Archive for December 6th, 2010
I don’t get it!
In the world of cyberbullying as portrayed by the New York Times (12/6/10), the schools are strictly off limits when it comes to addressing cyberbullying. In fact, this page one article by Jan Hoffman begins with the poignant story of the mother of a ninth-grader. When she found out that some other kids had created a forged Facebook page for her son and were bullying other kids under his name, she went to the school authorities. After expressing concern for her son, she was told that the schools could do nothing about this situation: It’s an off-campus matter.
Yes, I completely understand that teachers are overwhelmed with everything they have to do in the era of No Child Left Behind accountability where test scores determine children’s, teachers’ and schools’ futures. And yes, I completely understand the time- consuming and legal complexities of dealing with rampant cyberbullying on a case-by-case basis. The principal of a middle school, in fact, recently told me that if she got involved, she would spend at least half her time every single day dealing with what goes on in cyberspace among the kids in her school.
But the assumption that the schools have no role is not productive. It reflects the old-fashioned and erroneous notion that social-emotional issues (cyberbullying) are separate from cognitive issues (learning in school). As Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University famously put it when releasing the National Academies of Science book, Neurons to Neighborhoods: if Johnny is sad or mad, Johnny can’t add.
In addition, this assumption also reflects the old-fashioned and erroneous notion that parents and educators have totally separate roles. When that happens, you get a lot of parents denying that their children could ever engage in cyberbullying, or being defensive or downright mean themselves. The New York Times article was filled with stories of parents mishandling situations when their children were either the perpetrators or victims of cyberbullying. We all have to be in this together.
So why not turn the situation around and focus on prevention rather than trying to pick up the pieces in a world that seems frightening like Lord of the Flies–kids gone wild. Starting early is best, but it’s never too late.
First, I would suggest that teachers promote perspective taking skills as a part of teaching literacy. Teachers can do this without a fancy curriculum, by simply asking children to discuss the perspectives of the characters in the stories they are reading: “Why do you think this person acted this way? What was she or he feeling? What was she or he thinking?”
There are also curricular approaches that teach this skill–and some have even been evaluated. Take, for example, the research by Larry Aber of New York University. Aber and his colleagues found that 20 years of efforts to teach children problem solving skills as a way of reducing conflict in children were only partly successful. They began to probe what goes on in children’s minds when they are provoked. They discovered a missing link, a link they call “an appraisal process.” The children most likely to be aggressive haven’t learned the skill of perspective taking, of understanding what is going on in other people’s hearts and minds.
Aber and his colleagues evaluated a curriculum in the New York City public schools, called Reading, Writing, Respect, & Resolution. This program doesn’t separate teaching children to handle conflict from other kinds of academic teaching. Each unit is based on a children’s book selected for its literary quality. Through discussions, writing exercises, and role-play, children explore the meaning of the book, learn how to appraise the perspectives of others in complex situations, and then are taught how to resolve these conflicts. The results showed that not only was conflict reduced but academic achievement was improved.
Second, I would suggest that schools put together campaigns to use kids’ technology skills to help stop cyberbullying. This can be done in grade school, middle school, or high school. Designate a group of children to be the leaders in this campaign. Have them work with teachers to come up with the rules around cyberbullying and the consequences for when the rules are broken. Have them also help create a process for enforcing the rules. You can even have the kids compete on creating the best social media ads, posters, songs, etc. that carry the messages of the campaign. In other words, give the children some autonomy over solving the problems. My research on Youth and Violence involving a nationally representative study of young people in the 5th through the 12th grades found that children want this. As one child wrote, “if we are the problem, then we need to be part of the solution.”
This is not just a family issue. Yes, we should continue to help parents improve their capacity to respond to cyberbullying in constructive ways. But schools and communities, children and adults need to be part of the solution too!
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The Day After Tomorrow: Will We Ever Trust the State?
Authored by Otaviano Canuto and Marcelo Giugale*
This is the fourth in a series of blogs where we take a look at the issues and the countries that will be at the forefront of the development agenda, not now, not next year, but over the next 2 to 5 years–thus, “after tomorrow”. 1
There is no evidence that the 2008-09 crisis changed citizens’ trust in the state, in either direction. Well before the crisis, that trust was already in long-term decline among advanced countries, and was stuck at a very low level among developing ones. And, while markets may have lost their shine, governments did not pick up the credit.
Data, of course, are limited and definitions are problematic. But there are good indications that not all institutions of the state are distrusted equally or everywhere: people in rich countries look up to their armed forces and down on political parties; in Latin America, they trust basically nobody; and in very poor places where clientelism takes the space of institutions, they tend to trust the incumbent to deliver privileges. This matters for public policy. Distrustful citizens minimize their relationship with the state–they work in informality, opt out of public education, dodge taxes, settle disputes by their own hand, and stay out of politics. Reforms and, more generally, the emergence of a national strategic vision, become much more difficult.
Can “trust in government” be restored or, where it never existed, created? Yes, but the levels of trust vary across stages of development. In OECD countries, the marginal need is for more accountability. There, the state has achieved an adequate level of service provision, even a constant flow of improvement in service quality. But citizens have gotten used to it. They are now more impressed by values in public life–probity, commitment, responsibility.
In contrast, performance seems the missing key to trust in developing countries. Tangible, communicable results are what their voters look for and what they reward (Brazilian governors are pioneers in this). Where clientelism is the tradition, a track record of both accountability and performance is necessary before people risk abandoning the incumbent and begin to rely on institutions.
Of course, there are also common features to all trust building–performing well in some services raises trust more than in others (health provision has higher returns than market regulation, for example); expectations are ratcheted up (what you achieved yesterday becomes today’s baseline); confidence can be quickly squandered (any suspicion of gaming evaluations is a trustbuster); and a sense of generational betterment gathers support (we appreciate a state that opens opportunities for our children).
But, in the post-crisis world, what will be the most effective trust builders for developing-country governments? Primarily, four: manage professionally, spend wisely, borrow little, and account well for your assets.
To access The Day After Tomorrow: A Handbook on the Future of Economic Policy in the Developing World, please visit: http://go.worldbank.org/TPPWANWXR0
It can also be read online and purchased (World Bank Publications; ISBN 978-08213-8498-5; $35) at http://publications.worldbank.org/18498, through bookstores, and through the World Bank’s network of international distributors http://go.worldbank.org/6XBJT3DJA0.
This blog was originally posted on the World Bank Insititute Growth and Crisis website.
1- Here we borrow heavily from a book that we’ve just published: Canuto O. and M. Giugale, eds., 2010, The Day After Tomorrow: A Handbook on the Future of Economic Policy in the Developing World, World Bank Publications, Washington D.C.
*Otaviano Canuto is the World Bank Vice President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management, and Marcelo Giugale is the Sector Director of Poverty Reduction and Economic Management for the Latin America and the Caribbean Region.
Is it any wonder that in December, the darkest month of all, we yearn for light? The physical reality of long nights and shortened days reverberates through us, affecting our emotional and spiritual states, as well.
“The midwinter holidays originate in pagan rites to seduce the sun back from the underworld,” Judith Levine writes. How can we moderns, legacy writers, bring in that light?
Before we can experience the light, we need to reflect about or through the darkness. For each of us, that darkness connotes something different.
Sometimes the darkness comes from outside. All of us capitulate to the distractions of our world and our times. The pressures from our culture to keep moving with ever-increasing speed and disregard for the past covers with dark the sweetness of our memories, our history, the meaningful moments in our relationships. It takes courage, intention and will to combat the power of that momentum, to pause to recover that light.
Sometimes the darkness comes from within. It may be “unfinished business” that keeps us filled with regret, sadness or fear. Or it may be old shame, or a family secret long held. Expressing it can lighten our psychic load, and it opens a path to the light. It takes courage and discipline to look straight on at that darkness to reclaim our light.
In her “Pocketful of Miracles,” Joan Borysenko inspires us to that courage, suggesting that the time of darkness literally turns to an expansion of the light in December, helping each of us individually take on the task of transforming our own darkness to light.
December is the month in which all forces of nature are aligned to help us give birth to the light within. Midwinter has cast a spell over the land, and all of nature sleeps — solstice, Hanukkah and Christmas beckon us to gather round and witness the birth of love within one another.
Suggestions for Action:
There are two directions to take your legacy writing toward the light. The first is sweet memories long forgotten in the pace of daily life. The second is about darkness imprisoned within. Write about either or both. Increase the light as you share your words with those you love.
There are two ways of spreading light — to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it. (Edith Wharton)
Take yourself back in your memory to a time when you were very young. Recall a sweet event that includes an ancestor (parent or grandparent) that has been long forgotten. It may be a December holiday happening that connects you to him or her, or a value of theirs that still means something to you. Choose something that you want preserved and remembered because it adds light to your life and those you love.
