Friday, December 28, 2012

[Feature: Child care] Time for healing broken hearts post-Sandy Hook.


On Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, the most horrific tragedy that could happen to children in American history was recorded. A gunman, name Adam Lanza, 20, who grew up in Newton, Connecticut, broke into the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Newton, Conn., and sprayed bullets on young children who were as little as 5, killing them “several times.” The end day casualty was 20 children dead, of which 12 were girls and 8 boys, and also 6 adults, including the school principal.

The news report on the Sandy Hook Elementary School Newton, Conn., shooting as it was broadcast by ABCNews channel.
Emilie Parker Fund
Support the Emilie Parker fund. Proceeds will go to all of the Sandy Hook Elementary School families affected in whatever ways each family deems necessary. Make a donation, else leave a caring comment. Emilie Parker Fund

The parents of Emilie Parker, 6, were among the first to make public statement about the deep loss. Robbie Parker, her father, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blond, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except foods. He described her as a “bright, creative and very loving” girl.

"...as we move on from what happened here, what happened to so many people, let us not turn it into something that defines us" – Robbie Parker.

American president, Barack Obama, fights back tears as he spoke of the “broken hearts” of a nation and the families of the victims after the Newton, Conn., school shooting. He promises to provide resources, as a parent, for condoling the families, caring for the victims and counseling them.

The following is a list (as released by police) of the victims in Friday's shooting spree on the campus of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Source: Sandy Hook Shooting Victims' Names Released - HuffingtonPost.com
  1. Charlotte Bacon, 2/22/06, female
  2. Daniel Barden, 9/25/05, male
  3. Rachel Davino, 7/17/83, female
  4. Olivia Engel, 7/18/06, female
  5. Josephine Gay, 12/11/05, female
  6. Ana M. Marquez-Greene, 04/04/06, female
  7. Dylan Hockley, 3/8/06, male
  8. Dawn Hochsprung, 06/28/65, female
  9. Madeleine F. Hsu, 7/10/06, female
  10. Catherine V. Hubbard, 6/08/06, female
  11. Chase Kowalski, 10/31/05, male
  12. Jesse Lewis, 6/30/06, male
  13. James Mattioli , 3/22/06, male
  14. Grace McDonnell, 12/04/05, female
  15. Anne Marie Murphy, 07/25/60, female
  16. Emilie Parker, 5/12/06, female
  17. Jack Pinto, 5/06/06, male
  18. Noah Pozner, 11/20/06, male
  19. Caroline Previdi, 9/07/06, female
  20. Jessica Rekos, 5/10/06, female
  21. Avielle Richman, 10/17/06, female
  22. Lauren Rousseau, 6/1982, female (full date of birth not specified)
  23. Mary Sherlach, 2/11/56, female
  24. Victoria Soto, 11/04/85, female
  25. Benjamin Wheeler, 9/12/06, male
  26. Allison N. Wyatt, 7/03/06, female
It will not be easy for the parents of our 20 dear hearts, especially for their friends who will see them no more. A child psychiatrist, Dr. Don Condle, advises that parents should look out for signs of trauma and sleeplessness as it will take time to heal the children’s emotional wounds. The children who are afraid of what happened will tend to respond with aggressive behavior. Parents should have a heart-to-heart with their children. They should reassure them of their safety. If they observe any abnormal or unusual behavior, they should immediately report to the child’s pediatrician.
Days after the killings, many persons do not understand the senselessness behind it. What happened was broadcast around the world, but not why it happened. Why a young man of 20 should first kill his mother before taking the lives of 25 others?


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[Feature: Child care] 10 ways to encourage child care and support.


The security and protection of children can be supported by donations from you. There are countless ways to do this. Credit:Official U.S Navy Imagery/Flickr.com
How can we ensure parents and social workers who provide care and ensure adequate care is given to children get the needed pat on the back? By encouraging them, both monetarily and otherwise, so that provision of care for children in need is carried out without a hitch. We all need these children; they are our future.

Here are some ways we can encourage our caregivers and care providers.

Ensuring they get needed degrees and certifications

  • Caregivers should get certified.
  • At heart, caregivers love children, but passion is not enough. By getting needed training and certification, whether as a nanny or daycare center operator, you are making sure you equip yourself with the tools and mindset for provision of sufficient care. Caregivers are usually given courses in child development, safety and first aid, child teaching, child nutrition as well child abuse recognition and reporting, which a self-training course will not. For training and schools, one useful resource is the education-portal website.

  • Organize state approved curriculum.
  • Institutions training caregivers need a well-structured and dynamic curriculum for concise and adequate training. The government should make sure it provides such to training institutions.

  • Establish child care rating systems, especially for daycares.
  • Many states rate daycare centers. One notable example is the Wisconsin Youngstar rating system. The youngstar rating system for daycare evaluates and rates day care providers on their quality of care, and supports them with tools and training for delivery of better care. This system of rating and evaluation should also be extended to caregivers in foster homes, orphanages and even in-home nurses who care for children with different forms of disabilities.

  • Adopt early learning standards.
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    Daycare centers, foster homes and nannies or au-pairs, need to have a standard of care established for them. Standards make comparison possible and evaluation easier. It also enables social workers to understand the quality of care provided by caregivers.

  • Train the children to socialize, empathize and also care for one another.
  • It is very important that care givers take training on a regular basis so that they can improve on the quality of care they give. One skill from these trainings is to enable them understand child development and factors that stimulate a healthy development. Children need to be taught to socialize, empathize and care for other children. These can be done through training them in crafts, works of arts and going out for special events like excursions and children day parties.

Direct monetary and non-monetary contributions.

While non-monetary contributions to caregiving is important, direct money contributions to improving the quality of provided care also is.

