Entries from blogs tagged with “Green”
My wife and I returned from Florida last Friday just in time for last week's snow. And as I write, it is snowing again. But the discussion section in the Lawrence Journal World is hot today because of a column by Cal Thomas in which he accuses Al Gore and other believers in global warming as being fundamentalists. He cites a global warming skeptic "Paleoclimate scientist" Bob Carter as writing""In one of the more expensive ironies of history, the expenditure of more than $50 billion (U.S.) on research into global warming since 1990 has failed to demonstrate any human-caused climate trend, let alone a dangerous one..."This is an interesting comment which flies in the face of the general scientific consensus. So who is the average person to believe? This is important because if Gore and the vast bulk of climate scientists are right then we have an environmental problem that can't wait another 50 years to fix. We are going to have to make both personal and policy decisions either directly or indirectly about this issue.The first thing we need to do is cut partisanship out of the loop. Second of all we need to look at the information that is out there and try to evaluate it as best we can. Fortunately there are several good sources of information. The U.S. government's EPA site (http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/) is much improved in terms of its coverage and I strongly recommend exploring its links. Another site is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Warming FAQ which gives a quick synopsis the current consensus on global warming. There is plenty of room to discuss what sorts of solutions - free market, government incentives and mandates, individual action but denying what we are doing to the environment is not productive.As for non governmental sources, Science Daily keeps tabs on climate change at http://www.sciencedaily.com/news/earth_climate/global_warming/ and this is perhaps the site for the latest developments in our understanding of climate change.If you are a regular blog reader, a good unbiased site is Real Climate (http://www.realclimate.org/). This blog's contributors are climate scientists-not geologists and not ideologues. Of course look at some of the advocacy sites on the left and the right-what ever your ideological fancy, but do yourself and civilization a favor and check the claims that are made on those sites against each other and come to an honest judgment for yourself about where the truth most likely is. Don't just believe some numskull on the left or the right because you agree with their ideology, unless the numskull happens to be me of course.In the interest of full disclosure I am pretty much in agreement with the scientific consensus but some of my conclusions about where we stand probably go beyond the scientific consensus:1. Global warming is real and not just an artifact of changes in data collection.2. Much but probably not all of recent global warming is due to human activity including burning of fossil fuels but also deforestation and increased agricultural production.3. Global warming may be to the point that we can do little to affect it quickly.4. Climate change happening more rapidly than we thought possible even five years ago and may be happening more rapidly than many populations can adapt to.5. There is no magic bullet to solving global warming and we probably will need to make some uncomfortable choices concerning energy sources and (dare I say it?) some sacrifice of living standards.6. Poorer countries will be more severely affected than developed countries.7. We have exceeded the ability of the planet to sustain our current population, and global warming is interacting with other human disturbances to bring about an irreversible biodiversity crisis.8. There is still hope for our species but our environment is going to become biologically impoverished in ways we might not like.Of course all comments are welcome; just play nicely.
It's 7:45 in the evening, and I sit in the dark rocking and nursing my one-year-old to sleep. When I can stop my mind from racing about the events of today and tomorrow, I turn my full attention to the warm, vulnerable little boy in my arms. I'm moved to say a prayer, though I don't really know where I stand with God. I say a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving for Max and an equally heartfelt prayer that God will help us keep him healthy and safe. I'm still overcome by love and awe for Max, and my prayer becomes "Let us be worthy." Right away, I realize my husband and I can never be worthy. How can anyone be worthy of the extraordinary privilege and oh-so-difficult job of raising a child? So I whisper, "Let us be enough."
There is a movement underway to goad the presidential candidates into a debate on science policy. Given that so many of our issues today involve science, it is only fair that the voters get to hear candidate's views on science and science priorities. Visit the Science debate 2008 web site for more information and about how you can get involved.www.sciencedebate2008.com
If you are a Boston single, as of today you have a new option to find a mate. A company called scientificmatch.com has a new wrinkle in the match making game-matchmaking based on DNA analysis. The idea is to find a mate based on the compatibility of the genes related to characteristics of the immune system. The company's website claims:
"When you share chemistry with someone:
- 1. You love their natural body odor. They smell "sexier" than other people.