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. (Walt Whitman)
Take a deep breath and turn the light on some “unfinished business” that you’ve protected in the dark. Spend 15 to 30 minutes in free-form writing about it. Once you’ve written it into the light, you may experience some insight or a fresh perspective.
You may choose to share the light you gleaned from either or both your reflections in a legacy letter. If not, enjoy the new light space within.
May your reflections and writing add light in this season for you and those you love.
Rachael Freed has published several works, including “Women’s Lives, Women’s Legacies: Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations” and “Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient.” She is currently working on “Harvesting the Wisdom of Our Lives: An Inter-generational Legacy Guide for Seniors and Their Families.” A Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant.
For more information, visit www.Life-Legacies.com and www.heartmates.us. Follow Rachael on Twitter @LegacyWriting.
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“Why Papua?” my mom asks me. And where is it anyway? I have no immediate answers. But a week later I have not only found it on a map and purchased all forms of cool camping paraphernalia (think quick dry towels and waterproof socks), but also come up with a philosophy to explain the high importance of voyaging across the world to this tropical land. My mom closes her eyes, raises her eyebrows and wishes she had normal children.
The sparsely populated island of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland, is divided between two countries: the independent nation of Papua New Guinea in the east, and the Indonesian Papua — formally known as Irian Jaya — in the west. Over 75 percent of Papua is covered by impenetrable jungle, and is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, as well as an array of indigenous, so-called ‘primitive’ tribes — many of whom have little or no contact with the world outside.
Believed to number some three to four thousand people, the Korowai of south eastern Papua are one such tribe. They were ‘discovered’ in the 1970s but remain isolated. They hunt with bows and arrows, subsist for weeks on roots and slugs, are illiterate, and don’t wear clothing or know modern medicine. They practice polygamy, believe in witchcraft and live in scattered tree houses 25- 50 meters off the ground. They are also thought to be some of the last people in the world to practice cannibalism.
Thoughts of traipsing into the jungle to meet Korowai begin to fill my imagination.
“Are there actually tribes with no knowledge of modern life?” I wonder. “Is cannibalism still practiced?” “Is the jungle really so dense you can’t get through it?”
“Might such a trip be a good way to lose weight?”
And besides all this: “Why is all this ‘otherness,’ so inherently compelling to me?”
That last is a good question to chew on. And the answer probably has much to do with trying to understand myself, as anything else. I’m hoping, it would seem, that seeing how others make sense of the world around them — will give me some insight into my own.
“Good luck,” says my brother. “You need it.”
I set out with Adam, a TV producer and fellow searching soul, who has a month’s long vacation. He packs all his unread summer New Yorkers in a special water tight pouch, buys a spear gun (“for fishing, idiot,” he explains when he sees my face) and we set off, stopping for lattes and mini ginger muffins at the Brasserie en route out of the country.
The journey to Papua is not short. We drive across the border from Jerusalem to Jordan and from there fly to Qatar, watching the latest Indian Jones movie on our personal TV monitors and daydreaming about discovering new tribes. After a seven hour layover, we get on another flight (12 hours) to Jakarta, where it turns out — surprise! — the spear gun sticking out the top of Adam’s knapsack has been offloaded in Doha.
Twenty four hours and many new friends at the Qatar Airways lost and found office later, we are back on track, with a complete luggage set, flying overnight to Jayapura, the capital of Papua, and onwards to Wamena in the highlands. It’s pouring rain, dark and buggy as we leave the airstrip, and we speak not one of the reported 300 odd languages used here. Members of the Dani tribe, best known for their penis gourd attire, wander around town wanting to shake hands.
We begin to realize that part of the reason so few tourists come to Papua (under a 800 last year, according to the Lonely Planet) is not solely because no one is as intrepid as us — but also because no one is as uninformed. Traveling into the jungle, it quickly turns out, is not only dangerous, time consuming and physically challenging; it also costs a fortune. Who knew, for example, just how expensive hiring a motorized canoe could be?
We spend days negotiating, finally putting our faith — and close to three thousand dollars — in the hands of our newfound guide and translator Isak. And then, off we go, by small plane — the cost of which is calibrated according to one’s weight — to Dekai, a dusty village on the edge of the Brazza River.
There, we meet up with Lakor, a young cook who does not stop smiling and who knows how to make rice topped with instant ramen noodles and nothing else. He joins our party and we spend another two days in protracted re-negotiations over money, swatting mosquitoes and eating biscuits filled with pineapple cream.
Finally, armed with just about all the information needed for a Ph.D. on motorized canoes in Papua, we pick up our travel permits from the local police chief, lower ourselves into the dugout canoe and motor ten hours down the river, mainly in pouring rain, to the improbably even smaller village of Mabul.
Moving right along, we recruit four Korowai tribe teenagers who will be our porters: Gershon, who, because of polio, has use of only one leg, silent Lucas, Solomon, who is adorned in colorful beads, and little Titus, whose father, we are told, was eaten by members of the Kombai tribe last year.
And then, a week and a day after leaving home, we march bravely into the jungle. I immediately fall off a log and ram my left shin. The adventure has begun.
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It is true. We are living in the age of the voyeur. I don’t even notice the unfathomable amount of surveillance devices around me every day, even as I happily stroll through stores fully stocked with hundreds of cameras armed with no other purpose than to document my every move. Images permeate most events in our lives today, from the cameras that track us walking down the street, to the number of photos we take on vacation, and even to the constant supply of celebrity images we see every day.
Yeah, I’m aware, this is no breaking news for anyone. But, after seeing SFMOMA’s Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance, and the Camera Since 1870, this fact has resurfaced to the front of my mind. This exhibition is all the rage these days, mainly because it is controversial in nature and extremely approachable in subject matter. Exposed offers the viewer some of the complex layers that the documentary photograph has provided over the course of its history. But, it is the mundane in this extensive project that tell this tale the best.
Thomas Demand. Camera, 2007. Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York and Spueth Magers Berlin London. Thomas Demand
VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / DACS, London.
Although filled with work that explores the aggressive structure between photographer and subject, the works that resonate best are those which expose the camera a medium for displaying how we interact with each other. For example, one of the greatest testaments to this idea is Bruce Nauman’s Office Edit I (Fat Change John Cage) from Mapping the Studio (2001). This typically Nauman video maps his studio with the camera’s night lens over weeks, leaving you to look for what is not there — the viewer and subject. What remains is just a document of seemingly nothing, which now functions best as a medium between two things — a man and his studio.
Larry Clark, Untitled, from the portfolio Tulsa, 1971, printed 1980; gelatin silver print; 8 x 12 in. (20.32 x 30.48 cm); Collection SFMOMA; Larry Clark.
The documentary image always contains it’s maker, whether from the point of who positions the security camera, or the artist that takes the beautiful photograph, and what Exposed gives us is just this. In an interview with HuffPost contributor Cherie Louise Turner, Exposed curator, Sandra Phillips states that:
One issue here is how important in photography [it is] for the photographer to be an artist. I don’t think it’s important at all. I think the only thing that matters is the picture. And the picture can be taken by a robot or a child or a master photographer.
And, this is exactly what you see. The relationship that the work in Exposed provides is one between people — an extensive document of how we relate to each other.
Divided into five sections — the unseen, the clandestine photographer, voyeurism and sexual desire, celebrity, and witnessing of violence and suffering — Exposed successfully weaves a story of the photograph’s uses. Yet, this function is somewhat leveled by the shear mass of hostile, direct, and aggressive imagery. Thomas Demand’s Camera, which watches as an airport surveillance camera slowly pans over its subjects, sits surprisingly close to Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine II, a video exploring the distance between the gulf war and the western viewer. The pervasive technology present in this exhibition does no more than show how fiercely we watch those around us, leaving little room for the experience of discovery and exploration into the depths of how man uses machinery.
Trevor Paglen, Chemical and Biological Weapons Proving Ground/Dugway, UT/Distance ~42 miles/10:51 a.m., 2006, 2006; chromogenic print; 50 x 50 in. (127 x 127 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Anonymous Fund purchase; Trevor Paglen
The holder of power is consistently obvious in Exposed; as is visible most clearly in the room which contains Vito Acconci’s Following Piece and Sophie Calle’s The Shadow, where both the voyeur and the subject lie outside of the hands of the documentary photographs. Although beautiful complements, these two pieces in succession direct the museum goer to one fact – the aggressive and powerful position of the voyeur. And, in each room of Exposed, we are reminded how dominant the camera has become, whether it is documenting the trauma of life in Larry Clark’s Untitled or the limits of telephotography in Trevor Paglen’s Chemical and Biological Weapons Proving Ground/Dugway, UT/Distance ~42 miles/10:51 a.m., 2006.