  • Communities should encourage opening of child care facilities.
  • Parks, community-run daycare centers and playgrounds are similar ways of encouraging children to develop caring qualities and be cared for. These facilities should be affordable, at least, kept at subsidized rates so that no child is left out.

  • Giving used clothing and toys.
  • There is no locality where the needy do not exist. These families always have children. Why not give out your used clothing and old toys your children do not need to the children of these families? A generous hand will always get fattened.

  • Community libraries and donation of books.
  • Nearly everyone does this nowadays, but it still has to be placed amongst one of the needed points for caregivers and care giving when children are concerned.

  • Encourage adoptions.
  • It is reported that many children in foster care need to be adopted by loving families. States should encourage families to keep these children forever in their loving homes by providing adoption tax credits as incentives so that more kindhearted loving families can embrace them. The uses of adoption tax credits is to ensure that many children as possible find families who can take them as legitimate children who need love and care, and also it helps to put those families in a more stable financial position to provide an environment where children can thrive.

  • Create trusts for children, especially those with special needs.
  • Children with special needs, who cannot care for themselves, due to mental or physical handicaps, need their future secured even to the point when the parents can run into unfortunate circumstances. It is also more important that parents provide trusts for these children since the rate of autism amongst children is on the increase. These trusts should not supplant state run care such as Medicaid and Social Security’s Security Income Program which the United States provides, but should act as supplementary financial care provision.
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[Feature: child care] Alternative home-based and center-based care for supporting children.


Child care and child support starts from the home. Every child should have loving parents or legal guardians. There are families where there is only one parent and so, the role of child care may be taken on by members of the child’s extended family.

Caring after children at a daycare facility. Credit:Doviende/Flickr.com
Where the parents are employed and busy, caring could be provided at the home front through nannies, or outside the home using center-based care called daycare and preschools.

Whatever the choice taken by the family, the needs of the child must be paramount. The parents or legal guardians should do all within their means to make sure their children are provided with a loving and supportive environment. By law, when a child is being abused or neglected, outsiders can report the parents and the child will be taken away from them and entrusted to an orphanage, foster home or adopted. When they are very busy, some parents sometimes swap child care with other parents whom they trust.

Types of care available to children.

Every level of care, whether chosen by a parent, legal guardian or the authorities, has its pluses and weak points. Parents should realize that assessing the value of caregivers is important, even when they are employed within the home. The work of caregivers should be appreciated so the children can be best nurtured to prepare for their role as the leaders of tomorrow. Some common methods of care are outlined below:

  1. Home based care
  2. These are care provided to children by nannies or friends and family, and because they are based on trust, parents have to be careful. These caregivers require no licensing, neither are background checks usually done. Nevertheless, the children form a close bond with their caregiver, which is important and makes it radically different from other forms of caregiving. Exposure to illnesses is well reduced because the children are watched inside their homes and can be influenced by the caregiver. Parents have to be very careful when opting for this type of caregiving.

  3. Daycare
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    It is also called preschool when it involves primarily 3 and 4 year old children. This sort of caregiving is standardized and regulated by the authorities. Parents may employ the daycare facilities at their place of work, if one exists, or from commercial care centers. Daycare centers are regulated and licensed by the government and a license can be revoked if the center is found defaulting. Social workers who assess daycare centers often look out for signs that children are being sexually abused, whether the daycare center environment is conducive for raising up physically and mentally healthy children etcetera.

  5. Foster care
  6. Foster care is recommended by social workers when parents or the guardians of a child have lost the capacity to take care of the child, whether through neglect, abuse or because of other failings. These centers are state certified and sometimes funded by the government. Where they are privately operated, the foster parents are paid by the government or a social service agency. The essence is to provide care for the kids as if they were in the home of their natural parents, no matter the ethnic or cultural background of the children.

  7. Adoption
  8. In cases of adoption, the rights of the original parents to the child are lost when the adopting parents have satisfied every legal requirement or societal norms governing that practice. Foster care does not confer permanent change in the status of the child which adoption does. It is the act of enfolding needy children into the loving arms of kind parents; it is one of the best ways to show generosity to damaged, neglected or abused children. Adoption in the 20th century is governed by comprehensive statutes and regulations. Recently, due to the way rules have been applied when it concerns ethnicity, race and culture, neglected children are not rescued sufficiently early and placed in loving homes sufficiently quickly. There are many children needing adoption and the earlier for them the better but the above factors are real hogs in the wheel of successful adoption.

Abuse or neglect of children in family settings could require that alternative forms of care be recommended. Yet, even in state run care centers, much is left to be desired. There have been reports of starvation, humiliating physical punishment and forced labor used as disciplinary methods in state residential care facilities. Some adoptive parents are not discovered to be abusive or affiliated to terrorist organizations until after a social worker has approved them for adoption. Sometimes, the problem lies at the method of implementing the remuneration packages designed by the state itself. Whatever the problems that exist, it is encouraging when everyone puts the child’s welfare ahead of any political or social consideration. Finding a safe and peaceful home for the child is the reason why child care exists.

Parents who are faced with disabled children, or whose children face debilitating diseases, have had to depend on state help for care. These parents have to be encouraged. Providing care for such children, especially when they become technology-dependent, is a big burden on the finances of the family. Many states have provided nursing services, either in-home or outside the home, to help these families. If yours does not, ask that they do.

Empowering families, most especially vulnerable families, is important for quality care to be provided to children. Quoting the SOS USA children’s village, “every child, whether living within a family or in alternative care, has the right to experience the positive, stable and loving relationships that he or she needs for healthy personal development.”

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[Feature: Child Care] As the future of mankind, our children need protection and support.


Children were supposed to be safely raised up in a loving family. For many children today, precariousness is the situation. Some societies have structures for protecting children; some have them only on legal paper. Whatever the situation, we can try our best to give them that security, safety and warm, enabling homes and environments.

