SMOKINCHOICES (and other musings)

December 31, 2012

Body Lauguage, who knew?

Fake it til you Make it – – Seriously!

(Don’t know when I have been more impressed with a presentation than this one.  I am not short on sense of self, or pride and pleasure in what I do, but I have not always been this way.  Most of us have memory of being “less than” or not “good enough.”  not up to the task and so on,  etc.,   Want to encourage everyone to listen to this brilliant social psychologist – – she knows what she is talking about.  “TED”  showcases her here and it is  a Dr. Mercola  offering. . .       .           Jan)

Change Your Life by Changing Your Body Language   Body Language
Making simple changes to your body position influences not only how others perceive you, but also how you perceive yourself.

Story at-a-glance

  • Your body language can influence not only how others perceive you, but how you perceive yourself.
  • Studies show that changing your body position causes hormonal fluctuations in the cortisol and testosterone levels in your brain, making them dip or rise depending on the position.
  • These hormonal fluctuations can be manipulated to your advantage: pose yourself in a powerful stance, and you not only will be perceived as more powerful, but you will feel it.
  • These changes in the brain can occur in as little as two minutes after posing in a certain position.
  • For doubters who think it’s not possible to change your whole life based on your body language, researcher Amy Cuddy suggests that you “fake” it until you make it happen, and then keep going on until you become it.

December 30, 2012

2012 in review (WP gift)

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 33,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 8 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

A good thing, but no be-all

(Sometimes I think Dr Mercola may be my spiritual twin.   He has done a terrific job spelling out what I have against the Medical Complex here in our country.   I couldn’t have said it better or more effectively.    

I would not however kick it to the curb as far too many of our citizens haven’t any choice at all presently and it is needed.   Nothing short of the public option for everybody, as a right will ever be considered adequate and proper. Strip out the gadgets, greed, unnecessary and overly costly procedures and grossly over-priced meds and we could probably afford it better than most other countries  (many of whom do it for free).

Why the Affordable Health Care Act is Unlikely to Benefit Your Health

Why the Affordable Health Care Act is Unlikely to Benefit Your Health   Healthcare System
Despite what you’ve been told, it’s really just expanding an already flawed model of “care” that’s one of the leading causes of death in the US. It’s a for-profit scheme, and healthy people do not make good customers. But there is light at the end of the tunnel…

Story at-a-glance

  • Guaranteed health insurance does NOT equate to guaranteed health care. No strategies are included in the Affordable Health Care Act to actually prevent illness and reduce health care costs. Instead it expands an already flawed model of “care” that has been and continues to be one of the leading causes of death in the US
  • A recent review of U.S. healthcare expenses revealed that 30 cents of every dollar spent on medical care is wasted, adding up to $750 billion annually. This is the system being expanded upon with the Affordable Health Care Act
  • The US spends twice as much per person on health care than any other nation, yet we rank 49th in terms of life expectancy, and despite giving newborn babies more vaccines than any other country on the planet, the US ranks 30th for infant mortality
  • There is massive collusion going on between federal regulatory agencies and the industries they’re supposed to regulate, which ensures not just the profitability of Big Pharma and the medical industry as a whole, but also Big Ag, which is another major culprit behind the nation’s poor health. The ultimate price for this collusion and undermining of truth is your health. It’s a for-profit scheme, and healthy people do not make good customers

December 26, 2012

Alzheimer’s Drug 4 autistic kids

(My comment follows)

OSU will test drug to treat autism

Study involves children ages 6 to 12 affected by spectrum of disorders

By Charlie Boss THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

  • Columbus-area children with autism can enroll in the largest-ever clinical research program that aims to use medication to treat the disorder’s core symptoms.

Ohio State University’s Nisonger Center is among more than 85 research sites in the United States evaluating the use of the drug memantine on social interaction and communication among autistic children.

  • Memantine is used to treat memory dysfunction associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

“When we think of drug or medication studies, we tend to think about reducing problematic issues,” said Dr. Michael Aman, director of research at the Nisonger Center.

“This is a totally opposite strategy where the emphasis is restoring and improving function.”

Aman noted a preliminary study in Chicago in 2004 found that autistic children who were given memantine were more open and interactive with other people. The study also found that their ability to interact and communicate with their peers improved. The ConnectMe research program will evaluate the drug on a larger scale for children ages 6 to 12 with autism, Asperger’s syndrome and those with mild symptoms on the autism spectrum.

Hanna Rue, executive director of the National Autism Center, calls the study innovative.

“There are behavioral and educational treatments, but this is something certainly worth watching,” she said.

  • There currently are no FDA-approved drugs that treat any of the three core symptoms of autism: impaired social interactions; impaired communication; and restricted interests, repetitive behaviors and stereotyped mannerisms.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism-spectrum disorders affect 1 in every 88 children in the United States.

Monica DeBrock, whose 16-year-old son, Jacob, is autistic, said the drug could give families another option to help their kids.

“Most of these kids want to be able to interact with their peers,” she said. “They struggle , and it’s frustrating for them. To give them another tool they can use is wonderful.”

DeBrock said Jacob struggled as a child to pick up social etiquette. He rarely greets his peers, and when they start conversations, he tends to veer the talk toward his interests.

DeBrock said her son has come a long way. He is a junior at Reynoldsburg High School’s Encore Academy, where he takes college-level courses and competes on the school’s bowling team.