What Exposed does provide is a view of our culture’s both comfortable and suspicious relationship with images and how pervasive the act of documenting our world is. The work in the exhibition takes many paths to reiterate this fact, leaving the viewer with a sense that there is no escape from our current visual environment. Although there are many interesting ways to tell this tale, Exposed draws seemingly obvious social, political and visual parallels to our current media-driven world. But, at the end of the day, what remains is photography’s promise of recording that which lies between — person to person.
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Negotiators from around the world arrived in Cancun last week seeking not a comprehensive legally binding agreement – as was sought in Copenhagen – but a “balanced” package that would address key areas of the negotiations. This – it was hoped – would put the talks back on track towards the ultimate agreement needed.
Thus far Cancun has seen a constructive atmosphere from most parties. On some of the substantive issues under discussion the outlines of agreements are in sight. But the underlying question of the ultimate legal form of the outcome is bubbling away under the surface and will need to be addressed in week two for progress in other areas to be captured.
As the high level ministers arrive this week, the most pressing question is whether developed countries will signal their support for a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol by putting the informal mitigation pledges they made under the Copenhagen Accord into the formal negotiations under the Kyoto Protocol.
Arriving ministers can breathe life into the Kyoto Protocol. But it is vital that these efforts do not suck the political momentum from progress on other issues. Success in Cancun will require more than a quelling of political tensions and must include real progress to protect the millions of poor people whose livelihoods lie in the balance.
It’s essential that the political energy of ministers is used to ensure real progress is made on not just a few issues, but all areas where agreement can be reached in the formulation of the “balanced” package. This means not kicking the can down the road on major questions related to a fair global climate fund that protects poor, vulnerable people from the growing threats of a changing climate.
Right now less than 10% of climate finance is flowing to adaptation projects which help poor people build resilience. A complex “spaghetti bowl” of different funding channels – each with its own eligibility criteria, application procedures and reporting requirements- leave vast uncertainty about the impacts our efforts are making.
Decisions here in Cancun can address this ‘Adaptation Gap’. Establishing fair climate fund and guaranteeing at least 50% of the resources of the fund are dedicated to adaptation is an essential first step.
A fair climate fund must also chart a new path by placing the concerns of women at its heart. Women are worst affected by climate change – but also key agents in building solutions in their communities that work. A fair climate fund would ensure a strong voice for women in its decision-making structures, such as who controls the finance, and guarantee that the needs and interests of women are central to its policies and priorities.
There has been more progress during this past week than in the year since Copenhagen. The negotiators are finally negotiating with each other instead of repeating their long-held positions ad nauseam. Facilitated by skillful chairing from the Mexican presidency it is entirely possible this week to lay the building blocks for an agreement in Durban next year.
If ever there was doubt about the urgency, they should be dispelled by the recent floods and landslides in Colombia, affecting two million people – and more in neighboring countries. This highlights the vulnerability of people who are facing increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather. It is time for ministers to elevate their vision and take the opportunity for our common interests to transcend self-interest. It’s time for the leaders to step up.
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The other day, I wrote a blog column for Huffington. I later posted the same column to two other web-sites. Then I noticed a strange thing. The header for my column on the other, smaller sites was immediately indexed by the Google robot and appeared, in minutes, on Google News. But the original Huffington source did not appear in Google at all.
I thought that was simply because the Huffington editors felt my piece was unworthy of being featured on their Politics page. But today I searched for other Huffington headers. Even the largest headlines are ignored by Google News.
This apparently doesn’t represent any political bias. One site that receives immediate Google indexing is distinctively “far Left” in tone, much more so than many of the liberal blogs on Huffington. Another site that gets similar Google treatment has no political slant at all, and is not even widely read.
Why should my fellow Huffington writers care about this?
If you read Huffington and only Huffington for all your news and views, then it may not matter. Although, even then, with thousands of blogs published on Huffington each week, you’re probably missing out on all those that aren’t featured and thus die quiet deaths, like trees falling in a primeval forest.
But if you’re like me and probably a million others, and you boot up, first thing in the morning, to a Google News page which you’ve customized to your special tastes and interests, you’re missing out on a lot of interesting Huffington content.
Could this Google omission be the symptom of some unseen Internet rivalry? Is it a question of money? Has Google demanded some exorbitant payment for indexing of Huffington articles which the Huffington Post has been unwilling to pay?
But if Google is merely ignoring the HuffPost because of some bizarre technical oversight, then it’s a very big oversight which ought to be corrected.
We are women who light up the world …
with our beauty,
Our eyes sparkle
as we talk and laugh among ourselves.
Our smiles radiate warmth and comfort
to those who love us.
Our faces beam happily
when we’re engaged in fulfilling work.
We glow softly when contented
and burn brightly when passionate.
We are always lighting up the world,
one way or another.
But who’s the keeper of the flame?
Who will fill our lamps
in order for us to light up the world?
We must do it for ourselves, dear sisters,
and for each other.
We must fill our own lamps first — not last.
We must commit to our own well-being and self-care,
lest our oil run low and our flames flicker out.
For a woman whose flame has extinguished
can no longer fulfill her mission in life.
So take some time, sweet sisters,
to rest, recoup, relax, and regroup.
Take time to fill your lamp.
The world needs your flame —
but first, you need your oil.
2010 BJ Gallagher
See the two-minute movie of this poem.
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Last week, I had my regular oncologist visit. This usually consists of a quick physical, vitals, blood work and an infusion, a 40 minute drip to help strengthen diseased bones. I had been cut back on the drug as it has some mighty side effects and being on it five years at monthly intervals, my oncologist reduced it to once every six months.
As soon as I got into the car for what turned from a two hour drive into a three hour drive to get back home, I started getting excruciating pain in my kidney area. Next, the liquid was spreading throughout the bones like a wildfire out of control, and burning as it moved on to each lesion skipping none. I was counting the hours, minutes, even seconds during the drive, with thoughts only of reaching my bed.
Finally, finally, hours later, I’m home. I hobbled to the kitchen where I keep my arsenal of C drugs … swallowed what I assumed I needed and crawled under the covers with my four felines, my awaiting allies: Felix, Sassy, Oliver and Russell Davis. All four cats were sitting in a row at my feet. Somehow I felt they helplessly sensed my pain.
I awakened at approximately 3 a.m. with more than what I could handle in pain. I sat waiting for the sun to rise so I could call the doctor’s office immediately at 8:30 a.m. Finally, at 8:29 I am calling — such a sigh of relief. I am told to keep taking pain meds on top of one another. I took what I thought would give me relief — not so. Wondering do I call 911? No, you’re new in this community, idiot, you’ll look stupid and then it’s a give away your ill. Drive myself to ER? No. Too many drugs. I’ll get stopped for 502/DUI. Decided to bite the bullet and I laid down again, gaining a few hours of rest, pain exacerbating now big time.
About 6 a.m. Thanksgiving morning (had several invites too), I could not even move my hips to come out from under the covers. Now I’m thinking, “I’m a hostage” — my disease has made me a hostage especially this day of all days. I literally fell out of bed and crawled to my arsenal of meds. What can I take now, I thought? Just keep taking until you don’t feel any more pain was on my mind. I swallowed what I thought I needed to again take the edge off. Keeping my mind off my situation, I kept dwelling on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pumpkin pie and my favorite: the bubbly … maybe next year?
I was up perhaps five or six times during that night waiting for daylight to call my oncologist. Daylight came. I called. They were closed for the holiday, but did have a doctor on call. I thought, what’s he really going to do for me? Perhaps put me in the hospital, where I should be? I could not wait to find out, I drove myself to a nearby facility. They too were closed.
“The hostage situation” seems to be over for now, although I am still held by my captor daily — Stage IV Breast Cancer, which is NEVER closed. Those of us with Stage IV Breast Cancer deal with these types of incidents more often than not, and some that are much, much worse.
The following day, much to my amazement, I realized that the pain meds I had been taking had expired two years ago. That was why I was getting no relief! I couldn’t stop laughing at myself, but oh, it felt good to laugh and VERY painful at the same time, I might add.
I did have a best friend drive me to my oncologist visit, but I did not let her know of my hostage situation.
Until next time,
The class-action suit alleges women at Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores have been paid less and promoted less frequently than men.
The case could involve at least half a million workers and billions of dollars.
Wal-Mart has said it did not have a policy discriminating against women.
The firm argues the claims of hundreds of thousands of current and former female employees are too diverse to proceed as a single lawsuit.
The Supreme Court will determine whether all the claims against Wal-Mart can be tried together but not whether the claims are true.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, which is based in the US state of Arkansas, is appealing against a decision by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that ruled the class-action case could go to trial.
Lawsuits against retailer Costco and others against the tobacco industry could be affected by the Supreme Court's decision.
