Friday, November 28, 2014

"A Look to the Heavens"

“Namibia has some of the darkest nights visible from any continent. It is therefore home to some of the more spectacular skyscapes, a few of which have been captured in the below time-lapse video. We recommend watching this video at FULL SCREEN (1080p), with audio on. The night sky of Namibia is one of the best in the world, about the same quality of the deserts of Chile and Australia. 


Visible at the movie start are unusual quiver trees perched before a deep starfield highlighted by the central band of our Milky Way Galaxy. This bright band of stars and gas appears to pivot around the celestial south pole as our Earth rotates. The remains of camel thorn trees are then seen against a sky that includes a fuzzy patch on the far right that is the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small satellite galaxy to the Milky Way. A bright sunlight-reflecting satellite passes quickly overhead. Quiver trees appear again, now showing their unusual trunks, while the Small Magellanic Cloud becomes clearly visible in the background. Artificial lights illuminate a mist that surround camel thorn trees in Deadvlei. In the final sequence, natural Namibian stone arches are captured against the advancing shadows of the setting moon. This video incorporates over 16,000 images shot over two years, and won top honors among the 2012 Travel Photographer of the Year awards.”

"The Future..."

"We do not rest satisfied with the present. We anticipate the future as too slow in coming, as if in order to hasten its course; or we recall the past, to stop its too rapid flight. So imprudent are we that we wander in the times which are not ours, and do not think of the only one which belongs to us; and so idle are we that we dream of those times which are no more, and thoughtlessly overlook that which alone exists. For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future, and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching. Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so."
- Blaise Pascal

The Poet: William Stafford, "Ask Me"

"Ask Me"
by William Stafford

"Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden, and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say."

"The Hyphen..."

"Life is the hyphen between matter and spirit."

~A.W. and J.C. Hare, 
"Guesses at Truth, by Two Brothers," 1827

Chet Raymo, "Experimental Philosophy and the Problem of Free Will"

"Experimental Philosophy and the Problem of Free Will"
 by Chet Raymo

“That was the title of an article in the March 18 issue of "Science." What, I wondered, is experimental philosophy? If it's experimental - that is, based on reproducible empirical data - then it's science. And what new, pray, might philosophy - experimental or otherwise - have to say about free will? I read eagerly.

The author begins by saying that most central philosophical problems concerning free will, morality and consciousness are notorious for their resilience, many of them stretching back to the earliest days of philosophy. In this he is certainly correct. In more than two thousand years, philosophy has contributed precisely nothing to the problem of free will, except to state the problem: Are our actions free or determined, and is freedom necessary for moral culpability?

So what might this new discipline - experimental philosophy - contribute? I quote at random: "According to one hypothesis, the internal motoric signals that cause behavior also generate a prediction about imminent bodily movement, and this prediction is compared to the actual sensory information of bodily motion. If the predicted movement conforms to the sensory information, then one gets the feeling of agency; otherwise the movement is likely to feel involuntary."

Or: If I feel like an action was free, then I think it was free. At least, I think that's what it means.

In general, this rather long article says virtually nothing about free will. Rather, it compiles data - using the methods of the social sciences - on what people think about freedom and moral responsibility. Whether you call this "experimental philosophy" or "experimental psychology" probably depends on which academic department you're employed by.

Anyway, back to the "problem". If I choose at this moment to kick the cat, is that action intrinsically free, or is it determined by some accumulative chain of cause and effect - including prior mental states - over which some hypothesized autonomous "self" has no control? And, if the latter, am I morally responsible for my action?

No one knows the answer to the first question. Whatever concantations of causality may determine my conscious actions is far too complex to be amenable - at this point in time - to experimental analysis. An outside observer cannot predict with certainty whether or not I will kick the cat, even if that action is in fact entirely determined. There are simply too many undetermined variables. Massively complex causal determination is not what philosophers traditionally meant by free will, but it is indistinguishable from what philosophers traditionally meant by free will. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then - for all practical purposes - it's a duck.

And the second question? Moral responsibility is a social construct, not a scientific hypothesis. Humans discovered long ago that living peaceably in groups required a notion of individual responsibility. Responsibility implies freedom, real or effective. Society negotiates responsibility.

If there is such a thing as "experimental philosophy," problems of free will, consciousness and morality are presently beyond its reach. Lots more groundwork will need to be done - in neurobiology, artificial intelligence, and so on - before these perennial problems are tractable to experimental solution."

"Wandering Through Life..."

"One wanders through life as if wandering through a field in the dark of night, 
wearing a blindfold and very heavy shoes, with a poisonous toad waiting patiently
beneath a clump of weeds, knowing full well that eventually you will step on him."
 ~ Lemony Snicket

The Daily "Near You?"

Perrinton, Michigan, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Infinite Distances..."

“Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human 
beings infinite distances continue, a wonderful living side by side can grow,
if they succeed in loving the distance between them which 
makes it possible for each to see the other whole against the sky.”
- Rainer Maria Rilke

“Nevada's Mysterious Cave of the Red-haired Giants”

“Nevada's Mysterious Cave of the Red-haired Giants”
by Terrence Ayn

“Many Native American tribes from the Northeast and Southwest still relate the legends of the red-haired giants and how their ancestors fought terrible, protracted wars against the giants when they first encountered them in North America almost 15,000 years ago. Others, like the Aztecs and Mayans, recorded their encounters with a race of giants to the north when they ventured out on exploratory expeditions.

Who were these red-haired giants that history books have ignored? Their burial sites and remains have been discovered on almost every continent. In the United States they have been unearthed in Virginia and New York state, Michigan, Illinois and Tennessee, Arizona and Nevada. And it's the state of Nevada that the story of the native Paiute's wars against the giant red-haired men transformed from a local myth to a scientific reality during 1924 when the Lovelock Caves were excavated.

At one time the Lovelock Cave was known as Horseshoe cave because of its U-shaped interior. The cavern - located about 20 miles south of modern day Lovelock, Nevada, is approximately 40-feet deep and 60-feet wide. It's a very old cave that pre-dates humans on this continent. In prehistoric times it lay underneath a giant inland lake called Lahontan that covered much of western Nevada. Geologists have determined the cavern was formed by the lake's currents and wave action.

