Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Deep in our sub-conscious, we are told
Lie all our memories, lie all the notes
Of all the music we have ever heard
And all the phrases those we loved have spoken,
Sorrows and losses time has since consoled,
Family jokes, out-moded anecdotes
Each sentimental souvenir and token
Everything seen, experienced, each word
Addressed to us in infancy, before
Before we could even know or understand
The implications of our wonderland.
There they all are, the legendary lies
The birthday treats, the sights, the sounds, the tears
Forgotten debris of forgotten years
Waiting to be recalled, waiting to rise
Before our world dissolves before our eyes
Waiting for some small, intimate reminder,
A word, a tune, a known familiar scent
An echo from the past when, innocent
We looked upon the present with delight
And doubted not the future would be kinder
And never knew the loneliness of night.
Weekend Edition Sunday, January 27, 2008
As the number of Internet users increases, so does the risk of encountering online harassers.
"In January of 1997, they began posting controversial messages ... and listed my home phone number and home address and it went from there," she says.
Hitchcock, who is now president of the volunteer organization Working to Halt Online Abuse, reports about 75 cases of online harassment a week. She says that a large number of the victims range in age between 18 and 30. Most are women, and the harassers are largely men, she says.
Liane Hansen spoke with Tim Wedge, a computer crime specialist at the National White Collar Crime Center, to learn how victims like Hitchcock can protect themselves from online harassment.
Weekend Edition Sunday's month-long series on Cyber Crime was produced by Davar Ardalan and Laura Krantz and edited by Jenni Bergal..
This is the final part of a four part series. To hear this broadcast and get links to the other parts of the series Click Here.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
The American Dream vs. the European Dream — Two Very Different Visions
As Europe emerges as an economic and cultural superpower, it's becoming clear that its beliefs and traits are often 180 degrees different from the United States'. The American Dream emphasizes autonomy, national pride, and material wealth. Meanwhile, Europe's vision of the future emphasizes community, cultural diversity, and quality of life. While America values hard work, property ownership, and a unilateral foreign policy, Europe champions fun and free time, human rights, and multilateralism.
America pursues military security by unilateral action; Europe builds interdependent alliances. In personal life, Americans achieve happiness by self-reliant accomplishment; in Europe, a full and meaningful life requires lots of communities and relationships. While the American Dream emphasizes economic growth at any cost, the European Dream stresses sustainable and environmentally safe development. While the American Dream glorifies the work ethic, the European Dream strives for fun and leisure. The American Dream is tied to religion, while the European Dream is secular. While Americans sport red, white and blue bumper stickers saying, "Proud to be an American," Europeans believe we're all in this together. While the American Dream is personal, the European Dream is communal. This may seem naively altruistic, but ultimately Europeans recognize that looking out for the greater good ( the "common wealth) is in their own best interests. And superstars are not as prized in Europe — where they say the grain that grows taller will be cut first — as in America.
America (and all the cultural influences it has graced — or cursed — the planet with) is still envied, but it's no longer as admired as it once was. Our way of life no longer inspires, but is increasingly derided. American ad jingles that used to sell in Europe now turn people off. We are actually feared, as most Europeans rate the United States as the most dangerous (to world peace) country on the planet.
Friday, January 25, 2008
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Thursday, January 24, 2008
© 2008 Washington Post Writers Group
By Neal Peirce
The grim news is pouring in from across the country: state budgets, buffeted by the bursting of the housing bubble and the gathering winds of economic recession, are in increasingly terrible shape.
In a fiscally toxic brew of declining home sales, deflated property values, mounting foreclosures and reduced sales tax receipts, state deficits are mounting fast. Among the 21 states that have already made estimates, 14 expect shortfalls totalling $29 billion in the next fiscal year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Poster child of the new hard times is California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggests cutting (even in the face of rising costs) virtually every state program by 10 percent -- K-12 education to child care subsidies, public parks and beaches to doctors who care for the poor.
And in New Jersey, which faces a $3.5 billion shortfall and has accumulated a staggering $32 billion debt over recent years, Gov. Jon Corzine wants to increase fees on toll roads and issue up to $38 billion in bonds against future toll revenue.
