From Blogizdat LJ:
The mother of my best friends from college (and since) passed away late this past week.
Read the rest here.
The Graying of Kindergarten
July 18, 2008, 12:55 pm
A new study draws attention to the social consequences of a decades-old trend in parenting: having kids start school a year later. For years, research showing the benefits of being an older first-grader, as well as the experience of countries like Finland where schooling doesn’t start until age seven, has encouraged parents and teachers to “redshirt” kids. In 1968, 96% of six-year-olds were enrolled in first grade or above. By 2005, that number had fallen to 84%. The percentage of six-year-olds enrolled in school, meanwhile, stayed about the same. What does that mean for late-starting schoolchildren years down the road — and for the rest of us?
From Blogizdat LJ:
Some Random Things About Me:
I Speak Nineteen Different Languages
Okay, that's not quite true, it's more like Eighteen, at least in the sense that Three and Eighteen are both numbers, but I really *do* speak Three Different Languages, except that I'm sorta fibbing, cause Spanish and Portuguese are not *that* different, and anyway, forget all those furrin' languages, cause I at least managed to learn English, and it's all the more impressive that I actually picked up the Ebonics and Southern White dialects from watching 'The Jeffersons' and 'The Dukes Of Hazzard,' respectively.
From Yahoo AP News:
Former Bush press secretary Tony Snow dies
By DOUGLASS K. DANIEL
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Tony Snow, a conservative writer and commentator who cheerfully sparred with reporters in the White House briefing room during a stint as President Bush's press secretary, died Saturday of colon cancer. He was 53.
"America has lost a devoted public servant and a man of character," President Bush said in a statement from Camp David, where he was spending the weekend. "It was a joy to watch Tony at the podium each day. He brought wit, grace, and a great love of country to his work."
Snow died at 2 a.m. at Georgetown University Hospital, according to former employer Fox News.
Snow, who served as the first host of the television news program "Fox News Sunday" from 1996 to 2003, would later say that in the Bush administration he was enjoying "the most exciting, intellectually aerobic job I'm ever going to have.
Snow was working for Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio when he replaced Scott McClellan as press secretary in May 2006 during a White House shake-up. Unlike McClellan, who came to define caution and bland delivery from the White House podium, Snow was never shy about playing to the cameras.
With a quick-from-the-lip repartee, broadcaster's good looks and a relentlessly bright outlook — if not always a command of the facts — he became a popular figure around the country to the delight of his White House bosses.
He served just 17 months as press secretary, a tenure interrupted by his second bout with cancer. In 2005 doctors had removed his colon and he began six months of chemotherapy. In March 2007 a cancerous growth was removed from his abdominal area and he spent five weeks recuperating before returning to the White House.
"All of us here at the White House will miss Tony, as will the millions of Americans he inspired with his brave struggle against cancer," Bush said.
From Yahoo Health:
Burn Calories Without Trying
Posted Mon, Jun 30, 2008, 12:27 pm PDT
Exercise has always been a part of my life. Growing up, I played sports, and now I train to compete in short- and medium-distance triathlons. (No Ironman for me!) I also incorporate fitness into time I spend with my family: We bike, hike, kayak, play catch or tennis, or kick around a soccer ball. Basically, being active is a habit, and when fitness is intertwined with your day-to-day, you not only get trim and healthy, you stay that way for life.
So do something (anything!) active most days to burn extra calories and lose weight. Dropping calories is incredibly simple and can have residual benefits. Vacuuming, for example, burns as many as a slow walk on a treadmill, plus yields a spotless carpet. Think about that the next time you put off doing chores. Check out these other sneaky ways to stay fit:
Burn, baby, burn on the weekends
• Walk at a sightseeing pace (2 mph): 161 calories an hour. Keep abs tight during the walk to help tone them.
• Mow the lawn (30 minutes): 177 calories
• Push a cart around the grocery store (45 minutes): 121 calories
• Plant in your garden: 290 calories per hour (Plus it strengthens your arms and back.)
• Rearrange your living room furniture (30 minutes): 193 calories
• Pack the car for a trip (15 minutes): 56 calories
Science proves that bikinis turn men into boobs
Sexy images rob male brain of ability to make wise decisions
By Brian Alexander
updated 4:23 p.m. CT, Fri., June. 20, 2008
You may have known this all along, but now it has been demonstrated scientifically: bikinis make men stupid.
