#13 Christian persecution main item on Blue-Plate Special

We’ve been pretty occupied with a host of things this week at the ranch, which is why we haven’t had any postings since last Friday’s Blue-Plate Special.  Sorry about that, but we’ll try to do better next week.

Health issues are mostly to blame.  And, they may be related to one of the sides on today’s blue-plate special.  That would be another solar storm that hit the planet this week, which may have triggered another of Sharon’s temporal lobe epilepsy seizures, which may have triggered another bout of my mysterious chest pains that seem to come whenever she’s in a lot of seizure distress.

But, before we get to those issues, and the topics of today, let me pass along a little wisdom from one of the patrons at Sparky’s today.  The usual suspects were talking about the threatened shutdown of the federal government if some compromise could not be reached among the honchos in the White House, the House, and the Senate.

As usual, Bob Frapples got right to the point.  “Shutting down the government,” he said, “is not a solution to fixing a badly bloated budget bulging with waste, abuse, and political bribes for votes. It is akin to parents punishing their children because there’s not enough money to go drinking AND pay the mortgage.”

As of today, it seems that putting the kids in time out won’t happen.  At least not this week.

OK, so now, let’s get right into the meat of today’s blue-plate special, so to speak.

Global Christian persecution during Great Lent

A few weeks ago, at the start of Great Lent, I told Sharon I really should sit down and chart the negative news about Christians and Christianity that always seem to increase during the Lenten and Christmas seasons.  Maybe it’s just my heightened sensitivity, but then again, maybe not.

Sure enough, the so-called mainstream media did not disappoint me.  Maybe I should rephrase that and say the mainstream media did exactly what I expected.  And, they had help from an unfortunate source.

Terry Jones, who pastors a small Florida congregation, made good on his promise to burn a copy of the Koran. That ill-conceived action resulted in murderous outrage in many parts of the Muslim world and led to condemnations from religious, political, and military leaders in this country and around the world.

Journalists also weighed in on this condemnation, sharing the belief that Jones and his congregation have blood on their hands because rabid and radical Muslims murdered eight United Nations personnel in Afghanistan.

The hard truth is that Muslim extremists do not need a publicity-hungry, Koran-burning preacher from Florida to go on a murderous rampage. They are quite ready to unleash their violence for a variety of reasons, and not just against Christians.

You would be hard-pressed to find stories about the murder a few days after the UN killings of at least 41 Muslims in Pakistan by other Muslims. In this case, as reported by the BBC, suicide attackers carried out the attack near a Sufi shrine in Punjab during an annual three-day festival. Sufis are a minority Muslim group regarded as heretics by Muslim hardliners.

This attack, which killed five times as many Muslims, followed an attack last October that killed six Muslims at a shrine in Punjab province, and an attack on a Lahore shrine earlier this year that killed at least 42 Muslims.

So, let’s do the math here. Since October, Pakistani Muslims have killed at least 89 fellow Muslims in terrorist attacks having nothing whatsoever to do with Christians, and, more specifically, the desecration of the Koran by a Florida preacher.

Also, to no surprise, most media sources refused to report on, or simply missed, the mysterious death earlier in March of Qamar David, a Pakistani Christian, sentenced to life in prison in a Karachi jail for insulting the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad.  As reported by the BBC, this murder followed the killing earlier in March of another Christian, Pakistan’s Minority Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti.

Asian News is the only site I could find that carried the story of a Muslim mob attacking a Pentecostal church in Hyderabad, Pakistan, last month, killing two Christians and burning Bibles in retaliation to the Florida Koran burning.

Just so no one thinks we’re picking on the Pakistanis, here’s a story of a Turkish court ordering the arrest of five military officers and two civilians in the murder of three Christians, including a German national, in 2007. Prosecutors say the murders were part of a military plot to topple the government by creating chaos and destabilizing the country.  The murders occurred in a Bible-publishing house.

Fox News tried to tie recent violence against Ethiopian Christians to the Koran burning, even though its own story reported an on-going Muslim persecution of Christians in that country.  On March 24, Fox News reported that Muslims torched about 50 churches and dozens of Christian homes earlier in the month, forcing as many as 10,000 Christians to flee for their lives after accusations that a Christian in their community desecrated the Koran.  At least one Christian was murdered in the violence believed to have been instigated by Muslims promoting religious intolerance in the area in Western Ethiopia.

These are the latest incidents of Christian persecution in Ethiopia, however.  According to reports, all the Christians in one city awoke last Nov. 9 to find notes on their doors warning them to leave their homes or face death if they did not convert to Islam.

But let’s get back briefly to the outrage in this country toward the burning of the Koran and the subsequent murder spree by wild-eyed Muslims.  Where is the outrage, where is the indignation, indeed, where is the condemnation from politicians, pundants, and Christian leaders in this country over the confiscation and desecration of the Holy Bible by the Malaysian government.

A short story on March 18 carried by NBC News on its MSN portal told of the government’s decision to release 35,000 Bibles that use the word “Allah” when referring to God. Muslim groups say this is a sneaky attempt to make Christianity attractive to Muslims. The Malaysian government called the stamping of serial numbers on thousands of the Bibles standard operating procedure.

And yet, Malaysian Christians and Christians around the world did not take to the streets to murder innocent peace keepers.

In fact, Christians in Indiana still haven’t gone on a murderous rampage to protest the erection of billboards in Indianapolis by an atheist group.  The billboards are part of a national campaign to tell people they don’t need God in their lives.

Christian persecution, it’s not just for Lent anymore

I’ve written about global Christian persecution since I started writing columns back in the late 1980s.  In fact, that’s how I was introduced to the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem, the Knights Templar. One member compiling reports of Christian persecution for the Templars’ application to be a United Nations NGO found my online writings and asked if I would like to help out.  That was back in the mid-90s when Web searches were not as easy as they are today.

I haven’t written as much in recent years, mainly because search engines have made it easier to find such tales and keep this issue in front of people who care.  But it appears that the reporting of Christian persecution is like preaching to the choir.

Here are some more examples of global Christian persecution not connected to the Koran burning.

Human Rights Watch reports that the Vietnamese government has stepped up its repression of Christians in the Central Highlands by closing informal churches, arresting worshippers, and forcing Christians to renounce their faith.

An affair between a Christian man and a Muslim woman caused Muslims to attack, plunder, and torch an ancient Coptic church near Cairo.  While some of the attackers chanted “Allahu Akbar!”, others removed ancient relics of saints and martyrs and kicked them around in a soccer game before converting the church into a mosque. Thousands of Christians had already fled the village because of overall terrorism against the Coptic community, including the kidnapping and rape of Christian girls.

That seems to be a common practice in some Muslim countries, such as Somalia.  The mother of a 15-year-old victim says when she reported her daughter missing, police told her she had to renounce Christianity before they would look into it.

In North Sumatra, in Indonesia, comes this story from Asia News of more than 1,000 Muslims burning down two Pentecostal churches in January 2010 because they did not have the proper permits and because their Muslim neighbors got tired of seeing Christians praying.

The Nigerian Compass reported that last Christmas Eve, Muslim bombers killed at least 30 people in the state of Borneo.  One blast was in front of a Catholic church.

Last November, the Assyrian International News Agency reported that Muslim gunmen who took hostages in a Baghdad church killed at least 58 Christians, including two priests, and wounded 75 others before Iraqi forces rescued the survivors from their terrible ordeal.  A group called the Islamic State of Iraq took responsibility, calling the church “the dirty den of idolatry.”

Here’s a side note to that incident.  The church was surrounded with concrete barriers and razor wire because church leaders feared an attack if Jones made good on his first threat to burn the Koran on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.  Apparently, the al-Qaeda-linked group did not need the specter of a burning Koran as a reason to attack and kill Christians.

Muslims vs Christians at core of Ivory Coast conflict?

Before we leave the main part of today’s blue-plate special, I should point out that religion often is an under-reported factor in national and international politics.  It should not surprise you, then, to learn that once again Western powers have taken the side of Muslims over Christians, this time in Ivory Coast.