- 2. You have a more satisfying sex life.
- 3. If you're a woman, you have more orgasms.
- 4. There's significantly less cheating in your relationships than if your DNA isn't matched properly.
- 5. As a couple, you're more fertile.
- 6. Your children have a better chance of being healthy."
Governor's Child Abuse Task Force-Final RecommendationsRecommendations:3. The initial review and response to all intakes must include clear policies and procedures for social workers to follow.4. The improvement of the investigative and interview stage of child abuse and neglect cases is needed by requiring specific investigative and interview skills for all Child Protective Services (CPS) social workers and by developing and enhancing accredited Children's Advocacy Centers (CAC) and Multidisciplinary Teams (MDT).5. Regular and on-going training must be mandated for all SRS staff who work in child protective services.These are the final recommendations of the Governor's Task Force. I don't think that there is any debate on recommendations 3 and 5. Training and revised policies and procedures almost always follow unfortunate results and revisiting what is done in these areas is always a good idea.Recommendation 4 deserves some comment and clarification. Special expertise is needed to determine what is being said. I think that this is a 3 part recommendation.1)Police or social workers? One of the ongoing debates in child protective services is whether social workers are the best people to be investigating child abuse or neglect. A bad result of an investigation frequently is followed with a recommendation to have police take over CPS. Police do have special expertise in investigating if a crime has been committed. However, not all child abuse or neglect situations are crimes. For example, judging when neglect requires state intervention is not an investigation of a crime. In addition, a previous post mentioned the large percentage of reports that are investigated where the report is for the non-abuse neglect situation of a child being without proper control. I think that few police would welcome the added responsibility of responding to these concerns. There is evidence that a joint investigation of child abuse situations by police and social workers is effective. Cross, Finkelhor & Ormrod (2005) found, among other things, that police involvement may promote CPS effectiveness and should be coordinated in every community. A close working relationship between CPS and the police is an essential ingredient in the community's response to child abuse and neglect. The police and social workers who testified at the Task Force meetings agreed with this assessment.There is another aspect to the collaboration between police and CPS staff. It is not uncommon for social workers to be asked to investigate a very dangerous situation. CPS staff are sometimes asked to neighborhoods or housing units that few of us would venture near. These staff need and deserve all of the protections available.2)Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs). Another part of this recommendation is developing and enhancing multidisciplinary teams. MDTs bring the professionals together that are needed to determine what needs to be done in a particular situation. Child abuse and neglect situations are frequently very complex. For example, a CPS worker might be confronted with a mother neglecting her children and diagnosed as developmental delayed and mentally ill. She may also be alcohol or drug dependent. Expecting a CPS worker or a police officer to have expertise in all of these areas is unrealistic. Professionals for substance abuse, developmental disabilities, and mental health are also needed. Jones, Cross, Walsh & Simone (2005) conclude that MDTs can improve investigation and case outcomes. This was widely agreed to by those people who testified at the Task Force meetings who had experience with MDTs. Every community should have MDTs as part of their child abuse and neglect response.3)Children's Advocacy Centers (CAC). Developing and enhancing CACs is the third part of this Task Force recommendation. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC), Child Advocacy Centers are non-profit agencies designed to coordinate multidisciplinary investigations of child abuse in a child-friendly environment. CACs were begun in response to the complexity of investigations of child sexual abuse. Victims of sexual abuse can easily experience additional trauma by repeated interviews of their experiences. Police, county attorneys, social workers all need the information but they don't all need to interview the victim. In addition, if the interview is not done well, the trauma can be exasperated.Children's Advocacy Centers can be effective in coordinating investigations, conducting forensic interviews and referring children for mental health services. One of the interesting aspects of this recommendation is that it was part of Governor Sebelius' original charge to the Task Force. In the press release announcing the appointment of the Task Force (March 8, 2007), she proposed the creation of child advocacy centers and devoted $1 million in her budget to begin establishing them around the state. Several CACs already existed so this is really an expansion.I do think that it is curious that Governor Sebelius proposed this solution before the Task Force had an opportunity to access the problem. So of course the Task Force complied. Please understand I have nothing against children's advocacy centers. I just think that the solution should have come from the committee. In addition, the problem in the Wichita case was not sexual abuse for which CACs were designed and have demonstrated expertise. Given the range of recommendations in the Task Force Report and the state legislature's propensity to avoid spending money it is going to be difficult to fund all of the Task Force recommendations. Calling for funding of an expensive solution to a different problem than what was the situation in Wichita may not be the best solution.Stay tuned to see what happens in the next legislative session.
Today, Gyroduck commenting on a Journal World article, Drawing on God posted a link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DfPepr...) from You Tube explaining a really puzzling aspect of quantum mechanics. Hop on over to view the video. Also read Gyroduck's comment linking the observations discussed in the video to prayer. Is Gyroduck right to make this connection?
One of the hottest areas of biology today is synthetic biology. Synthetic biologists are not content to take a gene from one species and insert it into the genetic material of another species.Instead, synthetic biologists are attempting to build a set of standard building blocks often by synthesizing DNA from scratch. The idea is to have a set of modules that can be plugged together to make the biological equivalent of electrical devices.So just as an electrical engineer designs new circuits by plugging together standard parts on a breadboard, the synthetic biologist attempts to create custom organisms by inserting these biological circuits into cells.The field has progressed to the point where there is an annual student competition at MIT dedicated to designing custom devices called iGEM which stands for InternationalGenetically Engineered Machine Competition. The winners of the 2007 competition have just been announced and they include teams that developed applications of synthetic biology to medicine, environmental sensing, energy and information processing.For example a team from Alberta Canada developed a synthetic set of genes involved in the production of butanol, an organic compound that could serve as a fuel alternative to ethanol.A team from University of Missouri at Rolla, the Missouri Miners developed a biological breathalyser and a biological timer.Synthetic biology is in its infancy and the power of this technology is rapidly increasing, much like the power of computers, so that soon synthetic biologists may be able to construct synthetic organisms entirely from scratch!Readers, how is this dangerous in a positive sense? How about the risks?LinksSyntheticbiology.orgSynthetic Life, Scientific American 2004
Recommendation #2. One toll free number should be used to report child abuse and neglect and skilled and trained staff should take the call.Now this is a recommendation with which I totally agree. Currently SRS maintains 7 call centers to receive reports of suspected child abuse or neglect. There are six Regional Protection Report Centers and the Kansas Protection Report Center (PRC). The PRC operates 24 hours a day seven days a week while the regional centers do not. This probably grew out of history where child welfare was originally part of county welfare offices. Over the years for a variety of reasons including reorganizations of SRS these responsibilities morphed and merged into our current arrangement. It is time to consolidate once more. The major argument against a single statewide hot-line is that local people have professional relationships and know community situations that make a local response more efficient and effective. In some communities social workers know the police officers and the county attorney very well and can call on them for nearly instant help in protecting a child. For example, a school social worker might suspect that a child is a victim of abuse, call a social worker in the local SRS office who might call a police officer and they would jointly investigate the situation within a few minutes or hours.A part of this argument is that a single statewide child abuse reporting hot-line is distant from the community, wouldn't know the key actors and may delay an effective response. For example, the school social worker in the previous example might think twice about calling an anonymous statewide phone number even though she/he is a mandated reporter.On the surface this argument has merit. Investigations are local. It is local police that aid the investigation. It is the county attorney that normally files the petition to find the child a "child in need of care". However, during the Governor's Protective Services Task Force meetings it was clear that the 7 call centers did not all operate in the same manner. This is a problem. If the person answering the phone whether it is local or regional, doesn't get the right information and make the right decision, a child's life may be endangered. This may be what occurred in the case of the two girls in Wichita. It is, in part, a matter of quality control. When the safety of a child is at stake it is important to get all the necessary information, check all relevant files such as the child abuse registry and Kansas Bureau of Investigation offender registry and make a correct decision. It is difficult to assure that this occurs for all calls in 7 call centers.Consistency is also important because a child abuse or neglect investigation brings the power of the state into private family matters. I don't think that we want a situation where an investigation of suspected child abuse would occur in one part of Kansas while that same situation would not start an investigation in another. With the technology available in 2007 there is no reason why a single statewide child abuse and neglect hot-line could not operate as efficiently as a local system. When a decision is made to investigate a case, staff can instantaneous call, email, text message or use whatever communication channels are available to notify local SRS social workers and police so that the investigation can begin. Of course if it is midnight the SRS social worker would not be on duty and the response would have to wait. But that is another problem.
Robert Hawkins killed himself and eight other people in an Omaha mall. Another fact is that he spent time in treatment centers, group homes and foster care. For some people the headline says it all and that is all that they need to know about Robert. Foster care equals trouble. What does this say about Robert or foster care?Robert was certainly troubled and trouble for the community. From news reports we do not know all the details of his life. We do know that he could relate to some people in a non-dangerous way. Debra Maruca-Kovac took Robert into her home when he was homeless. At some point he had a girl friend. There was more to Robert than foster care. Placing a child in foster care is used by the community for protecting children from abuse or neglect. It is also used when we don't know how to help a parent respond to troublesome behavior.SRS reports that "83.8% of assigned reports involve the non-abuse neglect presenting situations without proper control." http://www.srskansas.org/CFS/datareports08.htmlThis means that when people call to report that a child is suspected of being a victim of child abuse or neglect they are more often reporting a child exhibiting behavior that is difficult to manage. Some of these children are placed into foster care. The assumption seems to be that parents are at fault and providing better parenting will change the child's behavior. I am certain that this is sometime true.It didn't work for Robert and it doesn't work for many others. Our ideas that parenting is responsible for a child's behavior is not always accurate. Many children have mental disorders that we don't recognize soon enough and for which our response is inadequate. That seems to be Robert's situation.We ask our child abuse and neglect agencies to also be our child mental health response and it doesn't always work. In Kansas we require our foster care agencies to be fiscally liable for some results for foster children. Our mental health centers are under no similar obligation. This is true in most states. "Shooter was in group homes, foster care" says little about Robert. It may say a lot about foster care and even more about children's mental health services that aren't even mentioned.
Took my almost-five-year-old to his first Advent service last night. Actually, it was Simon's first church service, period. I wanted him to understand at least a little of what he heard, so on the way, I told him the basics of the Christmas story. I started with the parts I thought would be most interesting to a child: How Jesus was born in a stable to parents Mary and Joseph, and how shepherds got a message from an angel that something special had happened, followed a bright star, and found the baby Jesus.My husband and I are not religious, at least not as the term is usually used, but I've given a little thought to how and when to explain mainstream religious beliefs and stories to our two young sons. A child who isn't familiar with, say, the Christmas story or the notion of heaven will be at a loss at times, to say the least. (Last night, it struck me how big this cultural disadvantage might be when Simon asked "Is Jesus a boy or a girl?")After the service, we talked more about the Christmas story--including the belief that Jesus is the son of God--and I found myself fielding questions like "How can Jesus be the son of God if his parents are Mary and Joseph?" and "How can God still be alive if Jesus was born such a long time ago?" and "Is God a man or a woman?" Now I was the one at a loss! More than once I answered, "That's a great question" and "Well, the story goes like this:" and "Many people believe that:." I've talked to Simon about God before, usually referring to the "Animal Maker" or the "Great Spirit." I want him to have some notion of a powerful, good, divine spirit who takes an interest in our universe. I also want him to understand that there are different and beautiful faith traditions around the world. I'm not comfortable presenting typical Sunday School stories as if they're facts. And I sensed last night that Simon would take what I said as fact. That means I have a lot of power, at this point in Simon's life, to shape his beliefs about religion and the divine. I want to use this power wisely, so I've got a lot more thinking to do.I'd like to hear from others who've struggled with this. If your family doesn't have obvious faith traditions and beliefs to pass down, what role do religion and spirituality play in your family life? How and when have you presented religion and spirituality to your children? Are there any faith groups in town you recommend?