This month’s issue of the Journal of Consumer Research features a paper titled “Bikinis Instigate Generalized Impatience in Intertemporal Choice,” which is a neuroeconomist’s (definition in a moment) way of saying that men don’t make good decisions while checking out pretty girls in bikinis.
Hence automakers’ penchant for placing leggy models in front of absurdly priced cars at auto shows, and the casting of three scantily clad women on that “Republica Deportiva” show on Univision which I find myself watching though I don’t care whether Chivas defeated Rayados del Monterey.
Virgil wrote of the phenomenon 2,000 years ago when he created the epic poem “The Aeneid.” When Venus convinces Vulcan to make some special armor, she
"…threw her snow-white arms around him
As he held back, caressing him here and there,
And suddenly he caught fire — the same old story,
The flame he knew by heart went running through him,
Melting him to the marrow of his bones…
She knew her beauty’s power."
From The Tank:
Senator Obama: Mission Illogical?
Friday, July 11, 2008
What’s the deal, Senator Obama? For 915 days now, you have avoided Iraq like the plague and have refused to meet one-on-one with General Petraeus. You’ve continued to ignore the truth about Iraq — violence is down, the Iraqi military is taking control, political progress is accelerating — in favor of spreading false gloom and doom. With all the good news coming from Iraq, where’s this so-called “change we can believe in?” It’s becoming clear that facts on the ground, the strategy adopted by our top-level commanders, and the desire of our troops to complete their mission all undermine the whole purpose of your candidacy.
When the president announced his plans for the surge in his 2007 State of the Union address, you scoffed: “I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse.” A year ago this week, only one month into the surge, you made this bold and completely erroneous statement: "Here's what we know. The surge has not worked." Last November on “Meet the Press,” you said, “not only have we not seen improvements, but we're actually worsening, potentially, a situation there,” and stated: “I would end this war, and I would have the troops out within 16 months.” On March 19, 2008, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, you stated that upon becoming President you would “immediately begin to remove our troops.” Today, everyone knows the surge has worked — even John Murtha and Hillary Clinton have admitted it. You consistently claim to have the judgment to lead our great nation, Senator Obama; now it’s time to use that judgment and acknowledge reality.
From The Daily Mail:
Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, 61, 'runs away with 18-year-old Russian cocktail waitress'
By Alison Boshoff and Richard Simpson
Last updated at 10:00 PM on 11th July 2008
Ronnie Wood has walked out on his wife and four children to live with a teenage cocktail waitress he met in an escort bar.
The 61-year-old Rolling Stones guitarist has fled to his mansion in Ireland with the 18-year- old Russian blonde.
His wife of 23 years, Jo, is said to have begged Ekaterina Ivanova not to take her husband away from her. The teenager is understood to have told friends that she replied: 'I am not taking him - he is leaving.'
A representative of Wood, who has battled a drink problem for years, said the girl began seeing him three months ago when he was at a low ebb, frazzled by alcohol. They have been together ever since.
Wood - who is drinking two bottles of vodka a day - met Miss Ivanova after the London premiere of the Stones documentary, Shine A Light, on April 2 in a seedy escort bar in Soho.
Within weeks the girl from Moscow had grown so close to Wood that she accompanied him back to the home he shares with Jo and their four children in Kingston upon Thames, South-West London.
At the beginning of May, Wood invited Miss Ivanova to join him at his mansion in Clane, County Kildare.
She has been writing about the relationship on the social networking website Facebook, calling Wood her 'boyfriend' and saying she is quickly 'falling in love'.
She also claims to have become Wood's painting muse, posing for him at the Irish house.
Wood's publicist made the extraordinary move of speaking publicly about his curious relationship with the teenager yesterday.
The publicist said: 'She is a drinking partner. When you're an alcoholic and your family are all telling you to stop drinking you simply find someone else to drink with. You can see how it happens, you end up pushing away the ones you love because you don't think straight.
