Saturday, February 28, 2015

Another reason to quit

“Smoking is related to practically every terrible thing that can happen to you.” — Loni Anderson

I SUBSCRIBE to MedCity News, published by MedCity Media located in Cleveland, OH, home of the famous Cleveland Clinic. It's an online newsletter that bills itself as "the leading online news source for the business of innovation in healthcare."

I came across a February 27 MedCity article that was sourced from the Huffington Post about a study conducted by the University College London and the British Heart Foundation that links smoking to anxiety and depression. Just in case you need any additional encouragement to quit smoking — or better yet, to not take it up in the first place — below is the Huffington Post piece.

Smokers Are More Likely To Suffer From Anxiety And Depression
By Lindsay Holmes
February 25, 2015

If you're looking for another reason to quit, here it is: Cigarettes may be a sign of mental health problems.

Contrary to the perception of cigarettes as a stress reliever, smokers are 70 percent more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression overall compared with non-smokers, according to a new British study.

Research from the University College London and the British Heart Foundation examined nearly 6,500 people over the age of 40 in the United Kingdom on their smoking habits and mental health. More than 18 percent of smokers in the study reported having anxiety and depression, compared to just 10 percent of non-smokers and 11.3 percent of ex-smokers.

What's more, the smokes may be the source of some anxiety. The study also found that long-term ex-smokers (those who had kicked the habit for more than a year) had anxiety and depression profiles similar to participants who had never smoked. This finding suggests that quitting smoking may actually be the way to boost mental health.

"The perception of a cigarette relieving stress is a misinterpretation of what's actually happening -- what you're really experiencing when you light up a cigarette is the early signs of withdrawal," Mike Knapton, associate medical director for the BHF, told The Huffington Post. "Those symptoms of withdrawal are very similar to stress ... The cigarette will relieve those symptoms, and you think that it's making you feel better, but all it's doing is abolishing the early signs of nicotine withdrawal. Then of course this cycle goes on cigarette after cigarette."

According to Knapton, a BHF survey conducted last year found that a third of U.K. smokers claimed they couldn't quit the habit because they believed in the anxiety-reducing effects of smoking.

"If you think the smoking is managing your stress, it isn't -- it's making it worse," he said. "This report abolishes that myth."

Mental health experts strongly advise against using addictive vices to help patients cope with anxiety and depression. While many people are under the assumption that cigarettes and alcohol can take the edge off, Michael Roizen, M.D., Cleveland Clinic's chief wellness officer and author of This Is Your Do-over, says the opposite may actually happen. The key is adopting other, healthier behaviors that activate the same reward system in the brain.

"That 'high' you get from cigarettes isn't useful because it's destructive to your body," Roizen told HuffPost. "You want to figure out what will give you a 'high' that isn't damaging or contributes to disease. Do that by finding a passion you love, whether it's exercise, talking with a friend or cooking. That's going to help, particularly when it comes to depression."

The new findings are hardly the first that support the idea of extinguishing cigarettes once and for all. Smoking causes one of every five deaths in the United States each year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The habit can also lead to lung cancer, heart disease and other potentially-fatal ailments.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Party of two

“Fashion is a language. Some know it, some learn it, some never will — like an instinct.” — Edith Head

PAUL and I had our traditional annual Oscar party for two at home last Sunday night. We had shrimp from Waterfront Seafood, spaghetti, onion rings, a green salad with Gino's creamy garlic dressing, and K-Too gluten-free fake Oreos — which I swear are better than the real ones. 

It's a tradition that I started well before I met Paul, but he makes sure we do it every year. Click here to read the story of how it started. He said next year he believes he'll wear his tux. 

And naturally I have to rag on about the rags on. Here are my faves from the night:

Octavia Spencer.

Most becoming for the 57-year-old Melanie Griffith.
Too bad she's ruined her face.
Behati Prinsloo with Adam Levine. Great dress,
but could you possibly not look so bored and condescending?
I don't like Gwyneth Paltrow, but I liked her dress.
Anna Kendrick.
Sienna Miller.
Reese Witherspoon.
Kelly Ripa: Old Hollywood glamour.
Nancy O'Dell: Not an A-lister, but an A-list dress, IMHO.

I thought this dress worn by Laura Dern was ingenious.
I loved the art deco look of Julianne Moore's dress.
Rita Ora: Old Hollywood meets 2015.
Marion Cotillard always makes striking, creative choices.
Simple, stunning. Cate Blanchett never makes a mistake.
This was my favorite dress of the night, worn by Rosamund Pike.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SS Chris Christie hits the New Jersey shoals

"And on this you have my pledge - unlike in the past, when you stood up and did what was right, this governor will not pull the rug out from underneath you - I will sign strong reform bills." — Governor Chris Christie

IF WE'RE lucky, that pop riveted, blunderbuss of a shipping tanker, the SS Chris Christie, has run aground. 