Last week, the BBC reported that as many as 800 people died in Deuloue, in what International Red Cross staff members described as shocking in the brutality. Later reports put the number of dead at more than 1,000.

All you would read in the BBC account is that troops supporting UN-backed president Alassane Ouattara captured the city from supporters of the country’s strongman Laurent Gbagbo.  In fact, the BBC called it the result of “ethnic violence.”

Ethnic violence, indeed.  It was a case of Muslims butchering Christians.

The BBC reported that thousands of people had fled into the city and sought refuge in churches and townhalls.  There was no mention of mosques or community centers.

The story went on to say that it was not clear if Ouattara’s forces did the butchering, but that the UN human rights office received reports of major human rights violations committed by both sides, which apparently makes the killings OK.  This, of course, is the same United Nations that blamed the murders of their staff members in Pakistan on the Florida Koran burning.

Bloomberg Business Week gave a little more information.  It quoted a Red Cross spokeswoman as saying the massacre occurred on March 29, the result of what she called “inter-communal violence.”  Of course, that’s just the politically correct way of saying religious warfare, or to be more specific, Christians killed by Muslims using guns and machetes.

International aid workers say the dead were those who did not make it to a compound run by the Catholic Church.  About 30,000 made it and survived, according to aid workers.

Why is it that the foreign press picks up on things faster than our US media?  The International Business Times reported last week that the war in Ivory Coast has turned into a religious conflict between Muslims and Christians with the Western powers backing the Muslim forces.

“ To the West, it wasn’t about the religious affiliations of Ouattara or Gbagbo; it was simply the fact that Gbagbo took an office that rightly belonged to Ouattara. Muslims extremists of the world claim that Western countries are waging a holy war again Islam. They claim that all over the world, Western powers are systematically attacking Muslim interests while backing Judeo-Christian opponents. It is precisely this type of belief that sometimes pushes Islamic extremists to commit acts of terrorism.”

But we need to look even deeper into the political history of Gbagbo and Ouattara to get a real feel for the conflict and not put everything on the ancient animosity between Muslims and Christians in many parts of the world.

Gbagbo was raised a Catholic, educated in France, and received his Ph.D. from the University of Paris. He spent time in jail twice between 1969 and 1971 for political activities in Ivory Coast.  He went on to complete his education and did art history research and university administration before returning to the Ivory Coast political fray.  He was arrested again in the early ‘90s for leading demonstrations against the country’s dictator who died in 1993.

Now, here’s where we start to get a clearer picture of how the country and the Western powers got to where they are today.

The Minister of Finance, Henri Konan Bédié, took control of the country, which shut out the Prime Minister who returned to the United States to take a post with the International Monetary Fund.  That person was Alassane Ouattara.

Ouattara obtained his undergraduate degree in Business Administration at Drexel Institute of Technology in Philadelphia (1965), and his M.A. in Economics (1967) and his Ph. D. in Economics (1972) at the University of Pennsylvania.  He spent several years in the 1980s with the International Monetary Fund until he became Ivory Coast Prime Minister in 1990, a post he held until 1993.

Bédié neutralized Ouattara’s hopes to run the country by imposing a law that required a candidate for president live in Ivory Coast for the five years leading up to the election, and that both his parents had to be born in the country.  Both of these requirements kept Ouattara from running because of his work in the US and because his father was not a native Ivorian.

A military coup in December 1999 forced Bédié to flee the country.  The next presidential election found Gbagbo the only candidate opposing the head of the military who was in power at the time.

Voting irregularities that would make the Chicago political machine proud caused great turmoil among the people of Ivory Coast, so much so that Gbagbo declared himself the winner and was inaugurated in October 2000.

Almost immediately, the Muslim controlled Rally of Republicans, or RDR, opposed Gbagbo’s election on the grounds that their man, Ouattara was not on the ballot. Well, guess what? The United Nations and the same Western powers involved in the military action against Gbagbo today agreed.

Gbagbo cited the Ivorian constitution that kept Ouattara off the ballot. Muslims took to the streets. Four days of violence resulted in 300 deaths.

Muslim forces, with the help of outside nations, then tried unsuccessfully to overthrow the government.

While Gbagbo was out of the country in 2002, Muslim rebels tried again to take over the government.  They failed, but succeeded in taking over the northern part of the country.  As they marched on the predominately Christian south, France sent in troops to act as a buffer.

In 2003, French troops discovered mass graves containing the bodies of 200 Muslim civilians.  All fingers pointed to Gbagbo who denied his involvement in these and other accusations of human rights violations.

A few weeks after the discovery of the graves, Gbagbo signed an agreement giving nine cabinet posts to the Muslim opposition and changed citizenship laws to include more of the northern Muslims. A few months later, the new Muslim cabinet members pulled out claiming Gbagbo was not living up to the terms of the agreement.

The current controversy once again involves Muslim claims of election fraud.  The irony here is that Gbagbo is the one who certified Ouattara’s credentials for candidacy in the 2007 elections.

It may seem to some to be a curious coincidence that, once again, the United Nations and Western powers, the same ones that joined the Muslim opposition in 2000, are taking the international lead in the current crisis.  It also may seem as a mere coincidence that the International Monetary Fund, where Ouattara spent many years in high-level positions, refuses to offer financial assistance to a government not recognized by the United Nations.

And so, once again, the Western powers, including the United States, jump into a generations-old political and religious conflict with the usual battery of politics and weapons.

We’re seeing the proof of that this week right here in this country.  Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe (R), an evangelical Christian with close ties to the Gbagbo regime has been trying to convince Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to get her boss to come down on the side of Gbagbo, claiming that it is mathematically impossible for him to have lost the election by several hundred thousand votes.

Televangelist and one-time presidential candidate Pat Robertson always has to say something, and this time he called Gbagbo a “very fine man.”

But regardless of your political leanings, it will be hard to deny that Ivory Coast, like Kosovo a dozen years ago, is much more complicated than simply rigged elections or the need to impose western democratic values.  Bad blood and religious violence go back generations, as with Ivory Coast, or centuries, as with Kosovo.

And the terrible truth is that the sun rises and sets on many countries around the world with Christians hunkered down in fear for their lives because they live among Muslim extremists.  We in the United States cannot relate because we do not share this fear. At least not since 9/11.

So, what does this have to do with Texas, you may ask, and rightly so. Well, Texas is still part of the United States, and the United States still funds much of the operations of the United Nations, and, at some point the UN and other Western powers will try to pull the US into this conflict, which raises the high probability that Texans will go to battle in a conflict not of their making, one that will force them, once again, to choose between Christians and Muslims.

And that’s the meat portion of this week’s Blue-Plate Special.

More solar storms hit the planet

On Wednesday, Sharon said she could feel a temporal lobe epilspy seizure coming on, and it finally hit late in the afternoon.  Also Friday, I started getting another bout of incredibly bad chest pains that I have associated with heartburn, particularly after hospital stays and batteries of tests showed nothing wrong with the heart.  I’ve been starting to look at a relationship between the onset of my severe pains with some of Sharon’s big seizures.

Mind you, now, this is not scientific research; it’s just personal observations, but there seems to be a connection with increases of solar flares and geomagnetic events.

I won’t take up time and space here, because you can go back and catch up on the apparent connection between solar flares and seizures on our blog and on show #6 on Blog Talk Radio, and about the Carrington Effect, also on our blog and on show #8.

Well, guess what.  A massive solar storm started hitting the planet about Wednesday. The Weather Space Web site said this storm has the highest Kp index recorded in a while, a 6 out of 9 on the scale, and larger than the one that hit the planet on March 10.  That’s the one that started me to think about solar storms and seizures.

The senior meteorologist for The Weather Space thinks solar storms trigger earthquakes, and another big quake hit Japan toward the end of the week.  But, I ask, if solar storms can move the Earth’s plates, why can’t they trigger seizures?

Open-government award presented in secret, to Obama

Now, for the lighter sides.

You probably did not hear about this next story, and that’s because you weren’t supposed to hear about it.

