Thursday, June 30, 2011

Richard Bach, "The Reason Why"

"At last, the answer why. The lesson that had been so hard to find, so difficult to learn, came quick and clear and simple. The reason for problems is to overcome them. Why, that’s the very nature of man, I thought, to press past limits, to prove his freedom. It isn’t the challenge that faces us, that determines who we are and what we are becoming, but the way we meet the challenge, whether we toss a match at the wreck or work our way through it, step by step, to freedom."
- Richard Bach, “Nothing by Chance”

"A Look to the Heavens"

“In the 1920s, examining photographic plates from the Mt. Wilson Observatory's 100 inch telescope, Edwin Hubble determined the distance to the Andromeda Nebula, decisively demonstrating the existence of other galaxies far beyond the Milky Way. His notations are evident on the historic plate image inset at the lower right, shown in context with ground based and Hubble Space Telescope images of the region made nearly 90 years later. By intercomparing different plates, Hubble searched for novae, stars which underwent a sudden increase in brightness. He found several on this plate and marked them with an "N". Later, discovering that the one near the upper right corner (marked by lines) was actually a type of variable star known as a cepheid, he crossed out the "N" and wrote "VAR!".
Click image for larger sizes.
Thanks to the work of Harvard astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, cepheids, regularly varying pulsating stars, could be used as standard candle distance indicators. Identifying such a star allowed Hubble to show that Andromeda was not a small cluster of stars and gas within our own galaxy, but a large galaxy in its own right at a substantial distance from the Milky Way. Hubble's discovery is responsible for establishing our modern concept of a Universe filled with galaxies.”

"The Fate of Psychopathic Eskimos"

"The Fate of Psychopathic Eskimos"
by Duckman

"A recent issue of the New Yorker Magazine featured a very interesting article about psychopathology. A psychopath (sometimes also called a sociopath) is a person without a conscience— one who lies, cheats, steals and in some cases rapes and murders without compunction. It is estimated that about 6% of the people are psychopaths, though degree of psychopathology is thought to vary among individuals.

Being a psychopath is not a form of mental illness, since such people are in fact not delusional or cognitively impaired in the usual sense. Whether they are "rational" is sometimes debated, since they tend to be impulsive and have very limited capacity either to anticipate the consequences of their social actions or to learn from their social mistakes. They are often very intelligent (e.g., Ted Bundy), and often are also spectacularly effective manipulators. Ted Bundy, a guy who raped, tortured and murdered dozens of young women was described as "charming," "hypnotic" and "mesmerizing" by many who knew him — even those who met him after it was known what he had done.

For a long time psychologists and psychiatrists tended to pay little attention to psychopathology. In part this disregard was because of the difficulty of defining psychopathology (i.e., figuring out how to identify them) and in part been because it was generally thought that there is no effective "treatment" for psychopaths. And in fact traditional talk therapy seems to make the condition worse — psychopaths who undergo psychotherapy learn to become more effective manipulators.

Recently, though, some psychologists have taken to studying the brain scans of psychopaths who have landed in prison (it is estimated to about a third of those in prison are psychopathic) and have found they their brains are structurally different from so-called normal people. A rationale for this research has been that if we know what is wrong with psychopathic brains we can find a treatment for them ("open skull, insert conscience, close skull").

Undiscussed though is a (perhaps) troubling implication of these findings. If psychopaths are different from the rest of us in brain structure, and by implication in their DNA, are they in fact ultimately human? Is it not arguable that they are something like another species, an alien species, living among us unnoticed because they outwardly resemble us so much? And if they are another species, is it not arguable that we can take preemptive action to be rid of them (e.g., abort fetuses with the offending DNA). We have never had very many qualms about getting rid of other species we find a inconvenient (e.g., timber wolves and the Great Apes.) And psychopaths seem to me to be much more dangerous than any of the species that are currently on the way out.

Apparently psychopaths are found in all cultures and communities. Among the Yupik Eskimos, for example, the word "kunlangeta" is used to describe a man who lies, steals, cheats and takes sexual advantage of women. In an 1976 study of the Yupik, Harvard anthropologist Jane M. Murphy asked a tribal elder what the community did when a kunlangeta appeared among them. He replied, "Someone pushes him off the ice when no one else was looking."

Psychology: "Positive Self-Deception"

"Positive Self-Deception"
by Damninteresting.com

"Most people think of the "mentally disordered" as a delusional lot, holding bizarre and irrational ideas about themselves and the world around them. Isn’t a mental disorder, after all, an impairment or a distortion in thought or perception? This is what we tend to think, and for most of modern psychology's history, the experts have agreed; realistic perceptions have been considered essential to good mental health. More recently, however, research has arisen that challenges this common-sense notion.

In 1988, psychologists Shelly Taylor and Jonathon Brown published an article making the somewhat disturbing claim that positive self-deception is a normal and beneficial part of most people’s everyday outlook. They suggested that average people hold cognitive biases in three key areas: a) viewing themselves in unrealistically positive terms; b) believing they have more control over their environment than they actually do; and c) holding views about the future that are more positive than the evidence can justify. The typical person, it seems, depends on these happy delusions for the self-esteem needed to function through a normal day. It’s when the fantasies start to unravel that problems arise.

Consider eating disorders, for instance. It’s generally been believed that an unrealistically negative body image is an important factor in the self-abuse that characterizes anorexia and bulimia. A 2006 study at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, however, came to a very different conclusion. Here, groups of normal and eating disordered women were asked to rate the attractiveness of their own bodies. They were then photographed from the neck down, and panels of volunteers were brought in to view the photos and rate the women’s appearances objectively. The normal women, as it turned out, evaluated themselves much more positively than the panels did, while the self-ratings of the eating disordered women were in close agreement with the objective ratings. The eating disordered subjects, in other words, had a more realistic body image than the normal women. However, it is important to note that the study was based upon the broad concept of "attractiveness" rather than body weight specifically—while the eating disordered women may have rated themselves poorly because they felt "fat," their weight was a controlled variable and not the basis of the volunteers' assessments.

Studies into clinical depression have yielded similar findings, leading to the development of an intriguing, but still controversial, concept known as depressive realism. This theory puts forward the notion that depressed individuals actually have more realistic perceptions of their own image, importance, and abilities than the average person. While it’s still generally accepted that depressed people can be negatively biased in their interpretation of events and information, depressive realism suggests that they are often merely responding rationally to realities that the average person cheerfully denies.

Those with paranoid disorders can sometimes possess a certain unusual insight as well. It has often been asserted that within every delusional system, there exists a core of truth—and in their pursuit of imagined conspiracies against them, these individuals often show an exceptionally keen eye for the real thing. People who interact with them may be taken aback as they find themselves accused of harboring some negative opinion of the person which, secretly, they actually do hold. Complicating the issue, of course, is the fact that if the supposed aversion didn’t exist before, it likely does after such an unpleasant encounter.

As one might imagine, these issues present some problems when it comes to treatment. How does one convince a depressed person that “everything is all right” when her life really does suck? How does one convince an obsessive-compulsive patient to stop religiously washing his hands when the truth of what gets left behind after “normal” washing should be enough to make any sane person cringe? These problems put therapists in the curious position of teaching patients to develop irrational patterns of thinking—patterns that help them view the world as a rosier place than it really is. Counterintuitive as it sounds, it's justified because what defines a mental disorder is not unreasonable or illogical thought, but abnormal behavior that causes significant distress and impairs normal functioning in society. Treatment is about restoring a person to that level of normal functioning and satisfaction, even if it means building cognitions that aren’t precisely “rational” or “realistic.”

