Later On

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Archive for the ‘Medical’ Category

Texas Republicans Dismiss Research as They Move to Further Defund Planned Parenthood

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I find it common for Republicans to ignore research in favor of sticking with their already-established beliefs and biases. From a newsletter sent out by the Texas Observer:

For years, Texas lawmakers have prioritized defunding Planned Parenthood and boosting anti-abortion organizations over ensuring access to care. The results have been stark: Tens of thousands of poor Texans lost access to care, more than 80 family planning clinics closed and the state scrambled to create a replacement network of providers that its own data shows hasn’t been able to fill in the gap. Yet Republican state senators flatly denied these impacts this week while offering support for a new bill that further limits funds for Planned Parenthood. Instead, some GOP members of the Senate Committee on State Affairs said that the state’s women’s health network is more robust than ever, and data showing otherwise is simply “not accurate.” Meanwhile, it’s estimated that less than a quarter of women in Texas who need publicly funded contraception are getting those services.

Sophie Novack reports in the Texas Observer:

Reproductive health advocates have long pointed to Texas as a cautionary tale of what happens when lawmakers prioritize defunding Planned Parenthood and boosting anti-abortion organizations over ensuring access to care. In 2011, Texas lawmakers slashed the family planning budget by two-thirds. Two years later, they kicked Planned Parenthood out of the state’s women’s health program. The results have been stark: Tens of thousands of poor Texans lost access to care, more than 80 family planning clinics closed and the state scrambled to create a replacement network of providers that its own data shows hasn’t been able to fill inthe gap.

Yet Republican state senators flatly denied these impacts on Monday while offering support for a new bill that further limits funds for Planned Parenthood. Instead, some GOP members of the Senate Committee on State Affairs said that the state’s women’s health network is more robust than ever, and data showing otherwise is simply “not accurate.”

“This Legislature has invested more money in women’s health to provide more services to more women than we ever have in the history of this state, and we have more providers than we ever had,” said state Senator Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who has served as the upper chamber’s top budget writer for the last three sessions. That “it’s not flowing through an organization that some people would prefer is their problem,” she said of cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. “My problem — our problem — is making sure women get the appropriate health care that they need. And we are doing that.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2019 at 10:28 am

“How True Crime Helped Me Deal With a Real-Life Monster”

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Rae Alexandra writes at KQED:

A few years ago, after 17 years of friendship, a man I adored and thought I knew very well was sentenced to three decades in prison for charges related to pedophilia. His case included acts on children so young, I hadn’t realized prior to his arrest that such crimes even existed.

Due to there being a mountain of video evidence (he had recorded himself), he admitted his guilt on the first day of his trial, and it was over almost before it had begun. Selfishly, I felt relieved that none of us would have to hear the minutiae of everything he’d done, but, reeling and in a state of shock, I decided to read the judge’s sentencing remarks online. I thought they might provide some catharsis. Instead, even the cursory details wound up making me physically sick. The vomiting went on for days until my parents finally summoned me home. I don’t recall any other point in my adult life where I needed to be next to my mother so badly.

In the days and weeks that followed, there were long phone conversations with friends, as everyone tried to process the hows and the whens and the whys. At one point, my sister, in another country and not privy to the same news coverage, called me, convinced that he had been set up and somehow tricked into pleading guilty. “What must they have done to him?” she asked, audibly distressed. It was a testament to how good he had been at pretending to be someone else.

After a while, you have to stop talking about it. The need to move on becomes palpable. You don’t want to keep loudly dissecting the details in case it prevents other people from healing. So about a month in, still unable to reconcile the person I knew with the person in prison, and tired of going around in mental circles, I made the decision to tell myself he was dead. Doing so allowed me to mourn the friend I had lost—the person I thought he was, the inside jokes we shared, the teenage history—and put the whole thing behind me.

Except it’s not really that easy. I was never actually convinced that the root cause of his criminality was a sexual attraction to children. He did not fit the classic profile of a pedophile at all. He was outgoing with other adults, had a lot of friends and a steady stream of age-appropriate girlfriends, and was fiercely protective of his nieces and nephews. Compounding matters was the fact that it was a high-profile case; now and again, new stories about him would emerge. One summer, at a wedding, a stranger made a joke about him, unaware that I had known him. To this day, when people find out where I’m from, some of them ask if I ever met him in a manner that suggests he’s halfway to becoming an urban myth.

