Lord Martin Rees: We Are Living Through A Political And Scientific Transformation

Lord Martin Rees is an astrophysicist and the former master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He sat down with The WorldPost for a wide-ranging interview, which has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Alexander Görlach: Out of all great transformations we are going through, from climate change to artificial intelligence to gene editing, what are the most consequential we are about to witness? 

Martin Rees: It depends on what time scale we are thinking about. In the next 10 or 20 years, I would say it’s the rapid development in biotechnology. We are already seeing that it’s becoming easier to modify the genome, and we heard about experiments on the influenza virus to make it more virulent and transmissible. These techniques are developing very fast and have huge potential benefits but unfortunately also downsides.

They are easily accessible and handled. It’s the kind of equipment that’s available at many university labs and many companies. And so the risk of error or terror in these areas is quite substantial, while regulation is very hard. It’s not like regulating nuclear activity, which requires huge special purpose facilities. Biohacking is almost a student-competitive sport.

I am somewhat pessimistic, because even if we do have regulations and protocols for safety, how would we enforce them globally? Obviously we should try and minimize the risk of misuse by error or by design of these technologies and also be concerned about the ethical dilemmas they pose. So my pessimism stems from feelings that what can be done, will be done ― somewhere by someone ― whatever the regulations say.

Görlach: Do you fear that this could happen not only in the realm of crime ― if we think of so-called “dirty bombs,” for example ― but could also be used by governments? Do we need a charter designed to prevent misuse?

Rees: I don’t think governments would use biotech in dangerous ways. They haven’t used biological weapons much, and the reason for that is that the effects are unpredictable.

‘Over the next 10 or 20 years, the greatest transformation we are likely to live through is the rapid development in biotechnology.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: That brings recent Hollywood blockbusters like “Inferno” to mind, where one lunatic tries to sterilize half of mankind through a virus. 

Rees: Several movies have been made about global bio-disasters. Nevertheless, I think it is a realistic scenario, and I think it could lead to huge casualties. Disasters such as the one from “Inferno,” as well as other natural pandemics, could spread globally. The consequences of such a catastrophe could be really serious for society. We have had natural pandemics in historic times ― the “black death,” for example. The reason that governments put pandemics ― natural or artificially produced ― high on their risk register is the danger of societal breakdown. That is what worries me most about the possible impact of pandemics. This is a natural threat, of course. The threat is aggregated by the growing possibility that individuals or small groups could manufacture a more lethal virus artificially.

Görlach: So when speaking of the age of transformation, aspects of security seem paramount to you. Why is that? 

Rees: We are moving into an age when small groups can have a huge and even global impact. In fact, I highlighted this theme in my book Our Final Century, which I wrote 13 years ago. These new technologies of bio and cyber ― as we know ― can cause massive disruption. We have had traditional dissidents and terrorists, but there were certain limits to how much devastation they could cause. And that limit has risen hugely with these new bio and cyber-technologies. I think this is a new threat, and it is going to increase the tension between freedom, security and privacy.

Görlach: Let’s look at another huge topic: artificial intelligence. Is this a field where more uplifting thoughts occur to you?

Rees: If we stay within our time frame of 10-20 years, I think the prime concerns about A.I. are going to be in the realm of biological issues. And everyone agrees that we should try and regulate these. My concern is that it will be hard to make effective regulations. Outside biological consequences, in the long term, of course we need to worry about A.I. and machines learning too much.

In the short term, we have the issue of the disruption of the labor market due to robotics taking over ― not just factory work but also many skilled occupations. I mean routine legal work, medical diagnostics and possibly surgery. Indeed, some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.

We will have to accept a big redistribution in the way the labor market is deployed. And in order to ensure we don’t develop even more inequality, there has got to be a massive redistribution. The money earned by robots can’t only go to a small elite ― Silicon Valley people, for instance. In my opinion, it should rather be used for the funding of dignified, secure jobs. Preferably in the public sector ― young and old, teaching assistants, gardeners in public parks, custodians and things like that. There is unlimited demand for jobs of that kind. 

‘Some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But robots also potentially could take on the work of a nurse, for that matter.

Rees: True, they could do some routine nursing. But I think people prefer real human beings, just as we’ve already seen that the wealthiest people want personal servants rather than automation. I think everyone would like that if they could afford it, and everyone in old age would like to be cared for by a real person. 

Görlach: In your opinion, what mental capacities will robots have in the near future?

Rees: I think it will be a long time before they will have the all-round ability of humans. Maybe that will never happen. We don’t know. But what is called generalized machine learning, having been made possible by the ever-increasing number-crunching power of computers, is a genuine big breakthrough. These structures of machine learning are a big leap, and they open up the possibility that machines can really learn a lot about the world. It does raise dangers though, which people may worry about. If these computers were to get out of their box one day, they might pose a considerable threat.

Görlach: In your opinion, what sparks new innovation and ideas? Will A.I. and machines foster these processes? 

Rees: Moments of insights are quite rare, sadly. But they do happen, as documented cases suggest (laughs). There is a great saying: “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” You have got to ruminate a lot before you are in a state to have one of these important insights. If you ask when the big advances in scientific understanding happen, they are often triggered by some new observation that in turn was enabled by some new technological advancement. Sometimes that happens just by a combination of people crossing disciplines and bringing new ideas together; sometimes just through luck; sometimes through a special motivation that caused people to focus on some problem; sometimes by people focusing on a new problem that was deemed too difficult previously and therefore didn’t attract attention. 

‘Fortune favors the prepared mind.’

Görlach: Would you say a collective can have an idea or that only individuals have ideas? 

Rees: Many ideas may have depended on the collective to even emerge. In soccer, one person may score the key goal. That doesn’t mean the other 10 people on the team are irrelevant. I think a lot of science is very much like that: the strength of a team is crucial to enable one person to score the goal.

Görlach: Do natural sciences and humanities have the capability to tackle the challenges occurring from these transformations?

Rees: The kinds of issues we are addressing in Cambridge involve social sciences as well as natural sciences. As I said before, because of the societal effect, the consequences of a pandemic now could be worse than they were in the past, despite our more advanced medicine. Also, if we are thinking of ecological problems like food shortages, the issue of food distribution is an economic question, as well as a question of what people are ready to eat. All these things involve fully understanding people’s social attitudes. Are we going to be satisfied eating insects for protein?

Görlach: With the rising amount of aggregated data, it becomes increasingly difficult for the humanities to keep up with natural sciences. How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data? 

Rees: Great question! There are impediments caused by disciplinary boundaries, and we have to encourage people to bridge these. I am gratified that we have some young people who are of this kind: philosophers who are into computer science or biologists who are interested in system analysis. All these things are very important. I think here in Cambridge, we are quite well-advantaged because we traditionally have the college system whereby we have small academic groups in each college. Each of these colleges is a microcosm, so all disciplines cross somewhat. It is therefore particularly propitious as a location for the development of cross-disciplinary work. 

How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data?

Görlach: The blessings of modern innovation seem to be ignored by many policymakers; we see a retreat from globalization and a retreat from digitalization. Is it a disconnect between science and the rest of society?

Rees: The misapplication of science is a problem, of course. As well as the fact that science’s benefits are irregularly distributed. There are some people that don’t benefit, such as traditional factory workers. If you look at the welfare of the average blue-collar worker and their income in real terms ― in the U.S. and in Europe ― it has not risen in the last 20 years; in many respects, their welfare has declined. Their jobs are less secure, and there is more unemployment. But there is one aspect in which they are better off: information technologies. IT spreads far quicker than expected and led to advantages for workers in Europe, the U.S. and Africa.

Görlach: But surely globalization made many poor people less poor and a few rich people even richer.

Rees: Sure, I guess this statement can be made after 25 years of globalization. But it should also be addressed that we now witness a significant backlash in many places in terms of Brexit or the presidential election in the U.S. 

Görlach: How drastically do you think these developments will affect science, the attitude toward it and its funding? 

Rees: Many of the people who use modern information technology, such as cellphones, aren’t aware of the immense technological achievements. Back in the day, developments could be traced back to scientific innovations decades ago, which were mainly funded by either the military or the public. They may not be aware of it, but they appreciate it. So it’s unfair to say people are anti-science. They are worried about science because indeed there is a risk that some of these technologies will run ahead faster than we can control and cope with them. So there is a reasonable ground for some people to be concerned ― for example, about biotech and A.I.

But we also have to bear in mind that for technology to be developed, it’s necessary ― but not sufficient ― for a certain amount of science to be known. We can take areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand. Take one example: it took only 12 years from the first Sputnik to Neil Armstrong’s small step on the moon ― a huge development in 12 years. The motivation for the Apollo program was a political one and has led to huge expenses. Or take commercial flying ― today, we fly in the same way we did 50 years ago, even though in principle we could all fly in supersonics.

These are two examples where the technology exists but there hasn’t been a motive ― neither political nor economic ― to advance these technologies as fast as possible. In the case of IT, there was the obvious demand, which exploded globally in an amazing way.

‘There are areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: Living in a so-called post-factual era, what are “facts” to you as a scientist? 

Rees: In the United Kingdom, those who voted for Brexit voted that way for a variety of reasons. Some who voted for it wanted to give the government a bloody nose; others voted blatantly against their own interest. The workers in South Wales, for example, benefited hugely from the European Union. There is a wide variety of different motives but I don’t think people would say that they voted against technology.

Görlach: Still, there is this ongoing narrative about the fear of globalization and digitalization, and that would also imply the fear of technology. 

Rees: Sure, but that is oversimplified. We can have advanced technology on a smaller scale. I don’t think you can say that technology is always correlated with larger-scale globalization. It allows for robotic manufacturing, and it allows for more customization to individual demand. The internet has allowed a lot of small businesses to flow. 

Görlach: But there seems to be an increasing disconnect in many societies regarding the consensus on which facts matter and how facts are perceived. 

Rees: To understand this attitude you are expressing, we have to realize that there aren’t many facts that are clear and relevant in their own right. In most cases, I think people have reason to doubt. Most economic predictions, for example, have pretty poor records, so you can’t call them facts.

In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical. This is also true for the climate debate. It is true that some people deny what is clear. But the details on climate change are very uncertain. Even those who agree on all will differ in their attitudes toward the appropriate policy. That depends on other things, including ethics. In a lot of recent debates, people agreed about the science. They disagree about the appropriate policies deriving from that facts. For instance: how much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.

‘In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But how then do you judge the developments we now see in many Western societies?

Rees: I think these developments are partly caused by new technologies that have led to new inequalities. Another point is: even if it hasn’t increased, people are now more aware of inequality. In sub-Saharan Africa, people see the kind of life that we live, and they wonder why they can’t live that kind of life. Twenty-five years ago, they were quite unaware of it. This understandably produces more discontent and embitterment. There is a segment of society, a less-educated one, that feels left behind and unappreciated. That is why I think a huge benefit to society will arise if we have enough redistribution to recreate dignified jobs. 

Görlach: What political framework do you think of as an ideal environment for science?  

Rees: In the Soviet Union, they had some of the best mathematicians and physicists, partly because the study of those subjects was fostered for military reasons. People in those areas also felt that they had more intellectual freedom, which is why a bigger fraction of the top intellectuals went into math and physics in Soviet Russia than probably anywhere else ever since. That shows you can have really outstanding scientists surviving in that sort of society. 

Görlach: So the ethical implication is not paramount to having “good” science after all? 

Rees: I think scientists have a special responsibility to be concerned about the implications of their work. Often an academic scientist can’t predict the implications of his work. The inventors of the laser, for instance, had no idea that this technology could be used for eye surgery and DVD discs but also for weaponry. Among the most impressive scientists I have known are the people who returned to academic pursuits after the end of World War II with relief but remained committed to doing what they could to control the powers they had helped to unleash.