“You feel sometimes as an outsider if you have a child whose behavior is sometimes outside of the norm,” she said. “… If they can interact better with their peers, it opens doors they didn’t have before.” cboss@dispatch.com

(Jan’s comment:   

The timing of this news taints it with two of our country’s most important issues (at least in my mind). The first being the horror of the recent school shooting which lays like a lump of coal in our hearts and met by the leader of the NRA with admonitions regarding the mentally unstable and the need to take action on “that” rather than curbing certain classes of weapons.  This is a dreadful response to a serious problem.  Reportedly, a great many members of the NRA and the rest of the country (not NRA members), are not buying into this reasoning.  Our nation is demanding restored sanity with ownership of firearms.  The time is now.  

Furthermore, it was pitiful to lump  Asperger’s syndrome into a class of mentally disturbed people.  Talk about adding insult to injury! Mind is excellent in many of these individuals – their injury has taken away from them the ability to socialize and communicate in ways necessary to enjoy a happy life.  They are so often, isolated and therein lies their great problem.  This is a sentence handed out from the medical community with the multitudinous inoculations – – robbing them of any chance of a normal life.  Their burden is enormous.   God knows, they do not also deserve to be maligned.  

Then we have issue #2:   The pharmaceutical complex who never saw a disease it didn’t get excited over, is always willing and able to spring from the gate ready to take on all new patients-for-life it can find. To be sure  and it just keeps getting worse.  There has been no help pharmaceutically for the autistic crowd.  Autism was such a rarity in the 20th century that it was unknown  in first half and then bit, by bit, it crept onto  the scene  and  grew – – with every advancement of the usage of infant inoculation as they increased in frequency and quantity.  Infant humans without developed immune systems being unable to handle such an onslaught are just not in a fair fight.  So we have gone from an unknown condition to rare and now 1 in 88.  How’s that for incredible?  

There has been an effort to blame the genes which literally enrages me.  Genes as part of the body are just as susceptible to damage from this horrible invasion as any other part of the organism.  The answer is not to be found there.   Obviously, it is an external influence.  Our world as we now know it is not the world we evolved to inhabit.  It is full of toxins and chemicals in water, air, soil and food and all of farming which is not organic. But with regard to autism, it is not the farming or GMO’s – – it is the medical establishment itself from the point of ignorance and greed which is shortchanging and damaging our kids.  We expect better from men of science and generally attribute to them the highest motives.   The scientific mind however is open and willing to see what is before them.   That is not what is happening now.     

This article discusses giving these children medicine which is made for Alzheimer’s patients – the geriatric community.  Everybody knows there has been no serious advancement to really help this class of people.  They are still disintegrating before our eyes and it is traumatic for everyone involved.    Why has no mention been made before now about the 2004 study with children taking  MEMANTINE?  If it helps socialization and communication skills – – why not speak of it?  85 centers are now going to study it?   Promising, but iffy?  

You know,  it it reminding me of the stories I’ve read about children’s services where they are drugging little kids in order to control them because no one actually has time or money or means to BE with them or LOVE  them.  This is cheaper – what the hell . . .!  I may be skewed on all this, but you know – what goes around,  comes around!  . . . .     .   just sayin’.   .   .   Jan)

DNA Tests -Snake oil – fear ?

Some DNA tests used to sell ‘snake oil,’ officials say

By Robert Langreth and John Lauerman BLOOMBERG NEWS

April Hauge, a nurse practitioner in Weimar, Calif., spent $500 on a genetic test for her autistic son in 2009 that led to purchasing thousands of dollars in vitamins and supplements. She’s now selling advice on the approach to others.

There’s just one problem: The DNA tests and related treatments have scant backing from science and U.S. government officials. They’re untested, unproven and may constitute “health fraud,” doctors, regulators and concerned parents said.

For alternative-medicine providers in general, the genetic tests are nothing but a “marketing tool” to sell unproven treatments, said James Laidler, a retired physician and adjunct professor at Portland State University whose autistic son has tried alternative therapies.

“You always hear the testimonials from the people who got better, not the people who stayed the same or got worse,” Laidler said. “They don’t want to hear somebody saying this is snake oil.”

  • Doctors and clinics across the nation are using the exploding science of DNA testing to feed anxieties and sell hope to people with hard-to-treat disorders.

Emboldened by meager state and federal regulation, purveyors of alternative medicine offer genetic tests costing hundreds of dollars to worried parents and patients, and then sell advice on supplements and diet based on results purporting to spot disease-causing deficiencies. They claim to be a panacea for everything from autism to the effects of aging.

  • “A lot of this skims on the edge of health fraud,” said Janet Woodcock, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration.

Patients and practitioners say the tests and treatments are beneficial. The medical establishment has yet to catch on to the importance of common gene mutations, said Ben Lynch, a licensed naturopathic physician in Seattle and owner of a nearby supplement company.

Lynch said his focus is on diet and lifestyle changes first, before supplements.

  • “I agree with some of these critics who say that if doctors are using genetic tests to sell lots of supplements, that is not ethical,” Lynch said.
  • Mapping the genome is becoming a standard tool of medical care. By searching for mutated genes in tumors, doctors can sometimes target them with drugs to counteract the effect of rogue genes.
  • Researchers once hoped that common genetic variants would help predict the likelihood of major diseases such as autism. But while scientists have documented thousands of statistical associations between genetic variants and diseases, definitive links haven’t been confirmed in most cases.

Alberto Gutierrez, director of the office of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health at the FDA, said the agency is “very concerned” about complex genetic tests being sold by laboratories. Often, it might be difficult even to know who did the testing, he said.

