Wednesday, December 30, 2009

SuBo in the land of the sumo

Published Date: 30 December 2009
HER voice has conquered Britain, smashed online sales records and created the fastest-selling debut album by a woman ever.
Yesterday Scottish singing sensation Susan Boyle took another step towards world domination as she arrived in Japan ahead of her debut on the country's most prestigious New Year's Eve television event.

Ms Boyle posed for pictures but coyly refused to perform, saying her fans would have to wait until Thursday night.

The show, Kohaku Uta Gassen or the "Red and White Song Battle", is the country's prime vocal variety programme.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christian Communities in Peril

by Whitley Strieber

It is Christmas eve, and I'm enjoying the deep peace of an evening with my family, and I am thinking about this beautiful season and the hope that it brings, and also about people celebrating the season around the world under very different circumstances.

These are the Christian communities in peril in places like southern Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Turkey and too many other places in the world. Almost universally, these communities are threatened by Islam, and as that religion drifts more and more into extremism, the danger to the Christians living among them grows.

One of the saddest consequences of the Iraq war was its effect on Iraqi Christians. This community has been decimated, forced to emigrate, and generally oppressed in recent years by both Shiites and Sunnis, who are united in their prejudice against Christians.

The Turkish Christian Community, which is among the oldest in the world, has been reduced to just a few thousand by the orchestrated oppression of the Turkish government--and this is a country that aspires to entry into the European Union. It should never be admitted until it faces its own truth both in regards to Christians and Armenians, not to mention Greeks, and becomes a modern nation, which is to say one that is genuinely secular, recognizes human rights, and expects its citizens to respect all.

The Christians of southern Sudan are hunted like animals by Muslim militias. They are considered barely human, if at all, and yet they are, arguably, the only civilized and compassionate community in the region.

We live in a world whose outrage is methodically blunted by the political correctness of governments and media who endlessly try to placate Muslim extremists.

Let's resolve, in 2010, to forget this nonsense approach to the problem. We need to admit something: Christian ethics, Christian compassion and Christianity's regard for the value of the individual human being are among the very greatest of all moral achievements.

Whether one is a fundamentalist, a moderate or a secular Christian, we absolutely must stand up for Christian values--specifically, those values that Christ taught, and that are embodied in the gospels.

We need to renew our support for the gospel and the sterling excellence of its message.

No matter how much the modern secular community may wish to deny it, in fact, western civilization is Christian civilization. The reason is that it rests in recognition of the value of the individual.

In pre-classical times, during the long ages of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian empires, there was no such thing as an individual. The concept simply did not exist. Even the rulers were so constrained by ritual that they were not in any real way free.

Then, with the advent of Greek thought and Greek culture, the idea of the citizen was born, and unspoken within it, the idea of the individual.

The Roman Empire was the first to build a body of law around the rights of individuals, but, like the Greeks, the concept of the individual and the citizen were essentially the same.

Jesus Christ added a single idea of absolutely extraordinary importance to this: that every human being, no matter how humble, had value in the eyes of God, and was a valid individual.

This is the idea that Christianity has brought to the world, and with it all the compassion, decency and cherishing of the needs of one another that come with it.

And this is why we absolutely must recognize and defend the value of all Christian communities in the world, for they are precious outposts of civilization on a planet where the light of human decency is growing dimmer every day.

What is best in modern civilization rests on the shoulders of the Gospels. Even our most secular western communities derive their awareness of the value of the individual from their own Christian roots.

We must not assume that other traditions are somehow equal to the Christian tradition. They are not equal. I know that it is sacrilege among the politically correct to say so, but it is, quite simply, true. Christianity offers to the world one, single idea of overwhelming importance, that is, in fact, the salvation of this overpopulated world: it is that every human being has value, and it is incumbent upon all of us to cherish each of us as much as we cherish ourselves.

Outside of the Christian world, this idea, is, at best, severely diluted.

Insofar, for example, as Asian societies have embraced the value of the individual, they have done so because of the influence of Christian civilization. For example, the Japanese constitution, promulgated after World War II when Japan was occupied by the western powers, recognized the rights and value of the individual. Before this, Japan absolutely did not recognize individual rights. The only individual in Japan was the emperor, and he was, himself, severely constrained by ritual.

In China today, the individual is almost without legal significance, and, except for a tiny affluent minority, has essentially no social value.

It takes the clarity and force of the Christian message to enable people to recognize the value of the individual.

So, in this season of celebration of the birth of the author of this sterling and sacred ethic, it is well worth considering that there are Christians all over the world, on the peripheries of civilization, who are suffering for their faith, and deserve our recognition and support.

Pray for them.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Old Animal Christmas Cards, horses


Natural News - Gone are the days when play time for kids often meant getting dirty making mud "pies", splashing in mud puddles and creeks, and climbing trees -- and when children washed their hands, mostly just before a meal, it was with plain soap and water. Modern day parents often take pride in keeping their little ones squeaky clean and as germ-free as possible, dousing them with antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers. But new Northwestern University research suggests that normal exposure to everyday germs is a natural way to prevent diseases in adulthood.

The study, published in the December 9th edition of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, is the first to investigate whether microbial exposures early in life affect inflammatory processes related to diseases in adulthood. Remarkably, the Northwestern study suggests exposure to infectious microbes in childhood may actually protect youngsters from developing serious illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, when they grow into adults.

"Contrary to assumptions related to earlier studies, our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases," Thomas McDade, lead author of the study, said in a statement to the media. McDade is associate professor of anthropology in Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and a faculty fellow at the Institute for Policy Research.

He added that humans have only recently lived in super clean environments and it could well be time to put down the antibacterial soap. That's because the new research suggests that inflammatory systems need a reasonably high level of exposure to common everyday germs and other microbes to develop and work properly in the body.

"In other words, inflammatory networks may need the same type of microbial exposures early in life that have been part of the human environment for all of our evolutionary history to function optimally in adulthood," stated McDade.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Rosslyn Chapel visitor centre lands revamp grant

Photo of Rosslyn Chapel by Beth Maxwell Boyle 2005

Published Date: 22 December 2009
ROSSLYN Chapel's visitor centre and a city play park are among the projects to benefit from a cash windfall from the Landfill Communities Fund.
The environmental body, WREN, has shared out £132,555 among four schemes in Edinburgh and Midlothian. Landfill operators can divert money from their annual landfill tax bill to projects to benefit the community.

This included £50,000 towards a refurbishment at the chapel's visitor and education centre. Another £40,505 was given to Colinton Mains Play Park to buy new play equipment.

A boardwalk and interpretation signs are set to be upgraded in the Pentland Hills, following a grant of £27,755. Howgate Kirk will benefit from a £14,295 internal upgrade and new audio system.

Caroline Sanderson, project manager for WREN in Edinburgh & Midlothian, said: "WREN funding is focused on community-based projects."

Organisations and community groups can find out how to apply for funds at

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Merry Christmas,' Not 'Happy Holidays'

Religious freedom means the right to embrace the customs and meaning of Christ's birth
By Henry E. Brown
Posted December 18, 2009

Henry E. Brown is a Republican congressman from South Carolina.

Earlier this month, as I recorded a message to our troops and sent Christmas cards to family and friends, I found myself hesitating before using "Merry Christmas" to wish those important to me a blessed holiday. I was brought up in a Christian home where we celebrated Christmas and its many traditions. Until recently, I had never thought twice before wishing others "Merry Christmas." Communities across the country are abuzz with the "acceptable" way to observe this holiday season, but why should those who celebrate Christmas feel pressure to say "Season's greetings" or "Happy holidays," reluctant to express traditional Christmas words of good cheer?

I am troubled by the sentiment that the phrase "Merry Christmas" is not appropriate and concerned by the limits placed on the expression of the traditions and symbols associated with this national holiday. For me, Christmas is one of our most important holidays, not only because of Christianity's influence on our nation's founding but also because of the Christmas message of "peace on Earth, goodwill to men." To downplay this holiday can only be construed as an attempt to minimize its origin. While the commercialization of the Christmas season floods our cities with beautiful light displays and decorations of Santa and his reindeer, we must not forget that the true meaning and significance of Christmas is the birth of Christ.

I recognize that there are many religions that celebrate a variety of holidays this month. However, in accordance with the First Amendment, I believe it is important to protect civic religious dialogues and preserve the right for everyone to worship as they believe. This does not mean limiting individuals' expression, in public or private, of their religious traditions in favor of creating a neutral holiday season. Instead, as Thomas Jefferson suggested in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, the "wall of separation between church and state" ensures against government encroachment on religious expression. This means that no one should feel compelled to hide his or her celebration of Christmas or feel obligated to hesitate before expressing Christmas greetings. I am concerned that recent attempts to celebrate a "politically correct" holiday season demean this right and may cause the loss of the true meaning of Christmas and some of its sacred traditions.

