new documentary tells the story of ‘The Drop Box,’ where image-conscious South Koreans leave disabled babies to a welcoming pastor and his family.

Life can change in a moment. In June 2011, while eating cereal, Brian Ivie, a film student at the University of California, came across a front-page profile of Lee in the Los Angeles Times. Inspired by the story of the South Korean pastor tending an “unwanted flock” and mindful of how fleeting news can be, Ivie determined to bring Pastor Lee’s story to a broader audience. He contacted Lee and asked if he could make a documentary about his work. Lee responded that although he did not know what a documentary was, Ivie could come to his home in Seoul for a visit.

Lee responded that although he did not know what a documentary was, Ivie could come to his home in Seoul for a visit.  Ivie raised funding for his project on Kickstarter, and six months later, he and a small film crew headed to South Korea.

“We need stories like this one…to assert truth, that there are miracles, that heroes exist, and that love endures even amid daily tragedy,” he told his funders.
“The Drop Box” chronicles Lee’s life and work. Lee, the pastor of Jusarang Community Church in a working-class neighborhood of Seoul, has been taking in unwanted infants since 2009. Lee built his “baby box” after getting a call early one chilly autumn morning. “In front of the door,” said the voice on the other line. When he and his wife went to their front door, they found a baby, cold to the touch, in a cardboard box. Lee worried about what would have happened had they not found her until later.

So he got out his tools and built a heated box on the side of his church, lining it with blankets, rigging it with a bell, and affixing to it a sign that reads, “This is a facility for the protection of life. If you can’t take care of your disabled babies, don’t throw them away or leave them on the street. Bring them here.”
Since 2009, Lee’s baby box has saved 600 children, some of them deposited there only hours after birth. Lee and his staff generally have up to 20 children in their care, and he and his wife have adopted ten (the maximum number of children South Koreans can adopt). They receive a new child through the box every few days, provide initial care for the child, then hand him over to the police, who help place the child in an orphanage.
The Drop Box” reminds us that out of the deepest places of hurt come hope, that every life has dignity, and that it is what we make of the life-changing moments that determines how they shape our lives. As the father of a severely disabled child, Lee could have become resentful and isolated. Instead, Eun-man’s life catalyzed him to serve and love other disabled children in South Korea. His story reminds us, as Ivie said, that there are miracles, there are heroes, and love endures. Someday, perhaps we will live in a world where baby boxes are not needed. Until then, we need stories—and examples—like Pastor Lee’s.

The film opened March 16

You can see the trailer at

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:26 AM | Permalink

March 17, 2015

Happy St Patrick's Day

Saint Patrick’s Day: origin, history, quotes, poetry, videos, and how to make your own green beer

Don't miss the Guinness video -  a sheepdog trained to round up Irishmen and herd them to a bar.

St Patrick: the sinner who turned the world green

Patrick himself: the slave and shepherd who so successfully evangelized Ireland, and wrote an autobiography known as St Patrick’s Confession, which begins:
“My name is Patrick. I am a sinner, a simple country person, and the least of all believers. I am looked down upon by many.” Humility, gratitude, fortitude, trust in the Lord – and sometimes, moments of depression, too – mark his self-told story. He says nothing of his powers of persuasion, but they must have been remarkable to convert kings, nobles, druids and the populace so effectively.

A Saint Patrick’s Day Message from President Reagan in his surprise visit to Pat Troy’s Irish pub in Alexandria, Va.

From A Real Saint Patrick’s Day Seisiún at the National Review where several friends and colleagues share  their thoughts on the day and on their favorite aspects of Irish history and culture. 

Quin Hillyer:  But what lingers most, in memories of Ireland, is the sense that in every nook and cranny, every vale and hillock ….  is that there’s a wonderfully infectious sense of magic throughout. This isn’t magic in the sense of sprightly leprechauns; it’s more the magic of surpassingly good will from a people responding to the almost supernaturally lush greenness around them. I’ve never in my life, anywhere else, met people so universally friendly to visitors.

Tom Hoopes:  My mother’s favorite Daniel Patrick Moynihan quote was: “I don’t think there’s any point in being Irish if you don’t know that the world is going to break your heart eventually.” That gets the Irish perfectly: A friend once remarked that for the Irish, Easter Sunday is a letdown after the big thrill of Good Friday. I always feel that way a little, too…..The Irish so often seem to be filled with the kind of disappointment that only lovers of beauty can feel.

I even love the irony of an ascetic saint’s life being celebrated by Shamrock Shakes and streams of beer. It fills me with melancholy. And that feels right.

Michael Walsh:  The word that comes to mind about Ireland and the Irish on this Saint Patrick’s Day is indomitability. Since the arrival of the English Normans under Strongbow in the 12th century, the island has undergone a constant series of invasions and occupations by its neighbor to the east, resulting in mass murder, deprivation, starvation, coerced emigration and penal transportation, the harsh restrictions of faith and language, enforced ignorance, and the loss of all civil rights including property. England’s first and last colony is still partitioned, despite Catholic majorities in four of the six counties that make up “Northern Ireland,” although Catholics will soon be a majority in all of rump Ulster, and eventual reunification with the Republic is a foregone conclusion.

In other words, we’re still here. Proving that there’s an upside to almost everything, the Irish Diaspora — the Diaspóra na nGael — has had a significant effect on countries such as the United States (to which my own family emigrated in the late 19th century), France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and even Britain itself, with significant Irish presences in Liverpool (Lennon and McCartney, anybody?) and in Edinburgh (birthplace of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). The rural Irish took to urban living and quickly made the major American cities their own. They built the Erie Canal, most of the railroads, the New York City subways. They fought for the Union Army in the Civil War (“Little Phil” Sheridan), and died with Custer at the Little Bighorn. They became cops, judges, politicians, presidents; writers, actors, directors. One of them even grew up to be the founder of National Review.

From 30 great quotes about Ireland and the Irish

'Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.' William Butler Yeats

'This [The Irish] is one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.' -
Sigmund Freud

'When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.”
Edna O'Brien

Posted by Jill Fallon at 6:31 PM | Permalink

"Black grace"

"Nowadays, chastity is the ultimate rebellion"  Dawn Eden

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen described a state of disillusioned satedness that he called “black grace” a kind of fed-upness that could open the way for the “white grace” of conversion.  Many who have bought into the lies of the sexual revolution find themselves confronted by the darkness of this black grace. If the truth about chastity is presented to them, they can attain transformation in Christ. I know, because that is what happened to me.
Pope Francis gets this. That is why, when he speaks about chastity, he uses the language of rebellion. Addressing young people on the theme of the diocesan World Youth Day 2015 – “Blessed are the pure in heart” ­– he urged them to “rebel against the widespread tendency to reduce love to something banal, reducing it to its sexual aspect alone … [Rebel] against this culture that sees everything as temporary and that ultimately believes you are incapable of responsibility, that believes you are incapable of true love.”

… Francis encourages us to have faith that our Tannhäusers, too, can reach that point of black grace: the searing recognition that the no-strings-attached “love” that they expected to fulfill  them was, in fact, only an impoverishment of what love is supposed to be.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:30 AM | Permalink

Slouching Toward Mecca

Slouching Toward Mecca is Mark Lilla's review of Michel Houellebecq's book Soumission, translated from the French by Frank Wynne.

The best-selling novel in Europe today, Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France.

Michel Houellebecq has created a new genre—the dystopian conversion tale. Soumission is not the story some expected of a coup d’état, and no one in it expresses hatred or even contempt of Muslims. It is about a man and a country who through indifference and exhaustion find themselves slouching toward Mecca. There is not even drama here—no clash of spiritual armies, no martyrdom, no final conflagration. Stuff just happens, as in all Houellebecq’s fiction. All one hears at the end is a bone-chilling sigh of collective relief. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Whatever.
The qualities that Houellebecq projects onto Islam are no different from those that the religious right ever since the French Revolution has attributed to premodern Christendom—strong families, moral education, social order, a sense of place, a meaningful death, and, above all, the will to persist as a culture.
For all Houellebecq’s knowingness about contemporary culture—the way we love, the way we work, the way we die—the focus in his novels is always on the historical longue durée. He appears genuinely to believe that France has, regrettably and irretrievably, lost its sense of self, but not because of immigration or the European Union or globalization. Those are just symptoms of a crisis that was set off two centuries ago when Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. For him, that wager has been lost. And so the continent is adrift and susceptible to a much older temptation, to submit to those claiming to speak for God. Who remains as remote and as silent as ever.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:24 AM | Permalink

March 16, 2015

"I can't go one. I'll go on"

Before I Go: A Stanford neurosurgeon’s parting wisdom about life and time

Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.