Those of you who read Hey Look on even a semi-regular basis, know that I'm no fan of his. More accurately, he is IMHO a bully, an opportunist, a pompous, self-aggrandizing, narcissist, and above all, a lying liar who lies. 

On the other hand, I'm a loyal fan of witty New York Times writer Gail Collins, she who specializes in unmasking those of Mr. Christie's ilk. 

Adieu, Chris Christie, Adieu
By Gail Collins
February 26, 2015

Chris Christie is political toast.

Cause of his charred presidential prospects: an unreformed state pension system. I know that’s disappointing. Not nearly as exciting as the political near-death experiences that went before. We were hoping the next disaster would be something like Governor Yells at Elmo. Or a reprise of the day he chased a guy down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone, this time maybe featuring Tom Hanks or Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Fixing New Jersey’s pension system was supposed to be Christie’s signature achievement. He explained it in his keynote speech at the Republican convention in 2012, right after he told us about his mom, his dad, his wife, his children and his love of Bruce Springsteen. “They said it was impossible to touch the third rail of politics,” he bragged.

By this point some of his listeners were wondering when he’d get to Mitt Romney. But Christie went on about how he had saved New Jersey workers’ pensions and staved off fiscal disaster. Thanks to shared sacrifice and “politicians who led instead of politicians who pandered.”

The politicians in question would be Chris Christie, who appeared to be referring to himself with the royal “we.” No matter. It was still a very big deal because there are crisis-ridden pension plans all over the country in need of rescue.

This is the kind of problem that can be fixed only if both sides agree to sacrifices they’d much rather avoid. That’s particularly problematic in American politics because pandering candidates often promise that they can make the pain go away. (When he first ran for governor, Christie sent out an “Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ” denouncing rumors that he might “attempt to diminish or take away teachers’ pensions and benefits. Let me be clear — nothing could be further from the truth.”)

As soon as he was elected, Christie began negotiating on a law that would, um, diminish the benefits. It also required the state to raise its own pension contributions until the whole system was healthy. Bipartisan agreement!

“He was looked at nationally as a hero,” recalled Stephen Sweeney, the Democratic State Senate president, who had been working on the problem for years. “It was my pension plan he was touting, but anyway ...”

Pop Quiz: After the Legislature passed the agreement, the workers started seeing smaller paychecks. What did Chris Christie do to keep his side of the bargain?

A) Found the money to make the higher payments no matter what the political cost, because he’s that kind of guy.

B) Found the money for the first two years when the price tag was low, then punted.

C) Chased the state workers down the boardwalk while waving an ice cream cone.

Yes! He punted in Year 3. Which was, to be fair, after the Republican National Convention.

In order to ease the transition, the law allowed New Jersey to ease into its new big pension payments. Christie came up with the first relatively small bill. And then the second year’s. But, by Year 3, there just wasn’t enough money. The State Legislature passed a budget that paid for the pension contribution with tax increases, including one on incomes over $1 million.

Christie vetoed the taxes, and he reduced the new pension contribution to less than half of the target. Nobody’s going to give you the Republican presidential nomination if you raise taxes on rich people. The unions went to court. This week, on the eve of Christie’s budget address, a judge told him to pay up.

“We don’t need a judge to tell us we have a problem,” the governor said, somewhat inaccurately.

This was during the budget address, which Christie devoted almost exclusively to pensions, in a tone that suggested he was the real victim. (“I have stood behind this podium for five years talking about this problem.”)

Well, it certainly is a mess, and the workers probably aren’t done sacrificing. But it’s hard to imagine this governor luring them to the table. “You can always go back to people when you’re living up to your obligations. But you can’t go back to people when you basically break your word,” said Sweeney.

For the rest of us, the news is that Christie is now about as serious a presidential prospect as Donald Trump. The Republicans certainly aren’t going to nominate him because of his in-depth experience in foreign affairs. And if they just want to pick a governor, they’ll probably lean toward one whose administration has enjoyed fewer than eight credit downgrades.

Sure, there’s Christie’s tough-talking, truth-teller thing. But the idea was that his in-your-face style pushed New Jersey to reform. If there’s no reform, you’d have to presume that the American people are just hungry for a president who will yell at members of the audience during the State of the Union address. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Teenage fathers pass on more mutations

"The mutation rate is high in teenagers. It goes lower in the young adults and then rises again after 35." — Dr. Peter Forster, geneticist

TEENAGE psyches are seldom mature enough to take on parenthood. Now there's a study conducted by the University of Cambridge in Britain and the Institute for Forensic Genetics in Munster, Germany indicating that teenage DNA isn't either. 