Unfortunately, the avoidance and hesitation to openly celebrate Christmas seems to be growing. This month's Climate Summit in Copenhagen prohibited the Christmas trees that annually adorn Denmark's Bella Center, despite the fact that Christmas has been celebrated in Denmark since the 17th century. Its Foreign Ministry attributed the ban to the United Nations' attempt to remain neutral, meaning Denmark's traditions will be taking a back seat this Christmas.

An elementary school in Oregon banned symbols like Santa Claus and Christmas trees and even threw out a "holiday giving tree," the purpose of which was to encourage students to give gifts to needy children. The principal of an elementary school in Connecticut instructed students to say "Happy winter" instead of "Merry Christmas." Both schools said that they did not want students whose families did not celebrate Christmas to feel left out or uncomfortable because of the presence of religious symbols in which they did not believe. But the simple wish of cheer at Christmastime, to those who celebrate it or those who do not, is neither insulting nor intrusive. Instead, by pushing Christmas out of the public sphere, actions like those of these schools teach children that their celebrations are somehow offensive and should be limited.

This growing censure of Christmas in favor of a more "politically correct" holiday has also been embraced by some of our nation's leaders. Earlier this month, reports circulated that the White House would celebrate a nonreligious Christmas by excluding any religious symbols from the celebration. I was shocked to read that President Obama considered omitting the traditional manger scene from the elaborate White House decorations in an attempt to keep them religiously neutral. While ultimately the manger scene was included, the hesitation to include the nativity, which depicts a paramount scene in the Christian faith, is worrisome. Additionally, the president's official Christmas card did not reference the holiday or its purpose. To strip Christmas of all religious significance is to lose the reason for recognizing it nationally.

As Americans, we are blessed with many freedoms that generations have fought and died to preserve. Among those is our right to worship in a manner of our personal preference. As a Christian, I observe Christmas to celebrate the birth of Christ. I choose to wish others "Merry Christmas" and send cards that extend my best wishes on the occasion. I also choose to include a biblical reference to Christmas as expressions of goodwill are sent in an affirmation of my belief in the importance of Christ and his teachings. However, it seems this right is increasingly being discouraged, which is why I introduced House Resolution 951, which recognizes the importance of Christmas symbols and traditions and expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate the holiday this year. Further, the resolution expresses disapproval of all attempts to ban or limit references to Christmas. I would never intend for my Christmas cheer to be construed as exclusionary, any more than I would take offense at someone's choice to extend another specific holiday message. But I do feel someone must stand up for those who celebrate Christmas and remind them that they do not need to hesitate before wishing others "Merry Christmas." So, this December 25, between the hustle and bustle of gift giving and decorating the tree, I hope that my resolution is one among many of the Christmas wishes you will receive!

While I do not agree with all of the points made by Henry E. Brown, I do agree the political correctness has gone too far and that our nation needs to keep celebrating Christmas.This should not be up to congress but if you ask me we need to keep Christmas the name of the season. The materialism is already out of control. If it continues down the road of just being a winter revel it can only become more materialistic and the meaning will be lost all together. I think traditions hold a country together. I do not feel however we need to have a resolution in the government to protect Christmas. Let's all just keep the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and act out of love and for peace.
-Beth Maxwell Boyle

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mr.Rogers and Break dancing!

REV. FRED ROGERS 1928-2003

Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, a town located 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Pittsburgh. He was born to James and Nancy Rogers; he spent many years as an only child. Early in his life he spent much of his free time with his maternal grandfather, Fred McFeely, and had an interest in music. He would often sing along as his mother would play the piano and, at the age of 5, began to play the piano as well.

Rogers was graduated from Latrobe High School (1946), where Orrin Hatch was a contemporary. He studied at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, (1946–1948). He transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he received a BA in music composition in 1951.

At Rollins, Rogers met Sara Joanne Byrd, an Oakland, Florida native. They married on June 9, 1952. They had two children, James (born in 1959) and John (born in 1961), and three grandsons, the third (Ian McFeely Rogers) born 12 days after Rogers' death. In 1963, Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Scholastically, he went on to garner 40 more honorary degrees throughout his life. Rogers was also red-green color blind and a vegetarian. He swam every morning, and neither smoked nor drank.

No not Tao, Presbyterian!

Reverend Fred Rogers of Pittsbugh PA 1928-2003

Mr. Rogers was a dedicated Christian. He taught much in the way of Jesus. In 1963, Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). What you were responding to Mr. Shaper and what you admired was a genuine Christian living his faith and walking in the shoes of his Lord. What was happening to you Andrew is you were being taught by a disciple of Jesus. Mr. Rogers did his show the way he did because he was a Christian. Every lesson could be taken directly from the teachings of Jesus. If you want to say Mr. Rogers was Tao then you have to say Jesus is Tao.
-Beth Maxwell Boyle

The Tao Of Mister Rogers
by Andrew Shapter

When I was just six years old, I came home from school alone while my parents were away working long hours. Every afternoon, like so many children still do, I turned on the TV and got lost for three hours a day. It was my virtual babysitter. I watched re-runs of sitcom classics like Good Times and Three's Company, although hardly shows that a 6 year-old kid could relate to.

But within those few hours of television, I also watched a kind man from Pittsburgh--a guy named Fred McFeely Rogers. This man taught me some core values that are still with me today. Ever heard of him? Maybe you know him better as "Mister Rogers" from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

To some, he was just a kid's show host whose pure innocence was easily parodied by comedians such as Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams. But for millions of young Americans like me, he was literally a daily mentor. Not only that, he was a friend.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ran weekdays on PBS from 1968 - 2001 to an estimated 28 million viewers a day. But Fred Rogers was not only a television mentor, he was also a minister, an accomplished musician, songwriter and a teacher who earned more than 40 honorary degrees.

In an interview conducted by CNN a few years before his death, Rogers stated, "I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen." And on he went for over 33 years, inspiring young minds from Harlem to Fort Worth.

Look up the definition of the word "mentor" and you'll find a very simple definition:

"A wise and trusted counselor or teacher."

Now more than ever, parents are working long hours just to make ends meet, and children are paying the price. Growing up in a tough economic climate can be a great character builder, but it also makes it harder for kids to get the guidance they need. Children are in desperate need of wise mentors.

According to the National Institute on Media and the Family, television is still a strong focal point when it comes to children's media entertainment. The Institute reports that up to 99% of American families have TV sets, but that only 1 in 8 of children's educational television programs meet high quality standards. At the same time, 60% of kids report that their parents do not know what they are watching on television.

Here are just a few examples of the wisdom of Mister Rogers, and what he could teach to a six year-old:
Self-esteem: "If only you could sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person."

Life's choices: "You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are."

Achievment: "It's not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It's the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff."

Parenting: "When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit. It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives."

Responsibility: "We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes"

Mentoring: "Anything that's human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone."

Imperfection: "Some days, doing the best we can do may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front, and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else. "

Peace: "What really matters is whether the alphabet is used for the declaration of war or for the description of a sunrise."

Love and Trust: "Love and trust, in the space between what's said and what's heard in our life, can make all the difference in the world."

Over the 33 years of his broadcast, there have been so many children in need of mentors who had no one but Mister Rogers to turn to. Maybe (chances are) you also grew up watching Mister Rogers. Sadly, since his death, there have been fewer and fewer PBS affiliates airing the show. But there is hope: If your local PBS affiliate is no longer airing Mister Rogers Neighborhood, I encourage you to let them know how you feel about their decision to remove the show from their syndicated weekday lineup.

In telling PBS how important you feel the Neighborhood program is, you might want to relay a personal story of how Mister Rogers touched your life, or the life of a child you know. You can send an email to PBS Headquarters at the following address:

Linda Simensky, Senior Director, Children's Programming
Public Broadcasting Service
2100 Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202

You can also contact PBS via their website PBS Feedback Or you can contact your local PBS member station here PBS | Station Finder.

In the event that your PBS station has continued to make the Neighborhood program available each weekday, you may want to consider sending an expression of gratitude, and making a monetary contribution. It's important to remember that public television is substantially underfunded, and that your local station needs your support. Join the Save Mister Rogers organization on facebook and join their efforts to bring one of America's greatest mentors back to television!