The children are our future. Caring for them is the best investment any home can make. Credit: Save the children/Flickr.com.
They are supposed to have our support and protection, our trust and love. If the above needs are at risk, their lives become destroyed, their development stunted. They become endangered, feeding the circle of addiction, poverty, violence and gangsters.

Some societies have provided child support agencies to protect and support these children when the home environment becomes insecure. They receive, investigate and respond to reports of child abuse and neglect. These societies are willing and able to give them the right to an environment that should make them flourish, develop, be educated and taken care of. Some provide for child support in cases of family neglect. These are privately-supported communal initiatives, especially where the structures of state are deficient. Whatever the case may be, our children deserve the utmost care, love, support and protection.

Situations for child support

In 2005, Phoenix Sinclair, 5, was taken from her caregivers by her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, beaten and then slain. At the time of writing, there is an ongoing public inquiry into her murder. Social workers attached to her family had written reports several times before that she was living in a “high risk” family environment. Many children, like Phoenix, are unfortunate to be living in such a family.

Government child protection agencies and sometimes, communal child support services, are required when children are found living in unstable homes. Children that require child support and protection are:

  •  children from abusive or neglectful homes. 
  • children living in homes with domestic violence. 
  • children with biological deficiencies.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department for Children And Families in several states in the U.S, define child mistreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.
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It is also a physical, sexual or emotional mistreatment or neglect of a child or children. Neglect is a passive form of abuse where a perpetrator is responsible to provide care for a victim who is unable to care for himself or herself, like a child, but fails to provide adequate care. Includes non-provision of sufficient supervision, nourishment or medical care, or the failure to fulfill other needs for which the victim is helpless to provide for him- or herself.

Domestic violence against children is usually classed as abuse. But where children live in homes where there is constant negativity, fights and threats to involve the children in the fights are common, then those children are also exposed to domestic violence. Social workers usually recommend that where there is a history of substance abuse in a home on the part of any of the parents, especially in single parent homes, the child should be given institutional care.

Children with iodine deficiencies, immune deficiency disorder and vitamin deficiencies might need special care that would involve a skilled nursing service at the home which program is run by the state because the high cost of sustaining their lives using technology is beyond the reach of their families. In such cases, families have had to make sacrifices. In the United States, a state-run program for technology-dependent children exists and provides in-home skilled nursing services paid for by Medicaid, a health program for families with low income.

Legal framework for supporting and protecting children

Nearly every country in the world has a legislation supporting child protection and support. This is because, according to a Canadian legislative text, “the safety, security and well-being of children and their best interests are fundamental responsibilities of society.”

In the United Kingdom, (UK), the current UK child protection system is based on the Children Act 1989 which are based on principles for child protection and support, including the paramountcy principle that states that a child’s welfare is paramount when making any decisions about a child’s upbringing.

Canada’s Child and Family Services Act 1990 makes the child the focus of care and provides for their fundamental rights and basic freedom.

In the United States, The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), originally enacted in 1974, provides federal funding to states in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution and treatment activities and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstration programs and projects. This Act was amended several times and was most recently amended and reauthorized on June 25, 2003, by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003.

As we live in an increasingly digital world, kids also need digital protection. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), 1998, makes it mandatory for companies to collection personal information on persons or entities under U.S jurisdiction from children under 13 years of age. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces COPPA and wants to prohibit websites and mobile apps that target kids under 13 from setting up tracking cookies or using GPS location tracking for marketing without parental consent. These apps make kids vulnerable.

Principle for care: Children are the future of mankind

Where children find it difficult to live with their families (or extended families), they need safe, supportive homes. Sometimes, the best thing is to place them under foster care, that is, a family or person who can accept, support and care for them as their own. Foster care services are amongst many child protection and welfare initiatives governments and caring communities have used to ensure the welfare and survival of many children and their families. While foster care is institutionalized child caring service, child adoption can also be recommended where institutional care might not be adequate. The principle is to protect children from unfit parents. This is a source of great help to parents, especially when they do not realize how unfit they are usually because of poverty, mental problems, or are passively abusing their children (aka neglect) in ignorance.

Whatever the source of protection and support, be it in the home or under foster or adoptive care, the essence is that the future of the society, of a nation and of mankind as a whole depends on children and without governmental or community support for protecting and supporting children, the future of the world will be under attack.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Me Novice, you expert - We select new knowledge and products differently.


Even when experts search for apples on a tree, it takes some effort. flickr.com;hikingartist.com
Learning is a lifelong process; that is why you are reading this article. It might involve learning a foreign language, a new recipe, another trade or line of business, or starting out as an entrepreneur. Learning experiences do not always have to be new. Old hands can learn new tricks. On the other hand, you can pick out a novice from an expert based on how they chose to learn.

We seek new knowledge because we want to improve, to do the same old things in better ways. That implies a selective process; the ability to pick out the useful material from the clutter. All this is done based on experience. The more experienced you are, the easier it is to pick out the relevant information from the unnecessary. This is what distinguishes novices from experts. Novices chose information that enhance their broad knowledge, while experts seek to deepen or specialize in a knowledge area.

Different prices for novices and experts.

This difference between how novices and experts chose to increase their knowledge is the reason why seeking out new knowledge involves different costs. It is just like when seeking out the news. The general news costs differently from specific niche news, especially in the academic arena. This is because when one starts out, his selective picking ability involves very little costs. A novice usually picks from generally available cheap news sources, believing that in doing so, he could stumble upon useful finds. In short, a novice does not yet face the costs of what he is seeking. That is why new general knowledge, or knowledge that covers broad aspects, usually costs lesser than new specialized knowledge.