Below is an NBC article about the study.

Teen Dads Pass Mutations to Their Kids
By Maggie Fox
February 17. 2015

Here's another reason to discourage teen sex: teenage fathers pass along six times as many genetic mutations to their kids as do teenage mothers.

Researchers who looked at the DNA of more than 24,000 parents and their children found that when the father was 20 or younger, the children had many more mutations than did children of older dads, as well as many more mutations than the offspring of teen mothers and adult dads.

It might be that there's something wrong with the sperm of younger men and boys, says Dr. Peter Forster of the University of Cambridge in Britain and the Institute for Forensic Genetics in Munster, Germany, who led the study.

"The mutation rate is high in teenagers. It goes lower in the young adults and then rises again after 35," Forster told NBC News.

The finding may help explain why birth defects are more common among the children of very young parents, Forster said, although he noted that the overall risk of defects is very low.

"It increases the risk by 30 percent," he said. "For the individual, that means an increase from a 1.5 percent risk of having baby with birth defects to 2 percent, so the individual teenager shouldn't be too worried," he added. "However, for policymakers an increase in birth defects of half a percent across the population is a serious matter, and policymakers should continue to discourage teenage parenthood."

The study used an unusual group of parents: Austrian and German parents who were having paternity testing done, as well as immigrants to Britain from Africa and the Middle East who were seeking to prove family members were really related to them.

Some of the parents were very young. The youngest mother was 10 and the youngest father was 12. The oldest mother at time of conception was 52 and the oldest father was 70.

They looked for mutations in the children that weren't found in either parent. There were not very many, but 54 were traced to the mother and 297 to the father. When they broke these mutation rates down by age, they found that teenage fathers were more likely to pass along mutations than all but the oldest fathers.

It's well known that older fathers and mothers alike are more likely to pass along genetic defects to their offspring, from Down's syndrome to dwarfism. Forster's team didn't look at the types of genetic changes linked with these conditions, but at a part of the DNA called microsatellites. These microsatellites change every time a cell divides and can tell you just how many divisions there have been since a cell first split into two more cells.

Forster believes that whatever is going on in passing along these mutations first happens in the so-called germ cells — the eggs and sperm. Girls carry all the eggs they'll ever have from birth, while males make fresh sperm all along. But it's possible the mutations arise in sperm precursor cells, which may not be made anew but which may exist from early childhood, Forster said.

The mutation rates they found correlate with the idea of a female steady supply of eggs, but they don't match the idea that sperm are always made fresh. Otherwise, males should have higher mutation rates all along.
Instead, they start out high and drop as the teens hit their 20s, starting back up again at about age 35.

"The fathers' mutation rate then rises only slightly by age 50," the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, a British scientific journal.

The next step will be to look at other types of DNA mutations in the children of teenage fathers specifically, and to see if they can be linked to specific birth defects, Forster's team said.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Preventing peanut allergies

“Peanut butter is the paté of childhood.” — Florence Fabricant, food writer

ABOUT two percent of American children are allergic to peanuts, a number that has more than quadrupled since 1977, and there have been big increases in other Western countries as well.

A study published February 23, 2015 in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates that the early introduction of peanut into infants' diets dramatically decreases the risk of developing peanut allergy. The NEJM editorial accompanying the study called the results "so compelling and the rise of peanut allergies so alarming that guidelines for how to feed infants at risk of peanut allergies should be revised soon." 

Below is an article from yesterday's 2/23/15 LA Times

BTW: For those who are already extremely allergic to peanuts, there is an alternative to hyper-abstinance. Read about it here at Help for the most seriously allergic.

Peanut allergies? For children, the best treatment may be peanuts

By Karen Kaplan
February 23, 2015

It seemed like a good idea at the time: With the incidence of peanut allergy climbing among children, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents in 2000 to keep peanuts far away from infants and toddlers who might have a life-threatening reaction to them.

But a new study suggests that advice did more harm than good.

A long-awaited clinical trial has found that small children who avoided peanuts for the first five years of their lives were up to seven times more likely to wind up with a peanut allergy than kids who ate peanuts at least three times a week.

The findings were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

“The results have the potential to transform how we approach food allergy prevention,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement. The institute helped fund the study.

The trial results offer fresh support for the so-called hygiene hypothesis, which ties the rise in allergies and autoimmune disorders to the ultra-sterile environment made possible by antibacterial soap, disinfectants and other cleansers that have become staples of modern life.

Indeed, a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics found that children whose families used dishwashing machines were more likely to have allergies than kids whose plates were washed by hand.

All of this unnatural cleanliness robs the immune system of the opportunity to develop resistance to germs and other substances that humans used to encounter on a regular basis.