What Andrew in fact is admiring is the Christ like traits of Mr. Rogers so why did he shy away from it? To mention Mr. Rogers as a mentor and a teacher of children without making it clear what motivated Fred Rogers is absurd. The deliberate omission was because its not cool today to like Christians. It is cool to mention Tao. I said it before and again I say it, if Fred Rogers was Tao so is Jesus because you can take each and every lesson in those TV shows and point directly to the New Testament lesson it was drawn from

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Flower of Scotland

O Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
Your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

The Hills are bare now,
And Autumn leaves
lie thick and still,
O'er land that is lost now,
Which those so dearly held,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

Those days are past now,
And in the past
they must remain,
But we can still rise now,
And be the nation again,
That stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

0 Flower of Scotland,
When will we see
your like again,
That fought and died for,
Your wee bit Hill and Glen,
And stood against him,
Proud Edward's Army,
And sent him homeward,
Tae think again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Archie you make my heart ache!

A little travelogue of Scotland, the highlands, Glencoe, and about. Beautiful landscapes and magical places. Music by Archie Fisher, a Scottish treasure himself. From his CD, Sunsets I've Galloped Into:

The Cuillins Of Home,
The Black Horse,
All That You Ask Me

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Researchers: Tamiflu may not benefit otherwise healthy people

Researchers found the benefits of Tamiflu were small and that authorities should consider its side effects before using the drug in healthy people.

The common cold and flu -- both the seasonal and the new swine flu -- are caused by different viruses but can have some similar symptoms, making them tough to tell apart. In general, the flu is worse and symptoms are more intense.

COLDS: Usual symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and sneezing. Coughs are hacking and productive. It's unusual to have fever, chills, headaches and body aches, or if present, those symptoms will be mild.

FLU: Fever is usually present, along with chills, headache and moderate-to-severe body aches and tiredness. Symptoms can come on rapidly, within three to six hours. Coughs are dry and unproductive, and sore throats are less common.

Sources: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Roche, maker of Tamiflu

LONDON (AP) — British researchers say there is little evidence Tamiflu stops complications in healthy people who catch the flu, though public health officials contend the swine flu drug reduces flu hospitalizations and deaths.

Researchers at the Cochrane Review, an international non-profit that reviews health information, looked at previously published papers on Tamiflu as used for seasonal flu. They found insufficient data to prove whether the antiviral reduces complications like pneumonia in otherwise healthy people but concluded the drug shortens flu symptoms by about a day. The papers were published online Tuesday in the British journal, BMJ.

The researchers said the benefits of Tamiflu were small and that authorities should consider its side effects before using the drug in healthy people. While the reviewed studies only looked at Tamiflu use for seasonal flu, the experts said their conclusions raised questions about the widespread use of the drug in people with any flu-like illness, including swine flu.

Fiona Godlee, BMJ's editor, said the papers cast doubt not only on how safe and effective Tamiflu is, but on the drug regulatory system that approved it. "Governments around the world have spent billions of pounds (dollars) on a drug that the scientific community now finds itself unable to judge," she said in a statement.

But the World Health Organization disagreed. They said data from countries around the world show that when given early, Tamiflu can reduce the severity of swine flu symptoms, though the agency recommends the drug be saved for people at risk of complications, like pregnant women, the elderly, children, and those with underlying medical problems.

"This will not change our (Tamiflu) guidelines," said Charles Penn, a WHO antivirals expert. Penn said that while past studies show Tamiflu only has a modest benefit, when patients with severe illness or at risk of complications are treated early, there are fewer hospitalizations and deaths.

Both the British researchers and WHO said there is little evidence to support the widespread use of Tamiflu in otherwise healthy people — precisely the policy Britain has adopted to fight swine flu.

In addition to recommending Tamiflu be saved for at-risk groups, WHO recommends Tamiflu only be used on a doctor's recommendation.

In Britain, however, Tamiflu is regularly dispensed to healthy people who catch the flu. The drug is given out via a national swine flu hotline by call center workers with no medical training.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

A New Carol by Bill Ward

This is a lovely Christmas song with a slide show of paintings of angels and the Nativity. Bill Ward and the Doerfels perform one of Bill's compositions, The Angels Said It True. This is a cut from the CD ,The Christmas Sessions, which is already on sale on CD Baby. Proceeds from each purchase will help benefit Project Chacocente, an organization which exists to help the extremely poor in Nicaragua. Buy this CD:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow in Western, NY

The snow is falling steady in huge flakes and its looking like one of those old post cards outside tonight.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rediscovering The Prayer Vigil

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
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A 75-year-old man beamed at me. "At home I have trouble praying for five minutes. Here an hour seems too short." As we left our church at dusk, a new believer knelt to begin an hour of prayer. It wasn't always so. Intercessory prayer had been meager, enthusiasm about prayer virtually non-existent. For years I struggled to lead our church members into a richer prayer life. Then, two years ago we discovered a time-tested method of challenging and stretching people in prayer: the prayer vigil.

Just what is a prayer vigil? The idea is many centuries old. "Vigil" indicates a time of "vigilance", wakefulness, a watch, originally "kept on the night before a religious feast with prayer or other devotions."*

Last year we set aside from noon to midnight on Good Friday for our people to pray for an hour at a time in the church sanctuary. The previous Sunday we circulated a sign-up sheet in the shape of 12-hour clock. If an hour or two was vacant, I'd ask someone to shift to one of those less popular times.

Sign-ups are vital to crystallizing commitment, but some may hesitate. "That was hard for me," John confessed, "because I didn't know what I was going to pray about for a whole hour." People often feel so inadequate at prayer, they don't want set themselves up to fail again. To allay these fears, I circulate some suggestions on "How to Spend an Hour in Prayer" (see sidebar). As people begin to visualize themselves actually praying for an hour, they are more willing to risk it. After one successful experience, they're eager to sign up the next time.

Upon entering the sanctuary for their hour, people find several helps on a table. Next to a log-in sheet are brief instructions for first-timers. A globe and letters from our missionaries stimulate prayer for the world. Some use a copy of the church directory in their intercession. Prayer request slips from the previous Sunday's service are found next to a constantly-growing list on which participants enter other needs.

Since only one or two people are usually present at a time, we encourage people to pray the way they feel most comfortable. A kneeler is placed at the front of the church, though most of our people pray sitting with bowed heads. But some walk while they pray. Occasionally someone prays prostrate on the floor.

If several sign up for the same hour, they often worship and pray as a group for a part of the time, then intercede separately for the remainder of the hour. One of our ladies glows as she remembers: "There were two or three people there. We did some singing as well as praying. It brought a closeness we just don't experience ordinarily. I feel like we're still closer today than we would have been otherwise." Strangely, even praying alone brings a sense unity with others. "Knowing that brothers and sisters are all praying about the same thing," Carole comments, "really stirs up my faith. I feel that we're going to receive answers."

"Can't we just pray at home?" some ask. Not if we want certain unique advantages. The specialness of praying in the sanctuary lifts this hour above the sometimes discouraging experiences of daily prayer. "At home," Louise finds, "there seem to be so many distractions and interruptions. You think about all the things that need doing. But when you come to the quiet sanctuary, you really can feel God's presence." Rick, a father of five, explains: "The hour is so refreshing. I sense the Lord's presence in a way I sometimes don't when I'm off to myself for just a few minutes."

Before our first vigil I didn't think most people would be willing to commit themselves to a whole hour. Not so. Embarking on a significant time of prayer with nothing else to do helps people put their busyness aside and concentrate on prayer. After his first vigil, a thirty-year old man told me, "I just lost track of time. To me there was no time. In fact, I was there almost two hours, without realizing it." Cutting the time short-circuits this broadening prayer experience which can permanently enrich the participant's devotional life.

Yet sensitivity to the congregation's present level of commitment is important. Once after successful 24-hour vigils we tried 36 hours. We had trouble getting enough people; it was just too ambitious for the size of our church. We've found it's better to begin small and grow gradually.

We schedule a vigil two or three times a year. Good Friday lends itself naturally to prayer. We've also tried early September before the program year gets underway, and the beginning of the Advent season.

The nice thing about the prayer vigil is simplicity of organization. We circulate a sign-up sheet, provide some prayer resources, open the sanctuary at the beginning of the vigil, and see that the last person locks up.

The benefits endure. Our people have learned to intercede for one another, to care for each other's needs. Having experienced the joys of a full hour, people are praying longer at home. The vigils have renewed our motivation, as well. Instead of praying out of guilt, we're finding a new longing to spend time before the Lord. We've also have seen marked answers to prayer. Relatives have been saved. Physical healings have resulted. An angry neighbor who had threatened a lawsuit against our church has yet to file. Moreover, he's had dozens praying for his salvation.