As for an expert, he is experienced in seeking out knowledge, understands the costs of doing so and picks out the best quality news source. Furthermore, an expert does not just select anything; an expert selects new knowledge only from a chosen area and is blind to other areas.

And so were discounts and coupons born. Without these buying incentives, novices will find it costlier seeking out new knowledge and products.
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Discounts and coupons make a novice stop searching, so he does not spend more for search. Experts understand the market better. Discounts and coupons do not influence their buying decisions, rather quality of information and products usually do.

Search engines exist so you do not spend more searching for quality.

Another way to filter novices from experts is in the quality of products or information they seek. Some say you can tell a man’s education if he reads the New York Times, and his financial literacy if he finds the Wall Street Journal boring. Publishers who cater to experts know that their information and products are of higher quality, and hence price these higher than mundane and general purpose products whose quality require much more advertising signals. Some sellers even sell two types of products: one for the novice, and another for the expert. I see these most often when I visit a flea market. Mass produced clothing is of different quality than customized clothing because the latter caters to the tastes of experts and fashion connoisseurs.

Let’s take a man who searches for a job that pays highly. Because of the status of the job, he spends more in searching for it and in order to be successful, he spends more in acquiring the needed knowledge to find the job. If he is averse to spending on finding a job, then he’d have to settle for one of lower status. That is what I want you to remember: if you desire information and products of high quality, it is often wise to seek the opinion of experts, else you’d be a novice playing in the field of experts and could be hoodwinked to take a low quality product for high.

There is then a high incentive to shop around because of the difference between high and low quality products and services. To solve this problem, search engines like google, amazon, yahoo and bing exist. If you go to websites like wirefly with search facilities for electronic accessories, especially mobile phones and smart phones, you’d have to possess higher knowledge than a novice. You do not necessarily have to be an expert, but you should be adept and should be able to find your way around the universe of phones.

Even when we love seeking out new knowledge, sometimes we do prefer sticking to our favorites, to the brands and news sources that we have come to trust, whether we be experts or novices. Eventually, every knowledge becomes favorite or disfavored. Keep that in mind as you go shopping.

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Monday, December 24, 2012

A wrong decision secured the princess a place in the dark world of the spirits.


Title Picture
Imagery like this feeds folktales. If she knew a little about the cost of search, the princess would not have been deceived.
I do remember a folktale about a princess who wanted the best hand in marriage. Well, the court messenger went round the kingdom and beyond to declare the princess’ wishes for the hand of the best male suitor. So, her suitors came. They came with treasures and gold; they came with servants and entreaties – to seek her hand in marriage. One after the other, the best men in the world came for her hand. They all failed.

Eventually, when she thought none of the men was good for her, a spirit being, who listens to the happenings on earth, knowing her weakness, came for her hand. He deceived her, giving her the satisfaction she sought. How did the story end? She left with the spirit being and was never found in the world of men.

Too bad, you might say. Folktales like this exist aplenty. This story is not about looking for morals, it is a classic example of what so many persons know but never knew they did: when we seek satisfaction, if options are presented to us sequentially, that is, one after the other, we do not always have the satisfaction we seek. We always have that angst, that feeling of insecurity, that the next option will be better than the last and the last is not better than the one coming ad infinitum.

Satisfaction comes with making the correct decision or choice.

Have you gone shopping to discover that another model of that shoe you wanted was not on display? You’d think the store was underhanded, right? We all hate uncertainty. It is the reason for the existence of insurance. Most persons are ready to pay a premium to take away uncertainties. Uncertainty creates angst. On the other hand, there are situations in life where all the options for making the correct decision can never be ready at the same time, especially in times of emergency; that will be a subject for another day.

Without mincing words, if you make people take decisions without presenting them with all the options in existence, they will never be satisfied.

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That is the princess’ problem. She always thought another prince was more charming than the last. She hoped for an abstract prince who would satisfy all her dreams of what a crown prince would act and look like.

So, her uncertainty led her to make the wrong decision. She was not satisfied until the spirit being came. Satisfaction is a basic human need. When we are not satisfied, it creates a market for our wants or needs. We are ready to pay extra for satisfaction. The princess was ready to rely on hope; to wait eternally for her prince charming. Have you ever had the same situation? I have and I believe I am not the only one.

The problem of not presenting all the options for a decision rests with the existence of alternatives. If all the options were presented at once, the princess would not have fallen for the spirit being. The deceit would have been discovered. The King was not wise to have realized that. You are fortunate to be reading this blog today; make a note of this.

Search came about because someone was not satisfied.

As I said before, since her prince charming was an alternative, she was ready to think: would the next prince be better than this one? Imagine you are in her shoes. All the princes came with gifts of state; déjà vu! You would tend to think like her, that the next would have something better, and the next and the next, ad infinitum. She might not have taken a decision but for supernatural intervention. We all face that problem daily. While looking for the best prices, we comparison shop. We even spend time and resources online for search. Looking for the best chef or restaurant? We spend time going through magazines and reading reviews. Want the best travel destination? We could make use of services like Orbitz or hipmunk .

It is not easy to have all the options at once. It would be fine if that was possible. Doing so, we could make the best decision, be more satisfied and be more committed to our choices. Our world is inundated with so much options that the search for the best seems eternal. Yet, there is a cost to looking for the best. Our search ends when the cost starts getting higher than the perceived benefits. The spirit being must have realized this in the princess and that was when he made his entrée. This is the human weakness.

Now, after all, everything has a moral. So the moral of the folktale: Look for a wide variety of options presented at the same time if you want to make a satisfying, committing decision. If the King had fixed a date for all the suitors to the princess to present themselves and asked her to make a decision on that date, she surely would have made the best choice of a prince charming.

When next you are thinking of an online shopping store, whether be it amazon, zulily or zappos, keep this in mind for a satisfying, committing choice.