The result is less immune tolerance — and more allergies. About 3% of children in developed countries are now allergic to peanuts, the study authors say. The rate in the U.S. has tripled over less than two decades, according to figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although allergies to eggs and cows’ milk are more common, peanut allergies are the most likely to be life-threatening and generally persist for a lifetime.

The alarming rise of peanut allergies has led to the banning of peanuts from schools, airlines and other venues.

Anecdotal evidence for the hygiene hypothesis came from a 2008 study of Jewish children. Some lived in Britain, where toddlers don’t eat peanuts until they are at least a year old. The others lived in Israel, where infants start eating foods made with peanuts when they are 7 months old.

Although both groups of children had a “similar genetic background,” the British children were 10 times more likely to have peanut allergies than their counterparts in Israel.

Some of the doctors and allergy experts who worked on that study set out to test the hygiene hypothesis.

They enrolled 640 infants in the Learning Early about Peanut Allergy trial — nicknamed LEAP. All the infants were deemed to be at risk of developing peanut allergies because they were already allergic to eggs or had severe eczema, a skin condition that can be caused by allergies.

All the infants were between 4 and 11 months old when they joined the study.
Researchers conducted a skin-prick test to see whether the infants had any sensitivity to peanuts at the start of the study. Then they were randomly assigned to either consume at least 6 grams of peanut protein per week — in the form of a smooth peanut butter or a peanut snack called Bamba — or to avoid peanuts altogether.

Children who showed some peanut sensitivity and were sorted into the peanut-eating group had to pass a peanut food challenge to make sure they could handle their assignment. Six who had a reaction to peanuts were reassigned to the peanut-avoidance group.

The researchers examined the children in two groups — the 85% who had no sensitivity to peanuts at the start of the study and the 15% who were already developing peanut allergies.

In both groups, the results were striking.

Among the children with no sign of peanut allergy at the start of the trial, 13.7% of those who avoided peanuts became allergic by the time they turned 5. But among the children who ate peanuts regularly, only 1.9% became allergic. That amounted to an 86% relative reduction in peanut allergy risk, the study authors found.

Peanut exposure was also helpful for kids who were already on the road to peanut allergies. Among the 5-year-olds, the allergy rate for those who avoided peanuts was 35.3%, compared with only 10.6% for those who ate peanuts. That worked out to a 70% relative reduction in allergy risk, according to the study.

Kids' food allergies cost U.S. nearly $25 billion a year, study finds
The researchers were able to collect dust samples from the beds of nearly two-thirds of the children at the end of the trial. Children who ate peanuts had a median of 91.1 micrograms of peanut particles in their bed dust, while their peanut-avoiding counterparts had a median of only 4.1 micrograms of peanut.

In addition, blood tests showed that the children who ate peanuts had higher levels of two types of peanut-related antibodies than the children who avoided the nuts.

Peanut exposure had its problems. Five types of side effects — upper respiratory tract infections, viral skin infections, hives, gastroenteritis and conjunctivitis — occurred more frequently among the peanut eaters than the peanut avoiders.

But the severity of these side effects tended to be mild or moderate, according to the study.

“This intervention was safe, tolerated, and highly efficacious,” the study authors wrote.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has already withdrawn its endorsement of peanut avoidance. And in the years after the study of Jewish children was published, researchers reported similar findings about allergies to eggs and cow’s milk.

Many questions remain, however. Among them: How much peanut protein do children need to eat to reduce their allergy risk? Will the protective effect wear off if kids stop eating peanuts?

The researchers plan to find out by tracking the study participants through a study they have dubbed LEAP-On.

In the meantime, two pediatric allergy specialists suggest that infants at risk for peanut allergy should try a similar regimen of peanut exposure.

“The results of this trial are so compelling, and the problem of the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy so alarming, new guidelines should be forthcoming very soon,” they wrote in an editorial that accompanies the study in the New England Journal of Medicine. “The LEAP study makes it clear that we can do something now to reverse the increasing prevalence of peanut allergy.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Turner Center valentine

“For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul.” — Judy Garland

IN THE MIDST of all this pajama tagging, sorting, packing, delivering and media arranging, PaulRichard Early, Andy Classen and I had two Valentine's concerts to put on — one at the Turner Center on February 12 and a second one the evening of Valentine's Day in Red Oak, Iowa

It was quite the challenge because for one reason or another various regular members of the band were missing — bari sax, tenor sax, three trumpets, drums and keyboard — and subs had to be found. We cast a wide net, even bringing trumpet master Chris VanLeeuwen up from Kansas City to play. The ever-divine Tina Haas Findlay was our vocalist.

If audience response was any measure, it was worth all the effort. Below are photos from the 2/12/15 Turner Center concert courtesy of photographer Karl Schilling.