The folks at Politico reported on March 30 that President Obama received a transparency award from the open-government community.  You may remember that candidate Obama campaigned on a promise to open government’s doors and windows so everyone can see what’s going on.  Or to put it another way, allowed public viewing of the sausage-making process, something most people really don’t want to see.

Anyway, what made this event special was the irony involved.  Obama received the transparency award in secret, in a closed, undisclosed meeting at the White House.

Politico says the secret presentation came nearly two weeks after the White House postponed the original ceremony without explanation.  That ceremony was supposed to be open to the White House press.

Oh, and here’s the really good part.  One of the participants in this secret ceremony to present an open-government award was a representative of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

US mind-control microwaves aimed at TV personalities?

So, Bunkie, you say you like a good, juicy conspiracy theory, well, try this one.

The Daily Mail out of the United Kingdom carried a story last week that pondered the possibility that the US government used mind-control microwaves to cause the on-air meltdowns of television reporters and personalities in the United States and Canada.

The latest incident involved Judge Judy who had to stop the taping of her show because she was making no sense in what she was saying.  And she was the one who noticed it.

Not even the most die-hard conspiracy theorists can figure out why the US government, most probably the military, would target Judge Judy and TV news reporters.

Let’s just hope Blog Talk Radio hosts fly under the military mind-control radar.

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#12 Turd Sandwich featured on Blue-Plate Special Edition

Rather than having an Open Blog Friday, as has been the tradition here on Gone to Texas, we decided to use a more appropriate name given some of the items on the menu today.

First, let me define a blue-plate special, which is a staple down at Sparky’s Diner and other fine eateries around the land.  It refers to a low-priced menu item common for about thirty years, beginning in the 1920s.  It usually changed daily, and featured one meat and three sides on a single plate.  The catch is the special of day came with no substitutions.  In other words, you eat what you get.  Take it or leave it.

Today seemed an appropriate time to introduce the ShadeyHill Ranch version of the blue-plate special given the revelation earlier in the week that President Obama referred to our Libyan Adventure as a turd sandwich in a private conversation, as reported by NBC News White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie.

But, before we get to that catchy presidential phrase, let’s go back to the president’s speech on March 28 regarding why we are involved in Libya and the role of the US military in defending forces opposed to Libya’s strongman Big Mo Ghadhafi.

The political brain trust here at the ranch watched in amazement as the president violated every rule in what I have called The 4Cs of Credible Communication: Clear, Correct, Concise, and Consistent.

Those of you who took a speech or communication course in high school or college may remember the basic communication model:

Message => Sender => Medium => Receiver

Interpretation of the message and feedback complete the successful communication process.  Any glitch along the way, though, can produce negative outcomes of varying degrees.  Miscommunication on a first date may result in no second date.  On a global scale, miscommunication could mean nuclear war.

Too many variables in the aforementioned model, such as type of message, characteristic of sender/receiver, choice of medium, etc., led me to develop my 4 Cs of Communication.

I’ve asked colleagues and my university students over the years to find credible communication examples that do not incorporate all 4 Cs.  And to date, no one has done so.

Here are brief definitions of each C.

Clear

Let’s start with Clear, although I should point out that no C is more important than the others.  A graphic is the easiest and best example of this category.  Your organization probably has a set of graphic standards dictating the appropriate use of your logo so that it’s clear and easily identifiable.

Clear also refers to the meaning of a word or of your organization’s message.  The writer’s guidelines for a Public Relations Society of America publication, for example, say not to assume the reader knows everything.  “Clearly explain or identify anything that may not be common knowledge.”

Have you ever received unclear directions?  A Cuban friend looking for directions in a small Mississippi town was told to drive down the street and turn left at the tar place.  He never saw a tar place, but he passed a tire store a couple of times.

Concise

I always tell anyone who will listen that you should write as if you had to pay for each word.  That means you don’t use more words, or bigger words, than needed.  Sounds simple enough, but even the best of the pros get carried away.  A few years ago, PRSA sent out a news release with an opening sentence containing 63 words, of which 20 were in the dependent clause that started the sentence.

How often have you seen “on a permanent basis” or “on a daily basis” instead of “permanently” or “daily”?  Is it wrong or offensive to use three or more words instead of one?  No, but why would you?

Adding just one word to a phrase may not seem like much, but it can make the phrase look silly.  A local university frequently touts that its students come from more than 130 different countries.  I hope so, because it would be really weird if the 130 countries were the same.

Consistent

Consistency may be contrary to nature, according to Aldous Huxley, but it is imperative to credible communication in any form.  Again, one of the PRSA writer’s guidelines says to use parallel structure.  Why?  Because it keeps your points, items, or phrases consistent.

Consistency also can keep you out of trouble.  Nothing raises suspicions among journalists, or significant others, more that inconsistencies in your story.

Even if there is nothing nefarious going on, you must be consistent in message, style, and information.  A national corporation bragged in its news release that its Houston aquarium had 600,000 gallons of underwater tanks, while its brochures placed the gallons at a half a million.  Nitpicky?  Maybe.  But it’s still not consistent. And not correct, since I’ve never heard underwater tanks counted in terms of gallons.

Correct

You would think correct information is a given for any organization, particularly one that wants stakeholders to take it seriously and wants to maintain control of its message.  Incorrect information doesn’t help one’s credibility.

When I worked for a state university, I used to say that being an institution of higher education means we have to look like we have a higher education.  One year, for example, the university’s annual financial report had four mistakes on the cover, six on the first page, and five in the letter from the VP.  Accountants may have written the report, but the number of mistakes in the first few pages could call into question the accuracy of the numbers.

Misspellings (alright), wrong words (irregardless), noun/verb agreement (media doesn’t) are bad on their own, but imagine the damage from incorrectly identifying someone in a photo.  A non-profit organization’s magazine not only gave the wrong name to the wife, but used the first wife’s name.

The best example of the 4 Cs in use is the simplest.  Not long ago, some guy wanted a CHI-TOWN tattoo.  When finished, it was clear (easily read), concise (seven letters), consistent (one color, same font and point size), but it came out CHI-TONW.

Back to the turd

President Obama’s rambling 20-minute speech came up short in clearly defining why he  committed US military power to the UN-sanctioned action undertaken by forces from NATO and a few Arab nations, some already facing uprising from their people.

According to Obama, NATO is in command of the operation to establish and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. And that clearly is not the case.  The commanding three-star general is a Canadian, yes, but he reports to the commander of NATO’s Allied Joint Forces Command, Naples, who is a US admiral who reports to the head of Supreme Headquarters, Allied Command, Europe, who, by definition, is always an American.

And, let’s not forget the United States pays 22 percent of NATO’s budget, almost as much as the next largest contributing nations, Great Britain and France, combined, as pointed out in a fact-checking piece from the Associated Press.  There’s a good, old saying that reminds us that he who buys the paint gets to choose the color.

OK, so we can make a case that on this one pretty important issue, President Obama was neither clear nor correct.

As for the president’s assertion that “our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives,” once again he violated my 4Cs, two of them, in fact: Correct and Consistent.

Prior to his speech, the president let everyone know that regime change was the goal of our Libyan Adventure. Yes, one can make an argument that saving lives through the destruction of Big Mo’s military may lead to Ghadhafi leaving office voluntarily or in a body bag. But, the fact that our forces intervene with extreme prejudice on behalf of those seeking Big Mo’s political or physical demise is not the same as standing guard around them and issuing the warning of “None shall pass.” To do that, of course, would mean putting boots on the ground.  And no one with any common sense believes we don’t already have boots and more in the Libyan desert.

Continuing the humanitarian theme, the president said he “refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.”

OK, fair point. I have often criticized another Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Khofi Anan, who stood by with the rest of the world and watched the slaughter in Rwanda when he was UN Secretary-General. But, we’ve seen other nations commit violence against their people in the last month without any hint of US military intervention.

As pointed out in the AP story, forces loyal to the Ivory Coast’s illegitimate president Laurent Gbagdo have used heavy weapons against their own people, killing nearly 500 supporters of the legitimately elected president.  More than one million people have fled that nation since the start of the violence.