Happy shopping this season.
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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Forget it! Your man won’t turn unfaithful from a rush of brain oxytocin.


Title picture
Lost soul. Credit: Flickr.com/Vince Alongi
Have you heard of the “love hormone?” It is a hormone called oxytocin. It stimulates love, bonding between parents and infants, stimulates breastfeeding and also, orgasm. It’s role in controlling sexual arousal in men and women makes it a potent hormone. Synthetic oxytocin in form of nasal sprays of placebos are now available, although research is still ongoing in this area, particularly the inability of this injected hormone doses to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. On the other hand, a loving hug, a lover’s touch, a simple kiss, all these actions can naturally make oxytocin in your system. The links below are collected from recent studies on oxytocin, the “love hormone.”

Oxytocin’s link to human emotions like love, kindness and fidelity is undeniable.

There is a positive correlation between high oxytocin levels in the blood and increase in human virtues like kindness and love
In a series of experiments, scientists found a high positive correlation between high levels of oxytocin in the blood and generosity. Also, by stimulating increased production of oxytocin, the study found that people became more generosity, and ready to offer more money. It is recommended that to increase your oxytocin levels naturally, you should engage in more positive interactions with others by hugging, complimenting and being generally amenable. Dana Foundation Blog

Want to be faithful? Make sure your oxytocin levels are normal
Social distance is an unwritten distance that people keep when they communicate. Uncomfortableness starts when communication intrudes on that distance. Flirting occurs when that social distance is broken. Research has found that oxytocin, the “love hormone”, was not instrumental in breaking down social distance and then increasing infidelity; the reverse was the case. Oxytocin, when given as a dose or nasal spray, enhanced the ability of virile men to be faithful to their partners. Oxytocin Central.

Related content: Forming blind trust for a pretty face might be influenced by gestures and nonverbal cues
Cheating in relationships could be due to chemical triggers.
The relationship between social and sexual monogamy is believed to be partly chemical. Scientists love to study the prairie vole, a rodent that is socially monogamous but not so sexually to demonstrate this observation. Their studies how that chemical communications between neurons can bias our behavior and make seemingly faithful men resort to infidelity. Slate Magazine

Oxytocin is the social interaction chemical; holds promise for autism and schizophrenia.

Fight less, love more with oxytocin
Fightings between couples could be less troublesome by encouraging cooperation in men and making women behave more approachably if they had adequate levels of oxytocin in their blood. It has also been found to help people read social cues more accurately. What this means is that with the increased research in producing an oxytocin drug, people with socially impairing conditions like autism and schizophrenia could be helped to more interact with others.
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Oxytocin also tunes the stress system to generate the best response in order to reduce conflict. Time: Health & Family

Plasma oxytocin linked to trustworthiness
Using intranasal drug administration, aka “sniffing”, a study found that oxytocin can function as a social hormone facilitating trust and other affiliative behaviors. People with high levels of plasma oxytocin are more likely to be more trusting. PLOS

Father-child bonding is more enhanced by oxytocin nasal sprays
Fathers who received oxytocin nasal sprays or placebo indulged more in baby talk and reciprocal interaction with their infants. Oxytocin has been found to be critical in pruning the brain processes involved in responding to stress and in social interactions. Oxytocin may be a key binding between early nurture or lack thereof. Time: Health & Family

Oxytocin’s ability to promote monogamy rests on social distance.
Oxytocin’s ability to promote monogamy in men may normally depend on the presence of a close positive relationship in the bond with their female partners and close physical proximity between the couple. This means that leaving your man for long periods of time could be allowing him to be prey to other women. Women could increase the faithfulness of their partners by engaging in behaviors that stimulate his oxytocin release, including intimate relations. Time: Health & Family.

Related content: Chose: remind people of money and dominate them, or other values and have their hand of friendship

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Monday, December 17, 2012

[Corporate focus: FedEx] Four weeks of pay for every year restructuring; textbook customer marketing from Youtube happenchance etcetera.


The Memphis, Tennessee based company FedEx (NYSE: FDX) has been making the headlines. The news includes plans to reduce staff through buyouts, a classic example of how to do customer service after a Youtube video sent customers the wrong message and plans to increase the FedEx Ground distribution centers.

Positioned as the second largest package carrier in the market

FedEx (NYSE: FDX), founded by its CEO, Fred Smith, provides a broad array of services including e-commerce, transportation and business services as it competes to seamlessly deliver packages without delays. The company operates through four major segments – FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Freight and FedEx Services. It is now placed at #109 on the S&P500 which position Bank of New York Mellon Corp (NYSE: BK) lost on November, 29th, 2012.

The company employs roughly 146,000 persons worldwide, with two-thirds in the U.S and is placed second worldwide, after USPS, in the market for package shipping, whether online or offline. Due to the dynamics of the market situation, where it is necessary for FedEx to move towards easier means of reaching the customer, it has had to partner with several companies which include Planet Soho, an ecosystem for small businesses to flourish. In partnership with Planet Soho, it offers customers discount rates that are close to 30%, online and at more than 1,900 FedEx Office retail locations across the U.S and Canada when a customer makes use of the Planet Soho Membership Card. In partnership with American Express, FedEx is also re-launching the invite-only My FedEx Rewards and My FedEx Office rewards programs. These two programs are powered by LoyaltyEdge from American Express. The LoyaltyEdge service will help FedEx enhance and expand its customer loyalty service programs.

Although along with UPS, it intends increasing its shipping rates starting January 7, 2013 for ground and home delivery, by an average of 4.9%, these increase is reflected in the major distribution center expansions that are being undertaken across the U.S especially in Roseville, California and Hagerstown, Washington county, Maryland. It proposes building a new 200,000-square-foot distribution center at Roseville in order to boost its package volume capacity and increase speed and service capabilities of the FedEx Ground network.