Yet one thing cannot be robbed of her futurity: my daughter, Cady. I hope I’ll live long enough that she has some memory of me. Words have a longevity I do not. I had thought I could leave her a series of letters — but what would they really say? ….There is perhaps only one thing to say to this infant, who is all future, overlapping briefly with me, whose life, barring the improbable, is all but past.

That message is simple: When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.

 Paul Kalathani+Daughter

The author, Paul Kalanithi, died last week at 37.  His obituary here

“Yesterday my brother Paul passed away about two years after being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. He did so with customary bravery and poise, and died in peace on his own terms with his family around him. My brother achieved more in his short life than what most people do in twice that time. He was a good doctor, a good husband, a good father and a good man.
"We talked about how being the doctor is all about having control and wielding power, while being a patient is all about loss of control and feeling vulnerable,” said Periyakoil, a clinical associate professor of medicine. His ‘dual citizenship’ as a doctor and as a seriously ill patient had taught him that respectful communication is the bedrock of all medicine."
His essays tapped an outpouring of gratitude from readers — from young people who had lost parents to seniors facing their own mortality, to teachers desiring to share his essay with students. “It completely surprised me that it resonated with so many people,  Kalanithi wrote of the response to the Times piece in a 2014 San Francisco Magazine essay. “I still get an email nearly every day from someone with heart disease or depression or another medical illness, saying that it helped clarify his or her own situation. The second, and really pleasing, development was the number of doctors who emailed to say that they planned to give the article to their patients or incorporate it into medical school curricula to help students understand the human impact of disease. That was really touching.”

In the New York Times a year ago  the essay that sparked so much gratitude: How Long Have I Got Left?

Faced with mortality, scientific knowledge can provide only an ounce of certainty: Yes, you will die. But one wants a full pound of certainty, and that is not on offer.  What patients seek is not scientific knowledge doctors hide, but existential authenticity each must find on her own. Getting too deep into statistics is like trying to quench a thirst with salty water. The angst of facing mortality has no remedy in probability.

I remember the moment when my overwhelming uneasiness yielded. Seven words from Samuel Beckett, a writer I’ve not even read that well, learned long ago as an undergraduate, began to repeat in my head, and the seemingly impassable sea of uncertainty parted: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” I took a step forward, repeating the phrase over and over: “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” And then, at some point, I was through.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:34 PM | Permalink

What saved the whales, stopped deforestation and increased the productivity of the land?

What saved the whales, stopped deforestation and increased the productivity of the land?  Fossil fuels. 

Matt Ridley makes the case that Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really)There are problems with oil, gas and coal, but their benefits for people—and the planet—are beyond dispute

Wind power, for all the public money spent on its expansion, has inched up to—wait for it—1% of world energy consumption in 2013. Solar, for all the hype, has not even managed that: If we round to the nearest whole number, it accounts for 0% of world energy consumption….Both wind and solar are entirely reliant on subsidies for such economic viability as they have.
The two fundamental problems that renewables face are that they take up too much space and produce too little energy…..To run the U.S. economy entirely on wind would require a wind farm the size of Texas, California and New Mexico combined—backed up by gas on windless days. To power it on wood would require a forest covering two-thirds of the U.S., heavily and continually harvested.
the trickle of energy that human beings managed to extract from wind, water and wood before the Industrial Revolution placed a great limit on development and progress…..fossil fuels were a unique advance because they allowed human beings to create extraordinary patterns of order and complexity—machines and buildings—with which to improve their lives.

The result of this great boost in energy is what the economic historian and philosopher Deirdre McCloskey calls the Great Enrichment. In the case of the U.S., there has been a roughly 9,000% increase in the value of goods and services available to the average American since 1800, almost all of which are made with, made of, powered by or propelled by fossil fuels.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:13 AM | Permalink

Health roundup: Double chins, classical music, IGT, the Pill+Crohn's, brain cancer+tetanus, HIV+cellular scissors

New drug that gets rid of double chins WITHOUT surgery receives unanimous recommendation for FDA approval
ATX-101 is a noninvasive, in-office procedure that takes five minutes and patients heal in 2-3 days and can walk out without wearing a bandage.  The  drug is injected in grid of tiny dots where 'max amount of fat' under chin is
destroying membranes of fat cells, causing them to burst and permanently disappear. Side effects include short-term swelling, bruising and numbness. The drug now just needs final FDA approval 

Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia say researchers after discovering Mozart excerpts enhanced gene activity in patients
Classical music can help slow down the onset of dementia, new research has found.  Scientists discovered that patients who listened to experts of Mozart had enhanced gene activity in the brain in areas including memory and learning. The music also affected the activity of a risk gene connected to Parkinson's disease.

The Finnish researchers found the changed activity was only present in 'musically-experienced' patients, who listened to music regularly, suggesting the importance of familiarity with music.

A new class of drugs will dramatically slow the aging process
The new medicines, known as senolytics, have been shown to alleviate symptoms of frailty, improve heart function and extend a healthy life. …Senior author and Mayo Clinic Professor James Kirkland:  "It may eventually become feasible to delay, prevent, alleviate or even reverse multiple chronic diseases and disabilities as a group, instead of just one at a time."

The problem they faced was how to identify these cells without harming other healthy cells.  They discovered that like cancer cells, senescent cells have increased expression of "pro-survival networks" that help them resist apoptosis or programmed cell death. So they used a cancer drug dasatanib and an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory known as quercetin to target senescent cells.The combination wiped out these cells, leaving the healthy ones untouched.

High cholesterol LOWERS the risk of diabetes: New study reveals why taking statins may be harmful
A study of 25,000 found that patients with hypercholesterolemia were half as likely to have diabetes.

New York Times: Protection Without a Vaccine

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections.  But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis.

….The first human trial based on this strategy — called immunoprophylaxis by gene transfer, or I.G.T. — is underway, and several new ones are planned. I.G.T. is altogether different from traditional vaccination. It is instead a form of gene therapy. Scientists isolate the genes that produce powerful antibodies against certain diseases and then synthesize artificial versions. The genes are placed into viruses and injected into human tissue, usually muscles…..The viruses invade human cells with their DNA payloads, and the synthetic gene is incorporated into the recipient’s own DNA. If all goes well, the new genes instruct the cells to begin manufacturing powerful antibodies.

Women on the Pill face increased risk of Crohn's disease
New study of 230,000 women suggests women may be three times as likely to develop the bowel condition if they are on the Pill and have high-risk genetics

Woman with brain cancer who was given just two months to live has survived for NINE years and seen five grandchildren born after being given experimental vaccine      Sandra Hillburn, 68, was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in April 2006.  She was offered to be in a experimental 12-patient study at Duke University

The patients were treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and tetanus-diphtheria shot 
Study found that patients who got the tetanus shot lived years longer than those who didn't

Scientists find a way to cut out the HIV virus from infected areas with ‘cellular scissors’
Scientists claim they are one step closer to creating a drug that can cure HIV. A team of researchers has been customizing a defense system used by bacteria and training this scissor-like machinery to recognize the HIV virus.  In their tests, they found that the technique could completely remove up to 72 per cent of cells that had been infected with HIV.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:46 AM | Permalink

March 15, 2015

Attention is a resource

In the NYT, The Cost of Paying Attention by Matthew Crawford

Attention is a resource; a person has only so much of it. And yet we’ve auctioned off more and more of our public space to private commercial interests, with their constant demands on us to look at the products on display or simply absorb some bit of corporate messaging. Lately, our self-appointed disrupters have opened up a new frontier of capitalism, complete with its own frontier ethic: to boldly dig up and monetize every bit of private head space by appropriating our collective attention. In the process, we’ve sacrificed silence — the condition of not being addressed. And just as clean air makes it possible to breathe, silence makes it possible to think.
Silence is now offered as a luxury good. In the business-class lounge at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I heard only the occasional tinkling of a spoon against china. I saw no advertisements on the walls. This silence, more than any other feature, is what makes it feel genuinely luxurious. When you step inside and the automatic doors whoosh shut behind you, the difference is nearly tactile, like slipping out of haircloth into satin. Your brow unfurrows, your neck muscles relax; after 20 minutes you no longer feel exhausted.

Outside, in the peon section, is the usual airport cacophony.  Because we have allowed our attention to be monetized, if you want yours back you’re going to have to pay for it.
I think we need to sharpen the conceptually murky right to privacy by supplementing it with a right not to be addressed. This would apply not, of course, to those who address me face to face as individuals, but to those who never show their faces, and treat my mind as a resource to be harvested.