It’s a disconcerting concept. It’s certainly easier to think of the mentally disordered as lunatics running about with bizarre, inexplicable beliefs than to imagine them coping with a piece of reality that a "normal" person can’t handle. The notion that we routinely hide from the truth about ourselves and our world is not an appealing one, though it may help to explain the human tendency to ostracize the abnormal. Perhaps the reason we are so eager to reject any departure from this fiction we call "normality" is because we have grown dependent on our comfortable delusions; without them, there is nothing to insulate us from the harsh cold of reality."

Gilda Radner

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems 
don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle and end."
- Gilda Radner

"When Is It Time to Leave the Relationship?"

"When Is It Time to Leave the Relationship?"
by DiscoveryHealth.com Writers

"You've given it your all. You've even tried counseling. You're considering leaving the relationship and even though things still aren't working right, you're not sure if leaving the relationship is the best thing to do. We talk about when to leave a relationship in this article so you can decide for yourself if leaving the relationship you are in is right for you.

Dennis Neder, an ordained minister and author of "Being a Man in a Woman's World", says as long as kids aren't involved, it's time to break up a relationship when there's no longer any mutual benefit. "If you aren't getting what you want or need from being with someone, it's time to move on," says Dr. Neder. While many people may view this as selfish, Dr. Neder says it can't be good for either person when one person is unfulfilled. It's much healthier to find a relationship that works for you and gives you what you need, than to cling to one that causes dissatisfaction.

"We all know people who are in unhealthy relationships, but either will not or cannot leave them," says Dr. Neder. "These people use all of their energies propping up the sagging relationship. Life is too short for this," he continues. In Dr. Neder's opinion, relationships should enhance your journey. The problem is, many people give up their journeys to take on someone else's. It's better to decide where you're going, find others who are on their own paths and then see where you might fit together, he says. "Give more thought to what you're looking for before creating your relationships," he advises. That way you're more likely have healthy relationships and end unhealthy ones quickly.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Many people involved in long-term relationships find that they have given up their dreams, plans and future to "fit" into someone else's. The difficulty in breaking up often stems from people forgetting how to be self-sufficient. This creates a fear of loss and insecurity, which fuels the desire to keep unhealthy relationships together. Neder says that we need to understand that we're alone throughout our entire lives — even when we're with someone else. "It's not a bad thing," says Dr. Neder, "in fact, it is quite freeing for most people."

Should You Break Up? Everyone experiences low points in their relationships. That's normal and most couples work through these times. While the experts say there are no formulas for deciding when to break up, there are signs to watch for. If you experience more than a few consistently over a long period, it's probably time to move on.

Ways to Know if You Should Break It Off: Here are some ways to know if you should break it off.

   • You're no longer getting what you want or need from the relationship. Let's face it. If you're not happy, chances are your partner isn't either.
   • You can no longer communicate with your partner. Everyone has different communication styles, says Laurie Moore, Ph.D., author of Creative Intimacy and Choosing a Life Mate Wisely. "However, you don't want to spend all of your time in the relationship trying to communicate with each other. It's just too much work.
    • You no longer look forward to spending time alone with your partner. You may still have a good sex life, but you don't talk to your partner. You prefer to spend time with other people to avoid being alone together.
    • You criticize or micro-manage your partner. If you're always concerned with some aspect of your partner's personality or appearance, don't look at them — look at yourself. People who are in love overlook minor annoyances and see the bigger picture.
    • You compare your partner to others. When you love someone, you don't compare him or her to others. If you find yourself doing this, you should re-evaluate your relationship.
    • You try to change your partner. Often we fall in love with people who don't suit us. If you find that you're constantly trying to change your partner, it may be time to move on.
    • You don't laugh anymore. Humor is something that all relationships need. If you no longer find his jokes funny, or you can't have lighthearted conversations, it may be a sign that the relationship has lost its zing.
    • You're doing all the giving (or all the getting). Relationships are about mutual benefit. If one partner is benefiting over the other, the relationship is unhealthy.
    • Your friends no longer like being around you when you're with your partner. Your friends may like your partner, but they no longer like the affect your partner has on you. Dr. Northrup says when a relationship's not right, our friends tell us the truth and often are the first to see when a relationship turns sour.
    • You no longer feel good about yourself. Think about how it felt when you first fell in love with your partner. If this feeling is lacking, you may want to look at your relationship.

No matter how appropriate it is to leave a relationship, the loss of any significant relationship can feel like a death, says Christiane Northrup, M.D., author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom and The Wisdom of Menopause You have to feel the sadness and grieve fully for what might have been, adds Dr. Northrup. You can't skip from, or otherwise hide from the pain if you're to emerge at the next stage free to develop."

The Poet: Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"

"You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things."
˙
- Mary Oliver, "Wild Geese"

Life Skills: "Manifest Your Potential"

“Come find a purpose in life ... what you are good at and learn how to become a master or expert at it. With 700+ pages, this site is full of ideas, insights, and tools to help individuals, life coaches, career counselors, and job coaches.

You can go on a journey of self discovery to learn about what you were born to do ... with a recipe for defining your life purpose and area of mastery and life purpose statement examples to help you be inspired. Or you can explore ideas about what makes you unique, and then how to turn those ideas into an awesome work portfolio and master resume.

I also provide my personal recommendations for books, tools, and online resources so you and your clients can take the next step and know you are doing the right thing for your life and career. Just look at the bottom of each page for ideas, as well as the side menus for inspiring quotes and movies.”

The Daily "Near You?"

Lexington, Massachusetts, USA. Thanks for stopping by.

Psychology: “Are Positive Fantasies Counterproductive?”

“Are Positive Fantasies Counterproductive?”
by The British Psychological Society

“It's a trusted tool in the self-help armory - visualizing yourself having achieved your goals, be that weighing less, enjoying the view atop Everest, or walking down the aisle with the girl or boy of your dreams. Trouble is, reams of research shows that indulging in positive fantasies actually makes people's fantasized ambitions less likely to become reality. Why? A new study claims it's because positive fantasies are de-energizing. They "make energy seem unnecessary" say Heather Kappes and Gabriele Oettingen. "By allowing people to consummate a desired future", the researchers say, positive fantasies trigger the relaxation that would normally accompany actual achievement, rather than marshaling the energy needed to obtain it.

The researchers demonstrated this process across four studies. The first was the least convincing and read like a throwback to the 1960s. Women who were asked to fantasize positively about looking and feeling good in high-heeled shoes subsequently demonstrated lower energy, as revealed by their having lowing blood pressure, than did women asked to fantasize more critically about the pros and cons of wearing trendy, high-heeled shoes. The research improved. In the second study, participants asked to fantasize positively about winning an essay contest subsequently reported feeling less energized than did participants asked to fantasize more negatively about their prospects. Next, a positive fantasy about the coming week led participants to feel less energized, and when surveyed a week later, they'd achieved fewer of their week's goals, than had control participants who'd originally been asked to day-dream freely about the coming week.

Finally, Kappes and Oettingen highlighted the role of context, showing that positive fantasies about a pressing need are particularly de-energizing. This elaborate study involved asking student participants to refrain from food and water for several hours, and then having some of them eat crackers (ostensibly as part of a taste test). For these super-thirsty participants it was a positive fantasy about a tall glass of icy water, not a fantasy about exam success, that led them to be de-energized (as indicated by a drop in blood pressure). For participants allowed to have a glass of water, by contrast, it was positive fantasies about exam success, not water, that led to them being de-energized.