The longer I tried to ignore it, the more my need to figure out why he did what he did increased. So I started researching in earnest. Books about psychopathy and psychology and mental illness. Checklists of various personality disorders to see which one made the most sense. I read papers written by criminal psychologists and, at one point, even consulted with one directly because she’d had a lot of experience treating pedophiles. There were breadcrumbs and clues, but a clear answer evaded me.

Then a colleague gave me a gift: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. Not only had Rule been good friends with Ted Bundy, she’d also been working in the police department during the manhunt to find him, so she wrote about it all in agonizing detail. Rule’s predicament was comfortingly familiar, and the way she described Bundy sounded a lot like my friend—charming, handsome, intelligent, vain, never lacking in female attention. The book was far and away the most helpful thing I had read so far. So I kept going.

Next, I chose Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son: The Story of the Yorkshire Ripper by Gordon Burn, because it focused not only on Peter Sutcliffe’s crimes but the relationships he had maintained with his family and friends too. Those closest to Sutcliffe suspected nothing at all, even as he murdered 13 women, right under their noses.

After that came Killing For Company about Dennis Nilsen, a mild-mannered civil servant who murdered, dissected and disposed of at least 12 men while living in the heart of London. I had a hard time putting Brian Masters’ book down and plowed through it in a matter of days. One of the final chapters offered me a real turning point. In it, Masters breaks down, in great detail, the personality traits of serial killers—and my friend had almost all of them, down to bizarrely specific details. I stayed up all night with a highlighter. Later on, someone quietly confessed that he believed our friend would have “definitely” killed someone if he hadn’t been caught when he was. When I agreed and told him about the details in Killing For Company, he looked relieved that someone else shared this theory.

In recent months, I have had three separate people ask me why the media I consume is so dark in subject matter. It didn’t use to be. Now, every other book I read is about serial killers (my current choice is Fatal Vision, about Dr. Jeffrey McDonald who was imprisoned in 1979 for slaughtering his wife and children). When I watch TV and movies, I am mostly focused on true crime documentaries or dramatizations. (Lifetime’s Monster in My Family is a current favorite, thanks to the series’ process of putting the families of criminals in the same room as those of victims, allowing connections to take place). When I run out of episodes to stream, I find myself listening to the Casefile podcast.

The only time I have any objection to consuming true crime anything these days is when lines of decency get crossed. Allowing extended interviews with killers to air, for example—as The Ted Bundy Tapes and The Menendez Murders: Erik Tells All recently did—is, to me, both an affront to victims and a reward to killers. I don’t want . . .

Continue reading.

There are monsters in our midst.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 March 2019 at 9:59 am

Progress on healthcare, but still about 32.7 million to go

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That’s from this post by Kevin Drum, who in turn got it from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. It’s good progress, but as Drum notes “Conservatives were dead set against Medicare and Medicaid in the 60s, and they’re dead set against Obamacare today. They just hate the idea of poor people getting medical coverage. I wonder why that bothers them so much?”

Written by LeisureGuy

22 March 2019 at 2:29 pm

Trump’s Mental Health: Is Pathological Narcissism the Key to Trump’s Behavior?

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Alex Morris writes in Rolling Stone:

At 6:35 a.m. on the morning of March 4th, President Donald Trump did what no U.S. president has ever done: He accused his predecessor of spying on him. He did so over Twitter, providing no evidence and – lest anyone miss the point – doubling down on his accusation in tweets at 6:49, 6:52 and 7:02, the last of which referred to Obama as a “Bad (or sick) guy!” Six weeks into his presidency, these unsubstantiated tweets were just one of many times the sitting president had rashly made claims that were (as we soon learned) categorically untrue, but it was the first time since his inauguration that he had so starkly drawn America’s integrity into the fray. And he had done it not behind closed doors with a swift call to the Department of Justice, but instead over social media in a frenzy of ire and grammatical errors. If one hadn’t been asking the question before, it was hard not to wonder: Is the president mentally ill?

It’s now abundantly clear that Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail was not just a “persona” he used to get elected – that he would not, in fact, turn out to be, as he put it, “the most presidential person ever, other than possibly the great Abe Lincoln, all right?” It took all of 24 hours to show us that the Trump we elected was the Trump we would get when, despite the fact that he was president, that he had won, he spent that first full day in office focused not on the problems facing our country but on the problems facing him: his lackluster inauguration attendance and his inability to win the popular vote.

