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Does Valium Increase Your Chances of An Early Death?

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

Nearly half a century ago, in 1965, the Rolling Stones wrote a song called Mother’s Little Helper. The words went:

Kids are different today, I hear ev’ry mother say

Mother needs something today to calm her down

And though she’s not really ill, there’s a little yellow pill

She goes running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day…

They continued:

And if you take more of those

You will get an overdose

No more running for the shelter of a mother’s little helper

They just helped you on your way

Through your busy dying day…

The pill was valium (diazepam) and the yellow pill was 5 milligrams – as it still is. White is 2 milligrams and blue is 10.

The song was not great poetry, perhaps, but for pop music it was prescient pharmacovigilance, the epidemiological study of the adverse effects of drugs: though strictly speaking overdoses of diazepam are not dangerous. Many thousands of people have taken overdoses of diazepam in attempts to kill themselves with it, but few have succeeded unless they took something else with it.

However, it has long been known that diazepam and other similar drugs cause falls in the elderly, and such falls are often the precursor of death. It has also been suspected that, by some unspecified mechanism, diazepam (and sleeping draughts of all kinds) promote death.

A paper in a recent edition of the British Medical Journal compares the death rates of primary care patients who were prescribed diazepam-like medicines and hypnotics with those who never were prescribed them more than once (they excluded patients who had been prescribed them only once because it was possible that they had never taken them, which was unlikely if they were prescribed them twice). The authors compared the records of 37,000 of the former with 63,000 of the latter. They attempted to match them for such variables as age, social class, sex, and medical and psychiatric history. They followed the patients for an average of 7.6 years.

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RIP Noel Sheppard, Cherished Newsbusters Editor

Monday, March 31st, 2014 - by Rick Moran

Noel Sheppard, prominent conservative media critic and one of the founding contributors and editors at Newsbusters, died of cancer March 28. He was 53 years old.

Newsbusters publisher Brent Bozell posted a short, elegant tribute to his friend and colleague:

Our Noel Sheppard passed away yesterday (Friday) morning at about 5:00 AM. Say a prayer for the soul of a man we’ll all miss professionally, and many, many of us will miss personally as well. Noel was not just a force of nature, he was a very good man.

How quickly this all happened. Just two months ago, Noel wrote about suddenly getting cancer at 53 called “Cancer’s Ray of Hope.” Nine days ago, he wrote us and said he was interested in writing about his “progress” — and he put “progress” in quotes. We were all wishing for better news, and really couldn’t imagine this was a battle that would end this way.

Noel joined us and was introduced to us by Matt Sheffield at the founding of NewsBusters in 2005, and he became our Associate Editor. It must be said that no blogger here was more prolific and more popular.

Matt Sheffield, one of Newsbusters’ founders, penned a tribute to Sheppard that describes why he will be missed so dearly:

Noel never intended to become a professional blogger once he began submitting pieces online. But just as America turned out to love reading blogs, Noel took to the new medium like a fish to water. Eventually, it became a full-time gig for him as he sold his financial planning business to pursue blogging full-time for us at NewsBusters as a mid-life career change.

It was a perfect combination. Noel loved attention and NewsBusters readers loved his work, making him by far the blog’s most popular writer. Very frequently, he single-handly brought in half of the site traffic each month.

In an earlier time, Noel would’ve been an ace reporter or well-known editor, such was his talent for spotting the hot story and writing about it in an engaging way. He also had the rare ability to make dry subjects interesting.

Sadly, Noel’s combination of brio, intelligence, and popular touch are all too rare in the conservative world. Noel and I spoke many times about the fact that too many conservatives and libertarians seem more interested in getting read by Republican congressional staffers than by millions of their fellow Americans. My upcoming book on the future of the American Right is inspired by many of these conversations. (For those interested in some of our preliminary thoughts on the topic, see this piece we published together in the American Spectator in 2012.)

Like everything he did, Noel threw himself into his career as a writer, literally blogging at least one post a day on NB before he fell ill to cancer and was admitted to the hospital in January. Weekend readers could always count on Noel to have something new and interesting for them to read.

Sheppard’s nose for news and his ability to distill the essence of a story into a few well written paragraphs that were enlightening as well as thought provoking is a rare combination. He will be missed at Newsbusters, but also around the right side of the internet.