Across all the studies, the researchers took pains to factor out other explanations - for example, they ruled out the effect of irritation, in case negative fantasies are energizing by virtue of being irritating. They ruled out the possibility that some fantasies are easier to conjure than others. And they had a neutral fantasy condition, allowing them to confirm that positive fantasies really are de-energizing, rather than it simply being that negative fantasies are energizing.

So, is there any benefit to positive fantasies? From a survival perspective, if a goal, such as food or water, is unobtainable, there could be some advantage to enjoying a fantasy that switches you into a low-energy mode. Similarly, if a task fills you with dread and your short-term goal is relaxation, then indulging in positive fantasies about desired outcomes could be a way to reduce anxiety.

But ultimately, Happes and Oettingen believe that positive fantasies are likely to scupper your changes of obtaining your goals. "Instead of promoting achievement, positive fantasies will sap job-seekers of the energy to pound the pavement, and drain the lovelorn of the energy to approach the one they like," they write. "Fantasies that are less positive - that question whether an ideal future can be achieved, and that depict obstacles, problems and setbacks - should be more beneficial for mustering the energy needed to obtain success." This study isn't the first to explode the myth of a traditional self-help tool. A 2009 paper found that repeating positive mantras about themselves led people low in self-esteem to feel worse.”
- http://www.sott.net/
Reference: Kappes, H., and Oettingen, G. (2011). Positive fantasies about idealized futures sap energy. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47 (4), 719-729 DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2011.02.003

Aldous Huxley, "Ignorance"

 “Most ignorance is vincible ignorance. 
We don't know because we don't want to know.”
- Aldous Huxley

Physics: "What's Going On With the Sun?"

 "What's Going On With the Sun?"
by Physics World

"Earlier this month a lot of column inches were devoted to the news that the Sun continues to behave in a peculiar manner - and that solar activity could be about to enter a period of extended calm. The story emerged after three groups of researchers presented independent studies at the annual meeting of the Solar Physics Division of the American Astronomical Society, which appear to support this theory. But are the new findings really that clear-cut and what implications do they have for the climate here on Earth? Physicsworld.com addresses some of the issues.


Why the recent interest in the Sun's activities? Solar physicists agree that the Sun has been acting strangely of late. It relates to apparent abnormalities in the solar cycle, an approximately 11-year period during which the Sun's magnetic activity oscillates from low strength to high strength, then back again. When the Sun's magnetic activity is low, during a solar minimum, its surface remains relatively quiet, which leads to fewer sunspots. Then, as magnetic activity begins to increase, the surface becomes more dynamic and the sunspot numbers begin to increase in the lead up to a solar maximum.

But following the last solar minimum in 2006, solar physicists were surprised to observe that sunspot numbers were unusually slow to pick up. This led some to suggest that the next solar maximum, due in 2013, could be late and weaker than usual. Some see this as a sign that solar magnetic activity is slowing down and the Sun may be about to head into a prolonged period of magnetic weakness. Some have speculated that a weakened Sun could offset some of the effects of man-made global warming, or even counteract it entirely.

What was presented at the recent AAS meeting in New Mexico? In one paper, Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory (NSO) and his colleagues argue that because a specific solar wind beneath the surface of the Sun has failed to appear during the present solar cycle it could signify that the next cycle will be delayed. Hill and his colleagues identified the wind flow - known as "torsional oscillation" - using data from the Global Oscillation Network Group (GONG). They believe that the migration of this flow from mid-latitudes to the equator is a precursor to new sunspot formation in each cycle. Because the wind is yet to appear during the present cycle, the researchers argue that the next cycle could be postponed to 2021 or 2022, or it may not happen at all.

In a second paper, Richard Altrock of the US Air Force Research Laboratory describes how a process known as the "rush to the poles" appears to be slowing down. This phenomenon describes how older magnetic activity is pushed to higher latitudes during new cycles as fresh magnetic activity emerges at about 70 degrees latitude. Altrock has observed, using data from NSO's 40-cm coronagraphic telescope, that this rush has been more like a crawl during the present cycle. For this reason, he believes that we'll see a very weak solar maximum in 2013 and if the rush to the poles fails to complete then it is not clear how the sun will respond.

In a final paper, Matt Penn and William Livingston of the National Solar Observatory, in Tucson, look more specifically at the nature of sunspots during the two most recent cycles. The magnetic field associated with sunspots is typically 2500 - 3500 Gauss, but Penn and Livingston believe that the field strength has been reducing of late. Using over 13 years of data collected at the McMath-Pierce Telescope at Kitt Peak in Arizona, the researchers found that the average field strength dropped by roughly 50 Gauss per year during the previous cycle and the trend has continued into the present one.

Has the Sun gone through quiet spells before? Scientists have known about the solar cycle since the mid 18th century and they have been able to reconstruct solar cycles back to the beginning of the 17th century based on historic observations of sunspot numbers. (Some researchers have even attempted to catalogue earlier solar cycles based on indirect observations of Sun spots). The first thing to say is that although solar activity has consistently oscillated over an approximately 11-year period, the timings and characteristics of each cycle are far from exact and new cycles have been late on arrival in the past.

Solar physicists do agree, however, that there was a 70-year stretch beginning in 1645 when the Sun remained in an extended period of calm referred to as the Maunder minimum. This period coincided with the "Little Ice Age" during which parts of the world including Europe and North America, experienced colder winters and increased glaciation. There was another shorter minimum from about 1790 to 1830, known as the Dalton Minimum. What role did the Maunder minimum play in the Little Ice Age?
So could we be heading for another Little Ice Age?

There are many uncertainties surrounding this question. Firstly, as explained in the previous answer, it is far from clear whether the Sun is headed for another period of calm. Recent research in the UK, predicts an 8% chance that we will return to Maunder minimum conditions over the next 40 years, based on past behaviour of the Sun over the last 9000 years.

Secondly, there are still debates over the details of the Little Ice Age and the role played by the Maunder minimum. In Europe, there were considerably more cold winters in this interval, but they were not unrelentingly cold as they were in an ice age. Also, the Earth's climate is evidently a highly complicated system, involving interconnected feedback systems, so it is difficult to disentangle causes and effects. For instance, several recent studies have suggested that solar-induced changes to the jet stream in the northern hemisphere may cause colder winters in Europe but this would be offset by milder winters in Greenland.

Finally, even if the Sun were to head into a quiet period, others argue that the reduction in solar irradiance on Earth would still be small compared with the heating caused by man-made global warming. Mike Lockwood, a researcher at the University of Reading, estimates that the change in climate radiative forcing since the Maunder minimum is about one tenth of the change caused by man-made trace greenhouse gases.”
- http://www.sott.net/

"How It Really Is"

These clowns are what McDonald's and Burger King refused to hire... 
Don't you feel safer?

Greg Hunter, “Bankers vs. People”

“Bankers vs. People”
By Greg Hunter’s USAWatchdog.com

“The entire crisis in Greece (and the rest of the world) all comes down to bankers vs. the people.  The bankers made crazy, reckless loans to this tiny country.  If you look back to when the loans were first offered, it’s hard to believe the banks did not know what they were doing.  Did they not know that most people in Greece did not pay taxes?  Did they not know many retired at 50 years old? Did they not know about all the government social programs?  After all, Greece has a socialist government for goodness sakes.