So I told you this morning about how Iran made its missile test photos look more impressive by adding another missile using the magic of Photoshop. Whatever, we can do better than that. You want to impress us, Iran? Let's see some serious tech power. We'll help. Your challege, Gizmodians, is to use Photoshop to create some sweet Iranian propaganda, showing their technological advancements that are heretofore unseen.
Create images of Iran showing off its new tech, then send your brilliant results to firstname.lastname@example.org with "Iran Tech" in the subject line. I'll take the best submissions, choose some winners and show off the results in our Gallery of Champions next Tuesday. Get propagandizing!
The will-to-power masquerades as tolerance.
By Jonah Goldberg
At a recent meeting of city officials in Dallas County, Texas, a small racial brouhaha broke out. County commissioners were hashing out difficulties with the way the central collections office handles traffic tickets. Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield found himself guilty of talking while white. He observed that the bureaucracy “has become a black hole” for lost paperwork.
Fellow Commissioner John Wiley Price took great offense, shouting, “Excuse me!” That office, the black commissioner explained, has become a “white hole.”
Seizing on the outrage, Judge Thomas Jones demanded that Mayfield apologize for the “racially insensitive analogy,” in the words of the Dallas Morning News’s City Hall Blog.
Houston Chronicle science blogger Eric Berger notes that everyone should be “very glad that the central collections office has not become a white hole, a theoretical object that ejects matter from beyond its event horizon, rather than sucking it in. It wouldn’t be fun for Dallas to find itself so near a quasar.”
From Fox 9 News:
Man Sues Church, Claiming Spirit Forced His Fall
Thursday, 10 Jul 2008, 2:26 PM CDT
MyFox Faith By The Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- A man says he was so consumed by the spirit of God that he fell and hit his head while at a Knoxville church.
Now he wants Lakewind Church to pay $2.5 million for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering he says he's endured from his injuries.
From AFP Google:
Carla Bruni 'hurt' by critics of new album
18 hours ago
PARIS (AFP) — France's first lady Carla Bruni admitted Friday she was "hurt" by frosty reactions to her new album from critics of her husband President Nicolas Sarkozy, as the much-hyped record hit stores across Europe.
Half a million people logged on to the web to listen to the third album by the supermodel-turned-chanteuse, "Comme Si De Rien N'Etait" (Simply), ahead of its official release, according to figures from her record label Naive.
But the 60s-flavoured album has sparked some mocking reviews and an outpouring of vitriol on the Internet by French voters hostile to the right-wing leader.
"Of course it hurts me, but I also find it quite natural," Bruni said in an interview on RTL radio Friday.
"It's understandable that people can't help mixing up my work as an artist and my function. Maybe they feel offended by the fact the head of state's wife should make a record," she said.
But the 40-year-old Bruni, who married Sarkozy in February after a whirlwind three-month romance, said she was in a "privileged enough position to be able to handle violent reactions."
Sales of the record at one giant FNAC record store in central Paris got off to a slow start Friday, with 60 copies sold by lunchtime.
"Considering all the fuss that's been made about it, it's pretty disappointing," said Pascal, 35, a salesman at the store.
His colleague Pierre, 31, predicted sales would pick up in the coming days, with Bruni due to appear on France's main evening news Friday, but he predicted a "boycott" by many left-wing voters.
"A whole chunk of her former public just won't buy it even if they like the sound," he argued.
From Science Daily:
Scientists Learn How Food Affects The Brain: Omega 3 Especially Important
ScienceDaily (July 11, 2008) — In addition to helping protect us from heart disease and cancer, a balanced diet and regular exercise can also protect the brain and ward off mental disorders.
"Food is like a pharmaceutical compound that affects the brain," said Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain. "Diet, exercise and sleep have the potential to alter our brain health and mental function. This raises the exciting possibility that changes in diet are a viable strategy for enhancing cognitive abilities, protecting the brain from damage and counteracting the effects of aging."
Gómez-Pinilla analyzed more than 160 studies about food's affect on the brain; the results of his analysis appear in the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience.
Omega-3 fatty acids -- found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit -- provide many benefits, including improving learning and memory and helping to fight against such mental disorders as depression and mood disorders, schizophrenia, and dementia, said Gómez-Pinilla, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute and Brain Injury Research Center.