But there’s a limit to revenue gimmicks -- in time all of the bills have to be paid. And the coming recession may be harder than ever to reverse because property taxes, a point of stability before, are now declining with foreclosures and declining value. What’s more, rising energy prices are taking a big bite out of the economy.
Check the spending side and there’s cause for alarm, too. Many states have never fully recovered from the sharp cutbacks they made in education, health coverage and child care in response to the economic slump of 2001-2004 that was triggered by the technology stock slump and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And inflation is driving up the cost of government services.
So should governments just slash their budgets willy-nilly, hoping for a better day?
No. That’s the firm opinion of Stephen Levy, director for the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto. Levy focuses his argument on California, but it fits most of the country. We have strong growth sectors in Internet services, biotechnology, trade, finance and entertainment. But with a tidal wave of skilled baby-boomers soon to retire, our workforce will include fast-rising numbers of Latino and Asian immigrants, their children and grandchildren -- many of them lagging in the critical educational skills needed in a high-tech, intensely competitive global economy.
So California, Levy suggests, shouldn’t take the huge risk to its schools of a $5 billion cut under the Schwarzenegger budget. California can only compete successfully, he argues, if it invests more -- not less -- in education. Plus, like the entire U.S., California needs to invest in badly lagging infrastructure.
“The battle for economic growth is not a civil war among the states any more,” note Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene in Governing magazine. Rather, it’s competing with fast-rising, low-wage nations such as India and China. Which means our only chances are in innovation, productivity, marketing and entrepreneurship -- all requiring top level educational skills.
But look what California has done. From 1984 to 2008, it let its per capita spending on prisons increase 126 percent, while its per capita spending on its public universities -- once its claim to world fame -- declined 12 percent. “Prisons,” the Sacramento Bee editorializes, “are sucking the life out of higher education in this state -- and thwarting the aims of economic advancement and social mobility.”
So what’s Schwarzenegger’s solution? Shorten sentences of 28,000 prisoners, saving $1 billion by the next budget year -- but still go ahead with his program to build 53,000 new cells at a numbing cost of $15 billion for construction and debt service.
Even while California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer suggests eliminating all state support for the University of California system!
A sane California, Levy argues, would raise taxes $7 billion this year, recession notwithstanding. The increase would be about one penny out of every $2 that Californians -- whose aggregate income is some $1.5 trillion -- actually earn. The collective family of California, he suggests, can take the one cent from eating out or buying a fancy car and put it into education -- a small enough sacrifice compared to the kinds of tough decisions our grandparents had to make during the Great Depression.
Talk about going against today’s political grain! But if there’s to be a promising California (and American) future, sufficient funds to invest in the future aren’t just some nice idea. They’re indispensable.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
by Allison Aubrey
Limiting caffeine during pregnancy is standard advice. But a new study, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, sheds light on how much may be too much.
The study, led by Kaiser Permanente reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist De-Kun Li, included about 1,000 women from the San Francisco Bay region. What's unique is that researchers had the women write down how much coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas they were drinking, starting in the earliest weeks of their pregnancy. Most of the women were in their late 20s to mid-30s.
"They were recruited very early in pregnancy from a pregnancy test," explains Tracy Flanagan, director of Women's Health at Kaiser Permanente's Northern California region. So the researchers had really complete miscarriage data.
Women who consumed 200 milligrams or more of caffeine per day had twice the miscarriage risk as women who consumed no caffeine, the study concluded.
"What's really interesting about the study," says Flanagan, "is that so many causes of miscarriage are not alterable by lifestyle or anything a woman can do. So, cutting out caffeine can be a pretty easy thing to do for the first three or four months of pregnancy, when the miscarriage rate is the highest."
Many studies have found a link between high caffeine intake and miscarriages.
But this study evaluated the risk of just 200 milligrams or more of caffeine a day.
Looking at the findings, Flanagan says it can be tricky to translate them into easy advice for women.
If you stick to the idea of limiting consumption to just one caffeinated drink a day, it doesn't take into account all the variation in caffeine concentration and serving sizes, too.
Take for instance, a standard cup of auto-drip coffee. An 8-ounce mug will have roughly 140 milligrams of caffeine.