We still have a long way to go before we're the kind of praying church we ought to be. But the prayer vigil has wedged open the door to a new dimension of prayer, allowing a fresh breeze of the Spirit to blow across the threshold. Next week I expect someone else will ask with a wistful smile, "Pastor, when are we going to have another one of those prayer vigils?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Susan Boyle's album is largest ever female debut

(CNN) -- Susan Boyle's dreams continue to come true. The singing sensation who emerged from obscurity on "Britain's Got Talent" is topping the charts, selling the most albums of any artist in a single week this year with the largest ever sales debut for a female artist.

Boyle's "I Dreamed a Dream" album is on top of the Billboard 200 albums chart with 701,000 copies sold in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"This is a big deal considering some of the superstar acts that came out this year that couldn't get to that number, said Billboard's director of charts Silvio Pietroluongo. The year's previous high-water sales mark came when Eminem's "Relapse" sold 608,000 in its opening week.

Boyle, a 48-year-old churchgoing celebrity who lives in a modest government-owned home in Scotland with her pet cat, captured the world's attention and hearts eight months ago when she performed on the British talent competition.

Now Boyle is competing against two "American Idols" for sales this holiday season. Idol runner-up Adam Lambert's debut "For Your Entertainment" is at No. 3 on the Billboard 200, and "Idol" champ Kris Allen is at No. 11.

When it comes to album sales, Boyle is even fiercer than Rihanna, whose fourth album, "Rated R," is in the No. 4 slot on the charts with 181,000 albums sold during the first week.

Boyle's large album sales reflect larger changes happening in the music industry as younger audiences tend to buy single-song downloads, while more mature audiences, who make up Boyle's fan base, still purchase entire albums.

"Hit-driven artists tend to do well on the download side but aren't moving as many albums as they once did," Pietroluongo said. "If you have an artist who resonates with an older audience, you have an artist who can sell more albums."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Truth About Unfermented Soy and Its Harmful Effects

(NaturalNews) With vegetarianism gaining increasing popularity from the 1970's, reaching its peak in the 1990's, soy has emerged as a 'near perfect' food, with supporters claiming it can provide an ideal source of protein, lower cholesterol, protect against cancer and heart disease, reduce menopausal symptoms, and prevent osteoporosis - among many other things. It seems like a good thing - or is it really?
How did such a 'healthy food' emerge from a product that in 1913 was listed in the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) handbook not as a food but as an industrial product?

According to lipid specialist and nutritionist Mary Enig, PhD, "The reason there's so much soy in America is because the soy industry started to plant soy to extract the oil from it and soy oil became a very large industry." There was a lot of soy oil and with it came a lot of soy protein residue as a left over by-product, and since they couldn't feed it to the animals, except in small amounts, they had to find another big market which, of course, was human consumption.

This excess soy production and its protein residue was the motivation for the multi-million dollars spent on advertising and intense lobbying of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which resulted in about 74 percent of U.S. consumers believing that soy products are healthy. Australia has traditionally prided itself as being a dairy consuming nation, due to the fact that we have such abundant supply of cattle. However, lactose intolerance is becoming a health concern recognised by the medical profession; accordingly, soy is becoming very popular as an alternative to dairy, following in the footsteps of US consumers in believing that all soy-based products have health benefits. In reality, the research that has concluded that all soy products are healthy is far from accurate, and very much skewed by economic motives.

Let's examine why soy products are far from healthy:

For greater clarity, soy products are classified into two main groups: fermented and unfermented. There are also another two sub-groups: organic and Genetically Modified (GM). The GM soy is to be avoided at all costs, as the hazards of GM are some of the worst innovations of modern day bio-technology. Not only are all GM products unhealthy to humans and animals but also to the normal plants that grow in the surrounding area, due to the natural process of winds causing cross-pollination, resulting in mutated species of what were once natural variations of plants. This topic is too vast to cover in this article but for more research, visit ( .

The unfermented soy category is a most problematic one. It includes soy products, such as tofu, bean curd, all soy milks, soy infant formulae, soy protein powders and soy meat alternatives, such as soy sausages/veggie burgers, made from hydrolysed soy powder.

So what is wrong with unfermented soy products?

Soy belongs to the family of legumes. Other members of the legume family include beans - such as adzuki, red kidney, navy, barlotti, etc., as well as chickpeas. Peanuts are included as well, as they are technically not a nut but a legume. All legumes and whole-grains - such as, rice, barley, oats, wheat and rye - contain amounts of phytic acid. Being a legume, soy contains a high amount of phytic acid. So, what's wrong with phytic acid? A number of things - yet, in some cases, phytic acid can also be beneficial.

Phytic acid's structure gives it the ability to bind minerals, proteins and starch, and results in lower absorption of these substances. Hence, phytic acid, in large amounts, can block the uptake of essential minerals, like calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc in the intestinal tract. Soy also inhibits the uptake of one of the most important minerals needed for growth and metabolism, iodine, which is used by the thyroid gland in the production of thyroid hormones.
However, for non-vegetarian men, phytic acid may prove to be quite helpful, due to its binding/chelating ability with minerals.

Since a large percentage of non-vegetarian adult males have excess iron, phytic acid would be helpful to them by binding the excess iron. But we need to bear in mind phytic acid will simultaneously bind other minerals, such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. In the case of children and menstruating women, the phytic acid in soy can be a serious negative, as women and children need iron. In women, iron is needed to replace the loss during their menses and in children iron is required for growth and development.

Apart from the phytic acid-related phenomena, there are additional factors that make soy an unhealthy choice.


* contributes to thyroid disorder, especially in women

* promotes kidney stones

* weakens the immune system

* contributes to food allergies and digestive intolerance

Perhaps the most disturbing of soy's ill effects on health has to do with its phytoestrogens, which can mimic the effects of the female hormone, oestrogen. These phytoestrogens have been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues, and drinking only two glasses of soy milk daily for one month has enough of the chemical to alter a woman's menstrual cycle.

Soy is particularly problematic for infants and it would be very wise to avoid giving them soy-derived products, since it has been estimated that infants who are exclusively fed soy formula receive the equivalent of five birth control pills worth of oestrogen every day. Check out ( to find some alarming research and statistics on what can go wrong when infants and children are regularly fed soy formula.

In order to derive some benefit from soy, consuming only fermented soy products - such as organic miso (mugi barley and genmai miso are the best), organic tempeh, soy sauce or tamari and natto - is the way to do it. This is because the phytic acid, which is inherent in soy beans, has been neutralized in the process of fermentation. Consuming fermented soy is very beneficial in recolonizing the friendly bacteria in the large intestine, which neutralizes the 'unfriendly' bacteria and allows for greater general assimilation of foods and nutrients.

So, fermented soy is of benefit and unfermented soy is not. It is not only soy that needs to be fermented but whole-grains as well. In fact, grains (apart from millet, buckwheat and couscous) and legumes are best consumed after soaking them for 48-72 hours prior to cooking, which allows fermentation to take place. The soaking of grains and beans is also advocated in the principles of macrobiotics, which is very popular amongst vegetarians. Yet many vegetarian restaurants do not have time or forget to incorporate this very important process in their vegetarian cooking and thus people who regularly eat out at vegetarian restaurants might develop severe mineral deficiencies due to the large consumption of phytic acid in their diet.

Another common fallacy is that soy foods couldn't possibly have a downside because Asian cultures eat large quantities of soy every day and consequently remain free of most western diseases. In reality, the people of China, Japan and other Asian countries eat very little soy. The soy industry's own figures show that soy consumption in China, Indonesia, Korea, Japan and Taiwan ranges from 10 to 90 grams per day. That is grams of soy food, not grams of soy protein alone. Compare this with a cup of tofu (250 grams) or soy milk (240 grams). Many Americans and Australians today would be consuming a cup of tofu and a couple of glasses of soy milk every day. They might also add veggie burgers to this, thinking they are getting their much needed protein intake. Infants on soy formula are probably the most disadvantaged, as that is their main source of nutrition and they ingest large amounts of soy relative to their body weight. Often the side effects are not noticed but, as they are growing up, runny noses, frequent colds, irritability, severe sugar cravings and food intolerance develop.

The summary below outlines the adverse effects of unfermented soy products:

* Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.

* Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.

* Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body's requirement for B12.
Soy foods increase the body's requirement for vitamin D.

* Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.

* Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods.

* Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
Source: (

In contrast, consuming organic fermented soy products is quite beneficial. Consuming even small amounts of unfermented soy on a regular basis could cause some adverse effects in our body. Next time you consider drinking soy milk; perhaps instead consider oat milk, coconut milk or goat's milk. Some people who are allergic to dairy can tolerate goat milk and goat cheese products in small quantities. Replacing soy and regular milk with these alternatives allow us to enjoy our beverages and cereals without harming our health.




Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favourite Health Food by Kaayla Daniel (

Saturday, November 28, 2009

No I am not Bored


Andrew Newburg, University of Pennsylvania - Several recent brain-scan studies have shown that yawning evokes a unique neural activity in the areas of the brain that are directly involved in generating social awareness and creating feelings of empathy. One of those areas is the precuneus, a tiny structure hidden within the folds of the parietal lobe. According to researchers at the Institute of Neurology in London, the precuneus appears to play a central role in consciousness, self-reflection, and memory retrieval. The precuneus is also stimulated by yogic breathing, which helps explain why different forms of meditation contribute to an increased sense of self-awareness. It is also one of the areas hardest hit by age-related diseases and attention deficit problems, so it's possible that deliberate yawning may actually strengthen this important part of the brain. . .

If I were to ask you to put this magazine down right now and yawn 10 times to experience this fabulous technique, you probably won't do it. Even at seminars, after presenting the overwhelmingly positive evidence, when I ask people to yawn, half of the audience will hesitate. I have to coax them so they can feel the immediate relaxing effects. There's an unexplained stigma in our society implying that it's rude to yawn, and most of us were taught this when we were young.

But yawning doesn't just relax you-it quickly brings you into a heightened state of cognitive awareness. Students yawn in class, not because the teacher is boring (although that will make you yawn as well, as you try to stay focused on the monotonous speech), but because it rids the brain of sleepiness, thus helping you stay focused on important concepts and ideas. It regulates consciousness and our sense of self, and helps us become more introspective and self-aware. Of course, if you happen to find yourself trapped in a room with a dull, boring, monotonous teacher, yawning will help keep you awake.

Yawning will relax you and bring you into a state of alertness faster than any other meditation technique I know of, and because it is neurologically contagious, it's particularly easy to teach in a group setting. One of my former students used yawning to bring her argumentative board of directors back to order in less than 60 seconds. Why? Because it helps people synchronize their behavior with others.

Yawning, as a mechanism for alertness, begins within the first 20 weeks after conception. It helps regulate the circadian rhythms of newborns, and this adds to the evidence that yawning is involved in the regulation of wakefulness and sleep. Since circadian rhythms become asynchronous when a person's normal sleep cycle is disturbed, yawning should help the late-night partygoer reset the brain's internal clock. Yawning may also ward off the effects of jet lag and ease the discomfort caused by high altitudes. . .

Dogs yawn before attacking, Olympic athletes yawn before performing, and fish yawn before they change activities. Evidence even exists that yawning helps individuals on military assignment perform their tasks with greater accuracy and ease. Indeed, yawning may be one of the most important mechanisms for regulating the survival-related behaviors in mammals. So if you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, it is essential that you yawn. It is true that excessive yawning can be a sign that an underlying neurological disorder (such as migraine, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or drug reaction) is occurring. However, I and other researchers suspect that yawning may be the brain's attempt to eliminate symptoms by readjusting neural functioning.

Yawn as many times a day as possible: when you wake up, when you're confronting a difficult problem at work, when you prepare to go to sleep, and whenever you feel anger, anxiety, or stress. Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn while you meditate or pray because it will intensify your spiritual experience.

Conscious yawning takes a little practice and discipline to get over the unconscious social inhibitions, but people often come up with three other excuses not to yawn: "I don't feel like it,"� "I'm not tired,"� and my favorite, "I can't."� Of course you can. All you have to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it six or seven times. Try it right now, and you should discover by the fifth false yawn, a real one will begin to emerge. But don't stop there, because by the tenth or twelfth yawn, you'll feel the power of this seductive little trick. Your eyes may start watering and your nose may begin to run, but you'll also feel utterly present, incredibly relaxed, and highly alert. Not bad for something that takes less than a minute to do. And if you find that you can't stop yawning-I've seen some people yawn for thirty minutes-you'll know that you've been depriving yourself of an important neurological treat.

Advent is the new year

Advent is the new year of the Christian Church and the church season that leads to Christmas Day.

Advent is the time when Christians remember that Jesus came into the world in Palestine 2000 years ago and that Jesus also promised one day to return in all His glory.

Clergy typically wear royal purple or royal blue vestments during Advent. Many churches also include an advent wreath (sometimes called an Advent ring or crown) in their Advent services.

The Seasons of the Church Year

Dennis Bratcher

We keep track of time and seasons of the year by using calendars that provide us opportunities to observe, commemorate, and celebrate certain events or occasions. The changing seasons of the year also provide us with recurring opportunities to celebrate the Christian Faith in worship. The Christian church, following earlier Jewish tradition, has long used the seasons of the year as an opportunity for festivals and holidays, sacred time set aside to worship God as the Lord of life.

While Jewish celebration revolves around the Exodus from Egypt, the Christian Church year focuses on the life and ministry of Jesus. The sequence of festivals from Advent to Resurrection Sunday becomes an annual spiritual journey for worshippers as they kneel at the manger, listen on a hillside, walk the streets of Jerusalem, hear the roar of the mob, stand beneath the cross, and witness the resurrection! The rest of the church year provides opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the coming of Jesus and his commission to his people to be a light to the world.

Many churches in the Protestant tradition do not celebrate in any deliberate or sustained way the various seasons of the church year beyond Christmas and Easter. However, the observance of the seasons of the church year has a long history in the life of the Christian Faith. When most of the people in the church were poor and had no access to education, the church festivals and the cycle of the church year provided a vehicle for teaching the story of God and his actions in human history. Even in the Old Testament, the concept of sacred time became a vehicle for teaching the faith (for example, Exodus 12-13). Planned and purposeful observance of the Christian seasons and festivals can become an important tool for education and discipleship in the Faith, as well as a vehicle for spiritual growth and vitality.

As a congregation moves through the church calendar, they are presented in an organized way with the opportunity to talk about, reflect upon, and respond to the entire range of faith confessions that lie at the heart of the Christian Faith. This is important, not only for the vitality of the whole community, but especially for children to become aware in the context of community celebration those things that are important to their Faith (Deut 6:20-25).

The Christian calendar is organized around two major centers of Sacred Time: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany; and Lent, Holy Week, and Easter, concluding at Pentecost. The rest of the year following Pentecost is known as Ordinary Time, from the word "ordinal," which simply means counted time (First Sunday after Pentecost, etc.). Ordinary Time is used to focus on various aspects of the Faith, especially the mission of the church in the world. Some church traditions break up ordinary time into a Pentecost Season, (Pentecost until the next to last Sunday of August) and Kingdomtide (last Sunday of August until the beginning of Advent).

Some Protestant churches also celebrate other days not specifically tied to these cycles, such as Reformation Sunday and All Saints Sunday. These are becoming increasingly popular ways to flesh out the themes of the Church in the World during Ordinary Time by focusing on heritage and the faithfulness of those in the past. A few churches are beginning to observe some of the feast days for saints, such as the Sunday nearest October 4 for Francis of Assisi, in order to call attention to particular emphases throughout the year. It is an attempt to allow the Church and its history rather than secular culture to set the agenda for the Church's teaching and ministry.

Following the church year is more than simply marking time on a calendar or a note in the church bulletin. Every effort should be made to use the various aspects of the church year as an opportunity to tell the story of God's redemptive work in the world.

Many churches have relied almost solely on the spoken word to carry the burden of proclamation. However, even in the Old Testament the services of worship involved all of the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, as well as hearing. Modern learning theory also indicates that the more senses are involved in an experience, the more impact it makes, especially for children. This suggests that the worship experience should be concerned with more than just preaching and music (see Word and Table: Reflections on a Theology of Worship).

One simple avenue that can assist in tracking the seasons of the church year for worshippers, as well as providing a visual context for worship, is the use of Colors of the Church Year in the sanctuary. Different colors are associated with different seasons, and the changing colors of communion table and pulpit coverings (called paraments), or wall banners, provide visual clues for the seasons.

The exact time of the seasons, and even some of the seasons themselves, differ within various traditions, especially in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. This is due both to various historical emphases, different ways of calculating the days, as well as using different calendars.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Two Beefeaters sacked from Tower of London for bullying first female Yeoman

By Sophie Borland and David Wilkes

Two Beefeaters have been sacked for bullying the first woman to join their ranks.

Colleagues said Mark Sanders-Crook and Bob Brown had been dismissed and would have to leave their grace-and-favour homes in the Tower of London after being found guilty of harassing Moira Cameron.

Tower authorities started the internal investigation last month following allegations that Miss Cameron's entry in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia had been tampered with, 'nasty' notes were left in her locker and her uniform defaced.

The case against a third Yeoman Warder - the Beefeaters' official title - was not proven.