Since Trump first announced his candidacy, his extreme disagreeableness, his loose relationship with the truth and his trigger-happy attacks on those who threatened his dominance were the worrisome qualities that launched a thousand op-eds calling him “unfit for office,” and led to ubiquitous armchair diagnoses of “crazy.” We had never seen a presidential candidate behave in such a way, and his behavior was so abnormal that one couldn’t help but try to fit it into some sort of rubric that would help us understand. “Crazy” kind of did the trick.

And yet, the one group that could weigh in on Trump’s sanity, or possible lack thereof, was sitting the debate out – for an ostensibly good reason. In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson had foreshadowed the 2016 presidential election by suggesting his opponent, Barry Goldwater, was 
too unstable to be in control of 
the nuclear codes, even running 
an ad to that effect that remains 
one of the most controversial in 
the history of American poli
tics. In a survey for Fact magazine, more than 2,000 psychiatrists weighed in, many of them 
seeing pathology in Goldwater’s supposed potty-training woes, 
in his supposed latent homosexuality and in his Cold War paranoia. This was back in the Freudian days of psychiatry,
 when any odd-duck characteristic was fair game for psychiatric dissection, before the Diagnostic and Statistical Man
ual of Mental Disorders cleaned 
house and gave a clear set of 
criteria (none of which includes 
potty training, by the way) for a 
limited number of possible dis
orders. Goldwater lost the election, sued Fact and won his suit.
 The American Psychiatric Asso
ciation was so embarrassed that 
it instituted the so-called Goldwater Rule, stating that it is “un
ethical for a psychiatrist to offer 
a professional opinion unless he 
or she has conducted an examination” of the person under question.

All the same, as Trump’s candidacy snowballed, many in the mental-health community, observing what they believed to be clear signs of pathology, bristled at the limitations of the Goldwater guidelines. “It seems to function as a gag rule,” says Claire Pouncey, a psychiatrist who co-authored a paper in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law,which argued that upholding Goldwater “inhibits potentially valuable educational efforts and psychiatric opinions about potentially dangerous public figures.” Many called on the organizations that traffic in the psychological well-being of Americans – like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers and the American Psychoanalytic Association – to sound an alarm. “A lot of us were working as hard as we could to try to get organizations to speak out during the campaign,” says Lance Dodes, a psychoanalyst and former professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “I mean, there was certainly a sense that somebody had to speak up.” But none of the organizations wanted to violate the Goldwater Rule. And anyway, Dodes continues, “Most of the pollsters said he would not be elected. So even though there was a lot of worry, people reassured themselves that nothing would come of this.”

But of course, something did come of it, and so on February 13th, Dodes and 34 other psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers published a letter in The New York Times stating that “Mr. Trump’s speech and actions make him incapable of safely serving as president.” As Dodes tells me, “This is not a policy matter at all. It is continuous behavior that the whole country can see that indicates specific kinds of limitations, or problems in his mind. So to say that those people who are most expert in human psychology can’t comment on it is nonsensical.” In their letter, the mental health experts did not go so far as to proffer a diagnosis, but the affliction that has gotten the most play in the days since is a form of narcissism so extreme that it affects a person’s ability to function: narcissistic personality disorder.

The most current iteration of the DSM classifies narcissistic personality disorder as: “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.” A diagnosis would also require five or more of the following traits:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., “Nobody builds walls better than me”; “There’s nobody that respects women more than I do”; “There’s nobody who’s done so much for equality as I have”).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love (“I alone can fix it”; “It’s very hard for them to attack me on looks, because I’m so good-looking”).
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people or institutions (“Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich”).
4. Requires excessive admiration (“They said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl”).
5. Has a sense of entitlement (“When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab them by the pussy”).
6. Is interpersonally exploitative (see above).
7. Lacks empathy, is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings
and needs of others (“He’s not a war hero . . . he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured”).
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her (“I’m the president, and you’re not”).
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes (“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters”).