Hear, Hear.

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls,"  Mother Theresa

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:20 PM | Permalink

March 13, 2015

"They grab and grub. They never leave. They never go home."

Peggy Noonan Politics in the Modest Age

We live in a time when politicians relentlessly enrich themselves. We are awed and horrified by the wealth they accumulate, by their use of connections, of money lines built on past and future power. It's an operation to them. They are worth hundreds of millions. They have houses so fancy the houses have names. They make speeches to banks and universities for a quarter-million dollars and call their fees contributions to their foundations. They are their foundations.

They grab and grub. They never leave. They never go home. They don't have a "home": They were born in a place, found a launching pad, and shot themselves into glamour and wealth. They are operators—entitled, assuming. They "stand for the people." They stand for themselves.

Ir's a palate cleanser to read what she writes of Harry Truman

Truman would go back to being "just anybody again." But there was something people didn't know. He was—amazingly, this wasn't a lie—pretty much dead broke….He didn't know how he would make a living. His great concern was not to do anything that might exploit or "commercialize" the office he'd just left…His name was not for sale. He would take no fees for commercial endorsements or for lobbying or writing letters or making phone calls. He would accept no 'consulting fees.'" ….   

His transition was hard….But he worked it out….The former president had to relearn things—how and whom to tip in restaurants, how to call a cab—that presidents don't have to do. For this unassuming man there were humbling moments……

Truman wasn't financially secure until five years after he left the White House, when he sold family farmland whose fields he had worked as a boy. It made him sad: He liked thinking of himself as a farmer. But if he hadn't sold, he said, "I would practically be on relief."

He died the day after Christmas 1972, age 88, and his death was not only marked but mourned. A friend had described to the New York Times magazine how he had achieved happiness: "Harry feels that he's square with the world, that he gave it his best, and got its best in return."
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:53 PM | Permalink

Mind your manners

In the New York Times, A Manners Manifesto and a recipe for egg drop soup.

For 4,000 years, humans have implored one another to mind their manners. I am personally invested in the crusade for two reasons. First, my brother and I were raised by a man who, as a child, was sent from the table hungry if he so much as slouched. At my own table growing up, when we small savages a) failed to put our napkins in our laps; b) ate before everyone was served; c) served ourselves first; d) opened our mouths while chewing; e) moved our forks from the left to the right hand; f) ate with our hands; g) failed to say please, thank you or excuse me; h) put our elbows on the table; i) did not ask permission to stand; or j) failed to eat soup properly (a nearly impossible task, requiring always spooning away, sipping noiselessly while sitting bolt upright, obtaining any final spoonfuls by a discreet tip of the bowl), we were ordered to push back from the table and contemplate our philistinism for several monstrous minutes before we could return, rehabilitated, to try again.
In the democratic present, perhaps the way to distinguish useful etiquette from frippery is to discern which rules help us be good rather than seem good. Serving others first is plainly charitable. Filling companions’ glasses, waiting to eat, giving another the last of the stew, chewing with a closed mouth — each is a basic acknowledgment of togetherness. Perhaps the consequential lesson in the matter of holding your fork, etc., is that customs differ at different tables in different lands, and that there is a certain intelligence in doing as is done. In other words, whatever unites merits keeping, and what divides can be folded and stored away with the linen too old and ornamental to use.
True courtesy will instinctively check faddish manners at the door in the interest of kindness — which is the root from which the entire family tree of courteous behavior, from the noble Egyptian’s papyrus on, has sprung.

A few  quotes from Miss Manners

"The dinner table is the center for the teaching and practicing not just of table manners but of conversation, consideration, tolerance, family feeling, and just about all the other accomplishments of polite society except the minuet."

"The lack of agreement about manners results in an anger-ridden, chaotic society, where each trivial act is interpreted as a revelation of the moral philosophy of the individual actor…"

"Ideological differences are no excuse for rudeness."

In a 1995 interview by Virginia Shea, Miss Manners said,

“You can deny all you want that there is etiquette, and a lot of people do in everyday life.  But if you behave in a way that offends the people you're trying to deal with, they will stop dealing with you…There are plenty of people who say, 'We don't care about etiquette, but we can't stand the way so-and-so behaves, and we don't want him around!' Etiquette doesn't have the great sanctions that the law has.  But the main sanction we do have is in not dealing with these people and isolating them because their behavior is unbearable.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:45 PM | Permalink

March 12, 2015

The #1 problem

Beating out the economy, unemployment, immigration, healthcare, terrorism, education, moral decline, federal debt and deficit, ISIS and the situation in Iraq, national security, foreign policy and race relations, Americans Name Government as No. 1 U.S. Problem

Posted by Jill Fallon at 4:29 PM | Permalink

"Rebellion for grown-ups"

In the NYT,  Arthur C. Brooks writes Lent: It’s Not Just for Catholics

[M]ost people spend their lives trying to avoid physical and psychological suffering. That is how we are wired. …Fear — arguably, the most unpleasant emotion — is learned as a way to avoid all types of pain. …

We don’t want to suffer — we hate it, in fact. Yet it is suffering that often brings personal improvement. Not all pain is beneficial, obviously. But researchers have consistently found that most survivors of illness and loss experience “post-traumatic growth.” Not only do many people find a greater emotional maturity after suffering; they are even better prepared to help others deal with their pain. That is why after a loss we turn for comfort to those who have endured a similar loss.
in this season of Lent, hundreds of millions of Catholics are pondering their own inadequacies and inviting discomfort through abstinence and fasting. In a postmodern era, where death is taboo, pain is pointless, and sin is a cultural anachronism, what could be more rebellious?

But the spirit of these practices is open to everyone, religious or not. Think of it as a personal declaration of independence. The objective is not to cause yourself damage, but to accept the pain and fear that are a natural part of life, and to embrace them as a valuable source of lessons to learn and tests to pass….

To say, “I am dust, and to dust I shall return”: Now that’s rebellion for grown-ups.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:16 PM | Permalink

"What happens when a favored lobby group inserts itself between the news coverage and reality"

After reading Pitiless Pity in which The Thinking Housewife quotes Bonald

Our age has not so much increased human sympathy as weaponized it.  Empathy is directed exclusively to recognized victim groups (Jews, blacks, perverts), and it is meant to inspire not works of mercy toward these victims themselves but attacks on their supposed oppressors.  Pity is no longer a check on aggression, but a spur to it.

I read Mark Steyn's Shepard and Sheep which gives a perfect example:

 The Book Of Matt

By rights, Stephen Jimenez ought to be a famous author and his book a bestseller - and taught in journalism schools, law school, and police academy to boot. Because his subject - the murder of Matthew Shepard 17 years ago - is the clearest example of what happens when a favored lobby group inserts itself between the news coverage and reality. The official version - gay martyrdom in the heartland of a bigoted rural America - is still being peddled…The fact that it is completely false makes no difference to the Big Gay enforcers, as Mr Jimenez, who is himself gay, discovered when he set out to tell the truth about what happened.
The official version of Matthew Shepard's death is an outright lie that has led, I would argue, to a miscarriage of justice for one of his two convicted killers……Shepard didn't die "because he was gay"; he died because he was a meth addict and dealer. He was not a tragic gay; he was a tragic meth head who happened to be gay.
Upscale urban liberals (if Mr Jimenez will forgive me descending to labels) decided to make the death of Matthew Shepard a "teachable moment". Unfortunately, what they wanted to teach was completely false - a fairy tale about a populace of drooling hicks itching to gay-bash. Yet Shepard's death and what led to it should have been a teachable moment. Sixteen years ago, I think I was vaguely aware of meth addiction. Since then, I've seen it march ever closer to home - hollowing out (along with heroin) decrepit mill towns and rusting farming communities across my part of northern New Hampshire and Vermont. Matthew Shepard's descent into that world led to his death, but look at it from Frank Rich's point of view: Rural meth heads are far too déclassé to ever gain any purchase on the progressive imagination. Meth is banal and sordid and irredeemably provincial, totally lacking in the glamor of sexual-identity politics. So Matthew Shepard died twice: first murdered, and then supplanted in his own life story and replaced by a de-sexed, detoxed tragic cipher.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:11 PM | Permalink

Johnny Cash as an Icon for Lent

From The Catholic Gentleman - A Johnny Cash Lent
If I could go back eleven years ago and talk to my younger self I’d give a lot of advice; “See a therapist, don’t stop taking your medication, and try to go for a walk once-in-a-while.”  However, I think I’d more likely tell my young, idiot self, the wisdom of The Man in Black, “It takes a real man to live for God—a lot more man than to live for the devil.”