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FedEx employees work extremely hard to make sure packages arrive on time. The company has forecasted that a record high of 280 million shipments will move through the global FedEx networks during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. On “Green Monday”, December 10, an estimated 10 million packages must have been delivered by FedEx.

Service delivery doesn’t come without some drama.

American football is at the heart of the American Sports scene. FedEx is also part of the action. She is the Official Delivery Service Sponsor of the NFL, Super Bowl and Pro Bowl, FedEx is proud to sponsor the 10th annual Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week program. FedEx also hosts a Golf tournament, the PGA Tour FedEx cup championship. FedEx is on record at the American Red Cross site to be amongst the Fortune500 companies that actively supported the Red Cross during rescue operations post-Hurricane Sandy that rocked the East coast states of America.

According www.sfist.com, a Redwood City man was accused of a failed attempt to ship three kilos of methamphetamine and 100 grams of cocaine through a FedEx store in Redwood City, both packages worth around $250, 000. Although the man pleaded not guilty, the case is amongst many that underscore the challenges package shippers face in their line of business. Theft is also an ill wind that afflicts package delivery such that it is often wise for households to be alert for when a package will be delivered to their homes. It is often the case that packages delivered on the front steps can be taken in a matter of seconds. Whose fault is it? Package delivery companies do all they can not to be sued for carelessness or missing packages. According to www.sfgate.com, Ismail Aliyev, a former FedEx driver in Utah was fired for federal trucking violations, that an Iowa court had found him guilty. Ismail sued FedEx though because he claimed his sack was because of his “Russian accent.”

How would a company amongst the Fortune500 handle a Youtube video of a FedEx courier tossing a customer’s package over a fence?

This video which initially caused a public uproar eventually was used by FedEx for excellent customer service and crisis management.
FedEx handling of the Youtube video event was a textbook example of crisis management. The handling of the public uproar over the video made it to emerge as one of the most admired companies in the U.S in a survey conducted by Forbes.

To cap the corporate focus, starting next year, FedEx (NYSE: FDX) will be offering its employees the opportunity of up to two years’ pay to leave the company. Employees who volunteer for the program will receive four weeks of pay for every year of service. This is part of a restructuring effort to cut down operating expenses through staff restructuring. After the restructuring announcement, it was reported that company shares rose 65 cents to $88.78 in afternoon trading of that day.

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Boosting mental health through regular exercises that can make anxiety and fear fly away


Title Picture
Beach Jogger. Credit: Flickr.com, Steve Crane
On TV, while watching a soap opera, a sudden commercial shows three muscular men with handsome faces. You take a look at yourself on the mirror; it makes you feel depressed. Some could go to the length of opting for steroids to get some results fast. Some would opt for the gym and start taking more exercises and muscle building tune-ups in order to appear handsome and athletic. Yes, it is on record that a sudden depression or anxiety due to one’s looks can be attributable to general anxiety disorder. General anxiety disorder (GAD) is a frequent and constant worry about things like one’s look, career, health etcetera which is disproportionate to the actual source of worry. By the way, such worry often interferes with daily life.

Taking to the gym because you want to look good is fine. But do you know that getting constant regular exercise like going to the gym can also improve your mental health? That is, it can help you stave off and cure problems like depression and anxiety disorders?

Two factors that are at work

Several studies have shown that adolescents who were physically inactive, who live sedentary lives or who perceive their bodies as either “too thin” or “too fat” were at greater risk of internalizing problems like depression and externalizing problems like substance abuse. By participating in organized sports, these youths can place themselves at a lower risk for mental health problems. Two factors are at work in this regard.

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The first factor that has been used to explain why exercises can boost your mental health is the self-image hypothesis. It suggests that the positive effects on body weight and body structure due to physical activity leads to positive feedback from peers and improves one’s self-image, thereby improving mental health. When you feel good about yourself because others make positive comments about how your recent regime of exercises makes your body look good, then you are making yourself healthy in the mind.

The second explanation for this relationship is the social interaction hypothesis. It explains the improved mental health from physical activity as being a result of the increased social relationship and mutual support received from peers or colleagues that contributes to exercises having an effect on mental health. This hypothesis tells us that people whom we respect and whom we care about make us do exercises because they give us positive comments while not realizing on the other hand that we are not only building a healthy social system, but also healthy minds.

Take a health assessment before choosing exercising regime

Many persons who read this article might be living sedentary lives because they work more with their minds than their hands. It cannot be helped. Yet, they can help themselves by taking to regular exercise regimes. Do not start though without seeking a medical health assessment where it is available. It is recommended that a weekly dose of 150 minutes of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes a week of vigorous intense activity like lifting weights is beneficial for one’s physical and mental health. When starting out, focus on the short term benefits of such exercising rather than the long term because the short term benefits like reducing stress, improving your mood, makes you sustain the exercising after a long period of time.

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So, whether you are a health care provider or a health enthusiast, use physical activity as a booster for your mental health. You could end up saving yourself lots of worry, fear and financial debts in the long run, if not depression and excessive anxiety right now.

(Related Post: Will She marry rich or poor? Wealthy women seeking sexual partners see no difference! )


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Thursday, December 13, 2012

When computer algorithms for artworks can match art historians, accuracy will match precision


Title picture
Biker and Son, Poster art. credit: Flickr.com, Moriza
When art historians evaluate an artwork, they ask and answer questions such as the time and place where the artwork was done, what school of art the artist represents as well as his influences, and the artists his work has influenced. Asking a computer using an algorithm to do this would be very difficult. This is a field where human intelligence is very much required. Yet, computers and computer algorithms can still help us novices evaluate a work of art.