The legend: The Paiutes, a Native-American tribe indigenous to parts of Nevada, Utah and Arizona, told early white settlers about their ancestors' battles with a ferocious race of white, red-haired giants. According to the Paiutes, the giants were already living in the area. The Paiutes named the giants "Si-Te-Cah" that literally means "tule-eaters." The tule is a fibrous water plant the giants wove into rafts to escape the Paiutes continuous attacks. They used the rafts to navigate across what remained of Lake Lahontan. According to the Paiutes, the red-haired giants stood as tall as 12-feet and were a vicious, unapproachable people that killed and ate captured Paiutes as food.

The Paiutes told the early settlers that after many years of warfare, all the tribes in the area finally joined together to rid themselves of the giants. One day as they chased down the few remaining red-haired enemy, the fleeing giants took refuge in a cave. The tribal warriors demanded their enemy come out and fight, but the giants steadfastly refused to leave their sanctuary. Frustrated at not defeating their enemy with honor, the tribal chiefs had warriors fill the entrance to the cavern with brush and then set it on fire in a bid to force the giants out of the cave. The few that did emerge were instantly slain with volleys of arrows. The giants that remained inside the cavern were asphyxiated. Later, an earthquake rocked the region and the cave entrance collapsed leaving only enough room for bats to enter it and make it their home.

The excavation: Thousands of years later the cave was rediscovered and found to be loaded with bat guano almost 6-feet deep. Decaying bat guano becomes saltpeter, the chief ingredient of gunpowder, and was very valuable. Therefore, in 1911 a company was created specifically to mine the guano. As the mining operation progressed, skeletons and fossils were found. The guano was mined for almost 13 years before archaeologists were notified about the findings. Unfortunately, by then many of the artifacts had been accidentally destroyed or simply discarded.

Nevertheless, what the scientific researchers did recover was staggering: over 10,000 artifacts were unearthed including the mummified remains of two red-haired giants - one, a female 6.5-feet tall, the other male, over 8-feet tall. Many of the artifacts (but not the giants) can be viewed at the small natural history museum located in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Confirmation of the myth: As the excavation of the cave progressed, the archaeologists came to the inescapable conclusion that the Paiutes myth was no myth; it was true. What led them to this realization was the discovery of many broken arrows that had been shot into the cave and a dark layer of burned material under sections of the overlaying guano. Among the thousands of artifacts recovered from this site of an unknown people is what some scientists are convinced is a calendar: a donut-shaped stone with exactly 365 notches carved along its outside rim and 52 corresponding notches along the inside. But that was not to be the final chapter of red-haired giants in Nevada.

In February and June of 1931, two very large skeletons were found in the Humboldt dry lake bed near Lovelock, Nevada. One of the skeletons measured 8.5-feet tall and was later described as having been wrapped in a gum-covered fabric similar to Egyptian mummies. The other was nearly 10-feet long. [Nevada Review-Miner newspaper, June 19, 1931.]"
- http://www.sott.net/

 The Lovelock Caves website is here:

“The Origins of Human Language”

“The Origins of Human Language”
by the Huffington Post

“Human language arose in southern Africa, a study in "Science" magazine claims. Language then spread across the globe through human migration. The claim complements fossil findings that point to southern Africa as the birthplace of modern humans.

According to the Washington Post, researcher Quentin Atkinson of the University of Auckland in New Zealand conducted the study by breaking down 504 languages into their smallest components, called phonemes. As the Post explains, the words "rip" and "lip" are separated by one phoneme, "one corresponding to the letter 'r' and the other to the letter 'l.'" Atkinson then looked at the diversity of phonemes throughout the world and found that the farther a people would have travelled from Africa, the fewer phonemes in their language. This means that, as predicted by the study, languages in South America and the Pacific Islands had the fewest phonemes, while African languages had the most.

As groups left Africa, the number of phonemes in their language decrease. As the process was repeated, the total number of phonemes in all the languages created decreased, according to USA Today. This is the same pattern that applies to human genetics. Reports the Post: “The pattern matches that for human genetic diversity: As a general rule, the farther one gets from Africa - widely accepted as the ancestral home of our species - the smaller the differences between individuals within a particular population.”

The study is unique because it attempts to look at language in the distant past. According to the New York Times, language is at least 50,000 years old, which corresponds with the diaspora of modern humans from Africa. However, because words evolve so quickly, linguists are skeptical of claims of language traces over 10,000 years old. Atkinson used "sophisticated statistical methods developed for constructing genetic trees based on DNA sequences" in order to draw his conclusions, according to the Times. While viewed with suspicion by some, these new methods are leading to new insights into human language. Linguist Brian D. Joseph of the University of Ohio told the Times, "I think we ought to take this seriously, although there are some who will dismiss it out of hand."

"No Reason..."

"Almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."
– Steve Jobs

"How It Really Is"

“The Fascinating Differences Between the Conservative and Liberal Personality”

“The Fascinating Differences Between 
the Conservative and Liberal Personality”
By Jared DeFife

"There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin," laments Linus van Pelt in a 1961 Peanuts comic strip. Yet in today's hyperpartisan political climate, religion and politics are obsessively debated, while the "American people" that politicians and reporters constantly refer to seem hopelessly divided. Meanwhile, psychologists are increasingly exploring the political arena, examining not just the ideological differences, but also the numerous factors - temperamental, developmental, biological, and situational - that contribute to the formation and maintenance of partisan political beliefs.

Personality differences are a leading candidate in the race toward understanding the rift between political liberals and conservatives. Using data compiled from nearly 20,000 respondents, Columbia University researcher Dana Carney and colleagues found that two common personality traits reliably differentiated individuals with liberal or conservative identifications. Liberals reported greater openness, whereas conservatives reported higher conscientiousness. This means that liberals (at least in their own estimation) saw themselves as more creative, flexible, tolerant of ambiguity, and open to new ideas and experiences. Across the political personality divide, conservatives self-identified as more persistent, orderly, moralistic, and methodical. These personality differences were even reflected in the bedroom belongings and offices or workspaces of ideological undergrads, with liberal students collecting more CDs, books, movie tickets, and travel paraphernalia, as opposed to their conservative peers, who showed more sports décor, U.S. flags, cleaning supplies, calendars, and uncomfortable furniture. Lest you think that the partisan personality is a uniquely American phenomenon, similar findings on personality and political ideology have emerged in samples across the globe, from North America, Europe, and Australia.