 Johnnie Cash
"I have tried drugs and a little of everything else, and there is nothing in the world more soul-satisfying
than having the kingdom of God building inside you and growing,"  Johnny Cash

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:41 PM | Permalink

Quote of the Day

When the law does not apply to the lawmakers and law-enforcers, you are not being governed: You are being ruled. And we are ruled by criminals.

If you treat IRS rules the way the IRS treats IRS rules, you go to prison; if you treat federal law the way the secretary of state does, you go to prison. If you treat immigration controls the way our immigration authorities do, you go to prison. If you’re as careless in your handling of firearms as the ATF is, you go to prison. You cook your business’s books the way the federal government cooks its books, you go to prison.

Kevin Williamson

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:06 AM | Permalink

March 11, 2015

Word history

Words you might think are etymologically related but are not

Where male goes back to Latin masculus, female comes through French femelle from Latin femella. The eventual overlap in pronunciation was accidental.

Though a hangnail seems to be a piece of skin that "hangs" off your nail area, it's actually an "angry" nail. Ang-, meaning troubling or distressing in Latin, also meant painful in Old English.

Isn't it odd how an ear of corn looks nothing like an ear? That's because the root of the corn ear is in Old English éar or eher, which always referred to the spiky, seed bearing part of a grain plant, and not to éare, which always meant the ear.

The step- in words for step family members comes not from the word for taking a step with the foot, nor the related metaphor for being removed by one unit, but to an old root stéop-, related to the concept of bereavement. The earliest use of this prefix was in an Old English word for orphan, stéopcild, or stepchild.

Man comes from a Germanic root, and in all the Germanic languages has had both senses of "person" and "adult male person." Human comes from a Latin root, humanus, meaning that having to do with people (rather than animals or gods).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:02 PM | Permalink

March 10, 2015

How can you explain this?

Four officers say mystery 'woman's voice' called to them from wreck where they found baby alive beside dead mom, 14 hours after crash.

The four officers who rescued an 18-month-old toddler from the wreck of a submerged car on Sunday said they launched into their heroics when they heard desperate pleas for help coming from a woman inside.  But when the four men used all their strength to right the red Dodge sedan, they found little Lily Groesbeck to be the only passenger left alive in the vehicle.

Her mother, 25-year-old Lynn Jennifer Groesbeck, had passed away the night before when she lost control of the car and could not possibly have called for the men to help save her child.

Spanish Fork Police Officer Tyler Beddoes said he and the three officers talked later and concurred they all heard the same thing. They can't explain it, but have no doubt they heard it. 'That's the part that really sends me for a whirl,' Beddoes said. 'I'm not really religious, but that's what you think of.' 'For two nights I've laid awake trying to figure out exactly what it could be. All I know is it was there, we all heard it,' 

A firefighter jumped into the river and cut the straps, freeing the blond baby girl who was wearing only a flannel onesie and no hat or gloves. Officers formed a line in the river and handed the cold girl to one another until she was on the shoreline and in emergency workers' arms. They rushed her to an ambulance and performed CPR,

 Baby Alive River Wreck

Lily is in stable condition and improving, according to hospital officials. Beddoes, who spoke with the family, said the baby is opening her eyes and doing well. … "We're blown away by Lily's progress and so grateful to her rescuers,' Lily's family said, according to CNN.  Her improvement is astounding. Right now she's watching 'Dora (the Explorer)' and singing '(The) Wheels on the Bus' with Grandpa. She is smiling and laughing for family members.

Nobody knows exactly how the infant survived hanging upside down for nearly 14 hours in her car seat with no food or water. As she dangled, icy water rushed just below her head through broken car windows as the Dodge Caliber sat perched on the bank and rocks. The temperatures were near freezing throughout the night and through the morning…..

Police believe the accident occurred when the baby's mother, Lynn Groesbeck, struck a cement barrier on a bridge and careened into the river late Friday in Spanish Fork, about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City..A fisherman found the crashed car upside down in the river on Saturday at 12.30pm, about 14 hours after the accident occurred around 10.30pm on Friday. The waters of the river, just 50 miles outside Salt Lake City were near freezing. Multiple emergency responders were treated for hypothermia
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:43 PM | Permalink

Health roundup; Everyday pills, game-changing drugs, peanuts and nuts

The professor who 'cured' his cancer with a cocktail of everyday pills. 20 years on, he remains disease-free
Ben Williams' aggressive brain tumor was treated with conventional therapies - and with a mix of common drugs, including those for acne, insomnia and high blood pressure, as revealed in a new documentary. Could this approach work for others?

Pancreatic disease successfully targeted with 'game-changing' drugs
Treatment of the most deadly type of cancer could be revolutionized after scientists achieved ‘exceptional’ results with a platinum-based therapy.  Currently just 1 per cent of all people with pancreatic cancer survive for ten years after diagnosis. Most die within weeks or months because symptoms haven’t shown until the disease is well-advanced.

But researchers say they have now discovered what makes pancreatic cancer ‘tick’ by looking at the DNA of its tumors. They found these can be classified into four types, and the 15 per cent of patients with one of these types could be helped with platinum-based drugs that are already used to treat ovarian and testicular cancer.
Scientists said the results of early trials had been so dramatic that they had never expected to see them ‘in their lifetimes’.

Anti-depressant can also help repair failing hearts: Widely-used pill found to work 'far better' than standard treatments
Researchers from Temple University in Philadelphia gave the widely-used anti-depressant Seroxat to mice that had suffered heart attacks. Tests showed it to be far superior to beta-blockers, the drugs routinely used to treat heart failure.The damaged heart started to heal itself – and continued to improve after the Seroxat was stopped.
Experiments showed that the benefits had nothing to do with the pills’ effect on the brain chemicals involved in mood. Instead, they are due to a fortuitous side-effect of the drug, in which it happens to block a protein that weakens already-damaged hearts.  The effects were seen at doses similar to those used to treat depression in people, although the researchers caution there is no guarantee that Seroxat, which is also known as paroxetine, will work as well on human hearts.

In the WSJ  About-Face on Preventing Peanut Allergies
Study finds introducing peanuts in many infants’ diets could help avoid the allergies later in childhood. A diet that includes peanuts in the first year of life may greatly reduce the chance of developing peanut allergies in children at risk for getting them, according to a highly anticipated new study.

The findings appear to be the most definitive evidence yet to discount the medical community’s longtime recommendation that parents avoid giving peanut products to young children. That practice has failed to stem the growing rate of peanut allergies. Some doctors now suggest that not eating peanuts may actually have helped spur more allergies.

“We have had a whole ethos within the practice of pediatrics and pediatric allergy that the way to avoid any allergy was avoidance,” said Gideon Lack, a professor of pediatric allergy at King’s College London and senior author of the study, which was published online Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine. “At least with respect to peanuts, avoidance may actually worsen the problem.”

How NUTS could be nature's statin: Even peanuts reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death
Eating nuts and peanuts reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, a new study claims.  Researchers found they were linked with a reduced risk of death from heart disease across different ethnic groups and among people on low incomes. They said their findings suggest peanuts may be a cost-effective measure to improve cardiovascular health because they are so cheap.

The study, led by Dr Xiao-Ou Shu, of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Tennessee, analyzed various groups of people. One involved 72,000 low-income black and white men and women living in the US, the other 134,000 men and women living in Shanghai, China.  In the US, the highest consumption resulted in a risk reduction of 21 per cent - in the Chinese group, 17 per cent. The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Nuts are rich in nutrients and peanuts, although classified as legumes, have nutrients similar to tree nuts.  They add to the diet a valuable source of protein, dietary fiber, healthy fats, vitamins B1, B6, folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium and zinc.

Early signs of Alzheimer's disease found in patients as young as 20: 'Unprecedented' findings say disease eats away at cells 50 years before symptoms develop
Researchers, from Northwestern University in Chicago, examined the brains of elderly people with and without Alzheimer’s, as well as samples taken from 13 people aged between 20 and 66. These younger people were free of memory problems when they died.  Tests showed that beta-amyloid, the toxic protein that clogs up the brain in Alzheimer’s, had started building up in people as young as 20. Lead researcher Professor Changiz Geula said: ‘Discovering that amyloid begins to accumulate so early in life is unprecedented.’

