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Archive for the ‘BBC’ Category

April showers are nourishing all the perennials we just planted, but if you are a migratory bird looking to nest in Florida, you’d be plain out of luck. Wading birds like egrets and herons depend on fresh, clean water from rivers meeting the sea in estuaries on our coasts for their food supply, and scientists have been putting on waders to count their nests this time of year. Considering Mr T’s deep cuts to the EPA, this Audubon report is troubling:

The latest South Florida Wading Bird Report, which was published last week, offers signs of trouble for the birds and the places they live. During this nesting season, which ran from December 2015 to July 2016, surveyors were disappointed to find 26,676 nests total. That’s just one-third the number of nests tallied during 2009, one of the best nesting years in decades, and the lowest nest census since the 2007-2008 season. Of the indicator species, only two (Great Egrets and White Ibises) met their nest recovery goals. The only bird to show an above-average nesting season last year was the Roseate Spoonbill. http://www.audubon.org/news/floridas-wading-birds-had-terrible-breeding-season-last-year

We had a Great Blue Heron swoop over our Rumson garage every morning to fish in the Shrewsbury River. When you live so close to the ocean, you begin to notice the rise and fall of tidewater by the line of black silt on your Corgis’ short legs, which would sometimes cover their bellies. “Swamp Dogs” was our affectionate term for Toots and Blaze. My sister Kay was kind enough to immortalize that mother/son duo in a 1993 watercolor.

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But it’s the long, stilt-like legs of Great Egrets that are helping them navigate the rising seawater levels due to Climate Change.

And now we have a circus/barker/climate/denier as the Leader of the Free World who would like to dismantle and disrupt the federal government, and return power to “the states.” I’ve always wondered why Republicans even pursue public service when they hate it so much! If any of you are still wondering about the loss of Arctic ice or if keeping that house your aunt left you on the Jersey Shore is a good idea, take a look at Leonardo diCaprio’s interactive global temperature map. It looks like there may be a quarter of Rumson left after the flood. Seriously.

“Every fraction of a degree of global warming sets in motion sea level rise that will profoundly threaten coastal cities across the world,” explains Dr. Benjamin Strauss from Climate Central. “[Our map] shows the incredible stakes and urgency of our climate choices.”

https://www.beforetheflood.com/explore/the-crisis/sea-level-rise/

Now that you’ve put in your city, and the visual has sunk in and maybe you’ve “woke up” think about these cuts to the federal budget. Keep calling your legislators people, dig out your Wellies (English for waders or rain boots), and start looking for higher ground while planning your retirement

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Months ago, a friend’s daughter mentioned that she had stopped taking Adderal, a drug that was prescribed years earlier for Attention Deficit (ADD). She was proud of weaning herself off this stimulant and started looking at the world, and her career differently. I was happy for her, since as y’all know I am NOT a pill person – well except for vitamins – and I recommended she read this book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in 2002 for Economics, even though he is a psychologist.

A therapist friend recommended this book to me, and Bob just finished reading it on our Kindle App, so now it’s my turn. It’s easy enough to say that men are from Mars, but this non-fiction book doesn’t try to explain male vs female minds. In fact, gender has nothing to with it. Instead we find out that our instinctual, fast assessment of any situation is the hero of our cognitive world, and the slower, analytical mind is rather lazy!

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html

When we speak about the “tone” of a conversation, as we have been doing about Mr T’s recent attempts at a Press Conference, we are engaging System 1. It is the nuanced way we communicate with others, the reason we may meet someone and feel an immediate kinship. I was actually thinking that System 1 may be a higher evolutionary adaptation to an increasingly complex and interconnected technological world. Making a diagnosis of ADD more of a plus, than a minus.

Now Bob’s opinion of an ADD diagnosis is that your environment isn’t sufficiently stimulating. As the student who sat in front of him in French class in the 60s, I know this to be true – his legs were always moving behind my desk, so much so that I felt as if I was on a Disney ride. I am positive he would have been medicated as a child. And our son had a similar level of energy in high school, similar to a race horse in the gate, one very hard to contain in a “normal” classroom. I can already see this fast level of relating to the world in the Love Bug. I can almost see her mind racing to keep up with us; at the age of two she was asking us to teach her how to read!

So the inner-linguist-in-me was delighted to read this morning that in fact, our thoughts may have been shaped by the kind of crops our ancestors grew! http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

Growing rice requires far greater cooperation: it is labour-intensive and requires complex irrigation systems spanning many different farms. Wheat farming, by contrast, takes about half the amount of work and depends on rainfall rather than irrigation, meaning that farmers don’t need to collaborate with their neighbours and can focus on tending their own crops.

This BBC article explains how so many social science experiments are biased toward the Western world, more specifically American graduate students who participate in these studies. The idea of Western thought being more frontier in nature, valuing the individual, John Wayne, self-directed approach, as differentiated from Eastern thought which values the whole, group achievement, socialist model over the individual is a narrative based in reality, and not alternative facts.  “…our social environment moulds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception.”