"But most people don't actually measure out a measuring cup of coffee," says Flanagan. "And how it's brewed makes a difference, too."
There's variation in the caffeine concentration of beans as well.
If your morning starts with a stop at Starbucks, one tall coffee has roughly 240 milligrams of caffeine.
For women who want to taper down their caffeine intake, green tea is one option.
It typically has about 25 milligrams per cup.
Regular tea has a little more, with 45 to 50 milligrams per 8 ounces. Most caffeinated colas or soft drinks have about 35 milligrams in a 12-ounce can.
Drinking one of these a day is a way to limit caffeine. The other option, for pregnant women, or for those trying to become pregnant, is just to give up caffeine, cold turkey.
Tammy Plotkin-Oren, a 35-year-old financial-planner from San Francisco, says she definitely missed the morning rush when she gave up coffee.
But she says switching to herbal tea was the obvious choice for her. She explains her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
"I remember asking a lot of questions, 'Is it something that I did? What can I do differently so that it won't happen again?'" she says.
She had already cut out alcohol, and wasn't a smoker, so eliminating caffeine was the change she could make.
"I made the decision that I was going to do anything that I had control over. So it was very black and white. It was like — no more caffeine, done," says Plotkin-Oren.
Three healthy children later, she says giving up caffeine clearly wasn't much of a sacrifice.
How Much Caffeine?
New research shows that consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine a day can double a pregnant woman's chances of miscarriage. Below, some common servings of drinks and food, and how many milligrams of caffeine they contain.
Coffee & Energy Drinks
Starbucks Latte, 16 oz.: 150 mg
Coffee, brewed, 8 oz.: 95 mg
Red Bull, 8.3 oz.: 76 mg
Espresso, 1 oz.: 64 mg
Instant coffee, 8 oz.: 64 mg
Coffee, decaf, brewed, 8 oz.: 2 mg
An 8-ounce mug of auto-drip coffee has roughly 140 milligrams of caffeine.
Black tea, 8 oz.: 47 mg
Green tea, 8 oz.: 30-50 mg
Herbal tea, 8 oz.: 0 mg
Mountain Dew, 12 oz.: 54 mg
Diet Coke, 12 oz.: 47 mg
Dr Pepper, 12 oz.: 41 mg
Pepsi, 12 oz.: 38 mg
Diet Pepsi, 12 oz.: 35 mg
Coca-Cola Classic, 12 oz.: 35 mg
Barq's Root Beer, 12 oz.: 23
7Up/Sprite, 12 oz.: 0 mg
Excedrin, Extra Strength, 2 tablets: 130 mg
Hershey's Chocolate Bar, 1.55 oz.: 9 mg
Hot cocoa, 8 oz.: 8 mg
Chocolate milk, 8 oz.: 6 mg
Sources: USDA Nutrient Database, MayoClinic.com
From The Times
December 8, 2007
Mrs Darwin, who initially claimed that she thought her husband was dead until he walked into a police station last Saturday, now says that he began to plan his disappearing act in the beginning of 2002, when the couple were tens of thousands of pounds in debt.
However, she insisted that she believed that he had perished in a canoeing accident until he shocked her by knocking on her door just under a year later. Related Links
* Darwin ‘hoped to offer canoe holidays’
After a few days of “arguments and recriminations”, she told the Daily Mail, she became complicit in the scam and began living with her husband again.
She said that she was “on eggshells” when visitors — including their grieving sons — came to visit, and her spouse reportedly slipped through a wardrobe into the passageway and escaped into his hideaway.
The couple purchased the adjoining properties, at No 4 and No 3 The Cliff, in Seaton Carew, 15 months before Mr Darwin disappeared.
The Sun claimed that a 5ft high hole in the wall allowed Mr Darwin to emerge from a room at No 4 The Cliff and slip back into the master bedroom in the couple’s home at No 3.
An 18 inch wide connecting passageway was hidden behind a makeshift wardrobe with a false plywood back, the newspaper claimed.
John Duffield, the new owner of No 3, told how he found the secret passageway on Thursday: “It’s like something from [The Chronicles of] Narnia — The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . . . to think the bloke has been living just feet from his wife — it’s mind-bloggling.”