  • “Nobody has looked at the evidence to support these tests,” said Gutierrez. “I am concerned that patients are being given unproven information that may result in less than optimal management of their disease.”

Following public hearings in July 2010, the agency developed guidance for regulating complex genetic and other tests sold by laboratories. The rules have been under review by the Obama administration since late 2011, he said. Until they are finalized, the agency is “somewhat hamstrung” in cracking down on companies, Gutierrez said.

The vast majority of laboratory genetic tests provide valid medical information and are processed accurately and responsibly by licensed professionals, said Alan Mertz, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, a Washington-based industry group.

FDA-approval procedures are too expensive and time-consuming for low-volume DNA tests processed by small labs, and would stifle the development of new tests that are now being developed by the hundreds, Mertz said.

  • One area in which genetic testing has taken hold is autism. But many mutations are found in healthy people, and there is no evidence that any of them cause autism, said Daniel Coury, medical director for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network and a developmental pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“It sounds scientific, but the connection to autism isn’t there,” he said.

(Please see the adjacent post “Alzheimer’s Drug 4 Autistic kids” (12-26-12) for my response to seeking answers to one’s medical problems, by securing Gene information  through DNA testing.  This is almost guaranteed to be fruitless not to say needlessly costly.    For when there is a problem with certain functions within the body and normal expectations can’t be met, nor medical treatment be found which can correct it,  one must realize that the search must be extended outside the body  to some environmental or chemical factor which has harmed the body > and in doing so, has also harmed the genes, which are an integral part of the body.  

I am not meaning to sound callous, but we are living in an unnatural world to which we did not evolve – but here we are, and all must try to cope or learn ways of functioning, somehow.   Our bodies can’t assimilate chemicals – it is foreign to the body and it spends it’s resources trying to eliminate these foreign substances – taking away its energy in pitiable activity when it has much more important things to do.  We never died for lack of chemicals, be we die slowly every day from lack of wholesome, natural food which the body does recognize.  That is the way nature designed this whole thing and we would be wise to start heeding the evidence.   I don’t know about all the supplements ( I take some).  I have dealt with a number of fine doctors and their newsletters over time, but they generally lose me when even tho their information is good, the sale of product dominates the whole thing.   

I kind of feel if we could just eat wholesome, fresh stuff  (not  canned , packaged or boxed anything, we’d be so much better off. . . health wise.    Even those autistic kids.  There’s    a great movements around – have to be willing to find them.  People are making progress with little things.   Big doses of Vitamin D-3;  wonderful smoothies made with some fresh greens and raw fruit, clean water – you’d be amazed what all you can put in a blender and those kids absolutely love it.  Have many on this blog (but you gotta look for them) . . ah, well,   got carried away again. . . Jan)

Black Ivory Coffee $50 a cup

APICHART WEERAWONG ASSOCIATED PRESS    An elephant handler’s wife searches
for elephant dung in northern Thailand.

Elephant dung gives coffee pricey prestige

By Jocelyn Gecker ASSOCIATED PRESS

GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Thailand — In the lush hills of northern Thailand, a herd of 20 elephants is helping to excrete some of the world’s most expensive coffee.

Trumpeted as earthy in flavor and smooth on the palate, the exotic new brew is made from beans eaten by Thai elephants and plucked a day later from their dung. A gut reaction inside the elephant creates what its founder calls the coffee’s unique taste.

Stomach turning or oddly alluring, this is not just one of the world’s most unusual specialty coffees. At $500 a pound, it’s also among the world’s priciest.

For now, only the wealthy or well-traveled have access to Black Ivory Coffee. It was launched last month at a few luxury hotels in remote corners of the world — first in northern Thailand, then the Maldives and now Abu Dhabi — with a price of about $50 a serving.

“When an elephant eats coffee, its stomach acid breaks down the protein found in coffee, which is a key factor in bitterness,” said Blake Dinkin, who has spent $300,000 developing the special java. “You end up with a cup that’s very smooth without the bitterness of regular coffee.”

“My theory is that a natural fermentation process takes place in the elephant’s gut,” said Dinkin, a 42-yearold Canadian. “That fermentation imparts flavors you wouldn’t get from other coffees.”

At the jungle retreat that is home to the herd, conservationists were initially skeptical about the idea.

“My initial thought was about caffeine: Won’t the elephants get wired on it or addicted to coffee?” said John Roberts, director of elephants at the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation. The refuge earns 8 percent of the coffee’s total sales, which go toward the herd’s health care. “As far as we can tell, there is definitely no harm to the elephants.”

It takes 72 pounds of raw coffee cherries to produce 2 pounds of Black Ivory coffee, Dinkin said. Most of the beans get chewed up, broken or lost in tall grass after being excreted.

After the elephants do their business, the wives of elephant mahouts collect the dung, break it open and pick out the coffee. After a thorough washing, the coffee cherries are processed to extract the beans, which are then roasted in Bangkok.

December 24, 2012

FDA says Frankenfish safe

(Jan’s comment to follow)

Genetically altered salmon safe to consume, FDA says

By Brady Dennis THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON — Salmon that have been genetically engineered to grow twice as fast as their natural counterparts are inching closer to the nation’s dinner tables.

The Food and Drug Administration released its findings that the fish do not pose a threat to the environment and are “as safe as food from conventional Atlantic salmon.”

That removed a key hurdle for a Massachusetts-based company seeking to market the modified salmon, which critics have dubbed “Frankenfish.”