Algorithms have been developed that demonstrates computer ability to perceive and understand art the same way expert art critics would. The algorithms work on the composition of colors and easily measurable artistic qualities of an artwork.

Computers as art historians: Good job done!

In a recently published experiment in the ACM Journal of Computing and Cultural Heritage, using approximately 1,000 paintings of 34 well-known artists,
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researchers showed that a computer was clearly able to identify different art styles and even little nuances between art schools using only visual content. The results obtained were largely in agreement with the perception of art historians and dwarfed what one can obtain from untrained humans in the analysis of artworks.

A similar algorithm that was designed to place artworks in particular artistic periods using artificial vision algorithms also gave outstanding results. The computers were able to “understand” images and also differentiate between artistic styles based on low-level pictorial information.

Low-level pictorial information encompasses aspects such as brush thickness, the type of material and the composition of the palette of color. Humans on the other hand perform art analysis more abstractly. They employ medium-level information which differentiates between objects and scenes in a picture and the type of painting, and high-level information that takes the historical context and artist’s knowledge along with artistic trends into consideration.

Computer algorithms for arts not yet fully explored.

The future is stillborn as to the scope and extent visual algorithms can be used in evaluating works of art. At least, when it involves broad artistic differentiation, usually amongst art schools and periods, computer algorithms can beat an untrained human in arts analysis but fall short in precisely dating art periods or styles. According to Miquel Feixas, one of the authors of the study that was published in the ACM journal, “it will never be possible to precisely determine mathematically an artistic period or to measure the human response to a work of art, but we can look for trends.”

This is not the only technique that has been expended towards paintings. Physicists sometimes use ion beams to determine paintings and painting authenticity. This is the first time though a machine has gone one step better than humans, whether trained or untrained, in evaluating and analyzing works of art. It is hoped that this work will also open the way for further work in developing image viewing and analysis tools, classifying and searching for collections in museums, creating public information and entertainment equipment and to better understand the interaction between humans, computers and works of art. Digital technology will not replace art historians at all, just as software has not replaced human mathematicians, but with digital technology, art historians have an arsenal that makes their work stand out with more precise accuracy.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Coupons and Discounts: Paul Fredrick Menstyle, Orbitz Travels


These are some choice discounts and coupons for the holidays.

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Chose: remind people of money and dominate them, or other values and have their hand of friendship.


Money, if you ask an economist, is a medium of exchange. Without money, you’d get to eat only what you plant in your backyard. When a lady friend told me how many yams she had harvested from her small farm, I failed short of telling her that without money, she would be confined to roasting the yam on a charcoal fire and eating it without salt and oil.

Indeed, money is central to our lives. It is our measure of wealth. Not only that, it is also a factor for measuring personal performance, interpersonal relations and helping behavior. Money will continue to be like that.

Title Picture
Cash Money Milliionaire! Credit: Flickr.com, Dust Mason.
Have you noticed that people want to live their lives, not thinking about or being reminded of money? If you want to sell yourself, or sell a product, make sure that you or your product possess the quality and quantity that is requisite before you start reminding them of money. They will rebel against you if you do so. Really, people dislike being reminded of money. It makes them think of you as an authority and the likelihood that they might lose their freedom. The concept that rich people should help poor people has not stood on its feet. If you or your product does not possess the qualities that can make it stand on its own, is not an authority in that area, then remind them of other social values. Otherwise, if the reverse if the case, if you ask them to perform tasks for you, they will follow your suggestions to the letter but will keep a distance when it comes to interpersonal relationships. Also, when you need help, it might be slow in coming.

In a series of studies, the authors found that reminders of money caused consumers to think more abstractly and focus on the primary features of a product instead of its secondary features. Also, they are more likely to evaluate a new product based on its brand name instead of its individual features. The authors found that reminders of money can also influence consumer’s decision making.

Why lemons do not remind people of money.

The reason for the above is that money is symbolic. It is linked to social resources such as security, status, power, confidence and freedom. People with lots of money and who flaunt it around usually send signals of confidence and strength and have better ability of exerting their influence on others. But money also has been used to dominate others.

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Another research found that reminding people of money makes them think of their freedom. Therefore, it has the ability to affect interpersonal communication, advertising and marketing. Therefore, people tend to rebel against someone who, whenever a conversation comes up, always reminds people of money. They feel insecure, weak and insignificant. So, don’t be surprised if you do not sell on the personal front or your products do not sell well because you keep reminding them of money.

Due to the symbolic nature of money, many are ready to marry for the sake of money. They are not marrying for love but for security, for the sake of acquiring societal status. Sometimes, against conventional wisdom.
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Sometimes at the risk of their personal happiness. When you remind them of money, they remember the sacrifice they made against other social values and would treat you badly if you are not a peer in monetary terms. That is the power of money. Money can inspire for good or bad.

So, when next you want to use money and reminders of your wealth as a sort of defense, think of what you would lose: your friends, social contacts and true love and affection from people, and weigh these against what you are likely to gain: power over people’s lives, the ability to make them do what you want.

Chose! Which is more worth it? Do choose wisely.

(Related Post: Forming blind trust for a pretty face might be influenced by gestures and nonverbal cues .)


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Thursday, December 6, 2012

You’ll get the complete truth if he’s not cornered and money is not at stake


Title Picture
Money not at stake? Most people say the truth. Credit: Flickr, linkogecko.
Do you know that when doing business with people, if you push them into a corner, they usually lie? Sometimes, these are persons who pride themselves on honesty and integrity. Most people do not want to lose their money or their investment, so when nothing of material value is at stake, people always tend to tell the truth. It is unbelievable, but that is the truth. There are people who take their conscience as something more precious than all the gold in the world and would never lie even if they have the opportunity to do so. Why is it like that, in this materialistic world, where money is everyone’s concern?