Left to right. Trumpets: Greg Warthan and Steve Day. Trombones: Paul and Richard Early. Saxes: Tony Wadle and John Morgan.

The divine Miss THF with trumpets Jim Bovinette and Chris VanLeeuwen.

Trumpet line from right to left: Steve Day, Greg Warthan, Chris VanLeeuwen.

Jim Romain on tenor sax, Jim Bovinette on trumpet and Steve Charlson on bass.

Mark Grimm on drums.

Jamie Poulsen on keyboard, John Benoit on trombone.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Delivering PJs

"Is solace anywhere more comforting than that in the arms of a sister." — Alice Walker

THE THREE weeks since the Helen's Pajama party have been hectic — and exhausting. It was an accomplishment getting them all tagged, sorted, packed and ready for the 13 regional domestic violence shelters, but the next step was actually getting them to the women and children who need them.

After mixed success piggybacking pajama delivery with people traveling to shelter cities for business or family, I remembered a method of distribution I've used in the past: Iowa legislators! During the January through May session, legislators drive back and forth from the Capitol in Des Moines to their homes every weekend, leaving Thursday night and returning Monday.

Viola! Wheels to the cities where domestic violence shelters are located, if they'd be willing. (I admit it: I thought it was a stroke of genius when I hit upon it some years back.) 

But then another thought occurred that added another layer of complexity to distribution.

Let me backtrack just a little. Remember Tiffany Allison? I'll remind you of her story:

In 2009 Tiffany was the victim of an especially brutal assault by a man she was dating. He beat her to unconsciousness with his hands, knees, feet and a wrought iron cross until it broke, bit her over various part her body and urinated on her.

Some of Tiffany bruises and bite marks.

During his trial, Tiffany discovered that she was her abuser’s fifth victim! 

Yet when convicted of his crimes against Tiffany, her abuser was given only a 2½-year sentence and served just 10 months before being released.

Guess what happened then? 

There was a sixth victim — who's face was permanently disfigured.

Although sentenced to 15 years for this, his sixth offense offense, he will most likely be released after serving only 1½ to three years.

As a result of her real-life experiences, Tiffany wrote the Violent Habitual Offender Bill (Senate File 23) to protect herself and the rest of us by making sure that serially violent individuals get longer sentences and serve more of the sentences they're given.

As you might suspect, I'm in favor of this bill because it will give the most violent offenders less access to future victims by keeping these exceptionally dangerous individuals in prison longer.

Which brings me around to how my life got more complicated.

It occurred to me that if I succeeded in getting legislative 'names' to ferry hundreds of pajamas to shelters across the state, it presented the perfect opportunity to generate media in the recipient towns for the purpose of raising awareness about a) the prevalence of domestic abuse b) the need for pajamas (and other items too numerous to mention) — and c) this bill.

Tiffany is a poised, compelling and knowledgeable speaker on the subject of domestic violence, and despite the fact that she's a full-time student at Simpson and works three jobs — she was willing to drive all over heck and gone to help deliver pajamas and raise wareness.

I began feverishly contacting legislators, writing and sending press releases and calling TV stations and newspapers.

Representative Dave Dawson was good enough to agree to take 148 pairs pajamas Friday, February 13 to the Council on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence in Sioux City, and all three local affiliates KCAU (ABC), KTIV (NBC) and KMEG (CBS) and IPR covered the pajama drop. In addition KCAU did an hour studio interview and KTIV did a half hour studio interview with Tiffany.

The following weekend Senate Majority Leader, Mike Gronstal agreed to taxi 85 pairs to the Catholic Charities Phoenix House in Council Bluffs on Valentine's Day and Tiffany drove all the way there to speak on the issues. I thought Valentine's Day was a fitting for the deliveries as a reminder that love shouldn't hurt.

Meanwhile, I drove to Davenport the same day to deliver 115 pairs to Safe Path Survivors Resources

For those of you who aren't familiar with Iowa, Council Bluffs and Davenport are on completely opposite sides of the state; Council Bluffs is on the Missouri River which divides Iowa from Nebraska, and Davenport is on the Mississippi River which separates Iowa from Illinois.

One Omaha station covered the Senator before the drop, another station interviewed Tiffany, and the Omaha World Herald ran the below short blurb.

Omaha World Herald
Sunday, February 15, 2015  

Good Deeds

Following are fundraisers, donations and other charitable events happening in the Midlands. Email your information about good deeds to or call 402-444-1040.

PJ delivery: New pajamas — 85 pairs — collected by Helen’s Pajama Party were delivered Saturday to the women and children staying at the Catholic Charities Phoenix House domestic violence shelter in Council Bluffs. The delivery was made by Iowa State Sen. Mike Gronstal and Tiffany Allison, once a victim of domestic abuse. Helen’s Pajama Party is a nonprofit organization that started in Des Moines and collects new pajamas to give to people staying at domestic violence shelters.