NPD was first introduced as a personality disorder by the DSM in 1980 and affects up to six percent of the U.S. population. It is not a mood state but rather an ingrained set of traits, a programming of the brain that is thought to arise in childhood as a result of parenting that either puts a child on a pedestal and superficially inflates the ego or, conversely, withholds approval and requires the child to single-handedly build up his or her own ego to survive. Either way, this impedes the development of a realistic sense of self and instead fosters a “false self,” a grandiose narrative of one’s own importance that needs constant support and affirmation – or “narcissistic supply” – to ward off an otherwise prevailing sense of emptiness. Of all personality disorders, NPD is among the least responsive to treatment for the obvious reason that narcissists typically do not, or cannot, admit that they are flawed.

Trump’s childhood seems to suggest a history of “pedestal” parenting. “You are a king,” Fred
 Trump told his middle child, while 
also teaching him that the world
 was an unforgiving place and that 
it was important to “be a killer.” Trump apparently got the message: He reportedly threw rocks 
at a neighbor’s baby and bragged
 about punching a music teacher in
 the face. Other kids from his well-
heeled Queens neighborhood of Jamaica Estates were forbidden from playing with him, and in school
 he got detention so often that it
 was nicknamed “DT,” for “Donny Trump.” When his father found 
his collection of switchblades, he
 sent Donald upstate to New York Military Academy, where he could be controlled while also remaining aggressively alpha male. “I think his father would have fit the category [of narcissistic],” says Michael D’Antonio, author of The Truth About Trump. “I think his mother probably would have. And I even think his paternal grandfather did as well. These are very driven, very ambitious people.”

Viewed through the lens of pathology, Trump’s behavior – from military-school reports that he was too competitive to have close friends to his recent impromptu press conference, where he seemed to revel in the hour and a half he spent center stage, spouting paranoia and insults – can be seen as a constant quest for narcissistic supply. Certainly few have gone after fame (a veritable conveyor belt of narcissistic supply) with such single-mindedness as Trump, constantly upping the ante to gain more exposure. Not content with being the heir apparent of his father’s vast outer-borough fortune, he spent his twenties moving the Trump Organization into the spotlight of Manhattan, where his buildings needed to be the biggest, the grandest, the tallest (in the pursuit of which he skipped floors in the numbering to make them seem higher). Not content to inflict the city with a succession of eyesores bearing his name in outsize letters, he had to buy up more Atlantic City casinos than anyone else, as well as a fleet of 727s (which he also slapped with his name) and the world’s third-biggest yacht (despite professing to not like boats). Meanwhile, to make sure that none of this escaped notice, he sometimes pretended to be his own publicist, peppering the press with unsolicited information about his business conquests and his sexual prowess. “The most florid demonstration of [his narcissism] was around the sex scandal that ended his first marriage,” says D’Antonio. “He just did so many things to call more attention to it that it was hard to not recognize that there’s something very strange going on.” (The White House declined to comment for this article.)

Based on the “Big Five” traits that psychologists consider to be the building blocks of personality – extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness and neuroticism – the stamp of a narcissist is someone who scores extremely high in extroversion but extremely low in agreeableness. From his business entanglements to his preference for the rally format, Trump’s way of putting himself out in the world is not meant to make friends; it’s meant to assert his dominance. The reported fear and trembling among his White House staff aligns well with his long-standing habit of hiring two people for the same job and letting them battle it out for his favor. His tendency to hire women was spun as a sign of enlightenment on the campaign trail, but those who’ve worked with him sensed that it had more to do with finding women less threatening than men (a reason that’s also been posited as to why Ivanka is his favorite child). Trump has a lengthy record of stiffing his workers and dodging his creditors. And nothing could be more disagreeable than the way he’s dealt with detractors over the years, filing hundreds of frivolous lawsuits, sending scathing letters (like the one he sent to New York Times columnist Gail Collins with her photo covered by the words “The face of a dog!”), and, once it was invented, using Twitter as an instrument of malice that could provide immediate narcissistic supply via comments and retweets. In fact, while studies have found that Twitter and other social-media outlets do not actually foster narcissism, they have turned much of the Internet into a narcissist’s playground, providing immediate gratification for someone who needs a public and instantaneous way to build up their false self.

That Americans weren’t put off by this disagreeableness may have come as a surprise, but in a country that has turned its political process into a glorified celebrity marketing campaign, it probably shouldn’t have. America was founded on the principles of individualism and independence, and studies have shown that the most individualistic nations are, predictably, the most narcissistic. But studies have also shown that  . . .