Bullied: Two male Beefeaters have been sacked following an investigation into allegations of harassment by the first female Beefeater Moira Cameron

Former Grenadier Guardsman Mr Sanders-Crook, 44, was the first Yeoman Warder in the Tower's history to follow in his father's footsteps when he was sworn in to his job in 2005. His father Ray worked there from 1983 to 2000.

Last night Mr Sanders-Crook's mother Maureen accused the Tower authorities of blowing the incident out of proportion and claimed her son was being punished simply for not talking to Miss Cameron.

She said: 'He spent 22 years in the Army and he was the most decorated soldier at the Tower.

'He has been charged with not talking to her outside working hours. How is that harassment? He has been absolutely stitched up - and all just for keeping himself to himself.

Fired: Mark Sanders-Crook will have to leave his grace-and-favour home in the Tower of London

'They don't understand what it's like to live in a tight-knit community like all the Beefeaters do at the Tower. To put a single woman in that community was wrong in the first place.

'It was Mark's dream to be a Beefeater since he first visited the Tower when he was 17. He is very upset at what's happened. He went there for the honour and loyalty of the job and they have treated him like dirt.

'This has now made him homeless. He has a wife and has two children at school. What Moira Cameron's done by complaining will affect all of them.

'The whole thing could have been avoided if someone senior had just told Mark and Moira to sort it out by talking things through.'

Mr Brown, 57, is believed to have worked at the Tower for around three years.

Like Mr Sanders-Crook, he is understood to be a family man with children and to live in accommodation at the Tower.

Miss Cameron, 44, is said to have lost her hair through stress-related alopecia during the alleged hate campaign.

Last night she was on guard outside the Tower of London. She refused to be drawn on the sackings, saying: 'I'm afraid I can't say anything about it.'

But a friend, who would not be identified, said: 'We're very happy about this. It's justice and they deserve to go. They made her life very miserable. I believe the two of them just conspired between themselves.'

A Tower of London spokesman said the two sacked men have the right to lodge an appeal within a week, and the third will return to work shortly.

Miss Cameron, from Argyll in Scotland, joined the Army at the age of 20 and served in Northern Ireland and Cyprus, rising to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 2.

She qualified to be a Yeoman Warder in July 2007 after completing the required minimum 22 years in the armed forces.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Susan Boyle on the Today Show, Nov. 23, 2009

Singing outdoors in the wind in NY in November is brave. The singers on the floats in the Thanksgiving parade mostly lip sink with recordings because this is so very hard to do.

Monday, November 23, 2009

If you have a daughter or grandaughter please watch this?

Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls

by Mary Pipher

Dr. Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist and best-selling author. Dr. Pipher's work combines her training in both the fields of psychology and anthropology, examining how American culture influences the mental health of its people. She has received two American Psychological Association Presidential Citations. Dr. Pipher has appeared on the Today Show, 20/20, The Charlie Rose Show, The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, and National Public Radio's Fresh Air.

This is the groundbreaking work that poses one of the most provocative questions of a generation: Why are American adolescent girls falling prey to depression, eating disorders, suicide attempts, and dangerously low self-esteem? Dr. Pipher posits that it's America's sexist, look-obsessed "girl-poisoning" culture-one in which girls are constantly struggling to find their true selves. In Reviving Ophelia, these girls' uncensored voices are heard from the front lines of adolescence. Personal and painfully honest, this is a compassionate call to arms, offering strategies with which to revive these Ophelias' lost senses of self.

A therapist who has worked extensively with young girls reveals firsthand evidence of the damage that can be caused by growing up in a "girl-poisoning culture, " raises a call to arms, and offers parents compassion and strategies for survival. A perfect book to commemorate "Take Your Daughter to Work Day."
Publishers Weekly

From her work as a psychotherapist for adolescent females, Pipher here posits and persuasively argues her thesis that today's teenaged girls are coming of age in ``a girl-poisoning culture.'' Backed by anecdotal evidence and research findings, she suggests that, despite the advances of feminism, young women continue to be victims of abuse, self-mutilation (e.g., anorexia), consumerism and media pressure to conform to others' ideals. With sympathy and focus she cites case histories to illustrate the struggles required of adolescent girls to maintain a sense of themselves among the mixed messages they receive from society, their schools and, often, their families. Pipher offers concrete suggestions for ways by which girls can build and maintain a strong sense of self, e.g., keeping a diary, observing their social context as an anthropologist might, distinguishing between thoughts and feelings. Pipher is an eloquent advocate.

Complaint Box | Picky Eaters

November 20, 2009, 10:38 am


P.C. Vey

Having friends over for dinner used to involve a minimal and fairly unremarkable to-do list: There were groceries to buy, along with flowers and a couple of bottles of semi-respectable wine. I would put out some guest towels and a collection of fancy soaps that were off limits to blood relatives, and then — voilà! — dinner was served. Preparing for a dinner party these days is far more complex, thanks to a vast and bewildering array of dietary needs that seem to have suddenly overtaken everyone I know.
Complaint Box

Dish out the peeves. Send your essays — no more than 500 words, please — to:

An unscientific survey of family and friends turns up one acquaintance who is kosher, two who are more like kosher-style, in addition to two vegans, a smattering of lacto-vegetarians and a couple who cannot digest gluten of any kind. Accommodations must be made for my mother-in-law, who is lactose intolerant, and a friend who is dangerously and inconveniently allergic to peanuts. I must know at least a dozen women who have declared lifelong war on complex carbohydrates. And then there’s my daughter, a wispy and tender-hearted flower child who prefers not to eat “anything with a face” (although she will sometimes make random and completely unreasonable exceptions for hot dogs and pepperoni).

Just thinking about feeding this crowd makes me want to lie down in a darkened room for several uninterrupted hours. The head chef at Beth Israel Medical Center would be hard-pressed to meet the dietary needs of this particular group.

Being a hostess also requires me to navigate the tricky political ramifications of dinner, which means keeping the menu free of veal, foie gras and a host of endangered sea creatures. There are, I have found, an astonishing number people who are breezily neutral on the subject of Kim Jong-il, but consider an entree of Chilean sea bass the moral equivalent of grand-scale marine genocide.

Because of these restrictions, having a simple dinner with the people I love now requires a nutritionist, an Excel spreadsheet and considerably more patience and culinary skill than I possess.

The very last straw was a friend who called before her family came for dinner and — without a hint of shame — presented me with a detailed list of their food requirements: Her husband doesn’t care for shrimp, her son requires a pasta side dish with every meal, and none of them eat the dark meat of chicken, which she dismissed savagely as “dreck.”

I have had enough with people who want to have it their way, and I am done catering to the quirks of food-obsessed numskulls. If you eat in my home, I will grudgingly respect medically diagnosed allergies, since it puts a pall on conversation when a guest goes into anaphylactic shock at the dinner table. But beyond that, I expect you to eat what you can, ignore the rest and not make trouble. On Thursday, 15 people are sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner at my house, and with God as my witness, I promise you this: There will be dark meat.

Susan Goldberg is a freelance writer and editor and a consultant on college admission essays who lives in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

US Senator says Lockerbie bomber should return to jail

A US senator has written to Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for the Lockerbie bomber to be returned to prison.

Democrat senator Charles Schumer said Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was released early on the assumption he only had three months to live.

Mr Schumer questioned the severity of Megrahi's prostate cancer given that the three months had now passed.

The Scottish government stood by its decision to release Megrahi.

Mr Schumer, who represents the State of New York in the US Senate, said there was "speculation" that the severity of Megrahi's condition had been exaggerated. The bottom line is Megrahi should have never been released in the first place.

In his letter to Mr Brown, he said the UK should seek the "immediate" return of Megrahi to jail.

He said: "The bottom line is Megrahi should have never been released in the first place but it would be even more outrageous if he were to be able to live a long and free life after his release.

"The victims of Pan Am Flight 103 didn't get a second chance at life and neither should Megrahi.

"Justice in this case was life in prison, no exceptions."

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was freed from Greenock Prison on 20 August before being flown home to Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

He was serving a life sentence for the 1988 Pan Am jumbo jet bombing which claimed 270 lives and his early release was greeted with anger by American relatives of those killed, many of whom were students at Syracuse University in the State of New York.

'Reasonable estimate'

The decision to release him was taken by Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who said at the time: "There are no fixed time limits but life expectancy of less than three months may be considered an appropriate period."

In a statement issued in response to Mr Schumer's letter on Friday, a Scottish government spokesman said Mr MacAskill's decision was based on recommendations by the parole board and prison governor, and was supported by a medical report.