In all cases, the scientists supported the making of the bomb in the context of the time. But they were also concerned about proliferation and arms control. It would have been wrong for them to not be concerned.

To make an analogy: if you have teenage son, you may not be able to control what he does, but you sure are a poor parent if you don’t care about what he does. Likewise, if you are a scientist and you created your own ideas, they’re your offspring, as it were. Though you can’t necessarily control how they will be applied, because that is beyond your control, you nonetheless should care and you should do all you can to ensure that your ideas, which you have helped to create, are used for the benefit of mankind and not in a damaging manner. This is something that should be instilled in all students. There should be ethics courses as part of all science courses in university.

‘How much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: What, then, is your motivation as a scientist? 

Rees: I feel I am very privileged to have consistently, over a career of nearly 40 years now, played part in debates on topics that I think are writing the history of science in this period. As we make great, collective, scientific progress, we are able to confront new mysteries, which we couldn’t even have addressed in the past. Many of the questions that were being addressed when I was young have now been solved. Pressing questions couldn’t even have been posed back then.

Of course the science I do is very remote from any application, but it’s of great fascination and a very wide audience is interested in these questions. It certainly adds to my satisfaction that I can actually convey some of these exciting ideas to a wider public. I would get less satisfaction if I could only talk about my work to a few fellow specialists, so I am glad that these ideas can become part of a broader culture.

Görlach: What is the best idea you ever had? 

Rees: I don’t have any sort of singular idea, but I think I have played a role in some of the ideas that have gradually formed over the last 20 or 30 years about how our universe has evolved from a simple beginning to the complex cosmos we see around us that we are a part of. For me, the social part of science is very important ― many ideas emerge out of discussion and cooperation and, of course, out of experiments and observations.

The symbiosis between science and technology ― the old idea is that science eventually leads to an application ― is far too naïve! It goes two ways, because advancements made in academics are facilitated by technology. We only made advancements beyond Aristotle by having much more sensitive detectors and being able to explore space in many ways. If we didn’t have computers or ways of detecting radiation, etc., we would have made no progress because we are no wiser than Aristotle was. 

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Lord Martin Rees is an astrophysicist and the former master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He sat down with The WorldPost for a wide-ranging interview, which has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Alexander Görlach: Out of all great transformations we are going through, from climate change to artificial intelligence to gene editing, what are the most consequential we are about to witness? 

Martin Rees: It depends on what time scale we are thinking about. In the next 10 or 20 years, I would say it’s the rapid development in biotechnology. We are already seeing that it’s becoming easier to modify the genome, and we heard about experiments on the influenza virus to make it more virulent and transmissible. These techniques are developing very fast and have huge potential benefits but unfortunately also downsides.

They are easily accessible and handled. It’s the kind of equipment that’s available at many university labs and many companies. And so the risk of error or terror in these areas is quite substantial, while regulation is very hard. It’s not like regulating nuclear activity, which requires huge special purpose facilities. Biohacking is almost a student-competitive sport.

I am somewhat pessimistic, because even if we do have regulations and protocols for safety, how would we enforce them globally? Obviously we should try and minimize the risk of misuse by error or by design of these technologies and also be concerned about the ethical dilemmas they pose. So my pessimism stems from feelings that what can be done, will be done ― somewhere by someone ― whatever the regulations say.

Görlach: Do you fear that this could happen not only in the realm of crime ― if we think of so-called “dirty bombs,” for example ― but could also be used by governments? Do we need a charter designed to prevent misuse?

Rees: I don’t think governments would use biotech in dangerous ways. They haven’t used biological weapons much, and the reason for that is that the effects are unpredictable.

‘Over the next 10 or 20 years, the greatest transformation we are likely to live through is the rapid development in biotechnology.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: That brings recent Hollywood blockbusters like “Inferno” to mind, where one lunatic tries to sterilize half of mankind through a virus. 

Rees: Several movies have been made about global bio-disasters. Nevertheless, I think it is a realistic scenario, and I think it could lead to huge casualties. Disasters such as the one from “Inferno,” as well as other natural pandemics, could spread globally. The consequences of such a catastrophe could be really serious for society. We have had natural pandemics in historic times ― the “black death,” for example. The reason that governments put pandemics ― natural or artificially produced ― high on their risk register is the danger of societal breakdown. That is what worries me most about the possible impact of pandemics. This is a natural threat, of course. The threat is aggregated by the growing possibility that individuals or small groups could manufacture a more lethal virus artificially.

Görlach: So when speaking of the age of transformation, aspects of security seem paramount to you. Why is that? 

Rees: We are moving into an age when small groups can have a huge and even global impact. In fact, I highlighted this theme in my book Our Final Century, which I wrote 13 years ago. These new technologies of bio and cyber ― as we know ― can cause massive disruption. We have had traditional dissidents and terrorists, but there were certain limits to how much devastation they could cause. And that limit has risen hugely with these new bio and cyber-technologies. I think this is a new threat, and it is going to increase the tension between freedom, security and privacy.

Görlach: Let’s look at another huge topic: artificial intelligence. Is this a field where more uplifting thoughts occur to you?

Rees: If we stay within our time frame of 10-20 years, I think the prime concerns about A.I. are going to be in the realm of biological issues. And everyone agrees that we should try and regulate these. My concern is that it will be hard to make effective regulations. Outside biological consequences, in the long term, of course we need to worry about A.I. and machines learning too much.

In the short term, we have the issue of the disruption of the labor market due to robotics taking over ― not just factory work but also many skilled occupations. I mean routine legal work, medical diagnostics and possibly surgery. Indeed, some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.

We will have to accept a big redistribution in the way the labor market is deployed. And in order to ensure we don’t develop even more inequality, there has got to be a massive redistribution. The money earned by robots can’t only go to a small elite ― Silicon Valley people, for instance. In my opinion, it should rather be used for the funding of dignified, secure jobs. Preferably in the public sector ― young and old, teaching assistants, gardeners in public parks, custodians and things like that. There is unlimited demand for jobs of that kind. 

‘Some of the hardest jobs to mechanize are jobs like gardening and plumbing.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But robots also potentially could take on the work of a nurse, for that matter.

Rees: True, they could do some routine nursing. But I think people prefer real human beings, just as we’ve already seen that the wealthiest people want personal servants rather than automation. I think everyone would like that if they could afford it, and everyone in old age would like to be cared for by a real person. 

Görlach: In your opinion, what mental capacities will robots have in the near future?

Rees: I think it will be a long time before they will have the all-round ability of humans. Maybe that will never happen. We don’t know. But what is called generalized machine learning, having been made possible by the ever-increasing number-crunching power of computers, is a genuine big breakthrough. These structures of machine learning are a big leap, and they open up the possibility that machines can really learn a lot about the world. It does raise dangers though, which people may worry about. If these computers were to get out of their box one day, they might pose a considerable threat.

Görlach: In your opinion, what sparks new innovation and ideas? Will A.I. and machines foster these processes? 

Rees: Moments of insights are quite rare, sadly. But they do happen, as documented cases suggest (laughs). There is a great saying: “Fortune favors the prepared mind.” You have got to ruminate a lot before you are in a state to have one of these important insights. If you ask when the big advances in scientific understanding happen, they are often triggered by some new observation that in turn was enabled by some new technological advancement. Sometimes that happens just by a combination of people crossing disciplines and bringing new ideas together; sometimes just through luck; sometimes through a special motivation that caused people to focus on some problem; sometimes by people focusing on a new problem that was deemed too difficult previously and therefore didn’t attract attention. 

‘Fortune favors the prepared mind.’

Görlach: Would you say a collective can have an idea or that only individuals have ideas? 

Rees: Many ideas may have depended on the collective to even emerge. In soccer, one person may score the key goal. That doesn’t mean the other 10 people on the team are irrelevant. I think a lot of science is very much like that: the strength of a team is crucial to enable one person to score the goal.

Görlach: Do natural sciences and humanities have the capability to tackle the challenges occurring from these transformations?

Rees: The kinds of issues we are addressing in Cambridge involve social sciences as well as natural sciences. As I said before, because of the societal effect, the consequences of a pandemic now could be worse than they were in the past, despite our more advanced medicine. Also, if we are thinking of ecological problems like food shortages, the issue of food distribution is an economic question, as well as a question of what people are ready to eat. All these things involve fully understanding people’s social attitudes. Are we going to be satisfied eating insects for protein?

Görlach: With the rising amount of aggregated data, it becomes increasingly difficult for the humanities to keep up with natural sciences. How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data? 

Rees: Great question! There are impediments caused by disciplinary boundaries, and we have to encourage people to bridge these. I am gratified that we have some young people who are of this kind: philosophers who are into computer science or biologists who are interested in system analysis. All these things are very important. I think here in Cambridge, we are quite well-advantaged because we traditionally have the college system whereby we have small academic groups in each college. Each of these colleges is a microcosm, so all disciplines cross somewhat. It is therefore particularly propitious as a location for the development of cross-disciplinary work. 

How can we synchronize the languages of different academic fields in this era of big data?

Görlach: The blessings of modern innovation seem to be ignored by many policymakers; we see a retreat from globalization and a retreat from digitalization. Is it a disconnect between science and the rest of society?

Rees: The misapplication of science is a problem, of course. As well as the fact that science’s benefits are irregularly distributed. There are some people that don’t benefit, such as traditional factory workers. If you look at the welfare of the average blue-collar worker and their income in real terms ― in the U.S. and in Europe ― it has not risen in the last 20 years; in many respects, their welfare has declined. Their jobs are less secure, and there is more unemployment. But there is one aspect in which they are better off: information technologies. IT spreads far quicker than expected and led to advantages for workers in Europe, the U.S. and Africa.

Görlach: But surely globalization made many poor people less poor and a few rich people even richer.

Rees: Sure, I guess this statement can be made after 25 years of globalization. But it should also be addressed that we now witness a significant backlash in many places in terms of Brexit or the presidential election in the U.S. 

Görlach: How drastically do you think these developments will affect science, the attitude toward it and its funding? 

Rees: Many of the people who use modern information technology, such as cellphones, aren’t aware of the immense technological achievements. Back in the day, developments could be traced back to scientific innovations decades ago, which were mainly funded by either the military or the public. They may not be aware of it, but they appreciate it. So it’s unfair to say people are anti-science. They are worried about science because indeed there is a risk that some of these technologies will run ahead faster than we can control and cope with them. So there is a reasonable ground for some people to be concerned ― for example, about biotech and A.I.

But we also have to bear in mind that for technology to be developed, it’s necessary ― but not sufficient ― for a certain amount of science to be known. We can take areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand. Take one example: it took only 12 years from the first Sputnik to Neil Armstrong’s small step on the moon ― a huge development in 12 years. The motivation for the Apollo program was a political one and has led to huge expenses. Or take commercial flying ― today, we fly in the same way we did 50 years ago, even though in principle we could all fly in supersonics.

These are two examples where the technology exists but there hasn’t been a motive ― neither political nor economic ― to advance these technologies as fast as possible. In the case of IT, there was the obvious demand, which exploded globally in an amazing way.

‘There are areas of technology in which we could have forged ahead faster but haven’t because there was no demand.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: Living in a so-called post-factual era, what are “facts” to you as a scientist? 

Rees: In the United Kingdom, those who voted for Brexit voted that way for a variety of reasons. Some who voted for it wanted to give the government a bloody nose; others voted blatantly against their own interest. The workers in South Wales, for example, benefited hugely from the European Union. There is a wide variety of different motives but I don’t think people would say that they voted against technology.

Görlach: Still, there is this ongoing narrative about the fear of globalization and digitalization, and that would also imply the fear of technology. 