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 March 2019 at 11:28 am

In Schools All Over the Country, America’s Kids Are Exposed to Water Tainted by Toxic Lead

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Jessica Glenza and Oliver Milman report in Mother Jones:

When Shakima Thomas came home one day last October, she found a piece of paper wedged in her door telling her the water in her home could be contaminated with lead.

Thomas, a social worker in Newark, New Jersey, knew what it meant—that the tap water she and her four-year-old son Bryce had been drinking could have profound effects on their health.

“My kid loves water—he loves it—so it was difficult telling him not to drink the water,” Thomas said. “He’s four years old and doesn’t understand.”

A century-long war to remove lead from Americans’ daily lives has been successful on some fronts, but a lack of regulation, political will and funding has meant the contamination of drinking water remains a public health crisis.

There “is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the World Health Organization has warned. The heavy metal, used widely in the past manufacture of water pipes, can cause serious health problems in adults including high blood pressure and kidney damage as it accumulates in the body at high levels of exposure.

But children are particularly vulnerable to its toxic effects, which can affect the development of the brain and nervous system. Even low levels can impair a child’s IQ, academic achievement and ability to pay attention. US studies have shown lead-exposed children are more likely to be aggressive, leading to bullying, truancy and even jail.

“Unfortunately, it’s a problem that was swept under the rug for many years, even though many experts were well aware there was excess of lead in their tap water,” said Erik Olson, a senior director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, about lead in schools in particular.

“Lead is a neurotoxin, it drops IQ scores, it’s linked to aberrant behavior and violence,” said Howard Kessler, a retired doctor based in Tallahassee, Florida, who is part of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“The concern is that while we are not taking much action, children are being damaged on a generational level. We are supposed to provide them with a safe environment, not poison them,” he said.

Elevated levels of lead have been found in schools across the US in the wake of the toxic water scandal that has roiled Flint, Michigan, since 2014. In Newark, officials had first found lead in school water fountains and taps nearly two years before Thomas was warned of its possible presence in her drinking water at home.

More than half of public schools in Atlanta were found to have high levels of lead, in some cases 15 times above the federal limit for water systems. Schools in BaltimorePortland and Chicago were all found to have significant amounts of lead in drinking water.

The most startling problems arose in Detroit, where the school district shut off water in all 106 school buildings last year. A total of 57 Detroit schools tested positive for lead, copper or both. Students were told to switch to bottled water. The city is now looking to spend $2m on new filters and water fountains.

Communities outside major urban areas have not escaped exposure to lead. Two dozen schools and daycare centers in Maine were found to have high levels, while authorities in Vermont have vowed to test more of its schools after a report found 16 of them had lead contamination.

Often, when schools detect lead in fountains or taps, they are simply temporarily shut down, and children provided with bottled water, or fitted with filters—short-term solutions which experts say have serious flaws.

For Newark’s residents, the water crisis means a burden they can scarcely bear. While some neighborhoods have experienced a renaissance in property values, more than one in four residents live in poverty, double the national average.

It took Thomas, who relies on public transportation, almost two weeks to get a water filter from the city after a computer erroneously showed she had already received one. While filters provide only temporary relief from lead-contaminated water, they are often necessary as cities and residents work together to remove dangerous lead plumbing connecting homes to water mains.

“It’s really unfair and I think it’s sad,” said Thomas. “Kids have to go to school with the water being toxic, and they have to come home and the water is toxic. I just think it’s poor leadership.”

In June, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched a lawsuit against the city, joined by a group of Newark public school teachers, seeking to force its hand in confronting the problem. Mayor Ras Baraka has called on President Trump not to build a wall—but to use that money to fix water infrastructure in places like Newark.

Yvette Jordan is a public school history teacher and one of a handful of plaintiffs in that lawsuit against the city of Newark.

“There wasn’t the public outcry because people were so overloaded with the vicissitudes of life,” she said. The reaction was, ” ‘I gotta worry about water too? Are you kidding me?’ ”

When Thomas found the notice stuffed in her door jamb she was probably unaware a 1988 law—the Lead Contamination and Control Act signed by Ronald Reagan nearly 30 years to the day before she found that slip of paper—was meant to prevent this.

In the US, lead was nearly phased out of gasoline and paint by the mid-1980s. This, alone, was a huge public health victory that was years in the making, and showed nearly immediate benefits.

“When we took lead out of gasoline, the blood lead of Americans went down by 80 percent,” said Ellen Silbergeld, a MacArthur Foundation genius award winner who was at the forefront of toxicology research and advocacy at the time.