Synapses in the brain connect neurons and provide critical functions; much learning and memory occurs at the synapses, Gómez-Pinilla said.
"Omega-3 fatty acids support synaptic plasticity and seem to positively affect the expression of several molecules related to learning and memory that are found on synapses," Gómez-Pinilla said. "Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for normal brain function.
"Dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia," he said. "A deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in rodents results in impaired learning and memory."
Children who had increased amounts of omega-3 fatty acids performed better in school, in reading and in spelling and had fewer behavioral problems, he said.
Preliminary results from a study in England show that school performance improved among a group of students receiving omega-3 fatty acids. In an Australian study, 396 children between the ages 6 and 12 who were given a drink with omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients (iron, zinc, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, B12 and C) showed higher scores on tests measuring verbal intelligence and learning and memory after six months and one year than a control group of students who did not receive the nutritional drink. This study was also conducted with 394 children in Indonesia. The results showed higher test scores for boys and girls in Australia, but only for girls in Indonesia.
From Blogizdat LJ:
Long Meme: Revisted, Revised and Expanded
I first posted this last year, and as I'm feeling bored this afternoon, I decided to revisit, revise and expand it, and so I did. So here it is, then, for your enjoyment and edification:
(1) The singular boring question: What is your name?
(2) If you had been born a member of the opposite sex, what would your name have been?'
(3) Would you name a child of yours after you?
Neh. I have two girls, and I'm already named after my Great-Grandfather, so no.
I posted this to my very first Livejournal back in 2003, and I'm reposting today, revised and amended.
From Blogizdat LJ:
So, am I proud to be an American? No, not really. But I'm not ashamed, either.
Mostly I'm humble and grateful that I have, by birthright, what millions come to America for each year, both legally and illegally: a chance to live in the nation that affords the greatest combination of political and personal freedom (and economic opportunity) on the face of the planet.
Yes, there are nations with greater per capita income (not many) and nations with greater traditions of freedom (very few). There are nations where the people are friendlier, or even healthier. But there are none with the combination of all the above, nor the vast array of opportunity that the United States of America has to offer. Some come close, but none exceed it.
With that said, I don't wish to be misunderstood.
I don't believe the US is the only good place to live, nor do I think that Americans are the best people on Earth.
From First Things:
Zionism for Christians
by David Shushon
Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (June/July 2008).
Israel always matters. Biblical scholars have devoted endless pages to ancient Israel as a religious idea, and pundits have penned endless newspaper columns about modern Israel as a geopolitical entity. The deeper implications, however, have received less attention than they deserve in recent years, overshadowed by the exigencies of Middle Eastern politics. Indeed, real questions remain: What does the sheer existence of the modern state of Israel mean for theology—particularly for Christian theology? And what does that theology mean for the continuing existence of Israel?
“Hardly anybody will dispute that the foundation of this state had something to do with the biblical prophecy,” Christoph Cardinal Schönborn said in 1996, “even if that something is hard to define.” At present, the major Christian denominations are kindly disposed toward Judaism, and many Christians—especially American evangelicals—strongly support the State of Israel. And yet not all Christians agree with the mainstream Jewish view that modern Jewish life requires the existence of a Jewish state. Indeed, it seems counterintuitive to expect Christians to support an explicitly Jewish state in an age in which Christians have mostly abandoned the idea of explicitly Christian states.
There may be good theological reasons for this general Christian retreat from the notion of religious governments and national churches. The Christian concept of the People of God is supranational by nature, for Christians are called out of their respective nations to become a new people. The Jews, however, understand themselves to be a unique nation formed by God for his service, and they can be the People of God only as a nation.
Jewish leaders tend to view Christian relations with the State of Israel through the prism of Jewish security after the Holocaust. That is understandable, but it does not address the issue of what Israel represents for Christian life. A sad measure of Jewish insularity is the fact that evangelical Christians seeking to help the State of Israel have encountered suspicion and hostility from many Jewish organizations. Nor is the Holocaust exclusively a Jewish concern. The Second World War taught parallel, if opposite, lessons to Jews and Catholics. Many Jews—observant Jews, most of all—opposed Zionism before the rise of the Nazis, but later they learned that the continuation of Jewish life requires full national existence. Catholics, who had tolerated a degree of ethnocentrism within the Church, learned from Hitler that national idolatry was Christendom’s deadliest foe.