Let’s not forget Darfur where Amnesty International says more than 90,000 people are believed to have been killed since 2003, with another 200,000 thought to have died from conflict-related violence, and more than 2.3 million people internally displaced.

And don’t get misled into believing we are protecting our oil interests in Libya. As pointed out in a USA Today article, the US gets about 44,000 barrels of oil a day from Libya, which is less than one-percent of our total oil imports.  In comparison, Saudi Arabia accounts for a little over nine percent of our imports.

Probably the strangest moment in the president’s speech came when he tried to disguise this turd sandwich as a gourmet burger when he related a story about jubilant Libyans coming to the aid of two US fliers who had to bail out of their aircraft near Benghazi.  It would have been a touching ending to this sorry excuse for a speech, except for one thing the president failed to mention.  At the time, NATO was investigating reports, including broadcast and published reports by British media, that NATO forces sent in to rescue the US airmen shot at least six villagers, including a boy who may have had a leg amputated.

Fearless Fosdick, the Al Capp police detective, used to shoot diners in the head to keep them from eating poisoned beans.  I’ll withhold any comparison with Obama and his turd sandwich.

Al Qaeda in the mix?

A turd sandwich, as with sausage, may not be something you want to watch being made under normal circumstances; however, when this turd involves the possible arming of individuals who have killed thousands of Americans on US soil and continue to wage their brand of holy war against us, then we might want to poke around and see what’s inside.

After the president’s speech this week, Admiral James Stavridis, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said our nation picked up what he called “flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hizbolla participation among the rebel groups in Libya.”

The UK’s The Telegraph reported that senior British government figures described his comment as “very alarming”.

Some folks say this is no different than when we armed the Taliban in their fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, which seemed a good thing at the time, but not so wise now.  The big difference here is that the Taliban has never attacked US citizens on US soil.

So, the more you look at this turd sandwich on the plate, the more it seems to stink, and no amount of special sauce is going to make it better.

Why MBA students can’t write

Our first side on the blue-plate special deals with a recent story in The Wall Street Journal titled Students Struggle for words, business school put more emphasis on writing amid employer complaints.

The story really tells us nothing new, not if you have any contact with the writing skills of college students, particularly business students.  Or, if you spend much time reading business journals and reports.  According to the story, employers and writing coaches say B-school grads ramble a lot, use big words inappropriately, or send out emails that are not appropriate for the subject.

Essay scores for students taking the GMAT, that’s the Graduate Management Admissions Test, fell about six percent between 2007 and 2010.  While that may not be a statistically significant decline in the writing ability of these future biz whizzes, it does back up the anecdotal evidence from employers.

In case you didn’t notice, this topic goes back to the importance of my 4Cs of Communication.  My MBA in finance, together with my journalism experience, allows me to understand and report on financial stories easier than a journalist with no business background.  I used to ask the heads of journalism departments why they don’t require their journalism majors to take business courses, such as basic economics or accounting.

My reasoning is that when these students graduate, chances are good that they will work for a small-town newspaper where some of the biggest stories of the year involve the annual budgets of local government agencies, like school boards and city councils. I can’t tell you how many tasty stories I’ve found buried within these budgets.

But each time I brought it up, the excuse was that business courses fall under the business schools while journalism resides in the liberal arts.

Of course, I felt obliged to point out that business schools have started teaching writing courses, which would seem to knock down one side of that silo.

The Wall Street Journal piece backed me up on this one.  The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, for instance, plans to double its communication coursework to 12 classes starting in 2012. The University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business hired two writing coaches last fall after complaints about the writing skills of its graduates.  And at Northeastern University’s College of Business Administration, some students have professors and a writing coach grading their papers.

Now, maybe journalism schools will follow suit and hire some writing coaches.  Just this morning a smiling local TV news anchor told us that Texas lawmakers decided to dip into the state’s rainy-day fund to get them through the budget season.

Maybe she confused hard-ball politics in Austin with the start of baseball season. You realize I’m just being kind.

Hunker in the bunker, Bunkie

Our next side comes to us courtesy of London’s Daily Mail, which carried a story about how you and I can fork over $25,000 to reserve a spot in an underground doomsday bunker planned for the plains of Nebraska.

The paper says reservations for the 137,000-sf underground compound that can accommodate 950 survivors have jumped 1,000 percent since the Japan earthquake last month.

Vivos is a California-based outfit that claims the planned global network of underground shelters will protect the thousands of people inside from “most catastrophes, including a pole shift, super volcano eruptions, solar flares, earthquakes, asteroids, tsunamis, nuclear attack, bio terrorism, chemical warfare and even widespread social anarchy.”

The folks behind this idea say Vivos is privately funded and not associated with any religion.

Besides the peace of mind that comes with knowing everyone you know is dead, but you survived, you will enjoy all of the modern conveniences of home, and more.  Each complex will have four levels of residential suites, a dental and medical center, kitchens and bakeries, pet kennels (no word if pet reservations cost extra), a prayer room, a fully stocked wine cellar because I mean, who wants to survive the end of days without a nice chablis, and a jail for miscreants.

So, Bunkie, does the idea of this bunker sound good to you?  Well, it’s not first-come-first-served.  No siree. You must fill out a profile that the selection committee will use to determine if you have the right stuff to contribute to the long-term survival of the entire group.

There is no immediately indication that one criterion is the ability to spot a turd sandwich.

Snooki in high cotton

And that brings us to our third side on today’s blue-plate special.

Media reports today tell us that Snooki Polizzi of TV’s Jersey Shore this week got paid $32,000 from the Rutgers University Programming Association to talk about hairstyles, fist pumps, and GTL. That’s gym, tanning, and laundry for those not in the know.

The money came out of the mandatory student activity fee, and the people handling the funds apparently thought it was money well spent.

Who’s to say?

Rutgers this year decided it would break tradition and shell out cash for a speaker for its May commencement.  They booked Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison for only $30,000.

We’ll have to wait to see what pearls of wisdom Morrison imparts for her thirty grand.  As for Snooki, she is reported to have told students to “study hard, but party harder.”

There was no mention if a turd sandwich was part of her fee.

Posted in blog talk radio, end of days, Libya, Obama, Snooki, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#11 Social media can help or hurt; it’s all about how you use it

Social media, particularly as they relate to your business or your organization, was the topic of today’s big blogcast on Gone to Texas with Nelson Duffle of the Duffle Group.  And by social media, we are talking about such places as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Blog Talk Radio, to name just a few of the growing list of social media sites available to businesses, organizations, government agencies, and you and me.

I pulled up a blog by Brian Solis at Altimeter Group, a research-based advisory firm. Solis calls himself a digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist who, like Nelson Duffle, helps businesses build and measure success with social media.

Solis sites a report from 2010 that used data collected from 34,000 businesses in 35 countries to determine that three-fourths of employers did not have a formal policy on how and when employees could use social media, or social networking, while on the job.

I bring this up, because this hints at something Nelson and I discussed, and that is whether every business needs to have a social media presence.

In my experience, bosses at small and large organizations and businesses all want to be in the social media mix.  They may not know how to friend someone on Facebook or how to tweet on Twitter, but they want to be able to say that their organization is just as hip as everyone else.

If, indeed, that is the case then to me the obvious question is: why is there a need to have a formal policy governing the surfing of social networks by employees on the clock?  That seems to be at cross purposes with the whole idea of social networking, a 24/7 siren that beckons both the willing and the unsuspecting sailors of the cyber seas.

Anyway, Solis goes on to suggest that businesses should provide training and guidelines to employees to help excel on behalf of their employers.

According to the study, 63 percent of employers that had such policies found the productivity of their workers improved.  And, more than a third reported that social media policies helped protect intellectual property.

Solis says social media represents the democratization of information and the equalization of influence, which creates both challenges and opportunities.  As he points out, anyone can create, publish, and distribute ideas, observations, news, and information.  Kinda just like we do on Gone to Texas on Blog Talk Radio. Content, he points out, travels around the world through myriad connected channels and people faster than the time it took you to hear or read this sentence.