  • But the move also reignited a long-running debate over whether a nation that already grows and consumes genetically modified plants such as corn and soybeans is prepared to make a similar leap regarding animals.

Food-safety activists, environmental groups and traditional salmon-fishing industries staunchly oppose such a step and are part of a broader global struggle over genetically modified foods.

  • Countries in the European Union have banned some genetically modified foods outright and instituted tight labeling requirements on foods that contain modified ingredients.

AquAdvantage, the fast-growing fish at the center of the controversy in the United States, is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish. The result is a fish that grows larger and faster than traditional salmon.

Under the company’s proposal, no modified salmon would be produced in America. The eggs would be produced on Prince Edward Island in Canada and shipped to Panama, where they would be harvested and processed.   In its assessment, the FDA said the likelihood that the altered fish could escape containment and reproduce in the wild is “extremely remote.”

  • The assessment could pave the way for ultimate approval of the engineered fish. The FDA must take comments from the public for 60 days before finalizing its report.

(My comment:   

It is my hope that multitudes of us will let the FDA know in clear terms that we are not in favor of this.  To open the door to Genetically Modified Fish would just be disastrous as we loose one more vital piece of our natural environment to the GMO machinery which has already taken such an enormous chunk away from us.  The FDA assures us it would be safe per their findings?  What is that pray tell?  FDA does no testing at all.  They accept corporate word that their product is safe –   – that is not assurance.   And we have learned otherwise.  

Seems that an American Company in Massachusettes wants the right to market Frankenfish to our country, yet these same products are not welcome or even legal in other sophisticated parts of the enlightened world. Nor are genetically modified plant foods without clear labels to inform people (labeling – another privilege to which we are entitled, but denied).   As described above, the potential for contamination would be profound, not remote as claimed.  There could be no regulations which we could rely on for several countries are doing different parts of the whole with movement from one country to the next for each stage.  There is no way this could be contained and assured against contamination for one of the finest food fishes we have ever known. 

Eggs produced in Canada;  harvested in Panama and marketed to U.S.   I’m sure they are in Canada because no one wanted this in our American back yard. How would anyone control such a complex scheme?  Safety is not even in the equation.  The people have spoken out on this before.  We don’t want Frankenfish, or cows or pigs or fowl.  They are all bastardized enough by the way they are being factory-farmed these days.  Since we would have no “control” over any part of this –  most surely  “We” can offer no assurances on Frankenfish. Just look how well all this has protected the U.S. population thus far. We are sicker, fatter and shorter-lived and going on a  downward spiral..  .   .  we need to reverse all this, not make it worse.

Genetically modifying  carries genetic burdens which do pass along to end users –  -us!  Once it is in the system,  it stays and continues to erode and distort the destinies of all involved.  If this is allowed, it is only a question of time til the worst happens and another part of our known world is irrevocably damaged or destroyed.   The FDA is allowing 60 days for comments from the public on this.  All should speak up.  Jan)

December 23, 2012

Seasonal Smoothie

Here is a timely GIFT from the Boutenko “RAW FAMILY”. . .just passing it on from them to you.

Tis the Smoothie to Be Jolly

Dear Friends,
We invite you to make this green smoothie because it is perfect for the holiday season. This smoothie has an amazing taste and texture. I think the secret lays in the combination of bitter (dandelions), sour (cranberries) and sweet (dates and persimmons). We have been making it every other day and sharing with many friends. Everyone responded with “Wow!” My grandchildren said it tasted better than ice cream.

Royal Jolly Green Smoothie

Healthy Shakes For the Holidays

1 bunch dandelions
4 ripe persimmons (seeds removed)
1 handful cranberries
4 dates (seeds and pith removed)
3 cups water (add more if mixture is too thick)
Blend well.

Yields 2 quarts

December 22, 2012

Aid With Interest

DISPATCH INVESTIGATION

AID WITH INTEREST

More than half of undergraduate student aid at OSU is borrowed

By Encarnacion Pyle THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

CHRIS RUSSELL DISPATCH    Adam VanLuit, a senior political science major at Ohio State University, studies in the computer lab at the Ohio Union. After graduating in the spring, he plans to take a year off to earn money before going on to law school.

Loans make up more than half of the financial aid to Ohio State University students, and a greater number of graduates are struggling to pay them back in a weak job market.

The biggest burden falls on thousands of middle-income students. In the 2010-11 school year, loans made up 80 percent of the aid for in-state undergraduate OSU students who reported that their parents made $75,000 to $149,999.

In 2010-11, OSU students borrowed more than $217 million, a 24 percent increase over five years earlier, according to a Dispatch analysis of more than 500,000 student financial-aid records at Ohio State’s Columbus campus from 2006-07 to 2010-11, the latest available figures. The data did not include student names or other personally identifiable information.

  • Students in the middle-income bracket borrowed an average of about $9,000 in 2010-11, which could easily add up to between $36,000 and $54,000 in debt, depending on how long it takes them to graduate. That’s far greater than the school’s reported average debt of $24,840.
  • Middle-income parents are being squeezed from all directions, including higher costs of living and property taxes, lower home equity and retirement savings, stagnant salaries and rising college costs, said David Montesano, a college-admissions expert with College Match Educational Consulting Services in Seattle.

“Families who have achieved the so-called American dream with a modest home, two cars in the garage and enough money to get a Starbucks latte every day are more frequently finding that they can’t afford to send their kids to college ,” he said.