Perhaps, these two lessons in fact are the same: Ethnocentric perversion of the concept of divine election destroyed both the Jewish communities of Europe and the influence of the Church. Think of it this way: Ultimately, Jews and Christians must remain a mystery to each other. Christians cannot help but recognize that Providence has sustained the Jews through their long exile, yet they cannot explain why Jews do not recognize Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of their prophecy. Jews cannot help but recognize that Christians are inspired by the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, yet they cannot explain Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus, except to dismiss it as a “world-historical fiction” (in Franz Rosenzweig’s words).
From Chicago Tribune:
Freedom: First step in the pursuit of happiness
July 4, 2008
One of the pleasures of living in America is getting to argue about rights—what they are, who has them and how to define them. In the last week, we've all had a rousing time debating the right to keep and bear arms. Americans can hardly talk about political issues without invoking these fundamental prerogatives.
Other countries may have a similar inclination to quarrel over whether people have a legitimate claim to religious freedom, a fair trial, health care or housing. The right to life and the right to liberty, on the other hand, are common assumptions around the world. But only America was founded on a right that, even today, sounds eccentric: the right to the pursuit of happiness.
The delegates in Philadelphia who approved the Declaration of Independence had a long list of complaints about King George III. They excoriated him for maintaining a standing army, dissolving elected assemblies, imposing taxes without the consent of the taxpayers and sending out "swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance."
Those are all specific, tangible abuses understandable to anyone. But the idea that the king was somehow interfering with Americans' propensity to chase after bliss was a novel one at the time. No more. One of the notable changes in the world in recent decades is the spread of freedom, including the freedom of each person to pursue happiness as he or she conceives it.
Letting people do that, it turns out, actually makes them content. This may sound like the most incontestable of truisms, but it's not.
Some science suggests that happiness is essentially a fixed commodity. It may rise or fall sharply because of events—getting a raise, breaking a leg—but over the long run, people adapt to those experiences and revert to their natural level of satisfaction (or melancholy).
Scratch that theory. According to a recent global survey, happiness is not only variable but on the rise in most of the world.
Two things, it appears, are needed to increase the supply of happiness: freedom and money. As it happens, a substantial amount of freedom is crucial to the creation of wealth. There is no such thing as a rich totalitarian country, as even the onetime totalitarians in Beijing finally realized. So in a very real sense, freedom is the key to happiness.
Judge Orders YouTube to Give All User Histories to Viacom
By Ryan Singel
July 02, 2008 | 7:16:54 PM
Google will have to turn over every record of every video watched by YouTube users, including users' names and IP addresses, to Viacom, which is suing Google for allowing clips of its copyright videos to appear on YouTube, a judge ruled Wednesday.
Viacom wants the data to prove that infringing material is more popular than user-created videos, which could be used to increase Google's liability if it is found guilty of contributory infringement.
Viacom filed suit against Google in March 2007, seeking more than $1 billion in damages for allowing users to upload clips of Viacom's copyright material. Google argues that the law provides a safe harbor for online services so long as they comply with copyright takedown requests.
Although Google argued that turning over the data would invade its users' privacy, the judge's ruling described that argument as "speculative" and ordered Google to turn over the logs on a set of four tera-byte hard drives.
From NY Times
An Ideal Husband
By MAUREEN DOWD
Published: July 6, 2008
This weekend, we celebrate our great American pastime: messy celebrity divorces.
There’s the Christie Brinkley/Peter Cook fireworks on Long Island and the Madonna/Guy Ritchie/A-Rod Roman candle in New York.
So how do you avoid a relationship where you end up saying, “The man who I was living with, I just didn’t know who he was” — as Brinkley did in court when talking about her husband’s $3,000-a-month Internet porn and swinger site habit? (Not to mention the 18-year-old mistress/assistant.)
Father Pat Connor, a 79-year-old Catholic priest born in Australia and based in Bordentown, N.J., has spent his celibate life — including nine years as a missionary in India — mulling connubial bliss. His decades of marriage counseling led him to distill some “mostly common sense” advice about how to dodge mates who would maul your happiness.