Mrs Darwin last night admitted that the couple were living as man and wife when an inquest had declared Mr Darwin, who is being questioned by police on suspicion of fraud, to be dead.
She said:. “I was always on eggshells when friends and family came to stay in case someone wandered into John’s room and saw him.”
Mrs Darwin has fled her new life in Panama and is believed to be travelling back to England, where she faces arrest.
At Seaton Carew the Darwins lived in one house and rented out 15 bedsits from the adjoining property, funding the venture with a £245,000 business loan. But the couple ran into problems with the business.
Mrs Darwin said her husband believed that the only way out of the mess was for him to “die” and for her to cash in on the life insurance. She told the Daily Mail that she knew her husband was alive when she cashed in on the £25,000 life insurance policy, and had their £130,000 mortgage paid off by another life policy.
Mrs Darwin said Mr Darwin would “come and go” for the first three months after he turned up, before moving back in for good.
“John said that if we got the money from the insurance payouts and cleared our debt, we could find a way back and then we could start over again.”
Mrs Darwin said the pair settled on Panama simply because her husband liked the look of it.
“Out there I didn’t feel like I was living a lie, we had freedom to go about the place as a couple and I felt normal for the first time in years.”
She said that her husband returned to England and turned himself in to police, claiming that he could not remember what he had been doing for the past five years, because he missed his sons.
“He had had enough of being dead. I think he thought he would get away with it, and he would come back and we would live happily ever after.”
Saturday, January 19, 2008
by Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater
Weekend Edition Saturday, January 19, 2008
In Calef Brown's quirky world for children, mosquitoes wear tuxedoes, dogs sport plaid suits and thunder is a cafe staple.
Brown, an acclaimed author and illustrator of four children's books, brings these images to life in his wacky new collection of poems and paintings, Flamingos on a Roof. He creates a carefree world in a variety of rhymed meters that are full of alliteration, frivolity and fun. Known for his eccentric poetry collections, including Polkabats and Octopus Slacks, Brown's imaginative humor shines through in 29 new notable poems.
In one poem, "Weatherbee's Diner," Brown paints a cheerful diner — clad in a yellow rain slicker — waiting for the day's stormy servings:
Whenever you're looking for something to eat,
Weatherbee's Diner is just down the street.
Start off your meal with a bottle of rain.
Fog on the glass is imported from Maine.
The thunder is wonderful, order it loud,
with sun-dried tornado on top of a cloud.
Snow flurry curry is also a treat.
It's loaded with lightening and slathered in sleet.
Cyclones with hailstones are great for dessert,
but only have one or your belly will hurt.
Regardless of whether it's chilly or warm,
at Weatherbee's Diner they cook up a storm!
Children of all ages can test their tongues with witty wordplay in "Allicatter Gatorpillar," where a creature that is half alligator, half caterpillar sings songs and bares his teeth. In another poem, "Sally," children are introduced to Medusa's sister who has a "single lazy snake" where her hair should be. Each poem has an abstract illustration that draws in the reader's eye, expanding on the story within.
Scott Simon and Daniel Pinkwater read some of their favorite poems from Brown's new book.
To Listen to Audio Click Here.
For Release Sunday, January 20, 2008
© 2008 Washington Post Writers Group
By Neal Peirce
There’s some heartening news. Growing numbers of corporations and governments around the world are increasing investments in conserving, imaginative new technologies. The new wave is a fast-growing phenomenon, even if, to date, the pathbreaking new approaches are definitely more the exception than the rule.
But there’s a huge hurdle in the way: the unfettered consumer economy we Americans have lived (and profited) by. Now our incessant hunger for constantly increased goods, more energy use, more autos, more living space, is being mirrored worldwide. It’s cresting with special and alarming drama in the huge rising economies of such nations as India and China.
The grim bottom line: Without radical protective measures, in this country and worldwide, the 21st century is likely to deliver collapsing economies and widespread environmental disasters.
You’d think that message, delivered last week by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute in its carefully constructed “2008 State of the World” report, would grab the attention of the American media. The issues aren’t trivial: they’re core survival questions for this country and globe.