****

 Cross-posted from the PJ Tatler

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Writing a Letter to My Friend in Heaven Upon Receiving His Final Book

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle
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Dear Barry, Your book just arrived in the mail. You already know that, of course, now that you’re in Heaven, one with the Divine, and now enjoying life outside of time. It must be wonderful for you now, knowing how The Story turns out in the end. Now I’m remembering why I haven’t managed to do a more thorough article yet about what you’ve meant to me. It’s been almost two months now and I guess a certain part of me is still in the denial phase. At one level I just want to pretend you’re having a long break while going through a rough chemo treatment. But that’s not an option anymore. It never should have been. Those of us who you taught have a responsibility to continue your tradition of scholarship, writing, and activism. Time to get back to work now. with respect, David Swindle

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Farewell to a Fighter: Meir Har-Zion, Larger-than-Life Israeli Legend, Dies at 80

Sunday, March 23rd, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Meir Har-Zion, an iconic Israeli military figure, died at 80 on March 14. He never pursued a political career and you probably haven’t heard of him. Indeed, his military exploits were mostly confined to a three-year period in the 1950s. Yet his fame in Israel never wore off, and a 2005 poll ranked him 15th out of the 200 greatest Israelis of all time.

Moshe Dayan—another iconic Israeli figure who was a chief of staff, defense minister, and foreign minister—called Har-Zion “the finest of our commando soldiers, the greatest Jewish warrior since Bar Kochba,” referring to the leader of the 2nd-century-CE revolt against Rome. It was Dayan who had Har-Zion appointed an officer even though he had never undergone officers’ training.

In eulogizing Har-Zion, current defense minister Moshe Yaalon called him “one of the greatest warriors in the history of the IDF—an audacious, distinctive commander whose influence in molding generations of fighters and units was pivotal.”

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We’re No Better Than The Walking Dead In Dealing with the Mentally Ill

Thursday, March 20th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

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Love it or hate it, The AMC channel hit series The Walking Dead is a mirror of our culture. The show is nominally an apocalyptic zombie series but it is really about how people deal with a total societal collapse.

The answer is: Badly. Usually very badly.

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Episode #14 of season 4, “The Grove,” is a thoughtful and tragic examination of what a society should or can do with a psychopath. (Spoilers!) Set in the woodlands of the American south after a zombie apocalypse, in this episode a group of five refugees find a cabin to stop and rest for a few days. There, disturbed young Lizzie goes homicidal. She stabs another little girl to death. Her mother-figure, Carol, then asks her to “look at the flowers” while she prepares to execute her, the only solution possible in their terrible new world.

The clues were all there, laid out carefully in past episodes. The girl had an obsession with capturing and cutting up live rats. She had sudden outbreaks of violent rage and anger. She was fascinated with zombies and couldn’t distinguish between the living and the dead.

The clues are all here in the real world as well, and we are no better at preventing the slaughter when a mentally disturbed person decides to kill. The Sandy Hook killer, the Aurora theater killer, the murderer at Virginia Tech, the killers at Columbine High School, all exhibited distinct indicators of violence and psychosis. All of these killers were under psychiatric care and on medically prescribed drugs. Each of them showed signs like little Lizzie on The Walking Dead, and her path ended the same as theirs, in blood.

In “The Grove,” just as in America today, we wait until a disturbed person becomes a killer and only then do we do something about them. Only then do they receive the confines of a cell or a grave. We can do better than this. Unlike Carol on The Walking Dead, we have options.

In the heartbreaking and frightening essay “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” the mother of a mentally disturbed boy explains how she cannot find care for him. “With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill.” This mother doesn’t want to put her innocent (but violent and disturbed) twelve-year-old boy in prison. Would you like to live in a world where people are jailed for crimes they might commit? Instead, we need to re-build our mental health care system in this country and that includes treatment centers and hospitals. If we don’t, we will continue to endure the slaughter of innocents at the hands of the mentally ill.

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Near-Death Experiences, a New Take on Life, Part 5: Can God and Evil Be Reconciled?

Sunday, March 16th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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“I went down a tunnel, I saw a light.” It has become such a standard part of near-death-experience accounts that it’s almost a cliché. Near-death experiencers report moving through a (usually dark) tunnel and emerging at a different place, where they may encounter a being of light, deceased relatives, heavenly landscapes, a review of their lives—usually some combination, or all, of those elements.

The tunnel experience is common though not universal. Some NDErs seem to go directly to the other world, without passing through a tunnel. Tunnels seem to be considerably less common in Hindu NDEs. Japanese NDErs report moving along rivers instead of tunnels.

At least in Western NDEs, though, tunnels are more common in cases where NDErs are actually clinically dead. All this suggests that the tunnel is a metaphorical representation of the transition from one world to the other. What is, however, universal is that the world encountered in the NDE is very different from the earthly one—and in the vast majority of cases, a lot better. To such an extent that NDErs—no matter what their earthly responsibilities and attachments—usually want to stay in the transcendent world, and regret—sometimes quite painfully—having to return to the earthly one.