“The current confusion in class-action law is harmful for everyone – employers, employees, businesses of all types and sizes, and the civil justice system,” Wal-Mart said in a statement.
The retailer added: “These are exceedingly important issues that reach far beyond this particular case.”
The size of the class-action suit, which dates back to 2001, is estimated to range from 500,000 to 1.5m women, all of whom work or worked for Wal-Mart.
Have you ever wondered how to make a man fall in love with you?
I am a professional matchmaker, and here’s what I know:
Men fall in love with women who seem special, who seem different from the other women with whom they have been out. Make sure to differentiate yourself.
Men fall in love with women whom they are afraid to lose.
Men fall in love with women who respect themselves and demand respect from a man. A man can smell, from a mile away, a woman who is lacking in self-respect.
Men fall in love with women who are happy with themselves. Why would a man love you if you don’t love yourself?
Men fall in love with women who pick “the right time” to have sex. When is the right time? It can be any time, but it should be a time when you know deep down that it’s right and that he agrees. When a man likes you, he will not be looking to “lay” you; he will be looking to make love to you.
Men fall in love with women whom they will be proud to introduce to their friends and family. What does this mean? You can’t be a basketcase, a girl who causes a scene or a girl who drinks too much. Why would he want to bring all that into his life?
Men fall in love with women who doesn’t make his life harder. Is it okay to play some games? Sure. Is it okay to give him a hard time sometimes to keep him on his toes? Of course. And is it okay to pick your spots to make a point? Sure. However, there is a difference between giving a guy a hard time and making his life hard.
Men fall in love with women who are helpful and help them take care of things. A man wants to be with a woman who will be a partner and help him get out of jams, help him think of things he forgot to remember, and help him improve his life. Try to stay ahead of the curve. You know what your guy needs; help him get it.
Men fall in love with women who continually keep it interesting. No one wants to be with someone who is boring or who is always the same. Keep recreating an interesting you.
Samantha Daniels is a well-known professional matchmaker, President of Samantha’s Table Matchmaking and the author of “Matchbook: The Diary of a Modern Day Matchmaker” (Simon & Schuster). Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Matchmakersd.
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The PBS Frontline show, “Facing Death” continues to resonate in blogs and opinion pieces across the nation. Many people told me how hard it was for them to watch it. The footage is indeed challenging, for it displays a parade of suffering and grief, with precious little compassion or joy in balance.
Yet the dialogue and the stories carry powerful lessons. So I watched it again and talked with others who had also watched it twice. I read the transcript. The stories reveal startling truths. Each truth warrants a blog of its own, and more. Here are a few of the most distressing:
1.Patients receiving aggressive therapies often die of those therapies, not of their underlying disease. We meet one patient who succumbs to the consequences of his treatment and others who barely survived, only to see their disease recur and die soon thereafter. A bone marrow transplant specialist tells us stem cell transplants kill up to 30% of recipient patients.
2.When doctors talk about a patient’s situation, they say very different things to each other than to the patient and the patient’s family. The difference is not only medical jargon versus plain speaking. The difference is scientific understanding versus wishful thinking.
3. Palliation and hospice play practically no role in the medical care of these patients. Hospice, the gold standard for symptom management and peaceful, gentle dying, appears only as a final receptacle for treatment “failures.”
4.To doctors, death is the enemy; suffering is not. Suffering is a heroic contribution to the advance of science, or the worthy price of living one more day in a hospital.
The concept of a “good death” does not exist in this world – the wards of Mount Sinai shown in this film. The sad truth is these patients probably relinquished any possibility of a “good death” when they signed up for the aggressive treatments we see them endure. Indeed, most of the physicians seem untrained in the elements of a good death and they discount its value as the graceful acknowledgment of mortality and compassionate legacy to bestow on family.
But there is another world. By coincidence, just a few days earlier the Dartmouth Atlas Study mapped the locations in the United States where these two worlds simultaneously exist. The first world, where patients dying of cancer endure repeated hospital admissions and long internment in the intensive therapy units of academic institutions, is in Manhattan and Los Angeles. Forty-seven percent of patients in those locales die that way. The epicenter of the other world, where cancer patients die at home and receive comfort care, is Mason City, Iowa. Only 7% of cancer patients there die in a hospital.
The author of the report, Dartmouth Medical School professor Dr. David Goodman, says, “We know that the care [patients] receive has less to do with what patients want and is more about the hospitals they happen to get care at. Generally, the care often doesn’t represent their preferences.” In an interview, he said, “On average, patients, particularly with advanced cancer, would much prefer to receive care that allows them the highest quality of life in their last weeks and months — and care that allows them to be whenever possible at home and with their family.” A news release from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization cites the study to confirm that many patients receive aggressive treatment when they’d prefer comfort care, and “for frail elderly patients, and any patient with advanced cancer, these treatments have limited or no benefit.”
Limited or no benefit. People living in the worlds of Manhattan and Mason City do not differ in their rates of cancer survival, or how long they are likely to live with advanced cancer.
One of the touchstones of my advocacy is the example set by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Although she lived at the epicenter of the aggressive treatment world, she died like a Mason City native. Diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in early 1993, she received care at a prestigious academic center — Cornell-New York Hospital. She continued to work as long as she could. On May 18, 1994 she visited her hospital physicians for the last time. She left without allowing them to admit her, returning home instead. There she died the next day.
In announcing her death to the crowds gathered outside her apartment, her son, John Kennedy Jr. said, “My mother died surrounded by her friends and her family and her books, and the people and the things that she loved. She did it in her own way, and on her own terms, and we all feel lucky for that.”
The physicians of Manhattan would do well to learn how to enable patients to follow her noble and courageous example.
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Cross-posted with permission from the Ciao Italia Blog.
Only three weeks to go before Christmas, and by the looks of bags of flour, sugar and colored sprinkles at the checkout counter at the grocery store, a lot of folks are beginning to think about baking cookies. I always love this time of year for making specialty cookies. I make a lot of them, but I save the best for last. That means sugar cookies!
Crunchy, thin and with a delicious vanilla taste, these are my favorites and the ones most requested by my family. I bake and freeze them already decorated so all I need to do is take them out as needed. Here are 10 tips for making them.
1. Make and chill the dough overnight.
2. If the eggs are too cold when ready to add them, place them in a bowl of hot water for a couple of minutes before adding to the batter.
3. Roll the dough between sheets of parchment paper; this eliminates having to use to much flour which would make the cookies tough.
4. Keep scraps in the refrigerator to re-roll; it it gets too soft, it will be more difficult.
5. Use rimless baking sheets; they bake more evenly.
6. Bake the cookies at lower temperature of 325F just until set; watch because they can turn brown on the edges very quickly.
7. Let them cool on the bake sheets for 3-4 minutes then remove with a wide face spatula.
8. Cool all the cookies, then frost with your favorite icing. Allow to dry at least 4 hours.
9. Store in single layers between sheets of wax paper in tupperware tins.
10. Don’t forget to leave a few for Santa!
Christmas Sugar Cookies
Makes 5 dozen or more
4 cups unbleached all purpose flour lightly spooned into measuring cup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/4- cup or more of half and half (use only enough to make an icing that flows off the spoon like a glaze)
Colored sugars for decoration (optional)
Combine icing ingredients until smooth. Keep covered until ready to use.
Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until well blended and light colored. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla. Lower the speed and beat in the flour mixture until well blended.
Scrape the dough onto a large sheet of wax paper. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours.
When ready to roll, cut off a quarter of the dough and roll it between two sheets of parchment paper. Cut into shapes. Re-roll scraps.
Place the cookies on parchment lined baking sheets and bake until just lightly golden; do not let burn.
Cool on wire racks, then frost.
Websites come and go; the best ones give great visuals along with content. So maybe you will indulge me if I give you ten reasons to visit the new CiaoItalia.com…
1) Over 1300 free recipes dedicated to Italian regional foods
2) Free Videos on demand, over 500 of them absolutely free; watch when you want to.
3) Clear and concise navigating
4) Informational pages dedicated to creating your own Italian vegetable garden
5) Gorgeous food photos to make you hungry
6) Fun Food Blogs
7) Free Newsletter
8) A guide to understanding Italian regional wines
This Blogger’s Books from
Ciao Italia Five-Ingredient Favorites: Quick and Delicious Recipes from an Italian Kitchen
by Mary Ann Esposito
Ciao Italia Slow and Easy: Casseroles, Braises, Lasagne, and Stews from an Italian Kitchen
by Mary Ann Esposito
“Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”
It’s an all-too-familiar question. In that painful moment, seated sheepishly on the side of the road, we all come to the same unavoidable realization: There’s just no right answer.