Evidence suggests that these personality differences between liberals and conservatives begin to emerge at an early age. A 20-year longitudinal study by Jack and Jeanne Block showed that those who grew up to be liberals were originally assessed by their preschool teachers as more emotionally expressive, gregarious, and impulsive when compared to those who became conservatives, who were considered more inhibited, uncertain, and controlled. Liberals may show greater tolerance for diversity and creativity, but they may also be more impulsive, indecisive, and irresponsible. On the flip side, conservatives may be organized, stable, and thrifty, but also have stronger just-world beliefs (leading to a greater tolerance for inequality), and stronger fears of mortality and ambiguity. Even recent neuroscience work published in Current Biology from University College London identifies fundamental differences in the partisan brain. Brain scans revealed a larger amygdala in self-identified conservatives and a larger anterior cingulate cortex in liberals, leading the researchers to conclude that conservatives may be more acute at detecting threats around them, whereas liberals may be more adept at handling conflicting information and uncertainty.

Some evidence suggests, however, that we aren't always so divided. In situations that remind people of death and mortality (such as terrorist attacks or implicitly primed images of funeral hearses and chalk body outlines) conservatives and liberals alike gravitate toward more conservative leaders and beliefs. By contrast, greater acceptance of liberal values occurs during events in which people feel disillusioned by government authorities and the politically powerful (such as the Vietnam War or after the 2008 housing crisis).

Of course, the field of psychology isn't immune to political biases and partisanship. Liberal psychology professors vastly outnumber their conservative counterparts by as much as 10 to 1 (perhaps conservatives have some justification for a general distrust of science and academia). A similar imbalance was found by Dyer Bilgrave and Robert Deluty in their 2002 survey of more than 200 clinical and counseling psychologists, published in the journal Psychotherapy. They also found that cognitive-behavioral therapists tended to hold more conservative religious and political beliefs than their more liberally oriented psychodynamic and humanistic-oriented colleagues. Other findings implicative for psychotherapy suggest that liberals and conservatives conceptualize different values in their family narratives, and that individuals fail to empathize completely with the nonpolitical concerns and problems of others if they're perceived as belonging to an opposing political party.

No matter which side of the couch they sit on, therapists are inevitably bound to confront political and moral issues in treatment. In research, practice, and training, therapists are expected to achieve the kind of bipartisan collaboration that politicians seem to only talk about. According to Bilgrave and Deluty, "therapists should ask themselves regularly how their religious and political beliefs, values, and attitudes may be influencing their practice of therapy-how they see clients and their problems, how they help clients frame and understand their concerns, and how and in which direction they encourage clients to act." But if our partisan personalities are deeply rooted in our early development and wired in our brains, is honest and thoughtful consideration of our own biases and predeterminations enough, or even possible? And when even your furniture choices betray your political persuasions, then what does your office tell patients about you?"
Sources: Partisan Personality: American Psychologist, 61, no. 7: 651-70; Current Biology, 21, no. 8: 677-80; Psychotherapy, 39, no. 3: 245-60.

Greg Hunter, “Weekly News Wrap-Up 11.28.14”

“Weekly News Wrap-Up 11.28.14” 
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com   

"I told you last week there would be no charges for the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown, and no charges were brought. Of course, there was rioting and violence, and that seems to be what was wanted.  The Governor of Missouri did not deploy the National Guard, and things got out of control. Was it done on purpose? One thing is for sure, this is NOT about race. The Obama Administration wants it to be; otherwise, he would not have sent Al Sharpton to Ferguson. This is about a very bad economy and an economy that is going to get much worse. Ferguson and all the protests around the country are a distraction. The undertone of the protesters’ narrative is that white people and white police are hunting down black men and killing them. This is outrageous and totally unsupported by fact. Statistically speaking, America does not have a white on black crime problem. Only 7.6% of blacks are killed by whites. Only 14% of whites are killed by blacks. Former NYC Mayor Rudolf Giuliani said on Meet the Press that 93% of black people are killed by other black people.  Likewise, about 83% of whites are killed by white people. Nowhere in the country is the black on black murder problem more obvious than in Chicago. Hundreds of young black men every year are killed in Chicago by blacks. Since Michael Brown died in August, more than 100 black men have been shot and killed in Chicago.

What is Ferguson really about? Again, it’s cover for a bad economy and an economy that is going to get much worse. Sure, the third quarter GDP was just revised up to a 3.9% growth rate. I called economist John Williams about this, and he told me that is simply spin and not true. We also just got bad consumer confidence numbers, a spike in unemployment claims and a big drop in PMI numbers.

You want more proof the economy is headed down? Look no further than Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer. He just said the Democrats made a “mistake” in voting for Obama Care.  He said, “We blew it,” and said Democrats should have focused on the economy. Does that sound like the economy is going to be getting better? Also, didn’t I say right after the midterm elections that Democrats would run against Obama and his policies? You know who is up for re-election in 2016? Chuck Schumer. And doesn’t he sound like he is throwing President Obama and his policies under the bus?  Just as I predicted.

If you need more proof the economy is going to get worse, then look no further than Obama Care and rising insurance premiums. And, just wait until the employer mandate kicks in next year. It is the job killer everyone has warned you about. Speaking of jobs, the youth unemployment rate in the black community is nearly 25%. Blacks in general are unemployed at twice the rate of whites. John Williams says the sub 6% unemployment rate is a big fat lie. The real rate is hovering around 23% for years. A buck an hour raise at a fast food restaurant and a 29 hour work week with zero overtime is not going to really help anyone, especially the minority communities like Ferguson. Ask yourself this, if the economy was really growing at a 3.9% rate, would we have nearly 93 million people not in the work force? Would we have 47 million on food stamps? Would we have 14 million on disability? The economy is not in a so-called recovery and the Democrats know it–and so does the Obama Administration. This is what Ferguson and the protests around the country are about. This is all about “look over here” and not at the real problem, a stinking and sinking economy for Main Street.

They have extended the negotiations, once again, for Iran and the nuclear deal the west has been working on for years. It will be another seven months before the next expiration date. Iran has said repeatedly it will not curtail its program. Here are some really the big questions: Will Saudi Arabia and all the other Sunni nations sit and wait? Is Israel going to sit and wait? Those are two very big Middle East wild cards, and I think we get an answer sometime next year.