Rees: Sure, but that is oversimplified. We can have advanced technology on a smaller scale. I don’t think you can say that technology is always correlated with larger-scale globalization. It allows for robotic manufacturing, and it allows for more customization to individual demand. The internet has allowed a lot of small businesses to flow. 

Görlach: But there seems to be an increasing disconnect in many societies regarding the consensus on which facts matter and how facts are perceived. 

Rees: To understand this attitude you are expressing, we have to realize that there aren’t many facts that are clear and relevant in their own right. In most cases, I think people have reason to doubt. Most economic predictions, for example, have pretty poor records, so you can’t call them facts.

In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical. This is also true for the climate debate. It is true that some people deny what is clear. But the details on climate change are very uncertain. Even those who agree on all will differ in their attitudes toward the appropriate policy. That depends on other things, including ethics. In a lot of recent debates, people agreed about the science. They disagree about the appropriate policies deriving from that facts. For instance: how much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.

‘In the Brexit debate, there were a lot of valid arguments on both sides, and you can’t blame the public for being skeptical.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: But how then do you judge the developments we now see in many Western societies?

Rees: I think these developments are partly caused by new technologies that have led to new inequalities. Another point is: even if it hasn’t increased, people are now more aware of inequality. In sub-Saharan Africa, people see the kind of life that we live, and they wonder why they can’t live that kind of life. Twenty-five years ago, they were quite unaware of it. This understandably produces more discontent and embitterment. There is a segment of society, a less-educated one, that feels left behind and unappreciated. That is why I think a huge benefit to society will arise if we have enough redistribution to recreate dignified jobs. 

Görlach: What political framework do you think of as an ideal environment for science?  

Rees: In the Soviet Union, they had some of the best mathematicians and physicists, partly because the study of those subjects was fostered for military reasons. People in those areas also felt that they had more intellectual freedom, which is why a bigger fraction of the top intellectuals went into math and physics in Soviet Russia than probably anywhere else ever since. That shows you can have really outstanding scientists surviving in that sort of society. 

Görlach: So the ethical implication is not paramount to having “good” science after all? 

Rees: I think scientists have a special responsibility to be concerned about the implications of their work. Often an academic scientist can’t predict the implications of his work. The inventors of the laser, for instance, had no idea that this technology could be used for eye surgery and DVD discs but also for weaponry. Among the most impressive scientists I have known are the people who returned to academic pursuits after the end of World War II with relief but remained committed to doing what they could to control the powers they had helped to unleash.

In all cases, the scientists supported the making of the bomb in the context of the time. But they were also concerned about proliferation and arms control. It would have been wrong for them to not be concerned.

To make an analogy: if you have teenage son, you may not be able to control what he does, but you sure are a poor parent if you don’t care about what he does. Likewise, if you are a scientist and you created your own ideas, they’re your offspring, as it were. Though you can’t necessarily control how they will be applied, because that is beyond your control, you nonetheless should care and you should do all you can to ensure that your ideas, which you have helped to create, are used for the benefit of mankind and not in a damaging manner. This is something that should be instilled in all students. There should be ethics courses as part of all science courses in university.

‘How much constraint are we willing to exercise, in order to facilitate the life of generations to come? Opinions differ hugely.’
Lord Martin Rees

Görlach: What, then, is your motivation as a scientist? 

Rees: I feel I am very privileged to have consistently, over a career of nearly 40 years now, played part in debates on topics that I think are writing the history of science in this period. As we make great, collective, scientific progress, we are able to confront new mysteries, which we couldn’t even have addressed in the past. Many of the questions that were being addressed when I was young have now been solved. Pressing questions couldn’t even have been posed back then.

Of course the science I do is very remote from any application, but it’s of great fascination and a very wide audience is interested in these questions. It certainly adds to my satisfaction that I can actually convey some of these exciting ideas to a wider public. I would get less satisfaction if I could only talk about my work to a few fellow specialists, so I am glad that these ideas can become part of a broader culture.

Görlach: What is the best idea you ever had? 

Rees: I don’t have any sort of singular idea, but I think I have played a role in some of the ideas that have gradually formed over the last 20 or 30 years about how our universe has evolved from a simple beginning to the complex cosmos we see around us that we are a part of. For me, the social part of science is very important ― many ideas emerge out of discussion and cooperation and, of course, out of experiments and observations.

The symbiosis between science and technology ― the old idea is that science eventually leads to an application ― is far too naïve! It goes two ways, because advancements made in academics are facilitated by technology. We only made advancements beyond Aristotle by having much more sensitive detectors and being able to explore space in many ways. If we didn’t have computers or ways of detecting radiation, etc., we would have made no progress because we are no wiser than Aristotle was. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 21, 2017

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Polling Methods Explain Why Donald Trump’s Approval Ratings Are All Over The Place

President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have bounced around pretty wildly during his first four weeks in office. There has been a 36-point swing across this period of time ― his net approval has ranged from a disapproval rating 18 points higher than his approval rating to an approval rating 18 points higher than his disapproval rating.

The HuffPost Pollster chart illustrates the instability: 

Several articles have been written about these widely ranging numbers, and the HuffPost Pollster team has been considering the issue. The answer seems to be less about instability in what Americans think of Trump than it is about polling methods. The variation in Trump’s job approval ratings has been driven by a few factors: how and when the poll was conducted, who was polled and whether it was conducted by a specific pollster.

To look at what’s affecting these numbers, I took all of the polls on the new president’s approval rating collected in the HuffPost Pollster database. Seventy-one publicly released polls that meet our disclosure criteria have been conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 (excluding the results by party, which you’ll see on the downloadable spreadsheet).

The HuffPost Pollster database includes a few details about how the polls were conducted in addition to recording the numbers, sample size and dates. For one thing, it considers the poll’s “mode” ― if respondents were contacted and interviewed via live interviewer telephone, internet, or a combination of automated phone and internet. The database also considers the polling “population” ― meaning whether the respondents were American adults, registered voters or likely voters.

Those differences account for the vast majority of the differences in Trump’s net approval rating (percent approve minus percent disapprove). A model that includes the poll’s mode, population, sample size, length of time in the field (number of days), undecided proportion, week of the Trump presidency (numbered 1-4), and with variables for Rasmussen’s and Gallup’s daily trackers explains 86 percent of the variance in the approval ratings across polls. 

Not all of those things are statistically significant predictors of variance, though. The chart below shows the regression model effects with 95 percent confidence intervals. If the vertical blue bar crosses the black horizontal zero line, the effect is not statistically significant ― meaning we can’t say with 95 percent certainty that it affects Trump’s ratings. If the blue vertical bar is completely above or below the zero line, then we can say with 95 percent certainty that the aspect of the poll affects Trump’s ratings. 

The most important factors are population, mode, the timing of the poll ― week of the presidency and how many days the poll was collecting data ― and whether it was conducted by Rasmussen. The only factor that is even remotely attributable to Trump’s actual job performance is the week of the presidency. The rest are about the surveys’ methods.

The model also included the sample size of the poll and the proportion of undecided responses in the poll, but both had effects near zero, so were eliminated from the chart. 

A brief technical note: Daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup only appear on the chart when all of the data are new (e.g., every three days for a three-day rolling average), but this analysis includes all of their daily reports. (R code is available here. Data available here.)

Rasmussen polls are giving Trump the largest bump in his net approval, even accounting for all of the other factors in the model. That can’t be attributed to their using a different mode or population than other polls, since both factors are also included in the model. We don’t have enough information to say what is causing it, but no other pollster has a significant effect on net approval, much less an effect that large.

Polls of registered voters give Trump about a 5 to 6 percentage point boost over those that report results for all American adults. That makes sense: All Americans tend to be more liberal than registered voters. Internet polls give Trump about an 8 percentage point jump in net approval over polls conducted by telephone. And for each additional day the poll is in the field, Trump loses a little more than a percentage point in his net approval rating.

The one variable that probably is related to Trump’s actual performance as president is the timing of the poll. As Trump’s presidency has progressed over the past month, his approval has dipped. He’s lost nearly 3 percentage points in net approval each week across the first four weeks.

Since the Rasmussen effect was so large, I re-ran the model without any of those polls. Nothing changed ― no other pollster stood out in Rasmussen’s absence, and the same variables were statistically significant at very near the same values. That model explained 78 percent of the variance in Trump’s net approval ratings.

All of these effects make a great case for looking at polling aggregates to assess Trump’s approval ratings. There’s no way of knowing which set of numbers most accurately measures what Americans think of the job Trump is doing in office. Unlike election polls, which can be compared to election results, there won’t be a national vote on approving or disapproving of Trump for comparison.

The discrepancy between individual poll results is precisely why polling aggregates are useful to those without the in-depth polling expertise to discern why numbers vary and which might be right. And HuffPost Pollster’s charts allow customization and filtering for those who do have the expertise and want to look at differences by population, mode or pollster. 

So for Trump’s approval ratings, keep calm and look at the polling aggregates. And maybe consider Rasmussen a Trump-friendly outlier.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/17/trump-job-approval_n_14890310.html
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President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have bounced around pretty wildly during his first four weeks in office. There has been a 36-point swing across this period of time ― his net approval has ranged from a disapproval rating 18 points higher than his approval rating to an approval rating 18 points higher than his disapproval rating.

The HuffPost Pollster chart illustrates the instability: 

Several articles have been written about these widely ranging numbers, and the HuffPost Pollster team has been considering the issue. The answer seems to be less about instability in what Americans think of Trump than it is about polling methods. The variation in Trump’s job approval ratings has been driven by a few factors: how and when the poll was conducted, who was polled and whether it was conducted by a specific pollster.

To look at what’s affecting these numbers, I took all of the polls on the new president’s approval rating collected in the HuffPost Pollster database. Seventy-one publicly released polls that meet our disclosure criteria have been conducted between Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 (excluding the results by party, which you’ll see on the downloadable spreadsheet).

The HuffPost Pollster database includes a few details about how the polls were conducted in addition to recording the numbers, sample size and dates. For one thing, it considers the poll’s “mode” ― if respondents were contacted and interviewed via live interviewer telephone, internet, or a combination of automated phone and internet. The database also considers the polling “population” ― meaning whether the respondents were American adults, registered voters or likely voters.

Those differences account for the vast majority of the differences in Trump’s net approval rating (percent approve minus percent disapprove). A model that includes the poll’s mode, population, sample size, length of time in the field (number of days), undecided proportion, week of the Trump presidency (numbered 1-4), and with variables for Rasmussen’s and Gallup’s daily trackers explains 86 percent of the variance in the approval ratings across polls. 

Not all of those things are statistically significant predictors of variance, though. The chart below shows the regression model effects with 95 percent confidence intervals. If the vertical blue bar crosses the black horizontal zero line, the effect is not statistically significant ― meaning we can’t say with 95 percent certainty that it affects Trump’s ratings. If the blue vertical bar is completely above or below the zero line, then we can say with 95 percent certainty that the aspect of the poll affects Trump’s ratings. 

The most important factors are population, mode, the timing of the poll ― week of the presidency and how many days the poll was collecting data ― and whether it was conducted by Rasmussen. The only factor that is even remotely attributable to Trump’s actual job performance is the week of the presidency. The rest are about the surveys’ methods.

The model also included the sample size of the poll and the proportion of undecided responses in the poll, but both had effects near zero, so were eliminated from the chart. 

A brief technical note: Daily tracking polls from Rasmussen and Gallup only appear on the chart when all of the data are new (e.g., every three days for a three-day rolling average), but this analysis includes all of their daily reports. (R code is available here. Data available here.)

Rasmussen polls are giving Trump the largest bump in his net approval, even accounting for all of the other factors in the model. That can’t be attributed to their using a different mode or population than other polls, since both factors are also included in the model. We don’t have enough information to say what is causing it, but no other pollster has a significant effect on net approval, much less an effect that large.