I'm fitter at 70 than I was at 25
Age is no barrier to exercise, as Liz Hodgkinson shows - even if you don't need to go to the gym at 6.30am every morning.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 12:54 PM | Permalink

Something Wonderful

Something wonderful.  The reinforced barriers, razor wire and electrified fences of the Iron Curtain that separated East Europe from West Europe transformed into an eco-corridor, a narrow wilderness, across the heart of Europe through the vision of two boys.

Kai Frobel from West Germany and Gunter Berwing from East Germany were The Boys Who Loved Birds 

 Ironcurtain Green Belt

Posted by Jill Fallon at 9:05 AM | Permalink

For men only: Off-label uses for pregnancy tests

Teenager diagnosed with testicular cancer after pregnancy test

A teenager was diagnosed with testicular cancer after taking a pregnancy test that came back positive. Byron Geldard, then 18, had finished school and had just returned from a summer holiday with friends when he received the diagnosis the day before he was due to get his A’ Level results.

Pregnancy tests are increasingly used to diagnose, or rule out, testicular cancer as the illness produces the same hCG hormone that is produced by the developing placenta.
The Teenage Cancer Trust said pregnancy tests had been used to diagnose testicular cancer for around six years.  A spokeswoman said they were considered reliable as the same proteins are detected in the urine of testicular cancer patients and of pregnant women. “It is relatively unknown as patients don’t really talk about it,” she said.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 8:34 AM | Permalink

March 9, 2015

6.5 million Americans are 112 or older

If that seems impossible, it is.  Except  in the Social Security Administration.

The SSA's inspector general has identified 6.5 million number-holders age 112 -- or older -- for whom no death date has been entered in the main electronic file, called Numident.

The audit, dated March 4, 2015, concluded that SSA lacks the controls necessary to annotate death information on the records of number-holders who exceed "maximum reasonable life expectancies."

Some of the numbers assigned to long-dead people were used fraudulently to open bank accounts.  And thousands of those numbers apparently were used by illegal immigrants to apply for work:

Next question is how much Is the SSA paying out to people long dead.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 10:50 PM | Permalink

The poorer people are, the more they give to charity

Poorer conservatives more generous than wealthy liberals – new study

Less well-off families from red states donate a relatively higher – and growing – proportion of their money to charity, while those at the top have been giving a smaller share as their income has increased, a new extensive study has revealed.

Respected non-government sector newspaper The Philanthropy Chronicle collated the itemized charity deductions on the tax returns of hundreds of millions of Americans between 2006 and 2012, the latest year available. While only about a third of all givers write off their charity expenses, the sums included about 80 percent of all donations in the country.
Several explanations have been posited for the findings.

“Lower and middle-income people know people who lost their jobs or are homeless, and they worry that they themselves are a day away from losing their jobs. They’re very sensitive to the needs of other people and recognize that these years have been hard,” explained Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Meanwhile, the wealthier donors, who had been able to afford largesse during the fat years through the 90s and early 2000s, became “nervous and cautious” as the financial crisis struck in 2008, threatening their incomes, property and shares.

 Giving Trends By Income

Wealthy Give Smaller Share of Income to Charity While Poor and Middle Class Digs Deeper

As the recession lifted, poor and middle class Americans dug deeper into their wallets to give to charity, even though they were earning less. At the same time, according to a new Chronicle analysis of tax data, wealthy Americans earned more, but the portion of the income they gave to charity declined.
overall donations from the wealthiest Americans have gone up by $4.6 billion, adjusted for inflation, to $77.5 billion between 2006 and 2012, showing that they are giving more in absolute terms, just not as a proportion of their growing pay packets.
In an even starker finding, the study shows that the religious and conservative states are the most generous givers. Seventeen of the most generous states, in relative terms, voted for Romney in 2012, while 15 of the 17 least generous ones picked Obama for re-election.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:26 PM | Permalink

Former Red Guard propagandist paints first official portrait of Pope Francis


Red Guard propaganda to papal portrait: An artist profile

Artist Shen Jiawei's paintings of Chinese soldiers during the Cultural Revolution were so popular with Mao's regime that 250,000 copies of his most famous work were made into propaganda posters and distributed throughout the country.
His hopes of attending art school dashed with the closure of China's universities, Shen joined the Red Guards and then the People's Liberation Army, fully embracing the communist spirit of the times. In the PLA, his self-taught artistic talents were recognized and he became one of the legions of propaganda artists who glorified workers, farmers and soldiers in the Socialist Realism style of Soviet propaganda.

"I stopped my propaganda work in the 1970s," he said, laughing. "Even church commission work, this is part of normal artwork, part of commission and part of history."

In 1989 after the Tiananmen Square protests, he fled to Australia and was given refugee status. Largely  self-taught. Shen first caught the attention of Australian church officials with a 1994 portrait of Mary MacKillop, the 19th-century nun who ministered to the poor and in 2010 became Australia's first saint.

 Stmary Mackillop By Shen

A local Australian art teacher commissioned the work after seeing the portrait of Mary MacKillop on the wall of the Australian embassy to the Holy See.  "We thought why not commission Mr Shen to paint a portrait of the newly elected and much talked about Pope Francis!"

With the seed planted, Pope Francis gave permission for the portrait to be made on his flight back from last year's World Youth Day, and last week, to his delight, was presented with the masterpiece at a special reception at the Apostolic Palace that coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Australian diplomatic mission to the Vatican.

"All this is a change of fortunes for Mr Shen who came to Australia as a refugee and scratched out a living at Darling Harbour knocking out tourist portraits," Mr. Hurst added. "A refugee artist and a Sydney school teacher finding themselves in the midst of a glittering reception in a Roman palace had us both pinching ourselves trying to believe we were there. We were surrounded by Cardinals, ambassadors and at least two Roman princesses who were all praising the painting

 Artist+ Pope

More about the artist and a portfolio of his paintings here.

Daily Mail From Red Guard posters to a papal portrait: Artist who fled to Australia after Tiananmen Square massacre will paint for the Vatican - four decades after his work was distributed as propaganda by communist China.

Shen's journey from favoured propaganda artist of the People's Liberation Army to papal portraitist is an unusual tale of talent and timing.  'For me, one door closed but another always opened,' Mr Jiawei said of his career in a recent phone interview from his studio in Bundeena, south of Sydney.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:24 PM | Permalink

March 7, 2015

Miscellany 7

Painter Nelson Shanks claims he put reference to Monica Lewinsky's infamous blue dress in Bill Clinton painting that hangs in National Portrait Gallery

00 Years Project: Photographer Captures Portraits Of People From 1 To 100 Years Of Age
Russia is a strange land, and a very big land. Keen Heick-Abildhauge lived there for some time and wanted to show its people to the world. Thus One Hundred Years “The Russian Portrait” project was born. A hundred pictures of Russians aged 1 to 100 tells a shifting story of dreams and images.

 100Years 100Portraits

Phantom of the Orchestra Astonishing story of Mamoru Samuragochi,  a deaf genius, second-generation atomic bomb victim whose music inspired a nation. But the “Japanese Beethoven” wasn’t who he seemed.

4 Lessons from Downton Abbey’s Fifth Season.  "Is this why we like to watch Downton Abbey — it offers old, but seemingly fresh solutions to the patterns of behavior that leave so many people unhappy and alone?…It celebrates our human need for communal life: the comforts of married love, parents’ devotion to their children, and the gift of true  friendship. This is a Catholic vision of community nourished by unconditional love, compassion and mercy."

'We show our birth certificates to prove it': One-in-a-million mixed-race twins reveal they have to prove they are sisters.

 Twins Mixed Race

Nature creates its own bubble wrap ready for popping in the form of air pockets on a frozen lake

Dramatic moment extreme skier uses his parachute to fly OVER an avalanche Ugo Gerola, 23, captured the action on his helmet camera as he was hurtling down a slope on the Aiguille du Midi in the French Alps as he used a parachute to dodge an avalanche that nearly swept him over the edge of a mountain.

30 of the Best Parents in Literature

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:20 PM | Permalink

March 6, 2015

U.S. millennials performed horribly in international test

We spend so much money on education for our children yet the results are abysmal.

Abysmal,” noted ETS researcher Madeline Goodman. “There was just no place where we performed well.”

The test is called the PIAAC test. It was developed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, better known as the OECD. The test was meant to assess adult skill levels. It was administered worldwide to people ages 16 to 65. The results came out two years ago and barely caused a ripple. But recently ETS went back and delved into the data to look at how  millennials did as a group. After all, they’re the future – and, in America, they're poised to claim the title of largest generation from the baby boomers.