Finally, there is gold and news that more countries want theirs back. The Dutch just repatriated 122 tons. The leading French candidate in upcoming elections says France should get its gold back. The Swiss are voting this weekend to get their gold back inside its borders. Why all the attention to getting control of physical gold? Could it be central banks don’t trust each other’s paper? If paper assets devalue or default, would having gold in your possession be a good idea? Countries wanting physical is not a good indication that the global economy is good; and, in fact, it is signaling that it might be getting ready to tank.

Join Greg Hunter as he analyzes these stories and more in the Weekly News Wrap-Up.”

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a safe and very happy Thanksgiving, folks!

Musical Interlude: 2002, “Deep Still Blue”

2002, “Deep Still Blue”

"A Deep Look to the Heavens"

"In 2003, the Hubble Space Telescope took the image of a millenium, an image that shows our place in the universe. Anyone who understands what this image represents, is forever changed by it."- YouTube/NASA


"It helps to put things in perspective here on our frenetic little planet with a look at this extraordinarily powerful and moving video of the Hubble Space Telescope mapping of the Universe, whose known size is 78 billion light years across. The video of the images is the equivalent of using a "time machine" to look into the past to witness the early formation of galaxies, perhaps less than one billion years after the universe's birth in the Big Bang.

The video includes mankind's deepest, most detailed optical view of the universe called the Hubble Deep Field (HDF). One of the stunning images was assembled from 342 separate exposures taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) for ten consecutive days. Representing a narrow "keyhole" view stretching to the visible horizon of the universe, the HDF image covers a speck of the sky only about the width of a dime located 75 feet away. Though the field is a very small sample of the heavens, it is considered representative of the typical distribution of galaxies in space because the universe, statistically, looks largely the same in all directions. Gazing into this small field, Hubble uncovered a bewildering assortment of at least 1,500 galaxies at various stages of evolution.

Most of the galaxies are so faint (nearly 30th magnitude or about four-billion times fainter than can be seen by the human eye) they have never before been seen by even the largest telescopes. Some fraction of the galaxies in this menagerie probably date back to nearly the beginning of the universe. "The variety of galaxies we see is amazing. In time these Hubble data could turn out to be the double helix of galaxy formation. We are clearly seeing some of the galaxies as they were more than ten billion years ago, in the process of formation," said Robert Williams, Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute Baltimore, Maryland. "As the images have come up on our screens, we have not been able to keep from wondering if we might somehow be seeing our own origins in all of this."

"The Human Touch- 5 Seconds Equals a Thousand Words"

"The Human Touch- 5 Seconds Equals a Thousand Words"
by Nicholas Bakalar

"Researchers have found experimental evidence that a touch can be worth a thousand words, that fleeting physical contact can express specific emotions — silently, subtly and unmistakably. Scientists led by Matthew J. Hertenstein, an associate professor of psychology at DePauw University, recruited 248 students, each to touch or be touched by a partner previously unknown to them to try to communicate a specific emotion: anger, fear, happiness, sadness, disgust, love, gratitude or sympathy. The person touched was blindfolded and ignorant of the sex of the toucher, who was instructed to try to convey one of the eight emotions, and both participants remained silent. Forty-four women and 31 men touched a female partner, while 25 men and 24 women touched a male partner.

Afterward, each person touched was given the list of eight emotions and told to pick the one conveyed. There was also a ninth choice, “none of these terms are correct,” to eliminate the possibility of forcing a choice of emotion when none were truly felt. The touchers were instructed to touch any appropriate part of the body, and they chose variously to touch the head, face, arms, hands, shoulders, trunk and back.

Accurate understanding ranged from 50 percent to 78 percent, much higher than the 11 percent expected by chance and comparable to rates seen in studies of verbal and facial emotion. The researchers also recorded a complex vocabulary of touch — a shake, a rub, a pat or a squeeze, small changes in the amount of pressure applied, variations in the abruptness of the stroke, changing rates at which the fingers moved across the skin, and differences in the location and duration of the contact.

Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami, was impressed with the work. “This information is very interesting, and does add to the science of emotion and communication.” But, she continued: “It’s unlikely we’d use touching as a means of expression with strangers. It’s reserved to intimate kinds of interactions.”Dr. Field was not involved in the study, which will appear in the August issue of the journal "Emotion."

Participants consistently chose certain kinds of touch to convey specific emotions. They often expressed fear, for example, by holding and squeezing with no movement, while sympathy required holding, patting and rubbing. Men and women were equally adept at interpreting touch but used different actions to communicate emotions. Men rarely touched anyone’s face, and then only to express anger or disgust at women, and sympathy for other men. Women, on the other hand, touched faces frequently to express anger, sadness and disgust to both sexes, and to convey fear and happiness to men.

The evolutionary reasons for such a communication system are unknown, but the authors suggest that they may have the same origin as the social grooming rituals of other primates. The authors acknowledge that their data were limited to a sample of young Americans, and that cultural differences may play an important role. Still, Dr. Hertenstein said: “These findings have strong implications for the power of touch. Most touches were only about five seconds, but in these fleeting moments, we’re capable of communicating distinct emotions, just as we are with the face. This is a sophisticated differential signaling system that we haven’t previously known about.”

"In the Inbox"

"In the Inbox"

From: Coordinator of Volunteer Services

"We have a young man, thirty-six, on hospice, who has a very young child. They want someone to help him do a life review and perhaps put some pictures together for he and his wife so the child will know him. Call me if you are willing to do this."

The next time, friend, your life seems too hard, check your Inbox.
- Jose Orez

"The Difference Between Stress And Burnout"

"The Difference Between Stress And Burnout"
by Kari Henley

"Clearly the stress barometer in our country, and around the world, is escalating. The reaction to the recession has moved from shock and fear, into anger and rage. The honeymoon of President Obama's 100 days has evaporated into gun carrying dog fights, screaming matches, and the high hopes of "Yes We Can" have deteriorated into, "Is This Ever Going to End?"

Research shows that some stress is important in our lives. It keeps us on our toes, helps to strive toward goals, and makes us feel alive. The hormones related to feeling stressed are designed to get us out of danger - like a fire or enemy attack. Yet the body will also surge adrenaline when driving down the highway and some jerk cuts you off. Stress hormones are not selective - they activate whether the threat is perceived or real. We are not meant to be living with the pedal to the metal 24/7 - and we are pushing our proverbial panic buttons far more than is healthy to maintain.

If stress continues to operate at full scale for an extended period of time, there is an increased risk of burnout. What is burnout? I have taught classes on stress and burnout, with Ceridian development experts who define burnout as: "a constant depletion of mental, physical and emotional energy - without expected or real needs being met."