And I would add Red and Blue states to this mix. I once asked a group of women knitting together in a room if in fact every US citizen didn’t deserve to have health care. This was early on, when President Obama was being blocked by every single Republican legislator from passing health insurance reform. And the one Republican knitter in the room said very defiantly “Absolutely not!” She was thinking like a pioneer, and not like someone on the Titanic.

The Flapper loved everything Eastern, including Buddhism, and believed in mindfulness before it was ever trending. Since I received the results of my Ancestry DNA, I realize that my cells are all Irish, with unfortunately no Asian influence. But ever since I was a girl, wearing my Catholic school uniform, my environment taught me to share and think collectively…and maybe now we need to think faster than ever. We need to be the first Jedi.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

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Today a great teacher, writer and survivor of the Holocaust Elie Wiesel has died. He was 87 years old  and will be remembered as a beacon of peace by leaders all over the world. When he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 he said,

“Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides…Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”         http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36696420

Silence and indifference is the constant evil for every culture. Remember this if you are thinking of not voting in November – and remember what a certain GOP candidate had to say about John McCain, being captured, in another war.

I didn’t know Wiesel was just 15 when his family was torn from their home in Romania (now Hungary) and shipped to Auschwitz. But after our Danube tour, I must confess I was torn between the Baroque beauty of the countries we visited, and the underlying horror of WWII. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/travel/tracing-jewish-heritage-along-the-danube.html?_r=0

As we walked over the pebbled courtyard into the majestic Benedictine Abbey in Melk, Austria, I thought about the Jewish people being herded through this very same entryway in transit to death camps. I thought how my children would have been treated, my husband, my family. Me. The sound of our 21st Century shoes crunching on the stones made me close my eyes to the blinding sun.

We began our tour with Sixty Shoes in Budapest, and we ended in the beautiful city of Prague. But at Melk, we learned that the abbey was saved under Emperor Joseph II in the 1700s because it was a flourishing school. A student of the Enlightenment, Joseph tried to limit the influence of the church over the state, shuttering and demolishing many mansions and abbeys, and ushered in an era of peace where all religions were accepted: “Joseph’s reforms included abolishing serfdom, ending press censorship and limiting the power of the Catholic Church. And with his Edict of Toleration, Joseph gave minority religions, such as Protestants, Greek Orthodox and Jews, the ability to live and worship more freely. “

Imagine that, an Era of Enlightenment (1685-1815) was happening in Europe while our new country was evolving, grappling with its native inhabitants, a constitution and slavery.

Today students are still studying at the Abbey amid majestic artwork and architecture. But we must never forget what Elie Wiesel has taught us, and his words from his first book, “Night.”

“Never shall I forget that night that first night in camp that turned my life into one long night. Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky. Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever, those moments that murdered my god and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never.”  

This is the second largest synagogue in the world, and it is in Budapest.

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Criminal Justice?!

You’ve got to hand it to our President. My faith was renewed in him after I listened to that infamous Marc Moran podcast in the car, the one where Obama used the “N” word. What a kerfluffle that caused, but his point was lost; the fact that a huge ship like our American Democracy can’t make a 40 degree turn overnight. We’ve got to make slow, incremental change, maybe a 10 degree course correction.

Racism didn’t happen suddenly, and not saying one word, like taking down one flag, won’t fix the problem. But guess what?

“On Thursday, he is expected to become the first sitting president to visit a federal prison when he goes to the El Reno Federal Correctional Institution outside of Oklahoma City.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33515373

That’s right, President Obama has commuted 46 prisoners’ sentences, most were convicted of non-violent drug crimes. I’m sure you’ve heard how sentencing laws became a covert act of racism in the 80s and 90s. Many more people were incarcerated for selling crack cocaine as opposed to the powder variety. Yes, those traders on Wall Street just couldn’t be treated the same as residents in Harlem. When in reality, a drug is a drug, is a drug. And in fact, the whole approach to drug addiction needs to take an 80 degree turn toward health policy and away from criminality. During the Bride’s tenure at Duke, she helped a lawyer friend of ours bring a case against mandatory sentencing policies to court.

“These men and women were not hardened criminals. But the overwhelming majority had to be sentenced to at least 20 years,” Mr Obama said.
“But I believe that at its heart, America’s a nation of second chances. And I believe these folks deserve their second chance.”

It’s hard to believe that no sitting president has ever visited a prison. But this administration got the ball rolling when Attorney General Eric Holder dropped mandatory minimum sentences in 2013 for non-violent drug offenders.

So thank you Mr Obama. You’ve started this great ship of ours turning in the right direction. Now if it’s not asking too much, before you leave office, about our immigration policy…

Heading in the right direction

Heading in the right direction

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