Posts made in December 2018

A surprisingly simple explanation of grief

December 31, 2018

In a simple, but powerful December 29 tweet, Lauren Herschel of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, shared “The Ball and the Box” analogy to grief, MSN reported on December 27.

Anguish following the loss of a close family member, friend, or pet is a tricky thing to describe or explain. Everyone grieves differently, and there’s certainly no timeline for how you’re supposed to feel. To show this, Herschel drew two pictures of how sorrow changes over time and why it can bubble up randomly.

Her analogy and the pictures she sketched to explain it already have been retweeted over 4,000 times.

Herschel drew a box (square) with a ball (circle) inside. On the left side of box she penciled in a red “button.”When the grief is new,” she explained, “the ball takes up most of the box and is hitting the button, which represents pain, over and over again. The pain is fairly constant. . You can’t control it – it just keeps hurting. Sometimes it seems unrelenting.””

But, she says, “Over time time, the ball shrinks — but every now and then, it still hits the button and it hurts just as much. It’s better because you can function, day-to-day, more easily. But the downside is that the ball randomly hits the button when you least expect it. Maybe you see someone who reminds you of your loved one. Maybe a certain song plays on the radio. Maybe it comes out of nowhere.”

Herschel says she first heard about the analogy after the recent death of her mother, when a doctor explained it to her. It not only helped her to understand the overwhelming grief she was experiencing after such a fresh loss, but it also gave her clarity about why she still was experiencing grief over her dad (who had been gone for 20 years).

“I think in general feelings, especially the tough ones, are hard to articulate,” she said.

“For most people, the ball never really goes away,” she said in another tweet. “It might hit [with less frequency] and you have more time to recover between hits, unlike when the ball was still giant. I thought this was the best description of grief I’ve heard in a long time.”

She advises that it can take time for the ball in your box to shrink. You shouldn’t feel rushed into getting “over” your grief, and you definitely shouldn’t feel judged for grieving, no matter how long ago it started.

Research contact: @LaurenHerschel

President’s good-will trip incites rancor

December 31, 2018

What was supposed to be a surprise good-will stopover on December 26 at Al Asad Air Base has created hard feelings instead — both in Iraq and in the United States—after President Donald Trump politicized his holiday message to the troops; tweeted photos of a top-secret Navy SEAL team; and failed to visit the nation’s prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

On the U.S. side, both pundits and politicians pushed back after the president autographed MAGA hats and claimed in his address to the troops that American forces were “suckers” for their service in Syria.

“As long as the message from the president is how wonderful it is that they are doing a service for the country, that’s great,” Charles Blanchard, a former general counsel for the Army and the Air Force during the Clinton and Obama administrations, told The Washington Post. “But when it turns into a political rally, what do people see? They see enthusiastic soldiers clapping and yelling for a partisan message.”

Robert Dallek, a presidential historian, told the DC-based news outlet that there’s always an element of politics when presidents visit troops overseas but that Trump transgressed the line.

“Lyndon Johnson went to Vietnam and visited the troops,” Dallek said.“Did he attack the Republicans? Did he attack his Democratic critics? No. It’s inappropriate. But, once again, what you have with Trump is someone who bends the rules and violates the norms in order to make himself look special or exceptional.”

And in reference to the SEAL team photos, an unnamed Defense Department official told Newsweek that the “deployments of special operation forces—including Navy SEALs—are almost always classified events, as to protect those men and women that are on the front lines of every overt and covert conflict.”

The source added, “I don’t recall another time where special operation forces had to pose with their faces visible while serving in a war zone.”

What’s more, The New York Times reported, a range of Iraqi politicians criticized President Trump’s visit the following day, and some called for a parliamentary debate on whether American forces should leave. The rebukes underscored the political sensitivities surrounding the U.S. military’s deployment in the country, 15 years after the American-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and led to his execution in 2006.

Plans for the visit had been shared in advance with the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Still, the Times reported, representatives from rival parties in Parliament said that the visit, which lasted three hours and did not include a face-to-face meeting with Mahdi, was an arrogant affront.