Burnout is a normal response to putting out too much effort, without taking in what you need to balance and restore yourself. Signs of burnout include feeling overwhelmed with things that used to be exciting, thinking work or personal problems will never end, or having a pit in your stomach of constant dread. When too much of life is draining and not enough is fulfilling, a sense of hopelessness creeps in.

How many of you feel burned out at the end of the day? Studies show well over half of us do- in a steady economy. I have not yet found data for the increase in numbers of disability cases related to burnout and stress. Burnout happens with over commitment, or unrealistic expectations that lead to a feeling of powerlessness or hopelessness. Periods of stress can last for a while without long term affects, but burnout is a more serious and chronic condition. The good news: burnout is preventable - if warning signs are recognized, and actions taken to reverse the cycle.

Some of the physical symptoms of burnout are: low energy, muscle tension, headaches, digestive disorders, frequent colds, or changes in sleep patterns. Mentally, symptoms include feeling inadequate, overwhelmed, loss of meaning, bored, frustrated, sad, irritable, unappreciated or trapped. The outcomes of these symptoms can include withdrawal, increased sick days, accidents, crying or increased used of alcohol or food to self soothe.

Burnout is a cycle of negative emotions, withdrawal and paralysis. Getting out of a crash course with burnout requires putting your hands back on the steering wheel, realigning with your personal vision, surrounding yourself with support, and making time for humor.

Here are a few tips for reducing burnout:

Clear the Clutter - both in your office and in your head: One of the first steps is echoed in the uprising of personal organizers- clear the clutter! There must be a reason that helping people organize their "stuff" has become a recognized and valued profession. The clutter of emails, paperwork, projects and obsessive to do lists, increases stress, and is an easy place to start. There is a great relief to tackling one small project, when the world seems overwhelming.

Stop Eating Crap - Believe me, when I am stressed out, Snickers bars and Starbucks are my best friend. It is hard to cozy up to a chopped salad and lemon water, but your body will thank you for it later.

Walk - How many of us take about 15 minutes to park at the grocery store circling round and round to get a spot right up front? Jeez. Park in the back, walk a bit during lunch, get up a few minutes early and walk around the block. Nothing strenuous, just breathe some fresh air and clear the mental cobwebs.

Take a One Minute Vacation! - This is one of my favorites as a stress management tool that can be done literally anywhere- in your car at the beginning and end of each day, in the elevator before meeting the boss, or at your desk before answering a rousing email.
Here's how it works: close your eyes and think of your absolute most favorite vacation spot - it can be a lovely white sand beach, a gorgeous mountain path by a stream, or rocking on a chair at the family's cabin in the woods. Choose a spot and sharpen it's image in your mind's eye. Check out all the details you may not have remembered. Now turn on the sound: notice what background noises are present in this place. How about the sensation of the temperature on your skin? How does it feel to fully surround yourself with a favorite place?

Once all the "dials" have been set, give yourself a full 60 seconds to enjoy it - literally set a timer on your watch or cell phone! I guarantee if you try this exercise at home, you will be amazed at how LONG one minute actually feels. I have taught this many times, and afterwards, everyone blinks their eyes as if they had a long sleep, yawns, stretches and have a softness to their faces - it works!

Burnout Management for the Girls vs. the Boys: new research in brain development show that men and women react to stress differently. Men usually respond with the classic "fight or flight" response, and can reduce stress by engaging in some sort of activity. Cleaning out the garage, fixing a broken appliance or taking a long bike ride are classic examples of letting off some steam.

For women, finding ways to trigger oxytocin is the fastest way to reduce symptoms of stress, rather than the "fight or flight" tricks, they need more of the "tend and befriend." Women often need to talk, sort, clean, cook, or nurture in some way to feel balanced and calm.

If you have a friend who appears to be on the fast track to burnout- be compassionate. Lend a hand, offer to help. We're all in this together and our country has too much on the line to lose momentum, or hope."
Kari Henley,
President of the Board of Directors at the Women & Family Life Center
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kari-henley/the-difference-between-st_b_265011.html

The Daily "Near You?"

Chandler, Arizona, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

"Thanksgiving: A Time To Imagine"

"Thanksgiving: A Time To Imagine"
By Frank Joseph Smecker

"Imagine if aliens from a galaxy light-years from Earth, decide to seek out a New World. Imagine they discover Earth, it’s the New World, they assume. And they pursue a relentless campaign of occupation, colonizing the planet. One by one, these aliens systematically remove, with much violent force, the people of the planet, starting with the First World dominant culture, because, of course, they’ll want what that culture has: access to the land and resources which that culture controls. Imagine these aliens succeed with such a crusade, centuries later marking the genocide with an annual feast celebrating a deluded history that claims they were embraced with much alacrity and congeniality, that, while they were killing off human beings to clear the way for their own culture, human beings weren’t fighting back but teaching them how to make mashed potatoes and gravy and pies and roast turkey and things. “C’mon, Frank…” you’re probably saying, “this is a bit too much, don’t you think?”

I know, I know, so this scenario is a bit kooky. Such a concept is a little too bonkers for the sociological imagination. Okay. Fine. Let’s try it another way.

Imagine if white settlers from a continent 3,325 miles from the eastern shorelines of an already inhabited continent, decided to seek out a New World putatively, circa 1620 AD. Imagine they discover “America,” it’s the New World, they assume. And they pursue a relentless campaign of occupation, colonizing the continent. One by one, these settlers systematically remove, with much violent force, the people of the North American continent, starting with the indigenous nations of the east, because, of course, they’ll want what those cultures have: access to the land and "resources" which those cultures inhabit and employ sustainably. Imagine these settlers succeeded with such a crusade, centuries later marking the genocide with an annual feast celebrating a deluded history that claims they were embraced with much alacrity and congeniality, that, while they were killing off the native indigenous to clear the way for their own culture, natives weren’t fighting back but teaching them how to make mashed potatoes and gravy and pies and roast turkey and things.

There. Not so crazy now, is it?