Polls of registered voters give Trump about a 5 to 6 percentage point boost over those that report results for all American adults. That makes sense: All Americans tend to be more liberal than registered voters. Internet polls give Trump about an 8 percentage point jump in net approval over polls conducted by telephone. And for each additional day the poll is in the field, Trump loses a little more than a percentage point in his net approval rating.

The one variable that probably is related to Trump’s actual performance as president is the timing of the poll. As Trump’s presidency has progressed over the past month, his approval has dipped. He’s lost nearly 3 percentage points in net approval each week across the first four weeks.

Since the Rasmussen effect was so large, I re-ran the model without any of those polls. Nothing changed ― no other pollster stood out in Rasmussen’s absence, and the same variables were statistically significant at very near the same values. That model explained 78 percent of the variance in Trump’s net approval ratings.

All of these effects make a great case for looking at polling aggregates to assess Trump’s approval ratings. There’s no way of knowing which set of numbers most accurately measures what Americans think of the job Trump is doing in office. Unlike election polls, which can be compared to election results, there won’t be a national vote on approving or disapproving of Trump for comparison.

The discrepancy between individual poll results is precisely why polling aggregates are useful to those without the in-depth polling expertise to discern why numbers vary and which might be right. And HuffPost Pollster’s charts allow customization and filtering for those who do have the expertise and want to look at differences by population, mode or pollster. 

So for Trump’s approval ratings, keep calm and look at the polling aggregates. And maybe consider Rasmussen a Trump-friendly outlier.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 20, 2017

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More Seniors Than Ever Are Combining Brain-Affecting Drugs

The number of Americans over the age of 65 who take at least three prescribed psychotropic drugs ― a category that includes opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics and tranquilizers ― doubled over a recent nine-year period, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

What’s more, the rate tripled among seniors in rural America.

“The rise we saw in these data may reflect the increased willingness of seniors to seek help and accept medication for mental health conditions,” Dr. Donovan Maust, the study’s lead author and a geriatric psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine, said in a release. “But it’s also concerning because of the risks of combining these medications.”

For people with certain problems, like chronic pain or sleeplessness, these drugs are often necessary. But regularly taking a cocktail of several medications can be dangerous. There have been warnings, including from the Food and Drug Administration, about the risks of combining pain medications, anti-depressants and sleeping aids. Still, the number of seniors who say they do combine these drugs is on the rise.

Even on their own, many of these drugs affect the central nervous system and pose special risks to older adults who could fall or experience problems with driving, memory and thinking. 

Drugs are being prescribed without a clear diagnosis

The team from the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System analyzed data from a sample of doctors’ offices between 2004 and 2013.

In 2004, only 0.6 percent of doctor visits by people over the age of 65 involved three or more CNS-affecting drugs; the number jumped to 1.4 percent in 2013. If that percentage were applied to the entire U.S. post-65 population, it would mean 3.68 million doctor visits a year involving seniors taking three or more CNS drugs, up from about 1.5 million visits in 2004, according to a press release on the study. 

Perhaps even more worrisome, almost half of seniors taking these drug combinations had not been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition, a pain condition or insomnia ― the three issues these medications are most often prescribed for. Patient-reported complaints appear to be enough to get these prescriptions.

“One of the big concerns to me is the amount of prescribing that occurs without a clear diagnosis,” Maust told The Huffington Post in an email.

“These patients don’t have the condition for which the medication was approved, but still suffer the side effects regardless,” he went on. “For example, if you are down (but don’t actually have Major Depression) and start an antidepressant, there is no evidence that the antidepressant will help your mood, but you could still experience nausea.”

It’s possible that a confluence of factors has led to the increase in prescriptions. On the bright side, the stigma once attached to mental illness has decreased.

“People are more open to using prescription medication for mental illness,” Maust said. “If people are more open to using psychotropic medication in general, then it’s not surprising people might end up on multiple medications.”

Rural America suffers the most

The especially high increase in drug combinations among people in rural areas may be partially due to lack of access to specialty care, Maust said ― meaning primary care doctors “resort to prescribing a lot since they don’t have other resources to offer.”

The country’s rural communities have fewer specialists, so medication tends to take the place of care. “Older adults in general are less likely [than younger adults] to see psychiatrists and access to psychiatrists is especially poor in rural areas,” Maust said, citing research that appeared in the journal Health Affairs last year.

Chronic pain in rural areas has historically been a larger problem than in urban communities. Rural residents report greater frequency and intensity of pain, and experience more pain-related disability and depression, than people with pain who live in urban areas. The disparities in health care between rural and urban areas are widely recognized, and people in rural areas often experience difficulties related to availability, accessibility and affordability of health services.

Meanwhile, painkiller prescriptions are up across the board, which some argue is a result of the U.S. health care system beginning to treat pain as the “fifth vital sign.”   

What you can do about it

It would make sense for everyone ― especially older adults ― to discuss with their doctors each medication they’ve been prescribed, with an eye toward identifying drugs that could be reduced or stopped, Maust said.

Older adults are not immune to the dangers of abuse and addiction, he noted. For older people taking psychiatric drugs, there’s a case to be made that less is sometimes more.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/14/seniors-brain-affecting-drugs_n_14775932.html
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The number of Americans over the age of 65 who take at least three prescribed psychotropic drugs ― a category that includes opioids, antidepressants, antipsychotics and tranquilizers ― doubled over a recent nine-year period, according to new research from the University of Michigan.

What’s more, the rate tripled among seniors in rural America.

“The rise we saw in these data may reflect the increased willingness of seniors to seek help and accept medication for mental health conditions,” Dr. Donovan Maust, the study’s lead author and a geriatric psychiatrist at Michigan Medicine, said in a release. “But it’s also concerning because of the risks of combining these medications.”

For people with certain problems, like chronic pain or sleeplessness, these drugs are often necessary. But regularly taking a cocktail of several medications can be dangerous. There have been warnings, including from the Food and Drug Administration, about the risks of combining pain medications, anti-depressants and sleeping aids. Still, the number of seniors who say they do combine these drugs is on the rise.

Even on their own, many of these drugs affect the central nervous system and pose special risks to older adults who could fall or experience problems with driving, memory and thinking. 

Drugs are being prescribed without a clear diagnosis

The team from the University of Michigan and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System analyzed data from a sample of doctors’ offices between 2004 and 2013.

In 2004, only 0.6 percent of doctor visits by people over the age of 65 involved three or more CNS-affecting drugs; the number jumped to 1.4 percent in 2013. If that percentage were applied to the entire U.S. post-65 population, it would mean 3.68 million doctor visits a year involving seniors taking three or more CNS drugs, up from about 1.5 million visits in 2004, according to a press release on the study. 

Perhaps even more worrisome, almost half of seniors taking these drug combinations had not been formally diagnosed with a mental health condition, a pain condition or insomnia ― the three issues these medications are most often prescribed for. Patient-reported complaints appear to be enough to get these prescriptions.

“One of the big concerns to me is the amount of prescribing that occurs without a clear diagnosis,” Maust told The Huffington Post in an email.

“These patients don’t have the condition for which the medication was approved, but still suffer the side effects regardless,” he went on. “For example, if you are down (but don’t actually have Major Depression) and start an antidepressant, there is no evidence that the antidepressant will help your mood, but you could still experience nausea.”

It’s possible that a confluence of factors has led to the increase in prescriptions. On the bright side, the stigma once attached to mental illness has decreased.

“People are more open to using prescription medication for mental illness,” Maust said. “If people are more open to using psychotropic medication in general, then it’s not surprising people might end up on multiple medications.”

Rural America suffers the most

The especially high increase in drug combinations among people in rural areas may be partially due to lack of access to specialty care, Maust said ― meaning primary care doctors “resort to prescribing a lot since they don’t have other resources to offer.”

The country’s rural communities have fewer specialists, so medication tends to take the place of care. “Older adults in general are less likely [than younger adults] to see psychiatrists and access to psychiatrists is especially poor in rural areas,” Maust said, citing research that appeared in the journal Health Affairs last year.

Chronic pain in rural areas has historically been a larger problem than in urban communities. Rural residents report greater frequency and intensity of pain, and experience more pain-related disability and depression, than people with pain who live in urban areas. The disparities in health care between rural and urban areas are widely recognized, and people in rural areas often experience difficulties related to availability, accessibility and affordability of health services.

Meanwhile, painkiller prescriptions are up across the board, which some argue is a result of the U.S. health care system beginning to treat pain as the “fifth vital sign.”   

What you can do about it

It would make sense for everyone ― especially older adults ― to discuss with their doctors each medication they’ve been prescribed, with an eye toward identifying drugs that could be reduced or stopped, Maust said.

Older adults are not immune to the dangers of abuse and addiction, he noted. For older people taking psychiatric drugs, there’s a case to be made that less is sometimes more.

The findings were published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 15, 2017

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3 Emerging Travel Trends (and How They’ll Impact Business This Year)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/young-entrepreneur-council/3-emerging-travel-trends_b_14719696.html

2017-02-13-1486992542-3555408-cliffjohnson.jpg
By Cliff Johnson

In the first quarter of the new year, businesses are thinking about how industry trends will affect their culture, their teams and their bottom lines. As co-founder and chief development officer at a fast-growing travel company, I’m especially interested in how travel and hospitality trends will impact businesses this year. Here are a few developments in our industry that could affect those in yours:

The Death of the Big Brand

The influence of well-known brands will be less and less important to travelers in 2017. Instead of gravitating toward widely recognized brands, travelers will continue to rely on marketplaces and reviews when deciding where to spend their money. According to a recent survey conducted by BrightLocal, 84 percent of people now trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. 

As travelers move away from relying on the generic offerings of big brands, they’ll gravitate more toward customized travel experiences, which provide specialized experiences and amenities. Rather than depending on brand recognition alone, companies should cultivate their reputations on sites like Yelp, Glassdoor and TripAdvisor, where user-generated content drives decision-making.

On a similar note, rather than delivering a blandly consistent experience for customers, businesses should look for ways to differentiate their offerings based on users’ patterns and preferences. For example, Netflix does a stellar job of tailoring recommendations to individual users, rather than showing everybody the same lineup.

Going Virtual

Speaking of getting exactly what you’re looking for, virtual reality will become more ubiquitous (and more in demand) this year. In our industry, this means travelers will seek out virtual tours that give them detailed insight into the quality, feature, and amenities of their vacation rental, hotel room or airplane cabin.

Just this year, Airbnb began testing live streaming on its social platforms to market its rentals to users.

Businesses across the board can use virtual reality to appeal to end-users. Virtual reality is already in use in industries like cognitive behavioral therapy, treatment for amputees, automotive design, education and training, law enforcement, and of course entertainment. As virtual reality becomes increasingly ubiquitous, businesses should be thinking about how they can leverage it to create innovative marketing campaigns, improve customer satisfaction and increase market share.

A New Kind of Customer

In 2016, direct flights to unexpected locations like Reykjavík and Dubai became more affordable than ever, helping to push travelers out of their comfort zones. This year, we can expect countries that were once considered off-limits for travel, like Cuba and Colombia, to be popular destinations in 2017.

Budget-conscious young travelers will take advantage of these offerings to pursue spur-of-the-moment adventures in undiscovered countries. According to Hospitality Net, adventure-driven millennials can be expected to dominate travel over the coming year. In fact, millennials, who are now the largest living demographic, will change the way businesses in every sector design and market their products.

