Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Top Ten Addictions

So, it's Wednesday... time for the newest addition to the Downriver USA blog... the I Knew That column.

While doing a little background work for a client, I stumbled upon an interesting website which listed the top ten addictions talked about on the Internet in 2014... thought you'd like to know:

Coffee: Caffeine, most commonly found in coffee, is an insidious addiction that affects many people in the U.S. According to research, up to 30 percent of people in the country drink six to seven cups per day. Make no mistake, caffeine is an addictive drug.

Gambling: According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 80 percent of adults have gambled once or more in the last year, with 2 percent having some type of problem and 1 percent being pathological gamblers.

Anger: This is otherwise known as aggression addiction, and is characterized by an individual dealing with his or her problems using anger. It’s a damaging coping strategy, and its potentially addictive nature earns it a place on the list.

Food: Food affects the brain chemistry in the same way that drugs do, and around 2 percent of Americans have a food addiction. About one-fifth of food addicts are obese, and the problem is more common in women.
he Internet: Internet addiction is an emerging issue, and it’s tied to many different types of Internet use. Social media sites present a problem because they allow individuals to socialize and receive “likes” and other forms of encouragement 24/7, but it’s also tied to pornography addiction through the widespread nature of online adult sites and services.

Sexual addiction: 8 percent of men and 3 percent of women are estimated to be affected by sex addiction. For them, sex becomes a compulsive behavior rather than a physical expression of love. Generally, these individuals have low self-esteem and cope with this issue by becoming dependent on the hollow boost of sexual encounters, whether it’s one night stands or a related issue like pornography addiction.

Alcoholism: Alcohol is the key legal drug of most societies around the world, and it’s important to remember that it is as addictive and deadly as most illicit drugs. Alcohol dependence costs the U.S. $170 billion per year.

Drugs: Both illicit and prescription drugs fall into this category (although technically, caffeine, alcohol and nicotine should too), with legal drugs being a particularly relevant problem in America at the moment. Opioid painkillers like OxyContin are notably contributing to a prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Nicotine: Given its own category because of the harm it can cause through smoking-related diseases and its widespread nature, nicotine is a highly addictive substance responsible for the suffering or death of over 400,000 Americans per year.

Work: Despite over-working being seen as a virtue by some, it can be a mental health condition, and a serious one at that. Some feel unable to stop working, and continue to do so despite consequences to their personal relationships and health. Like drugs, work addiction messes with brain chemistry and can lead to dependence.

Please go here for more information.
Top 10 Addictions in 2014: Sex Makes The List, 21 Nov 2014.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tipping Point

Last week Pope Francis visited the 9/11 Museum in New York City.

The New York Times published many photos, but the photo of a Bible fused into steel caused me to pause and contemplate. Just how does a Bible of paper fuse into steel without being consumed in the process?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Random Acts of Kindness

It's Friday!

In honor of that famous getting’ ready day (that's the day before wonderful things to come) I’ve decided to post Random Acts of Kindness each Friday. Here’s the very first:

Now the story:

A string quartet found themselves caught in a traffic jam, then decided to do something about it...

There are few experiences on this planet more mind-numbingly frustrating, more head-poundingly excruciating than being stuck in traffic.

The boredom, the lack of a bathroom, the GIANT SNAILS. It's a thoroughly discouraging scenario that just makes you want to…

It's also a situation that hundreds of drivers on England's M5 — a 162-mile motorway in the southwest part of the country — were forced to deal with on the afternoon of Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, when a vehicle carrying a half-dozen horses broke down just outside of the small town of Taunton. In the melee, one of the vehicle's equine occupants even managed to escape, leading to a complete standstill on one of the country's biggest highways.

Fortunately for a few dozen weary travelers, one of the cars stuck beside them just so happened to be carrying a professionally trained string quartet.

The quartet members, on their way back from a wedding and with little else to do besides twiddle their fingers, decided to liven up the tedious affair by playing a classic tune from their repertoire: Johann Pachelbel's "Canon and Gigue for three violins and basso continuo" (or Pachelbel's "Canon" for short).