What is going on in Greece is similar to the subprime loan crisis.  Here, people just stopped paying and walked away when the market crashed.  In Greece, the bankers want to turn people into debt slaves for a generation to get their money back.  Heaven forbid any banker writes off the debt and not take a bonus.   David Stockman, who was Director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Reagan Administration, said last week on CNBC that Europeans are going to become tax and debt slaves to continue to pay bankers.  The report said, “In Europe, Stockman raged against a dichotomy of tax and debt slavery created by the EU: “They’re attempting to go turn the prudent Europeans of the north into permanent tax slaves in order to bail out the big banks in France and Germany and elsewhere who don’t deserve a bailout,” he said, adding that, “In order to accomplish that, they will attempt to turn the millions of people who live in southern Europe into permanent debt slaves in order to pay the piper from the guarantees coming from the north.” (Click here for the complete CNBC report.)

There is no wonder why protests in Greece turned violent yesterday.  Tear gas was used by police, vehicles were set on fire and windows were broken.   The Greek Parliament has key votes on an austerity plan (entitlement cuts and tax increases) coming up this week.  The plan has to pass or the EU will not release any more money.  So, on one side, you have the angry protesters, and on the other side, you have the EU (or greedy bankers.)  The heat is on!  Breitbart.com reported yesterday, “Europe ramped up pressure on the Greek parliament Tuesday to approve drastic austerity measures, warning that it would otherwise face a swift debt default that would rock the world economy. . . . European Union economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said Greece was facing a “critical juncture,” and that “both the future of the country and financial stability in Europe are at stake. . . . The only way to avoid immediate default is for Parliament to endorse the revised economic programme.” (Click here for the complete Breitbart.com story.)

According to published reports, there is no “plan B” if the austerity plan doesn’t pass.  We just may find out if that is true.  I’ll bet the EU is putting the pressure on with the talk highlighting calamity and Armageddon if it fails.  If it passes, expect there to be uncontrolled riots, and the Greek military to be called in.  There are rumors that the Greek military could stage some sort of coup because some military leaders have reportedly said, “We Will Not Be Sold to Foreign Powers.” I do not know if this is true, but the source of the story is Pecangroup.org.  (Click here for more from Pecangroup.org.)

Don’t be surprised if the austerity votes reject the plan, and don’t be surprised if there really is a “plan B.”  If there is no backup plan and the vote fails, then expect all hell to break loose on a global scale.

Bill Bonner, “Why Greece Should Default and Go Broke With Dignity”

“Why Greece Should Default and Go Broke With Dignity”
by Bill Bonner

“First, the market news. Yesterday, stocks went up. Gold went up. And bonds went down. It was a ‘risk on’ day…but not so much of one that you could draw any conclusion from it. Investors still had the Greek debt crisis on their minds. But they seemed to have gotten tired of worrying about it. All the financial sweepers in Europe are working around the clock, trying to get the mess under the carpet or out the door. By the looks of the markets, they were succeeding. But it’s not over yet. You’ll remember that we gave some advice to the financial officials who are in charge of bailing out Greece? We told them to take a page out of Gerald Ford’s book. Just tell the Greeks to “drop dead.”

Today, we give advice to the Greeks. Tell the bankers to ‘drop dead.’

A vote is expected today…which will tell us something. The Financial Times says it could be a “suicide vote.” That is, the governor of Greece’s central banks says the Greeks will be committing financial suicide if they don’t go along with the plan. Speaking to The Financial Times, Mr. Provopoulos expressed concern that Greece’s economic crisis had been played down by politicians over the past 18 months as the country lurched towards a possible default. “We have never really had a debate in this country about what went wrong. In Portugal the new government has come in and said that there will be a difficult two years ahead. We have not had that kind of talk here,” he said. He added: “For parliament to vote against this package would be a crime – the country would be voting for its suicide.”

Turning up the heat, Olli Rehn, the EU’s top economic official, dismissed German suggestions that the eurozone was contemplating a “Plan B” in case the Greek parliament failed to approve the austerity cuts. “The future of the country and financial stability in Europe are at stake,” Mr Rehn said. “I trust that the Greek political leaders are fully aware of the responsibility that lies on their shoulders to avoid default.”

We’re not so sure. From what we’ve been able to make out of the rescue plan, they’d be better off rejecting it. Not that we’re in favor of people who don’t play fair. But this deck was always stacked. And the dealer had a few aces up his sleeve at the get go. The way we figure it, the politicians, the banks – notably Goldman Sachs, as well as the big French banks – were in on the whole thing from the get-go. It would be considered rude to mention it, for example at a champagne-swilling reception hosted by Christine Lagarde, but the whole deal was always corrupt. Goldman Sachs helped the Greeks disguise their debt so they could get in the EU system. Then, more or less the same bankers, advising pension funds, the IMF and the European Central Bank, urged them to buy Greek debt. And then, when the debt went bad, they organized a rescue – which spared the lenders any losses. And then, when the rescue went bad, they set to work figuring out the terms of a new rescue…and warning the Greek people that if they don’t go along, they’ll have to face Armageddon.

The Greeks would be better off calling their bluff. Then, they could go broke with some dignity. They wouldn’t get any more credit. But more credit is the last thing they need. Besides, each time they are rescued, they end up in worse shape, with more debt to pay…and higher interest rates to pay on it. So tell the bankers to ‘drop dead.’ Of course, the Greeks themselves were as corrupt as the bankers. They took their opportunities, too, as they came along. If they could get paid for not working, they didn’t work. If they could get a subsidy and not have to compete in the real world economy, they took the subsidy. If they could retire early, or get something for nothing, or hoodwink investors with some nonsense figures…of course, they did it.

So, there’s a pot. And there’s a skillet. Both are as black as a tax collector’s heart. And now they are both colluding to make sure neither has to reckon with his greed and errors. Trouble is, that’s not the way it works. Debt doesn’t go away just because a knave and a fool decide they don’t want it. It’s still there. Like grinning death. It knows it will have its way.

Let’s see how things are going in the US. We’re here in South Florida…where consumer confidence is falling, just as it in the rest of the nation. Hey, if there were a recovery, how come consumer confidence is falling? The answer is simple: there ain’t no recovery and consumers know it. The feds can babble about anything they want, but the typical consumer knows he is in a tough spot…and it’s getting tougher.

The good news: gasoline prices are falling. “But so are home prices in South Florida,” says the Palm Beach Post. House prices rose in 13 cities says the latest news. But not in Miami…which is in Palm Beach county. Over on page 4 it says “Fla. Seniors insecure about income.” They ought to be. They’ve lost purchasing power for the last 10 years. Of course, that’s just a part of the story. As we keep saying, the last 10 years has been a ‘lost decade’ – for Florida seniors as well as just about everyone else, except the rich. The middle classes have lost ground on every front. Their houses are now back to 1990s prices. Their real incomes have actually gone down. Their stock portfolios too have lost value in real terms. And the job market offers them fewer jobs than it did in 2000.

A gallon of gasoline costs only $3.64 in Palm Beach County, down from $3.85 a month ago. But it’s up from $1.30 in 2000. “Consumers will keep their wallets closed until they feel a heightened level of confidence,” says a source interviewed by the Palm Beach paper. When will that be? No one knows, but if present trends continue Florida seniors will have turned up their toes long before they turn up their confidence."

The Borowtitz Report: "Republicans: Cutting Trillions"

“Republicans: 
Trillions Could Be Cut from Budget if We Eliminate Empathy”
Humanity Also on Chopping Block
by Andy Borowitz

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) – "Speaking on behalf of congressional Republicans, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) said today that trillions could be cut from the Federal budget if Congress can agree to eliminate empathy. “The current budget is bursting at the seams with pet projects that reek of empathy,” Rep. Cantor said.  “As a nation, we can no longer afford to spend money on people’s basic survival needs like a bunch of drunken sailors.”