“In my life working on environmental problems, I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Within three months you saw the results. That’s astounding.”

After removing lead from the welds of tin cans, gasoline and paint, “It was almost like, ‘Hey! We solved this,’” said Silbergeld. “We were really overlooking the potential for lead in drinking water.”

The LCCA was meant to further these public health laws by requiring schools and daycares to test for lead-in-water, but in 1996, it was unexpectedly gutted in a New Orleans court. Two families whose children were exposed to lead-tainted water at school sued Louisiana for failing to notify schools in a timely manner about lead-lined water coolers. They won in lower court, but the state appealed, and they were sent before a three-judge panel in the fifth circuit.

Judge John M Duhé, a Reagan appointee, wrote the decision for the majority, and it meant schools no longer had to test for lead in water. Without the obligation to test water, schools and daycare centers did almost nothing to address the problem for decades.

The scale of the problem is only gradually becoming apparent. Across the US, four in 10 school districts did not test for lead in the previous 12 months, a 2017 report by the US Government Accountability Office found.

Of the 43 percent of districts that had tested, which cover 35 million students, more than one-third found lead. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 7:55 am

How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

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Michaeleen Doucleff and Jane Greenhalgh write at Goats and Soda:

Back in the 1960s, a Harvard graduate student made a landmark discovery about the nature of human anger.

At age 34, Jean Briggs traveled above the Arctic Circle and lived out on the tundra for 17 months. There were no roads, no heating systems, no grocery stores. Winter temperatures could easily dip below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Briggs persuaded an Inuit family to “adopt” her and “try to keep her alive,” as the anthropologist wrote in 1970.

At the time, many Inuit families lived similar to the way their ancestors had for thousands of years. They built igloos in the winter and tents in the summer. “And we ate only what the animals provided, such as fish, seal and caribou,” says Myna Ishulutak, a film producer and language teacher who lived a similar lifestyle as a young girl.

Briggs quickly realized something remarkable was going on in these families: The adults had an extraordinary ability to control their anger.

“They never acted in anger toward me, although they were angry with me an awful lot,” Briggs told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview.

Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike, Briggs observed.

For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. “Too bad,” the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot.

In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. “Sew it together,” someone said quietly.

By contrast, Briggs seemed like a wild child, even though she was trying very hard to control her anger. “My ways were so much cruder, less considerate and more impulsive,” she told the CBC. “[I was] often impulsive in an antisocial sort of way. I would sulk or I would snap or I would do something that they never did.”

Briggs, who died in 2016, wrote up her observations in her first bookNever in Anger. But she was left with a lingering question: How do Inuit parents instill this ability in their children? How do Inuit take tantrum-prone toddlers and turn them into cool-headed adults?

Then in 1971, Briggs found a clue.

She was walking on a stony beach in the Arctic when she saw a young mother playing with her toddler — a little boy about 2 years old. The mom picked up a pebble and said, “‘Hit me! Go on. Hit me harder,'” Briggs remembered.

The boy threw the rock at his mother, and she exclaimed, “Ooooww. That hurts!”

Briggs was completely befuddled. The mom seemed to be teaching the child the opposite of what parents want. And her actions seemed to contradict everything Briggs knew about Inuit culture.

“I thought, ‘What is going on here?’ ” Briggs said in the radio interview.

Turns out, the mom was executing a powerful parenting tool to teach her child how to control his anger — and one of the most intriguing parenting strategies I’ve come across.

It’s early December in the Arctic town of Iqaluit, Canada. And at 2 p.m., the sun is already calling it a day. Outside, the temperature is a balmy minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A light snow is swirling.

I’ve come to this seaside town, after reading Briggs’ book, in search of parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to teaching children to control their emotions. Right off the plane, I start collecting data.

I sit with elders in their 80s and 90s while they lunch on “country food” —stewed seal, frozen beluga whale and raw caribou. I talk with moms selling hand-sewn sealskin jackets at a high school craft fair. And I attend a parenting class, where day care instructors learn how their ancestors raised small children hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of years ago.

It’s early December in the Arctic town of Iqaluit, Canada. And at 2 p.m., the sun is already calling it a day. Outside, the temperature is a balmy minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A light snow is swirling.

I’ve come to this seaside town, after reading Briggs’ book, in search of parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to teaching children to control their emotions. Right off the plane, I start collecting data.