And, of course, these same CEOs who insist on being part of the cyber social network want to do it on the cheap.  That is precisely why bosses assign this supposedly essential function of online branding to whom? To the most junior employees, or even to unpaid interns.

Solis says this is because brand managers believe these twinterns are the only employees who understand how to use Twitter and Facebook, and, therefore, should be the  people who control the fate of the brand they represent.

Let me give you a perfect example from here in Houston. MD Anderson, arguably the world’s premiere cancer treatment and research hospital this week posted for a Digital and New Media Communications Assistant “responsible for supporting the External Communications team and internal clients in the development and distribution of materials on MD Anderson’s digital and social media channels, specifically online multimedia communications (audio and video) and digital (web and e-mail) content, and for assisting with media relations activities . . . Support and train faculty and staff in social media project development. Build positive relationships with digital/social media influencers.”

Experience required: “None.”

Solis apparently shares my disbelief in this idea.  He says that for businesses to maximize the opportunities of social networks, they must place this function in the hands of employees qualified and trained to set up and run the social networks effectively and strategically.

Here’s his list of his Top 25 Best Practices for Drafting Policies and Guidelines

1. Define a voice and persona representative of the brand’s purpose, mission, and characteristics

2. People expect to interact with people, be personable, consistent, and helpful

3. Keep things conversational as it applies to portraying and reinforcing the personality and value of your brand and the brand you represent

4. Add value to each engagement — contribute to the stature and legacy of the brand

5. Respect those whom you’re engaging and also respect the forum in which you participate

6. Ensure that you honor copyrights and practice and promote fair use of applicable content

7. Protect confidential and proprietary information

8. Business accounts are no place to share personal views unless they reinforce the brand values and are done according to the guidelines and code of conduct

9. Be transparent and be human yes, but also do so based on true value propositions and solutions

10. Represent what you should represent and do not overstep your bounds without prior approval

11. Know and operate within the boundaries defined, doing so protects you, the company, and the people with whom you’re hoping to connect

12. Know when to walk away. Don’t engage trolls or fall into conversational traps

13. Stay on message, on point and on track with the goals of your role and its impact to the real world business in which you contribute

14. Don’t trash competition, spotlight points of differentiation and value

15. Apologize where applicable and according to the established code of conduct. Seek approval by legal or management where such action is not pre-defined

16. Take accountability for your actions and offer no excuses

17. Know whom you’re taking to and what they’re seeking

18. Disclose relationships, representation, affiliation and intentions

19. Refer open issues or questions to those most qualified to answer

20. Practice self-restraint, some things are not worth sharing

21. Empower qualified spokespersons to offer solutions and resolutions

22. Seek the approval of customers and partners before spotlighting their case studies

23. Take the time to interpret the context of a situation before jumping in with a response

24. What you share can and will be used against you – The internet as a long memory

25. When in doubt, ask for guidance

A Twitter code of conduct is the title of a Business Week article on managing content. The basic rule: Don’t be stupid.

Here’s a list of links to the social media guidelines of private and public businesses, organizations, and universities.

People wanting to share the details of their every-day lives with friends and strangers, and businesses wanting to promote their brands to current and potential customers or clients, are not the only folks using social media.  Political parties and governments use, and sometimes abuse, social networks as pointed out in a recent article in The New York Times: Ethical Quandary for Social Sites.

The article points out that activists and pro-democracy groups, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, use Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to promote their activities. And these political or regime-changing uses have put these social media companies in the uncomfortable position of trying to appear neutral and above the political fray while at the same time providing global platforms for these activities.

Some countries, such as Cuba, impose severe penalties for people who use or who help others use social media.

A Reuters story today reports on the visit to Cuba by former president Jimmy Carter who wants to get the Cuban government to release U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross, sentenced this month to a 15-year prison term after his conviction of acts against the state.  Gross was a private contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development providing Jewish communities in Havana with Internet access without the consent of the Cuban government.

And that brings us to our guest today, my friend and former TV news colleague, Nelson Duffle of the Duffle Group, which provides marketing plan audits, social media, business writing and communication strategies.

Before finding some honest work in marketing about 25 years ago, Nelson worked as a triple threat journalist (TV, radio and newspaper) for more than a decade.  In fact, we worked together at a television station in Austin, Texas, in the early ‘80s.
His background includes work with large corporations (including Fortune 500 firms) such as Fidelity Investments, Apple, Shell Oil, Kaiser Permanente, General Motors, Campbell Soup, and Merck Pharmaceuticals.

In 1997, he founded the award-winning Duffle Group based in Boston and Washington, D.C., and for the past 14 years has been providing strategic marketing audits and training to CEOs and CMOs.

Most recently, he has been consulting with SMBs (Small-to-medium-sized businesses) about the benefits and pitfalls of Social Media Marketing.

Posted in blog talk radio, Cuba, social media, Texas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#10 Veletta Forsythe Lill on the Dallas Arts District and the state of arts funding in Texas

Our show today not only was timely, but it also has a personal nature.

Our guest was Veletta Forsythe Lill, former Dallas City Council member and current Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District.  And although she and I call Texas our home, we went to school together in Paris, Illinois, a few years back.

She served eight years on the Dallas City Council, from 1997-2005, where she chaired the Arts, Education and Libraries Committee and the Comprehensive Plan Committee.

During this time, the city’s Arts District expanded its boundaries and the city created a Cultural Facilities Master Plan. Also during her time on the City Council, several new city-owned cultural facilities opened and voters approved more than $100 million in municipal bond support for libraries and cultural facilities, including the seed investment for the AT&T Performing Arts Center.  Her advocacy work extended also to privately funded facilities, including the opening of the Nasher Sculpture Center.

While chairing the Arts, Education, and Libraries Committee, Dallas partnered with the Dallas Independent School District to create ArtsPartners, a nationally recognized arts-in-education program for elementary school children.   And, as a member of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau board, she led efforts to promote cultural tourism and film production in the city.

In addition to her work with the Dallas Arts District, she serves on the boards of the Parkland Foundation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

She has been honored with a number of awards in the arts including TITAS’ Tom Adams Award of Appreciation, the Dallas Contemporary’s Legends Award and the Dance Council of North Texas’ Service to Dance Award.   In April 2006, her work on behalf of the Arts District, urban planning and historic preservation led to her acceptance of the American Planning Association’s Distinguished Leadership Award for an Elected Official.

Texas House committee passes budget bill

Yesterday, March 23, the Texas House Appropriations Committee passed on a party-line vote of 18-7 HB1, that’s the proposed state budget for the next biennium.  The bill appropriates $164.5 billion, which is a 12.3-percent less than the current budget.

General revenue, the money collected through taxes and fees, dropped 5.4 percent.  And, this budget bill does not tap into the so-called Rainy Day Fund.

As expected, the bill makes some drastic cuts, including 10-percent cuts to Medicaid providers and around $8 billion in funding cuts to school districts.  And you can bet those cuts will trickle down to cuts in the arts in Texas public schools.

You can find more information on these sites:

Legislative Budget Board

Texas Impact

Texas Tribune

Robert Floyd is Executive Director of the Texas Music Educators Association and chairs the Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education.  Here’s an op-ed piece that recently ran in state publications and online:

CORPUS CHRISTI — Renée Zellweger might have won an Academy Award without the theater courses she took at Katy High School. And it’s possible that Norah Jones may have won multiple Grammy Awards even if she hadn’t attended choir classes at Grapevine Junior High School. But in each of these cases, and in countless others, a quality fine arts education in Texas public schools is at the foundation of their success.

Fine arts courses in our schools enable students to develop their interest and talent in the arts at an early age, and every student benefits from fine arts courses, even when their future career successes are outside of music, acting, dance, or art.

In a state where high-stakes testing drives decisions on funding, staffing, and instructional minutes, fine arts programs are frequently a target when school budget cuts must be made. With the Legislature and school boards dealing with budget shortfalls of historic proportions, there is already evidence from districts across the state that fine arts programs are on the chopping block.

These programs often suffer because of a misguided perception that the arts are an extracurricular, non-essential part of education. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.