Rep. Cantor noted that “the word ‘empathy’ comes from the Greek word ‘pathos,’ meaning ‘pathetic’ – and that’s exactly what helping people is: pathetic.” “We Americans should get out of the habit of using Greek words,” he added.  “Look where it’s gotten the Greeks – straight into bankruptcy.”

Once congressional Republicans eliminate such empathy-laden budget items as lunches for poor children, medicine for the indigent and oxygen for seniors, Rep. Cantor said, “We can move from cutting empathy to cutting humanity.” With humanity removed from the budget, he said, “That’s where the real savings come in.” By eliminating the food, medicine and oxygen necessary to sustain human life, “We will reduce the single biggest drain on the U.S. economy: people.” Ending on an optimistic note, Rep. Cantor said that by eliminating people, “by the middle of this century the United States will be successfully transformed into one big unmanned Predator drone.”

Elsewhere, presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) today visited historic Monticello, which she called “the home of Jeffrey Dahmer.” 

"A Look to the Heavens"

"Sculpted by stellar winds and radiation, the star factory known as Messier 17 lies some 5,500 light-years away in the nebula-rich constellation Sagittarius. At that distance, this degree wide field of view spans almost 100 light-years, courtesy of ESO's new VLT Survey Telescope and OmegaCAM. The sharp, false color image includes both optical and infrared data, following faint details of the region's gas and dust clouds against a backdrop of central Milky Way stars.
 Click image for larger size.
Stellar winds and energetic light from hot, massive stars formed from M17's stock of cosmic gas and dust have slowly carved away at the remaining interstellar material producing the cavernous appearance and undulating shapes. M17 is also known as the Omega Nebula or the Swan Nebula.”

“Reflections of Self: We Are All Mirrors for Each Other”

“Reflections of Self: We Are All Mirrors for Each Other”
by The DailyOm

“People you feel drawn to reflect your inner self back at you, and you act as a mirror for them as well. When we look at other people, we see many of their qualities in innumerable and seemingly random combinations. However, the qualities that we see in the people around us are directly related to the traits that exist in us. “Like attracts like” is one of the spiritual laws of the universe. We attract individuals into our lives that mirror who we are. Those you feel drawn to reflect your inner self back at you, and you act as a mirror for them. Simply put, when you look at others, you will likely see what exists in you. When you see beauty, divinity, sweetness, or light in the soul of another, you are seeing the goodness that resides in your soul. When you see traits in others that evoke feelings of anger, annoyance, or hatred, you may be seeing reflected back at you those parts of yourself that you have disowned or do not like.

Because we are all mirrors for each other, looking at the people in your life can tell you a lot about yourself. Who you are can be laid bare to you through what you see in others. It is easy to see the traits you do not like in others. It is much more difficult to realize that you possess those same traits. Often, the habits, attitudes, and behaviors of others are closely linked to our unconscious and unresolved issues.

When you come into contact with someone you admire, search your soul for similarly admirable traits. Likewise, when you meet someone exhibiting traits that you dislike, accept that you are looking at your reflection. Looking at yourself through your perception of others can be a humbling and eye-opening experience. You can also cultivate in you the traits and behaviors that you do like. Be loving and respectful to all people, and you will attract individuals that will love and respect you back. Nurture compassion and empathy and let the goodness you see in others be your mirror.”
- http://www.dailyom

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Nothing In The World..."

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than 
sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Should Math Be Taught In Schools? Umm...Maybe?"

"Should Math Be Taught In Schools? Umm...Maybe?"
by Abby Zimet


- http://www.commondreams.org/further/2011/06/27-1

We are SO doomed... - CP

The Daily "Near You?"

Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. Thanks for stopping by.

Gregory David Roberts, "Fate"

“Sooner or later, fate puts us together with all the people, one by one, who show us what we could, and shouldn’t, let ourselves become. Sooner or later we meet the drunkard, the waster, the betrayer, the ruthless mind, and the hate-filled heart. But fate loads the dice, of course, because we usually find ourselves loving or pitying almost all of those people. And it’s impossible to despise someone you honestly pity, and to shun someone you truly love.”
- Gregory David Roberts, “Shantaram”

“Surprise! Boeing Overcharged Pentagon”

“Surprise! Boeing Overcharged Pentagon”
by Marcus Baram

“Despite bipartisan outrage over Pentagon spending in the 1980s - remember the $600 toilet seat? - such contracting abuses continue to take place. Boeing overcharged the U.S. Army up to 177,000 percent on helicopter spare parts - $71.01 for a metal pin worth 4 cents that the Pentagon already had plenty of in storage - according to an audit by the Department of Defense's inspector general and obtained by the Project on Government Oversight. The audit focused on the Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command's transactions with Boeing to supply the Corpus Christi Army Depot in Texas.

The IG found that the Army should have only paid $10 million - instead of the nearly $23 million it was charged by Boeing - for various parts, about 131.5 percent above "fair and reasonable" prices. The audit concluded that Boeing should repay the $13 million overcharge. The defense industry giant has refunded about $1.3 million plus a $324,616 credit as of the date of the audit.

$644.75 for a small gear smaller than a dime that sells for $12.51: more than a 5,100 percent increase in price. $1,678.61 for another tiny part, also smaller than a dime, that could have been bought within DoD for $7.71: a 21,000 percent increase. $71.01 for a straight, thin metal pin that DoD had on hand, unused by the tens of thousands, for 4 cents: an increase of over 177,000 percent.

Taxpayers were massively overcharged in dozens of transactions between the Army and Boeing for helicopter spare parts, according to a full, unredacted Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (DoD OIG) audit that POGO is making public for the first time. The overcharges range from 33.3 percent to 177,475 percent for mundane parts, resulting in millions of dollars in overspending.

Though the amount pales in comparison to the total Pentagon budget, POGO notes: ‘The individual transactions of tens of thousands to millions of dollars examined by the DoD OIG may at first appear to be small potatoes against an annual DoD budget of more than $700 billion, including the costs of the wars. But when viewed over the cost of a weapon system's lifespan, the total cost of spare parts—including simple components such as ball bearings, retainers for nuts and bolts, sleeve bushings (basically just a metal cylinder), and straight metal pins—can be significant. The cost to buy a weapon system out of the factory, such as the AH-64 helicopter, usually is less than the cost to operate and maintain the weapon over its life. Parts on a weapon have to be replaced at varying intervals and, similar to how the human body replaces most cells in the body in less than a decade, a major weapon system with a long-enough life span may eventually be largely rebuilt with new spare parts. Hence the expression that aircraft are nothing but "spare parts" flying in close formation.’”
 •
DoD IG Report on Audit of Boeing Spare Parts Contracts (May 2011)
http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/alerts/national-security/ns-sp-20110623-2.html

The Economy: "Police Forced Out Due to Budget Crisis"

"Police Forced Out Due to Budget Crisis"
by Addison Wiggin

“We had to do something drastic,” says Jerry Flowers, a city councilman in Alto, Texas. Lately, we’ve find ourselves in the curious habit of collecting stories of impending calamity from around the nation. This morning is no different. “The police department,“ the curiously named Mr. Flowers goes on, ”being a nonmoney-making entity, was the easiest to get rid of while we catch our breath and build up some cash.” And just like that, Alto did away with its police force.

The chief and his four officers put a padlock on their offices two weeks ago today. They’ll be back in six months, assuming the town’s balance sheet gets the love it needs. In the meantime, for protection against ne’er-do-wells, petty thieves and outright criminals, citizens of Alto will have to rely on the Cherokee County sheriff’s office, headquartered 12 miles away. “I’m going to try,” commented the county sheriff when notified, “but I can’t guarantee you there will always be an officer in the town.”