“No” doesn’t seem all that great. This officer’s task at the moment is to evaluate how responsible I am as a driver; the result of said evaluation will directly impact my bank account balance. I don’t think I should be claiming that I drive without paying attention. “No, officer, I have no idea how fast I was going. It sure would be interesting to find out. Is that what this needle thing with the numbers does? I should’ve moved my newspaper.” Save me a seat at the county lockup.
“Yes” isn’t much better. “Sure, officer, I was violating the speed limit by exactly 18.7 percent. I read somewhere that obedience of the law is an 80/20 thing, so I figured I was in the clear. Frankly, I’m surprised to see you. Tight budget year?” I’m no lawyer, but I suspect a “yes” encourages the officer to penalize me as much as possible. Besides, “I knew it was illegal, but I did it anyway” sure doesn’t sound like something I want to tell a judge.
What I’m left with — what we’re all left with, there on the side of the road — is a conversation in which there is no place to go.
I’ve never had police training, so I’m not educated as to whether there’s a good reason for the widespread use of this question. Boxing an unsuspecting driver into a conversational corner does create a sort of stress test, and perhaps every officer is trained to watch responses and draw useful conclusions. I really don’t know. All I know for certain is that this question does not lead to useful information exchange.
Questioning is a verbally aggressive behavior. When I ask you a question, I limit your topics of conversation and require you to respond. It’s a subtle, powerful way of taking control, the conversational equivalent of greeting you at the entrance to a public building, escorting you to a specific room and inviting you to have a seat. It’s not my building, and in reality you are free to go anywhere, but meanwhile, here you are, right where I put you, whether or not it’s the destination you had in mind.
That’s why the police officer’s question leads to excuses, muttering and flustered babble. The officer is your host in the conversation, but he or she is escorting you to a place you don’t want to go. The likelihood of a meaningful exchange of knowledge in this case is nearly nil; you are preoccupied with finding your way out of the conversational trap, rather than actually communicating something useful.
In fact, the only way to get from this question to useful information exchange is to ignore the question completely and begin a whole new conversation. “I’m rushing my pregnant wife to the hospital, officer. Can you help?” But absent a seriously compelling reason to jump topics, like a pregnant wife, most of us are inclined to answer the questions asked of us. Social norms doom us to the conversational dead end.
Of course, on the side of the road, the outcome is predetermined — you’re probably getting the ticket no matter what you say — so lack of information exchange is no big deal. In the workplace, however, this problem is far more serious. As information age workers, we constantly participate in the transfer of information, knowledge and data. Conversational dead ends aren’t just awkward; they create problems with both productivity and job satisfaction.
Consider two examples of questions better left unasked, along with alternative approaches likely to yield better results:
We’re all busy at work. In the moment, it often seems quickest and easiest to just fire a question at someone. Unfortunately, the few minutes you save in the short term are often wasted many times over in the long run. Whoever you are talking to — boss, employee, peer or customer — remember that the way you start your interactions is powerful. If you can find a way to begin with information, rather than with a question, your chances of useful exchange increase considerably.
If you find all of that difficult to bear in mind, then just remember this: When you’re talking with someone in the workplace, if either of you is having a conversational experience that’s similar to getting a speeding ticket, you should probably start over with a different approach.
This Blogger’s Books from
Make Work Great: Super Charge Your Team, Reinvent the Culture, and Gain Influence One Person at a Time
by Edward G. Muzio
Four Secrets to Liking Your Work: You May Not Need to Quit to Get the Job You Want
by Edward G. Muzio, Deborah J. Fisher, Erv Thomas
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At last week’s Summit on the Global Agenda, convened in Dubai by the World Economic Forum (WEF), risk was high on the agenda. In fact, risk has been center stage from the very first Summit, held in the late fall of 2008.
This year’s Summit was the WEF’s third, and the emphasis on managing risk called to mind the surreal environment of the first Summit. At that event, the world’s economy was in freefall, and nowhere was that more pronounced than in Dubai, where real estate speculation as hot as summertime in the Persian Gulf was crashing to earth. When Dubai’s ruler told the plenary audience–over and over–that everything was fine, it succeeded only in stoking fears that the opposite was true.
The last couple of years have made clear just how much work needs to be done to manage systemic risks more effectively. The WEF made a significant contribution to that important goal at this year’s Summit by announcing its new “Risk Response Network,” a network of corporate risk officers and other thought leaders who will aim to identify systemic geopolitical and economic risks–and offer potential solutions. The Network will be inaugurated formally at Davos in late January, and convened formally for the first time in New York in early April.
Many of us at the Summit expressed concern that undue focus on avoiding risk will undercut the creativity so crucial to rebuilding global economic vitality. Indeed, in a meeting at the Summit of the Consumer Industry Council, which I chaired, we focused our attention on innovation as the key to building sustainable growth and prosperity.
The mandate of the Council, which includes companies like Pepsico, Best Buy, and Procter & Gamble, and thought leaders from design firm IDEO, the University of Manchester (UK), and Brazil’s Akatu Institute, is to sketch a vision for the consumer products industry over the coming decades, with a report due in June, 2011. Over three days, we debated whether economic models that measure and reward growth are appropriate in an era of growing populations and natural resource constraints.
In charting the industry’s future, we fixed on health and environment as two crucial features that merit increased investment and focus. In just the past several weeks, many high profile consumer products companies have announced sustainability focused initiatives: Nestle’s creation of a new business unit focused on “nutraceuticals,” the combination of food and medicine; Best Buy’s investment in pioneering home energy management systems; and Nike’s making public its environmental apparel design tool, so that peers–and competitors–can use it. These efforts are part of an emerging movement in this and other industries toward sustainable consumption, an issue that BSR considers the next frontier in sustainability.
It is said that generals too often fight the last war, instead of preparing for the next one. The WEF’s Risk Response Network is making a crucial investment by strengthening the world’s collective ability to avoid the mistakes that nearly brought down the global economy. But it is the creative impulse found throughout the Summit on the Global Agenda that will generate the sustainable, inclusive growth that makes the world’s economy worth protecting in the first place.
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Each week, friends, allies, colleagues and respected leaders and thinkers from around the world offer their thoughts, ideas, aspirations and plans for a better world. Some are new voices, some clarion calls from the past. Some are seriously poignant, others satirically pointed.
All provoke me in good and thoughtful ways. Here are this week’s favorites:
“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” — African proverb quoted by Freedom from Hunger.
“After all is said and done, more is said than done.” — Anonymous
“A man never stands so tall as when he leans over to help a child.” — Abraham Lincoln, 16th American President.
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” — Horace Mann, 19th Century American educator.
“Poverty is much too complex to be cured by one intervention. We don’t ask if basic education alone ends poverty. We don’t ask if vaccinations alone are ending poverty.” — Sam Daley-Harris, Founder, MicroCredit Summit Campaign.
“A wise man should have money in his head, not in his heart.” — Jonathan Swift, 18th Century Irish essayist, novelist and poet.
“Be a maker of peace, a steward of mercy, a voice of reason, be the hands and feet of justice.” — Chaplain Jewelnew Davis, Columbia University.
“To be good is noble, but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.” — Mark Twain, 19th Century American novelist and essayist.
“Is it progress if a cannibal eats with a knife and fork?” — Stanislaw Lec, 20th Century Polish essayist — a question often ignored by the social theoreticians.
“The moral advantage of being the architect of many losing causes is highly over-rated.” — Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 20th Century American historian and presidential advisor.
“Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.” — Albert Einstein, 20th Century physicist and Nobel Prize Winner.
Send me your favorite proverbs, provocations and punditry, or post them here.
Just Like Your Dogs Do All Year Round
The holiday season is here, and if you’re chasing your tail wondering what’s the best pet present to buy, please stop now. You don’t have to feel like an underdog any longer when finding the perfect holiday gift for the deserving four-legged companions and doting pet parents in your life. And if you want to stay out of the doghouse during the holidays, the following highly recommended pet gifts are design and economically savvy — plus festive and fun!
The Scentsy warmers will soothe pets and their parents during all the frantic holiday hubbub. If your pet is prone to sudden outbursts, flame, soot, smoke or lead won’t be a holiday hazard with this gift. All pets take pride in their well-developed snouts, and the 80 Scentsy scents will have them sniffing in delight. And with so many varieties of breeds (and pet parents), everyone should find a special seasonal scent to roll over and kick back with! Scentsy makes sense with prices ranging from $30 to $50. For more information visit scentsy.net.
The perfect holiday gift for the entire family, especially if you’re thinking of adopting a new pet from a shelter over the holidays, is the Ubisoft Petz Nursery 2 video game. With this game animal lovers can bond virtually with 22 different animals from infancy, while discovering each breed’s tastes and distastes. Ubisoft Petz Nursery 2 helps players discover which pet is the right fit for your family and adds to what you already know about existing beloved pets. Nurturing and creating relationships with baby “petz” includes feeding, providing shelter and watching them grow to maturity! Ubisoft Petz Nursery 2 goes for the soft price of $29.99. For more information visit ubi.com.