Fine arts is part of the state-required curriculum that all school districts must offer from elementary through high school. Fine arts classes that meet during the school day are inarguably curricular by nature and by law.

As State Sen. Florence Shapiro, Chair of the Senate Education Committee, said in a press conference last week: “Fine arts courses are just as essential as every other part of the required curriculum. In fact, fine arts courses are becoming increasingly critical in preparing students for the 21st-century workforce.”

During the last legislative session in a joint briefing to the House and Senate, best-selling business author Dan Pink advised legislators that the 21st-century workforce belongs to creative right-brain thinkers for whom the arts are a cornerstone of their development. Within that briefing, a NASA ISS systems engineer, an IBM master inventor, and an AT&T executive echoed Pink’s convictions.

While it’s clear that business leaders value arts education, the more than 1.4 million students enrolled in middle and high school fine arts courses today speaks to the fact that these programs are also valued across the state by students and parents. Elementary music, art, and theater teachers serve tens of thousands of students daily and are among the most dedicated and passionate teachers in our Texas classrooms.

Research studies also continue to offer resounding conclusions about the importance of arts education. In 2008, the Dana Foundation released a comprehensive study, “Learning, Arts, and the Brain,” that for the first time reported a causal relationship between rigorous study in the arts and improved cognition. And a November 2010 Scientific American editorial that was headlined “Hearing the Music, Honing the Mind” stated, “Music produces profound and lasting changes in the brain. Schools should add classes, not cut them.”

Finally, the Texas Cultural Arts economic study released in 2009 entitled “20 Reasons the Texas Economy Depends on the Arts and the Creative Sector” found an undeniable connection between support for the arts, a vibrant creative sector, and a strong economy. To quote that study, “During tough economic times it may seem intuitive to cut arts and culture initiatives, but these are the very projects that can help the economy recover.”

Before school districts or the legislature propose wholesale cutting of fine arts programs to solve what is admittedly a critical public education funding crisis, they should remember their responsibility to educate the whole child. Because fine arts courses are academic and a vital component in delivering the well-rounded education required by law, they should not take a disproportionate share of staffing and budget cuts.

As former Texas congresswoman Barbara Jordan so eloquently stated in 1993, “The arts, instead of quaking along the periphery of our policy concerns, must push boldly into the core of policy. The arts are not a frill.”

So, I find it curious that the current edition of the Texas Fact Book makes no mention of state funding of the arts, which would come under the Commission On the Arts.

But, you can find that in 2008, Texas ranked #2 in the nation in the number of Utility Patents issued to Texas residents (5,712)

That Texas ranked #11 in the percentage of high school students who participated in at least one sport in 2007 (57.7)

And  that Texas ranked #48 in the nation in the number of public library visits per capita in 2007 (3.3)

Posted in arts, blog talk radio, dallas, Texas, texas legislature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#9 Craniosacral therapy, Reiki, and other forms of alternative healing

We started taking a special interest in what the medical profession refers to as alternative or complementary forms of pain management when Sharon found out she has temporal lobe epilepsy.  That was about five or six years ago.

Sharon probably had this condition, but in a milder form, all of her life.  As long as I have known her, and that’s been almost 40 years, Sharon has suffered from migraines, leg cramps, and stomach pains.  We now believe these were, and are, connected to her temporal lobe epilepsy.

Pharmaceutical buffet

Of course, her doctors started her on what I call a pharmaceutical buffet line that included anti-seizure medication, also known as anti-epilepsy medications or AEDs, along with a variety of pain killers.

At the beginning of 2009, she took Topamax and Neurontin to control her seizures; Neurontin to control her muscle spasms; Clonazapam, for seizures, anxieties, and Post Traumatic Stress; Xanax for panic disorders and as a sleep aid; Neurontin and Darvocet to deaden the pain associated with TLE; and Botox to block the migraine pain.

Sharon is among the 40 percent or so of people with seizure disorders over the age of 35 who cannot take AEDs because they do not work anymore, and, in some cases, increase the frequency and severity of seizures.  And, she stopped taking the prescription pain killers because they, too, stopped working, and because of the harmful side effects.

She took her last, small dosage of Valium a couple of weeks ago, and now suffers the pain that comes during withdrawal from this insidious little drug that should not be prescribed to people with epilepsy, which is why she has developed a reason to be cautious and alert when dealing with neurologists.

Constant full-body pain can lead a person to seek out anything that will provide even a few hours of relief.  And, that sometimes can lead to some rather embarrassing actions, such as paying several hundred dollars to a well-known practitioner of holistic medicine who gave her a vial of what I call shaky water.  It was supposed to have some kind of healing action going on at the molecular level that you activated by shaking the vial and drinking the shaky water.

We ditched that guy right after he handed over the vial.

Massages worked for a short time, as did acupuncture.  Now, to be fair, acupuncture might be an option, but for some reason not many acupuncturists practice within a 30-minute drive from the ranch. The only one we tried gave her some relief for a few days, but when Sharon went back, the person decided to use acupuncture to cure Sharon’s temporal lobe epilepsy.  That turned out to be a major disappointment and the source of some nasty seizures.

And, of course, more pain.

Aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen only dull the pain for about an hour or so. I started taking turmeric for really bad heartburn, and that seemed to help me, but not Sharon.

To be quite honest here, many people with epilepsy smoke marijuana to control their seizures, but that’s not something Sharon is ready to try because of the pain, which the pot probably would intensify.  And pain is definitely a buzz kill.

So, about the only non-drug pain relief has been with Pilates and yoga.  But sometimes the pain is too great even to think about them.

For many individuals with epilepsy, the only remaining option is surgery, which Sharon chose not to do because the cure is sometimes worse than the condition.  After withdrawing from more than 12 AEDs, tranquilizers, painkillers and muscle relaxers, she chose to manage her epilepsy without drugs. Looking at an alternative therapy for pain and relaxation was a natural step from that point and craniosacral therapy seems to be working.

Craniosacral therapy and Reiki

And that led us to our guest on the big blogcast today, Irene Hernandez, a Reiki master in the Houston area, whose Web site is http://www.raisingvibrationswithirene.com.

Craniosacral therapy is said to heal the body in a holistic manner, without the pain or side effects normally experienced with prescription drugs.

The Alternatives for Healing Web site, defines craniosacral therapy as focusing on reducing tension and stress in the meningeal membrane and its fascial connections to enhance the functioning of the craniosacral system, a fluid circulatory system that surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. Treatments can be very relaxing and may include subtle manipulation of the bones of the face, head, vertebral column, and the membranes beneath the skull. It is most commonly used to treat headaches, TMJ-related jaw pain, ear infections, strokes, sinus conditions, vision problems and digestive problems.

It is also very effective in helping with autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities and developmental challenges.

Craniosacral therapy is one of 109 practices listed on the site, which include yoga, chiropractic, acupuncture, Reiki, reflexology, aromatherapy, massage therapy and meditation.

Craniosacral therapy has been approved, if not formally endorsed, by many neurologists. In Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Epilepsy by Orin Devinsky, MD, Steven Schachter, MD and Steven Pacia, MD, the authors provide a history of craniosacral therapy and its benefits. The text also states that because the work is highly individual, no controlled trials exist. The book describes the therapy as “very gentle and safe with little or no risk involved in treatment.  Most patients find it an extremely relaxing experience and on this basis alone, its clinical implications are enormous. Cranosacral work is truly holistic medicine, integrating all aspects of one’s self and working with the body instead of against it.”

Reiki, according to the International Center for Reiki Training, is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by laying on hands and is based on the idea that an unseen life force energy flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s life force energy is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

The word Reiki comes from two Japanese words: Rei, or God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power and Ki, which is life force energy. So Reiki is actually spiritually guided life force energy.

Reiki treats the whole person including body, emotions, mind and spirit creating many beneficial effects that include relaxation and feelings of peace, security and wellbeing. Many have reported miraculous results.

People who use Reiki say a treatment feels like a wonderful glowing radiance that flows through and around you.