Until recently, drastic cutbacks like this were the province of down-and-out medium-sized cities like Camden, N.J. – where half the police force has been let go. Or Oakland, Calif. – where the cops no longer answer burglary calls. Alto’s population in the 2000 census was 1,190. Yet “Everybody’s talking about ‘bolt your doors, buy a gun,” says Mayor Monty Collins.

There’s no dramatic story about how things got to this point – no boondoggle sewer system as in Jefferson County, Ala., no six-figure city salaries as in Bell, Calif. It’s simple: The economy’s hurting, property and sales tax revenues are down and the city’s chief source of revenue – a natural gas distribution plant – needs expensive repairs, for which city fathers obviously didn’t save up. Now the cops have been sent home. “Can you imagine,” we ask in a new special report, “being the victim of a robbery… and knowing the police won’t be there to answer your 911 call?” Big city, small town, doesn’t matter. It can happen almost anywhere. But how vulnerable are you, exactly? Your best defense is knowledge – knowing how deeply your state is in debt, how much it gets in handouts from Washington, how steep are its future pension obligations.

Half a world away from Alto, the parliament in Greece agreed today to bind itself in another round of debt servitude. Violent demonstrations notwithstanding, members approved another round of tax increases and spending cuts to keep Europe’s own extend-and-pretend game going a while longer. Think of Greece as one of your hapless neighbors – maxed out on five credit cards, taking on a second part-time job, holding yard sales and applying for a sixth card just to keep up minimum payments on the other five. Ahhh… deep breath, everyone.

For now, Greece can keep up its minimum payments to the European banks. Which is good because then European banks won’t show up on the doorstep of the American banks to collect on their credit default swaps. (Not that any of the US banks have the resources to pay, anyway.)

“US deficits and debt as a percentage of GDP are at the same level today as what Greece displayed just a few years ago,” reminds Euro Pacific Capital’s Michael Pento, bringing our focus back stateside. “But that fact – if it is being acknowledged at all – is quickly dismissed, because we are also told that the US has a single currency and a printing press that can save us all… “Once the bond vigilantes come to America and bond yields surge, our saving grace is going to be inflation? Yep, that’s our government’s long-term strategy. To boost GDP growth, strengthen our dollar, increase foreigners’ faith in our debt market and lower our borrowing costs, we are going to use Al Capone’s printing press.”

"How It Really Was, Is, And Always Will Be"


Kurt Nimmo, "In America"

"In America the criminally insane rule, and the rest of us, or the vast majority of the rest of us,
either do not care, do not know, or are distracted and properly brainwashed into acquiescence."
- Kurt Nimmo

"Psychopaths: 'Intra-species Predators'"

"Psychopaths: 'Intra-species Predators'"

A comment: Sometimes what’s happening in this world seems nearly indescribably insane. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote, “Once you’ve eliminated the impossible whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Wars, economic crises, fiscal madness, none of these things just happen spontaneously, all by themselves. Perhaps there is a logical explanation. You'll find many posts about psychopathy on this blog, for very good reasons. It would explain much... - CP
"Study: Psychopaths Have 'Potholed' Brains"
by Kate Kelland, Reuters/ABC Science

"Psychopaths have faulty connections between the part of the brain dealing with emotions and that which handles impulses and decision-making, scientists have found. In a study of psychopaths who had committed murder, manslaughter, multiple rape, strangulation and false imprisonment, the British scientists found that roads linking the two crucial brain areas had "potholes", while those of non-psychopaths were in good shape.

The study opens up the possibility of developing treatments for dangerous psychopaths in the future, says Dr Michael Craig of the Institute of Psychiatry at London's King's College Hospital, and may have profound implications for doctors, researchers and the criminal justice system. "These were particular serious offenders with psychopathy and without any other mental illnesses," he says. "Essentially what we found is that the connections in the psychopaths were not as good as the connections in the non-psychopaths. I would describe them as roads between the two areas, and we found that in the psychopaths, the roads had potholes and weren't very well maintained."

Timing is key: The scientists caution against suggestions the study could lead to screening of potential psychopathic criminals before they are able to commit crimes, saying their findings had not established how, when or why the brain links were damaged. Psychopathic extremes have been portrayed in Hollywood blockbusters by characters like the serial killer and cannibal Hannibal Lecter. They often violate social norms, are manipulative, impulsive and sensation-seeking, and appear to feel no empathy or remorse.

Craig, who is lead author of the study, published in the journal "Molecular Psychiatry," stresses that the number of brain scans in the study was small, with only nine psychopaths analyzed compared to nine non-psychopaths. "Trying to get people of this particular type to take part in a study, and also then deal with all the security you need to get them into a brain scanner, is not an easy feat," he says.

The study used a new brain imaging technology to further analyze psychopaths' brains after previous studies found that the amygdala part of the brain, which processes emotions, and orbitofrontal cortex, which handles impulses and decisions, are structurally and functionally different in psychopaths. "Up until recently the technology hasn't been available to look at the connections between those two brain areas in any meaningful way," says Craig. But a new technique, called diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DT-MRI), allows the researchers to look at the white matter tract linking the two key brain areas.

As well as finding clear structural deficits in the tract in psychopathic brains, they also found the degree of abnormality was significantly linked to the degree of psychopathy. "As for the moral significance for society, and how society wants to deal with these things, that is a little premature," says Craig. "This is a small study and the important thing it raises is that more research needs to be done."
- http://www.sott.net/articles/show/195308-Study-Psychopaths-have-potholed-brains

"Understanding Psychopaths"
by Paul Wilson, ABC Science

"Psychopaths are usually egocentric and often experience little guilt or remorse for their actions. The successful TV series Dexter, based on Jeff Lindsay's novels of the same name, follows Dexter Morgan, a forensic blood spatter expert for the Miami Dade Police Department. He hunts down people who have escaped justice and then kills them. Quirky, charming but often murderously violent Dexter's character oscillates between normality and controlled psychopathic fury. But does Dexter represent the typical psychopathic serial killer? For that matter do psychopaths really exist or are they, as some psychologists believe, simply a media and writers' beat-up, a condition that has never been scientifically established?

While I am skeptical about many psychological categorizations and believe that it is always difficult to pigeon-hole humans into neat diagnostic packages, there is a great deal of evidence that psychopaths really do exist. More surprising to many is that violent serial killers - such as Ted Bundy, Australian child killer Derek Percy or even fiction's Dexter - are not necessarily stereotypical psychopaths.

While many psychopaths are violent criminals, others prefer to stay within the bounds of the law and achieve their career or interpersonal aspirations by manipulation and intimidation. Indeed, there is an increasing amount of evidence that corrupt politicians and businessmen, unethical lawyers, some radical activists and many others who may have reached positions of authority or power have psychopathic personalities. And these are the psychopaths we are more likely to encounter or be affected by in our lives.

What is a psychopath? Although there are many evidence-based psychological tests to measure psychopathy, the most well researched is undoubtedly Robert Hare's psychopathy checklist which is used extensively around the world. Hare describes psychopaths as "intra-species predators" who use charm, manipulation and/or violence to satisfy their own selfish needs. Lacking in conscience or real feelings they take what they want regardless of the consequences to others. In pursuing their goals they are likely to be cool under pressure, calm, emotionally flat and lacking in feeling. And by these criteria, Dexter is indeed a quintessential psychopath. The general consensus is that psychopaths don't change over time, although the number of their criminal acts might well reduce with age. However, most experts believe that they remain thoroughly unpleasant individuals throughout their life.