Even the most spiritually Zen pet makes a mess every now and then, and with all the holiday celebrations coming up, pet parents are also primed for the occasional cheerful spill. Bissell’s SpotBot Deep Compact Cleaner removes some of the toughest cat and canine stains and is one of the best practical gifts! The Bissel SpotBot is spot on ranging from $119.99 to $149.99. For more information visit Bissell.com.
Dogs and cats are gifted at napping (especially near a warm fireplace), and Petco carries a wide variety of pet beds designed with dreaming animals in mind. The Cuddler Bed In Berry ($14.99) is a round, plush, comfy zone for dogs to easily climb into and relax — perfect for older canines. The Red Plaid Cat Bed ($18.74) will have your contented cat snuggling up to the stuffed sides, and the no-skid bottom will keep even skittish kitties grounded.
Felines will get feisty with the Sparkle Ball Feather Teaser ($4.46), a non-toxic toy proven to make cats purr and roar while exercising the holiday treats away. If your cat is more of a furturistic feline, the Petco Laser Ring Pet Toy ($2.99) will have your kitty pouncing endlessly after the moving red laser dot.
Crazy Critters pet toys will have your little crazy critters jumping for joy! The Fox & Raccoon Stuffing Free Toys ($9.99) with squeakers on both ends are super soft and a dog’s perfect hunting toy. If your Christmas canine is a chewer by nature, then the All Natural Mega Munch Sticks ($4.99) made of bark covered willow branches will have your pet chomping and chasing this multipurpose toy. For more information visit petco.com.
We all have Land’s End jackets — and now so will our dogs! Every dog needs an extra layer when running from one holiday hound party to the next. This year plan to keep your dog hot throughout the wintry cold with Land’s End Fleece Dog Jacket, perhaps in seasonal red or green, with a memorable monogram. This cozy, machine-washable, polyester fleece jacket protects dogs during the ruff-est of climates. Land’s End Fleece Dog Jacket is the end all at $19.50.
Land’s End displays a selection of dog collars and leashes, like the stylish Braided Pet Collar and leash. The durable braided nylon adds strength and helps guide your rambunctious pet from taking off at the dog park. All breeds are accommodated — sizes range from extra small to extra large. The collar runs for $17.50 and the leash for $22.50. For more information visit landsend.com.
If you’re planning some holiday travel with your snow-bound pets or know a pet parent who is, artist William Wegman has created the gift for you! The William Wegman Crypton Super Fabric exclusive Throver works like a tarp but looks like a top-line blanket. The “Throver” (for Rover) can be used to cover and protect outdoor car seats (from wet and muddy paws) and indoor sofas (when the fetch games begin). This must-have pet present is available in two designs; Show (six colors) and Gameboard (five colors). The Throver is also easy to spot- and machine-clean and is stain- and odor-resistant. The William Wegman for Crypton Fabric Throvers can be covered for $149.00. For more information visit cryptonfabric.com.
Do not give pets as gifts! This isn’t Scrooge speaking, but it is important that the receiver is ready to play, love and care for the pet 24 hours a day! Unlike an ugly pair of wool socks, pets aren’t gifts you can just toss aside or return. If you do know someone who’s ready to become a new “mommy or daddy,” make sure you remind them to adopt, as there is every breed, size, color, shape and personality available!
For more holiday pet information, visit www.animalfair.com!
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Saeed Malekpour was convicted in Iran of designing and moderating adult sites, according to a campaign run by the 35-year-old's supporters.
Canada's foreign ministry said the legal process was highly questionable.
Mr Malekpour, 35, has reportedly been detained in Iran since 2008.
“Canada remains deeply concerned by the continued flagrant disregard of the Iranian authorities for the rights of Iranians,” said Alain Cacchione, a spokesman for Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon.
He added: “This appears to be another case in which someone in Iran is facing a death sentence after a highly questionable process.”
Mr Malekpour was convicted of designing and moderating adult websites, “agitation against the regime” in Tehran and “insulting the sanctity of Islam”, according to the Campaign for Release of Saeed Malekpour.
The campaign says the Iranian-born Canadian worked as a freelance website developer and created a software program that allowed designers to upload photos to their websites.
That software was then used, without Mr Malekpour's knowledge, for the creation of an adult website, the support site says.
Mr Malekpour moved to Canada in 2004 but was arrested in Iran in 2008 during a trip to visit his father.
He was sentenced to death on Saturday, according the campaign's website.
A cold northerly wind blew through the bayous of Louisiana last night, bringing near-frost like conditions and hastening the end of the worst shrimp season in memory. Only the small fry are left, and they too are on the move with their larger brethren, swimming out to sea to feed over the winter. They will wait for warmer temperatures of spring before they return to their spawning grounds of the marsh.
Fishermen believe it will be an especially perilous journey this year after 200 million gallons of oil flowed from BP’s underwater blowout directly in the path of these migrating bottom-dwelling creatures.
Photo by Rocky Kistner/NRDC
Last week, National Public Radio and ABC’s Nightline both filed reports (NPR here and Nightline here) from a cramped miniature submarine on a science mission near the Deepwater Horizon well to examine the impact of the world’s largest maritime oil spill in history.
They found what you might expect after this catastrophe; a mostly lifeless seafloor landscape coated with several inches of what appeared to be an oily substance. Dead coral looked like it had a frosting of petro-slime.
This week, another scientific expedition from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Pennsylvania State University will do a series of dives that can be followed closely on video on their website. They will shed more light on just what kind of impact the oil and dispersant mix had on the creatures on the sea bottom.
While scientists are hard at work trying to find out exactly what the oil blowout did to the ocean environment, the President’s National Oil Spill Commission is busy investigating the disaster to figure out how to keep it from happening again.
Last week the commission made waves when its lawyers reported that BP likely will dispute the official oil release tally by up to 50 percent. That could mean the company would pay billions of dollars less in fines. Even BP’s over-endowed PR campaign will have a hard time defending that one.
The commission also blasted government agencies for being ill-prepared to deal with the devastating mental health and social consequences of this regional disaster, an economic and cultural shock that reverberates today. The Times Picayunne reported it this way:
People here in Plaquemines Parish know this. But they are determined to carry on, despite the lack of food, medical care and housing around here. Last weekend, the parish celebrated its biggest party of the year, the Orange Festival, and its return to historic civil war Fort Jackson. The civil war fort is in ruins after being nearly destroyed by Katrina five years ago, and this is the first time parish organizers have been able to host the Orange Festival at the site.
Photos by Rocky Kistner/NRDC
Children packed amusement park rides, while their parents bought giants bags of locally grown oranges and consumed plates full of shrimp Po-Boys, gumbo and jambalaya. Live music blasted rock’n roll to the sunshine filled crowd. Life appeared normal, at least for a few days.
At night in nearby Buras, Christmas has come to town. A row of glowing white angels blowing electric trumpets adorn lamp posts that overlook Katrina-smashed storefronts and houses ripped from their foundations. A bright “Celebrate the Birth of Jesus” sign hangs from in front of the abandoned grocery store, still pocked with holes, rubble and weeds.
It’s an apt metaphor for what this community—and many like it on the Gulf coast—are dealing with in the wake of this disaster. Hope and tradition are still alive, no matter how bleak it appears.
Photos by Rocky Kistner/NRDC
Meanwhile, out in the bays and bayous, a few boats still trawl for the remaining shrimp that are on their march out to sea. Many fisherman believe the oil is still out there on the bottom. All worry what will happen next spring when the shrimp and fish return.
This holiday season, everyone in the bayou is praying for a miracle.
Remember that big ol’ car that your parents drove back in the day? Yeah, that’s right, the one with the endless hood, huge trunk and flared bumpers, perhaps with green corduroy upholstery and a six-inch-wide ashtray? If GM built your parent’s variation, it was likely that classic brand, Buick. Well, as they say (at Ford), “Have you driven a Buick lately?”
According to Advertising Age, Buick has reconstituted itself as one of the top ten brands in America circa 2010. Wow! It seems that even bankrupt General Motors has found a way to reinvent a vintage nameplate to appeal to today’s drivers.
Reading about the rebirth of Buick made me think about my boomer clients and their most common complaints: “I’m so tired of the same old, same old… me,” or, “I’ve been doing the same job forever, help!” or my favorite, “I’m just stuck in a rut.” Sound familiar?