Practitioners point out that Reiki is spiritual in nature, it is not a religion. It has no dogma, and you are not required to believe in any religious or spiritual creed or dogma to learn it or use it.  That said, some people find that using Reiki puts them more in touch with the experience of their religion rather than having only an intellectual concept of it.

Now, some of you may be think this whole idea of complementary and alternative medicines and therapies, also known as CAM, is just a spooky-kooky part of New Age mumbo-jumbo.  If so, you may be surprised to learn that the 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that about 38 percent of Americans use some form of complementary or alternative therapy.

These forms may include natural or herbal remedies in additional to the traditional medication prescribed by a physician.  They also may include what is known as mind-body therapies, such as what we talked about today.  Again, these therapies are in addition to traditional medicines practiced by licensed physicians.

Arts in Texas

Thursday, March 24, at 11am Central, we’ll talk with someone I’ve known for more than forty years, since our days growing up Illinois. 

Veletta Forsythe Lill is a former member of the Dallas City Council and the current Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District.  She’ll join us to talk about the arts in Big D and about the current and future state of funding for the arts in Texas and in the USA.

Also on Thursday, I will be a guest on “Together Again Radio” with relationship coaches Marsha Dean Walker and Jim Eastwood to participate in a discussion on age discrimination faced by job seekers.  The other guest will be attorney Stanley Lubin.  That will be Thursday at 6pm Central time.

Posted in alternative healing, blog talk radio, craniosacral, epilepsy, Houston, medication, pain management, prescription medication, reiki, seizures, temporal lobe epilepsy, yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#8 Open Blog Friday, the Carrington Effect and other stuff

It’s been quite a week here at the ranch, which is why we haven’t had a show since Monday.  Not only did we do a show that afternoon, but a few hours later, I was a guest on “Together Again Radio” with relationship coaches Marsha Dean Walker and Jim Eastwood.  We discussed discrimination faced by the older, long-term unemployed jobseekers.

I’ll be back on that show the evening of Thursday, March 24, from 6-7pm Central to participate in the discussion on age discrimination with another guest, attorney Stanley Lubin.

We’ve used this week to step up the job search.  As some of you may know, my last employer went through some Reductions In Force about a year and a half ago, and I was one of the casualties. So, money and benefits will soon run out unless something on the job front breaks pretty soon.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Also, please keep Sharon in your thoughts and prayers.  My wife also is one of the producers of Gone to Texas and a frequent guest talking about what it’s like to live with temporal lobe epilepsy.  Well, I can tell you that it can be pretty rough.  She’s had an unusually high number of seizures this week, probably connected with the increased solar activity and the earthquakes in Japan.  Those seizures, combined with her body adjusting to no more prescription pain killers, mean she’s had long, hard hours of full-body pain over many days.

But, we will get through this.  Just keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Next week’s shows

A few notes about upcoming shows, one of them related to what Sharon’s going through right now.

The healing arts and the visual/performing arts are two topics we’ll cover next week on the big blogcast.

On Tuesday, March 22, at 2pm Central, Irene Hernandez, BS, LMT, will be along to talk about the benefits of alternative healing, particularly for pain management.

Irene’s bodywork studies include Dr. Upledger’s technique for CranioSacral Therapy (CST), Reiki (Master Level), and Pranic Healing.  In her CST practice, Irene includes spiritual coaching with Essential Oil and Aura Soma essences and incorporates these personal blends into her clients’ sessions.

Then on Thursday, March 24, at 11am Central, we’ll talk with someone I’ve known for, well, let’s just say a long time, since our days growing up Paris. Illinois, not Texas or that that other place way over there.

Veletta Forsythe Lill is a former member of the Dallas City Council and the current Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District.  She’ll join us to talk about the arts in Big D and about the current and future state of funding for the arts in Texas and in the USA.

We’re working on a time in the next week or so to visit with Nelson Duffle, a native Texan and former Austin television news colleague who now is a marketing strategist, business writer, and social media consultant at The Duffle Group.

He’ll be along to tell us everything we need to know about social networks and how they can work for you or against you.  We’ll let you know when we confirm a date.

Solar flares and seizures

But right now, let’s get back to a question we raised Monday and on last week’s Open Blog Friday.  That being the question of whether solar flares, earthquakes, and electromagnetic events trigger seizures in people with epilepsy, particularly temporal lobe epilepsy.

Sharon says they do, and that she is the living proof.

Here, let me share with you an excerpt from her blog entry posted yesterday on her Web site, Surviving Wonderland, my life with temporal lobe epilepsy.

The news that the sun was about to emit massive solar flares that could disrupt electronics here on Earth did not faze me. It should have. One night last week, I sat up in bed after feeling a “thump” between my eyes. It was a hard thump. The cats were not on the bed, and my husband was asleep in a position that made accusing him needless.

I did anyway, shaking him awake. I hurt and I wanted someone to take responsibility for it, even if it had been an accident. He declared his innocence, but I was suspicious.

The next day I began a difficult period during which I had seizures nearly every day, with a record three seizures in one night. Another night, I woke at 3 am to nerves that felt like an exposed nerve in a tooth, only this was throughout my entire body. The pain lasted several hours before I finally had a seizure and my body began to return to a normal state.

Each day, I experienced another seizure before I could gradually heal from the seizure of the night before. During the days, I had extreme weakness that felt as if my bones had turned to gelatin and I had been hit by a giant tuning fork. I downed sports drinks to combat the loss of electrolytes and took magnesium and Excedrin hoping they would relieve the pain. The body eats up magnesium during a seizure. Taking magnesium chloride tablets every day sometimes helps ease my post-seizure nerve pain.

I don’t take regular AEDs because I can’t tolerate the prescription drugs. Natural products for pain relief, along with alternative therapies such as massage or craniosacral therapy, are all that are available to me. And information. So when my husband told me about the massive solar flares and the information taken off NASA’s website, I listened.

I looked on epilepsy blog sites to see if anyone else had the same increase in seizures during the solar flares. Blog after blog complained of being bombarded with the worst seizures experienced. Some blogs tried to define the science surrounding the flares in an effort to explain how it affected those with epilepsy. Others just bemoaned the pain and difficulty.

The impact on me has been extreme but at the same time, I am grateful to have a wealth of information, both scientific and anecdotal with which to assess my experiences in the last week.

Understanding what causes a problem can take away the fear of the unknown. When a person manages epilepsy by attempting to avoid triggers, managing diet and taking supplements, each seizure is a source of questions. What did I do to cause this or was it just random? This last week has led to many questions concerning the vulnerability of my body to the surrounding environment. Did the solar flares cause all the problems? Who knows? The information surrounding the flares, however, it very compelling.

2003’s X45-class CME

So, what do you think? Well, I think it’s all kind of eerie. I’m looking online right now at a story from the BBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/3515788.stm that ran on March, 17, 2004, seven years ago yesterday. It followed up on a huge solar flare from November 4, 2003, one that was so massive that its radiation blinded our satellite detectors that were supposed to have recorded its true size.

By this time seven years ago, about four months after the event, physicists at New Zealand’s University of Otago estimated that the X45-class event was more than two times the size of the previous record flare.

Planet Earth did not take a direct hit at that time, though.  Had the stars, quite literally, aligned just a little differently, that solar event could have taken out a lot of the radio communications and power grids here on the surface of the planet.

The previous record holders were X20 solar flares that struck the planet on Aug. 16, 1989, and April 2, 2001.

But, listen to this, the New Zealand researchers say the 2004 event produced X-ray radiation that bombarded Earth’s atmosphere equal to 5,000 suns.  Luckily for us, none of that reached the planet’s surface.  Or at least that’s what the scientists tell us.

Carrington Effect

Of course scientists and astronomers have studied these massive, high-energy solar flares over the past two centuries, and that includes the granddaddy of them all back in 1859.  That’s when British astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed the beginnings of what now is known as the Carrington Effect: a super bright white light flare that produced; a supercharged energy outburst visible to the naked eye.

These puppies can harm satellites, astronauts, and GPS navigation devices. They can knock out satellite and ground communication, and electric grids.  A Carrington Effect is rare and occurs during solar maximum.

