The Paris Massacre—What Next?

first_imgBefore midnight last Friday the world was alarmed by the massacre of over 123 people as a result of a spate of indiscriminate shootings and suicide bomb blasts in the center of France’s glittering capital, Paris.As people enjoyed a casual Friday evening witnessing a concert and having dinner and drinks in one of the world’s most beautiful cities, gunmen and women, who claimed to be Islamists, with deadly automatic weapons, stormed the Bataclan Theatre and neighboring cafes, shooting people at random. In the end, 123 people were counted dead and over 352 people wound, 99 of whom are in critical condition.As predicted by most political and security watchers, the Islamic State (IS), whose trademark is ruthless kidnapping, killing and indiscriminate destruction, immediately claimed responsibility for the massacre.How long can the world be expected to put up with this Islamic State which, since it declared itself a caliphate in June 2014 after acquiring huge tracts of land in Syria and Iraq, has been noted for barbarity, mass killings, abductions and beheadings?But before tackling this question, we must ask another: how did the Middle East become so terribly destabilized? Without claiming to be experts in international affairs, we can say without fear of contradiction that the root of the problem has been the shortsighted policies of some Western governments, notably the United States, which perennially and blindly backed some of the most oppressive Islamic regimes, such as Iran. The USA’s backing of the Shah of Iran for so long because of oil, led to the popular Iranian Revolution in 1979 and the invasion of the US embassy in November of that year, the taking over 60 hostages, leading to the fall of the Carter administration.The second major American mistake was President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, against the better judgment of many other nations and tens of millions of his own fellow Americans. But no, GW had to invade Iraq, to avenge the alleged attempt by Saddam Hussein to kill young Bush’s father. And GW carried out his ruthless invasion under a false pretext, that Saddam had a stockpile of “weapons of mass destruction.”One of the most painful consequences of that invasion was what happened to the Christian churches in many parts of the Middle East, especially Iraq and Syria. These churches had existed since the time of Peter and the other early Christian fathers. Remember, Saul, who later became the eminent Apostle Paul, was, shortly following the crucifixion of Christ, on his way to Damascus, the Syrian capital, to kill Christians. Saul was suddenly struck down by a voice from Heaven asking the very serious question, “Saul, Saul, why persecuteth thou me?”The rest is history. Saul was led to a man named Ananias, who restored Saul’s sight, renamed him Paul – who went on to become the church’s greatest Apostle. Christians have had a presence in the Middle East ever since.Say what you may of Saddam Hussein, but though himself a Muslim, he was committed to religious tolerance and vigorously protected the Christians in Iraq. Today the Christians have been run out of Iraq, and Syria, by the Islamic State. Does this make George W. Bush look like the anti Christ? Only history will tell.Another problem that has caused the Middle East to be destabilized is America’s blind support of Israel and its ruthless atrocities inflicted upon the Palestinians. This is one of the primary causes of the hate and resentment Washington experiences throughout the Middle East and the Islamic world. Heaven knows when this will end, for America seems to believe that Israel can do no wrong. Washington has done nothing to stop the Israelis from occupying Palestinian land.Perhaps the most serious cause of instability in the Middle East is Syrian President Assad who, because of his lust for power, has effectively destroyed his country and caused his own people so much pain, distress and anguish. It is he more than anyone else that has given rise to the ruthless and bloodthirsty Islamic caliphate.Finally, we lay a lot of the blame for the power that IS now has at the feet of President Barrack Obama and his timid approach to the Syrian crisis. Surely the USA is the world’s most powerful nation and leader of the also powerful Western alliance. We firmly believe that Obama, backed his committed partners, Britain, France, Germany, the EU, could have nipped IS in the bud from its very beginning. But oh! The problem of indecisiveness and the terrible consequences it is now wreaking.How long will indecisiveness cause innocent people to suffer and die?France and all other European nations, the USA and Russia must mount a joint response to terrorism from wherever it comes. Evil can be defeated, and defeated it must be. But also, America and its allies MUST be more sincere and more proactive and decisive in their dealing with the Palestinian issue. There can be no real peace in the Middle East—or anywhere else—until the Palestinian problem is fully and decisively resolved.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

Statue of Lidle planned for park

first_img“That money will be paid back pretty quickly as developers contribute to the Art in Public Places Fund,” Freeland said. [email protected] (626)962-8811 Ext. 2717 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “He’ll be wearing a Yankee uniform,” said Hunt describing his plans for the Lidle sculpture. The completed piece will stand eight feet tall and cover eight feet in width. “His legs alone will be 14 inches in diameter,” Hunt said. Chris Freeland, assistant to City Manager Andrew Pasmant, said that when complete the statue will weigh nearly a half-ton. Freeland got the idea for the sculpture after visiting all 30 major league parks over the past several years. “They all have nice sculptures outside of them and that’s what we’re trying to do.” The city plans to appropriate $139,100 from its Art In Public Places Fund. Most of the money, $100,000, will be in the form of a loan from the general fund, Freeland said. WEST COVINA – A Texas artist known for his sculptures of rodeo images and historical figures plans to build an 8-foot bronze statue of Cory Lidle that will be installed in the city by fall. The City Council will vote on the design today at its meeting. The statue, when complete, will be placed in the Big League Dreams Sports Park at the former BKK landfill. The figure, which will depict Lidle delivering a pitch, will cost the city $99,600, according to city documents. If he is awarded the contract, the artist, Don Hunt, of San Antonio, expects to deliver the figure by Oct. 1, he said. Lidle, a former South Hills High School standout who pitched for the New York Yankees, was killed last Oct. 11 when the plane he was flying crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper. last_img read more

Computer games may keep the brain nimble, study says

first_imgThe computer game’s concept is relatively simple. Find the matching motor vehicle and road sign amid a series of increasing distractions. Succeed and the challenge gets quicker and harder.According to new research Cognitive-training games like this one, Double Decision, are designed to improve brain functions and are at the center of a growing body of research looking at their effectiveness as scientists strive to find ways to ward off the cognitive declines that usually come with age.A government-funded study published this month found that playing Double Decision can slow and even reverse declines in brain function associated with aging, while playing crossword puzzles cannot. The study builds on an earlier large trial which found that older people who played various cognitive games had better health-related outcomes, driving records and performed better at everyday tasks such as preparing a meal.Such research has led groups like AARP, the big seniors group, to jump on board and offer discounts for certain games that have shown proven benefits.Doctors who work with the elderly say they get many questions about so-called brain games and exercises. Despite promising study results, some doctors say there still isn’t enough evidence to prove such exercises will help people in everyday life.“What they do is they train you with a computer program to do better on a test” of cognitive function, said Barbara Messinger-Rapport, director of the Center for Geriatric Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. “But does that mean you do better on real-life activities that utilize those skills such as driving …or managing your medications?”Fredric Wolinsky, lead researcher for the latest study and a professor at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, said previous studies have demonstrated there are real-world benefits to playing certain computer games, including a reduction in depression symptoms. A study published in 2011 as part of a multi-year, government-funded trial, known as ACTIVE, showed that participants followed for six years had a 50% lower rate of motor-vehicle accidents following cognitive training, said Dr. Wolinsky, who didn’t participate in that research. The study appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.The latest study, called the Iowa Healthy and Active Minds Study, published this month in the online journal PLOS ONE, was a randomized controlled trial involving 681 healthy people. Participants were divided into two age groups—from 50 to 64, and 65 and over. People in each group were assigned either to play Road Tour, which has since been renamed Double Decision, or to do computerized crossword puzzles; some did the exercises in the lab and others at home.Double Decision briefly displays an image of a vehicle and a particular road sign. As the screen continually shifts, and assorted vehicles and road signs come and go, players must watch out for and identify the particular vehicle and sign that appeared at the game’s start. The game becomes more challenging as players advance levels, forcing them to quicken their mental speed as distractions multiply and images become harder to distinguish. The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, involved playing the game a minimum of 10 hours over a five-to-eight-week time period. One group played for an additional four hours after 11 months.Before beginning the study, participants were given standard cognitive tests, many involving executive-function tasks such as concentration and shifting from one mental task to another. The results were ranked relative to the average performance on those tests for the participants’ age group.The same tests were administered a year later. People assigned to do crossword puzzles showed typical cognitive one-year declines, Dr. Wolinsky said. But the groups who played the computer game showed a clear improvement compared with the normal loss of cognitive function as people age. The amount of improvement ranged from two to seven years, depending on which executive function was being tested. People who worked at home improved at the same rate as those who were in the lab.Improvements in the younger group matched those among the older participants. “That’s really important,” said Dr. Wolinsky. It suggests “we are able to start the recovery process sooner, rather than waiting until the cognitive decline has become so large.”The study followed similar research—the ACTIVE trial—also sponsored by the NIH. In that trial, about 2,800 elderly participants showed improved memory, reasoning and visual processing speed after playing an earlier version of the Double Decision game, said Dr. Wolinsky, who also worked on that earlier research.The ACTIVE study also tested the time it took to do daily activities, like preparing a meal, and performance tests, such as reading price tables to pick the best telephone provider, Dr. Wolinsky said. Participants showed improved performance compared with those who didn’t get such cognitive training.In the latest study, Dr. Wolinsky said he chose to use the updated Double Decision game in part because it is available for home users. In comparing computer-game use with another activity, he said he chose crosswords because many older people enjoy the puzzles and the general perception is that they keep the brain and mind active and engaged.San Francisco-based Posit Science Corp., the company that makes Double Decision and other brain games, expects soon to participate in multisite studies looking at the impact such games could have in delaying or possibly preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, said Michael Merzenich, a professor emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco and chief scientific officer of Posit Science.AARP recently began offering its members discounts on several Posit Science games, said Deborah Abernathy, director of AARP Brain Health. “Their exercises, specifically, we found were very helpful. They’re fun, they’re short and they’re easy to do and they’re online,” she said.Dr. Wolinsky said he doesn’t currently have a financial relationship with Posit Science. He did consulting work with the company for a total of 15 days from 2007 to 2009 as part of the analysis of the earlier ACTIVE study, he said.Dr. Wolinsky said the next study he expects to pursue will use functional MRI imaging to measure changes in the brain in people participating in cognitive-training exercises, he said.last_img read more