Psychopathy is a socially destructive personality disorder usually characterized by a combination of emotional, interpersonal and behavioral traits. The most common of these are egocentricity, extreme impulsivity coupled with irresponsible behavior, pathological lying and a lack of guilt or remorse. The condition is not a defined mental illness - both legally and in a psychiatric sense psychopaths are generally declared sane, although there is some evidence that a combined diagnosis of schizophrenia and psychopathy occurs occasionally.

Psychopathy and crime: While psychopaths comprise around six per cent of the general population, it's estimated that between 15 and 25 per cent of the American male prison population and seven to 15 per cent of female prisoners are psychopaths. The figures for Australian prisons are thought to be lower, although no one knows for sure.

The crimes of psychopaths are not confined to violent predatory behavior. Embezzlement, major fraud and many other "white collar" offenses are also committed by psychopaths. But often the psychopaths who make headlines are the ones that represent the most violent and dangerous criminals. Those who commit child abduction and murder are very often sexual psychopaths, sadists who delight in inflicting emotional and physical pain on their victims. These men - and occasional woman - are driven by their wild and dangerously out-of-control fantasies that include acting out visions of domination, pain, humiliation and sexual perversion. It is often said that the people who commit these kinds of crimes lack empathy - the ability to identify with how other people feel. But I believe that this view distorts how psychopaths actually feel. [Comment: This is the author's opinion of course, but do Psychopaths actually 'feel' anything for other people?]

Violent sexual psychopaths have an urgent and intense desire to inflict pain and suffering and do actually identify with how their victims feel. Indeed, the more pain and suffering their victims suffer, the more pleasure they obtain - they identify with the pain, they simply do not care about the physical and psychological anguish that they cause.

Causes of psychopathy: A great deal of debate has occurred as to the origins of psychopathy - much of it a classic nature versus nurture argument. Many psychopaths have had appalling childhoods punctuated by parental, sexual or physical abuse by one or both parents. Wayne Gacy, Ted Bundy and many of Australia's and the world's worst serial killers have childhoods marked by these events, often reinforced by horrendous abuse in child or juvenile institutions for young offenders or those taken into care. However, these environments cannot by themselves explain why men and women become violent predators or psychopaths - if only because hundreds of thousands of children all over the world have similar upbringings and never commit any crime or develop psychopathy.

On the 'nature' side of the argument, there is some evidence of physiological differences in the brains of psychopaths. Preliminary neurophysiological research suggests that psychopaths fail to appreciate the emotional importance of events and that this may be related to brain dysfunction especially in the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that is responsible for processing emotions. More recent research has emphasized psychopathy as essentially a learning disability. For example Joseph Newman's work categories the way that psychopaths think as an information processing problem that makes psychopaths oblivious to the implications of their actions when focused on tasks that promise instant rewards. Clearly we are far from understanding the causes of this condition.

The future: We still have a lot to learn about the origins of psychopathy and how it manifests itself across cultures. A great deal of research is currently being conducted on the neurophysiological, psychological and social roots of psychopathy and how each may interact with each other. And in an exciting trend, researchers are increasingly focusing on community studies of psychopaths, rather than just confining their studies to the extreme sub-populations within prisons. This research is critical because few who have worked in this field doubt the enormous destructive power of the psychopathic personality, a personality that seems resilient to any known therapy or intervention."

Professor Paul Wilson, a forensic psychologist and criminologist at Bond University, was one of the guest speakers when ABC Science's Bernie Hobbs hosted "Café Scientific: The Science of Psychopaths in Storytelling" at the Brisbane Writers Festival. His most recent book, written with Amanda Howard, is "Predators: Killers without Conscience," published in Australia by New Holland."

“U.S. War Costs Reach At Least $3.7 Trillion And Counting”

“U.S. War Costs Reach At Least $3.7 Trillion And Counting”
by Reuters

“When President Barack Obama cited cost as a reason to bring troops home from Afghanistan, he referred to a $1 trillion price tag for America's wars. Staggering as it is, that figure grossly underestimates the total cost of wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to the U.S. Treasury and ignores more imposing costs yet to come, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The final bill will run at least $3.7 trillion and could reach as high as $4.4 trillion, according to the research project "Costs of War" by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies. (www.costsofwar.org)

In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan to root out the al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001, attacks, spending on the conflicts totaled $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion. Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs such as long-term obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. The estimates do not include at least $1 trillion more in interest payments coming due and many billions more in expenses that cannot be counted, according to the study.

In human terms, 224,000 to 258,000 people have died directly from warfare, including 125,000 civilians in Iraq. Many more have died indirectly, from the loss of clean drinking water, healthcare, and nutrition. An additional 365,000 have been wounded and 7.8 million people - equal to the combined population of Connecticut and Kentucky - have been displaced.

"Costs of War" brought together more than 20 academics to uncover the expense of war in lives and dollars, a daunting task given the inconsistent recording of lives lost and what the report called opaque and sloppy accounting by the U.S. Congress and the Pentagon. The report underlines the extent to which war will continue to stretch the U.S. federal budget, which is already on an unsustainable course due to an aging American population and skyrocketing healthcare costs. It also raises the question of what the United States gained from its multitrillion-dollar investment. "I hope that when we look back, whenever this ends, something very good has come out of it," Senator Bob Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, told Reuters in Washington.

Sept. 11, 2001: The Damage Continues: In one sense, the report measures the cost of 9/11, the American shorthand for the events of September 11, 2001. Nineteen hijackers plus other al Qaeda plotters spent an estimated $400,000 to $500,000 on the plane attacks that killed 2,995 people and caused $50 billion to $100 billion in economic damages. What followed were three wars in which $50 billion amounts to a rounding error. For every person killed on September 11, another 73 have been killed since.

Was it worth it? That is a question many people want answered, said Catherine Lutz, head of the anthropology department at Brown and co-director of the study. "We decided we needed to do this kind of rigorous assessment of what it cost to make those choices to go to war," she said. "Politicians, we assumed, were not going to do that kind of assessment." The report arrives as Congress debates how to cut a U.S. deficit projected at $1.4 trillion this year, roughly a 10th of which can be attributed to direct war spending.

What did the United States gain for its trillions? Strategically, the results for the United States are mixed. Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are dead, but Iraq and Afghanistan are far from stable democracies. Iran has gained influence in the Gulf and the Taliban, though ousted from government, remain a viable military force in Afghanistan. "The United States has been extremely successful in protecting the homeland," said George Friedman, founder of STRATFOR, a U.S.-based intelligence company. “Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was capable of mounting very sophisticated, complex, operations on an intercontinental basis. That organization with that capability has not only been substantially reduced, it seems to have been shattered," Friedman said.

Economically, the results are also mixed. War spending may be adding half a percentage point a year to growth in the gross domestic product but that has been more than offset by the negative effects of deficit spending, the report concludes.

Comprehensive Study: Some U.S. government reports have attempted to assess the costs of war, notably a March 2011 Congressional Research Service report that estimated post-September 11 war funding at $1.4 trillion through 2012. The Congressional Budget Office projected war costs through 2021 at $1.8 trillion.

A ground-breaking private estimate was published in the 2008 book "The Three Trillion Dollar War," by Linda Bilmes, a member of the Watson Institute team, and Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz. That work revealed how much cost was added by interest on deficit spending and medical care for veterans. The report draws on those sources and pieces together many others for a more comprehensive picture. The report also makes special note of Pakistan, a front not generally mentioned along with Iraq and Afghanistan. War has probably killed more people in Pakistan than in neighboring Afghanistan, the report concludes.