American forces left Iraq in 2011, but returned three years later at the Iraqi government’s request to help reverse the Islamic State’s rapid spread in the country, including its takeover of Mosul, once Iraq’s second-largest city. But calls for the Americans to leave have grown in Iraq since the Islamic State was largely routed from the country last year.

One spokesperson called on the nation’s Parliament to “play its role … and put an end to the frequent violations to the Iraqi sovereignty by the American government and to issue a decision to get the American forces out of Iraq.”

President Trump said at Al Asad that he had no plans to order the roughly 5,200 U.S. service members in Iraq to come home. He also spoke from Al Asad by phone with Mahdi and invited him to visit the White House. Plans for the two to meet in person at the base were canceled for security and logistical reasons, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

This was President Trump’s first visit to vist the troops. In response to all of the criticism, he tweeted on December 27, “CNN & others within the Fake News Universe were going wild about my signing MAGA hats for our military in Iraq and Germany. If these brave young people ask me to sign their hat, I will sign. Can you imagine my saying NO? We brought or gave NO hats as the Fake News first reported!”

There were no polling results yet on the president’s initial opportunity to have “boots on the ground” in a combat zone.

Research contact: @nytimes

For ‘the morning after,’ Pedialyte offers Sparkling Rush powder packs

December 31, 2018

If the “merry” and the “happy” have skedaddled from your holiday season as a result of one too many glasses of eggnog or champagne—or a case of the flu—Pedialyte says it has just the solution (literally) in a new drink for the adult market.

The company, a subsidiary of Abbott Laboratories, has launched Sparkling Rush, which it describes as “advanced rehydration with a fizz, with an optimal balance of electrolytes and carbohydrate to prevent mild to moderate dehydration.” Free of artificial colors, the clear rehydration drink comes in grape and cherry effervescent flavors—stored for on-the-go use in convenient powder packs that can be poured into a glass of water and activated in ten seconds.

“The holiday season is unfortunately rife with dehydration pitfalls,” Pedialyte says in a December 19 release. “With flu season in full effect, air travel to visit loved ones, and even those late nights out with friends, you’ve got a recipe for your body to lose more water than it takes in—causing dehydration. Losing water also means losing electrolytes—essential minerals like sodium and potassium that are responsible for maintaining proper fluid levels in your body, balancing your blood’s pH levels, and firing signals to your nerves and muscles. Dehydration can bring on a headache, fatigue, even dizziness, which is no way to celebrate.”

And a glass of tap water won’t do the job nearly as fast, because it won’t provide enough of the electrolytes that your body is missing. What’s more, the company claims, while some people turn to sports drinks for those essential minerals, “the leading ones aren’t optimized for rehydration like Pedialyte. They are higher in sugar and lower in sodium, and may actually make dehydration worse.”

Specifically, the company asserts, “Each Pedialyte product has at least 1,030 milligrams of sodium and no more than 25 grams of sugar per liter; while leading sports drinks contain an average of 460 milligrams of sodium and 58 grams of sugar per liter.

The new product is available at Target and Meijer grocery stores nationwide, as well as online at Amazon

Research contact: @AbbottNews

Unforgettable you: Why memory is such an alluring quality

December 28, 2018

Imagine that you accidentally cross paths with someone you befriended at camp. Ten years later, this person not only knows who you are; he or she enthusiastically recalls the experiences the two of your shared. You exchange phone numbers and agree to meet again. The experience makes your day.

Recent research has found that one of the ways in which people make themselves instantly attractive is the simple act of recollection: They remember us—fondly.

Indeed, as Selda Koydemir—director of the London-based  Research Maze and lead author of a paper published last May called “Feeling special, feeling happy”—recently told Psychology Today, being unforgettable is both flattering and humbling, and is tied to our sense of self-worth.

Good politicians always make sure to remember details about the constituents they encounter. Good friends and loved ones do so authentically. It’s a truism: Being genuinely interested in other people makes other people genuinely interested in us.

And the opposite is true as well, the researchers found. Another common human experience is the letdown of being forgotten. In an ever-more-competitive society, we want to feel that, regardless of our personal attributes and talents, we are valuable and special.

The recent study, reports Psychology Today, found that a personal sense of uniqueness is positively associated with authentic living; which, in turn, is positively related to happiness. Similarly, feeling special means gives a person the “permission” to walk his or her own path in life, rather than seeking to conform to external influences. Hence,  people who affirm our uniqueness—faults, flaws, and all—may become friends for life.