This exam, given in 23 countries, assessed the thinking abilities and workplace skills of adults. It focused on literacy, math and technological problem-solving. The goal was to figure out how prepared people are to work in a complex, modern society.

And U.S. millennials performed horribly.

That might even be an understatement, given the extent of the American shortcomings. No matter how you sliced the data – by class, by race, by education – young Americans were laggards compared to their international peers. In every subject, U.S. millennials ranked at the bottom or very close to it, according to a new study by testing company ETS.
In literacy, U.S. millennials scored higher than only three countries.
In math, Americans ranked last.
In technical problem-saving, they were second from the bottom.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:39 AM | Permalink

Who do you depend on for nutrition advice?

NYT Op Ed by Nina Teicholz The Government’s Bad Diet Advice

First, last fall, experts on the committee that develops the country’s dietary guidelines acknowledged that they had ditched the low-fat diet. On Thursday, that committee’s report was released, with an even bigger change: It lifted the longstanding caps on dietary cholesterol, saying there was “no appreciable relationship” between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol. Americans, it seems, had needlessly been avoiding egg yolks, liver and shellfish for decades.

How did experts get it so wrong? Certainly, the food industry has muddied the waters through its lobbying. But the primary problem is that nutrition policy has long relied on a very weak kind of science: epidemiological, or “observational,” studies in which researchers follow large groups of people over many years. But even the most rigorous epidemiological studies suffer from a fundamental limitation. At best they can show only association, not causation. Epidemiological data can be used to suggest hypotheses but not to prove them.
Instead of accepting that this evidence was inadequate to give sound advice, strong-willed scientists overstated the significance of their studies.
In 2013, government advice to reduce salt intake (which remains in the current report) was contradicted by an authoritative Institute of Medicine study. And several recent meta-analyses have cast serious doubt on whether saturated fats are linked to heart disease, as the dietary guidelines continue to assert.

Uncertain science should no longer guide our nutrition policy. Indeed, cutting fat and cholesterol, as Americans have conscientiously done, may have even worsened our health. In clearing our plates of meat, eggs and cheese (fat and protein), we ate more grains, pasta and starchy vegetables (carbohydrates).
Since the very first nutritional guidelines to restrict saturated fat and cholesterol were released by the American Heart Association in 1961, Americans have been the subjects of a vast, uncontrolled diet experiment with disastrous consequences. We have to start looking more skeptically at epidemiological studies and rethinking nutrition policy from the ground up.

Until then, we would be wise to return to what worked better for previous generations: a diet that included fewer grains, less sugar and more animal foods like meat, full-fat dairy and eggs. That would be a decent start.

What you can - and can't - eat  We speak to experts to consider the latest findings that flip our food wisdom on its head

Butter can be good for you in small amounts.
Full-fat milk is fine to drink. It is still less than four per cent fat and contains some healthy fats
• Dietary cholesterol has little impact on blood cholesterol levels. Eggs are full of all sorts of nutrients and vitamins, and are very good for you. They are rich in protein, so may also keep you fuller for longer and help with appetite control.”
Olive oil  Olive oil is fine on salads but not necessarily for frying. “Olive oil is very good for you but some olive oils have a very low smoke point, and produce small amounts of carcinogens when heated,”
Yoghurt. Switch to full-fat.  When you get rid of the fat, you lose a lot of the fat-soluble vitamins, so you lose the goodness,

Red cabbage is the new health craze: Sales soar 50% as consumers seek to benefit from ten times more vitamin A than its green counterpart and twice the iron

Study says salt may not be all bad for you  Sodium fights infections; health drawbacks exaggerated.

I depend on Authority Nutrition and its evidence-based approach where I learned today that the Healthiest Oil for Deep Frying is Coconut Oil. 

Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:33 AM | Permalink

HRC - Hubris calls for nemesis

That Hillary Clinton would do this while planning to run for President I find mind-boggling.  The supreme arrogance of what she did is not only potentially criminal as Judge Napolitano points out, it was delusional to think it would not come out.  And then be linked to the other scandals under her watch like Benghazi and the $6 billion that went missing. Hubris calls for nemesis.

James Taranto: Mrs. Clinton’s email privatization is a double affront to the public: She sought to conceal her official communications from the government (and ultimately the public) while not taking sufficient steps to keep them from spies and enemies.

Richard Fernandez writes in A Holodeck as Big as Washington  about  the "simulated reality"  HRC created with her private email system  that gave her  “a high level of control over communications, including the ability to erase messages completely' that she could not get from a government account or from commercial services like Google and Yahoo who retain copies even after users erase them from their in-box.

We are fighting ISIS and Putin inside the video game while our opponents are fighting us in the real world by strangling us in the physical chair we sit in. We’ve lost the ability to tell the difference and wondering, why if we are winning in the game inside the computer there is a razor slashing across our cheek.  And if you want to know why, look no further than Hillary Clinton. She has spent millions of dollars to adjust perception. Just tons of money to create or potentially create a false record. But in the end she too will be a victim of her own deception. The real danger of the lie is that the liar inevitably comes to believe it himself.

Peggy Noonan: Stuck in Scandal Land

The scandal this week is that we have belatedly found out, more than two years after she left the office of secretary of state, that throughout Mrs. Clinton’s four-year tenure she did not conduct official business through the State Department email system. She had her own private email addresses and her own private Internet domain, on her own private server at one of her own private homes, in Chappaqua, N.Y. Which means she had, and has, complete control of the emails. If a journalist filed a Freedom of Information Act request asking to see emails of the secretary of state, the State Department had nothing to show. If Congress asked to see them, State could say there was nothing to see.

Is it too much to imagine that Mrs. Clinton wanted to conceal the record of her communications as America’s top diplomat because she might have been doing a great deal of interesting work in those emails, not only with respect to immediate and unfolding international events but with respect to those who would like to make a positive impression on the American secretary of state by making contributions to the Clinton Foundation, which not only funds many noble causes but is the seat of operations of Clinton Inc. and its numerous offices, operatives, hangers-on and campaign-in-waiting?

What a low and embarrassing question. It is prompted by last week’s scandal—that the Clinton Foundation accepted foreign contributions during Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. It is uncomfortable to ask such questions, but that’s the thing with the Clintons, they always make you go there.

Ace has been rounding up some of the implications:

Internal State Cable Sent From Clinton's Office Forbade Personal Email Accounts, For Security Reasons

State Department Refusing to Answer Perfectly-Fair Questions About How It Handled FOIA Requests Concerning Hillary's secret, hidden Email Accounts

Experts: Hillary Clinton's Bad Ass Homebrew Server Was So Insecure It's a Virtual Certainty Hostile Foreign Governments Intercepted Her Emails  She was so determined to hide her correspondence from IG's and the American people that she shared them with China, Russia, and Iran.

TMZ Dares to Ask Hillary a Question About EmailGate; Politico Brands This Uncouth Act of Journalism "Stalking"

Curiouser and Curiouser Details on Hillary's Private Email Server

Experts: Clinton Bought ‘High-End Security’ but Forgot Last Step, Left Server Vulnerable

Gawker: Just How Unsafe Was Hillary Clinton's Secret Staff Email System? Very.  A probable national security disaster.

Hacker claims Hillary Clinton had multiple email addresses on personal server

Jim Geraghty

We don’t know if foreign intelligence services ever cracked the (apparently flawed) code and got to read Hillary’s private e-mails. We do know that we would be fools to assume they hadn’t. …If foreign spies were reading the e-mail of the Secretary of State for four years, it represents nothing less than a catastrophe, and one that is entirely the fault of Hillary Clinton herself.

Gold Mine: Hillary Clinton's brother granted super-rare mining permit from Haiti after State Department Sent Country Billions.

Coming May 5th from HarperCollins, a bombshell investigative book by three-time New York Times bestselling author Peter Schweizer,...  The publisher says the book, Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, is the culmination of an exhaustive one-year deep dive investigation into the nexus between the Clintons’ $100+ million personal wealth, the Clinton Foundation, and the decisions Hillary made as Secretary of State that benefited foreign donors, governments, and companies
Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:15 AM | Permalink

March 5, 2015

"What happened next truly stunning: nothing"

Stephen Hayes in the WSJ  How America Was Misled on al Qaeda’s Demise
The White House portrait of a crumbling terror group is contradicted by documents seized in the bin Laden raid.

It was quite a haul: 10 hard drives, nearly 100 thumb drives and a dozen cellphones. There were DVDs, audio and video tapes, data cards, reams of handwritten materials, newspapers and magazines. At a Pentagon briefing days after the raid, a senior military intelligence official described it as “the single largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever.”