Click photo to enlarge.
One is tempted to say that we Americans, collectively, are holding our heads in the sand, aroused by mortgage market woes and a brewing recession, preoccupied by a presidential election, yet largely oblivious to the mega-global issues on which our entire survival may depend.
The core problem: we still believe in the prevailing economic calculus of the last two centuries -- that natural resources, from water and air to energy, are limitless. So we assume it’s OK to measure our welfare by money terms alone. The big measure is Gross Domestic Product that ignores environmental welfare, human welfare, anything without a pricetag.
But this economic model, Worldwatch president Christopher Flavin notes, “will not survive the 21st century.” With global warming and exponential world demand for more natural resources, “the limits are reached more abruptly and catastrophically than even the best scientists” can accurately predict.
The World Economic Forum has identified 23 major risks, many of them environmental, to the global economy. Nicholas Stern’s 2007 report to the British government suggested climate change alone could reduce world economic output by 5 to 20 percent a year, comparable to the impact of a Great Depression or a World War.
So where’s hope? It’s in a new sustainable economics that relies on market principles but saves scarce resources and accounts for the value of nature’s services, says Worldwatch.
Government’s role is crucial. The Worldwatch analysts note mounting signs of expanded city, state and (hopefully soon) federal action to recycle, promote compact communities and less driving, and move from fossil fuels to renewable resources. Cities and states are now the cutting edge of U.S. efforts to cut greenhouse emissions.
But equal if not greater, unprecedented change is appearing in business. Over $100 billion of private capital now flows yearly to environmental projects. CitiGroup (at least until its recent liquidity crisis) was promising to spend $50 billion to address climate change over the next decade. Goldman Sachs invested $1.5 billion in renewable energy in 2006. Global investment in new energy technologies grew 43 percent last year, to $71 billion.
And companies are learning radical ways to cut waste -- for example Atlanta-based Interface, the world’s largest industrial carpet maker, which uses solar and wind power in place of fossil fuels and practices “biomimicry” -- copying patterns from nature -- to reduce product costs. CEO Ray Andersen’s goal: recycling all materials Interface uses, for total sustainability by 2020.
Even in China, whose rapid growth threatens massive damage to the world environment, clean technology investments jumped 147 percent between 2005 and 2006. China’s waking up and taking strong steps, says Flavin. He predicts it will lead the world renewable energy market within three years. And he welcomes China’s just-announced ban on lightweight plastic shopping bags, which take some 300 years to photodegrade, clog landfills, mar landscapes and often kill animals and sealife.
So while there’s overwhelming scientific evidence of grim environmental degradation that threatens world economies, there’s also, Flavin says, “an unprecedented wave of innovation rising to meet the threats.”
Is the innovation enough? “The jury is out,” he concludes, “as to whether we will make it.”
Memo to U.S. media: If that’s not a story worth printing, what is?
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Some consumers would like to receive less advertising mail at home. Mail Preference Service (MPS) is designed to assist those consumers in decreasing the amount of national nonprofit or commercial mail they receive at home. You can register online, or via mail.
- How to get your name off telemarketing lists.
As of November 1, 2006 the Telephone Preference Service (TPS), a do-not-call service operated by DMA, has stopped registering consumers except for residents of PA, ME, and WY. If you live in one of these states, you can register online. Otherwise, please contact the Federal Trade Commission's National Do Not Call Registry at or by phone at 1-888-382-1222.
- How to get your name off e-mail lists.
Sponsored by the Direct Marketing Association, this service allows consumers to indicate that they wish to reduce the amount of unsolicited commercial e-mail they receive. Consumers register and, for security purposes, re-confirm their individual registration with the e-Mail Preference Service (e-MPS).
- How to remove deceased individuals names from marketing lists.
The DMA sometimes receives calls from family members, friends or caretakers seeking to remove the names of deceased individuals from commercial marketing lists. To assist those who are managing this process the DMA has created a new Deceased Do Not Contact List (DDNC).
- Removing the names of individuals in your care from marketing lists.
The DMA sometimes receives calls from family members, friends or caretakers seeking to remove the names of individuals in their care from commercial marketing lists. To assist those who are managing this process the DMA has created a new Do Not Contact for Caregivers List (DNCC).