In Davenport KWQC-TV 6 covered the drop and the Sean Leary interviewed me and wrote the below article for the Quad City Times.

Making a pair of PJs the first step to a new life
February 14, 2015
By Sean Leary

The warm, cozy comfort of tucking one's self into a new pair of pajamas is a small, but familiar pleasure. But to many women and children, it’s more than a minor wardrobe ritual. It’s a significant step into a new life.

“Most of the people who are fleeing domestic abuse situations are doing so in the middle of the night, women and children who are escaping a dangerous situation. And 90 percent of the time they only have the clothes on their backs when they walk into a shelter for help. We’re here to change that,” said Kelly Sargent, the founder and director of the Des Moines-based Helen’s Pajama Party.

As part of the movement to change that paradigm, Sargent was in Davenport on Saturday to donate 90 new sets of pajamas to the Family Resources domestic violence shelter. However, even that number is a mere drop in the bucket, she said.

“These are for 75 women and 15 children, but over 400 women a year come here for help, so this will only cover a short time,” she said. “We’re always looking to make a bigger difference.

“What most people don’t realize is that it’s not just that these women and children need pajamas, or need new clothes. It’s also that they need something tangible and nice to start new lives,” she said. “All of the pajamas come with a note about that. This is about showing them that they’re valuable, they’re worth something, they’re worth getting something new and nice.

“When the women and children come to the shelter, they get to pick out their own pair of pajamas, and that’s also significant because abuse situations are all about control and power, all about them not having any control over their lives. And even this, just the simple act of them choosing a pair of pajamas for themselves, gives them some small measure of control,” she said. “The pajamas have all sorts of patterns on them and designs, from clouds to puppies to flowers, and we’ll ask that they pick one that speaks to them, that makes them feel good and makes them feel like they’re making a step forward into a new life.”

The reason Sargent picked Valentine’s Day for the delivery was to build awareness that “love should not hurt,” she said. A self-proclaimed “pajama fanatic,” she began the program in 2009 after making a donation to a local shelter and, in talking to the staff there, realizing the depth of the problem. Since then, her program, which is dependent on donations, has expanded to cover the entire state of Iowa.

“I feel very humbled by this, but to be honest, I wish I could finally go out of business because that would mean this wasn’t a problem anymore,” Sargent said.

However, while it is, area shelters are pleased with the assistance.

“We’re always very grateful to anyone who helps out, and for someone to do something this amazing as Kelly has is fantastic,” said Nicole Cisne Durbin, the director of Family Resources in Davenport. “It also shows these women that they’re not alone, that there are people that care about them and that want to help them.”

For more information on the programs, call Safe Path Survivor Resources at (866) 921-3354.

In the meantime, Karl Schilling, President of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance and a tireless advocate on behalf of crime victims, wrote the below guest editorial column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette that ran February 18. 

My sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed pajamas, time, brainpower, person-power and money to aid and encourage victims of domestic violence and raise awareness of it's intolerable existence. Keep at it if you can.

Violent Habitual Offender Bill will prevent future victims
By Karl Schilling, guest columnist
Befruary 18, 2015

In this legislative session, our representatives have an opportunity to pass a bill that will be an expression of one of the first principles of government, public safety.

The Violent Habitual Offender Bill, Senate File 23, sponsored by democratic Sen. Matt McCoy, is largely the work of a young woman named Tiffany Allison who was beaten and later discovered she was the offender’s fifth victim.

Allison’s attacker was given a two and a half year sentence, of which he served 10 months in prison and two years on parole. He reoffended, this time permanently disfiguring a woman’s face by biting her.

Because he broke into the victim’s car, he was sentenced to 10 years for burglary and five for willful injury; sentences to be served consecutively. Under current policy he will most likely serve one and one half to three years in prison. Given that it is his sixth official offense and he has been progressively more violent, the prospects of his being safely returned to society in such a short time are grim.

The Violent Habitual Offender Bill would require violent habitual offenders to serve 85 percent of their sentence followed by a period of parole so their integration into society can be monitored and they can receive counseling to help them succeed.

It is expensive to keep offenders in prison, but it is even more expensive to retry and readmit people who reoffend. But the greatest expense is not monetary, it is the violence to Iowa’s citizens and the creation of more victims of crime.

While there are approximately 8,000 people incarcerated in Iowa, there are only about 370 habitual offenders. Of those, only 80-90 would be affected by this act — they are the most dangerous and violent people in the system.