Here is the best part: It is easy to become a source of authentic self-worth for others. Share your fond memories, and make someone’s day.

Research contact: @seldakoydemir

America’s dirty secret: Private migrant detention has become big business

December 28, 2018

An exclusive report, posted by The Daily Beast on December 27, has found that, in 2018 alone, for-profit private prisons made nearly $1 billion on a new U.S. “industry”: the detention of migrants.

Underwritten by taxpayers and beset by problems, the third-party-operated U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities are known for minimal oversight and what immigration advocates say uncomfortably resembles slave labor: Prisoners who choose to work rather than sit in overcrowded dormitories are paid $3 a day to work in the kitchen and as little as $1 a day to sweep floors.

Yesica, a 23-year-old who fled her native El Salvador to escape gang persecution and has spent the last two years locked up in the Joe Corley Detention Facility in southeast Texas, told the Daily Beast with the help of a translator, “This is a really terrible place. It’s inhumane. It’s like a torture chamber….I don’t breathe fresh air; haven’t been outside since I’ve been in here.”

Being in the U.S. illegally is a misdemeanor offense, and immigration detention is technically a civil matter; not a criminal process. But the reality looks much different. The Daily Beast reported that as of October 20, ICE was detaining an average of 44,631 people every day—an all-time high. Now, ICE has told the online news outlet that its latest detention numbers are even higher: 44,892 people as of December 8. Its budget request for the current fiscal year anticipates detaining 52,000 people daily.

Yesica’s employer and jailer, the private prisons giant GEO Group, expects its earnings to grow to $2.3 billion this year, The Daily Beast notes, reporting that—like other private prison companies—GEO made large donations to President Donald Trump’s campaign and inauguration.

In 2004, GEO Group spent $120,000 on federal lobbying. By 2016, it was spending $1.2 million, The Daily Beast reports. Fellow private prisons giant CoreCivic spent nearly $10 million between 2008 and 2014 just to lobby the House Appropriations subcommittee that controls immigration-detention funding. Together, according to the Migration Policy Institute, the two corporations dished out a combined half-million dollars to Trump’s inauguration committee.

In essence, immigration advocates say, the detention corporations pay the president and his congressional allies.

What’s more, Mary Small of the Detention Watch Network told The Daily Beast, the public still lacks “incredibly basic information about immigration detention and how private prison companies are profiting from it.”

She added, “Even though billions of taxpayer dollars are being obligated to private prison companies, the contracts between them and the federal government aren’t publicly available, so we don’t know how much these companies are being paid, how many people they’re holding, or how long their contracts last. This culture of secrecy—bolstered by revolving door politics and political contributions—[has] paved the way for a rapid and reckless expansion of the detention system.”

The differences between for-profit immigration prisons and public immigration prisons are substantial, according to recent research by The American Immigration Council based on data from fiscal year 2015. One of the major findings: For-profit prisons “consistently and substantially” hold immigrants longer than public ones—about 87 days on average for people ultimately granted relief, versus 33.3 days in public prisons.

Fifteen of the 179 detainees who died in ICE custody between October 2003 and February 2018 were held at a single private immigration detention center, run by CoreCivic in Arizona, according to the Migration Policy Institute. At another privately run immigration detention jail, GEO Group’s Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California, there were seven suicide attempts between December 2016 and October 2017 (and at least one success), The Daily Beast reports.

GEO Group did not respond to requests for comment.

Research contact: spencer.ackerman@thedailybeast.com

Trump: Federal workers who are ‘not getting paid’ are Democrats

December 28, 2018

On December 27, President Donald Trump resumed his feud with Democrats on Capitol Hill over $5 billion in funding for a border wall—claiming, according to a report by The Hill, that most of the hundreds of thousands of federal employees who have been furloughed or forced to work without pay due to a partial government shutdown are Democrats.

“Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border. Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country,” Trump tweeted at 7:06 a.m. “Do the Dems realize that most of the people not getting paid are Democrats?” he added.

Why the president made that claim is anybody’s guess, but—since he has not hired replacements for the staff who worked in federal agencies during President Barack Obama’s term—perhaps he believes that those who remain on the payroll are Democrats.

The border wall has been the focal point of government funding negotiations between Capitol Hill and the White House. However, Democrats in both houses remain staunch in their opposition to funding the wall, with Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi (D-California) calling it a “nonstarter.”

In early December, the Democrats pitched Trump $1.3 billion for border “security,” but the president—immediately facing pressure from conservative pundits—declared he would not accept that offer. Then, during a trip to visit U.S. troops in Iraq on December 26, he doubled down, demanding that Democrats pay a $5 billion bottom line that had never been promised.

“Whatever it takes. We need a wall. We need safety for our country. Even from this standpoint. We have terrorists coming in through the southern border,” he told reporters.

In a sign that the two sides are not yet close to reaching a compromise, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-Louisiana) office told The Hill on December 26 that no votes in the House were expected the next day and that members would receive 24 hours’ notice of when they needed to return to Washington, D.C.

Democrats will have significantly more leverage in negotiations come January 3, when the party officially takes control of the House.

Research contact: @talstales

Mutt shots: Snapchat offers lenses for dogs

December 27, 2018

The Internet already is a dog-eat-dog world, with pooches worldwide vying for “top dog” (and top money) on such sites as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Now, Snapchat has introduced special lenses that will help proud owners to digitally dress up their hounds for the holidays in reindeer ears, eyeglasses, pepperoni pizzas, and even butterflies.

To try them out, PC Magazine advises, simply open the Snapchat camera and press on the screen to open the lens carousel, as usual. Scroll through the carousel until you find a lens with a little blue pawprint icon on it, aim your camera at your dog, and prepare to say “aww.”

Dog lovers have been “barking mad” since October, when Snapchat brought cat-friendly lenses to its platform, but left out filters for Fido. With both available as of this week, we can expect more varieties (and maybe a few filters for our iguanas and parrots?).

Appealing to dog and cat owners might just help Snapchat offset declining user engagement on the platform, PC Magazine reports. The company also recently introduced Snap Originals, five-minute exclusive shows that feature new episodes everyday. Originals can be found in the “Discover” section of the app or via Snapchat search.

Research contact: @Snapchat

‘Tis the season to divide property

December 27, 2018

The holiday season traditionally brings families together, but this year it’s a different story: Divorce lawyers are celebrating a Merry Christmas, as they work overtime to help sparring spouses untie the knot before the new year, when the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will change the way in which payments between ex-partners are assessed, according to a report by CBS Moneywatch.

In fact, U.S. divorce lawyers. say they’ve seen up to fourfold increases in their workloads, while courts are also staying open longer to accommodate the flurry of couples scrambling to make their splits official so they can benefit from allowances under previous tax rules.

In a memo obtained by CBS MoneyWatch, Florida Judge Tarlika Navarroof the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court recently cited the “changing tax laws” in saying she would make herself available for hearings over the Christmas holiday—including offering court extra sessions on December 27  and December 28, when the court is normally closed.

Lynne Strober, co-chair of the matrimonial and family law practice group at Mandelbaum Salsburg in Roseland, New Jersey, told CBS that she is working “crazy hours” to complete divorce settlements by year-end, noting, “Everyday I am working on getting a different case resolved,”

Under current law, the person on the hook for alimony in a divorce — typically the higher-earning spouse—can deduct those payments from his or her income, and it is the lower-earning ex who is taxed on that sum.

But, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Trump in December 2017, the tax burden shifts from the alimony recipient to the person writing the check. That could mean more revenue for the federal government—given that the payer is usually in a higher tax bracket.

In changing the tax law, the House Ways and Means Committee called the current treatment of alimony a “divorce subsidy,” the network news outlet said—arguing that “a divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result for payments between them than a married couple can.”

Dueling spouses have often separated and filed for divorces in January, after family holiday obligations are endured, but the looming tax deadline also gives couples incentive to finalize a split quickly.

Steven J. Mandel, a family law attorney based in New York City, told Moneywatch that he saw a big uptick in couples filing for divorce in June and July. In most cases, he said, his clients already had been planning—or at least considering—a divorce. “I’ve never heard a couple say, ‘Let’s get divorced to save some money on our taxes,’ ” he said.

Divorcing couples hoping to beat the clock are now at the mercy of the court system—which has a backlog of cases waiting to be heard. “We have been calling up the clerk and court personnel to see if there is any way we can get our clients’ cases expedited,” Mandel said.

Research contact: @MeganCerullo

‘Fed’ up: Trump’s anger simmers as financial markets slump

December 27, 2018

President Donald Trump’s frustration with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin—one of his longest-term Cabinet members—has ratcheted up. The president lashed out after financial markets suffered their worst Christmas Eve slump ever despite Mnuchin’s attempts to call major U.S. banks and calm Wall Street according to CNN.

That doesn’t bode well. Indeed, a source told CNN, Mnuchin could be in “serious jeopardy” with Trump.

Nevertheless, the cable news outlet said, the president vouched for Mnuchin publicly on Christmas Day—shifting blame for the market volatility to the Federal Reserve, instead.

“Yes, I do,” Trump said on December 25, when asked whether he had confidence in Mnuchin. “Very talented, very smart person.”

But the source painted a different picture of Mnuchin’s standing behind the scenes. “Mnuchin is under the gun,” the source told CNN.

The Treasury secretary left Washington for a Christmas holiday in Mexico’s Cabo San Lucas, just as the federal government shut down over the weekend—while Trump canceled his own planned trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and remained n the White House (ergo, his tweet, “I’m all alone”) over the holiday, absorbing a flood of negative news about the markets.

Trump could meet with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell in January, a person familiar with the matter told CNN on December 26. Trump has fumed at Powell for raising interest rates, which Trump believes is driving the stock market lower—and has even inquired whether it would be legal to fire him.  Some of the President’s aides believe a face-to-face meeting could help ease tensions and allow the two men to discuss the underlying economy.

Nothing has been formally scheduled. The Wall Street Journal first reported the discussions about the meeting.

At the same time in Washington, Mnuchin aides have been scrambling to find economic data to help their boss calm Trump down, but Trump was said to be unhappy with what Mnuchin was telling him, this source said.

Research contact: @Acosta

Read this and weep: Crying at least once a week is good for you

December 26, 2018

It’s counter-intuitive, but crying at least once a week may be the key to a happier life—free from tension headaches and agitation.

In fact, one Japanese academic claims that the most beneficial way to relieve stress is to shed some tears—either happy or sad— the UK’s Independent newspaper reports.

Since 2014, former high school teacher Hidefumi Yoshida, 43—who calls himself a “Namida sensei” (“tears teacher”)—has teamed up with Hideho Arita, a professor at the Faculty of Medicine at Toho University in Tokyo, to launch a series of lectures nationwide in Japan aimed at raising awareness of the benefits of crying.

Yoshida says that he came to recognize the benefits of a good cry after one of his former students stopped showing up for consultations after the pupil had opened up and shed tears.

 “The act of crying is more effective than laughing or sleeping in reducing stress,” says Yoshida, adding, “If you cry once a week, you can live a stress-free life.”

Yoshida explains that listening to emotive music, watching sad films, and reading tragic books—and in the process shedding some tears— can offer huge benefits to your mental health by stimulating parasympathetic nerve activity, which slows the heart rate and can have a soothing effect on the mind.

And Yoshida isn’t the first person to tout the soothing effects of crying, the Independent notes.

In 1982, The New York Times reported on the study, entitled “Tear Expert”  and conducted by Dr. William Frey—who claimed that crying releases endorphins, subsequently promoting feelings of happiness and well-being.

Frey—director of the Psychiatry Research Laboratories at St. Paul-Ramsey Medical Center in Minnesota and a self-appointed student of ”psychogenic lacrimation,” as he calls emotionally induced tears—believes that tears help to relieve stress by ridding the body of potentially harmful stress-induced chemicals.

Another study, conducted in 2008 by researchers at the University of South Florida and the University of Tilburg among a cohort of 3,000 people found that crying made people feel much better in difficult situations, leading the authors to suggest that inducing tears should be used as a cathartic form of therapy.

So get those tissues and hankies out and put them to use. A good cry may be just what the doctor ordered.

Research contact: @Oliviapetter1