The United States had gotten its hands on al Qaeda’s playbook—its recent history, its current operations, its future plans. An interagency team led by the Central Intelligence Agency got the first look at the cache. They performed a hasty scrub—a “triage”—on a small sliver of the document collection, looking for actionable intelligence. According to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the team produced more than 400 separate reports based on information in the documents.

But it is what happened next that is truly stunning: nothing. The analysis of the materials—the “document exploitation,” in the parlance of intelligence professionals—came to an abrupt stop. According to five senior U.S. intelligence officials, the documents sat largely untouched for months—perhaps as long as a year.

In spring 2012, a year after the raid that killed bin Laden and six months before the 2012 presidential election, the Obama administration launched a concerted campaign to persuade the American people that the long war with al Qaeda was ending.
At precisely the time Mr. Obama was campaigning on the imminent death of al Qaeda, those with access to the bin Laden documents were seeing, in bin Laden’s own words, that the opposite was true. Says Lt. Gen. Flynn: “By that time, they probably had grown by about—I’d say close to doubling by that time. And we knew that.”

This wasn’t what the Obama White House wanted to hear. So the administration cut off DIA access to the documents and instructed DIA officials to stop producing analyses based on them.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 11:57 PM | Permalink

March 3, 2015

Don't 'Follow your passion' instead 'Make a dent in the universe'

"Follow your passion' is bad advice writes Cal Newport on Business Insider

Toward the end of a high profile panel discussion on job creation, held during the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the conversation turned to a ubiquitous piece of career advice: follow your passion.

One panel member in particular disagreed with this suggestion: Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. It wasn’t Isaacson’s dissent that caught the audience’s attention, however, but instead his revelation that the late Steve Jobs agreed with him.

“I remember talking exactly a year ago right now to Steve Jobs, who was very ill, and I asked him that question,” Isaacson said.

He then recalled Jobs’s response:

Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.”

Isaacson’s summary of this perspective was harsher:

“The important point is to not just follow your passion but something larger than yourself. It ain’t just about you and your damn passion.”
Jobs flips this mindset. Instead of asking what the world can offer you, he suggests, you should instead ask what you can offer the world. The goal is not to love every minute of your job, or to identify your one true passion, but is instead to put a dent in the universe (to use another famous quote from Jobs).
Posted by Jill Fallon at 5:53 PM | Permalink

The Color Blue and colorblindness

Blue is the overwhelming “favorite color.Blue is seen as trustworthy, dependable, and committed. Blue is the least “gender specific” color, having equal appeal to both men and women. The color of ocean and sky, blue is perceived as a constant in our lives.


But our ancestors couldn't see it. Ancient people didn't perceive the color because they didn't have a word for it, say scientists

Ancient languages, for instance, didn't have a word for blue and scientists believe as a result our ancestors didn't notice the color even existed.  In 'The Odyssey,' Greek poet Homer famously describes the 'wine-dark sea.'  In 1858 William Gladstone, who later became the British prime minister, counted the color references in the Homer's Odyssey and found blue wasn't mentioned at all. Black is mentioned nearly 200 times and white about 100. Red, meanwhile, is mentioned fewer than 15 times, and yellow and green fewer than 10. It wasn't just the Greeks. Blue also doesn't appear in the Koran, ancient Chinese stories, and an ancient Hebrew version of the Bible, according to a German philologist named Lazarus Geiger.  Egyptians, who were the only culture that could produce blue dyes, were the first ancient civilization to have a word for the color blue.

A few years ago I was fascinated by a Radiolab podcast  Why Isn't the Sky Blue?   As languages evolve with new words, red is always the first color named and blue the last.  And this is the case in every language studied,  Linguist Guy Deutscher tested this out with an experiment on his daughter Alma.  He taught her every color but never  told her that the sky was blue.  One day he pointed to the sky and asked her what color it was.    Alma was perplexed.  She simply saw a void.  Every day that was 'sky blue'  Deutscher asked his daughter .  One day she said white and only learned over time that it was blue.

If you go to the link you can download the podcast and read the fascinating comments.  Some suggest that a vitamin A deficiency could result in a loss of the ability to see blue.  Others point that the Japanese had a word for blue but not for green until contact with the west;  the Vietnamese word "xanh" means both green and blue; the Hebrew Bible referenced blue in several parts.

Many people don't distinguish well between blue, cyan and green

 Cyan Icon  This is the color cyan

Wikipedia on cyan
The web color cyan is synonymous with aqua. In most languages, 'cyan' is not a basic color term and it phenomenologically appears as a greenish vibrant hue of blue to most English speakers.  Reasons for why cyan is not linguistically acknowledged as a basic color term can be found in the frequent lack of distinction between blue and green in many languages. Some varieties in the cyan color range are teal, turquoise, electric blue, aquamarine, and other colors described as blue-green..

 Color Icon Blue  This is the color blue

Wikipedia on blue
The clear sky and the deep sea appear blue because of an optical effect known as Rayleigh scattering. When sunlight passes through the atmosphere, the blue wavelengths are scattered more widely by the oxygen and nitrogen molecules, and more blue comes to our eyes. Rayleigh scattering also explains blue eyes; there is no blue pigment in blue eyes. Distant objects appear more blue because of another optical effect called atmospheric perspective.

From Work with Color where the links work

How Many Colors Can Most of Us Actually See?
Cones are photoreceptors on the human retina responsible for color vision. Most people are trichromatic, meaning that they have three types of cones — red, blue, and green — and information from the different types of cones combines to produce color perception. Since each type of cone enables the eye to distinguish approximately 100 shades, the average human combines those exponentially and is able to see about 1 million shades.
Evidence suggests that some people have four types of cones — including an additional orange one — and are able to see 100 million shades. According to color vision researcher Dr. Jay Neitz, only women can have four types of cones. Yet, despite the fact that up to 12% of women in the world possess four cone types, most don’t test as tetrachromatic. There are actually only 99 million women in the world with true four-color vision, according to Dr. Neitz. Based on world population estimate of 7.30 billion, that would mean only 1.36% of the world’s population has true four-color vision and can be called tetrachromats,

A Cure for Colorblindess

More than 15 million people in the U.S. and over 300 million worldwide don’t see normal colors. Most are men who inherit it from their mothers’ fathers.
Jay Neitz cured colorblindness five years ago.  Neitz, a professor at the University of Washington, tested two squirrel monkeys every day for a year and a half, confirming their colorblindness before experimenting on them.
Then Neitz injected their retinas with a virus that contained the genetic code for the red pigment found in human eyes. The monkeys, called Sam and Dalton—John Dalton was the first scientist to publish a paper on colorblindness in 1798—didn’t show any improvement at first. Five months later, they started passing their color-vision tests.

If injecting your eye with a genetic virus, there are glasses that can correct colorblindness.

"A 53-year-old ex-marine told me he broke down in tears when he saw the red in a brick building for the first time using EnChroma glasses. Another man said he was so overwhelmed by colors that he nearly got in an accident on his way home. “We’ll give the glasses to someone and they’ll be like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never seen that color before,’” said a spokesman for EnChroma. “And we’ll tell them that the color is teal. And then they go around calling every new color that they see teal.”
"Most people have three types of receptor cones in their retinas—red, green, and blue. A small percentage of women have a non-functioning fourth type. If it worked, they could see 100 million colors instead of the 1 million most people see. (Colorblind people usually see between 10,000 and 100,000.) A recent study in England found one woman whose fourth cone was active; she could see hues no other known human can.
Posted by Jill Fallon at 1:21 PM | Permalink

March 2, 2015

Bottomless depravity of ISIS

Just when you think ISIS couldn't get more depraved, along comes a story like this Islamic State fed murdered man to his own mother

A British man, Yasir Abdulla, 36, from Yorkshire, who went to fight with the Kurds against Islamic State tells this story to a British newspaper

“I hate IS because of what happened to an old Kurdish woman from a nearby tribe. Her son was captured by IS fighters and taken as a prisoner to Mosul.  She was determined to find her son and went to IS headquarters and asked to see him. The IS men told her to sit down because she had travelled a long way and said she should have some food before they took her to meet her son.  They brought her cups of tea and fed her a meal of cooked meat, rice and soup. She thought they were kind. But they had killed him and chopped him up and after she finished the meal and asked to see her son they laughed and said, ‘You’ve just eaten him’.”