Legislators have an opportunity to do that for which government primarily exists: the protection of society. Passing this bill would result in a safer Iowa, an offender with a better chance at rehabilitation and hope for the victims of their crimes.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Andy Borowitz considers Jeb

“Never attribute to malevolence what is merely due to incompetence” ― Arthur C. Clarke, 3001: The Final Odyssey

IF YOU'RE not familiar with The Borowitz Report, it's time. From the February 18, 2015 edition of The New Yorker.

CHICAGO (The Borowitz Report) — In an effort to distance himself from the legacy of his brother, George W. Bush, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will use a major foreign-policy speech on Wednesday to assert that, if elected President, he would harm the nation in completely different ways.

“A lot of people are looking at me and thinking that I’m just going to be a rerun of my brother,” Bush told reporters before the speech. “They are greatly underestimating my ability to create chaos and destruction in ways that are uniquely mine.”

As an example, Bush said, he was unlikely to invade Iraq for a third time, calling such an action “too derivative.”

“George already did it, and Dad did it before him,” he said. “Call it my independent streak, if you will, but I want to spawn some disasters of my own.”

To that end, Bush said that he and his foreign-policy team were already scanning the globe for “new and different places” where the United States could become involved in open-ended and pointless quagmires.

“I see boundless opportunities for the reckless and totally optional insertion of American military force,” he said. “No offense to my brother, but there were a few spots that George missed.”

Friday, February 13, 2015


“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” — Mark Twain

I'VE shared Funny or Die videos before. Second only to Lonesome Earl and the Clutterbustersthis is the best! You're welcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I'm an anti-braker

“Praise undeserved, is satire in disguise.” — Alexander Pope

OKAY boys and girls, just so we're clear here, the below blog post article written by Robert Moore Jr. is satire. Paul came across it, and we both think it's the bomb. You'll figure it out.

I’m an Anti-Braker
February 4, 2015
by Robert Moore Jr.

Guys, I wanted to let you know about a personal decision I recently made. I don’t really feel like discussing it, but I want to put my position out there. Please be respectful. This is a really long post, but please read the whole thing.

I’m taking the brakes off my car. This isn’t a rash decision, so please listen up.

A few weeks ago I saw a car accident - two people went through an intersection at the same time. Both slammed on their brakes at the same time and collided. Fortunately no one was seriously injured.

But then it occurred to me - if they had just gone through the intersection, they wouldn’t have collided. The brakes CAUSED the accident!

So, I decided to do my own research and what I found was *staggering*: Hundreds of people every year are seriously injured by unnecessary braking. One time, I was driving in the snow and I just lightly tapped my brakes and it caused my car to COMPLETELY LOSE CONTROL. My brakes could have very easily gotten me killed. Even more astoundingly is how often brake pads will warp and distort rotors, causing bumpy rides and squeaky wheels.

And you know what? I also found that decades ago brakes weren’t even used! People would control their vehicle’s speed with downshifting and engine braking. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but back when engine braking was used there were almost no automotive fatalities. There were NEVER brake caused car accidents.

After doing some more digging, I found a nefarious plot - mechanics: The very people who we trust to work on and care for our cars - get PAID to install and change brakes! You might THINK they care about our safety, or our cars - but they’re just in it for the $49.99 brake pad installations.

So I talked to my mechanic about taking the brakes off my car and I was disgusted by how poorly he treated me. He accused me of being ignorant, when I was the one that looked up how much rotational torque brakes can put on your rotors. He didn’t even know how much torque a rotor can take before being warped!!! He said “rotors are designed to be compressed, that it isn’t actually a problem” just completely dismissing me.

Then he had the NERVE to say that my personal choice had consequences, that I would affect everyone around me. Well I’ve had it with him, I’m looking for a new mechanic. The problem is that so many mechanics are bought and paid by the automotive industry that ALL of them are insistent about my car having brakes. Most of them won’t even look at my car for other reasons, saying that a brakeless car could cause damage to their shop and other cars. What a bunch of bullshit, they just don’t like those who believe in alternative braking techniques.

Now of course big government is getting involved, saying that I *MUST* have brakes. That this isn’t just about me, and that I could hurt people. What happened to personal freedom? What happened to liberty?

So all I’m saying is, do your research. Don’t just listen to the NTSB and big automotive. I made a personal decision for my family, we just said no to brakes. We’ll be using natural remedies like Gravity, and putting our feet on the ground to stop. After all, if that was good enough for me when I was on my bike as a kid, it’s good enough for my children in my car.

Please keep the comments respectful!

Legal Disclaimer: I am not a mechanic and should not be considered a valid source of information for automotive inquiries. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

US marriage rate at a 93-year low

“My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me.” — Winston Churchill

AFTER an all-time high in 1960, marriage rates in the United States have have been falling steadily and are now at a 93-year low, even including same-sex-couples. More than a demographic detail, this circumstance has broad socio-economic implications. Below is the main body of a February 5, 2015 New York Times article. 