Making ends meet

Courtney Palma, 26, of the Far West Side, will leave Ohio State with more than $40,000 in federal and private loans when she graduates this spring with a major in social work.

When she was in middle school, her grandmother became ill with pancreatic cancer and her mother quit her job to care for her.

Her parents drained Palma’s college-savings account to pay her grandmother’s medical bills and then, funeral expenses. Her other grandmother later got sick, and her parents divorced — leaving them unable to help with college.

Palma attended Bowling Green State University for her first two years of college before transferring to Ohio State. Unable to balance a full-time job and school, she took a lighter course load. Still unable to keep up with her bills, Palma took a quarter off.

Things have been smoother since Palma got married in May 2011 because her husband, a logistics manager, has helped with her tuition and fees. “We’re far from well off, but we’re making ends meet,” she said.

She would like to get a master’s degree but needs to save money first. If she’s lucky, she’ll find a job that has tuition assistance. Palma eventually hopes to work with children and families, homeless people or ex-offenders, but those jobs are often low-paying.

“It will be heartbreaking if I find my dream job and I can’t take it because it doesn’t pay enough for me to pay off my student loans,” Palma said.

KYLE ROBERTSON DISPATCH    Ally Maiz, a freshman from Illinois, chose Ohio State University because it had the major she wanted — molecular genetics — and offered her the most financial aid. It also was the cheapest of the four out-of-state schools to which she applied. Behind her is the Wexner Medical Center.

  • OSU officials say the university has had to increase tuition to offset shrinking state support and not compromise efforts to become one of the nation’s top 10 public universities. State aid currently accounts for about 7 percent of Ohio State’s $5 billion annual budget, down from 25 percent in 1990.
  • At the same time, OSU officials said they have been increasing institutional aid to students to help make school more affordable. In 2010-11, Ohio State gave out $121 million in institutional grants and scholarships. That’s a 25 percent increase over 2006-07.

Tuition and mandatory fees alone at Ohio State are now $10,036 a year for an undergraduate from Ohio. Tuition, mandatory fees and room-and-board costs at Ohio State have increased about 70 percent, from $11,910 in 2002-03 to $20,221 this school year. Add books, other fees and other living expenses, and the annual sticker price jumps to $26,871, based on OSU estimates.

Still your best bet

Many advocates say that as debt rises, fear of loans can prevent some students from getting the education they need to succeed in life.

“In these tough times, a college degree is still your best bet for getting a job and decent pay,” said Lauren Asher, the president of the Institute for College Access & Success, which runs the Project on Student Debt.

  • College graduates earn an average of $1 million more over a lifetime than people with just a high-school diploma. But Asher understands why students, and their families, are discouraged.
  • “In 1980, a student working a full-time, minimum-wage job during the summer could earn almost double the average tuition and fees at a public four-year college,” she said. By 1990, such a job covered a little less than the cost of tuition and fees; in 2000, about three-quarters; and in 2010, only about half.

Others worry that increasing costs are forcing some students to choose majors based on their income potential, instead of following their passions. “It’s almost a sin to have your kid want to be a dancer these days,” said Montesano, the college-admissions strategist.

Ally Maiz, 18, of Bartlett, Ill., near Chicago, wanted to go to the University of Michigan because her mother’s family is from Michigan.

But when she learned that the total cost would be close to $55,000 a year, she decided on Ohio State, which has her desired major — molecular genetics — as well as a big-city campus and a winning sports program.

  • At a total cost of $40,000 a year, Ohio State was also the cheapest of the four out-of-state schools to which Maiz had applied, and it offered her the largest aid package — $12,000 in scholarships.

But even that is not enough for her to graduate without significant debt.

Maiz’s father, a computer engineer, has been able to pay two-thirds of her freshman year at Ohio State with a college-savings account he set up when she was a baby. But her mother, a firefighter, has borrowed about $9,000 in federal PLUS loans. Maiz said there’s probably enough in her college account to pay for only one semester next year, which means her parents will likely have to borrow the rest.

Maiz expects to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars after she graduates from Ohio State to go to medical school. Although that frightens her, she said it’s what students have to do if they want to be successful. She’s more worried about what will happen if college costs aren’t reined in before she has her own family:

“Is it going to cost $100,000 a year to send my kids to college? Will I still be paying off my own student loans then?”

Minimal standards

More OSU students are turning to loans because federal loan limits were raised in 2008-09, making them more accessible, said Diane Stemper, OSU’s director of student financial aid. A lot of families’ disposable income also dropped or went away entirely because of the recession. And home-equity lending dried up as home values fell, leaving many families with few other options.

  • In 2009, state lawmakers also cut Ohio’s main need-based scholarship program by about half, further pinching students, Stemper said. Lawmakers have continued to shave away at the program ever since.

Having $8,000 or $9,000 in loans suggests that many OSU students are borrowing from private lenders or that their parents, like Maiz’s, are taking out federal PLUS loans to supplement their children’s aid packages, both of which can have their dangers, said Mark Kantrowitz, an expert on financial aid and publisher of the websites FinAid.-org and Fastweb.com  .

A recent report by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that private loans make up $150 billion of the more than $1 trillion in outstanding student-loan debt. Student advocates often pooh-pooh private loans because they typically have uncapped, variable interest rates that hit those who can least afford them the hardest.

The good news is that the total amount of private loans taken out by OSU students dropped nearly 26 percent from 2006-07 to 2010-11 to $26.7 million, the data show. The subprime mortgage credit crisis, better counseling to warn students about the risks of private loans, and increased lending limits on federal Stafford loans probably all played a role in the decrease, experts say.

