Weekly Meanderings, 11 October 2014

Weekly Meanderings, 11 October 2014 October 11, 2014

ChicagoSkylineAtul Gawande’s beautiful story about a teacher. (HT: JS)

Vicar of Baghdad’s sad story:

The Vicar of Baghdad, Andrew White, has fled Iraq on the orders of his superior, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who felt it was too dangerous to stay in the city with the Islamic State (ISIS) closing in.

“ISIS has plants in Baghdad. That’s why the archbishop wanted us gone. The other day, they discovered 150 bodies of people who had been shot. Nobody knows who did it, but we know that ISIS is already operating in Baghdad,” said White in an exclusive interview with the Clarion Project.

White spoke to Clarion about the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, the fate of the kidnapped Christian and Yazidi women and children, and the prospects for the future….

White arrived in Baghdad in 1998. That same year, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) but stayed nonetheless. Saddam Hussein was still in power and the international sanctions had created crushing poverty in the country. Even though gas was one cent a liter (less than four cents per gallon), the normal monthly salary was $2.

White described life under Saddam as one of constant fear. “Everyone was in fear of everyone else. But you could walk around, live your life normally,” he remembers. “It was just like life behind the Iron Curtain, nobody knew who they could trust. Secret police were everywhere.”

Yet, he says, Saddam was very good to the Christians, and there was very little persecution of Christians or other minorities during his reign. Saddam was a Sunni, a minority in Iraq, so he needed the other minorities to help him maintain power.

The Fat Demon may not be a demon after all, from NPR by Allison Aubrey:

I have to admit, I melt at the creaminess of full-fat yogurt.

It’s an indulgence that we’re told to resist. And I try to abide. (Stealing a bite of my daughter’s YoBaby doesn’t count, does it?)

The reason we’re told to limit dairy fat seems pretty straightforward. The extra calories packed into the fat are bad for our waistlines — that’s the assumption.

But what if dairy fat isn’t the dietary demon we’ve been led to believe it is? New research suggests we may want to look anew.

Consider the findings of two recent studies that conclude the consumption of whole-fat dairy is linked to reduced body fat.

Your doctor and the end of the stethoscope:

The stethoscope revolutionised the way doctors interacted with their patients and became a symbol of the profession. Now that electronic alternatives are becoming a common sight on the wards, maybe it’s time to update our idea of what a doctor is for?

“Every medical student remembers the day when they bought their first stethoscope,” says Professor of Cardiology Petros Nihoyannopoulos. “They remember the name of the stethoscope, they remember the colour of the stethoscope – and possibly the day when their first stethoscope was stolen and replaced by another one.”

But in Hammersmith Hospital in London, where Dr Nihoyannopoulos works, the noble instrument is under threat from a little white box. Looking like a smartphone circa 2005, the handheld ultrasound scanner is connected by wire to a probe which is laid against a patient’s chest. Flip the lid of the scanner and a black and white image appears on the scanner of the patient’s heart. At the push of a button the patient’s blood flow is highlighted, if all is well, in red and blue. An abnormal flow is painted in lurid yellows and greens.

“Every single consultant and junior doctor is hooked on these devices,” says Nihoyannopoulos. “When one breaks down or goes missing, it’s a disaster – everyone is panicking. It’s like when you lose your stethoscope as a medical student.”

The ten worst airports in the world?

Anthony Bradley:

[I]t’s doubtful that evangelicalism will ever have another Carl-Henry-era “center” again. In it’s desire for centralizing structural/cultural power, the Carl Henry-era/CT evangelicalism, with Calvinists, Arminians, Reformed and Dispensational working together, went from gathering various denominational communions fighting against theological liberalism to fighting primarily against social & political liberalism in the 1970s & 1980s. Evangelicalism allowed herself to be co-opted by suburban conservative Reagan/Bush era deistic God and country political operatives who used evangelical leader’s influence for votes & promised (fleeting) legislative and executive branch access and influence in return. That never happened. In other words, evangelical leaders sold their churches out for politics in the 1970s through the early 1990s and lost their kids in the process.

My response:

1. Carl Henry overtly engaged evangelicals in overtly conservative politics over the span of his entire career. He set up shop for CT across the street from the White House. Read his memoir. I have long longed for a Stott-era and Graham-era village green, generic evangelicalism and I agree that those days are not going to return. Evangelicalism is more tribal now.
2. Yes, the 70s and 80s witnessed the Moral Majority, but don’t forget the evangelical Moral Minority (David Swartz).
3. Carl Henry’s crowd (Molly Worthen) was by and large Calvinist and Reformed; major segments of evangelicalism have been disenfranchised (again, Worthen).
4. Yes, a common enemy was found in social liberalism for some evangelicals but not for all.
5. Yes, we could call it an era of Reaganology. But good work here has been done by Randy Balmer for understanding the mix of issues at work, including his rather jarring proposal that interracial marriage at Bob Jones Univ galvanized the conservatives into a political movement.
6. But why “lost their kids”? Two considerations: first, the evidence is against the conclusion (correlation, causation issue arises here as well) that they “lost” their kids, as seen in Christian Smith and Bradley Wright; second, they didn’t so much lose their kids but their kids shifted toward a more left-leaning politics.