“About three-quarters of all adult Indians suffer alcoholism and/or other forms of substance abuse. This is not a ‘genetic condition.’ It is a desperate, collective attempt to escape our horrible reality since ‘America's Triumph.’ It's no mystery why Indians don't observe Thanksgiving. The real question is why do you feast rather than fast on what should be a national day of mourning and atonement. Before digging into your turkey and dressing on Nov. 23, you might wish to glance in a mirror and see if you can come up with an answer.” - Ward Churchill

“One indication of moral progress in the United States would be the replacement of Thanksgiving Day and its self-indulgent family feasting with a National Day of Atonement accompanied by a self-reflective collective fasting.” - Robert Jensen

"We suffer from a poverty level of 69 percent, which must be unimaginable to many people in this country, who would equate a situation such as this to one found only in Third World countries." 
- Tribal Chairwoman Kathleen W. Kitcheya speaking about the San Carlos Apache Reservation.

“Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword, some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so as they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived that they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stink and scent thereof; but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the praise thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.”- William Bradford, a settler, describing Captain John Mason's attack on a Pequot village.

This Thanksgiving, rather than thoughtlessly stuffing yourself with food and then sauntering over to the couch for some postprandial football, think about how you can play your part in stopping the dominant culture from removing more indigenous cultures from their landbases to extract raw materials for industry that is destroying the planet’s ecological and climatic infrastructure."

Nutrition: "Sunflower Seeds- Nature's Anti-Depressant, And More"

"Sunflower Seeds- Nature's Anti-Depressant, And More"
by NaturalNews

"Sunflowers are the earthly representation of the sun. They have such an affinity for the life giving force that they twist on their stems so their faces can bask in sunlight all through the day. Photons from the sun are stored in the DNA of the sunflower, making its seed resonate with the photons in human cells. This resonance is good for mind as well as body, and makes sunflowers one of the top foods for fighting depression.

If we believe that we are what we eat, it is clear that nerves depend on what they are fed. While all of the wealth of nutrients found in sunflower seeds contributes to nerve health, sunflower seeds are particularly rich in key nutrients that have a direct impact on alleviating depression. Their high levels of magnesium counterbalance calcium, helping to regulate nerve function. And the substantial content of the amino acid, tryptophan, enhances serotonin production and thus improves mood. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that pass messages between nerve cells in the brain. They have a tremendous impact on overall mood and feelings of well being. Serotonin is one of the body's most important neurotransmitters. When released, serotonin gives a relaxing, content feeling that relieves emotional tension. This feeling is often described as mellowness. It is serotonin's profound effect on the mind that makes Prozac, Paxil, and other antidepressants such popular drugs. These drugs act by artificially keeping serotonin levels high. Higher serotonin can be naturally achieved by eating sunflower seeds, and there are no side effects.

Carbohydrates are needed to help tryptophan cross the blood-brain barrier and get to where it can work its wonders. Sunflower seeds offer the perfect blend of tryptophan and carbohydrates making them an ideal functional food to fight depression. Dark meat from poultry is also high in tryptophan, but needs carbohydrates added to be effective. Increased serotonin is why a Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, potatoes and stuffing provides such a relaxing sense of well being that the diner is soon asleep on the couch. Sunflower seeds are the perfect vegetarian alternative to such a food orgy. Vitamin B-6 is also necessary to fuel the body's normal depression-fighting chemical reactions. B-6 deficiency is common in Americans, particularly when considered in light of the absurdly low RDA of two milligrams. Sunflower seeds are a good source of B-6, giving them a three way punch against depression.

Sunflower seeds are one of the first plants to be cultivated in the U.S. They have been used by Native Americans for more than 5,000 years as a food source and for their oil. Parts of the flowers, roots and stems have been used for varied purposes including pigment dye, but the bright yellow petals of the sunflower are considered poisonous to humans. Some people think sunflower seeds are for the birds. They can be seen picking through all the other seeds in the feeder to get to the prized sunflower seeds. Birds are smart enough to go for the finest in nutrition. Sunflower seeds also supply all the nutrients needed by the human body with the exception of vitamin D. They are extremely rich in vitamin E, the primary fat-soluble antioxidant in the human body. Vitamin E roams the body looking for free radicals to put out of business. This action keeps fat-containing molecules from being damaged and leading to early aging. Vitamin E protects against inflammation too, making it a potent fighter of arthritis, cancer and diabetes.

One-quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains over 90% of the daily value of vitamin E. This makes sunflower seeds extremely helpful in protecting cardiovascular health by preventing free radicals from damaging cholesterol. Only after being damaged can cholesterol stick to blood vessel walls and begin the process of atherosclerosis which leads to clogged arteries, heart attack, and stroke. People with a high intake of vitamin E are at much lower risk of dying from a heart attack than are people whose vitamin E intake is inadequate.

Sunflower seeds are loaded with potassium, so needed in the American diet to balance the effects of sodium. Potassium controls the pressure inside cells while sodium controls the pressure outside cells. Sodium concentrations are more than ten times lower inside than outside cells, and potassium concentrations are about 30 times higher inside than outside cells. The concentration differences between potassium and sodium across cell membranes create an electrochemical gradient known as the membrane potential. A large amount of energy in the body is dedicated to maintaining the sodium/potassium concentration gradients, underscoring the importance of the balance between sodium and potassium in sustaining life. Tight control of cell membrane potential is critical for heart function, nerve impulse transmission, and muscle contraction. This dedication of body energy to maintaining sodium/potassium balance is what makes fatigue the most obvious symptom of potassium deficiency. Heart rhythm irregularities also signify the need for more potassium.

One-quarter cup of sunflower seeds contains more than 30% of the daily value for selenium in a form with much greater bioavailability than can be obtained from selenium supplements. Selenium has been shown to protect against cancers by inducing DNA repair and synthesis in damaged cells, by inhibiting the proliferation of cancer cells, and by inducing cancer cells to die. Selenium is incorporated at the active site of many compounds, including cancer fighting glutathione peroxidase, one of the most powerful antioxidant enzymes found naturally in the body. When glutathione peroxidase levels are too low, toxic molecules are not able to be disarmed, and are left to create havoc in the body damaging DNA and promoting cancer. That same quarter-cup of sunflower seeds also contains more than 32% of the daily value of magnesium, a mineral that does a lot more than keep people in a good mood. Magnesium is natures channel blocker, preventing calcium from overly activating nerves, sending too many messages, and causing excessive muscle contractions. Magnesium deficiency contributes to high blood pressure, muscle spasms that include the heart muscle, and spasms of the airways that characterize asthma. Migraines, muscle cramps, tension, soreness and fatigue are also symptomatic of magnesium deficiency.