But the amount of federal PLUS loans to OSU students jumped nearly 28 percent in 2009-10 and almost 35 percent in 2010-11 for a total of $80 million.

Some student advocates worry that PLUS loans are more like private loans because they require parents to pay a high, fixed interest rate of 7.9 percent plus a 4 percent origination fee.

The loans let parents borrow money to pay for expenses not already covered by their child’s financial-aid package, up to the full cost of attendance.

Parents can qualify for PLUS loans by meeting minimal standards — more minimal than for some private loans. There also is no annual loan limit or lifetime cap, which has resulted in some parents borrowing more than they can afford.

  • Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro said he thinks most students who graduate from a public university in Ohio are leaving with a manageable amount of debt. He said those who most often default on loans are among the growing number of students who leave high-cost, for-profit colleges — often before they earn a degree — or who have a diploma but owe much more money than they’re earning.

The number of delinquent student loans nationwide has grown substantially over the past few years, fueled by the poor economy, spiraling college costs and relaxed borrowing standards. OSU’s default rate remains relatively low — 3.5 percent. But even that is up from 3.1 percent a year earlier, and it means that students would default on about $7.6 million in loans.

In a perfect world, no students would default on their loans because there are so many options, including consolidation, deferment, forbearance, loan modification and repayment to at least find temporary relief, said Kate Trombitas, the vice president of financial education at Inceptia, a division of the National Student Loan Program. Unfortunately, it’s not even close to a perfect world.

  • That’s why schools and the government should do a better job of teaching people about their options, and students and families should become more financially literate, said Trombitas, a former associate director of OSU’s Student Wellness Center.

Petro also is concerned that students are increasingly borrowing more money than they need to cover tuition and basic living expenses. “Somewhere along the way, more students started borrowing for their lifestyles, not just their educational needs,” he said.

Filling the gap

Sara Graf, 21, of the Fairfield County village of Bremen, knows how lucky she is.

THOMAS LEVINSON DISPATCH    Sarah Graf, a senior psychology and strategic communication major, talks to students interested in leading campus tours at Ohio State.

Her dad works as a construction technician for University Hospital East, so she was able to get a 50 percent discount on her OSU tuition. But if Graf, who is majoring in psychology and strategic communication, hadn’t started planning for college while still in high school, she’d probably be saddled with a lot more debt.

“We’re expected to go to college and know how to pay for it, but if you don’t plan, it’s almost impossible not to fall back on loans and get into a vicious cycle of debt,” she said.

A standout student at Fairfield Union High School, Graf started taking college classes at the Ohio University Lancaster campus in her junior year, which cost her nothing. That allowed her to enter Ohio State as a sophomore. She thought about graduating in three years but decided to tack on a second major.

Worried that her parents didn’t have the resources to pay for the rest of her tuition and room and board, Graf sought out every scholarship she could find her senior year in high school. The awards helped fill the gap, but she still had to take out a federal loan.

During her sophomore year, Graf cut her costs further by taking a job as a resident adviser, giving her free housing. She did it again her junior year and now supervises the front-desk staff of a residence hall.

And because Ohio State increased its need-based “Scarlet and Gray” grants from $3,000 to $4,000 this year, Graf didn’t have to borrow any money for the first time this semester. She plans to enroll in a master’s program in higher education next year and hopes to save money by landing a stipend. Though she said it was hard work figuring out how to pay for school, her education has been worth every penny.

And despite alarming news stories about students graduating with excessively high loan debt, Kantrowitz said, only about 10 percent of college graduates have total debt that exceeds their annual income.

Graduate and professional students are more likely than undergrads to borrow more than $100,000, with more than a third of law-school students and almost half of medical-school students graduating with six-figure student loan debt, he said.

That troubles Adam VanLuit, a 21-year-old political science student from Avon Lake in Lorain County, so much that he plans to work for a year before he applies for law school after graduating from Ohio State in the spring.

His mother paid for most of his undergraduate education with money her late husband left the family. But VanLuit will be responsible for law school.

He knows he’ll likely end up at the school that gives him the best deal.

“The sad truth is there’s too much at risk to go to a school if it ends up costing more than the return on my investment,” he said.

Increasing aid

Ohio State has tried to be mindful of the burden that increasing costs place on students and their families, said Dolan Evanovich, OSU’s chief admissions officer. It has frozen mandatory fees the past two years in addition to sticking to the state-mandated 3.5 percent tuition cap and two years of tuition freezes before that, he said.

It also has increased financial aid and is looking for unconventional sources of funding, such as the recent decision to lease the school’s parking operation to private investors for $483 million, Evanovich said.

Of that parking payout, Ohio State has set aside $58.1 million in an endowed fund for scholarships, he said. Nearly $2.5 million from that fund will be paid out annually in the form of full-ride scholarships that include a $3,000 stipend that non-freshmen students can use for such things as study abroad.

  • Ohio State has increased the amount of grants and scholarships it awards to students by 33 percent over the past three years for a total of $128 million this school year, he said. That additional money has allowed the school to support more middle-class students with grant assistance.

Before, only students whose families had an adjusted gross income of around $45,000 a year or less were eligible for institutional grants, said Stemper, OSU’s financial-aid director. Now, Ohio State can help students with a family income of nearly $70,000 a year.

Ohio State also has been giving substantially more aid to students with family incomes of $100,000 and up. In 2010-11, students with family incomes of more than $300,000 received an average of $2,629 in institutional aid, which is on par with the average that students whose families made $50,000 to $74,999 received, according to the data.