The clinical assessment by the Scottish Prison Service health director was that a three-month life expectancy was "a reasonable estimate for this patient".

The spokesman said: "Mr Megrahi has terminal prostate cancer and was sent back to Libya to die.

"As Mr MacAskill said when he announced his decision, he may die sooner or may live longer, given the nature of his terminal disease."

Talent star Susan Boyle's debut album goes on sale in UK

Susan Boyle will appear on NBC's Today Show to promote her debut album

Britain's Got Talent star Susan Boyle's debut album, I Dreamed A Dream, is to be released later.

The recording has already become the biggest CD pre-order in the history of global online retailer Amazon.

The Scot is set to appear on America's premier breakfast TV programme, the Today Show, and is favourite to have the Christmas Number One album.

Boyle became a star after her April appearance on Britain's Got Talent. She eventually finished runner-up.

'Incredible achievement'

The 12-track album was named after the song from the musical Les Miserables that made her famous.

The record is a mix of pop covers such as You'll See by Madonna and The Monkees' Daydream Believer, as well as Christian stalwarts including Amazing Grace and Silent Night.

Bookmaker William Hill said it was so sure Boyle, from Blackburn, West Lothian, would achieve sales of one million by Christmas it would only offer an even money bet.

The album is hot favourite to be Christmas Number One

And the firm has installed her 6/4 favourite to have the Number One album at Christmas, ahead of stars such as Leona Lewis, Rihana and Take That.

After an appearance on Sunday night's X-Factor on ITV1, Boyle was set for a tour of the US, starting off in the NBC studios for the Today Show.

Amazon said Boyle's album was the biggest CD pre-order in the 14-year-history of its website.

Julian Monaghan, head of music buying at, said: "Just eight months ago, no-one was aware of the talents of Susan Boyle.

"Now, she has generated more Amazon pre-order CD sales globally than any other artist.

"That is an incredible achievement and is testament to the fact that she has captured the hearts of people all over Britain, America and the rest of the world."

Steve Barnett, chairman of Boyle's record label, Columbia Records, part of Sony Music, said: "One of the things that is so unique about Susan Boyle is her ability to touch people around the world.

"We're excited that I Dreamed A Dream holds the new record for global pre-orders and that Amazon's customers have supported her album in this way."

Friday, November 20, 2009

A History of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day in the United States evokes a number of rich traditions, most notably the Thanksgiving Day feast. The food is, itself, a symbolic display with roots both in the New World’s early interaction between European settlers and indigenous people and in conventions that are more recent. In addition to the food, Thanksgiving calls to mind a range of traditions revolving around the family: parades, football, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, travel, and shopping, to name a few. In America, Thanksgiving’s modern uniqueness as a holiday lies in its somewhat less commercial identity between Halloween and Christmas.

The Thanksgiving Day holiday, however, is considered the official launch of the “Holiday Season,” as schools let out for a celebration that can be simultaneously deeply religious yet secular. To whomever thanks is given, Thanksgiving Day is a time designated for offering a word of thanks for the gifts of one’s life, no matter how troubling the times. Evolving from fast to feast, Thanksgiving Day’s origins are not clearly cut from the annals of American history.

The First Thanksgiving

The tradition of Thanksgiving in the United States is now four centuries in the making. The first Thanksgiving Day is considered by most to have been celebrated as a result of the first bountiful autumn harvest in the Plymouth Colony of modern-day Massachusetts. The Pilgrims who crossed the Atlantic landed into a bleak November winter and saw half of their numbers perish during the course of the cold season, as food was in short supply after the long journey. Having had better luck through the subsequent summer, the grateful people “established a day of thanksgiving and invited the local Indians to share their bounty” (Appelbaum 1984).

In Charles Schulz’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973), the familiar story is succinctly told by Linus Van Pelt in a Thanksgiving dinner blessing: “In the year 1621, the Pilgrims held their first Thanksgiving feast. They invited the great Indian chief Massasoit, who brought ninety of his brave Indians and a great abundance of food. Governor William Bradford and Captain Miles Standish were honored guests. Elder William Brewster, who was a minister, said a prayer that went something like this: ‘We thank God for our homes and our food and our safety in a new land. We thank God for the opportunity to create a new world for freedom and justice.’”

While Brewster’s tidy benediction is apocryphal, it nevertheless captures the sentiment and religious spirit of the holiday. It is true that the pilgrims shared a celebratory harvest meal with the natives that included New World crops planted with the assistance of the interpreter Tisquantum (or Squanto, who also helped negotiate a peace treaty that lasted for 50 years). The traditions of that meal also remain embedded in the modern sense of Thanksgiving, but they are not the only ones that belong, and that day of harvest celebration was not a day of thanksgiving in the Puritan and Protestant Separatist sense—but it has been appropriated as one, the first one (Appelbaum 1984).

Governor Bradford was quick to call days of thanksgiving when they were warranted. In the first three years, the pious colonists used these “holy days of solemn prayer” to try to inspire divine grace for the struggling colony. The first proclamation came with the first autumnal harvest, and another followed a day of fasting and prayer that was called in a subsequent summer to try to supplant the devastating drought with life-bringing rain. Bradford called a day of Thanksgiving on that June 30, 1623, a day sometimes cited as the first Thanksgiving, given its appropriately reverent quality.

Other “first Thanksgivings” that occurred throughout the New World contribute to the tradition, though these days were usually not intended to be annual, let alone a day late in November. The Massachusetts Bay colonists similarly arrived too late to properly prepare for the winter. They, however, had the opportunity to send a ship back to England for supplies. When the ship was delayed, the colonists feared the worst. After many difficult months, Governor John Winthrop “convert[ed] grim necessity into an act of piety” by declaring a day of fasting and prayer for the already starving colonists (ibid). By chance, on that twenty-second day in February set aside for the fast, the ship returned and the day was changed to one of thanksgiving.

Elsewhere in the New World, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado offered a thanksgiving service on behalf of abundant supplies of food and water in western American territory as early as 1541, while French Huguenots in present-day Florida “sang a psalm of Thanksgiving unto God” in 1564. Days of thanksgiving were also offered in the early Maine settlement of the Plymouth Company charter, as well as in the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown early in the seventeenth century. But the most clearly articulated intent of early settlers to celebrate an annual Thanksgiving came at the Berkeley Hundred colony in Virginia where Captain John Woodleaf included in their charter a designation for the day their ships safely arrived to “be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty god.” Alas, that colony was devastated by an Indian attack and abandoned within three years of the charter (ibid).

The Old World Harvest

Thanksgiving as a harvest festival may be the most enduring tradition, not just because of its relevance to the struggling colonists in the New World, but because the celebration of a good harvest is a time-honored tradition around the world. In the ancient world, the Greeks honored Demeter, their harvest and fertility goddess, while Romans honored Ceres, their goddess of agriculture (especially cereal grains, which shows the etymology of the English word). Even the Old Testament is ripe with allusion to the harvest festivals, and ancient mythology is rich with tradition honoring the Earth Mother and her bountiful offerings (Linton and Linton 1949).

More recently, a primary example of a harvest festival from the Old World is Saint Martin’s Day, celebrated throughout Europe since the Middle Ages. In the Netherlands, the Sint Maarten feast on November 11 occurs during “the season when cattle are slaughtered, new wines are tasted, and geese are fat.” Mortensaften, or Saint Martin’s Eve in Denmark also celebrates the harvest with a family dinner, often including the traditional roast goose. Similar festivals, fairs, dinners, and parades of the harvest occur on this day throughout the continent in remembrance of the canonization of the benevolent fourth-century bishop Martin of Tours and, in some countries, the birth and baptism of Martin Luther (Spicer 1958).

While strictly religious tones characterize the early American days of thanksgiving (holidays all too often were connected to an unacceptably pagan past and the contemporary “popish” religion), long-standing harvest traditions on the continent translated to the New World where, as the colonial era gave way to American independence, a country began forging an identity simultaneously distinctive and rooted in its diverse past.

The Emergence of a National American Holiday

In the seventeenth century, a synthesis of developing New England traditions helped mold the modern sense of Thanksgiving. Along with the several proclamations of religious thanksgiving and prayer, civic thanksgiving, elements of Christmas, and the “Harvest Home” became integrated into Thanksgiving. The spirit of English Christmas and the tradition of gathering the last grains of harvest to take home crept back into the tradition of the season, and many colonies began adopting annual Thanksgiving Day celebrations over the course of America’s pre-Revolutionary history. But following the Revolution, the Continental Congress declared a day of thanksgiving in December 1777. It was “the first such celebration ever proclaimed by a national authority for all 13 states” and continued the custom of pausing for a day of thanksgiving in all aspects of American life, even as the country proceeded on its course of manifest destiny and the traditions of the original colonies traveled westward (Appelbaum 1984).