Life is fraught with paradox. Here we are living in an age when it is not unusual to be healthy and vigorous into your seventies and beyond. Yet just like the old Buick, over the years we lose our luster, our passion for the road (of life!), and feel stuck in gear. But, like Buick, we have a choice. We can head off to the junkyard or instead, take a deep breath, stretch, move and reinvent ourselves from the inside out! Here are four key steps:
1. Fire up your imagination. If I could redesign my “dashboard” for life change, replete with warning lights for when we need a tune-up, I’d put a “check imagination” light front and center on everyone’s forehead. Why? Because as we age and get into the routinized patterns, we tend to lose touch with our creative source: the imagination. We forget that the “self” is more than a set of facts, data, roles and responsibilities. The self is a story, a fable that we write and re-write throughout our lives.
In order to jolt the life back into your personal plot line, you may need a change of scenery, a reconstituted cast of characters, even an adventure into new psychological territory. In short, you need to flex and stretch the muscles of your imagination. How to get started?
Well, I recommend the following as a tangible, if tiny, baby step: revisit a film or book that moved and inspired you as a child. We begin the process of reinvention by reconnecting to the child within, by re-envisioning ourselves in that “territory of possibility” across which we traversed as kids.
2. Rewire your right brain. Neuroscience has come a long way since the dawn of the age of Buick. We now know conclusively that each hemisphere, right and left, of the cerebrum has a crucial role to play in how we navigate the world. The left brain gives us logic, language and the analytical capability that generates to-do lists, budgets, recipes and food on the table. Yet, this task-master has its downside: the left brain revels in repetition, fears change, seeks to control and maintains a sense of distance from the environment.
Our right brain — truly half of the equation of a thinking self — brings us home to the world. All those profound feelings of connection, relatedness and expansiveness emerge from the synaptic action in the right brain. The right hemisphere of the brain is where we process feelings, images and intuitive insights.
So the next step in firing the imagination requires that you step off the treadmill (literally and figuratively) and make time for right-brain activities: painting, journaling, drawing, music, pottery-making and the like. You may feel a bit rusty as you dust off the piano or pluck away at worn guitar strings, but your brain, the right side at least, will thank you — and over time, you’ll reconnect to long-buried passions, visions and dreams.
3. Retool the body. Clearly that sea-green Buick that I rode around in as a child (with my father crowing he had the biggest car in the neighborhood) is not the same one that is cruising down to today’s Mall. The engine is more efficient; the body is shorter, sleeker and streamlined; the fuel is more environmentally friendly (or getting there). So, too, our bodies need to be refueled, retooled and re-sculpted on a regular basis.
But don’t misunderstand. I’m not advocating an excruciating fitness and steroid regime that falsely promises to turn back the clock on your aging body. Reinvention is not about fighting the aging process but tending to the body’s needs and honoring its wisdom. Exercise is key, but if we truly want to reinvent ourselves, not just any exercise routine will suffice.
What you need is exercise that breaks up your physical patterns. The body, just like the overwrought left brain, will tend to fall into habits — even if you do exercise. Just going to the gym can become as much a rut as being a couch potato. Scan the vast array of physical activities available and pick something that gets you out of your comfort zone. Yoga, Tai Chi and all manner of martial arts are superb because they focus on the integration of mind and body.
Just as worthy are sports like water polo, soccer or basketball that require the body to move in constantly changing patterns. I, for one, am grateful to have a boomer President who insists on playing basketball — even it causes him a busted lip now and again. If none of the above appeals, go dancing!
4. Get out of the garage. If you are at the peak of your working years, then very likely you spend the bulk of your time at the office, in the car and plopped down in front of the computer. When was the last time you took a hike in the forest? Strolled for an hour along a beach? The key to reigniting the fires within is attending to the spaces in which we literally park ourselves in the world.
Get up and out of the suburban routine and head off into the woods at sunrise. Watch the stars recede and drink in the daily reemergence of the natural world. It is our true home — enlivening, humbling, awe-inspiring. Nature can be a powerful force for change, but we have to be willing to jump the curb and drive the vehicle of self out on the open road now and again. Being in nature is not just a “nice thing to do.” At every seasonal turn, she reminds us that all life operates in cycles and that we too are immersed in this dynamic process of birth, growth, decay, death and, yes, rebirth.
5. Be a beginner. if you are keen on reinventing your sense of self, then in addition to the steps I’ve outlined above, you must do one more thing: be willing to be a beginner again. Every new story is crafted in drafts, replete with messy, exploratory, unfinished versions. You can’t start a new career without “learning the ropes,” being a trainee or taking a class. Nor can you reinvent the self without shedding the “adult” persona and reconnecting to the beginner’s mind, that playful, non-judgmental willingness to try something new.
The best way to access this energy is by hanging out with the newbies in life: kids. If you’re lucky enough to have young children or even grandchildren, find moments to slip off the “authority robes” and explore the world through a child’s eyes. If you don’t have young children in your day-to-day world, then revisit your own childhood. Take a trip down memory lane. Pull out the aged photo albums, journal about your favorite activities as a child — and then, God forbid, go out and do one of them.
One weekend, instead of shopping, go skating. Instead of golf, get out in a canoe, or maybe a go-cart. You get the idea. Reconnecting to the child-self, either by literally playing with young ones you love, or revisiting the lost little one in yourself, can be the best reminder that the wide-eyed energy of futurity and possibility is always available and ready to be reawakened at any age.
My friend and colleague Dr. Maura Conlon-McIvor, Ph.D., a fellow depth psychologist and writer of a best-selling memoir about her life as the child of an FBI agent, has an eloquent way of articulating this process of reinvention. She dubs it, “Investing in new psychological real-estate.” You literally engage yourself in a your own individual “therapy of re-creation.”
If you would like to learn more about how to snap out of a rut and reinvent the self, I highly recommend listening in to Maura’s and my recent dialogue on my radio show, “Life Shifting with Dr J.” Download the show and have a listen while you’re out tooling around town in your new Buick!
If you’re a boomer — or an Gen-X’er, for that matter — who has hit one of those inevitable speed bumps (e.g., ruts) in life, here’s the question: Is it time to dump yourself on the trash-heap like Pontiac? I think not. Instead, take your cue from reborn Buick: refire your imagination, rewire your brain, tune up your engine, and remake your story of self anew!
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Shift: Let Go of Fear and Get Your Life in Gear
by Jeffrey W. Hull PhD
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Final reports from government commissions are not generally known to be stirring or often acted upon. Most of the time, that’s OK. Commissions are usually government’s way of pretending to address a problem without really doing so.
Last week, though, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — the Deficit Commission — released a document that I would strongly suggest everybody read. Tasked eight months ago by President Obama to come up with recommendations for reducing the deficit, the bi-partisan Deficit Commission actually did something noteworthy for a government exercise: They told the truth.
While any set of recommendations that aims to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years is worth a close look, I believe that the must-read portion of the report is the brutally honest assessment of just how serious our Federal spending problem is.
In less than two pages, the Deficit Commission paints the picture that every American and especially every Member of Congress needs to “get,” beginning with the simple statement: “Our nation is on an unsustainable fiscal path.”
Here are a few facts the Commission lays out in its report:
Right now, the federal debt is 62% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) — twice what it was in 2001.
Even worse, on our current path, the federal debt will be 90% of GDP by 2020, and 185% of GDP by 2035. That’s right. Unless we change what we are doing, the public debt will be almost twice the size of the entire American economy.
How about this fact: By 2025 — only 15 years from now — federal revenues will only be sufficient to pay the interest on the debt and Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Nothing else. No military, no domestic spending, no nothing except interest and entitlements without borrowing or printing more money.
As I travel the country, it is obvious that Americans realize government spends too much. On that point no one disagrees. But what this Presidential Commission has done is put an official stamp on a stark reality: A nation whose debt equals or surpasses its entire economy simply cannot survive. As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has said, our debt may be the most serious threat to national security we face.
Right now, more than half our public debt is owned by foreign creditors, the largest, of course, being China. If the debatable “threats” in Iraq and Afghanistan merit going to war, what does having countries like China own half our debt merit?
The Deficit Commission, and many of the rest of us, speak of the imperative for “across the board” spending reduction. Absolutely, anytime we can make government spend less in everything it does, that is a good thing. However, as anyone who has ever managed a government can attest, simply directing government agencies to spend less in a given year is a temporary solution at best.
It is simply human and institutional nature that those agencies will reduce spending by deferring outlays, not hiring new folks, and doing the least painful things they can find. Any bureaucracy can find a percentage point here and a percentage point there to reduce — without really changing what it does.
Those kinds of restraint are better than nothing, certainly, but they are not the long-term answer. Truly cutting government spending for the next generation and beyond requires much more than number games or deferrals. It requires fundamentally reducing what government does.