“Hollywood says you can be deeply in love with someone and then your marriage will work,” the twinkly eyed, white-haired priest says. “But you can be deeply in love with someone to whom you cannot be successfully married.”
For 40 years, he has been giving a lecture — “Whom Not to Marry” — to high school seniors, mostly girls because they’re more interested.
“It’s important to do it before they fall seriously in love, because then it will be too late,” he explains. “Infatuation trumps judgment.”
I asked him to summarize his talk:
“Never marry a man who has no friends,” he starts. “This usually means that he will be incapable of the intimacy that marriage demands. I am always amazed at the number of men I have counseled who have no friends. Since, as the Hebrew Scriptures say, ‘Iron shapes iron and friend shapes friend,’ what are his friends like? What do your friends and family members think of him? Sometimes, your friends can’t render an impartial judgment because they are envious that you are beating them in the race to the altar. Envy beclouds judgment.
“Does he use money responsibly? Is he stingy? Most marriages that founder do so because of money — she’s thrifty, he’s on his 10th credit card.
“Steer clear of someone whose life you can run, who never makes demands counter to yours. It’s good to have a doormat in the home, but not if it’s your husband.
“Is he overly attached to his mother and her mythical apron strings? When he wants to make a decision, say, about where you should go on your honeymoon, he doesn’t consult you, he consults his mother. (I’ve known cases where the mother accompanies the couple on their honeymoon!)
From The Hindu:
New research sheds light on the molecular basis of crib death
Scientists develop a mouse model of sudden infant death syndrome
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a condition that unexpectedly and unexplainably takes the lives of seemingly healthy babies aged between a month and a year. Now researchers of the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Monterotondo, Italy, have developed a mouse model of the so-called crib or cot death, which remains the leading cause of death during the first year of life in developed countries. The model, published in this week's issue of Science, reveals that an imbalance of the neuronal signal serotonin in the brainstem is sufficient to cause sudden death in mice, according to Eurekalert, the news service of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The brainstem, the lower part of the brain that forms the link to the spinal cord, coordinates many fundamental functions including control over cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Victims of SIDS show alterations in those brainstem neurons that communicate using the signalling molecule serotonin. Cornelius Gross and his group at the EMBL Mouse Biology Unit modified the serotonin system of mice to understand the role of this signalling molecule in the brainstem. They overexpressed an important receptor that regulates serotonin signalling, called serotonin 1A autoreceptor.
"At first sight the mice were normal. But then they suffered sporadic and unpredictable drops in heart rate and body temperature. More than half of the mice eventually died of these crises during a restricted period of early life. It was at that point that we thought it might have something to do with SIDS," says Gross.
Until now it was unclear how changes in serotonin signalling in the brainstem of SIDS infants are involved in sudden death. The findings in the mouse show that deficits in serotonin signalling in the brainstem can be sufficient to cause sudden death and strongly support the idea that a congenital serotonin defect could play a critical role in SIDS.
From Gossip Girls:
Jessica Alba: Pregnant to Perky in 1 Month
It was a relaxing and enjoyable Independence Day for Jessica Alba and her hubby Cash Warren, as they strolled through Beverly Hills - stopping at Bloomingdale’s along the way.
The “Good Luck Chuck” actress looked positively perfect in a pink-to-red strappy summer dress teamed with a pair of white sandals and some oversized shades, while her beau kept it casual in a white t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops.
From The Washington Times:
KUHNER: The case for McCain
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Sen. John McCain should be the next president of the United States. He is wrong on many issues - global warming, campaign finance-reform and immigration (to name a few). But on the central challenges of our time, he has demonstrated the judgment and courage necessary to be the leader of the Free World. In comparison to his Democratic rival for the White House, Sen. Barack Obama, the Republican maverick is clearly the better man - and the better candidate.
Iraq has dominated our politics since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. Mr. McCain consistently supported a strategy for victory. President Bush´s mistake was not in waging war; rather, he failed to formulate a policy that would simultaneously achieve our political and military goals. As the insurgency intensified and the American body count increased, antiwar Democrats and even some in Mr. Bush´s inner circle (such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) called for a troop withdrawal.