The motorists nearby surrounded the quartet, whipping out their phones to record the impromptu performance as their anger gave way to euphoria. Helen Delingpole, a motorist from Wales, managed to capture the entire thing on her camera, which she later posted to Facebook.

"This is the best part of the holiday!" cheered one excited spectator.

When the quartet finished, they were met with a raucous applause that had violinist Lu Jeffery at a loss for words. "We have played some of the most incredible concert venues globally, and then one afternoon you play the M5, it all goes crazy," he said in a follow-up interview with The Telegraph.

It just goes to show the profound, mood-altering power that music can have in even the most turbulent of times, especially when combined with a random act of kindness.

A string quartet found themselves caught in a traffic jam, then decided to do something about it... Jared Jones, Upworthy, 24 Sept 2015.

Now, about that traffic jam at Grosse Ile Parkway and West Jefferson Ave....

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Footprints in the Sand

“Lord, you said that once I decide to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there’s only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”

The Lord replied, “My son, My precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

"Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12

God be with you, Pope Francis, and with all of us throughout the world.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Much is Expected

Natural Rights.

You know we all have them not because some king said so; nor because we have a Declaration which declared them “inalienable” rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; nor because the Constitution guarantees them under the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, religion and press.

We have natural rights because we are humans living in this world.

Following the horrors of World War II, Eleanor Roosevelt became the driving force behind the United Nations Human Rights Declaration (1.), which clearly identified natural rights as the birthright of people throughout the world, regardless of nationality, religion, race or ethnicity. 

Today, it is painfully clear that our political and corporate contender "leaders" have been drinking from the river Lethe. You remember Lethe from your Greek mythology class. That's the river of forgetfulness and oblivion. The point is that our contenders for leadership have forgotten that we all have natural rights, and perhaps we are more interested in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than never ending jingoism, puffery and nauseating billionaire butt-kissing.

Failing all this natural rights talk, perhaps, an old statement from a well known publication will get the message across from the 99.9% to the .1%:

“… For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Luke 12:48

So, as one of the “many” it's up to us to make a new declaration. Let's declare that anyone, who serves as a representative of the public, deals with public funding or an individual’s investments, or sells any product or service to the public - most especially global corporate CEOs and “C” level managers - must be bound to respect and honor the natural rights of people, including customers and employees not only in their home nation, but worldwide… globally, if you like. 

Finally, the ethics statements and mission statements of all of these "leaders" as well as every Global Corporation must declare and honor the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (2.) and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact (3.). 

The point is if you are charged with the honor of serving the people of the world as a public leader or global corporation leader, then you are personally bound to respect the natural rights of people throughout the world. Much is expected of you. And, as a contender for that job it's up to you to prove that you are worthy.

What do you think?

1. Brief background about The Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

2. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948:

3. The Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact:

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Zero Memory Factor

I’m willing to bet that you can’t remember something which you never experienced or learned.

Whatyasay? Will you take my bet?

This is just a guess, but I expect that’s what learning might be about. That is, making other people's memories real so that you can learn from them.

If you’re lucky you might stumble upon an outstanding teacher. It is possible that, he or she, could ignite the learning torch in you, making you knowledge-hungry.

You might get so charged up that you’ll even remember some things you learned and perhaps you’ll be able to apply your "learned" memories to your own life. If that happens, well then, you will benefit; your children will benefit and all the rest of us might benefit, too.

All this came flooding into my mind following one of those Republican "debate" escapades the other night.

All those people standing on a stage - trying to outperform each other.

One standout in particular seemed obviously delighted with his highly refined, grade school-age ridicule and insult skills.

And, why not? Ridicule and insults have served him well throughout his entertainment career, so why not use them to pave his way to the White House?

I’m suggesting that it is a fact that if one has never developed the presidential-level skills to accomplish substantive objectives or actually brought divergent groups together for common good, then one has no memories to draw upon. That is, nothing to remember... nor accomplished skills with which to build a nation's future..