A quarter-cup of sunflower seeds is a rich source of manganese, containing 37% of the daily value. Manganese is critical in the activation of enzymes without which many key nutrients will remain unused by the body. Some of these enzymes are necessary for bone formation and may be needed for thyroid hormone production. Manganese is a component of nerve health and is another player against depression. It is a catalyst in the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol, and facilitates protein and carbohydrate metabolism. Many physiological processes are impacted by manganese deficiency. Some of the symptoms of shortage are loss of hair color, hearing loss, dizziness, skin rash, bone loss and osteoporosis, excessively low cholesterol levels, and reproductive health issues.

Sunflower seeds act as a natural pH buffer because of their high mineral content. Keeping the body at optimal pH, which is slightly to the alkaline side, has been recommended as one the best means for protecting the body against the ravages of Morgellons disease, cancer, and other degenerative diseases. Although some people like the hands on involvement of shelling sunflower seeds as they are eaten, buying them already shelled is easy to do. The seeds should be kept in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Kids like a snack bag of seeds to take outside, or as an addition to lunch. An adult snack bag makes a great mid-morning or afternoon energy booster."

"How It Really Is"

Well of course, never enough "stuff"...

"The Pilgrims Should Have Been Thankful for a Spirochete"

"The Pilgrims Should Have Been Thankful for a Spirochete"
By Madeleine Johnson

"Rat urine. As we feasted on succulent turkey, moist stuffing, and glistening cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, the furthest thing from our minds was probably rat urine. Yet it’s quite possible that America as we know it would not exist without rat urine and leptospirosis, the disease it spreads. The disease conveniently cleared coastal New England of Native Americans just prior to the Pilgrims’ arrival and later killed the helpful Squanto. It still lurks among us, underdiagnosed, an emerging menace.

In the winter of 1620, the Mayflower happened to dock at an abandoned village. It had been known in the local Wampanoag language as Patuxet. Pilgrims rejoiced; the land “hath been planted with corn three or four years ago, and there is a very sweet brook runs under the hillside.” In fact, the French explorer Samuel de Champlain had observed what would become Plymouth harbor 15 years earlier and drew a map of native homes surrounded by fields of corn.

Where had all the people gone? As the Pilgrims thanked God for their luck, they were unaware that the previous tenants had died of a gruesome infectious disease. In the spring of 1621, the Pilgrims finally met their surviving neighbors. If the colonists thought God was good for guiding them to pretilled land and a sweet brook, they were even more thankful when the first Native American strolled into their midst, smiling and saying in English, “Welcome!” According to Pilgrim-era writings, he told them straight away that the previous villagers “died of an extraordinary plague.” A few days later, Tisquantum arrived. Called Squanto by Pilgrims, he was born in Patuxet, abducted by Englishman Thomas Hunt in 1614, and missed out on the epidemic that killed his entire village. During his years in captivity, he’d learned English, and he was now attached to a nearby branch of the Wampanoag.

The Pilgrim leader William Bradford was already aware of the death toll from “Indean fever.” His scouts had ventured inland and noted “sculs and bones were found in many places lying still above ground, where their houses and dwellings had been; a very sad spectackle to behould.” It’s estimated as many as nine out of 10* coastal Indians were killed in the epidemic between 1616 and 1619. What killed so many people so quickly? The symptoms were a yellowing of the skin, pain and cramping, and profuse bleeding, especially from the nose. A recent analysis concludes the culprit was a disease called leptospirosis, caused by leptospira bacteria. Spread by rat urine.

Leptospirosis is what’s known as a zoonotic disease. The bacterium lives in animal hosts and is transmitted between animals and to people via urine in fresh water. Its favorite host is the black rat, Rattus rattus (the rat so nice they named it twice), a nonnative species that was inadvertently transported to North America on explorers’ ships. For unknown reasons, it’s the only animal whose kidney can sustain continuous leptospira infections. The tubules of an infected rat’s kidney are lousy with bacteria and excrete hundreds of thousands in every drop of urine (10 million leptospira per milliliter, according to one study). Meanwhile, just 10 bacteria, injected into the abdomen, will send a laboratory hamster to violently hemorrhagic death within days. Leptospira is in a family of spiral-shaped bacteria called spirochetes, along with the bugs that cause syphilis and Lyme disease.

Leptospira is shaped like a thin corkscrew, but at corkscrew width it’d be more than 4 feet long. Under the microscope, the bacteria look like delicate ramen or living handlebar mustaches. Holding one end rigid like a rudder, they spin the other like a motor to move. They are single cells with no brain, per se, but they quest about sniffing out food, such as blood. The more virulent the strain, the more the bacteria are drawn to blood cells. They metabolize iron to survive and secrete an enzyme enabling them to smash open a red blood cell and slurp up the sweet, sweet iron within.

Leptospira swim faster in higher viscosity; they are built to tunnel through organs and cell membranes in order to evade the immune system. With their unique shape and motility, they can pass straight through a cell, like a corkscrew through a candied sweet potato. If immune cells are able to catch and smash one, that is when the trouble starts. A robust immune response can actually be detrimental because the more leptospira get blown to smithereens, the more bacteria bits are floating about to activate the immune system. This may be one reason why leptospirosis is most fatal to otherwise healthy men.

Like Pilgrims in the New World, leptospira must first penetrate the host. Invisible in water, the bacterium enters the eyes, the nose, or scrapes in the skin. Then it disseminates, looking to colonize the kidney. Humans are a dead end; our kidneys aren’t the right environment for them to set up and multiply. Like colonies at Jamestown, Roanoke, and Popham, the bacteria get ambushed or die of starvation, and the infection is usually cleared within a month if it isn’t fatal.

According to the hypothesis, infected ship rats landed in the New World and excreted leptospira, infecting raccoons, mink, and muskrats whose urine further contaminated any standing fresh water. It is unclear why this particular infectious disease should afflict Native Americans and not subsequent European colonists. Prior exposure does not necessarily result in immunity because there are a number of different infectious strains.

A clue might lie in the way these different cultures interacted with natural environments. The Wampanoag gathered sharp-edged clams, skinned pelts from beaver and deer, canoed through streams, and were much fonder of bathing than were Europeans of that era. And they likely spent time hand-picking wild cranberries from bogs on Cape Cod. Wampanoag have long had seasonal feasts of thanksgiving, one of which celebrates the cranberry harvest. There is some evidence that cranberries were also used medicinally—raw, ground into a poultice, and applied to open wounds. Although modern research suggests that cranberries can be a potent antimicrobial, that might not have been enough to slay the spirochete. The more leptospira that initially invade the bloodstream (possibly via direct contact with berries), the more likely the disease is to be fatal.