The increasing ubiquity of remote work opportunities will make it easier for people to book longer stays that blend work with leisure. For businesses interested in recruiting and catering to millennials — which should be all businesses, given the enormous size and influence of this demographic — extending a remote work option or creating tools that make it easier and more efficient to work away from the office will be key. Industry players that neglect the attitudes of millennials will be leaving money on the table.

This year, we can expect customers in all sectors to expect user-generated and customized content that’s super relevant to them. They’ll look to technology to give them intense, immersive user experiences. And lastly, they’ll expect employers and tools to empower them to work from anywhere. Companies that incorporate the best aspects of the sharing economy and leverage technology to market their offerings to tech-savvy millennials will be in the strongest position to take advantage of these developments.

In 2009, Cliff Johnson co-founded Vacasa, a technology-enabled vacation rental management firm. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 14, 2017

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Republicans will regret confirming Betsy DeVos

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dale-hansen/republicans-will-regret-c_b_14720168.html

The recent appointment of Betsy DeVos has proved one thing – conservatives are far more concerned about politics than they are about educating children. A sampling of their self-serving arrogance can be seen in the numerous Fox News opinion articles from the likes of Bobby Jindal, Ralph Reed, Liz Peek, and the entire New York Post Editorial Board.

The New York Post believes “The War on Betsy DeVos Is All About the Teachers’ Unions”. Conservatives have long believed that unions are bad for the country, but the data doesn’t support that assertion when it comes to teachers. If these conservatives were being honest they would acknowledge that multiple studies show teachers’ unions have a positive impact on educational outcomes, while another study showed that in areas where union membership was greater, children in low income families were more likely to achieve higher incomes.

Beyond that, if unions were the biggest obstacle to improving education, then why do so many countries that outperform the U.S. have higher rates of unionization among their teachers?

Of course the idea that unions need public schools to maintain their power ignores the fact that 12% of charter school teachers are represented by unions.

Ralph Reed feels that the opposition to Betsy DeVos is due to the “liberal war on religion” despite the fact that her faith and religiosity were not a reason given by any of the fifty Senators that voted against her appointment. Having said that, there are clearly concerns that DeVos, who was quoted as saying she wanted to confront the education culture “in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom” while her husband – Dick DeVos – stated it is “certainly our hope that more and more churches will get more and more active and engaged in education”.

Given the multiple cases that have helped define the separation of church and state within public schools, it would seem there is little DeVos can do to push her faith as the Secretary of Education; however, she wouldn’t be the first conservative to advocate for getting public funding to flow to private religious schools. If following the constitution constitutes a war on religion, conservatives should get ready for a battle.

Like many others, Liz Peek pretends our schools system is broken and that the ideas DeVos supports are the answer. Unfortunately for DeVos supporters like Peek, they are woefully uninformed on the problems of education. Data show that we have a poverty problem not an education problem. In fact, when adjusted for poverty, the U.S. test scores rank number one in the world.

The reality is that, if conservatives spent as much money and effort on ending poverty as they do trying to end public education, the system we have in place would already be producing the best results in the world.

Unlike the others that were mainly interested in presenting biased information to make liberals look bad, Bobby Jindal presented biased information to pat himself on the back in addition to making liberals look bad. In Jindal’s mind, DeVos will save education because she agrees with the policies he has followed as the Governor of Louisiana. Jindal goes on to talk up the value of charter schools while ignoring the most recent data that show there is virtually no difference between the performance of charter schools and public schools. Making matters worse is the fact that the data used to show this doesn’t include some of the best performing public schools in the country. This means charter school are only as good as the public schools people have deemed failing. That is faint praise to only be as good as the bad public schools.

Of course Jindal also fails to mention a number of other issues with charter schools that should trouble most people that claim to care about children, like the fact that charter schools spend less on teachers yet don’t save tax payers any money. Charter schools are less transparent, give parents less control over the direction of their child’s education, and take money out of local communities. Despite costs tax payers as much as their local public school, Charter schools serve fewer special needs and English learner students which tend to cost more to educate. Charters weed out students with lower test scores and expel more students, yet still don’t outperform their local public school.

Beyond this, as Fox News contributor Todd Starnes noted, over the last eight years, where charter schools have increased by 47 % under President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, U.S. test scores have gone down. Odd that this free market competition has led to a general decline in outcomes given the rhetoric from conservatives.

When you analyze the data you see that charter schools aren’t the panacea of education reform but just another type of school plagued by the problem of poverty.

Jindal also believes that Betsy DeVos has proven she is dedicated to improving the education system because she has “spent millions of dollars of her own money” on education reform. Well Governor, if spending her own money shows the level of commitment DeVos has to our children then it should be mentioned that teachers across the U.S. spend $3.5 billion of their own money to buy supplies for their classroom and for students who can’t afford the necessities. In fact, some of the lowest paid teachers spend the largest percentage of their own money. How is it DeVos’s spending shows her dedication, yet opposing her view of reform while spending a greater percentage of your income directly on students suggests you want kids to fail?

The concerns that most Senators – including two Republicans – had with DeVos was the fact that she had never been part of the public education system as a student, parent, or staff and that she couldn’t answer some simple policy questions that are quintessential to the job.

The question these opinion writers should really be asking themselves is not does DeVos support charters, the reduction of unions, and the transfer of public funds to private institutions, since every person Donald Trump would nominate for this position would have backed these ideas; but rather, is Betsy DeVos the best candidate for this position. It seems ideologically inconsistent to suggest that DeVos’s lack of experience is an asset while also arguing that teachers should be assessed, reviewed, and rated to determine if they are “highly qualified” for their job.

In the end, this hypocrisy and willful ignorance in supporting an unqualified candidate tells you all you need to know about the motives of the conservatives that back Betsy DeVos. Unfortunately, the well-being of America’s children seems to fall a distant second to the political motivations of killing unions, weakening the separation of church and state and enriching the same corporate interests behind the explosion in defense spending.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 13, 2017

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Adele Looks Gorgeous In Green On The 2017 Grammys Red Carpet

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/12/adele-grammys-green-dress_n_14712222.html
p>Adele once again proved she can do no wrong.

The “Hello” songstress ― who usually gravitates toward black ― wowed us on the red carpet at the 2017 Grammys Sunday night in a gorgeous green Givenchy couture dress with intricate beading.

Sporting blond highlights, Adele wore her hair up and kept her look simple with classic black eyeliner, a nude lip and delicate gold jewelry. Everything about this is perfect: 

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February 12, 2017

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Friday’s Morning Email: Trump Plans To Roll Back Dodd-Frank, Other Financial Regulations

TOP STORIES

(And want to get The Morning Email each weekday? Sign up here.)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP TO ROLL BACK DODD-FRANK, OTHER FINANCIAL REGULATIONS FRIDAY According to Gary Cohn, the White House Economic Council Director. The Wall Street Journalreports that the move is the “stuff of banker dreams.” [WaPo]

PARTS OF TRUMP’S FOREIGN POLICY ARE LOOKING A LOT LIKE OBAMA’S  “President Trump, after promising a radical break with the foreign policy of Barack Obama, is embracing some key pillars of the former administration’s strategy, including warning Israel to curb settlement construction, demanding that Russia withdraw from Crimea and threatening Iran with sanctions for ballistic missile tests.” [NYT]

A FRENCH SOLDIER SHOT AND WOUNDED MAN HEADED INTO THE LOUVRE WITH A MACHETE The man had yelled Allahu Akbar before rushing soldiers. The Louvre was locked down and secured during the incident. [Reuters]

UBER CEO RESIGNED FROM PRESIDENT’S ECONOMIC ADVISORY COUNCIL Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said he wanted to make it clear he was against the immigration executive order. Disney CEO Bob Iger will no longer be meeting with the president today, citing a travel schedule issue. [HuffPost]

JOHN MCCAIN, FOUR OTHER SENATORS CALLED AUSTRALIA’S AMBASSADOR AFTER NEWS OF TRUMP’S PHONE CALL The group said they wanted to reaffirm the importance of the U.S.-Australia alliance, following the president’s contentious phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. [HuffPost]

INSIDE SNAPCHAT’S BILLION-DOLLAR IPO The company could be valued at $20 to $25 billion ― chump change really. [Reuters]

WHITE HOUSE SAYS IT MISSED STATEMENT FROM STATE DEPARTMENT THAT HIGHLIGHTED JEWS AND THE HOLOCAUST “Trump administration officials reportedly ignored a draft White House statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day that specifically mentioned Jews, instead releasing remarks that made no mention of Jewish victims.” [HuffPost]

WHAT’S BREWING

AND YOU THOUGHT THAT BEYONCE INSTAGRAM WAS ALL THE INTERNET NEEDED TO EXPLODE And create a world record. But wait ― Queen B then dropped a whole album of pregnancy photos and video. Celebrities couldn’t contain their glee. And THEN it was reported Beyonce will be performing at the Grammys, and now rumors are swirling about a Super Bowl appearance… [HuffPost]

AND STOP THE PRESSES The first photo of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle holding hands has surfaced, and it’s predictably adorable. [The Sun]

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER WAS NOT A FAN OF TRUMP’S PRAYER BREAKFAST DIG ABOUT HIS RATINGS And suggested the two trade places. [HuffPost]

THIS TEACHER HAS PERSONALIZED HANDSHAKES FOR EACH OF HIS 40 STUDENTS To get them pumped for class each day. [HuffPost]

HOW MATT RYAN AND TOM BRADY REACT TO PRESSURE IN THE POCKET Will it make the difference Sunday? And here’s how to time your bathroom breaks during the big game so you don’t miss the big plays. [NYT]

THE DATING APP WE ALL DESERVE “Hater” (no we’re not making this up) finds people for you to love based on your mutual dislike of things you can’t stand. And we tried it so you at least know what you’re getting yourself into. [HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

~ Have you been following the news this week? Test your knowledge with this week’s HuffPost Headline Quiz.

~ Nordstrom has dropped Ivanka Trump’s shoe and clothing line.

~ The New York Times takes a look at Melania Trump’s role with her continued “absence from Washington.”

~ Maxwell Strachan asks: Did you forget about Philip Seymour Hoffman?

~ You should take a look at what Lin-Manuel Miranda had to say about Trump’s immigration executive order.

~ Everything you need to know about the drug Trump takes that fights male-patterned baldness.

~ No, you’re not imagining things, Train’s new single “Play That Song” samples from “Heart and Soul.”

~ Here’s what Al Roker had to say about Tamron Hall’s exit.

~ Carol Burnett could be headed back to TV.

~ Your hair can hold the weight of up to two elephants. Really.

~ This New Yorker cover of the Statue of Liberty’s extinguished light is something.

~ And now we know why cartoon characters wear gloves.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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February 3, 2017

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This Anti-Bullying App Helps You Brighten Someone’s Day In Seconds

Austin Kevitch was in high school when he first came up with the idea for an app that would allow users to send compliments to each other anonymously. But it wasn’t until tragedy struck years later that he decided to turn that idea into reality. 

Kevitch was studying abroad in South Africa when his friend, Oliver Pacchiana, died in a rock climbing accident. Soon after, positive and loving messages flooded Pacchiana’s Facebook wall. The tributes moved Kevitch deeply, and he imagined how much they would have meant to his friend if he’d received them while he was alive.

“Just hearing one of those comments could change your life,” said Kevitch, now 25 and the CEO of the app Brighten. “I learned a lot about him just from what people were sharing. It was a wake-up call that the world needs something like [Brighten].”

Today, Kevitch runs Brighten out of Santa Monica, California, with a six-person staff. The app, downloaded over 1 million times since its 2015 release, allows users to send out anonymous compliments called “brightens,” although Kevitch says most people choose to identify themselves. Users can also send a snapshot of their smile to the person who complimented them. 

Social media can be a minefield of anxiety for many, so Kevitch has made it his mission to create a space that’s focused on spreading positivity.