The upside to one of these Carrington Effects is a super auroral storm.  The one in 1859 created an aurora borealis that was so big and so bright that people in Cuba could read their newspapers at night without lights.

The NASA Science News (http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/06may_carringtonflare) site gives a pretty good account of what happened, starting on Sept. 1, 1859, when Carrington saw two brilliant beads of blinding white light appear over some sunspots, intensify rapidly, and become kidney-shaped.  Within one minute, the lights faced until they became pinpoints and disappeared.

The whole thing lasted about five minutes.  But by dawn the next day, the skies all over our planet erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that people could read their newspapers in what normally was darkness. These stunning auroras pulsated as far south as Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.

Here’s what I find really weird, and a key to why we believe solar flares do bad things to people with seizure disorders.

The world’s telegraph systems went nuts. Spark flew out, shocking telegraph operators and igniting the telegraph paper.  But, even after telegraphers disconnected the batteries, the telegraphs continued to work, pulling their power from the electricity in the atmosphere.  That’s because of the geomagnetic storm created by the shaking and quivering of the Earth’s magnetic field rocked by the super coronal mass ejection, or CME.

When the CME arrived, it crashed into Earth’s magnetic field, causing the global bubble of magnetism that surrounds our planet to shake and quiver. Researchers call this a geomagnetic storm.

Planning for another big one

Louis J. Lanzerotti is a retired Distinguished Member of Technical Staff at Bell Laboratories and the editor of the journal Space Weather (http://www.spaceweather.com). Lanzerotti became aware of the effects of solar geomagnetic storms on terrestrial communications when a huge solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across Illinois on August 4, 1972. The effects on Earth of that CME eventually led AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables.

The NASA site says a similar flare on March 13, 1989, created geomagnetic storms that disrupted electric power transmission from the Hydro Québec generating station in Canada, blacking out most of the province and plunging six million people into darkness for nine hours.  And, the aurora-induced power surges melted power transformers in New Jersey.

In December 2005, X-rays from another solar storm disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and GPS signals for about 10 minutes. That may not sound like much, but as Lanzerotti noted, “I would not have wanted to be on a commercial airplane being guided in for a landing by GPS or on a ship being docked by GPS during that 10 minutes.”

Indeed.

So, could we get hit by another Carrington Effect of the same size and magnitude as the one in 1859?  Well, scientists say yes, but maybe not for another 500 years.  It seems that the 1859 event was the largest to hit the planet in the past 500 years, which seems to scientists to be the cycle.  But, they could be wrong, particularly because we’re just beginning to understand these things.

But, let’s play along and try to figure out what could happen if the sun decides to do something unexpected.

Lanzerotti points out that as electronic technologies have become more sophisticated and more embedded into everyday life, they have also become more vulnerable to solar activity. Power lines and long-distance telephone cables might be affected by auroral currents, as happened in Canada and New Jersey in 1989.

Radar, cell phones, and GPS systems could be disrupted. And, according to NASA, experts who have studied the question say there is little to be done to protect satellites from a Carrington-class flare. In fact, a recent paper estimates potential damage to the more than 900 satellites circling the planet right now could cost between $30 billion and $70 billion. The best solution, they say: a pipeline of communication satellites ready for launch.

Humans in space would be in peril, too. Spacewalking astronauts might have only minutes after the first flash of light to find shelter from energetic solar particles following close on the heels of those initial photons. Their spacecraft, and even the International Space Station, would probably have adequate shielding; but the key would be getting inside in time. And as we know from watching the amazing video from the ISS, you don’t move quickly in the vacuum of space. At least not if you want to live to tell about it.

NASA (http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News031011-xclass.html) has another Web site dealing with the March 10 CME that hit us here at the ranch around 12:30am Central time.  That’s the one that caused Sharon to wake up and accuse me of thumping her in the head.

NASA says that CME created a G1-class geomagnetic storm that caused Northern Lights over the US-Canadian border seen as far south as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan. NASA warns that solar wind conditions favor more geomagnetic storming in the hours ahead.  And, sky watchers, including those in the continental United States, should remain alert for auroras.

Web Bot Project predicted Japan quake?

Pretty wild stuff, huh?

Well, not as wild as this.  Maybe you’ve heard of the Web Bot Project. If not, let me tell you a little about it.

Web Bot, or the Web Bot Project, refers to a software program created in 1997 by Clif High and George Ure, the self-titled Time Monks who started out trying to predict stock market trends. Their highly secret system is said to gather, analyze, and interpret news articles, blogs, forums, and other forms of Internet chatter to predict the future.

In 2001, the Time Monks noticed that stock market predictions were not the only matters accurately predicted by their web bot, so they started to track coincidence with occurrences and explored it further.

One of the first accurate predictions from the web bot was in June 2001 when it predicted an event within the next 60-90 days that would be life altering and of global proportions. We now know that terrorists attacked the United States about 90 days later on Sept. 11.

So, how does the Web Bob Project tie in with solar flares?  Apparently, the Web Bot has found a “data gap’’ between late 2012 and May 2013.  One explanation is that a devastating solar event knocks us back to the pre-electronic age.

Who knows? The Time Monks say their web bot also accurately predicted the 2001 and 2003 blackouts in the northeast part of the country; the crash of American Airlines flight 587; the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster; Hurricane Katrina; the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami; the BP oil spill; and Dick Cheney’s hunting accident.

But, the web bot fizzled out on its predictions that a big earthquake would hit Vancouver and the Pacific Northwest on Dec. 12, 2008; the U.S. dollar would completely collapse; civil unrest in this country would start on July 11 of last year and last until January of this year, possibly driven by skyrocketing food prices and the devaluation of the dollar; and a missile launch on Dec. 14 of last year would start World War III.

Now I’m finding just a whole lot of Web sites that claim the bot predicted last week’s earthquake in Japan.  It seems Clif High predicted that what he called a Global Coastal Phenomena will gradually increase up until March or April of this year, at which time the situation could be disturbing for many people.

“Unusual movements of the Moon, brought on by anomalies in the magnetosphere could cause coastal disruptions.”

Well, tomorrow is a full moon, and at that time, the moon will be the closest it’s been to Earth since 1992 (http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-03/biggest-full-moon-20-years-almost-certainly-wont-cause-huge-natural-disaster)

As they used to say on SCTV: pretty scary boys and girls.

Posted in alternative healing, arts, astronomy, blog talk radio, craniosacral, Cuba, dallas, earthquake, epilepsy, Houston, NASA, pain management, prescription medication, reiki, seizures, social media, solar flares, space, temporal lobe epilepsy, Texas, Web Bot Project, yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scheduled and upcoming shows

The healing arts and the visual/performing arts are two topics we’ll cover next week on Gone to Texas on Blog Talk Radio.

On Tuesday, March 22, at 2pm Central, Irene Hernandez, BS, LMT, will be along to talk about the benefits of these and other forms of alternative healing, particularly for pain management.

Irene’s bodywork studies include Dr. Upledger’s technique for CranioSacral Therapy (CST), Reiki (Master Level), and Pranic Healing.  In her CST practice, Irene includes spiritual coaching with Essential Oil and Aura Soma essences and incorporates these personal blends into her clients’ sessions.

Then on Thursday, March 24, at 11am Central, we’ll talk with someone I’ve known for more than forty years, since our days growing up Paris. Illinois, not Texas or that that other place way over there.

Veletta Forsythe Lill is a former member of the Dallas City Council and the current Executive Director of the Dallas Arts District.  She’ll join us to talk about the arts in Big D and about the current and future state of funding for the arts in Texas and in the USA.

We’re working on a time in the next week or so to visit with Nelson Duffle, a native Texan, former Austin television news colleague, and now a marketing strategist, business writer, and social media consultant at The Duffle Group.

He’ll be along to tell us everything we need to know about social networks and how they can work for you or against you.  We’ll let you know when we confirm a date.

Posted in alternative healing, blog talk radio, blogtalkradio, craniosacral, epilepsy, Houston, pain management, reiki, temporal lobe epilepsy, yoga | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment