Five Things Positive Thinking Will Do For You

by Daniel Dela Dunoo  

“Positive and negative are directions that lead to different outcomes. Which direction do you choose?” –Remez Sasson

Positive thinking is obviously not a magic wand bringing closure to all your struggles and troubles. Positive thinking isn`t some kind of miracle cure for all your frailties and inadequacies. But what I can tell you is this; positive thinking will make a world of difference in your life. Now, read on to discover in specific terms five things positive thinking will do for you.

Maximize your skills and talents          

Negative thinking affects your self esteem. It makes you doubt your capabilities and so, instead of expending your skills and talents towards the work at hand, you coil into your shelves; you remain in your comfort zone while your skills and talents remain dormant.

On the other hand, positive thinking boosts your self esteem. A healthy self esteem invariably impacts your conduct. You meet that arduous task at work, in school or at home and you are assured you can handle it. This certainly isn`t built on false hopes and expectations. Not at all! You are fully aware of your capabilities and talents, and so you address that challenge from that position of advantage. The more you put to work your skills and talents, the better you become. Your productivity is enhanced. As a positive thinker you are in essence a possibility thinker.

Leverage your experience

The saying, “a man with experience is not at the mercy of a man with an argument” holds true. Positive thinking will bring to your focus successes chalked in the past and this will re-enforce believe in your capacity to meet the present challenge. For the positive thinker, experiences ought not to go waste. Yes, you might have failed your examinations some time back but that does not mean you cannot excel this time round. What the positive thinker will do in a situation such as this is reflect on this past experience of failure and deduce lessons from that experience. The positive thinker learns from past mistakes and takes steps to ensure those mistakes do not recur. The positive thinker learns from both past successes and failures, and leverages on such experiences to counter prevailing challenges.

Creative thinking / thinking outside the box

This line of reasoning when faced with challenging moments: “I cannot do this” should be thrown out the window. Such a mindset only shuts down your thinking cap, as it were; it hinders creative and imaginative thinking. Your mind is automatically put to sleep instead of being stretched to find some kind of a solution. As a consequence, you fail to make any efforts at finding some kind of a solution. It was Wayne Gretzky who wisely observed, “you miss 100% of the shots you don`t take.” You obviously do not want this to be true about your life.

Think “I can.” Think “how can I do this?” “How can this be done?” “How can I afford this?” This line of thinking and way of approaching issues puts your mind to work. You begin to think about possible solutions. Here you are, presented with the challenge of raising some funds to pay for tuition in college. You have no sponsors and you are jobless. The negative thinker will simply call it quits; “to hell with education”, he or she may quip, fully convinced there isn`t a way out. The positive thinker however, begins to ponder on possibilities; exploring a variety of options in the course of time. Lo and behold, he or she comes up with a not too conventional plan that eventually brings in the funds to pay for tuition.

Inspires hope

A sense of hopelessness is crippling, to say the least. It kills initiative and drive; circumstances you could have ordinarily dealt with and tasks you could have accomplished are left undone. Stagnation and retrogression becomes the more apparent. The good news however is that, you don`t have to remain in this state. What positive thinking would do for you is to inspire hope; the hope of a better tomorrow; the hope that things will change for the better; the hope that all is not lost yet. With a sense of hope, you will find fresh zeal and enthusiasm to face the circumstances of life. This will show in your actions and inactions. And progress would be made in most cases than not.

Identify opportunities amidst the odds

William Arthur Ward made a profound statement thus: “adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” The negative thinker faces a difficulty and suddenly thinks there is no way out. “It`s a hopeless case”, some are quick to admit. Little wonder some resort to taking their own lives but that is a defeatist approach. You are bigger and better than this. That challenge you are faced with is surmountable. That challenge isn`t unique to you. Many others have been in your shoes before and trust me, some have weathered the storms and have emerged stronger. They chose to be positive thinkers, finding opportunities in the midst of challenges.

Talk of Joni Eareckson Tada who lost the use of her hands right down to her feet (quadriplegic) as a result of an accident suffered while in her teens. It will interest you to know that she is an author, singer, radio host, speaker and the founder of a humanitarian organization (Joni & Friends). She is also an artist; she holds her brushes with her teeth and paints beautiful art forms. Sir Winston Churchill aptly noted (and I concord), “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in very difficulty.” You are certainly better of being a positive thinker than a negative thinker. Become a possibility thinker today. Yes, you can.

I am a freelance writer/editor, blogger & a published author. I hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology from the University of Wales, UK.
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Good Things Take Time: 7 Things You Should Never Rush

by Divine Akorli  

We live in an instant gratification society. Immediate notifications, light-speed Twitter feeds, instant internet connections…and an irrational frustration upon delay. We are a species who could find out that a convenience exists, begin to enjoy it, and 5 minutes later become dissatisfied when it does not meet our expectations.

We spend most of our lives seemingly rushing through it, only to look back days, weeks, or months later – and wonder where it all went.

Do not fall victim to the impossibility of keeping up with the times. Instead, understand that there are certain pleasures in life one should never rush.


That’s right. Not only did I say it, I made it the first point in the article. Anything worth having is worth working, and waiting for. This also goes for women, men, – anyone you truly want to be with is also worth working, and waiting for. Why would you ever rush something you want to last forever? You wouldn’t.

Choosing a gift.

Whether it is for a friend, family member, or significant other – fewer things in life carry the meaning of a genuine gift. The more mature we become, the more we realize that giving a gift is not about the dollar amount we spend on it, but rather the thought we put into it.

Spend the extra time to consider who you are giving the gift to, and how you can best maximize your efforts to make an impact in their life. Plan an experience, enjoy an occasion together. Spend time with him or her. Maturity teaches us that time spent with someone is far more important than money spent on someone – money you can get back, time you cannot.

Planning a day (or days) off.

Regardless of whether you are self-employed or working for someone else, time off does not come easily. Many people think entrepreneurship means 24/7 freedom, but anyone who owns their own business understands that often times you have even less free time to travel, because if you don’t work – neither does the business.So whether you are limited by a vacation plan or your very own revenue, never take time off for the sake of taking it off. Understand that experiences and seeing different parts of the world should be seen as invaluable, and therefore planned with care.

Accepting a new role in a company.

Speaking of work, we all have different directions and paths in life. I understand that money plays a large role in the choices we make, but there are far more circumstances that dictate one’s happiness than the direct deposit amount every other week.

Jumping into a new role at a new [or the same] company, can bring about many changes in your surroundings, culture, day-to-day routines, and trajectory in life. Always carefully consider and weigh all of your options accordingly.

A large financial commitment.

We can easily be impulsive and quick to move on something that has our attention. A new apartment, car, house, or large ticket item, can be appealing and tempting. Unfortunately, not all assets appreciate – in fact, most depreciate rather quickly, and weighing out how they fit into our financial plan can be an integral part of our future success. A large winfall or sum of money is not often best spent in one place – but intelligently, carefully, and after much research.

Making your relationship public.

Whether it be to your family or friends, it is imperative to truly understand and fully appreciate your relationship before you spread it far and wide. Through observation and experience I have learned the importance of making sure you are fully committed to your significant other before you integrate him or her with other parts of your life.

If you rush into a public commitment before you are sure yourself, you will feel pressured to stay in a situation that may not be right to you. A relationship is between two people – not many.

A promise.

Integrity and honor are perhaps the most valuable possessions we have as human beings. Whether it is committing to a small get-together, or a larger cause, we are only as good as our word. To make a promise is to put your reputation on the line by upholding said promise.

People who make commitments do not deserve respect – people who stick to commitments deserve respect.

Life is not to be rushed through, to be passed by, or to be glanced at outside the window of a proverbial speeding car. Life is to be savored, enjoyed, and absorbed. It is to be experienced, today – and every day.

Are you making the best of life?

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERS

Nothing Short of a Miracle

by Jennifer Mobbs

 I was watching one of those heart-wrenching videos on the Internet. The remnants of what once was a German Shepard dog had been starved to the point she was only a skeleton covered with patches of dirty, dingy fur.

This poor dog couldn’t even stand up without help. As I watched this short video, cringing at her horrible state, I was thankful that a rescue group had taken her in and instead of putting her to sleep they decide to try and save her. I knew that most shelters after taking one look at her, would in their words humanely euthanize her, and based on her condition, I really could not argue with that decision.

But, this group of people that rescued this pitiful dog saw something that made them look past the tattered fur and bones sticking out. So, they carefully fed her small portions of food and water and gave her medicine and most of all they gave her affection, attention and love. Within a few months the transformation was nothing short of a miracle.

The German Shepard was normal weight and size and her coat was shinny and soft and her eyes were full of life as she chased after a ball and ran around like a puppy. It bought tears my eyes, thinking, what a wonderful thing these people did for one of God’s creatures. She was essentially brought back from death and her transformation was complete. Now, all that was left was to find her a loving, caring home.

I thought of myself, which is something I probably do too much, as I was watching the video of the starving dog. Lately, I had been feeling like dead man’s bones, dry, brittle and broken. Battles with my health lead to battles with my emotions and frankly, battles with some of the same old sins I never seem to conquer.

These battles had simply taken the life from me. I felt some how connected with the picture of the starving dog unable to walk without help. I have been shuffling around on past hurts and disappoints, drawing conclusions that I had no right to draw. God was not done with me yet; in fact I have a long way to go.

It is hard to admit that I had not been feeding myself the Word of God. Second Timothy tells me the Word of God is profitable for teaching, for reproof for correction and for instruction in what is righteous; without that Word in such a short time; I became a starving dog. The devil is more than happy to tear away at our flesh, at our emotions and break us down, so we will be of no use to anyone.

That is why I am so grateful, like that beautiful transformed German Shepard that God is here to restore me and renew me so I can walk on bearing His Name and His Word in each and everything I do. He transforms me everyday into His Glory. The beauty of the German Shepard on the outside came from what her rescuers were able to achieve inside her body, making her a strong, happy, beautiful dog. These dry bones of mine soaked in the Word of God, can became strong and beautiful again.

It does not matter how we look when we understand our need for God, but how we can look when we accept the transformation that God has ready for us, because His Love is never ending, and in His Love each one of us can find the transformation that makes us whole each and every day.

I have been writing all my life, I just didn’t realize it until I was my late 40’s. I hope my experiences can help others who have gone through similar trials.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERS

Eight Things You Can Do To Get Your Husband To Do What You Want

by Carla Downing

Do most of your attempts to change your husband not only fail but result in distancing him from you and making your marriage worse? If so, you will benefit from the following eight things you can do to get your husband to do what you want:

-Ask if it is a good time to talk. If you don’t first get his attention and cooperation, you are doomed.
Keep it simple, short, and direct. Men don’t like to guess about what you want.

-Be willing to ask more than once without contempt – men forget and they don’t have the same priorities and concerns women have. The typical guy doesn’t see what needs to be done and if he does, doesn’t see it as his problem or a priority.

-Ask respectfully without attacking, blaming, or judging. Attacking provokes defensiveness.

-Be willing to fight for what is important to you.

-Appreciate all of his efforts-even if it is something you think he should do and hasn’t done in a while. Instead of saying “It’s about time” and showing your irritation, appreciate all of it and notice what he does. Men are motivated by appreciation for the little and big things. Make a big deal about it and he is likely to do it again.

-Respect him as a man- just because he is. Men want to be respected regardless of what they do. Speak to him respectfully without contempt and insults, recognize his manhood, look at him as the head of the house, believe in him, and see the best in him.

-Challenge him to be the man he can be. If your marriage is safe, ask your husband what you can do to show you respect him. (This doesn’t mean you have to accept any type of behavior and can’t have boundaries or ask him to change. You can and should have strong boundaries against unacceptable behavior.)

-Barter. Yes, use bartering. Offer him things he wants: time alone, sports time, guy time, food, and sex. Men like cause and effect. This way they know what they are getting for their efforts. How about “If you help me with the dishes or put the kids to bed, we can have sex.” Women think this is manipulative and wrong, but men love it because it is the way they think.

Do these eight things and you will have figured out how to get your husband to do what you want by understanding that God made men and women different and that taking advantage of it is wise.

. . . . . . . . . . . .

Next, if you need more practical tips and Biblical truths to help you change your relationships, get my FREE “15-Day Relationship Challenge” designed to give you back the power over your life.

Just click here:

Brighten summertime dishes with fresh grapes

(BPT) Warmer weather is finally here, and that means more daylight for activities of all types and ideally more time for relaxation. Whether family members choose to spend their time playing outside, tackling home projects or getting creative with crafts, it’s easy to work up an appetite for tasty summertime food. Crisp, juicy grapes serve as an easy snack — whether fresh or frozen — and a special ingredient in simple but creative new dishes.

Lemongrass Chicken Skewers with Grape Sauce uses fragrant lemongrass, a tropical herb with a lemony flavor and aroma, three ways: in the chicken marinade, in the grape sauce and as the skewers for the chicken. Grapes add a sweet and juicy crunch to the sweet-and-sour topping.

Guacamole with Grapes delivers a refreshing new dimension with fresh grapes providing a delightful color and texture contrast to the avocado base and imparting sweet notes that complement the zesty seasonings. Enjoy as a snack or serve as a festive appetizer.

Make sure that grapes from California are on the grocery list as a fresh staple from May through January; simply look for “California” or “USA” on the label. Stored unwashed, they can keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. A quick rinse before using and then — enjoy!

Lemongrass Grilled Chicken Skewers with Grape Sauce

Prep time: 20 minutes plus marinating time

Cook time: 10 minutes

Yield: Makes 4 servings



1/4 cup lime juice

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cloves garlic, finely grated or minced

2 tablespoons finely minced lemongrass bulb

Pinch red pepper flakes

4 stalks lemongrass

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/2 cup quartered California grapes

1/4 cup chopped cilantro


Make the marinade and sauce: Combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and garlic in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer and add the lemongrass and red pepper flakes. Cook 30 seconds and transfer to a bowl set in a bowl of ice water. Chill until room temperature, stirring frequently.

Peel the dark green leaves off each lemongrass stalk and cut each crosswise into 6-inch long pieces for 8 skewers. With the tip of a paring knife, poke a small hole in each piece.

Using the lemongrass as a skewer, insert lemongrass into each piece of chicken, putting 2 to 3 pieces on each stalk; place in a 9 X 13-inch dish. Pour half the marinade over the chicken, turn to coat and refrigerate 2 hours. Cover and set aside remaining marinade for the grape sauce.

Heat grill to high and oil the grates. Drain the skewers and brush with the oil. Grill the chicken 2-4 minutes on each side.

Stir the grapes into the reserved marinade and serve with the chicken skewers, sprinkled with the cilantro.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 250 Calories; Protein 35 g; Carbohydrate 10 g; Fat 7 g (25% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 1.5 g (5% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 95 mg; Sodium 750 mg; Fiber 0 g.

Guacamole with Grapes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Yield: Makes 6 servings


3 medium avocados, peeled and pitted

1 large lime, juiced

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1 small Fresno chile, seeded and minced

1 small clove garlic, grated or minced

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

3/4 cup halved red or green California grapes


Mash the avocado flesh with a fork in a large bowl with the lime juice. Stir in onion, cilantro, chile, garlic and salt. Fold in grapes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 180 Calories; Protein 2 g; Carbohydrate 14 g; Fat 15 g (75% Calories from Fat); Saturated Fat 2 g (10% Calories from Saturated Fat); Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 105 mg; Fiber 7 g.

Yelling at Children May Be More Harmful Than You Think

by Minnie Hawkins

We hear it in homes, grocery stores, and in school hallways. Sometimes we even hear it in churches. What is this spectacle? It’s yelling at children! Is it necessary? Is it an effective form of discipline or is it damaging to children?

Research shows that yelling is one of the most harmful actions adults can do to children. Consider adult-to-adult behavior for a moment. When one grownup makes a request of another grownup and he does not comply, does yelling bring about obedience? Not only does it not stimulate conformity, but it actually sets up an attitude of resistance. Children respond the same way and here are several negative effects of constant exposure to yelling.

First, yelling at children attacks their humanity and self-esteems, the beliefs and feelings they have about themselves. Children need all the help they can get to maintain healthy self-esteems. Those who develop low confidences have trouble handling anxiety and finding solutions to common problems. They are easily frustrated, passive, withdrawn, and often suffer from depression. Since children’s brains are still developing, it is hard for them to put labels on what they feel. They just know they hurt. On the other hand, children with healthy self-images handle conflicts well, resist negative pressures, smile a lot, and have optimistic outlooks on life.

Second, yelling desensitizes children to normal voice levels. Children should be expected to respond to conversational tones. However, when yelling is what they normally hear, commands, requests, questions, and the like, spoken in casual levels blend in with common environmental sounds. Many children have auditory processing deficiencies and sounds are distorted to them. Yelling makes processing even more difficult because the muffled sounds are loud and the children’s brains do not know what to do with them.

Incidentally, to communicate effectively with a child who is desensitized to a normal voice level by being yelled at, get in close contact. Tap him on the shoulder to establish eye contact. Then speak into his right ear in a conversational level voice, state the request, and ask the child to repeat it. If he cannot do so, restate the request and ask him again to repeat it back. If he can repeat it, wait until he complies.

Third, yelling sets a harmful model for the way children interact with other children and adults, including authority figures. When children display the learned, yelling behavior, it puts them in difficult situations that can result in social isolation as well as receiving disciplinary actions. Children become confused as to why they are punished for showing the same behavior modeled by adults.

The last negative effect of yelling at children is that it challenges or destroys their sense of safety. Children have an inherent right to feel that there are emotional and physical places where they can go and harm will not follow them. When children do not feel safe, they perceive they have no power over what happens to them. Many times they cannot put words to what they feel.

Some sources take a position that constantly yelling at children is mental child abuse and is as toxic as physical child abuse. Often times, the sting of words and tones last a lifetime. Abuse that occurs during early child development can cause the child to grow into an adult with self-destructive behavior and abusive traits. It is well documented that without effective intervention, children who are abused go on to become abusers.

One more critical factor that research shows is that adults who constantly yell as a form of discipline oftentimes feel bad about it but do not have effective skills they can use. They are overwhelmed.

Even the most patient adult can reach a limit and occasionally raise the decibel of the voice. This behavior must not become commonplace. It is far more effective when working with children to have a standard of raising the voice when it is a matter of safety and adults need children’s immediate attention and action. When grownups yell, “Stop,” “Come back,” or “Put that down,” for example, children will know a critical situation exists maybe even a matter of life or death.

Adults who yell as a method of discipline must consider the harm it does and actively seek effective, non-threatening parenting skills. They should not let pride keep them from getting professional help. Many parenting classes are free and readily available.

The destiny of our country depends on producing healthy children who have bright outlooks on life. Each grownup is obligated to do what is necessary to influence them in a positive manner. That means being equipped with effective discipline tools. Yelling is not one of them.

Article Source:

Managing Stress in Healthy Ways

by Stephanie Reck

Between 75-90% of all doctor’s visits are stress-related. Stress comes in a variety of symptoms, ailments, and conditions. Stress can affect you spiritually, physically, and emotionally. There are many things in life to cause us to feel stress and anxious. Chronic stress can complicate matters and can lead to burn-out and Adrenal Fatigue.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines stress as a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work, etc.; something that causes strong feelings of worry and anxiety; a physical, chemical factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.

What happens to our bodies under stress:

1. Cortisol mediates various metabolic processes. Cortisol levels can be elevated if we are under physical or psychological stress.
2. Immune system can weaken and you can become more susceptible to colds and flus.
3. Have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
4. Bouts of irritability, anger, and easily frustrated/annoyed.
5. Fatigue and don’t feel like you got a restful night’s sleep.
6. Anxiousness, fear, and low moods (mild depression).
7. Mood swings (hormones out of balance).
8. Feelings of being overwhelmed.
9. Eating too much or too little.
10. General sense of not feeling well (malaise).

What are we stressed about? Some common stressors in people’s lives:

1. Family
2. Marriage (getting married if you are not married)
3. Children
4. Finances
5. Work, career
6. School
7. Budgeting, paying bills
8. Paying for children’s education, college
9. Health
10. Health of family members
11. Friendships (lack of or not spending enough time with)
12. Death of a loved one
13. Death of a pet
14. Divorce, remarriage
15. Stepfamilies
16. Salvation of loved ones
17. Not sleeping
18. Unresolved childhood issues or unresolved grief issues
19. Single parenting
20. Fear of the unknown, not being in control
21. Addictions with self or family members
22. Infidelity
23. Infertility, miscarriage, abortion
24. Moving, adjustments/transitions
25. New job or retirement
26. Having a baby
27. Debt
28. Family member moving in
29. Family member having emotional/ mental difficulties
30. A goal/dream was not accomplished

Add up the above stresses for the past year and if you listed 5 or more that occurred this last year, you could have a high level of stress that needs to be dealt with.

Steps to Coping with Stress and ways to Manage Stress Levels:

1. Spend daily time in the Word, praying and giving thanksgiving for the things that are good in your life.
2. Attend church regularly and fellowship with the Body of Christ.
3. Write down (5) things to be thankful for EVERYDAY. Keep a Gratitude Journal.
4. Journal, write often. Write the date on each journal entry and how you are feeling, what God is speaking to you, and anything else that would be helpful.
5. Walk or do light exercising. Walking is the best exercise for stress reduction.
6. Take it One Day at a Time. Focus your energy and thoughts on the present day.
7. Do something fun daily! Enjoy your life!
8. Find a hobby such as gardening, bird watching, or painting.
9. Watch comedies often! Laugh! Smile!
10. Take every thought captive into the Obedience of Jesus Christ and renew your mind continually. Watch what you are thinking and talking about.
11. Eat balanced meals consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein. Stay away as much as possible from fried foods, processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-energy drinks.
12. Drink 3 cups of green tea. You can choose to drink (1) 8oz. cup of coffee.
13. Switch to Stevia instead of sugar.
14. Limit your time with negative, draining, and toxic people. Watch who your spending your time with.
15. Avoid overreacting to problems as much as possible. Practice praying first, and being still.
16. Listen to relaxation music such as jazz, classical, and soothing sounds.
17. Take bubble baths and light scented candles.
18. Light scented candles and other fragrant scents throughout your home.
19. Don’t take on the burdens and problems of others. You can pray for others always and intercede ONLY when God calls you to.
20. Set limits and boundaries with others. Learn to say, “No.” Do not try and meet the expectations of everyone.
21. Be a God pleaser not a man pleaser.
22. Do not seek the approval of others but what God would have you to do.
23. If you are able to afford a massage or you can have your spouse do for you.
24. Take time off when you can. Rest when you can. You don’t have to be going and doing all the time!
25. Take small vacations or staycations if you cannot afford to leave.
26. Nap when you can and when you need to, its okay!
27. Eat sitting down and eat slowly and enjoy your meals.
28. Do not live in a hurry or rushing around. Let your pace be relaxing.
29. Help when you can help but don’t take on the responsibility of others.
30. Forgive yourself, forgive others.
31. Be gentle with yourself. Stop being so hard on yourself. Let go of perfectionism.
32. Take a multi-vitamin, B-vitamin and look into natural herbal remedies. I do not make any medical disclaimers here.

Stephanie R. Reck, LMSW, LBT, BCCC
Founder of Hope Ministry
Hope Ministry, @2020
Author of, “Disciplining Your Mind 30 Days to a Better You!”

California Prisons Block AI Researchers from Examining Parole Denials

EFF Clients Want Access to Public Records on Race and Ethnicity in Parole Hearings

by Electronic Frontier Foundation

San Francisco – A team of researchers who want to develop a machine learning platform to help analyze and detect any patterns of bias in California parole-suitability decisions has been blocked for years by the state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). In a lawsuit filed today by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the researchers argue that the state’s public records law requires the release of race and ethnicity data they need to develop their work.

“We want to create a machine learning tool that can extract factors from parole hearing transcripts, describe the current decision-making process, and identify which decisions appear inconsistent with that process and might be worthy of reconsideration. We need race data to do that,” said Catalin Voss, a PhD student at Stanford University.

“Modeling any criminal justice process without accounting for race is unthinkable. Race is embedded in the American justice system. Empirically, the only way to disentangle race from other factors is with the race data,” said Jenny Hong, a PhD candidate at Stanford.

The team—which also includes Nick McKeown, a Professor of Computer Science at Stanford, and Kristen Bell, an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Oregon—sent their first California Public Records Act (CPRA) request for race and ethnicity data in September 2018. However, officials from CDCR denied that request and several more since, claiming exemptions to the CPRA that a judge in an earlier case has already ruled do not apply to this data.

“When I first connected with Catalin about developing this research, I assured him we’d be able to get data about race because it’s public record. I thought it might take two months. It has been two years, and we have no real answers,” said Bell.

“The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is making the same arguments with us that have already lost in court,” said EFF Staff Attorney Saira Hussain. “Our clients want to use machine learning to identify patterns of discrimination—something you’d think prison officials might want to learn more about.”

Bell has conducted previous research on California parole-suitability decisions and found that race and other illegitimate factors had a significant influence on parole decisions for individuals sentenced to life with the possibility of parole as juveniles. During negotiations between the researchers and CDCR about a potential data release, one official said that the records would be provided only if Bell ceased her involvement in the project.

“What’s most upsetting is knowing that our experience is likely not unique,” said Bell. “There has been much debate about evidence-based criminal justice reform in California, but how can we know if we’re moving any closer to justice when the prison system is preventing independent researchers from accessing race data?”

“Government officials should not be deciding which researchers get access to information based on whether they think they will like the answers,” said EFF Staff Attorney Cara Gagliano. “Our clients simply want CDCR to follow the law and provide the records they need to do their work.”

For the full petition in Voss v. CDCR:

Pray for yourself

Michael Hume

“Give careful thought to your ways.” Haggai 1:7
God wants you to think about what you want from life, and keep asking Him to help you to get those things. At times you need to reflect and take stock of yourself. Life is not static, but always in a state of flux.

You should be praying for yourself, since you know yourself best. God has spoken to you most about His plans for your life since you have asked Him many times to show you His direction for you. How do you know if others are praying specific things for you ? Maybe they are not, or not as earnestly as you on some things. If there are some things you don’t reveal to many people, those are the exact things you need to pray for the most yourself.

If God has promised you specific things they will happen, but you still need to pray them in, and ask for more insight along the way.

“Keep watch over yourselves.” Acts 20:28. We need to look out for ourselves and pray for ourselves daily or from time to time. There may be a time when God blesses you much because you are praying for others, but the Holy Spirit will teach you when you should be praying for yourself, and what you should be praying for. We are not alone, God is with us assisting our prayers.

Ask God for all your needs, and name those needs. Pray earnestly, God hears all your prayers. Enjoy your prayer time with God. You are in His company so it should be one of the best times of your day. God is a joy to be with, and to talk to.

“I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. God is a Wonderful Friend, the Best you will ever have. He cares so much for you and wants to do you good only. He wants to give you hope and a future. Satan just wants to take all your joy, hopes and dreams away, and crush you.

When you have opportunity pray for yourself as well as the ones who God has asked you to pray for, like family and close friends, and others. It is not selfish to pray for yourself. If you want good things for others, then you should also ask God to give good things to you. Maybe you are one of those people who finds it easier to pray for others. If you are, don’t neglect yourself.

Michael Hume. The Holy Spirit teaches you everything. Copyright belongs to author.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERS

Mr. and Mrs. Porcupine

by Melissa Martian

Bretta and Brian decide to try counseling after their five-year relationship turned prickly. Their sharpened quills are preventing affection and intimacy.

Bretta’s sarcasm cuts into her introverted partner. “You’re boring and about as fun as road kill!”

Brian grimaces and retorts, “You’re frigid and as cold as a polar bear in the bedroom.”

Experience in marital counseling has taught me to snatch the reigns without more ado.

Using the “1-10” scaling technique, I ask both to rate their level of communication. Bretta’s number is lower than Brian’s, but both are under “4.” I point to a third empty chair and explain that the marriage is the client. Using gestalt, I discuss the counseling process in the here-and-now but the porcupines want to argue about the there-and-then. “Time-out,” I firmly say with emphasis on each word and direct eye contact. I lay the ground rules of communication 101.

I give kudos for the courage to come to marital counseling and I echo the strengths of their relationship. The porcupines leave my office with handouts, homework, and hope.

They return for the second session. I check-in, review homework, then teach more communication skills and conflict resolution techniques. I use some brief solution-focused questioning.

The third session is not pleasant but productive. They insist on examining their love life. We explore nonsexual affection and sexual intimacy. Quills and emotions flare as they circle the wagons. Bretta cries and Brian withdrawals, their usual modus operandi. Ah, a teachable moment about their predictable behavior patterns during conflict. And an opportunity to explore modus vivendi.

I reinstate the here-and-now interactions and the tools of listening; “I” statements instead of “You” statements; awareness of triggers and reactions; observing facial expressions and body language; and so forth. I ask them to exchange roles and then do some exaggeration of role-playing. Laughter pays a visit and tension is dispersed for the moment. Authentic humor is a soothing potion. They leave my office with a list of recommended books and homework activities.

In due course, their quills begin to fall out. A few months later, they attend a weekend get-away for nuptial renewal.

Melissa writes about the God and human connection and condition.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERS

21 Inspirational Marriage Quotes

by Pastor QT Nyathi  

Here are 21 powerful marriage quotes to nourish your soul and improve the health of your marriage.

# 1. “Realize that you are intimately connected to your partner in every way and so you cannot fix your partner without fixing yourself too in the process.”

# 2. “Shame on you if you are married but are still taking instructions from your parents on how to run your home.”

# 3. “You can sleep on one bed but be miles apart.”

# 4. “Marriage is like a seesaw, it only gets exciting when both parties on either end do their part.”

# 5. “Children are not the glue of marriage, commitment is.”

# 6. “A wedding is a one-day drama, marriage is for a life-time.”

# 7. “Any investment made into your marriage is an investment into the church, the community and the nation because all three benefit immensely from a strong family.”

# 8. “Any pastor who does not have a thriving marriage ministry is not ‘pastoring’ his church, instead he is pestering it.”

# 9. “Marriage is an irrevocable life-long covenant, not a short-term revocable contract.”

# 10. “Finances fire-up a marriage by either fueling conflict or flaming the flames of passion.”

# 11. “Once you remove God from a marriage all that is left are two lost people trying to play ball in a dark room.”

# 12. “Without open, consistent, and no-holds-barred communication, marriage is mission impossible.”

# 13. “Many couples are guilty of a very serious crime that takes place under the cover of darkness; its technical name is called violating a dead body or simply sleeping with a corpse in layman’s terms. They sleep with a dead and unresponsive partner every day.”

#14. “It’s a tragedy of seismic proportions that single youths are having more sex than legally married couples.”

#15. “Have you ever posed to think of the significance of the fact that God created the family before he created the church?”

# 16. “If you’ve never kissed in front of your children, you are a pathetic picture of the marriage institution.”

# 17. “Anger is not bad as such in marriage-it’s a natural feeling that shows how deeply you care about someone.”

# 18. “A third party is only welcome into a marriage by invitation; otherwise he or she may part you.”

# 19. “A bad marriage is self-evident and cannot be kept under wraps for long before its stench draws people’s attention. So if your marriage is in trouble, don’t pretend, seek help today because people will know eventually anyway.”

# 20. “Any married man who is mama’s boy must go back to his mum and only come back to his wife when he has grown a beard.”

# 21. “Any woman who controls her own husband is a witch because witchcraft is based on manipulation.”

Since there is no marriage up yonder, enjoy yours here and now.

Pastor QT is a published author, copywriter and speaker. His sincerity, wit and candid style have endeared him to many hearts. His book DELIVERANCE UNPACKED has been warmly received globally. He conducts spicy marriage and singles seminars with his feisty wife Bonani.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERS

A Father’s Day To Remember

by Linda Lawrence

At the stroke of ten on a Saturday night I received a phone call from our fifteen-year-old son, Sean. “Hey Mom, I’m at Dan’s house. He’ll bring me home as soon as he gets his car running. Be sure and tell Dad I called.” 

I offered to pick him up, but he reassured me Dan could bring him home. “Be sure and tell Dad I called,” he repeated. 

Carl had gone to bed, but I peeked in and saw he was awake. I gave him Sean’s message and was startled with his quiet response. “He’s lying.” 

“No, no, he told me where he’s at.”

“When the phone rang, I knew it would be Sean.” Carl sighed as he added, “And he would lie.” 

“Well, why didn’t you answer the phone then?” I was frustrated at Carl’s suspicion and certainty. “Oh Carl, I’m sure you’re wrong. If it will help you sleep, I’ll drive over to Dan’s and get him.” His silence told me he knew Sean wouldn’t be there. 

I grabbed the keys and headed for Dan’s. 

Sadly, Carl was right. The house and garage were dark, with no sign of anyone working on a car. My heart sank. Images of confrontation and blame filled my head. I feared angry words between father and son, causing wounds that wouldn’t heal, rushing them to an impasse. Please, God, I begged, give Carl wisdom and self-control. And please help Sean to accept responsibility for his lie— to not try to justify himself.

Pulling into our driveway, I saw Carl, dressed, and sitting on the front steps— waiting. “I’m staying here until I see who brings Sean home,” he said. 

There was little more to be said. I went inside, my stomach in turmoil, but the living room was peaceful, quiet. I, too, sat waiting, looking at a small pile of gifts on the loveseat—gifts the kids had earlier wrapped for Carl. Tomorrow was Father’s Day. 

Eighteen-year-old Shannon arrived home around 11 o’clock, got the gist of what was happening from her Dad before coming in. Knowing my propensity toward blaming myself, Shannon exhorted me. “Mom, I know what you’re thinking. This is not your fault. Kids don’t set out planning to hurt their parents. They just do stupid things without even thinking. So don’t start blaming yourself!” I hadn’t begun my usual guilt trip yet, but Shannon knew that would be coming. 

“I’ll try,” I said, taking her admonition to heart. We settled in to wait for whatever was next. Finally, after midnight, we heard a car stop outside. Shannon had her ear to the door, but could hear nothing except the car leaving. Several minutes passed. Indistinguishable talking was all we heard until Carl and Sean approached the door. Shannon hurried to join me on the other end of the couch, trying to look nonchalant when they walked in. 

Carl sat down on the loveseat, next to the stacked gifts, and solemnly announced, “Sean has something to tell you.”  

“I lied about where I was.” Sean’s head was bowed and he shuffled his feet. “I was with Gil and his girlfriend. I’m sorry.” Gil was a college-age friend we thought we could trust. 

“Go on and tell them the rest,” Carl said.

Sean lowered his eyes and whispered, “I had a beer.” 

Having finally confessed everything, he fell into a miserable heap on the corner swivel chair. Having a beer may not seem like a big deal, but in our house, for a 15-year-old, it was a big deal and Sean knew it. 

Carl stood, sweeping his hand toward the gifts, saying quietly, “I can’t take these. I failed as a father, or you would not have thought you had to lie. I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow—maybe go for a long drive to figure out where I went wrong—but I can’t celebrate Father’s Day.” 

Sean’s head shot up. “It wasn’t you. It was me!” Bending over, head in his hands, he cried convulsively, “It wasn’t you, it was me. . .” 

Carl fought to control his mixed emotions. His mouth trembled as he lost the battle. Seeing their tears, Shannon began to cry. 

“I hope you can see sin doesn’t hurt just you.” Carl said as he stood up. Looking at each of us in turn, he said, “It hurts all of us. You’re crying. I’m crying. Shannon’s crying. Your mom’s crying . . . on the inside,” he added as he noticed my dry eyes. 

I couldn’t cry. I was too thrilled with Sean’s lack of defensiveness, with the lack of conflict and blame. God was answering my prayer.

Carl looked at me, his eyes asking if anything was left unsaid. I smiled, satisfied, amazed at his surprising meekness, humility and self-control. He put his hand on Sean’s heaving shoulder, squeezed it and went off to bed—obviously drained of strength. 

Sean went to his room and closed the door, but Shannon and I could hear him, still sobbing as though his heart were broken.

“Mom, I feel so bad for him. Can I go talk to him?” 

“Of course,” I told her, “go ahead.” He was obviously mourning over his sin, so we felt free, even eager, to comfort him. Shannon tried, but he would not be comforted. 

As Shannon and I started to process together the night’s emotional drama, we heard a door open and close. Looking out the window, I saw Sean walking up the street. Running after him, I put my arms around him, smelling the beer. “It’s all right Sean. It’s okay. We love you. Come on home.” 

“I’ve got to walk, Mom. I’ve just got to walk.” 

His back was stiff, unyielding and unable to receive my affection so I let him go. “Okay, but come home soon. Know we love you.” His pathetic countenance could have broken my heart if I wasn’t confident our Heavenly Father was using his pain and repentance to form his character—and his relationship with his father.

Just as I was returning to the house, Carl was coming out–dressed again. “Honey,” I said, “he says he needs to walk. He’ll be okay. Let him go.”

“I will, but I want to be sure he’s safe.” So, as Sean strode around the block, walking off his tension and grief and shame, his father followed in the shadows, lovingly keeping watch. 

When the clock struck two, everyone was finally in their own bed. Carl and I held each other, two fatigued parents. Carl whispered, “What do you think I should  do about Father’s Day, now?”

“I don’t know . . . Everything’s okay, isn’t it?” We laid awake, silently rehashing the emotional night, eventually falling asleep.

 In the morning we saw a note for us from Sean, slid under our door. I’m sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me. . .  

We went to church, had dinner, opened gifts, spoke gently to each other all day, feeling like we had inherited the earth. 

I’m sure our Heavenly Father celebrated with us that Father’s Day.

Linda Lawrence has a passion for passing on personal stories of the reality of God's faithfulness and loving intervention in the affairs of His children

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All the money in the world will not take away your fears and anxieties. You can be the most successful person in your business, however your money and success will do nothing in getting rid of your stresses and anxieties. So what do you do to make your fears and anxieties to go away? Well, since money and fame are not the answers, then the best solution is to be smart in how you manage your fears. Here are some ways in how to manage your persistent fears and anxieties.

Take it one day at a time. Instead of worrying about how you will get through the rest of the week or coming month, try to focus on today. Each day can provide us with different opportunities to learn new things and that includes learning how to deal with your problems. Focus on the present and stop trying to predict what may happen next week. Next week will take care of itself.

Remember that the one source that a person should use as a basis in managing their fears and anxieties is using God as a basis in dealing with their fears. Why? The power of God is the one power that is stronger than your fears and anxieties. Also, God loves each one of us and he is the one person who has the power to solve all of our problems. He will help you if you ask him to.

Learn how to manage your fearful thoughts that may be difficult to manage. When experiencing a negative thought, read some positive statements and affirmations that help lift your spirits and make you feel better. Remember that your fearful thoughts may be exaggerated so balance these thoughts with realistic thinking and common sense.

Take advantage of the help that is available around you. If possible, talk to a professional who can help you manage your fears and anxieties. They will be able to provide you with additional advice and insights on how to deal with your current problem. By talking to a professional, a person will be helping themselves in the long run because they will become better able to deal with their problems in the future. Managing your fears and anxieties takes practice. The more you practice, the better you will become.

When managing your fears and anxieties do not try to tackle everything at once. The best solution is to break your fears or problems into a series of smaller steps. Completing these smaller tasks one at a time will make the stress more manageable and increases your chances of success.

Remember that no one can predict the future with one hundred percent certainty. Even if the thing that you feared does happen there are circumstances and factors that you can’t predict which can be used to your advantage. For instance, let’s say at your place of work that you miss the deadline for a project you have been working on for the last few months. Everything you feared is coming true. Suddenly, your boss comes to your office and tells you that the deadline is extended and that he forgot to tell you the day before. This unknown factor changes everything. Remember: we may be ninety-nine percent correct in predicting the future, but all it takes is for that one percent to make a world of difference.

Managing your fears and anxieties will take some hard work. Sooner or later, you will have to confront your fears and anxieties. Remember that all you can do is to do your best each day, hope for the best, and take things in stride. Patience, persistence, education, and being committed in trying to solve your problem will go along way in fixing your problems.


Stan Popovich is the author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear Using Psychology, Christianity and Non Resistant Methods” – an easy to read book that presents a general overview of techniques that are effective in managing persistent fears and anxieties. For additional information go to:

Relationships Matter Most

The CEO of a California mega firm PIMCO, a $2 trillion investment fund, resigned upon receiving a note from his daughter listing 22 milestones he had missed in her life. His most recently reported annual income was $100 million. His 10 year old daughter’s compelling list of the special moments where he was absent in her life was the turning point to bring a new balance in his work and family relationships. It was the teachable moment for Mr El-Erian.

El-Erian’s said his wake up call was, “My daughter compiled a list of her important events and activities that I had missed due to work commitments. The list contained 22 items, from her first day at school and first soccer match of the season to a parent-teacher meeting and a Halloween parade. I felt awful and got defensive: I had a good excuse for each missed event! Travel, important meetings, an urgent phone call, sudden to-do, but it dawned on me that I was missing an infinitely more important point… I was not making nearly enough time for her.”

El-Erian’s decision has brought better balance in his work/family relationships. He is now chief economic adviser with financial services company, Allianz, where he told Reuters he spends “50 percent of my time and I love it.”

He surrendered the good life for a much better life with less stress and more fulfillment in what matters most—right relationships. El-Erian has upgraded his “investment portfolio” which now prominently includes his daughter. This priceless investment will go on long after El-Rrian is gone to yield dividends for generations to come as well as fulfillment to serve all of them well.

Most young people today are among the majority who do not have a mother and father regularly in their life. Most do not have a mature adult relationship in their life. Their preoccupation is in their impersonal digital and game relationships which is void of personal nurturing relationships.

Family disintegration, absenteeism and the digital pseudo substitute fillers are taking an incalculable and generational toll on the health and well-being of this generation and those to follow. The economic, social, emotional, health, behavioral and addiction costs are having a tsunami impact on the well-being of our culture and nation.What threshold of “pain” and cost will it take for our wake up call?

C.S Lewis, a world class novelist said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain; it is His megaphone that rouses a deaf world.” What it will take for the “deaf” to hear. As a fish desires what’s on the hook, we have no idea what is to come but feel more and more uncertain and aware of the fragility of life.

We are hooked suckers who take the bait. If we are still breathing it is not too late to spit out the hook. Ironically, we change our ways, not when we see the bait, but more often when we feel the “hook.” Not one of us picked our place of birth, nor do we control the variables that shape our future. Fulfillment comes from personal relationships which determine our significance and legacy. If we settle for anything less we are our own thief.

The priceless value of our worth was assigned by God from the beginning of time. When all is said and done, personal relationships with God and others matter most. We can be the difference we want to see in our communities. Seize today to show the better way in personal relationships that matter most.

Robert Lincoln “Bud” Hancock is the author of Designed for a Purpose (1970) His education degrees are: Bachelor of Science from California State University and Masters Degree from University of California. He served as White House Reagan Administration as a SES appointee

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITERS

Study ties stroke-related brain blood vessel abnormality to gut bacteria

NIH funded study supports link between high levels of gram-negative bacteria and a stroke- seizure- and headache-inducing vascular malformation

In a nationwide study, NIH funded researchers found that the presence of abnormal bundles of brittle blood vessels in the brain or spinal cord, called cavernous angiomas (CA), are linked to the composition of a person’s gut bacteria. Also known as cerebral cavernous malformations, these lesions which contain slow moving or stagnant blood, can often cause hemorrhagic strokes, seizures, or headaches. Current treatment involves surgical removal of lesions when it is safe to do so. Previous studies in mice and a small number of patients suggested a link between CA and gut bacteria. This study is the first to examine the role the gut microbiome may play in a larger population of CA patients.

Led by scientists at the University of Chicago, the researchers used advanced genomic analysis techniques to compare stool samples from 122 people  who had at least one CA as seen on brain scans, with those from age- and sex-matched, control non-CA participants, including samples collected through the American Gut Project(link is external). Initially, they found that on average the CA patients had more gram-negative bacteria whereas the controls had more gram-positive bacteria, and that the relative abundance of three gut bacterial species distinguished CA patients from controls regardless of a person’s sex, geographic location, or genetic predisposition to the disease. Moreover, gut bacteria from the CA patients appeared to produce more lipopolysaccharide molecules which have  been shown to drive CA formation in mice. According to the authors, these results provided the first demonstration in humans of a “permissive microbiome” associated with the formation of neurovascular lesions in the brain.

Further analysis showed that some gut bacteria compositions could identify aggressive versus non-aggressive forms of the disease as well as those with recent symptomatic hemorrhages. Also, for the first time, they showed how combining gut bacteria data with results from blood plasma tests might help doctors better diagnose the severity of a brain disorder. The results, published in Nature Communications, support a growing body of evidence for the role of gut bacteria in brain health.


Jim Koenig, Ph.D., program director, NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)


Polster, S.P.; Sharma, A. et al. Permissive microbiome characterizes human subjects with a neurovascular disease cavernous angioma, May 27, 2020, Nature Communications; DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-16436-w(link is external).

This study was supported by the NIH (NS092521, NS100949, NS065705, NS100252, HL094326, TR001863), the Department of Defense (W81XWH-18-1-0501), the BeBrave for Life Foundation, The University of Chicago Safadi Clinical and Translational Neuroscience Awards, The American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Joint Cerebrovascular Section Robert J. Dempsey MD Cerebrovascular Research Grant, the Sigrid Juselius Foundation, and the William and Judith Davis Fund in Neurovascular Surgery Research.

NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®

Increasing screen time during the coronavirus pandemic could be harmful to kids’ eyesight

Shu-Fang Shih, University of Michigan and Olivia Killeen, University of Michigan

The coronavirus pandemic is remaking the way children learn, and it could have an impact on their eyes.

With schools shifting to online lessons at home, children are spending more time in front of computer screens, and many parents are relaxing screen-time rules for TV and video games to keep kids occupied while social distancing. In the midst of the crisis, many children are spending less time playing outdoors.

This combination – more screen time and less outdoor time – may actually harm children’s vision and put them at higher risk of developing myopia, or nearsightedness. That can lead to serious eye problems in the future, including some potentially blinding diseases.

As a health behavioral and policy professor and an ophthalmology resident interested in health promotion and eye care for children, we’re concerned about the impacts of decreased outdoor time and excess screen time on children’s eyes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What causes myopia?

Scientists are still trying to understand how myopia, or nearsightedness, develops and progresses.

It occurs when the eyeball is too long or the eye’s focusing power is too strong, causing light rays to focus in front of the retina instead of on it, which creates a blurry image. While glasses or contact lenses can correct a child’s vision, research shows that having severe myopia puts children at risk for a number of eye problems down the road, including retinal detachment, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Some factors in whether a child develops myopia, such as genetics, are beyond a parent’s control, but research shows that other risks can be reduced.

In people with myopia, light focuses in front of the retina rather than on it, so distant objects appear blurry. Anurag Papolu/The Conversation, CC BY-SA

A review of 25 years of research found that working up close – like reading or using a tablet – increased the odds of myopia.

For example, a nationwide study in Taiwan found that after-school study programs with lots of closeup work were associated with an increased likelihood of nearsightedness among children ages 7 to 12. A study of Chinese schoolchildren found that increased time spent working with the eyes focused on something less than 20 centimeters away was associated with myopia. Researchers in Ireland found that greater than three hours of screen time per day increased the odds of myopia in schoolchildren, and investigators in Denmark found that the risk of myopia approximately doubled in Danish teenagers who used screen devices for more than six hours per day.

Getting outdoors matters

Some studies now suggest that spending time outdoors may be able to slow the onset and progression of nearsightedness.

In Taiwan, first grade students at schools with programs designed to increase their outdoors time to 11 hours or more each week had less progression of myopia over one year compared to their peers. Similarly, in China, researchers found that adding 40 minutes of outdoor activity a day at school reduced the development of nearsightedness in six-year-old children over the next three years.

It is not clear why outdoors time protects against myopia, or why closeup work could make it worse. One theory is that light intensity and time spent outdoors regulates the release of dopamine in the retina, which controls the growth of the eye. Other theories center on how viewing distances impact where the light is focused on the retina; shorter viewing distances indoors may promote abnormal growth of the eye.

Although there is no consensus on how much time children need to spend outside or the importance of the light intensity they are exposed to, it is possible that more outdoor time can help to balance out more closeup work, as a study of children in Australia found.

Childhood is an important time to think about myopia because myopic children tend to become more nearsighted over time. The age of myopia onset is the most significant predictor of severe myopia later in life.

Globally, rates of myopia have been rising. The prevalence of myopia among children ages 6-19 years is estimated at around 40% in Europe and North America, and higher in Asia. By midcentury, researchers studying the trends have estimated that about half the world’s population could be myopic.

Such high rates of myopia also come with an economic burden. The potential lost productivity resulting from myopia was nearly US$250 billion in 2015.

Building an eye-healthy lifestyle at home

Parents can help by carefully managing their children’s screen time to support educational use while limiting cartoons and video games. They can also encourage more outdoors activities while maintaining social distancing.

Having clear rules, setting limits on screen time and parents’ communication style have been associated with less screen time among children. Parental modeling also influences how much time children spend watching TV.

The World Health Organization recommends that children under 5 spend one hour or less per day on digital devices, and children under 1 spend no time on digital devices. The Children’s Eye Foundation recommends daily outdoor play, no screen time for those under age 2, a maximum of 1-2 hours per day for kids ages 2 to 5 and guided screen time with frequent breaks for kids over 5.

Parents and teachers can also check out helpful tips for eye health from the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Educators can find resources to prepare learning materials. Here are some recommendations:

  • Take a 20-second break from closeup work every 20 minutes
  • Set a timer to remind kids to take those breaks
  • Keep digital media 18 to 24 inches away from the face

As we plan the future of education in the age of COVID-19, schools and policymakers must consider children’s vision needs while designing new initiatives. Schools, teachers and parents can work together to incorporate eye health strategies and protect children as they learn online.

[The Conversation’s newsletter explains what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic. Subscribe now.]

Shu-Fang Shih, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Michigan and Olivia Killeen, Resident Physician in Ophthalmology, University of Michigan

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Should you fly yet? An epidemiologist and an exposure scientist walk you through the decision process

Passengers onboard an American Airlines flight to Charlotte, North Carolina, from San Diego, California. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Kacey Ernst, University of Arizona and Paloma Beamer, University of Arizona

We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to travel. And that typically means flying.

We have been thinking through this issue as moms and as an exposure scientist and infectious disease epidemiologist. While we’ve decided personally that we’re not going to fly right now, we will walk you through our thought process on what to consider and how to minimize your risks.

Why the fear of flying?

The primary concern with flying – or traveling by bus or train – is sitting within six feet of an infected person. Remember: Even asymptomatic people can transmit. Your risk of infection directly corresponds to your dose of exposure, which is determined by your duration of time exposed and the amount of virus-contaminated droplets in the air.

A secondary concern is contact with contaminated surfaces. When an infected person contaminates a shared armrest, airport restroom handle, seat tray or other item, the virus can survive for hours though it degrades over time. If you touch that surface and then touch your mouth or nose, you put yourself at risk of infection.

Before you book, think

While there is no way to make air travel 100% safe, there are ways to make it safer. It’s important to think through the particulars for each trip.

One approach to your decision-making is to use what occupational health experts call the hierarchy of controls. This approach does two things. It focuses on strategies to control exposures close to the source. Second, it minimizes how much you have to rely on individual human behavior to control exposure. It’s important to remember you may be infectious and everyone around you may also be infectious.

The best way to control exposure is to eliminate the hazard. Since we cannot eliminate the new coronavirus, ask yourself if you can eliminate the trip. Think extra hard if you are older or have preexisting conditions, or if you are going to visit someone in that position.

If you are healthy and those you visit are healthy, think about ways to substitute the hazard. Is it possible to drive? This would allow you to have more control over minimizing your exposures, particularly if the distance is less than a day of travel.

You’re going, now what?

If you choose to fly, check out airlines’ policies on seating and boarding. Some are minimizing capacity and spacing passengers by not using middle seats and having empty rows. Others are boarding from the back of the plane. Some that were criticized for filling their planes to capacity have announced plans to allow customers to cancel their flights if the flight goes over 70% passenger seating capacity.

Federal and state guidance is changing constantly, so make sure you look up the most recent guidance from government agencies and the airlines and airport you are using for additional advice, and current policies or restrictions.

While this may sound counterintuitive, consider booking multiple, shorter flights. This will decrease the likelihood of having to use the lavatory and the duration of exposure to an infectious person on the plane.

After you book, select a window seat if possible. If you consider the six-foot radius circle around you, having a wall on one side would directly reduce the number of people you are exposed to during the flight in half, not to mention all the people going up and down the aisle.

Also, check out your airline to see their engineering controls that are designed or put into practice to isolate hazards. These include ventilation systems, on-board barriers and electrostatic disinfectant sprays on flights.

When the ventilation system on planes is operating, planes have a very high ratio of outside fresh air to recirculated air – about 10 times higher than most commercial buildings. Plus, most planes’ ventilation systems have HEPA filters. These are at least 99.9% effective at removing particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter and more efficient at removing both smaller and larger particles.

A passenger at Pittsburgh International Airport travels through security on May 7, 2020. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

How to be safe from shuttle to seat

From checking in, to going through security to boarding, you will be touching many surfaces. To minimize risk:

  • Bring hand wipes to disinfect surfaces such as your seat belt and your personal belongings, like your passport. If you cannot find hand wipes, bring a small washcloth soaked in a bleach solution in a zip bag. This would probably freak TSA out less than your personal spray bottle, and viruses are not likely to grow on a cloth with a bleach solution. But remember: More bleach is not better and can be unsafe. You only need one tablespoon in four cups of water to be effective.
  • Bring plastic zip bags for personal items that others may handle, such as your ID. Bring extra bags so you can put these things in a new bag after you get the chance to disinfect them.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as often as you can. While soap and water is most effective, hand sanitizer is helpful after you wash to get any parts you may have missed.
  • Once you get to your window seat, stay put.
  • Wear a mask. If you already have an N95 respirator, consider using it but others can also provide protection. We do not recommend purchasing N95 until health care workers have an adequate supply. Technically, it should also be tested to make sure you have a good fit. We do not recommend the use of gloves, as that can lead to a false sense of security and has been associated with reduced hand hygiene practices.

If you are thinking about flying with kids, there are special considerations. Getting a young child to adhere to wearing a mask and maintaining good hygiene behaviors at home is hard enough; it may be impossible to do so when flying. Children under 2 should not wear a mask.

Each day, we are all constantly faced with decisions about our own personal comfort with risk. Arming yourself with specific knowledge about your airport and airline, and maximizing your use of protective measures that you have control over, can reduce your risk. A good analogy might be that every time you get in the car to drive somewhere there is risk of an accident, but there is a big difference between driving the speed limit with your seat belt on and driving blindfolded, 60 miles an hour through the middle of town.

You might also be interested in other parts of this series:

Kacey Ernst, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of Arizona and Paloma Beamer, Associate Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, University of Arizona

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Keys to a Stronger Marriage

Marriage may not be as easy as you thought but, those who put effort into their marriage will be rewarded with longevity, satisfaction, and growth with the one you love.

Being the best partner possible is not always easy. At times it’s not fair. At times it hurts; it can be lonely. It involves choosing to love your partner whether he or she deserves it or not. It involves continuing the initial vows you made when you began your marriage.

Here are little ways you can strengthen your marriage:

Start each day with a kiss. Decide to begin the day with love.

Wear your wedding ring at all times. Let it be a visual reminder of your commitment.

Go on a date with your spouse once a week. Even if it’s just for coffee, dedicate time for the two of you.

Accept differences. Try to remember that once you thought your spouse’s idiosyncrasies were cute. Your chances of changing them are slim, so decide to live with them.

Be polite. Are you more polite to co-workers or store clerks than you are to the one you love? Practice good manners at home.

Be gentle. Harsh words and actions have no place in your home. Choose to be kind to those you love and who love you.

Give gifts. While diamonds are a girl’s best friend, a card, a single rose, a favorite candy bar can also do the trick.

Smile often. Put on a happy face and let it determine your disposition. Remember how meaningful the glances were which you once gave each other.

Touch. A pat on the back or a soft caress of the cheek can show love and connection.

Talk about dreams. Get your conversation beyond coordinating schedules and talking about the kids. Take time to talk about ideas and dreams.

Give back rubs. Another day you’ll be on the receiving end.

Laugh together. Find something daily to share a laugh about. Life is complete with laughter.

Do what your spouse wants before being asked. Anticipate your spouse’s needs and jump right in to help. Put his or her needs before your own comfort.

Listen. You don’t have to solve problems, just be an active listener. Turn off the TV, put down the newspaper, and give your spouse your full attention.

Encourage. The best way to give support is to encourage your spouse to do his or her best, to feel confident, or accomplish great things.

Call your spouse. Check in with each other throughout the day – just to say Hi or I love you.

Hold hands. Take a walk or watch TV while holding hands.

Look your best. Comfort doesn’t have to be socks and a T-shirt for bed every night.

Apologize. Almost as good as I love you is I’m sorry, forgive me. Marriage isn’t a game where you keep score. It’s not important who’s right.

Ask, What can I do to make you happier? You may be surprised at how simple it is to please your spouse.

Reminisce about your favorite times together. Talk about special times you shared, and create new times together.

Pray for your spouse daily. Don’t let a day go by without praying for your marriage, your spouse, and your family.

Watch sunsets together. Find the beauty in life and share it.

End each day with a hug. Decide to end the day with love.

by Karen McKenney

“If Only…”—Living in the Past

 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead” (Philippians 3:13).

I lived in the past, saying, “If only…” or “What if?” I didn’t realise this until the Reverend Elroy Patrick allowed me to see my life in a snapshot by a demonstration he did in service one Sunday.  I personalised the message. 

He used two individuals to hold up the letters I and Y.  The “I” represents me as an individual and the “Y” represents Yaweh (God).  What was standing between I and Y were the letters F O N L.  The letters on their own made no sense but when the cards were put together they created the phrase, “IF ONLY.” I’ve heard this message preached in different ways before but this demonstration brought it home to me.  So I looked within to find some of the, ‘If Only’, statements present in my life and came up with:

  • If only they were in my life teaching me…
  • If only they had not given up their parenting responsibility…
  • If only Mum did not take me out of high school before I was able to do my exams, I would have progressed to teachers college…
  • If only I had returned to Jamaica, earlier, I would have seen my grandma once more before she died…
  • If only I had received the love I craved from my parents, I wouldn’t have had to go looking in all the wrong places and end up latching on to individuals, being used and abused by some…  

My parents weren’t there to protect me from the pain others were inflicting.  Then I realised that the pain I was enduring was causing me to resent my parents because it started with them not being part of my life. That’s where the ‘If only…’ statements began. I had to look within and do a self-assessment. I then realised that it is not about those who inflicted the pain—it’s about me and God.  So everything that was between I and Y (me and God) everything hindering me from having a relationship with God…everything that is non-productive in my life that has been a chain, that’s what has been holding me back.  That represented what has been hindering me from moving forward.

I thought about the letters between the “I” and the “Y” and wondered what they represented on my journey.  I came up with the following:

Fear [I had an unhealthy fear of men because of those who had abused their leadership power in my youthful days];

Obstacles [Everywhere I turned I faced obstacles and after so many hit backs I just wanted to give-in to the oppressors];

Neglect [My parents abandoned me so I felt I wasn’t good enough to be loved by others. I built up a wall of protection, having endured this same neglect from others I looked up to, especially in the church]; and

Lies [I believed the enemies lies that I wasn’t loveable and so I lived a very lonely life].

You too may have your ‘If Only’ moments. They may come at intervals and you may bounce back quickly or they may find you living a less than full-filled life where guilty feelings or shame; resentment or hatred; a feeling of worthlessness from being abandoned or rejected; etc. may cause you to reside in a place of darkness where depression hovers over you. I would like to encourage you to search and hold onto God’s Word for the truth that will set you free (St. John 8:36). It is your hope of release from the enemy’s grip. The enemy’s desire for you and I is that we focus on the things that come between us and God. He does this so that we will have little or no time to focus on and develop our relationship with God.

My aim in sharing my thoughts with you is so that you can recognise and deal with the things that come between you and God. We do have control over the things that comes between us and God. Once we take the time to analyse our lifestyle we will recognise bad habits that we have developed over the years as well as new ones that are being developed. God’s Word will help us to focus our minds on Him and whatever is true, honest, right, lovely and of good report–whatever is praiseworthy–His Word will help us to think on these things (see Philippians 4:8). He will then keep our minds in perfect peace while He completes the work He started in us.

Maybe you too can make your own list of what the letters between I and Y represents in your life and see how God would have you deal with those issues.

Support Your Immune System with Grapes

(Family Features) Boosting immune function through a healthy diet has become an important new focus for many people these days. One key dietary recommendation is to eat more fruits and vegetables each day to improve immune function and prevent heart disease and diabetes. When looking to guide your family to healthier snacks and meals or simply trying to mix up your at-home menu, success can be as simple as rethinking the ingredients you choose to use, including your favorite produce, such as grapes.

Fresh California grapes, for example, make for an ideal snack because they are tasty, healthy, hydrating and refreshing, but grapes can also be used to make good-for-you dishes that are also satisfying and delicious. Grapes of all colors – red, green and black – are a natural source of beneficial antioxidants and other polyphenols. Plus, they are naturally fat-free, cholesterol-free and contain virtually no sodium.

Try recipes like Moroccan Grape and Grilled Chicken Bowls with Grape Vinaigrette, Spiced Chickpeas and Grapes with Yogurt, and Cauliflower Steaks with Grapes to pair heart-healthy grapes with other nutritious ingredients and add variety and fresh appeal in the kitchen.

Visit for more nutritious family recipes.

Moroccan Grape and Grilled Chicken Bowls with Grape Vinaigrette
Servings: 4

1 cup Israeli couscous
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup parsley, leaves only
1 1/2 teaspoons ras el hanout (Moroccan spice blend)
1 teaspoon salt

2 chicken breasts (8 ounces each)
1 tablespoon harissa paste
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup green California grapes
1 lemon, juice only
1 preserved lemon, rind only
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

1   cup red California grapes, halved
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

To make couscous: Cook couscous in boiling salted water. Drain, rinse with cold water and combine with olive oil. Add carrots, tomatoes, parsley leaves, ras el hanout and salt. Mix well and set aside.

To make chicken: Heat grill to medium-high heat.

Rub chicken breasts with harissa paste, olive oil and salt. Grill on both sides until just done. Set aside to cool. Slice into 1/4-inch slices.

To make vinaigrette: In blender, puree green grapes, lemon juice, lemon rind, olive oil and cilantro until smooth. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Toss couscous mixture with vinaigrette and portion into four bowls. Top with sliced chicken, red grapes and almonds.

Nutritional information per serving: 590 calories; 30 g protein; 44 g carbohydrates; 32 g fat (49% calories from fat); 4.5 g saturated fat (7% calories from saturated fat); 65 mg cholesterol; 720 mg sodium; 3 g fiber.

Spiced Chickpeas and Grapes with Yogurt
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Servings: 4

1   can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed, drained and patted dry
1   cup California grapes
1   tablespoon peanut oil 
1 1/2   teaspoons mustard seeds
1   teaspoon cumin seeds
1   teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4     teaspoon salt, divided
1   pinch red pepper flakes
1   cup low-fat Greek yogurt
1   tablespoon lemon juice
1/2     teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2     garlic clove, grated 
2   tablespoons chopped cilantro
2   tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

In large bowl, mix chickpeas and grapes.

In small skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add mustard seeds and cover. Cook until seeds stop popping then add cumin and fennel seeds; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and pepper flakes; pour over chickpeas and grapes. Mix well.

In separate bowl, stir yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic and remaining salt. Spread on serving platter and top with chickpea mixture, cilantro and scallions.

Nutritional information per serving: 220 calories; 11 g protein; 31 g carbohydrates; 6 g fat (25% calories from fat); 1.5 g saturated fat (6% calories from saturated fat); 5 mg cholesterol; 280 mg sodium; 1 g fiber.

Cauliflower Steaks with Grapes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4

1   large head cauliflower, leaves trimmed off
3   tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2   teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2     teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1   cup halved California grapes
1/4     cup chopped Castelvetrano olives
2   tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2   tablespoons chopped, toasted    pistachios

Heat oven to 450 F.

Cut stem off cauliflower and cut remaining head crosswise into four 1-inch-thick slices, keeping as intact as possible. Place on sheet pan and brush sides with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary, salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Roast until browned and tender, about 25 minutes.
Combine remaining olive oil, remaining pepper, grapes, olives, parsley and pistachios. When cauliflower is roasted, transfer to serving plates and top with grape mixture.

Nutritional information per serving: 210 calories; 5 g protein; 20 g carbohydrates; 14 g fat (60% calories from fat); 2 g saturated fat (9% calories from saturated fat); 0 mg cholesterol; 480 mg sodium; 5 g fiber.

Healthy Eating is Easy with Grapes

Grapes are prized for their taste and crisp, juicy texture, but fresh grapes are also a heart-healthy, hydrating snack choice. Grapes contain more than 1,600 natural plant co

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