However, what this person does have in spades is an incredible aptitude for ridiculing, insulting and skewering. Plus, galactic-level skills for running his businesses into bankruptcy all the while storing a few tons of gold in his basement vault.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Vampire Debt Slayer

A friend’s casually tossed maligning comment led me to a research effort the other day.

His comment referred to the "Occupy Democrats" as illiterate.

Needless to say, while I immediately discounted his slur, the comment did cause me to wonder: What is going on with the Occupy movement?

I had not checked on them in a while. So, I decided to take a look.

To my surprise I discovered that the Occupy people, light years away from illiteracy, have launched multiple programs (1.) to help average, Joes and Janes – that is the 99.9% or Americans shed crippling vampire debt.

Since, at present, our predatory capitalistic society does not defend its citizens from the multiple blood-sucking, heinous, soulless elements which prey on the weakest, oldest and defenseless among us, it was a joyous moment to learn that the Occupy people have created Strike Debt (2).
62 percent of all bankruptcies are caused by a medical illness. (3.)1 in every 7 Americans is being pursued by a debt collector. (3.)An estimated 25 million adults will not take medicine as prescribed because they cannot afford it; others will avoid the doctor altogether. (4.)Student loan debt exceeds $1.2 trillion. (7.)
Further, I discovered, to what should be the everlasting delight of a few of my Republican friends, Strike Debt does the defending in an outstandingly capitalistic manner. Strike Debt uses our predatory capitalistic system for good rather than for sucking the very last drop of life blood out of its victims.

Now, that is absolutely fantastic!

Strike Debt, through the Rolling Jubilee Project, buys debt for pennies on the dollar – just like the debt collectors do. But instead of collecting it, Strike Debt abolishes it.

What an outstanding example of predatory capitalistic karma!

And, the story does not end there, by the way.

Strike Debt is credited as the source of at least one epiphany of sorts.

According to a recent Yes Magazine article, “… (Two) former debt collectors decided to ditch the Industry, buy up medical debt, and forgive it. Jerry Ashton and Craig Antico spent decades hounding debtors to pay their bills—until an offshoot of Occupy Wall Street inspired them to find a way to pay struggling people's debts.” (3.)

Ashton and Antico’s company RIP Medical Debt has abolished $17.6 million in debt.

How much debt has Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee Project abolished? $31,982,455.76

1. The Triumph of Occupy Wall Street, Michael Levitin, The Atlantic, 10 June 2015.
2. Strike Debt
3. Rolling Jubilee
4. These Former Debt Collectors Decided to Ditch the Industry, Buy Up Medical Debt, and Forgive It, Araz Hachadourian, Yes Magazine, 17 Aug 2015.
More about Occupy today:
5. Suit Says Police Violated Occupy Wall Street Protesters’ Constitutional Rights, Colin Moynihan, The New York Times, 13 Sept 2015
6. Occupy Wall Street
7. More about student debt:
How The $1.2 Trillion College Debt Crisis Is Crippling Students, Parents And The Economy, Chris Denhart, Forbes, 7 Aug 2013.

Friday, September 11, 2015

3,198 Cold Case Files

On this day, 11 September 2001, 2,974 human beings were murdered in New York City.
At the Pentagon, Washington, D.C. and on flights 77 and 93, 224 innocent human beings were murdered.

To this day, these crimes remain unsolved and the perpetrators continue to elude justice.

To this day we do not know who murdered them.
Nor do we know Why they were the murdered.

From New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania, 3,198 cold case files remain open.
It's time we closed them. Don't you agree?

Go here for more of the story:

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Why I Failed Typing Class

Having grown up in Akron, Ohio in the 50s & 60s gives me some “cred” about air pollution. 

Back then, with a bazillion rubber factories pumping noxious fumes into the air and toxic chemicals into the local streams, every Akronite was intimately aware of that burning coal and curing rubber fragrance. We were all experts then and we became even smarter later on as we began to understand that pollution was dangerous to our health.

Of course, today, there are no rubber or coal smells in Akron. The factories are long gone and thousands of jobs along with them.

Still we have pollution everywhere. 