- How to protect your identity from being stolen
Despite your best efforts to manage the flow of your personal information, identity thieves may try a variety of methods to gain access to your data. DMA provides this guide to help you minimize your risk of being a victim of identity theft.
- What to do if your identity has been stolen.
If you are a victim of identity theft, this guide provides resources and steps you can take to correct and protect your personal information.
Sweepstakes: What to know before you enter to win.
This guide can be used when responding to sweepstakes offers and for recognizing the difference between legitimate sweepstakes, other types of offers, such as prize promotions, and illegitimate promotions which misrepresent themselves and seek to defraud.
- Sweepstakes assistance: for those who care for older consumers
Legitimate marketers want to help in identifying those consumers who exhibit behavior that suggests they may be making too many, unusual, or sweepstakes related purchases. In this Action Line Report, The DMA offers assistance to caregivers who may be faced with this issue.
- Make Knowledge Your Partner in Mail or Telephone Order Shopping
Some guidelines that will help you when shopping by mail or telephone:
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
By Katrina V. Dayrit
Click on Photo to Enlarge
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
While at the seminary, King was elected president of the student body, which was almost exclusively white. A Crozer professor wrote in a letter of recommendation for King, "The fact that with our student body largely Southern in constitution a colored man should be elected to and be popular [in] such a position is in itself no mean recommendation."
It was 1955, early in King's new tenure as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on one of that city's busses. King was elected to lead the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was formed with the intention of boycotting the transit system. He was young, only 26, and he knew his family connections and professional standing would help him find another pastorate should the boycott fail. So he accepted.
In his first speech to the group as its president, King said: "We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice."
The boycott worked, and King saw the opportunity for more change. He formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which provided him a national platform. For the next 13 years, King worked to peacefully end segregation. In 1963, he joined other civil rights leaders in the March on Washington—that's where he gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.
The following year, the Civil Rights Act was passed, and King earned the Nobel Prize for Peace. In his acceptance speech for that prize he said, "I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind."
Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, was assassinated almost four years later, in Memphis. He was there to support a strike by the city's sanitation workers, and had told them the night before a sniper shot him dead on his hotel-room balcony: "I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land."
From the Writer's Almanac
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Edward Salo, of Mandeville, La., writes: “At work I have noticed my European colleagues making slips with phrases, such as rules of thump for rules of thumb and fuzz factor for fudge factor. These phrases get through e-mail and PowerPoint spell-checkers and sound nearly correct. An Internet search for rules of thump returns numerous entries—is it actually a slip? I hesitate to correct my co-workers, as I am growing rather fond of rules of thump.”
If you search for rules (or rule) of thump in writing vetted by professional editors—for instance, in Google News—you’ll stop doubting it’s a mistake. The phrase is rare in edited media. But please don’t ask me how to explain to your colleagues why the correct expression is rule of thumb.
That is to say, for all that’s known about the origin of rule of thumb, the expression might as well be rule of thump. The reason it’s not is that it’s not.
Robot itself comes from Czech robota, “servitude, forced labor,” from rab, “slave.”
The Slavic root behind robota is orb–, from the Indo-European root *orbh–, referring to separation from one's group or passing out of one sphere of ownership into another. This seems to be the sense that binds together its somewhat diverse group of derivatives, which includes Greek orphanos, “orphan,” Latin orbus, “orphaned,” and German Erbe.
Robota is also similar to another German derivative of this root, namely Arbeit, “work” (its Middle High German form arabeit is even more like the Czech word). Arbeit may be descended from a word that meant “slave labor,” and later generalized to just “labor.” “inheritance,” in addition to the Slavic word for slave mentioned above. Czech
Some of what we do, we do
to make things happen,
the alarm to wake us up, the coffee to perc,
the car to start.
The rest of what we do, we do
trying to keep something from doing something
the skin from aging, the hoe from rusting,
the truth from getting out.
With yes and no like the poles of a battery
powering our passage through the days,
we move, as we call it, forward,
wanting to be wanted,
wanting not to lose the rain forest,
wanting the water to boil,
wanting not to have cancer,
wanting to be home by dark,
wanting not to run out of gas,
as each of us wants the other
watching at the end,
as both want not to leave the other alone,
as wanting to love beyond this meat and bone,
we gaze across breakfast and pretend.