I sit with elders in their 80s and 90s while they lunch on “country food” —stewed seal, frozen beluga whale and raw caribou. I talk with moms selling hand-sewn sealskin jackets at a high school craft fair. And I attend a parenting class, where day care instructors learn how their ancestors raised small children hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of years ago.

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top. (They even have a special kiss for babies, where you put your nose against the cheek and sniff the skin.)

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice?

“No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child, Briggs documented.

Elders I spoke with say intense colonization over the past century is damaging these traditions. And, so, the community is working hard to keep the parenting approach intact.

Goota Jaw is at the front line of this effort. She teaches the parenting class at the Arctic College. Her own parenting style is so gentle that she doesn’t even believe in giving a child a timeout for misbehaving.

“Shouting, ‘Think about what you just did. Go to your room!’ ” Jaw says. “I disagree with that. That’s not how we teach our children. Instead you are just teaching children to run away.”

And you are teaching them to be angry, says clinical psychologist and author Laura Markham. “When we yell at a child — or even threaten with something like ‘I’m starting to get angry,’ we’re training the child to yell,” says Markham. “We’re training them to yell when they get upset and that yelling solves problems.”

In contrast, parents who control their own anger are helping their children learn to do the same, Markham says. “Kids learn emotional regulation from us.”

I asked Markham if the Inuit’s no-yelling policy might be their first secret of raising cool-headed kids. “Absolutely,” she says.

Now at some level, all moms and dads know they shouldn’t yell at kids. But if you don’t scold or talk in an angry tone, how do you discipline? How do you keep your 3-year-old from running into the road? Or punching her big brother?

For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: “We use storytelling to discipline,” Jaw says.

Jaw isn’t talking about fairy tales, where a child needs to decipher the moral. These are oral stories passed down from one generation of Inuit to the next, designed to sculpt kids’ behaviors in the moment. Sometimes even save their lives.

For example, how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, “Don’t go near the water!” Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what’s inside the water. “It’s the sea monster,” Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids.

“If a child walks too close to the water, the monster will put you in his pouch, drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family,” Jaw says.

“Then we don’t need to yell at a child,” Jaw says, “because she is already getting the message.”

Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too. For example, to get kids to listen to their parents, there is a story about ear wax, says film producer Myna Ishulutak.

“My parents would check inside our ears, and if there was too much wax in there, it meant we were not listening,” she says.

And parents tell their kids: If you don’t ask before taking food, long fingers could reach out and grab you, Ishulutak says.

Then there’s the story of northern lights, which helps kids learn to keep their hats on in the winter.

“Our parents told us that if we went out without a hat, the northern lights are going to take your head off and use it as a soccer ball,” Ishulutak says. “We used to be so scared!” she exclaims and then erupts in laughter.

At first, these stories seemed to me a bit too scary for little children. And my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss them. But my opinion flipped 180 degrees after I watched my own daughter’s response to similar tales — and after I learned more about humanity’s intricate relationship with storytelling.

Oral storytelling is what’s known as a human universal. For tens of thousands of years, it has been a key way that parents teach children about values and how to behave.

Modern hunter-gatherer groups use stories to teach sharing, respect for both genders and conflict avoidance, a recent study reported, after analyzing 89 different tribes. With the Agta, a hunter-gatherer population of the Philippines, good storytelling skills are prized more than hunting skills or medicinal knowledge, the study found.

Today many American parents outsource their oral storytelling to screens. And in doing so, I wonder if we’re missing out on an easy — and effective — way of disciplining and changing behavior. Could small children be somehow “wired” to learn through stories?

“Well, I’d say kids learn well through narrative and explanations,” says psychologist Deena Weisberg at Villanova University, who studies how small children interpret fiction. “We learn best through things that are interesting to us. And stories, by their nature, can have lots of things in them that are much more interesting in a way that bare statements don’t.”

Stories with a dash of danger pull in kids like magnets, Weisberg says. And they turn a tension-ridden activity like disciplining into a playful interaction that’s — dare, I say it — fun.

“Don’t discount the playfulness of storytelling,” Weisberg says. “With stories, kids get to see stuff happen that doesn’t really happen in real life. Kids think that’s fun. Adults think it’s fun, too.”  . . .

Continue reading.