Various congressional representatives pushed the adoption of a legal holiday through the end of the eighteenth century, but debate broke out about the resolutions, from its legitimacy as a distinctively American holiday, to concerns over federalism, and finally the actual date. President Washington issued a Thanksgiving Day proclamation on November 26, 1789, but it did not become a national holiday with the proclamation. During Thomas Jefferson’s administration, the holiday gained little ground, for Jefferson viewed national proclamations of the kind as too monarchical (Linton and Linton 1949). Jefferson stated that “Civil powers alone have been given to the President…and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents” (Appelbaum 1984).

Later presidents in the early nineteenth century issued further proclamations for days of national fast and thanksgiving, but while no national date was solidified, New Englanders continued to celebrate the highly anticipated autumnal day of Thanksgiving. Indeed, throughout the growing United States, Thanksgivings were held variously from September to January.

The final push to a unified national holiday came from Sarah Josepha Hale, who strongly advocated for a specific day like the Fourth of July to set aside for Thanksgiving. Her first treatise on the subject appeared in a chapter of her novel, Northwood; or Life North and South, which lauded the virtue of the New England manner of living over the decadence of the south. The success of her novel launched a career for Hale as a periodical editor, eventually landing the job for the widely circulated Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine. Hale used the magazine as a platform to launch her campaign (on the heels of a similar declaration by the Governor of Pennsylvania) “to make the last Thursday in November a national Thanksgiving Day” (ibid).

Combining editorials with persistent letters to governors of every state, Hale’s campaign rose in the wake of religious fervor from the Second Great Awakening, especially as the Presbyterian Church (and manifest destiny) helped move Thanksgiving into new territories and states. Hale continued her campaign even as the United States was torn by Civil War, but the difference in northern and southern convictions prevented even the possibility of a unified national holiday for a few more years.

Still, days of thanksgiving were proclaimed on both sides of the battle such that by the time of the North’s victory, President Lincoln could effectively invoke unifying religious rhetoric in a national Thanksgiving Day proclamation on the third of October (ibid). “By having Lincoln as a midwife,” Elizabeth Pleck writes, “Thanksgiving… celebrated the blessings of American nationhood as well as its domestic ideals” (1999). But thanks to an almost thirty-year campaign, the determined Sarah Hale got her wish, and the last Thursday of November, 1863, became the first legal, national Thanksgiving Day (Crager 1986).

The Evolution of Diverse Traditions

The nineteenth century, however, was not devoted solely to determining the date of Thanksgiving. It also saw the emergence of many of America’s now deeply revered Thanksgiving Day traditions. While the Western turkey hunt may have largely fallen out of favor, the more secular feel of the holiday, from sporting events to parades, developed over the course of the century and into the early twentieth century.

New York City “Fantasticals” were groups of cross-dressing young men parading merrily about the streets—often drunk and outwardly ridiculing authority, all while masquerading door-to-door for alms or treats (the tradition, now tied to Halloween in the United States, is still practiced in some European countries in connection with the St. Martin’s Day harvest festival, while Thanksgiving has also emerged as a time for charity) (Pleck 1999). The Fantasticals have been variously suggested to have their origins in an American-transplanted Guy Fawkes Day observation or a “celebration of the final evacuation of British troops from New York” (Appelbaum 1984).

Though the Fantasticals disbanded in the 1910s, elements of that general merriment carried over, perhaps most directly into a bigger, more organized parade. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving became a “festival of the home,” a domestic occasion of the kind of which Sarah Hale would have been proud. On the one hand, from the Progressive Era through the 1920s, American education focused the holiday on the home and community. But as the old traditions moved into the home, so too did transforming aspects of technology and commercialization. So, on the other hand, the evolving traditions were not precisely as Hale had imagined (Pleck 1999).

The modern-day Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is known for its colossal balloons, astonishing floats, and marching bands. The first official parade was held in 1924, having been organized by a group of Macy’s employees who were mostly recent immigrants to the United States looking to re-create harvest festival celebrations of their home countries. In the first parade, “employees dressed as clowns, giants, cowboys and cowgirls, knights in armor, and sheiks.” The Central Park Zoo provided live animals and floats and bands became a part of the tradition that first year, and the parade has gone on to be held every year except for three years during World War II (Crager 1986). Yet the department store also had an eye on Christmas and, early on, the connection was made explicit when “Macy’s at first called its November spectacle a ‘Christmas parade.’” Commercialization had touched Thanksgiving—and ever since, the following day has kicked off a fervor of holiday-inspired shopping (Pleck 1999).

But it was the afternoon football game that most forcefully carved out its niche among Thanksgiving Day traditions. As Diana Appelbaum puts it, “The dinner hour, once set to coincide with the return of the faithful from morning church services, was now scheduled to avoid conflict with the football game” (1984). Football entered into the home in the 1920s with extensive radio broadcast, and for many families it became indispensable after-dinner ritual. Football games were televised by the 1950s, maintaining afternoon kickoffs so as not to conflict with the Macy’s parade (Pleck 1999).

As Thanksgiving began to incorporate elements of the harvest feast, some of the day’s more secular connotations began to emerge. When turkey, parades, football, and shopping came to rule the holiday, its religious aspect waned and “thanksgiving was rudely demoted to serve as the official opening day of the Christmas shopping season” (Appelbaum 1984). Thanksgiving may be the onset of the holiday season, but even with football and parades on the television, many families—those not participating in these events—have nevertheless gathered to pause and give thanks, if not for good football, for the time of having gathered together, for better of for worse.

With so many qualifiers, it is difficult to imagine a Thanksgiving feeling even remotely like the “old-fashioned” Puritan ideal. But the spirit of the holiday, like many holidays, is a flowing current of American tradition.

The Feast of Tradition

Ralph and Adelin Linton’s 1949 book, We Gather Together: The Story of Thanksgiving, epitomizes the traditional sentiment of Thanksgiving as “a gathering,” and one undertaken frequently by means of travel, whether near or far. Their first chapter invokes the familiar American holiday song in its title, “Over the River and Through the Woods,” (the next lyric: “To grandmother’s house we go”) to suggest the importance of family to the holiday. The Lintons suggest that “even more than Christmas, [it] is the holiday which brings scattered kindred together. The head of the family, or the member with the biggest house and the longest tablecloth, calls a gathering of the clan.” While the longest tablecloth may not be necessary, the gathering of family, whether physically or the mind, is an integral part of the tradition.

The dinner, meanwhile, may be “a national institution,” but the traditions that guide them are often as individual as the family, whose belief in the proper way to stuff a turkey, among other traditions, is passed down through the family lineage (Appelbaum 1984). Pumpkins, corn, and cranberries were certainly present at the earliest feast, though without molasses or flour, pumpkins were likely boiled and plain (later, indigenous people showed the colonists how to obtain maple syrup, which would have been a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving Day table). If they were lucky, wild honey could have sweetened the bitter native American cranberries prepare in a simple sauce to accompany the meat—which would have been venison hunted from the environs and mollusks gathered from the bay.

Later Thanksgiving dinners began to include smaller game, such as ducks, geese, or turkey, while New England cooks began to develop a variety of dishes based on pumpkin and the women began preparing various versions of cranberry sauce. These two traditions of the feast, the pumpkin and the cranberry,are the longest-running traditions of Thanksgiving—aside, of course, from the traditions inherent in the name of the holiday (ibid).

Thanksgiving is easily reducible to the sum of its parts: “the giving of thanks,” the unity of which the Online Etymology Dictionary dates to 1533. And whatever the range of traditions celebrated by individual families, Thanksgiving Day is as welcome a time today as was the bountiful harvest that first summer in Plymouth, or at any autumnal harvest celebration around the world. So give thanks and eat up, for winter is right around the corner.


Appelbaum, Diana Karter. 1984. Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History. New York, NY: Facts on File Publications.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, DVD. Directed by Bill Melendez and Phil Roman. Written by Charles Schulz. 1973, CBS Television. Paramount Home Video: 2000.

Crager, Meg. 1986. Macy’s Thanksgiving Book. Naomi Black ed. New York, NY: A Quarto Book.

Linton, Ralph and Adelin. 1949. We Gather Together: The Story of Thanksgiving. New York, NY: Henry Schuman.

Pleck, Elizabeth. “The Making of the Domestic Occasion: The History of Thanksgiving in the United States.” Journal of Social History. 32:4 (Summer 1999): 773-789.
Spicer, Dorothy Gladys. 1958. Festivals of Western Europe. New York, NY: The H. W. Wilson Company.

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