Posted by Jill Fallon at 3:03 PM | Permalink

IRS still targeting conservative and pro-Israel groups

The IRS’s targeting of conservative and pro-Israel groups is still going on. New Revelations Show IRS Is Judge, Jury, Executioner–And Grave Robber

Politico reported yesterday that there are two categories of groups still being delayed and silenced by the IRS’s tax-exempt apparatchiks. The first category is Karl Rove (and his Crossroads organization). The second category is financially strapped mom-and-pop shops who have been driven into debt by the IRS’s corrupt practices in which critics of the Obama administration are deprived of some of their constitutional rights.

The story notes that this contradicts new IRS director John Koskinen’s claim that the agency “completed” its set of recommendations to get the corruption under control. As of this week, it’s still taking place. What this means in practice is that these groups, some of which applied several years ago, are still in limbo, unable to proceed. The point is to destroy the groups by bankrupting and suffocating them. Politico quotes a former IRS official using the agency’s term for this: “death by bureaucratic delay.”...

They lose donors and members “out of fear and frustration.” Some groups, Politico notes, “went belly-up while waiting.” That’s the point of the death-by-delay targeting. In other cases, the IRS demanded back taxes to try to pick the pockets of the activists one more time before the groups faded away. The IRS is both executioner and grave robber.
Politico reports on the congressional testimony of the IRS’s inspector general J. Russell George and his deputy, Timothy Camus. They revealed that the IRS actually withheld communication and evidence related to Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the abuse-of-power scheme:

In addition, TIGTA learned two weeks ago there were more than 400 additional back-up tapes that IRS did not disclose to the agency for examination when it opened its probe last summer and asked for all the relevant back-ups, said Deputy IG for Investigations Timothy Camus. They believe those could include more Lerner emails from 2011.

“There is potential criminal activity,”  Camus said when pressed by Republicans.
The IRS told groups they could surrender a portion of their rights to which they are legally entitled and the IRS would allow them to retain the remaining portion of their free-speech rights. This is the behavior of an organized crime syndicate, not a governmental institution of a free country. It is extortionate, deeply immoral, and a permanent stain on the agency and the politicians who enabled it.

We also learned that The IRS employee tasked with trying to restore and obtain emails on Lois Lerner’s IRS computer’s hard drive was legally blind..  It was also revealed today that backup tapes of Lois Lerner’s emails were discovered in an off-site storage facility in West Virginia.  The inspector general of the Treasury Department learned that the tapes existed and drove to West Virginia to retrieve them.  Lawyers for the Justice Department as well as IRS officials have stated under oath or to the federal courts that no such backup tapes existed.  They were “recycled,” DOJ lawyers told the court.

And, Former IRS official Lois Lerner received $129,300 in bonuses between 2010 and 2013, records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show.  Over a three-year period, Lerner, the head of the tax-exempt division at the heart of the IRS targeting scandal, received a 25 percent retention bonus—averaging $43,000 a year—on top of her regular salary.

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:23 PM | Permalink

How ISIS governs

No alcohol. No music.  No history. No literatureLibya: Isis wages war on music by burning drums, saxophones and other instruments
The Islamic State (Isis) propaganda machine has published photos of its militants in Libya burning musical instruments they said were confiscated in line with the radical group's interpretation of Sharia law.  Under the jihadi group's rules, instrumental music is banned as well as what it claims are other un-Islamic activities such as smoking and drinking alcohol.  In September, it was reported that Isis had imposed a new school curriculum in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, banning art and music as well as all classes on history, literature and Christianity.

No smoking. A senior member of Islamic State's feared al-Hesbah (or Hisbah) force in Deir Ezzor was found with his head cut off and a cigarette in its mouth. The corpse showed signs of torture and carried the message "This is evil, you Sheikh" written on it. It is unclear who carried out the decapitation but the message was obvious.  Islamic State's ban on cigarettes is one of its signature polices. It has imposed a strict set of Sharia laws barring the use of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes in the territories it has conquered.

No cell phones.  Isis chops off women's hands 'for using mobile phones' in northern Iraqi city of Mosul
The Islamic State (Isis) in Mosul, northern Iraq, has reportedly chopped the hands off three women for using mobile phones.In addition, five men are also said to have been flogged for using their phones – which the Islamic State consider a crime.

No to statues. ISIS thugs take a hammer to civilization: Priceless 3,000-year-old artworks smashed to pieces in minutes as militants destroy Mosul museum.  Extremists used power drills and sledgehammers to smash ancient items and wreck a series of 3,000-year-old statues at museum in Mosul, Iraq.  One vandal says items being destroyed because they promoted idolatry.  They also blew up  the Mosul Public Library, sending 10,000 books and more than 700 rare manuscripts up in flames.  Leading members of Mosul society reportedly tried to stop the fanatics destroying the building, but failed.

 Isis Destroys Statues-Mosul Museum

No to cultural sites.  UN report shows utter devastation of Syria's heritage  'Humankind is losing hundreds and thousands of years of heritage'
Nearly 300 cultural heritage sites have been destroyed, damaged and looted in Syria since its conflict broke out in 2011, the UN said Tuesday in a report citing satellite evidence.  Among the areas exposed to major damage were UNESCO world heritage sites such as Aleppo, where settlements have been in place for 7,000 years, and the fabled desert Greco-Roman oasis of Palmyra.

"Looting, destruction from aerial bombardment and other explosions, as well as infrastructure construction at cultural sites significantly threatens the heritage to future generations of these historic structures and objects," the UN said in a statement.  The report focused on 18 areas, of which six are UNESCO-listed: the Old City of Aleppo; Bosra; Damascus, the Dead Cities of northern Syria; Crac des Chevaliers and Palmyra.  Detailed analysis of satellite imagery of 290 locations at these sites showed 24 of them had been destroyed, 104 severely damaged, 85 moderately damaged and 77 possibly damaged.

No to churches.  ISIS is turning Christian churches into torture chambers where it forces believers to convert to Islam… and funding its terror mission by selling stripped artifacts to Western collectors. An expert told the Jerusalem Post that the terror organization's goal was to 'wipe out Christianity.' 'This is why they are crucifying Christians — which includes children — destroying churches and selling artifacts,' he told the newspaper.  The reality is, this group will stop at practically nothing to raise funds for its terrorist mission.' Jihadists have pocketed around £23million from the sale of stolen artifacts in Nabaq, Syria, according to the Christian Post.

Yes to child sex slaves and suicide bombers. UN report reveals ISIS is selling youngsters from minorities as sex slaves, turning them into suicide bombers and crucifying them if they disobey
The children, who are often from the Yazidi sect or Christian communities, but also Shi'ites and Sunnis, are being tortured and murdered, the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child said.  A report released on Wednesday revealed a host of horrifying outcomes for the children kidnapped by the Islamic militants, including boys under-18 being used as bomb makers, informants or human shields to protect facilities against U.S.-led airstrikes. Girls are being sold as sex slaves, while children - often with learning difficulties - are being used as suicide bombers. Others are simply being murdered, the report says.

Yes to kidnappings. ISIS jihadists have kidnapped 220 Assyrian Christians from villages in Syria, says watchdog – far more than was previously feared
The number of Assyrian Christians kidnapped by ISIS in Syrian has risen to 220 after militants attacked a chain of villages along a strategic river

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says hostages comes from Tal Tamr.  ISIS began abducting Assyrians on Monday sending panic through villages. It is thought they are being held by the extremists in the ISIS-controlled city of Shaddadeh

Yes to beheadings and crucifixions. Syria: Isis crucifixion frenzy in revenge for wave of assassinations targeting their fighters. The men, who were shot dead and then crucified for three days, were accused of fighting against Islamic State.  "Isis is sending a message to all people living under its control, to say: 'This is what will happen to any opponent"  One man was executed for taking a picture of an ISIS fighter and publishing it on Facebook.    After the beheadings of the 21 Coptic Christians, ISIS sends out video showing children staging an Islamic State (Isis)-like beheading with wooden sticks.  Another boy speaks to camera and claims: "We have no religion or nation. We slaughter children, women, and the elderly. We have decided the following - to kill all the youths of the town of [inaudible]. Slaughter then, o men!"

Yes to rules for Christians. The Islamic State has released a list of rules dictating how Christians living in the Syrian city of Raqqa should behave,

No public worship
No treachery against ISIS
No church construction or repairs
Do not display crosses in Muslim areas or markets
Praying must be done quietly and should never be heard by Muslims
No mockery of Muslims or Islam
Do not prevent others from converting to Islam

Posted by Jill Fallon at 2:08 PM | Permalink