Biology is messy. We can't put organisms into neat little boxes and as it turns out, while we think of ourselves as being individual organisms, the truth is a bit more complex. According to an online article from Scientific American, "Humans Carry More Bacterial Cells than Human Ones" , we are probably best thought of as walking petri dishes because of the number and diversity of bacteria that live inside of us. According to the article, scientists used to think that these bacteria were commensals, that is organisms living in or on a member of a different species with out harming or providing much benefit to the "host". But new research reveals that these bacteria interact with us in complex ways and and often significantly benefit us. For instance many of these bacteria appear to help us process our food and help regulate certain aspects of our immune system. So there is a real sense that you and I are really communities of organisms. Now I wonder if the dreaded toe fungus some of us have also benefits us in some way.
Governor's Child Abuse Task Force-Pt. 2I will briefly comment on each of the recommendations of the Task Force. This can become very long and technical. I will try to avoid that. This is why I will only undertake one recommendation at a time. This is not an easy task and I welcome comments that help clarify the issues or question my observations. See the first post for background. Recommendation 1. An ombudsman position and an independent board, separate from SRS, should be created. Observations:1). Policy formation by committee. This recommendation is a good example. Beware of sentences that contain 'and'. They frequently contain too much. In this case it is my opinion that both an ombudsman and a board are too much. 2.) An ombudsman is not a good idea. On the surface it sounds good to have an independent person who can investigate complaints. In reality this person or office would be overwhelmed by the number of complaints and the complexity of most situations. In the 2007 state fiscal year SRS received 53,048 reports of concern regarding children. Nearly every one of these is contested by someone. One full-time person (the recommendation) could not possibly respond to the demand. In the Wichita case, Governor Sebelius had her chief legal counsel investigate. I don't know how much time it took him but I bet he wasn't finished in an hour or two. If only 10% of the 53,000 cases requested an investigation, the ombudsman would have no more than 4 hours available per case (2,000 hours divided by 5,000.). If you question the 10%, just read the comments about SRS that accompany any published child abuse case. Child welfare is contentious. That is one of the reasons that we have judges involved in making child abuse and neglect decisions. 3.) An independent review board could be a good idea but not necessarily. The Task Force report includes several tasks for which this review board would be responsible. The task list is a good one. These tasks also require considerable child welfare expertise. One way to implement this recommendation would be to create an independent research center to do the work. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy is an excellent example. It was created in 1982 by the state legislature and is governed by a board that represents the legislature, governor and public universities. It does practical, non-partisan research at legislative direction. As a consumer of some of its research, I can say that they do excellent work. Check them out at http://www.wsipp.wa.gov. Will the Kansas legislature be willing to fund such a center? I doubt it. It is expensive. So a political compromise would likely be a review board without the expertise or funding to do the work. Not a pretty picture.4.) My recommendation. I recommended to the board that the state legislature require SRS to report annually on the effectiveness of its CPS operations. I think that this squarely places the responsibility for oversight where it belongs in the legislature and places the work where it should be - SRS. SRS can do the job and currently collects much of the data. CPS can be thought of as a series of decisions. For example, the decision to accept a phone call as a report; the decision to have a report investigated; the decision that a report really is child abuse or neglect; etc. It is now widely accepted that you can judge the effectiveness of a CPS system through data on each decision point. While this recommendation is not as strong as the creation of a Washington Institute for Public Policy capability in Kansas, it is better than an understaffed independent review board. Disclaimer: I do not make these critical comments because I am disappointed that the Task Force did not take my recommendations verbatim. I have been involved in public policy efforts too long for that type of attitude. I am quite pleased that they took my input seriously and included many of my ideas.
The name "Dangerous Ideas" comes from a book titled "Darwin's Dangerous Idea" by the philosopher Daniel Dennett. Dennett's thesis is that the concept of natural selection is a sort of universal acid eating away at our traditional intellectual disciplines well beyond its traditional application as an evolutionary mechanism.Science in general is dangerous to traditional ways of viewing the universe. It transforms us. It breaks down boundaries between traditional areas of thought. It challenges our comfortable preconceptions about reality. And it forces us to think in rational and empirical ways that are foreign to emotional and often irrational way that we process information about the world.I use dangerous here in a positive sense. For me science is a liberating force. It doesn't do away with a sense of wonder, a sense of poetry or wonder. But science does not worship mystery but replaces it with a sense of awe at the quirky creativeness of the universe. This blog will focus on science. I will try to stay away from politics and religion...there are plenty of other blogs that do that including my companion blog at The Force that ThroughSometimes I will cross post entries with "The Force" But that blog tends to be much more explicitly poetic, political and philosophical than what I am planning for this space. Also since biology is my thing, expect a bias toward biology and related areas.