What prevents good sleep for our youth?

STONY BROOK, NY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2014 – Sleep, or lack thereof, and technology often go hand in hand when it comes to school-aged kids. Nearly three out of four children (72%) between the ages of 6 and 17 have at least one electronic device in their bedrooms while sleeping, according to a National Sleep Foundation survey. Children who leave those electronic devices on at night sleep less—up to one hour less on average per night, according to a poll released by the foundation earlier this year.

Dr. Jill Creighton, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Stony Brook Children’s Hospital says the key to a successful school year starts with Z’s. So parents, how can you power down your kids at night and make bedtime easier? Dr. Creighton shares her tips.
“First – develop a nighttime routine,” says Dr. Creighton. Whether it’s a bath, reading a book or listening to soothing music, these actives will have a better impact on your child to help them relax before going to sleep.

Second – Power off! “The hour before bed should be a no-electronics zone,” says Dr. Creighton. Studies show that the light from backlit electronics (like tablets, smartphones and video games) can disrupt our ability to fall—and stay—asleep. Dr. Creighton says designate a spot in your home for electronics to be plugged in, then have your kids start their bedtime routine by plugging in one hour before lights out.
Ban hand-held devices from the bedroom. “The burst of light from a phone (even if it’s just to check the time) can break a sleep cycle,” says Dr. Creighton. “A regular alarm clock is best.”

Awesome study in change over decades — the Brown Sisters over 40 years: (HT: JE)

Nicholas Nixon was visiting his wife’s family when, “on a whim,” he said, he asked her and her three sisters if he could take their picture. It was summer 1975, and a black-and-white photograph of four young women — elbows casually attenuated, in summer shorts and pants, standing pale and luminous against a velvety background of trees and lawn — was the result. A year later, at the graduation of one of the sisters, while readying a shot of them, he suggested they line up in the same order. After he saw the image, he asked them if they might do it every year. “They seemed O.K. with it,” he said; thus began a project that has spanned almost his whole career. The series, which has been shown around the world over the past four decades, will be on view at the Museum of Modern Art, coinciding with the museum’s publication of the book “The Brown Sisters: Forty Years” in November.

For a cupcake?

Elahe Izadi:

The largest chain restaurants in the United States, including McDonald’s and Applebee’s, have significantly reduced the calories in their newest items, according to findings published in October’s American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

From 2012 to 2013, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed nearly 20,000 menu items from 66 of the 100 largest American chain restaurants using MenuStat project data, a census of menus. They found a nearly 60-calorie average drop (about 12 percent) for new items.

New entrees, children’s items and beverages had the biggest decrease in calories.

Is your name too long or too hard to pronounce? (My first name continues to present a challenge for some spellers.)

If you have a name that others find difficult to pronounce, or even one that is just a little out of the ordinary, you’re probably all too familiar with the “I’m sorry, what?” comments that inevitably follow introductions.

But besides being a little bit annoying, surely your complicated name couldn’t have a negative effect on your professional standing.

Unfortunately, it can.

A 2012 study led by Eryn Newman from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, shows that the easier your name is to pronounce, the more trustworthy people will assume you are. And the reverse is also true—the more complicated your name is, the more untrustworthy you will seem.

Green funerals?

As baby boomers head toward retirement and the great hereafter, they’re thinking more about what will become of their remains. And what they’re thinking is what they’ve thought during every phase of life: Status quo? Buck that.

For some, that means planning elaborate send-off parties and purchasing tricked-out mausoleums. But for an increasing number, it entails a return to simplicity, a desire that has given rise to the green burial movement and, naturally, a burgeoning industry to support it.

“They want to do something different — something that not many other people are doing,” says Ryan Helfenbein, funeral director at Bestgate Memorial Park in Annapolis, Md., which turned a wooded corner of its cemetery into a green burial ground eight years ago. There, graves are dug by hand to reduce the carbon footprint, and plots are marked by engraved river rocks rather than traditional headstones.

Fascinating history of “passing” (as white when black):

Loss of self. Loss of family. Loss of community. Loss of the ability to answer honestly the question black people have been asking each other since before Emancipation: “Who are your people?”

“The family jokes, the oral history every family has, and repeats and passes down,” Hobbs muses, “those things are lost to people who pass.” She figured if she had a passing story in her family, there must be many other families who did, too.

Hobbs began writing about passing for her doctoral dissertation, and was encouraged to turn it into a book. The dissertation became A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in America. It’s a history of passing told through the lens of personal stories.

Once Hobbs began researching, the stories came thick and fast. There was New Yorker Theophilus McKee, who’d chosen to live as a white man for all of his adult life. That’s until he stepped forward to claim a huge inheritance as the only colored descendant of Negro Civil War veteran Col. John McKee. His claim and the court fight with his biracial siblings made national news.


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