“We want to attract and retain the best and brightest students to Ohio State, which we do by offering high-quality academic programs and merit scholarships,” Evanovich said. “We also provide need-based grants to support access and opportunity for low-income students and for students who are first in their family to attend college.”

The argument for merit aid is that it gets full-pay students to enroll, which can help colleges meet their financial or enrollment goals, said Kantrowitz, the financial-aid expert.

But advocates for low-income students have long criticized merit aid, saying that the money would be better spent on students who otherwise couldn’t afford to go to college.

  • Nearly all federal, state and institutional efforts to expand participation in college have gone to students who were born into the top half of the family-income distribution: above $61,600, said Tom Mortenson, a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, in Washington, D.C.   Almost none of the new efforts have been directed to those born into the bottom half of family income, because that doesn’t help boost their rankings or reputation.“Higher education has become an engine of enriching the rich and impoverishing the poor,” Mortenson said.

A greater burden

College still presents a greater burden to lower-income students than to middle-income students, and to middle-income students than to higher-income ones, Kantrowitz said. Calculating the ratio of net price to total income of students proves it, he said.

Even with aid, the median family that reported making less than $50,000 in 2010-11 paid more than half of its income to send a child to Ohio State, according to OSU’s data. That’s based on OSU’s estimated total cost of $25,854 that year for tuition and fees, room and board, books and incidental costs.

The median family making $50,000 to $149,999 paid a little more than a quarter of its income, and the median family earning at least $150,000 used about 14 percent of its income to send a child to Ohio State, the data show.

  • To further drive down families’ costs, Ohio State will offer an additional $75 million in grants and scholarships, both need-and merit-based, over the next four years, said Evanovich, OSU’s chief admissions officer. The university also has embarked on a $2.5 billion fundraising campaign, $500 million of which has been earmarked for student financial aid.

But increases in financial aid at a school typically don’t make up for tuition hikes, Kantrowitz said: “Obviously, the dollar increase in the financial-aid budget is less than the dollar increase in tuition revenue. Otherwise, why increase tuition?”

He said the nation’s leaders need to see a college education as a benefit to society — not just to individual students. Continuing to cut college funding, he said, is short-sighted and will hurt the economy and America’s global competiveness.

He’d like to see federal Pell Grants, which help needy students, doubled or tripled in the coming years.

“We need to have a Sputnik moment where we realize that we need to invest more in higher education, and not just a little more, but much more,” Kantrowitz said. “We’re no longer in an arms race; we’re in a brain race. And we’re falling behind.” epyle@dispatch.com

Here’s advice for those struggling with loans

The U.S. Department of Education says that if borrowers are struggling to pay their federal student loans, they should contact their loan servicer to discuss options for relief such as:

• Income-based repayment, which can tie payments to borrowers’ discretionary monthly income. It also can extend the life of the loan for up to 25 years.

• Consolidating federal loans into a single, monthly payment. The fixed-interest-rate loan can be repaid over 30 years.

• Forbearance. It’s temporary relief for those facing a short-term financial hardship. During forbearance, payments are suspended but interest continues to accrue.

Those who have defaulted — generally meaning they haven’t made a payment in nine consecutive months — also should contact the agency attempting to collect the debt. Options to clear the loan from default include:

• A repayment plan.

• A loan rehabilitation, in which the borrower and the Education Department agree to a monthly amount followed by a series of on-time payments.    Online help    Details about both federal and private loans can be found at the following websites:

• Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, http://www.consumerfinance.  gov/students

• U.S. Department of Education, studentaid.ed.gov      • Finaid!, a privately run website that provides comprehensive information on student financial aid, advice and interactive tools.  http://www.finaid.org

• Project on Student Debt, by the Institute for College Access & Success, which works to increase public understanding of financing higher education and the implications of that for families, the economy and society.  projectonstudentdebt.org  .

@EncarnitaPyle

December 21, 2012

Why the Killing?

the washington post

THE  ROOTS of MASS MURDER

Charles Krauthammer

By , Published: December 20

Opinion Writer

Every mass shooting has three elements: the killer, the weapon and the cultural climate. As soon as the shooting stops, partisans immediately pick their preferred root cause with corresponding pet panacea. Names are hurled, scapegoats paraded, prejudices vented. The argument goes nowhere.  
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Let’s be serious:
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(1) The Weapon
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Within hours of last week’s Newtown, Conn., massacre, the focus was the weapon and the demand was for new gun laws. Several prominent pro-gun Democrats remorsefully professed new openness to gun control. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is introducing a new assault weapons ban. And the president emphasized guns and ammo above all else in announcing the creation of a new task force.I have no problem in principle with gun control. Congress enacted (and I supported) an assault weapons ban in 1994. The problem was: It didn’t work. (So concluded  a University of Pennsylvania study  commissioned by the Justice Department.) The reason is simple. Unless you are prepared to confiscate all existing firearms, disarm the citizenry and repeal the Second Amendment, it’s almost impossible to craft a law that will be effective.Feinstein’s law, for example, would exempt 900 weapons. And that’s the least of the loopholes. Even the guns that are banned can be made legal with simple, minor modifications.Most fatal, however, is the grandfathering of existing weapons and magazines. That’s one of the reasons the ’94 law failed. At the time, there were 1.5 million assault weapons in circulation and 25 million large-capacity (i.e., more than 10 bullets) magazines. A reservoir that immense can take 100 years to draw down.(2) The KillerMonsters shall always be with us, but in earlier days they did not roam free. As a psychiatrist in Massachusetts in the 1970s, I committed people — often right out of the emergency room — as a danger to themselves or to others. I never did so lightly, but I labored under none of the crushing bureaucratic and legal constraints that make involuntary commitment infinitely more difficult today.