Governor's Child Abuse Task ForceThe report is in. I will get to that later. Governor Sebelius created the Child Protective Services Task Force in July in response to a tragic case in Wichita. Two young girls were reported as suspected victims of abuse and the response was botched by Child Protective Services (CPS) of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. The Task Force report includes 5 recommendations. I will comment on each of the recommendations but first a disclaimer and some observations. I am a tried and true citizen participant. That means I get involved by attending meetings and talking to those who represent us at the city, county, state and national level. I had a particular interest in the Child Protective Services Task Force because I have devoted over 30 years to research and writing about public child welfare that includes CPS in Kansas and Illinois. Observations1) I really wanted to be a member of the Task Force. I lobbied hard to be a member and failed. When the membership of the Task Force was announced, and I was not included, I called Chairman Tim Emert and asked to be included in notifications of meetings. He was gracious and I attend all of the meetings. I was allowed to ask questions and make comments and at one point was asked for my recommendations. I presented my observations and recommendations and I thought that they were well received. 2) The tyranny of the anecdote. Joe Loftus, an Illinois colleague, suggests that child welfare is too frequently the victim of bad policy that follows a news report of a bad outcome (the anecdote). The challenge presented by the Wichita case is determining if the situation involving the two young girls was common or unusual. The next task is examining policy and procedures to see what can be done to improve practice. This is an extremely difficult task given one case.3) Policy formation by committee. The Task Force members included a range of child welfare expertise from those who knew very little to those with years of experience. Judge Jean Shepherd, for example, has many years hearing Child In Need of Care cases (those involving, among other things, abuse and neglect) and is widely recognized as being an excellent child welfare judge. But how do you educate 14 diverse people on the complex issues involved in CPS and create a consensus on recommendations in six meetings that not all members can regularly attend? With great difficulty.4) The Task Force worked hard. Given the constraints it is my observation that the Task Force did a good job. They listened, asked good questions, they thoughtfully deliberated.So what about the recommendations? That's next.Can't wait? Read the report at http://www.governor.ks.gov/documents/071129-FinalCPSreport.pdf
I heard about the Milky Way Woman while attending Douglas County's first healing retreat for those people who had lost someone due to suicide.
I have been trying to put a spiritual perspective on my mother's suicide, when I was three, for most of my life. See my article: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/20/nov/loved_ones_gather_healing_retreat_wake_suicide
While at the retreat, I met a native American Indian woman who had recently lost her sister to suicide. She told me about the belief that the Lakota Indians have. They believe that the Milky Way is the crossroads between heaven and earth and that an old woman, the Milky Way Woman, stands guard at this crossroads. The Milky Way Woman decides when someone dies whether they go to heaven or are sent back to earth depending on how well they lived their life.
After some research, I discovered that several other Indian tribes have a similar belief, and some tribes believe that the light coming from the Milky Way is the campfires of souls as they make their journey to heaven.
The Lakota Indians have an extremely high rate of suicide among their young people.
I dedicate the following poem to the Lakota people, all of those who have lost someone to suicide, and to my mother, Peggy Miller Wiggins.
The Milky Way Woman 11-14-07
When I was three
And you sent me
Out to play in the
Snow while you
Put a bullet through
I did not cry
I curled into a ball
And sucked my thumb
When Daddy came
That night and said
Look up into the
Sky and see your
Mommy's face In the stars
I did not look
I did not want
To see your face
So far away
And so small
But now I'm
Grown and have
Children of my own
I want to stand
On the edge
Of the Milky Way
With you, hand in hand
And when the
Milky Way Woman
Gives the command
You and I
Will take that
Wait for me
Where do you believe souls go after they leave the physical body?
How is the soul separate from the spirit?
How is the mind separate from the soul?