Falling Marriage Rates Reveal Economic Fault Lines
By Andrew L. Yarrow
February 6, 2015

Will Valentine’s Day, always a popular moment for popping the question, see fewer marriage proposals this year than in generations past?

The age-old lesson about marriage that has been communicated by parents everywhere (two are stronger than one) is now brushing up against a 21st-century reality: The percentage of married households in the United States has fallen to a historic low.

Census data cited in a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center show that the number of married households fell to 50.5 percent in 2012 from a high of about 72 percent in 1960.

Among the less well educated, the number of married households has fallen even more. A 2011 study by Pew found that although 64 percent of college-educated Americans were married, fewer than 48 percent of those with some college or less were married. In 1960, the report found, the two groups were about equally likely to be married.

This trend has opened up a yawning economic divide. Studies have shown that married women and men tend to be much better off financially than those who are unmarried, and that those who have fewer assets and more debt early on are less likely to marry or have stable marriages than those who are more financially secure.

“There are relatively few relationships that are more fully documented than those between economic well-being and marriage,” said Ron Haskins, who is the author of many scholarly papers on marriage and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

The connection between marriage and wealth is much more than additive. A 2012 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the median 65-to-69-year-old married household had almost 10 times as much in savings as the typical single-person household: $111,600 compared with $12,500. “It’s a plain fact that people who are married have more income, wealth and savings that last into their retirement,” Mr. Haskins said.

Jonathan Rauch, another fellow at the Brookings Institution and a leader of the Marriage Opportunity Council, a new multi-institution project, said, “Marriage is thriving among people with four-year college diplomas, but the further down you go on the educational and economic totem pole, the worse it’s doing.”

“There’s a growing danger that marriage, with all its advantages for stability, income and child well-being, will look like a gated community for the baccalaureate class, with ever-shrinking working-class participation,” Mr. Rauch said. “We’re not there yet, but that’s the trajectory we’re on.”

Other research indicates that those who find themselves already lower on the socioeconomic ladder may be less likely to ever marry. A 2012 study by the Brookings Institution found that only women in the top 10 percent of Americans in earnings saw their marriage rates increase between 1970 and 2011, whereas women in the bottom 65 percent in earnings had become much less likely to marry, with their marriage rate declining by more than 20 percentage points. This was also mirrored in the experiences of men in the study.

Marriage is about as good a predictor of economic success as are education, race and ethnicity, according to a 2014 study by Robert Lerman at the Urban Institute, and W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

In their analysis of census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, they concluded that if married households today equaled the numbers seen in 1980, “the growth in median income of families with children would be 44 percent higher.”

The study also found a link between the decline in the number of Americans “who form and maintain stable, married families” and the growth in income inequality.

As united as social scientists appear to be about the strong correlation between marriage and higher net worth, a good many of them part company over whether greater marital wealth results from having the skills and propensity to work hard, save, stay out of debt and also seek out and marry those with the same attributes — versus those who start down the same road having low wages, little in savings and less education and as such may find it harder to find and maintain stable marriages.

“Married men are more likely to work, make more money and not engage in dangerous behaviors like drunken driving and committing crimes,” Mr. Haskins contends.

For women coming of age in an era when their own educational and career prospects are brighter than ever, hitching their star to someone with high personal debts or negligible savings — or both — seems to have become unappealing.

In 2013, the economist David H. Autor and Melanie Wasserman, a graduate student at M.I.T., found that, “Sharp declines in the earning power of non-college males combined with the economic self-sufficiency of women — rising educational attainment, falling gender gap and greater female control over fertility choices — have reduced the economic value of marriage for women.”

Married same-sex couples tend to be more financially secure than single gay Americans, said Ineke Mushovic, the executive director of the Movement Advancement Project in Denver, a policy research organization focusing on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues. Poverty rates for gay men and lesbians living alone are more than 20 percent, compared with 4.3 percent for partnered gay men and 7.6 percent for partnered lesbians, the organization reports.

The divorce rate has helped reduce the number of married households in the United States. At the same time, others have postponed marriage or never married. And census data show that the number of cohabiting couples has shot up to 7.5 million in 2011 from 450,000 in 1960.

Yet, the desire to marry remains strong. In a 2013 Gallup Poll, only 5 percent of Americans reported that they did not want to marry.

Insufficient savings and other financial matters are the most common cause of discord among American couples, said Ernie Almonte, chairman of the National C.P.A. Financial Literacy Commission, a part of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which studied this problem.

“Divorce causes a decrease in wealth that is larger than just splitting a couple’s assets in half,” said Jay Zagorsky, an Ohio State University economist. “If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married.”