Leptospirosis' nonspecific presentation (fever, aches, “flu-like symptoms”) makes it challenging to diagnose. Outbreaks are possible any time water treatment is compromised or there is increased exposure to rat urine—such as during flooding. It made the short list of diseases we might expect if subway rats surfaced post-Sandy. Thankfully, they did not. Although there are fewer than five reported cases of leptospirosis annually in New York City, last year a 49-year-old construction worker came into Staten Island University Hospital with full-blown leptospirosis. His doctor recalls the man was in very bad shape: his calves cramping, his fever soaring, his eyes red with blood, and his organs rapidly failing. The patient survived and later recollected that he had come in contact with rat urine on a job site.

Travelers can bring leptospirosis home from tropical countries, and it may become more common as climate change brings warmer weather and more dramatic flooding. Leptospirosis cuts down healthy men in urban slums of Brazil and Thailand, where open sewers attract rats and flooding brings contaminated water up to people’s doorsteps. It affects affluent nature-lovers as well. In September, a group of Belgian boy scouts came down with it after messing with a muskrat on the banks of the Semois River. When not infecting rats or humans, the disease cycles through wild and domestic animals, causing spontaneous abortion in pigs and horses and recently killing off sea lions in Oregon.

While leptospirosis is referred to as a “neglected tropical disease,” Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says it is really a disease of poverty. It is neglected because the people who catch it are marginalized and ignored. In the United States, notable cases have occurred in the inner city in Detroit and Baltimore. Tokyo researchers recently captured rats and compared the leptospira strains they carried to those infecting 16 city residents over five years. Seventeen percent of the rats had lepto, and the people who had lepto worked or lived in conditions that exposed them to rat urine.

Symptoms of leptospirosis have changed over time. While nosebleed was originally a hallmark, extremely bloodshot eyes is now considered the disease’s signature. Severe hemorrhaging in the lungs is also seen more frequently, such as in a 1995 outbreak in Nicaragua in which 15 patients died after coughing up copious amounts of blood. In rare cases, leptospira can enter the brain and cause aseptic meningitis. The bacteria are too busy burrowing into tissue to be present in cerebrospinal fluid.

Squanto learned English in London in the early 1600s yet, remarkably, did not contract any deadly disease there. He didn't become ill until a few years after he returned to his devastated, Pilgrim-occupied homeland on a Pilgrim-led trip to trade with a tribe on Cape Cod. He died “bleeding much at the nose,” according to Bradford. So, did lepto kill Squanto? Did he wade through the wrong slimy puddle on Cape Cod and die as his village had a few years before?

There are other theories about this epidemic, and experts in modern leptospirosis think the death rate at Patuxet is a tad too high to jibe with the disease they see. It would have to have been an extremely virulent strain, or an extremely high exposure rate, to add up to 90 percent fatality. Although free-living, nonpathogenic bacteria from the same family as leptospira survive in Cape Cod and likely can outlast a New England winter, it’s not the ideal condition for the deadly forms of lepto. And while there were certainly black rats at Jamestown and other pre-Colonial sites, it is unknown if there were any in Patuxet.

Native Americans told the Pilgrims there was an epidemic, but some prominent archaeologists and historians aren’t sure such a mass death occurred. With the soil acidity of the Cape Cod region, skeletal remains dissolve quickly, so finding the truth may be impossible. Lepto leaves no marks on bone. Dental pulp would be needed to get lepto DNA, requiring breaking open teeth from ancestral remains. Paleomicrobiologists are at the ready, but there are no samples.

While experts have an academic discussion, many modern Wampanoag have no doubt that the 1616-1619 epidemic was real. Robert Charlebois, a Canadian Abenaki Indian who works atPlimoth Plantation 2 miles down the road from Plymouth Rock, is well aware of the leptospirosis hypothesis. He is certain it is true. Moccasins are water permeable, he says, and being in touch with the land and nature exposed the Wampanoag in ways that Pilgrims, with their thick-soled boots, would not have encountered.

There are 5.1 million American Indians today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. They have almost double the poverty rate of the rest of the nation; sewers and solid waste removal are still lacking on some American Indian reservations, and thousands of families do not have safe drinking water. Nobody knows the rate of leptospirosis on reservations today.

Or the rate in the United States overall, for that matter. The illness has not been “reportable” since 1994, meaning doctors aren’t required to notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when they have a lepto-positive patient. In 1994, there were 38 confirmed cases nationwide, and in the preceding years it afflicted only 0.02 percent of the population, so it was deleted from the list of notifiable diseases. Some states continue to require reporting to their health departments; there were 74 cases in Michigan in 2011, for example.

However, experts believe low rates are due to underdiagnosis. With a mild case, a patient might not go to the doctor. Scientists are developing better tests, but those currently available are clunky and take weeks. Unless patients are very sick and have the telltale sign of bloodshot eyes, they might not be tested or get lifesaving treatment in time. The CDC is one of many public health agencies that suspect lepto rates will be going up in the future. At the request of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (PDF), in 2013 the CDC will again require doctors to report every case they see.

Last Saturday, in the Wampanoag tent at the Plymouth Thanksgiving festivities, some tribe members were dressed in historically accurate clothing. They weren’t “in costume” in the same way as the Pilgrim recreationists who were playing at their roles. The sweet brook still flowed nearby; the smell of wood fire and sound of muskets filled the air.

Outside the tent, Darius Coombs, in traditional dress, greeted festivalgoers. With a smile, a man asked him, “So what are you supposed to be?” In some ways the Wampanoag are recreating themselves from records (including reclaiming their language) and struggling to preserve and maintain their culture, but they’re also growing, changing, and ready to share. “I am Wampanoag,” Darius asserted. Awareness of the epidemic that killed his ancestors is important to him."
- http://www.slate.com/
* I read an article about this, that disease brought to the continent by the white immigrants swept west from the coast, eventually killing 90% of the estimated 60,000,000 original inhabitants. Considering the considerable grief the "Indians" were able to inflict upon the invaders, with only 10% of their original population, I wonder how things might have gone if the whites had faced instead tribes at 100% full strength? I imagine this would be a somewhat different country today... - CP