Even on the beautiful island of Grosse Ile, MI, in the center of the International Detroit River Wildlife Refuge* we are showered with pollution every day. A vast assortment of toxic chemicals are still with us, including mercury from local power plants, dioxins, PCBs, human waste and much more. 
As Dr. Hartig explains, there is no doubt that considerable progress has been made, eliminating and / or mitigating pollution..

Yet the ill effects of pollution are still being uncovered.

For instance, did you know that breathing pollution can make your children dumber? Consider this from a recent Mother Jones article - Kids Who Breathe More Pollution Have Lower Grades,, Gabrielle Canon, 5 Sep.2015:

“A growing body of evidence suggests pollution can do a number on the brain. The July/August Mother Jones cover story chronicled the research connecting neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's to the dirty air we breathe; studies have found that pollution may also age the brain prematurely. And according to new research from the University of Texas-El Paso, pollution's damage to the brain may start even sooner than was previously thought: Fourth and fifth graders exposed to exhaust emissions, researchers found, don't do as well in school as their peers who breathe cleaner air.”

Now I know why I failed my typing class… not because I kept falling asleep... it was the pollution.

*Please read Dr. John H. Hartig’s outstanding article about the ecological recovery success story of the Detroit River and the rise of the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge: The Return of Detroit River’s CharismaticMegafauna, Center for Humans and 7 Nov 2014 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Bizarro Life

A long time ago I was working nights for free at the University of Akron radio station. 

We played music that our faculty advisors thought was terrible. Believe it or not, one song, “Blowin' In The Wind”, was branded as a protest song. We played it, along with many others, anyway.

I especially remember Joan Baez's beautiful rendition playing and praying at the same time that we’d stop killing in Vietnam. My cousin was a POW, shot down over Hanoi.

Some of my friends had enlisted because they were going to be drafted anyway. Or, out of misplaced patriotism. Or, out of a desire to prove themselves… to ... who? Themselves, I guess. Any way, some never came home.

It was a time of active discontent. Students, and many others, protested the war in Vietnam, the draft and racial injustice. I remember during one final exam the building next door, Buchtel Hall, the university’s main administration building, erupted into flames and the Ohio National Guard was called in to take back the campus from the Black United Students (BUS) protesters.

I failed the exam. I couldn’t concentrate.
I can’t blame all of my failure on the fire or the fact that the professor wouldn’t let us leave the building when the fire alarms went off.

No, the fact was that over the previous weeks I didn’t study as much as I should have. I was too busy becoming a broadcaster, like my hero, Walter Cronkite.

Besides not studying, we student broadcasters did manage to get into trouble once in a while. For instance, someone protested our playing Jose Feliciano’s version of the National Anthem before a U of A football game. We were threatened with suspension if we didn’t stop playing it.

Looking back on the “life lesson”, I know that we just liked the way he sang from his soul. We weren't participating in the times nor were we trying to make the world a better place. Little did we know that the song would become the center of controversy. (See below.)

Many things are bizarro … war for instance. As my dad once said to me, when I was walking out the door to enlist with my friends, ”Just wait, Ron. Like after all the wars, in a few years we will be selling things to the North Vietnamese.”

Another one, back in the 1970s, the Supreme Court ruled against same sex marriage, issuing a one sentence ruling: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”

This week, the Supreme Court declined to confirm a Kentucky County Clerk’s religious exemption defense for not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. The justices denied her request without explanation in a one-line order.

It’s good to remember that life does change. Sometimes even for the better, too.

From Feliciano's website:

"Puerto Rican blind singer/guitarist Jose Feliciano stunned the crowd at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and the rest of America, when he strummed a slow, bluesy rendition of the national anthem before Game 5 of the World Series between Detroit and St. Louis. The 23-year-old's performance was the first nontraditional version seen by mainstream America, and it is generally considered the Lexington and Concord of Star-Spangled Banner controversies. The fiery response from Vietnam-weary America was not surprising, considering the tumultuous year for American patriotism. Good or bad, however, Feliciano's performance opened the door for the countless interpretations of the Star-Spangled Banner we hear today."