We teach our children from infancy that it is wrong to lie. Yet, we find ourselves lying. This could be wrong, but people do it because what is materially at stake, either money or reputation, is considered much more important than whether one told a lie or not. David Xu, assistant professor in the W. Frank Barton School of Business at Wichita State University found that when tempted with cash rewards, people are wont to lie when giving reports through text messaging than if asked face-to-face. Also, they are more likely to lie if asked to give a report through text messaging or face-to-face than if asked to make the report through an audio chat or video recording.

What David Xu’s research found out was corroborated by two psychological scientists,
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Shaul Shavi of the University of Amsterdam and Ori Eldar and Yoella Bereby-Meyer of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev that when something is at stake, if you push people into a corner, they will usually or are more likely to lie. To make them tell the truth when money or something of value is involved, give them more time. Also, you need to make them feel that they are in control of the situation and not being harassed or rushed to make a report.

It’s all about self-interest and justification.

It has been discovered that what is at play is that people have the first instinct to protect themselves, or to serve their own self-interest. Secondly, when they think it is justifiable, they are likely to lie although they know it is wrong, especially when they believe it was done for the common good. It was further discovered that when rushed, or prompted to act quickly, they tend to lie or bend ethical rules, in order to come out ahead of others. If they have more time to deliberate on an issue, they usually tend to tell the truth with a clause: when nothing is at stake. If something is at stake, they want to favor themselves and would even lie to do so.

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So, where you want to choose a referee or judge for a case, give him all the time in the world and make sure he has no interest or stake in the matter at hand. Justice will always be served. Where you want your employees to go out and make profits for the company, no matter the cost, give them no time, put them in a corner and tell them that their job is at stake. They’ll bend all the rules in the book to make that profit.

It is left for you to decide whether you want to tell a lie or not, but always remember, there is nothing like saying the truth. The truth will not only set you free, it gives you the experience needed to solving problems and overcoming obstacles.

(Related post: Don't expect your friends to cover-up for you, if they will lose something of value, 1 and 2 .)


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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Michael has a renal disease. Can the doctor save his kidney with cash?


Title Picture.
Michael (names changed) doing dialysis. Credit: Flickr.com, Jimforest.
Michael (original name withheld) has a renal disease. The doctors say he would not live long without a kidney transplant. He has been surviving for long on dialysis. “You have to wait for longer time,” the doctors told him, because there is a shortage of available kidneys for people like him who need transplant. He has been waiting for a long time now and his parents and friends are getting worried. “We hope to find a compatible kidney from a deceased donor, although having a living donor donate you his kidney is not impossible.”

“Can we pay for someone to donate a kidney?”

“Why?”

I heard it is possible,“ his father tells the doctor.

His father is ready to pay for the funeral expenses of any deceased donor. He is ready to help the child of anyone alive who would donate a kidney to Michael. He was ready to save the life of his son for anything.

The doctor is shy of accepting a black market for kidneys. The World Health Organization, (WHO), has acknowledged it though that one in every five kidneys transplanted per year comes from the black market.

The black market is an unethical alternative for a kidney.

The doctor consults his colleagues in Canada. A released Canadian study revealed that Canadians are not averse to financial incentives for kidney donations from a living or deceased donor. He was also referred to a 2010 University of Pennsylvania health study that found that if offered financial incentives for kidney donation while alive, most persons might not be influenced to risk their health for money, and that it would not crowd out the market for generous, altruistic kidney donations.

The doctor is skeptical about the University of Pennsylvania’s conclusions. He knows that a booming black market that exists in Asia and South Africa was pointing to the contrary, especially for the poor. He could remember the widely reported news that Serbians summarily executed their prisoners, selling their kidneys to waiting transplant surgeons for monetary benefits. The doctor is conscious that Michael has been waiting, like many others, for a kidney. He did not want Michael to die, but his conscience was disturbed applying for a kidney from black market sources. He did not understand the logic behind why a doctor should allow the use of kidneys from donors with risk factors for harboring transmittable infections. The strained supply did make some push ethics aside.

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In the evening he was supposed to check on Michael’s condition. How he envied this young man! He had struggled through medical school on loans! What Michael’s parents had spent on dialysis was staggering.

After every option is considered, a life is more important than money.

“I wish one of your relatives, or friends, had a compatible kidney. It would solve this brouhaha.”

Michael only sighed. The wait would have to continue.

“We are looking out for every avenue to save your life. Don’t worry, your wait will soon be over,” the doctor promised.

“We are considering doing what your father asked for. When we find someone that is ready to give his kidney so that we can pay his family to take care of themselves after that, your wait will be over. Just one of my options.”

“I hope it will not discomfort the family? I do not want to be seen as a heartless person.”

“It is better than having to go to the market to buy a kidney, any kidney. “

Michael sighed.

“It is illegal?”

“But not in Iran. Donors get about $2,000 to $4,000 for a kidney. They have literally eliminated the waiting list there. What I have not heard is how much of human body parts is being sold on the open market. Where money is involved, people do all sorts of deceptive things to get it, to the extent of making others slaves.”

He looks Michael straight in the eye. Michael did not flinch.

“There is so much poverty in the world, you know,” Michael said. He understood the doctor’s concerns like one does understand the difference between sunset and sunrise.

The doctor lowered his head. He thought Michael could read his mind.

“People have ways of making the impossible possible. What about these poor people? Some end up sick afterwards without realizing what they have put their signature to.”

“I understand.”

“I have applied for a kidney for you; from the black market.”

“I have absolute trust in you, doctor.”

He sighed. A big weight was off his shoulders.

“We will check and double check for every sort of disease, hepatitis and HIV. It is unfortunate, unless you have to wait longer. I did it to save your life, Michael.”

“Whatever you say, doc.”

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