Yes, we can direct the federal Department of Education to spend only $60 billion instead of $70 billion and save some money, or… we can do what we really need to do, which is recognize that education has not been well-served by federal meddling, and get rid of the entire department and its entire $70+ billion annual price tag.
We can give HUD a little less money with which to distort the real estate and mortgage markets, or we can acknowledge that the government really has no place in the housing business and take that entire agency’ and its $40 billion budget off the books forever.
The list goes on, but the point is simple: While the Deficit Commission’s report may be the boldest such document we have seen from official Washington in a long time, it isn’t bold enough. Eliminating waste, requiring government to do more with less, freezing salaries, etc., while laudable, won’t do it. Plain and simple, we need to cut what government does, not just what it spends trying to do it.
It’s finals week at many colleges across the nation, so students will be pulling all-nighters to study for exams. But will they actually study, or will they spend most of their time texting friends? And if they do open their books, will they be studying effectively?
A recent survey reveals that today’s college students study 14 hours a week, compared to 24 hours a week in 1961. America’s high school seniors fare even worse, with two-thirds reporting that they spend less than 6 hours per week studying.
The biggest reason for this decline in studying seems simple enough: one-third of those surveyed admit that they just don’t know how to sit down and study.
The sad irony is that we now know more about how the mind works and learns than we ever have in human history. Cognitive scientists have mapped out what renowned psychologist, John Anderson, calls the “architecture of cognition” while advances in MRIs and PET scans have provided deeper insights into the neural circuits that make up that architecture. Educational research abounds with findings about how to study and learn.
Yet too many students leave high school for college or the work force without the basic study skills necessary for success.
In 2000, the National Reading Panel reviewed hundreds of studies on reading comprehension and identified seven strategies that are scientifically proven to improve reading and studying. For 25 years, I have been using some of these strategies to help my students. I can report that they work remarkably well for students with learning differences or AD/HD. While leading numerous training sessions, I have also witnessed teachers from across the country discover that these techniques can help any student who wants to study more effectively.
Here are three of these strategies, all of which that any teacher or student can implement:
Generate your own questions about the information you are reading or studying. “Why” questions are known to be particularly effective because they encourage you to analyze cause and effect.
Create visuals, such as pictures or diagrams, to represent what you read. Pictures tap into your mind’s ability to think in images; diagrams, such as flow charts, help you to understand how ideas relate to each other.
Summarize the information you want to learn. You can only hold a limited amount of information in working memory, so distilling important ideas down into a condensed form will help you in the storage and retrieval processes of memory.
These are “active” study processes that demand a high level of cognitive engagement from students. Most of us, when we were in high school or college, simply wrote down as much as we could about what the professor said in class. Or, we underlined and highlighted what we thought to be the important information from a reading. Such strategies promote a superficial level of learning, as we only focus on the ideas being delivered by the professor or the author.
But when students have to generate their own questions, visuals and summaries of the information, they are focusing on what they themselves think about the information — they don’t just restate the professor’s ideas. When we put ideas into our own words or pictures, we tend to understand those ideas better and remember them.
My students use planners to manage their study time and to break down larger assignments into manageable units. They also enroll in courses that offer theories of learning and memory and how to apply those theories to their own individual learning needs.
These are strategies that work with diverse learning styles and abilities, but the reality is that they are based on solid empirical evidence, they cost next to nothing to implement and they can be incorporated into any classroom, from middle school through college.
With strategies like these, we could greatly reduce or eliminate the problem of one-third of today’s college students saying they just don’t know how to sit down and study.
If a black boy is born in the US today, he will have a 33% chance of going to prison in his lifetime. Stated another way – 1 in 3 black boys born today will face prison time. It has become sad normality, almost a backwards rite of passage, for black young men to enter the penal system and never return to our communities. And if we are “lucky” enough for them to return, they usually are much hardened criminals than they ever were before. Black men represent 8% of the population of the United States but comprise 3% of all college undergrads, 48% of inmates in prison and are 5 times more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than white men. 50% of black boys do not finish high school, 72% of black male dropouts in their 20s are unemployed and 60% of black male dropouts are eventually incarcerated.
To respond to this deepening crisis, the Open Society Foundation founded by George Soros developed a grant-making fund to improve black males’ life outcomes. This fund is called the Campaign for Black Male Achievement (CBMA). While CBMA has had great success in building initiatives around fatherhood and family, education, living wage, and other areas, the campaign recognizes it needs to invest more in strategic communications to promote positive messages and frames about black men and boys.
CMBA and the Knight Foundation are partnering with the American Values Institute (AVI), founded by Alexis McGill Johnson, to create a conversation on December 7 and 8 called: Black Male: Re-Imagined, to explore opportunities to invest in art, culture, and communications to change the negative perceptions of black men. The questions guiding this conversation are: If we could create a campaign or set of campaigns that would change the way we look at black males over time, what would that look like?
What is Black Male: Re-Imagined?
Black male: Re-Imagined is a two day, invitation-only, closed-door, summit of 60 of the most thoughtful and creative media influencers, foundation executives, and the organizations they fund. We are gathering together to consider what kind of real financial investment can be made to influence media and culture to change perceptions about black males. We are honored to take part in this.
Our goals will be to: 1) discuss campaign strategies to ‘rebrand and re-imagine’ black men. 2) explain the business models of various communications methods so that foundations can invest wisely. 3) Develop a working group to continue the conversation.
We have built brands our whole lives, that is what we do. It is time that we re-invent the brand of the black male and stop the cradle to prison pipeline and replace it with a world that is much more hopeful and optimistic for young black men. For no child should ever think that they have a 1 in 3 chance of going to prison. There has to be another choice on the test.
(co-authored with Andre Harrell. Andre Harrell is founder of the record label, Uptown Records, who signed Mary J. Blige, Heavy D amongst many others. Harrell also served as president/CEO of Motown Records.)
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Executive job growth in the private sector might be the bright gem found among the lumps of coal in the most recent employment data from the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). According to the employment trends ExecuNet monitors monthly, the percentage of expected new executive-level positions has been edging upward for 11 consecutive months, and recruiters have been steadily raising their confidence levels about the employment market this past year.
In November, our survey group of mostly retained search firm consultants forecast 26 percent of companies would add new executive-level positions in the next six months, with another 52 percent of companies expected to “trade up” or selectively replace existing senior managers with new talent. Better yet, fewer than two percent of companies are projected to have executive-level layoffs.
Additionally, 61 percent of the surveyed recruiters feel confident the executive employment market will improve in the next six months, leading 25 percent of them to hire staff in anticipation of new assignments.
So why are executive hiring and the mood of recruiters meaningful to you?
Since May 2003, we’ve surveyed executive recruiters every month about their confidence levels and views of the job market. They’re the “canaries in the coalmines,” so to speak, of the economy, as they are always some steps ahead of the marketplace, scanning the horizon for imminent activity in corporate hiring.
The BLS report is a lagging measurement and recruiters are the leading indicators of job market revival, acting as conduits between the unadvertised executive-level jobs and the right candidates, then executive hiring is the next signal of recovery. It’s the corporate leadership who are expected to build teams of direct reports and drive job growth.
Within our own private executive membership network, we’re seeing real-life progression of career management activity. In 2009, members were more reliant on our expert-led support, resources and information designed to guide them through job loss and to prepare them to launch a successful job search. Earlier this year, they were drawn to guidance on interviewing, negotiation and compensation as they began getting job offers; and lately, there has been increased news on members “landing” new positions.
Add two more positive tick marks: Our happily employed executive members are increasingly leveraging the insights and connections we’re providing that helps them improve their professional performance; and our search firm and corporate recruiting members have extended their outreach to members by 55 percent this last year.
Couple these measures of employment positivity with the lift in GDP growth, consumer confidence, and a record-breaking e-commerce holiday season, and 2011 could be brightening. At the very least, we know this January won’t be like last January.
While there’s no guarantee the job on your wish list will be among your presents this holiday season, here are some shopping tips to help ensure you get what you want:
1.First, understand what you can uniquely do and the specific value you bring to organizations.
2.Research which companies can use your particular skills and expertise, and identify their pain points.
3.Make sure you have a solid and diverse network that can connect you to the decision-makers in those target companies.
4.Be able to clearly and consultatively communicate the value you bring and the problems you solve.
If you’re looking for new opportunity, check companies in the $11 million to $500 million range; recruiters report that’s the sweet spot with nearly 28 percent of small-to-medium-sized companies bringing on new senior-level leaders. Moreover, The National Federation of Independent Business saw growth among small business payrolls in November too.
In any economy, job search is never easy, nor can it be done independently. Always have access to market trend information that can help you make the right decisions; stay connected to a community of peers and experts who can provide business and career guidance; and be seen as a leader by companies and those who hire. Even if you’re not in job search, it’s important to prepare for opportunity before you need it – you never know when you might.
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