“It’s all about establishing a positive culture,” he said. “No one is inherently bad. People just have bad days and project that negativity onto someone else.” 

The positivity is now spreading through communities and classrooms, with many educators embracing the app as an anti-bullying tool.

Lauren Naselli, a third-grade teacher in in Bridgewater, New Jersey, began using Brighten with co-teacher Courtney Rothkugel last year, after their principal encouraged them to test it out with students.

Since the school uses Chromebooks, students couldn’t work with the actual app (Brighten is currently available only to iOS users), but Naselli came up with a low-tech way to teach the concept.

Each day, a different group of students received pieces of paper with hand-drawn iPhones on them. The students would write their own “brightens” on the papers and hand them out to different students each day.

“They loved it,” Naselli said. “It created a warm and comfortable environment. … Our class really lifted each other up and supported one another.”

She reached out to Brighten to see if there was a version of the app she could use in her classroom. Kevitch said his team was so touched by her story that they sent Naselli’s students free Brighten t-shirts. An Android version of the app is currently in the works. 

Naselli said she’s “super sensitive” to bullying and was pleased to see how the Brighten-inspired activity created class unity. “There are people with good hearts everywhere,” she said. “And I think this app can help bring that out.” 

Tim Cannon, who has been friends with Kevitch since high school, left his corporate job in Chicago to lead Brighten’s community outreach program. He now works with more than 1,000 high school and college students who volunteer to promote the app on their campuses. 

“To know that I’ve at least given it my all to put something good out in the world ― I wake up every day feeling grateful and appreciative and happy,” he said.

Brighten recently partnered with the gun violence prevention organization Sandy Hook Promise for “Start With Hello Week,” a weeklong effort to fight social isolation. Students in more than 1,700 schools will be introduced to the app. 

More than 20 percent of students ages 12 to 18 report being bullied, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Department of Education.

Anti-bullying expert Dr. Malcolm Smith is optimistic about Brighten’s “power to use social media to do good,” though he is hesitant to embrace the app’s anonymity feature as a way to combat cyberbullying.

“Anytime a child can say something positive to someone ― even if it’s someone they don’t know ― it causes a very positive brain interaction,” Smith said of the app. “But it’s so much better for a person’s soul to give a compliments in person.”

First lady Melania Trump announced her desire to tackle online bullying in November. Though President Donald Trump frequently engages in cyberbullying on Twitter, Kevitch said he would gladly partner with the White House if it would spark positive change in society at large. 

“I think it’s going to benefit the current generation of high schoolers,” Kevitch said. “Melania, if you’re reading this, text me. Send me a Brighten compliment.”

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div class=”embed-asset embed” data-type=”embed-asset” data-provider=”Embed” data-title=””>

Austin Kevitch was in high school when he first came up with the idea for an app that would allow users to send compliments to each other anonymously. But it wasn’t until tragedy struck years later that he decided to turn that idea into reality. 

Kevitch was studying abroad in South Africa when his friend, Oliver Pacchiana, died in a rock climbing accident. Soon after, positive and loving messages flooded Pacchiana’s Facebook wall. The tributes moved Kevitch deeply, and he imagined how much they would have meant to his friend if he’d received them while he was alive.

“Just hearing one of those comments could change your life,” said Kevitch, now 25 and the CEO of the app Brighten. “I learned a lot about him just from what people were sharing. It was a wake-up call that the world needs something like [Brighten].”

Today, Kevitch runs Brighten out of Santa Monica, California, with a six-person staff. The app, downloaded over 1 million times since its 2015 release, allows users to send out anonymous compliments called “brightens,” although Kevitch says most people choose to identify themselves. Users can also send a snapshot of their smile to the person who complimented them. 

Social media can be a minefield of anxiety for many, so Kevitch has made it his mission to create a space that’s focused on spreading positivity.

“It’s all about establishing a positive culture,” he said. “No one is inherently bad. People just have bad days and project that negativity onto someone else.” 

The positivity is now spreading through communities and classrooms, with many educators embracing the app as an anti-bullying tool.

Lauren Naselli, a third-grade teacher in in Bridgewater, New Jersey, began using Brighten with co-teacher Courtney Rothkugel last year, after their principal encouraged them to test it out with students.

Since the school uses Chromebooks, students couldn’t work with the actual app (Brighten is currently available only to iOS users), but Naselli came up with a low-tech way to teach the concept.

Each day, a different group of students received pieces of paper with hand-drawn iPhones on them. The students would write their own “brightens” on the papers and hand them out to different students each day.

“They loved it,” Naselli said. “It created a warm and comfortable environment. … Our class really lifted each other up and supported one another.”

She reached out to Brighten to see if there was a version of the app she could use in her classroom. Kevitch said his team was so touched by her story that they sent Naselli’s students free Brighten t-shirts. An Android version of the app is currently in the works. 

Naselli said she’s “super sensitive” to bullying and was pleased to see how the Brighten-inspired activity created class unity. “There are people with good hearts everywhere,” she said. “And I think this app can help bring that out.” 

Tim Cannon, who has been friends with Kevitch since high school, left his corporate job in Chicago to lead Brighten’s community outreach program. He now works with more than 1,000 high school and college students who volunteer to promote the app on their campuses. 

“To know that I’ve at least given it my all to put something good out in the world ― I wake up every day feeling grateful and appreciative and happy,” he said.

Brighten recently partnered with the gun violence prevention organization Sandy Hook Promise for “Start With Hello Week,” a weeklong effort to fight social isolation. Students in more than 1,700 schools will be introduced to the app. 

More than 20 percent of students ages 12 to 18 report being bullied, according to a 2015 survey conducted by the Department of Education.

Anti-bullying expert Dr. Malcolm Smith is optimistic about Brighten’s “power to use social media to do good,” though he is hesitant to embrace the app’s anonymity feature as a way to combat cyberbullying.

“Anytime a child can say something positive to someone ― even if it’s someone they don’t know ― it causes a very positive brain interaction,” Smith said of the app. “But it’s so much better for a person’s soul to give a compliments in person.”

First lady Melania Trump announced her desire to tackle online bullying in November. Though President Donald Trump frequently engages in cyberbullying on Twitter, Kevitch said he would gladly partner with the White House if it would spark positive change in society at large. 

“I think it’s going to benefit the current generation of high schoolers,” Kevitch said. “Melania, if you’re reading this, text me. Send me a Brighten compliment.”

type=type=RelatedArticlesblockTitle=Related Coverage + articlesList=582c8d85e4b030997bbcbfa4,5851609ee4b0e411bfd49891,56bd2c78e4b08ffac1249cad

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February 2, 2017

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LGBTQ Activists Organizing Massive Dance Protest At Trump Hotel

LGBTQ activists are planning to come together in a display of solidarity and resistance against the actions of President Donald Trump’s administration in one of the queerest ways possible: a massive dance party.

WERK for Peace, the same group of people who organized a queer dance party outside of Vice President Mike Pence’s home in January, are organizing a similar event, this time beginning at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. and then parading towards the White House.

According to WERK for Peace founding organizer Firas Nsar, this massive dance celebration is focused on solidarity, intersectionality, and resistance among marginalized people. 

“The executive orders that Donald Trump has passed in the mere week and half of being in office have further marginalized nearly all disenfranchised groups in the US,” Nsar told The Huffington Post. “We believe that any attempt to marginalize or attack any one community is a direct attack on all of the diverse communities in the US. In response, we choose to use love and connection to uplift our communities, celebrate our intersectionality and differences, and come together as one unified coalition. We want to send the message that we will not allow discrimination, bigotry, or hate against any community in our country to break us apart. We celebrate together.”

The last WERK for Peace dance party brought together hundreds of LGBTQ people and their allies, and here’s hoping that this event will have an even larger turnout. 

The event is slated to take place on Friday, Feb. 3 at 6:00 p.m. beginning at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Head here for more information. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2017/02/01/lgbtq-activists-massive-dance-protest_n_14571552.html
br />

LGBTQ activists are planning to come together in a display of solidarity and resistance against the actions of President Donald Trump’s administration in one of the queerest ways possible: a massive dance party.

WERK for Peace, the same group of people who organized a queer dance party outside of Vice President Mike Pence’s home in January, are organizing a similar event, this time beginning at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. and then parading towards the White House.

According to WERK for Peace founding organizer Firas Nsar, this massive dance celebration is focused on solidarity, intersectionality, and resistance among marginalized people. 

“The executive orders that Donald Trump has passed in the mere week and half of being in office have further marginalized nearly all disenfranchised groups in the US,” Nsar told The Huffington Post. “We believe that any attempt to marginalize or attack any one community is a direct attack on all of the diverse communities in the US. In response, we choose to use love and connection to uplift our communities, celebrate our intersectionality and differences, and come together as one unified coalition. We want to send the message that we will not allow discrimination, bigotry, or hate against any community in our country to break us apart. We celebrate together.”

The last WERK for Peace dance party brought together hundreds of LGBTQ people and their allies, and here’s hoping that this event will have an even larger turnout. 

The event is slated to take place on Friday, Feb. 3 at 6:00 p.m. beginning at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. Head here for more information. 

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

February 2, 2017

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How Planned Parenthood has helped millions of women, including me

By Maureen Miller, Columbia University Medical Center

Planned Parenthood has allowed generations of low-income women to survive childbirth, to combat sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and to plan their pregnancies. However, the fact that women live healthier and longer lives is not Planned Parenthood’s ultimate superpower. No, that is reserved for the legions of low-income women, including me, who now have been given the opportunity to dramatically move up the economic ladder and prosper.

For millions of women, Planned Parenthood is at once a symbol of and a means to women’s empowerment. Since the organization helped topple cultural norms that held back women, it’s no surprise that men, many of whom feel excluded from this process, grasp familiar though outdated standards to justify defunding it.

Recently, Republican congressional leadership has tied the defunding of Planned Parenthood (along with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act) to the upcoming budget reconciliation bill, which needs only a simple majority of senators to pass. It is hard to say what will happen next. Although all sides acknowledge the odds favor Republican efforts, they also acknowledge that Planned Parenthood will not go down without a fight.

As a public health researcher with expertise in the social factors that influence disease transmission, especially sexually transmitted infections, I think it’s important to look at the history and the facts about Planned Parenthood. Many lies have been told about it, and it’s important to know the truth.

More than 100 years of promoting reproductive health

In 2016, Planned Parenthood celebrated its 100th year of existence. In 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the first Planned Parenthood, a birth control clinic, in Brownsville, Brooklyn to address the hardships that childbirth and self-induced abortions brought to low-income women. She and her colleagues were promptly arrested.

So began the many legal and political battles Planned Parenthood has waged over the control of women’s fertility. Yet it was men who had the strongest impact on the social acceptance of birth control at that time. World War I saw the largest global mobilization and deployment of populations in history. Since the populations were almost exclusively young men, this led, not surprisingly, to a massive increase in STIs, then called venereal disease. Suddenly, “birth control” seemed like a really good idea.

In fact, even today the largest percentage (41 percent) of Planned Parenthood’s budget is spent on testing and treating STIs, followed by contraceptive services (31 percent) for both women and men. The number of men who receive services such as testing for STIs and checkups for reproductive or sexual health issues from Planned Parenthood has grown steadily and has increased by almost 100 percent over the past decade.

All of these statistics are buried in data-filled documents that are hard to find and daunting to review. But here are some numbers readily available: In 2014 (the most recent year for which complete data are available) Planned Parenthood operated with a budget of US$1.3 billion, more than 40 percent of which came from the federal government (mostly in the form of Medicaid reimbursements). It provided almost 10 million clinical services to about two and a half million patients, the majority of whom were low-income.