There’s much more, and I think parents will find it particularly inteeresting.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2019 at 4:47 pm

Unfollow: How a prized daughter of the Westboro Baptist Church came to question its beliefs.

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An absolutely fascinating (and somewhat lengthy) article by Adrian Chen in the New Yorker:

On December 1, 2009, to commemorate World aids Day, Twitter announced a promotion: if users employed the hashtag #red, their tweets would appear highlighted in red. Megan Phelps-Roper, a twenty-three-year-old legal assistant, seized the opportunity. “Thank God for aids!” she tweeted that morning. “You won’t repent of your rebellion that brought His wrath on you in this incurable scourge, so expect more & worse! #red.”

As a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, in Topeka, Kansas, Phelps-Roper believed that aids was a curse sent by God. She believed that all manner of other tragedies—war, natural disaster, mass shootings—were warnings from God to a doomed nation, and that it was her duty to spread the news of His righteous judgments. To protest the increasing acceptance of homosexuality in America, the Westboro Baptist Church picketed the funerals of gay men who died of aids and of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members held signs with slogans like “god hates fags” and “thank god for dead soldiers,” and the outrage that their efforts attracted had turned the small church, which had fewer than a hundred members, into a global symbol of hatred.

Westboro had long used the Internet to spread its message. In 1994, the church launched a Web site, http://www.godhatesfags.com, and early on it had a chat room where visitors could interact with members of Westboro. As a child, Phelps-Roper spent hours there, sparring with strangers. She learned about Twitter in 2008, after reading an article about an American graduate student in Egypt who had used it to notify his friends that he had been arrested while photographing riots. She opened an account but quickly lost interest—at the time, Twitter was still used mostly by early-adopting techies—until someone e-mailed Westboro’s Web site, in the summer of 2009, and asked if the church used the service. Phelps-Roper, who is tall, with voluminous curly hair and pointed features, volunteered to tweet for the congregation. Her posts could be easily monitored, since she worked at Phelps Chartered, the family law firm, beside her mother, Shirley, an attorney. Moreover, Megan was known for her mastery of the Bible and for her ability to spread Westboro’s doctrine. “She had a well-sharpened tongue, so to speak,” Josh Phelps, one of Megan’s cousins and a former member of Westboro, told me.

In August, 2009, Phelps-Roper, under the handle @meganphelps, posted a celebratory tweet when Ted Kennedy died (“He defied God at every turn, teaching rebellion against His laws. Ted’s in hell!”) and a description of a picket that the church held at an American Idol concert in Kansas City (“Totally awesome! Tons going in & taking pics—even tho others tried to block our signs”). On September 1st, her sister Bekah e-mailed church members to explain the utility of Twitter: “Now Megan has 87 followers and more are trickling in all the time. So every time we find something else to picket, or have some new video or picture we want to post (or just something that we see on the news and want to comment about)—87 people get first-hand, gospel commentary from Megan Marie.”

A couple of hours after Phelps-Roper posted her tweet on World aids Day, she checked her e-mail and discovered numerous automated messages notifying her of new Twitter followers. Her tweet had been discovered by the comedian Michael Ian Black, who had more than a million followers. He was surprised that a member of the Westboro Baptist Church was on Twitter at all. “I sort of thought they would be this fire-and-brimstone sort of Pentecostal anti-technology clan that would be removed from the world,” he told me. He tweeted, “Sort of obsessed w/ @meganphelps. Sample tweet: ‘aids is God’s curse on you.’ Let her feel your love.” The director Kevin Smith and “The Office” star Rainn Wilson mocked her, as did many of their followers.

Phelps-Roper was exhilarated by the response. Since elementary school, she had given hundreds of interviews about Westboro, but the reaction on Twitter seemed more real than a quote in a newspaper. “It’s not just like ‘Yes, all these people are seeing it,’ ” she told me. “It’s proof that people are seeing it and reacting to it.” Phelps-Roper spent much of the morning responding to angry tweets, citing Bible passages. “I think your plan is back-firing,” she taunted Black. “Your followers are just nasty haters of God! You should do something about that . . . like tell them some truth every once in a while. Like this: God hates America.” That afternoon, as Phelps-Roper picketed a small business in Topeka with other Westboro members, she was still glued to her iPhone. “I did not want to be the one to let it die,” she said.

By the end of the day, Phelps-Roper had more than a thousand followers. She took the incident as an encouraging sign that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2019 at 9:11 am

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