Why do you think we have so many homeless? Destitution? Poverty has declined since the 1950s. The majority of those sleeping on grates are mentally ill. In the name of civil liberties, we let them die with their rights on.

A tiny percentage of the mentally ill become mass killers. Just about everyone around Tucson shooter Jared Loughner sensed he was mentally ill and dangerous. But in effect, he had to kill before he could be put away — and (forcibly) treated.

Random mass killings were three times more common in the 2000s than in the 1980s, when gun laws were actually weaker. Yet a 2011 University of California at Berkeley study  found that states with strong civil commitment laws have about a one-third lower homicide rate.

(3) The Culture

We live in an entertainment culture soaked in graphic, often sadistic, violence. Older folks find themselves stunned by what a desensitized youth finds routine, often amusing. It’s not just movies. Young men sit for hours pulling video-game triggers, mowing down human beings en masse without pain or consequence. And we profess shock when a small cadre of unstable, deeply deranged, dangerously isolated young men go out and enact the over-learned narrative.

  • If we’re serious about curtailing future Columbines and Newtowns, everything — guns, commitment, culture — must be on the table. It’s not hard for President Obama to call out the NRA. But will he call out the ACLU? And will he call out his Hollywood friends?

The irony is that over the last 30 years, the U.S. homicide rate has declined by 50 percent. Gun murders as well. We’re living not through an epidemic of gun violence but through a historic decline.

Except for these unfathomable mass murders. But these are infinitely more difficult to prevent. While law deters the rational, it has far less effect on the psychotic. The best we can do is to try to detain them, disarm them and discourage “entertainment” that can intensify already murderous impulses.

  • But there’s a cost. Gun control impinges upon the Second Amendment; involuntary commitment impinges upon the liberty clause of the Fifth Amendment; curbing “entertainment” violence impinges upon First Amendment free speech.

That’s a lot of impingement, a lot of amendments. But there’s no free lunch. Increasing public safety almost always means restricting liberties.

We made that trade after 9/11. We make it every time the Transportation Security Administration invades your body at an airport. How much are we prepared to trade away after Newtown?

letters@charleskrauthammer.com

(Jan’s comment:   

Was catching the “Morning Joe” show today during which he raved about one of his favorite political commentators over at the Washington Post in his article dated 12-20-12 entitled  “The Roots of Mass Murder.”   No argument, it is a well-done piece, full of understanding the problem.  Read it, brought it over     to share with my friends here.

But it leaves me feeling somewhat ‘undone’ – like Peggy Lee’s song – “Is that all there is?”  Why does this letter not help or take us anywhere?  Oh, I forgot – – Mr Krauthammer states right up front “The argument goes nowhere.”  Perhaps this is making reference to  – which right or group of rights do we choose to trample? 

I dunno – – is disallowing  shouting FIRE in a crowded theater a trampling of rights or simply a regulation bowing to sanity and fairness?  When we discuss freedom to move about or travel, we are taught safety measures and rules of the road to protect self and others.   In an expanding multitude, it takes a lot of cooperation and a good deal of organizing to keep things running smoothly.  All things are regulated and, in fact should be.  This does not detract from anyone other than the totally self-absorbed.   For laws and rules are generally brought about for protection  and to promote “the common good.”  As it should be.

It appears that there are many areas which are not doing a good job in protecting the rights of people in today’s world, for the general good;  FDA (safety factors of pharmaceuticals – injuring and killing people);  the way our foods are produced, both in factory-farming our animals  and plant food which are grown with toxic chemicals not fit for human consumption – – making our people  sick. We could ascribe enough blame for what is wrong in the world of today  by going on page after page of carping.  Suffice it to say that we are all guilty here. 

Most of us have allowed many things to go on happening even though we KNOW in our gut that it is wrong. Most of these things should be taken up with other goals (global-warming,  sustainable farming, life-style and health issues and so on, standards of decency in the motion picture industry), because – in this topic of senseless killing, especially of our children, we seem to have enough on our plate.   

I am curious about the source of some of the statistics referenced above, like poverty declining 50% since the 50’s (in my lifetime, I have not known of such poverty-broadly found, as we see today) or that the homicide rate (including gun murders) has declined by 50% over the last 30 years.  I do agree with this author that everything MUST be on the table.  Violence does indeed seem to stem from the home, perhaps a learned thing.   For decades, there has been a growing violence in movies. (most of which I know little, for my own constitution cannot handle this)  Is the Hayes office no longer there?  or has the meaning of all this changed dramatically, you know. . what the meaning of IS is.  Perhaps “violence” much like “porn” should be rated so that it can be restricted to the general population.   

As to those games spoken of, I shudder to contemplate this.  As pointed out in this article, it is mind-blowing that isolated, bright,  but lonely kids must find their solace in such activities and most definitely, this is a major factor which in my opinion should be highly considered by parents who allow their kids to become immersed in such a lifestyle.  Under no circumstances would this be healthy.This must be addressed – how?  I haven’t faintest idea – – better minds than mine must take the lead here.

Much to think through, this is heavy on all our minds.  But it is our burden – yours and mine.    Jan.

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