Men have lobbied for the inclusion of men in maternal and child health (MCH) programs. Beginning in 1975, Alan Rosenfield, the former dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, established a series of sexual health clinics in Upper Manhattan, including one of the first “Young Men’s Health” clinics.

However, it was his groundbreaking and oft-cited piece in The Lancet, “Maternal mortality: a neglected tragedy,” that provided influential public support for Planned Parenthood missions to prevent women dying from pregnancy-related complications and the need for family planning.

It is perhaps no surprise that all of this attention on women’s sexual rights, combined with the widespread uptake of oral contraceptives – the “pill,” the first entirely female-controlled method of pregnancy prevention – found Planned Parenthood once again at the center of a firestorm, of which I was blissfully unaware on my first visit to Planned Parenthood.

A personal story

When I was 14 years old, my mother dropped me off at the local Planned Parenthood and told me she’d be back in an hour. Up until that day, she had been the only person willing to answer the myriad questions about sex posed by her breathless and curious all-girl 4-H troop, of which I was a member. (I doubt they would have approved her choice of troop leader topics.)

At the time, filmstrips of Roman gods and goddesses with strategically draped fig leaves passed for sex education at our school. Now, my mother had reached her limit. Despite my delusions of sophistication (I was the recent owner of two-inch heeled, cork-bottomed white clogs), the idea that I would actually have sex with someone – with a man! – was the farthest thing from my mind.

As I headed toward the entrance, head down and slump-shouldered, to attend a real sex education class, I searched for the words and the nerve to announce myself to the receptionist. I didn’t even have to open my mouth. I was whisked away to a room filled with eight other girls. None of us made eye contact, but my eyes were certainly opened that day.

Did I mention that my mother had me when she was 19 years old?

My mother, who was the first in her family to go to college, did not graduate. I have a Ph.D. I was given the privilege to determine the course and timing of my reproductive life. Though not without bumps, reproductive freedom allowed me to pursue academic and professional dreams. This was an opportunity not afforded to my mother, though one she made darn sure that both my sister and I would have.

Educational gains: A connection?

Over the last decade in the U.S., the number of women attending college has greatly eclipsed the number of men attending. This is true across communities: Among Latinos there is a 13 percent point gap in college enrollment between women and men, among African-Americans a 12 percent gap and among whites a 10 percent gap.

The result is economic independence for women, but at social cost. Highly educated women are being urged to date and marry “down,” given the dearth of equally educated men. This bucks the traditional norm in which the man is the primary breadwinner and the woman is the stay-at-home mom, a philosophy to which research shows both men and women continue to subscribe.

This cataclysmic shift of women’s economic independence, along with rapidly changing demographics in the U.S., has given rise to nostalgia for the “old days” as well as calls to challenge the morality of sexual harassment and discrimination implicitly associated with the old days. Fueling these divergent attitudes is a sense of real frustration on both sides and, perhaps more importantly, an inability to communicate and find common ground.

But there may be ways to take emotion out of the equation, especially for Planned Parenthood. Throughout the history of the organization, men have played an outsized role in support of the Planned Parenthood mission and now make up a larger percentage of patients than ever before.

As the name implies, Planned Parenthood is not only a woman’s organization, it is also a man’s organization that increasing numbers of men are beginning to recognize. Like parenthood itself, the success of the organization will require the actions and support of both women and men. It’s time that men know that they, too, benefit directly from Planned Parenthood.

The ConversationMaureen Miller, Professor, Columbia University Medical Center

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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February 2, 2017

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anthropogenetic

Our pillows are really nice and they keep our neck level at night in . We have been getting great sleep with them.

February 1, 2017

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tininess

We are trying to see if we can make sushi without the seaweed on it near For those of you living in Teaneck there are some excellent treatments at hand. . We are looking for more recipes.

February 1, 2017

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microclimatically

We tried to wash the dogs paws the other day over next to The doctor will be able to tell if the child is infested with lice. If it’s the case treatment is administered.. They got so dirty from playing in the clay.

February 1, 2017

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mettins

We have decided to have a big birthday bash for our daughter in xx. She will really look forward to having it.

February 1, 2017

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This Bold Artist Made A Bathroom Stall That’s Open To Everyone

In 2013, photographer Lois Bielefeld decided to respond to the repeated mis-gendering of her partner in public spaces.

“We’d joke about it,” she told The Huffington Post in an interview.

Bielefeld had a similar experienced as a teen, when she dressed androgynously, and was sometimes misidentified as “sir.” So she sought to take portraits of people she knew who identified either as genderqueer or androgynous.

“The people I photographed are regularly mis-gendered, which means that they often have bizarre interactions in public, especially bathrooms, that can be anywhere from amusing to downright unsafe and hostile,” Bielefeld said.

As her project grew, she decided to also include transgender subjects, her initial hesitation being that these subjects typically identified as one gender. 

“It wasn’t until talking with transgender friends that I learned how the transition process creates an incredible social and physical uprooting where gender ambiguity is highlighted and at the forefront until they start to pass,” Bielefeld said.

Gender identification and policing begins at a young age, and children who reject the binary gender system are more susceptible to bullying and feeling out of place.

In addition to taking pictures of transgender, genderqueer and androgynous adults, Bielefeld took portraits of children who favored a genderless appearance.

“Gender identification and policing begins at a young age, and children who reject the binary gender system are more susceptible to bullying and feeling out of place,” she said. 

While taking portraits of her subjects, Bielefeld asked them questions about their experiences to help them relax. She realized, while listening to their stories, that she wanted to record them and incorporate them in the installation somehow. The resulting project — now in the permanent collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in NYC —was a non-functioning, two-stall public bathroom, where museum attendees could sit in a stall and listen to interviews with Bielefeld’s subjects.

“The photographs invite the viewers to look, stare, and question, which unfortunately is what happens to the subjects on a regular basis in public,” Bielefeld said. “It is in ‘The Bathroom’ that the viewer encounters the reverse where they can sit and listen to the subjects’ experiences, thoughts, and feelings.”

Allowing these individuals to share their unique stories emphasizes that gender isn’t as rigid as so many of us are raised to believe. Even the word “androgyny,” Bielefeld pointed out, comes from the Greek word andros, meaning “man,” and gyne, meaning “woman.”

“The irony is that it still hails from the antiquated binary gender system. This system is deeply ingrained in our culture and allows for no variation. You must check either a female or male box,” Bielefeld said. “Our bodies are so much more complex and varied than this, down to the chromosomal level. I wanted viewers to recognize the diversity of bodies and become aware of the social ramifications individuals suffer when others try to box them into the binary system.”

View her portraits below:

Lois Bielefeld is represented by Portrait Society Gallery.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

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br />

In 2013, photographer Lois Bielefeld decided to respond to the repeated mis-gendering of her partner in public spaces.

“We’d joke about it,” she told The Huffington Post in an interview.

Bielefeld had a similar experienced as a teen, when she dressed androgynously, and was sometimes misidentified as “sir.” So she sought to take portraits of people she knew who identified either as genderqueer or androgynous.

“The people I photographed are regularly mis-gendered, which means that they often have bizarre interactions in public, especially bathrooms, that can be anywhere from amusing to downright unsafe and hostile,” Bielefeld said.

As her project grew, she decided to also include transgender subjects, her initial hesitation being that these subjects typically identified as one gender. 

“It wasn’t until talking with transgender friends that I learned how the transition process creates an incredible social and physical uprooting where gender ambiguity is highlighted and at the forefront until they start to pass,” Bielefeld said.

Gender identification and policing begins at a young age, and children who reject the binary gender system are more susceptible to bullying and feeling out of place.

In addition to taking pictures of transgender, genderqueer and androgynous adults, Bielefeld took portraits of children who favored a genderless appearance.

“Gender identification and policing begins at a young age, and children who reject the binary gender system are more susceptible to bullying and feeling out of place,” she said. 

While taking portraits of her subjects, Bielefeld asked them questions about their experiences to help them relax. She realized, while listening to their stories, that she wanted to record them and incorporate them in the installation somehow. The resulting project — now in the permanent collection of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in NYC —was a non-functioning, two-stall public bathroom, where museum attendees could sit in a stall and listen to interviews with Bielefeld’s subjects.

“The photographs invite the viewers to look, stare, and question, which unfortunately is what happens to the subjects on a regular basis in public,” Bielefeld said. “It is in ‘The Bathroom’ that the viewer encounters the reverse where they can sit and listen to the subjects’ experiences, thoughts, and feelings.”

Allowing these individuals to share their unique stories emphasizes that gender isn’t as rigid as so many of us are raised to believe. Even the word “androgyny,” Bielefeld pointed out, comes from the Greek word andros, meaning “man,” and gyne, meaning “woman.”

“The irony is that it still hails from the antiquated binary gender system. This system is deeply ingrained in our culture and allows for no variation. You must check either a female or male box,” Bielefeld said. “Our bodies are so much more complex and varied than this, down to the chromosomal level. I wanted viewers to recognize the diversity of bodies and become aware of the social ramifications individuals suffer when others try to box them into the binary system.”

View her portraits below:

Lois Bielefeld is represented by Portrait Society Gallery.

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January 31, 2017

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omphalos

We belong to a really strong faith filled church over near . We are so blessed to be a part of it.

January 30, 2017

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unceilinged

We watched a movie about Annie Porter who wrote children’s books in . It was a really good movie to see.

January 30, 2017

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barreled

I am in the process of making a new doll for our daughter over by . I am still trying to figure out the hair on her head.

January 30, 2017

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the one

I hope to see yall soon 🙂

January 30, 2017

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What Makes Rails a Framework Worth Learning in 2017?

What makes Rails a framework worth learning in 2017? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by David Heinemeier Hansson, Creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder & CTO at Basecamp, on Quora:

The same reasons why it was a framework worth learning in 2004. The more things change, the more they stay the same. While we’ve seen a lot a progress in the JavaScript world, we’ve also seen a regression to the complexity-laden world that Rails offered refuge from in the early days.

Back then the complexity merchant of choice was J2EE, but the complaints are uncannily similar to those leveled against JavaScript today. That people spent hours, if not days, just setting up the skeletons. The basic build configurations. Assembling and cherry-picking from lots of little libraries and frameworks to put together their own snowflake house variety.

The core premise of Rails remains in many ways as controversial today as it was when it premiered. That by formalizing conventions, eliminating valueless choices, and offering a full-stack framework that provides great defaults for anyone who wants to create a complete application, we can make dramatic strides of productivity.

It’s somewhat surprising to me that despite the astounding success of Rails, that there hasn’t been more competition for this proposition. The vast majority of activity today is for yet another option on the a la carte menu. Yet another build system, yet another view library, yet another ORM. Very little activity in integrated solutions.

I guess the answer is that the foundational proposition of Rails continues to cut against the psychological grain of most programmers. That by reducing choices and accepting community conventions and answers to most of the basic questions in web development, you end up better off. Less unique, less tailored, but in ways that just don’t matter anyway.

Anyway, that’s the big ideological appeal of Rails. I’ve elaborated further on convention over configuration, the a la carte/omakase conflict, the appeal of integrated systems, and other core values of the Rails community in The Rails Doctrine.

After reading that, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea as whether Rails is something for you or not. If you can’t recognize any of the struggles outlined in that document, or you just don’t like the solutions presented to those struggles, the particulars of Rails technology probably doesn’t matter much. If that document resonates, or at least piques your interest, read on.

On top of these ideological choices, we’ve built an incredibly pragmatic and multi-paradigm web framework. When people hear “web framework”, they sometimes think, “oh, that’s just some stuff to generate HTML, right?”. And in that definition, some might see it as though Rails competes against something like React. And I suppose it does, but in a very remote way that isn’t very useful to thinking about whether Rails is right for you or not.