In the face of this defeatist sentiment, Mr. McCain led the charge to bolster our military presence. He rightly argued that the key to success was to launch an effective counter-insurgency. The goal: cripple al Qaeda and the forces still loyal to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Pacification, combined with a rejuvenated Iraqi army, would establish security and stability - the basic preconditions for a viable democratic society to take root.
The troop surge has been a huge success. It resurrected Mr. McCain´s candidacy, which pundits (including myself) claimed was dead during the Republican primaries. The United States is now on the verge of a historic victory.
If the terrorists are defeated and Iraq becomes a self-governing democracy, the Arab world will be transformed. Iraq is the Germany or Japan of the Middle East - the strategic linchpin to wider reform. Its oil wealth, geographical location, rich cultural heritage and multiethnic, multi-religious character make it a potential model for the region. Its success will inspire people in other sclerotic, authoritarian Arab states - Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria - to embrace political and economic modernization.
From Daily Mail:
Mummy's little Lolita: The 11-year-old girl whose beauty treatments cost £300 a month to make her look like Barbie
By Jenny Johnston
Last updated at 9:49 PM on 05th July 2008
She wore her first set of false eyelashes at eight, and her beauty treatments cost £300 a month. A sick abuse of an 11-year-old? 'No', insists Sasha's mother, 'I just want her to be famous...'
At 11, Sasha Bennington is too young to remember the days when Jordan was just a country and being branded 'fake' was something to be ashamed of.
But maybe the youngster's biggest tragedy is that her mother, Jayne, 31, is in no hurry to paint a picture of how it used to be.
All about the look: Sasha Bennington is just 11 but her mother loves the way she looks
Jayne is talking breezily about how Sasha had her first set of false nails glued on at eight, and now enjoys the sort of rigorous beauty regime - hair extensions, fake tans, pedicures - that was once the preserve of porn stars and Dolly Parton, not school children from Burnley in Lancashire.
Still, times have changed. 'All the kids are at it now,' insists Jayne. 'We spend about £300 a month on beauty treatments for her.
'Sasha's friends are the same. All girls their age are. Of course they are! Why else would you be able to buy make-up for pre-teens at Boots?
'Perhaps it's different in country areas, where they don't need to grow up so fast. But, around big cities, girls have got to be more forward and act older than they are. That's just the way it is.'I don't understand why people get so upset about it. None of it is permanent. Tans wash off. Hair extensions come out. Why all the fuss?'
From Yahoo News:
Franken tries the switch from comic to Congress
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER, Associated Press Writer Sat Jul 5, 3:56 AM ET
WASHINGTON (AP) — Moving from celebrity to senator isn't exactly an untraveled path. But that doesn't mean comedian Al Franken, who is vying for a Senate seat in Minnesota, will coast to Capitol Hill on a wide, smooth road.
Franken, a Democrat, best-selling author and former "Saturday Night Live" cast member, once penned a racy piece for Playboy that has offended the Midwestern sensibilities of some Minnesotans. It is that history as a satirist and comedian, Franken says, that puts him "in a little uncharted territory" as he tries to woo voters.
At his nomination speech a few weeks ago, Franken acknowledged that some of his past writings and comments were "downright offensive."
Portable Hug’ Vest to Improve Quality Life for People with Autism, ADHD and Anxiety Developed By UMass Amherst Researcher
May 20, 2008
AMHERST, Mass. – Children with autism and ADHD may soon get anxiety relief from a novel “deep-pressure” vest developed by Brian Mullen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The vest, which can also be used for adults with mental illness, delivers a “portable hug” called deep pressure touch stimulation (DPTS).
Contact: Brian Mullen 781/413-6847
“People with developmental disorders and mental illness are often overwhelmed in everyday environments such as school and the workplace, and solutions available to families and mental health professionals are limited,” says Mullen, a doctoral student of mechanical engineering. “This is an alternative therapy that can safely and discreetly provide the treatment they need to function in mainstream society.”
To market the vest, Mullen has created a concept business called Therapeutic Systems, which recently won the $50,000 grand prize in the UMass Amherst Technology Innovation Challenge, a competition for the best entrepreneurial technology business plan produced by students, recent alumni and faculty advisors on campus.