Politicians throughout history have underestimated the costs of war, believing they will be shorter and less deadly than reality, said Neta Crawford, the other co-director of the report and a political science professor at Boston University. The report said former President George W. Bush's administration was "shamelessly politically driven" in underestimating Iraq war costs before the 2003 invasion. Most official sources continue to overlook costs, largely because of a focus on just Pentagon spending, Crawford said. "Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war," Obama said in last week's speech on reducing U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan. At the very least, he was rounding down by $200 billion to $300 billion, when counting U.S. congressional appropriations for the post 9/11 wars. "I don't know what the president knows, but I wish it were a trillion," Crawford said. "It would be better if it were a trillion."

Elusive Numbers: In theory, adding up the dollars spent and lives lost should be a statistical errand. The U.S. Congress appropriates the money, and a life lost on battlefield should have a death certificate and a casket to match. The team quickly discovered, however, the task was far more complicated. Specific war spending over the past 10 years, when expressed in 2011 dollars, comes to $1.3 trillion, the "Costs of War" project found. When it comes to accounting for every dollar, that $1.3 trillion is merely a good start. Since the wars have been financed by deficit spending, interest must be paid - $185 billion of accumulated so far.

The Pentagon has received an additional $326 billion to $652 billion beyond what can be attributed to the war appropriations, the study found. Homeland security spending has totaled another $401 billion so far that can be traced to September 11. War-related foreign aid: another $74 billion. Then comes caring for U.S. veterans of war. Nearly half of the 1.25 million who have served in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan have used their status as veterans to make health or disability claims at an expense of $32.6 billion to date. Those costs will soar over the next 40 years as veterans age. The report estimates the U.S. obligations to the veterans will reach $589 billion to $934 billion through 2050.

So far, those numbers add up to a low estimate of $2.9 trillion and a moderate estimate of $3.6 trillion in costs to the U.S. Treasury. No high estimate was offered. "We feel a conservative measure of costs is plenty large to attract attention," said report contributor Ryan Edwards, an economist who studied the war impact on deficit spending. Those numbers leave out hundreds of billions in social costs not born by the U.S. taxpayer but by veterans and their families: another $295 billion to $400 billion, increasing the range of costs to date to some $3.2 trillion to $4 trillion. That's a running total through fiscal 2011. Add another $453 billion in war-related spending projected for 2012 to 2020 and the total grows to $3.668 trillion to $4.444 trillion.

The Human Toll: If the financial costs are elusive, so too is the human toll. The report estimates between 224,475 and 257,655 have been killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, though those numbers give a false sense of precision. There are many sources of data on civilian deaths, most with different results. The civilian death toll in Iraq - 125,000 - and the number of Saddam's security forces killed in invasion - 10,000 - are loose estimates. The U.S. military does not publish a thorough accounting. "We don't do body counts," Tommy Franks, the U.S. commander in Iraq, famously said after the fall of Saddam in 2003.

In Afghanistan, the civilian death count ranges from 11,700 to 13,900. For Pakistan, where there is little access to the battlefield and the United States fights mostly through aerial drone attacks, the study found it impossible to distinguish between civilian and insurgent deaths. The numbers only consider direct deaths - people killed by bombs or bullets. Estimates for indirect deaths in war vary so much that researchers considered them too arbitrary to report.

"When the fighting stops, the indirect dying continues. It's in fact worse than land mines. The healthcare system is still in bad shape. People are still suffering the effects of malnutrition and so on," Crawford said. Even where the United States does do body counts - for the members of the military - the numbers may come up short of reality, said Lutz, the study's co-director. When veterans return home, they are more likely to die in suicides and automobile accidents. "The rate of chaotic behavior," she said, "is high."

"Ft. Calhoun: A Nightmare Scenario?"

 "Ft. Calhoun: A Nightmare Scenario?"
by Zen Gardner

"We better be thinking ahead at this point. If it's not outright sabotoge going on in Nebraska it might as well be. The news blackout and no-fly zone and usual downplaying assurances tell you all you need to know anyway. If Calhoun melts down the contamination will be catastrophic, estimated by some to potentially be as much as 20 Fukushimas due to all the fuel rods being stored there. Smart. But this time there's no ocean to cross.

And Who's Downwind? According to today's jet stream report, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and right on through the New York megalopolis and all of New England...with the gulf stream drawing it down the eastern seaboard all the way through Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. That will include direct hits on the heavily populated metro areas of St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York and DC. We also know that the gulf stream moves around-naturally, and unnaturally thanks to HAARP weather manipulation technology. Doesn't that give you peace. And then downstream? The contaminated flood waters would devastate everything in its path, including all the states, fisheries and farmland along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and on into the Gulf of Mexico. I know, it sucks.

The Perfect Storm: And this didn't cross 5000 miles of open ocean first. This would be a direct hit. One can't begin to estimate the amount of life of all forms that would be contaminated if such a disaster were to occur. On top of this, this is America's breadbasket getting flooded, tornadoed and nuked. The repercussions are inestimable. All we need now is for the New Madrid Fault to go. It's almost beyond belief. And unfortunately this where most people are going to file all this... beyond belief, much like the Gulf disaster, the major earthquakes and tsunamis, and Fukushima. As long as the media don't let their guard down and react with genuine concern or outrage, most of the populace will opt to think everything's OK.

Don't Just Sit There: We recently moved from an area we considered dangerous and are planning further moves. We've changed our lives so that we can uproot from just about anywhere at a moment's notice if need be, and advise others to consider doing the same. That, or batten down the hatches with proper protection and supplies. (Potassium iodide should be administered with caution and research-other good supplements and cleanses are available on natural medicine sites.) Alarmist? You bet. Someone better sound the alarm...the powers that be sure won't. Be prepared.”
A comment: This is being posted to inform, not alarm you. What's sad about the whole thing is that we know very well that the main stream media liars and propaganda artists will never tell us the truth, so we have to find it wherever we can. I can't verify this story. I don't live there and have no first hand knowledge of what's actually happening, but if what this author says is true then it's extremely important, don't you think? It's something we all have a right to know, and to do whatever we can to protect ourselves. In these days and times this is the best we can do. Isn't that pathetic? - CP

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

“Let It Flow: Tears”

“Let It Flow: Tears”
by The DailyOm

“Tears are as natural to us as breathing and there is beauty in allowing yourself to be open to the pain of tears. How wonderful it feels to give in and let tears flow when we are overwhelmed with emotions, whether we are happy or sad. Tears come from the soul, from our well of feelings rising from deep down. When we give in to the prickling behind our eyes and the lump in our throat to let teardrops fall from our eyes, we allow our feelings to surface so they can be set free.

Proud parents shed tears of pride in a child’s accomplishments, a baby’s first step, birthdays, and graduations. Long lost friends fall into each others arms, tears rolling down their cheeks when they reunite after years of separation. Tears may flow from us when we are witness to a commitment being made at a wedding or even while we are watching a love story. Tears of relief may spring forth from our eyes when we hear that a loved one has survived an ordeal, and tears may fall when we bow our head in sorrow over a loss or death. Tears born from heartache can flow like they’ll never cease, whether our tears are for a love that is over, a friendship lost, or an opportunity missed. We shed tears because of disappointment in ourselves, tragedy in the world, pain, and illness. Tears of anger can burn with emotion as they fall down our faces. Tears offer us a physical release of our feelings.

Shedding tears can sometimes make us feel better, although it can feel like the tears will never end once the floodgates are open. There is no shame in letting tears flow freely and frequently. Tears are as natural to us as is breathing. There is beauty in allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to shed tears. Open up, release your tears, and let your feelings flow.”
- http://www.dailyom
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“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.”
- Jim Valvano