From the Writer's Almanac
Conducting is Gregory Vajda (charming, amusing and vivacious)
Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun (soothing).
Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice (short and amusing)
Saturday, January 12, 2008
January 12, 2008 - Fifty years ago, Daniel Pollack was a graduate student in piano studies at Vienna's prestigious Hochschule fur Musik. One day, he noticed a sign on the bulletin board about a piano competition in Moscow, and he decided to enter.
Another American, Van Cliburn, won the top prize, helping to make both the award and himself famous. But the 23-year-old Pollack won a prize, too, and he was invited to tour all over the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. He also became the first American to record an album for the Soviet Melodya label.
Pollack nearly dropped out of the competition. On his first night in Moscow, dining with fellow contestants, he found out that he had prepared the wrong repertoire for the competition. His professor back in Vienna had misread the entry requirements.
Pollack felt he should withdraw.
"After a night of terror," Pollack says, "I went to Dmitri Shostakovich, then-chairman of the competition, and said I wished to resign. But he simply would not hear of it, citing that as an American, it would provoke an incident."
Pollack and Cliburn advanced through the rounds. Eventually, the finals of the very first Tchaikovsky Competition, held in the Soviet capital, seemed to be a battle between two Americans.
Cliburn came out on top. Pollack landed in eighth place.
"The competition made an immediate difference in my career," Pollack says. "Whereas Van came back to a ticker-tape parade in the U.S., I was invited to stay on in the Soviet Union for another three weeks of concerts and recordings. That was the beginning of a 40-year love affair with the Russian public."
Pollack's Soviet odyssey has come full circle. In 1986, he served as vice-chairman of the Tchaikovsky Competition, and as a pianist, he's returned to tour the Soviet Union and Russia 15 times.
Pollack's career is still going strong. He performs, records, and gives master classes. He is also professor of piano at the Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles.
Friday, January 11, 2008
1. Is my forgetfulness just aging or am I getting Alzheimer's disease?
2. How do I tell the difference?
There are clear answers to these questions that help you understand normal and abnormal memory loss. Read on.
Question 1: Is my forgetfulness just aging or am I getting Alzheimer's disease or something similar?
With normal aging, your attention span, or working memory, declines. With Alzheimer's disease and many other conditions, a specific type of memory, called short-term memory declines early on. Following are definitions of three types of memory:
* Working memory is the scratch pad in your brain that allows you to follow a conversation, enjoy a movie, read a book, think through a thought, or finish a difficult task. If you have ever walked into a room and forgotten why you entered it, you have experienced the decline in working memory with normal aging. Working memory is controlled in the frontal part of your brain and declines with normal aging.
* Short-Term Memory stores recently learned information, such as an interesting comment you heard or an important idea you recently learned for your job. It is like a tape recorder that can replay recently learned information for about two weeks, then erases. Anything you remember for more than two weeks passes into long-term memory, which is controlled in a different brain area. Short-term memory is controlled in the temporal lobe on the side of your brain, and declines first in Alzheimer's disease and related disorders.
* Long-Term Memory can store your life's knowledge for as long as you live. People (and their doctors) often think that because they can remember detailed events in their past (more than two weeks ago), that they don't have Alzheimer's disease. However, Alzheimer's disease does not affect long-term memory until a much later stage of the disease.
Question 2: How do I tell the difference between memory decline due to normal aging and that due to Alzheimer's disease or something similar?
After age 50, regular memory checkups can help differentiate between normal memory loss and Alzheimer's disease or a related condition. Regular memory checkups can assure you that your memory changes are part of normal aging as well as detect problems early when they are most treatable.
Objective tests of mental abilities are used to confirm cognitive impairment as well as to help diagnose its cause. Of the cognitive functions impaired in Alzheimer's disease, short-term memory loss is one of the first. Therefore tests of short-term memory loss can identify Alzheimer's disease at its earliest stages. Your physician or a recommended neuropsychologist should also be able to conduct professional testing.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
By Neal Peirce
The prognosis is not favorable. Sub-prime lending -- high-interest rate mortgages with rates that suddenly escalate after a few years, forcing often naive and unprepared homeowners to default -- is taking a heavy toll. Houses vacated by foreclosures are deteriorating into eyesores, encouraging crime, depressing property values, costing localities revenues they need for schools, police, other vital services.
Some Northeastern cities -- Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh among them -- are said to be the hardest hit of all. Among the states. Florida, California and Indiana are registering the most foreclosures.
But the pain’s being felt nationwide. The U.S. Conference of Mayors projects the weak housing market and large inventory of unsold homes may reduce cumulative U.S. home values by $1.2 trillion this year.
Is there a villain in this story? Yes, and he’s hidden in plain sight: a heavily lobbied federal government that lost sight of ordinary Americans’ interests.
That’s the story told in The American Prospect magazine by John Atlas of the National Housing Institute and Peter Dreier, a professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles. The problem, they say, is that Washington succumbed to pressure from Wall Street and other financial players and deregulated a once stable, smoothly-functioning American housing finance market. And that the only way out is a U-turn, back to circa 1970 in national regulation.
The history’s illuminating. The ravages of the Depression triggered a range of bank regulations and agencies to protect consumers, among them the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Bank System, Fannie Mae and the Federal Housing Administration. The savings-and-loan industry was highly regulated, its mission to take peoples’ deposits and use them exclusively for home mortgages. Washington also insured loans through the FDIC, created a secondary market to keep capital flowing, and required savings and loans to make predictable 30-year fixed-rate loans. Homeownership soared and there were few foreclosures.
But in the early 1980s, the politically powerful lending industry convinced Congress to eliminate interest-rate caps and loosen mortgage controls. The S&Ls got permission to compete with conventional banks, then began a decade-long orgy of real estate speculation. Banks and S&Ls started devouring each other and making loans for shopping malls, golf courses and condo projects with scant financial logic. Result: by the late ‘80s hundreds of banks and S&Ls went under and the federal government had to step in to bail out depositors.
In the aftermath, with stable S&Ls vanished and federal controls emasculated, a giant “financial services” industry of banks, insurance companies, credit card firms and other money lenders emerged. Mortgage brokers, Atlas and Dreier charge, become “the street hustlers of the lending world,” making a fee for each borrower they recruited and handed over to a mortgage lender -- often collecting an extra fee in return for negotiating an inflated interest rate.
Large mortgage finance companies began to make massive profits on sub-prime loans. Wall Street in recent years created special investment units to buy up those mortgages from the lenders, bundling them into mortgage-backed securities and selling them (at fat fees) to unsuspecting investors around the world.
But when thousands of the unregulated mortgages started to go south, the present collapse was triggered, with billion-dollar losses for Wall Street firms and dark clouds across all mortgage lending.
So how should we recover? President Bush’s so-called interest rate “freeze,” announced in November, is hardly the answer. It’s entirely voluntary and is projected to apply to only 12 percent of the mortgage holders that are likely to have severe difficulty making their monthly payments, including none of those already in default in 2007..
Some better ideas are before Congress, including a recently House-passed bill that requires lenders to verify all applicants’ income and document their creditworthiness. Mortgage companies and brokers would have to be licensed, like stockbrokers and insurance brokers.
But Dreier tells me he’d go further -- for example simply forbid adjustable-rate mortgages because they’re just as risky, he insists, as playing the stock market. And he’d strengthen non-profit lenders like the federally-chartered Neighborhood Housing Services of America. NHS has made thousands of loans to low-income borrowers with an enviable delinquency rate of just 3.34 percent -- mostly because it requires every borrower to take its strong mortgage education program before and after a loan is made.
“Daylighting” the lending process, putting tight rules on all mortgage lending? Would those moves be too restrictive, harm our free market? No way, I’d say. Strong regulations led post-World War II America toward world-leading homeownership rates and an expansive economy. Capitalism works best with clear rules. Let’s go back there.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
by John Nielsen
Weekend Edition Saturday, December 22, 2007 ·
Click here to listen to story and see what type of frog Gilly is.
January 9th, 2008 by Mr. Mai Tai
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