Occupational therapists working with children suffering from autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorders have observed that DPTS can increase attention to tasks and reduce anxiety and harmful behaviors by providing different sensory stimuli. DPTS is also part of a growing trend to improve the lives of adults with mental illness by using touch, sound and aroma to influence alertness, attention and their ability to adapt to their surroundings.
Eight clinical studies of the effectiveness and safety of existing weighted blankets and vests that deliver DPTS were conducted by Mullen and his advisor Sundar Krishnamurty, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at UMass Amherst. Mullen used that data to design a prototype system for applying DPTS that can be inserted into any commercial vest or jacket with a lining. Initial results of a study with students at UMass Amherst who did not have autism or ADHD showed that participants preferred Mullen’s prototype vest, which applies pressure that feels like a firm hug or swaddling, over the current gold standard weighted vest.
Mullen’s prototype has several advantages over weighted or elastic garments and toys currently used to apply DPTS in hospitals and schools. “Existing methods provide limited control over the amount of pressure applied and require some oversight by a caregiver,” says Mullen. “Their use is also limited because of the lack of literature documenting their safety, and their tendency to make the user stand out in a crowd.”
Therapeutic Systems is also starting the initial phase of designing a DPTS blanket to aid with resting and falling asleep. “Falling asleep has been found to be a major problem for many people with mental illness,” says Mullen, who adds that an estimated 65 percent of Americans are losing sleep due to stress.”
From Science Daily:
'Mind's Eye' Influences Visual Perception
ScienceDaily (July 4, 2008) — Letting your imagination run away with you may actually influence how you see the world. New research from Vanderbilt University has found that mental imagery—what we see with the "mind's eye"—directly impacts our visual perception.
"We found that imagery leads to a short-term memory trace that can bias future perception," says Joel Pearson, research associate in the Vanderbilt Department of Psychology. and lead author of the study. "This is the first research to definitively show that imagining something changes vision both while you are imagining it and later on."
"These findings are important because they suggest a potential mechanism by which top-down expectations or recollections of previous experiences might shape perception itself," Pearson and his co-authors write.
It is well known that a powerful perceptual experience can change the way a person sees things later. Just think of what can happen if you discover an unwanted pest in your kitchen, such as a mouse. Suddenly you see mice in every dust ball and dark corner—or think you do. Is it possible that imagining something, just once, might also change how you perceive things?
From The Age:
Doctors in for a dose of alternative medicine
July 5, 2008
Is a move by the college of GPs to set up a faculty examining natural therapies enlightened or opening the door to quackery?
IT'S IMPORTANT to keep an open mind. But, when it comes to healing the sick, is there such a thing as being too open? The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, the body that sets standards for GPs, last week called on its members to help set up an integrative medicine faculty to accredit and educate doctors. "Areas of interest will include mind-body medicine such as hypnosis and meditation, evidence-based nutritional and environmental medicine and evidence-based herbal medicine," the email said.
A curriculum statement from the college also includes "prayer (and) mental healing", "natural but as yet scientifically unproven therapies eg using shark cartilage to treat cancer", and "energy therapies (that) manipulate biofields, (such as) qi gong, Reiki and therapeutic touch".
The field of integrative medicine was pioneered and popularised by Dr Andrew Weil, a media-friendly American familiar to Oprah viewers and also well known for taking illicit drugs and writing about it. In the past he has professed belief in shared consciousness, ESP and "stoned thinking" — which is exactly what it sounds like. He even has a mushroom named in his honour.
But he has grown to respectability: in 1997 Time magazine named him one of the 25 most influential Americans. Weil has developed the field of integrative medicine over 30 years. He says it "combines both alternative and conventional approaches to maximise the body's natural healing powers. It gives me a sense that I'm in the right place, somewhere between alternative medicine and Western," he told an interviewer. "I call it the future of medicine."
Some experts worry this "future" comes with a lower standard of medical care, a waste of public money on unproven treatments and even a risk to patients.
Others welcome it as a timely recognition there's more to health and wellbeing than old-fashioned and dictatorial prescription of pharmaceuticals. GP Vicki Kotsirilos is one of the driving forces behind the GP college's embracing of integrative medicine. In 1992 she became so frustrated with colleagues she considered closed-minded that she founded the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association (AIMA).