As I talked about above, Rails has an incredibly ambitious mission. In the full-stack goal lies a pursuit to deal with just about every piece of code needed to connect databases and no-sql stores to a business domain model written in Ruby to a set of controllers that expose that model via REST and then, yes, finally to HTML. But that last step is a small minority of the code and focus of Rails.

So if you think that client-side MVC, React, Angular, or whatever is The Future, then you’re still squarely in the target audience for using Rails. Because the bits you use to design your HTML/JavaScript-based UI still needs to connect to a back-end domain model that saves stuff to the databases, computes things, enqueues jobs for later processing, sends out emails, triggers push notifications, and all the other stuff that real apps need to do.

And that’s where the meat of Rails sits. In what happens once that POST or PUT or GET is triggered. Now, as I said, Rails is full-stack by default. So of course we also include answers for how to generate and update HTML. We have some phenomenally productive answers in Turbolinks and SJR, but even if that path doesn’t appeal, everything that leads up to generating that JSON is still stuff we’ll have in common.

Anyway. That’s a very long pitch for two basic tenets of Rails appeal in 2017: 1) We have a unique ideological foundation that’s still controversial today and offers the same benefits against the mainstream choices as it did thirteen years ago, 2) We have a pragmatic, full-stack answer that could be formulated based on that ideology that still offers amazing productivity from the second you run the rails new command.

Oh, and on top of all that, I’ve saved the cherry for last. You get to use Ruby, which, even in a world that has rediscovered the benefits of functional programming and immutability, remains the most extraordinarily beautiful and luxurious language I’ve yet to encounter. Just look at some code. I dare you not to fall in love.

This questionoriginally appeared on Quora. the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/what-makes-rails-a-framew_b_14498728.html

January 30, 2017

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The CIA Isn’t Necessarily Going to Lose Out in the New Administration

trump-3

During the transition period between November and January, President-elect Donald Trump developed perhaps the most publicly antagonistic relationship with U.S….

The post The CIA Isn’t Necessarily Going to Lose Out in the New Administration appeared first on Asia Unbound.

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January 30, 2017

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Ideology and Environmental Protection

With the phrase “climate change” disappearing from U.S. federal government websites and increased talk of regulatory overreach, it is obvious that protecting the environment will continue to be a fault line in American political ideology. While there are plenty of examples of environmental regulations being administered with rigidity and inflexibility, there are far more examples of accommodation and a process that provides plenty of time for businesses and localities to comply with environmental standards. The typical pace of regulation implementation in America is measured in decades, not days. For example, the hazardous waste regulations required in the 1976 Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the 1984 amendments to that bill, were not finalized until the 1990s. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was enacted in 1972 and here in Manhattan we were still dumping raw sewage into the Hudson River until the North River wastewater treatment plant opened in 1984. Developing, issuing and implementing environmental regulations is a long process of give and take. Climate activists may call for immediate reductions in carbon emissions, but I don’t see anyone unplugging their smart phones. The transition to renewable energy will take time.

The gradual and incremental approach to environmental protection has worked. America’s air and water are cleaner today than they were in the 1970s and our population and economy have grown substantially since then. If there really was a trade-off between environmental protection and economic growth, the progress we’ve made since the 1980s could not have happened. The idea that American environmental regulation ignores practical concerns and the views of business interests is complete nonsense. But the idea that enforceable national standards are not needed is foolish and dangerous. America’s air and water are relatively clean because business has been convinced to take regulations seriously and develop and pay for the installation of the best available pollution control technology. If you doubt this is true go to Delhi or Beijing and try to take a deep breath. Their air quality provides a graphic example of the impact of unenforced environmental standards.

Nevertheless, a liberal-conservative divide has developed in American environmental policy. This is most clearly seen in climate change, where the discussion has degenerated into an argument between climate believers and climate deniers. Facts are not values; one does not need to believe in facts. We don’t believe in gravity, we experience it. But climate policy has taken on a weird spiritual dimension. We don’t see the same quasi-religious discussion around air and water pollution. I guess that’s because the facts of polluted air and water are local and can often be seen and smelled. Climate change is a more gradual and global phenomenon and human induced change is taking place alongside of natural climate change. The planet is getting warmer, but some “believe” it has nothing to do with people and their machines, that perhaps it’s all natural. It takes scientific literacy and often model-based analysis to understand climate change.

The complexity of climate change and the aggressive lobbying of the fossil fuel business has worked to discredit the largely settled science of human-induced climate change. We have seen this anti-science push before, in the decades-long battle over the health effects of tobacco. The tobacco industry spent many years and many dollars fighting scientific reality, but, of course, the health effects of cigarettes proved inescapable. Climate impacts are also real, becoming apparent and will also eventually need to be acknowledged. In an interesting article about climate and agriculture in the American Midwest, Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times reports on the growth of climate and environmental awareness among Midwestern farmers. As Tabuchi reports:

“Doug Palen, a fourth-generation grain farmer on Kansas’ wind-swept plains, is in the business of understanding the climate. Since 2012, he has choked through the harshest drought to hit the Great Plains in a century, punctuated by freakish snowstorms and suffocating gales of dust. His planting season starts earlier in the spring and pushes deeper into winter. To adapt, he has embraced an environmentally conscious way of farming that guards against soil erosion and conserves precious water…he is a climate change realist. Just don’t expect him to utter the words “climate change.” …Here in north-central Kansas, America’s breadbasket and conservative heartland, the economic realities of agriculture make climate change a critical business issue. At the same time, politics and social pressure make frank discussion complicated….So while climate change is part of daily conversation, it gets disguised as something else.”

Tabuchi also notes that renewable energy is not discussed as a way to mitigate climate change, but as an inexpensive form of locally generated power.

This is an indication that the path to a renewable resource-based economy and to climate change mitigation and adaptation will not be the direct cause and effect path preferred by many climate scientists and environmental activists. Instead we will see the meandering incremental and pragmatic approach typical of America’s policy response to other issues. Two steps forward and one step back seems to be the American Way. We are seeing it in health care; we’ve seen it on other environmental issues; we see it in issues of racial and gender equity.

The political center gets redefined by social, economic and physical realities. Business doesn’t like being told what to do, and we seem to have an aversion to regulation, but support for clean air, clean water and productive soil is widespread and ultimately prevails against ideological bias. In the strange political environment of the Trump era, I worry that this delicate balance between business and environment will be upset if business stops believing that regulations will be enforced. It is the settled law of the land that greenhouse gases are air pollutants that must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court has already made that decision. The EPA under George W. Bush was slow to promulgate greenhouse gas regulations and the Obama administration didn’t get around to it until their second term. The current rule is being reviewed by the courts, and even if it is thrown out, the Trump EPA will be required to issue another rule.

The American legal process, with few exceptions, moves slowly and deliberately. As we learned this past weekend with its partial stay of the Trump Administration’s immigration executive order, the courts are better at stopping the abuse of power than at requiring action. Once a greenhouse gas regulation is in place, the long process of negotiating reductions can finally begin. Getting power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will often require a difficult and delicate process. Gradual compliance schedules will be used to ensure that power supplies are not interrupted. Local stakeholders will be consulted; some will sue to be sure their voice is heard. That is how the process works.

Initially, a Trump EPA may have difficulty meeting its responsibilities to issue and enforce regulations. EPA’s resources will be reduced, and political support will be lacking. Talented people will give up and leave the federal government. We saw this during the first two years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. I am counting on the reality of a lethal environment to stimulate a non-ideological, broad based response to anti-environmental policy. The question in 2017 will be: Has environmental policy become so ideological, that like the crowd size at the inaugural, our rulers make up their own facts? If they do, progress will slow down, although I still doubt that the fundamental rules of American environmental protection will be abandoned. I believe that in a federal system, state and local governments will hear directly from their constituents and have the resources and power to respond to community needs. States will also sue the federal government to compel federal action.

Climate change is already affecting Midwest agriculture. Lead in drinking water harmed the health of children in Flint. Americans coming back from China understand the difference between their air and ours. We experience these realities and environmental policy responds. Ideology will shape the nature and speed of response, but the environmental problem is real and cannot be ignored.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-cohen/ideology-and-environmenta_b_14492444.html

January 30, 2017

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Yes we did it

Our dogs just love to say good http://www.mymorningjacket.com/ to our daughter over next to liceremovaldenver.com. They get so excited to see her.

January 23, 2017

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towering

We filled our bag with so much candy over the holidays that we could hardly eat it all over near Boston.Licehappens.com – some of the guys we met out there in Boston. It was really good.

January 18, 2017

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montevideo

Here’s what Ben Quilt had to say in an exclusive interview about why he brought Myuran Sukumurans paintings to a festival in sydney and what they meant to him.

January 18, 2017

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penetratingly

Anna Maria is from Austria and being an illustrator, she has done a number of amazing things and still she is taking over the t-shirt world.

January 18, 2017

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over

I really enjoy the new cafe that they have in town over near Mr. Byram belonging to the Harlem neighborhood was one of the known businessmen among the many residing there in the late 1920s.. They have a lot of delicious drinks and treats to eat.

January 13, 2017

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Running

There are so many different stars in the planetary system in . We couldn’t see them all even if we tried.

January 3, 2017

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are with us here

Taking our parents dogs out in the morning has been a lot of fun by treatforYouFeet dot com. They are really good dogs.

November 25, 2016

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Planning less doing more

We are planning to go to the circus this next year together in healthy back chiropractic, We haven’t been in many years.

November 10, 2016

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Getting a new desk

Our daughter is loving her new desk for school in Unti-Corporation. She really enjoys setting it up for the day also.

November 9, 2016

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Training Here

I have been training in Atlanta on lice removal so I can run my own business soon. I cannot wait for this next chapter.

July 21, 2016

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So many

There are so many different lice treatments around town and it makes it so difficult to choose in if we should go. I think I’ll be calling the expert Tracey.

July 21, 2016

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scracting my head



It was made from scratch and tastes really really good. I am so excited that we will be going to watch the fireworks this weekend near plus.google.com/+LiceHappensAtlanta/posts/.

July 16, 2016

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endured!

We have endured quite a lot of things in our lives and we are stronger for it. We love our life and the people in it near healthybackChiropractic.

July 13, 2016

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Such great friends

We have such great friends that go to church with us next to we can see a few things are happening with lice treatment as well as removal over there in Colorado. They are always smiling and saying hi and welcoming us to different things.

July 8, 2016

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chicken soup!

We are having chicken soup for dinner tonight and it’s an easy dish to make in the advantages of having a “smart” home are quite a few I have learned. It’s very healthy for you also.

July 8, 2016

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Shells!

Shell island was a public island that only a few people knew about near Ft. Collins is really close to where I am.. The only way to get there was by your own boat.

June 27, 2016

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love it now

When you’re hungry, you are hungry and it doesn’t even matter the time at that point by our living room carpet was out of sorts in our house in Westerville. We just go out and eat and have a great time with it.

June 15, 2016

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A real Christmas!!

We would get a real Christmas tree every year and we would decorate it very nicely. It was such a fun time that we had together in www.heavenlybridalboutique.com.

June 8, 2016

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houses!

There were some beautiful houses that we saw on our drive to the bay this morning next to if there is anything that can help we know Victor can.

June 6, 2016

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Going Here

I loved going to the water park when I was younger in looking for an insulated vent that was stainless steel. They have a lot more to do there now that it’s expanded a bit.

May 25, 2016

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With me here

Our kids have been so well behaved in the mornings in Patricia Boyles. They just get right up and start doing their school without me even asking them to do it.

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May 9, 2016

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visiting

We will be visiting all of the state parks over the summer in COC in Columbus. We haven’t even been to one of them yet in the two years we’ve been here.

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May 5, 2016

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