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Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 4: Brian Miller’s Case Challenges the Skeptics

Sunday, March 9th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

Skepticism is the right attitude if it means you insist on real, strong proof before being persuaded of something. It is not a good attitude if it means you’re set to deny and belittle proof of something no matter what.

Skeptics about whether near-death experiences are real tend to be in the second category. Millions of people have undergone them since the 1960s; a good summary of the confirmative evidence that arises from this vast trove of experience is here.

Just last month an NDE case in Ohio was reported (here, here, and here, for instance) that should give the skeptics a particularly hard time.

As The Blaze told it:

Brian Miller, 41, was hospitalized after suffering a major heart attack. While he was doing well at first, his heart eventually went into a deadly arrhythmia called Ventricular fibrillation, described by the Mayo Clinic as “a … rhythm problem that occurs when the heart beats with rapid, erratic electrical impulses.”

From that point, Miller was out cold. As a nurse affirmed, “He had no heart rate, he had no blood pressure, he had no pulse…. His brain had no oxygen for 45 minutes….”

In other words, Miller was in the state known as clinical death. Before the advent of modern CPR techniques, there would have been a simpler name for it: death. He would have been seen as beyond any hope of revival.

Brian Miller, of course, revived—but how it happened, and even whether the medical team’s efforts were solely responsible for it, is not at all clear.

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Euthanasia for the Insane?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple
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Dr. Jack Kevorkian

A moment’s reflection is all that should be necessary to convince anybody that our passions are not necessarily engaged by public controversies in proportion to the numerical or statistical importance of the question in hand. The debate over euthanasia and physician assisted suicide (PAS) is deeply impassioned everywhere; but not even the most enthusiastic advocate of euthanasia supposes – at least not yet supposes – that the question will ever affect other than a very tiny percentage of people.

The fact is that man is an animal that quarrels over symbols, and euthanasia is as much a matter of symbolic as of practical importance. How else are we to explain the fact, cited in an article in a recent edition of The Lancet about the new Belgian law extending the benefits of euthanasia to children, that there have been dozens of bills before the Belgian parliament desiring either to extend or to limit the scope of the current euthanasia legislation?

Reading the article and the articles to which it was linked, I came across two statements, one startling and the other importantly revealing. The starting fact was the following:

Recent studies have shown that the proportion of deaths that are the result of euthanasia or PAS in Oregon, USA as a whole, and The Netherlands, are 0.09%, 0.4%, and 3.4%, respectively.

Assuming this to be no misprint, why should the rate of physician-assisted suicide be more than four times higher in the United States as a whole than in Oregon, which is one of only four states (with a total of only 5 percent of the U.S. population between them) to permit it? Is it under-reported in Oregon? Is it carried out surreptitiously and illegally elsewhere? Are all the figures so inexact as to be virtually bogus? And if they are bogus, what does that tell us about the whole matter?

Another question is why there should be nearly forty times as many deaths by euthanasia and PAS as there are in Oregon. Is unbearable end-of-life suffering forty times more frequent in Amsterdam than in Portland? This is prima facie most unlikely. The pattern of disease in most western countries in very similar, and both in Oregon and the Netherlands cancer is by far the most common cause of requests for easeful death. Is there something sinister in the disparity?

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Introducing: A Deity Who Makes Sense

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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“HEAVENLY Father,” take to thee

The supreme iniquity,

Fashioned by thy candid hand

In a moment contraband.

Though to trust us seem to us

More respectful—“we are dust.”

We apologize to Thee

For Thine own Duplicity.

That’s by Emily Dickinson, the wonderful 19th-century American poet who churned out almost two thousand poems in almost total obscurity, too shy to publish more than a handful of them during her lifetime.

“Heavenly Father” is a retort, couched in acid irony, and also a plaint. We are not supposed to be anything much—dust, iniquity. Creating us was a momentary lapse, a glitch. The father is not presumed to be proud of what he has wrought.

And yet, if the creations are that flawed, why blame them for their failings? It seems like a double insult—to be fashioned as something iniquitous, then also held accountable for it. Dickinson raised here a profound question about moral responsibility and the relationship of the creator to his imperfect handiwork.

The poetess died at 55 in 1886, and “Heavenly Father” is considered one of her later poems. That means she wrote it about a hundred years before the publication in 1975 of Raymond Moody’s Life After Life, the first major, groundbreaking book on near-death experiences. At that time, thanks to advances in resuscitation medicine in the 1960s, there was a sudden surge in the numbers of people—ordinary people, not mystics or spiritualists—saying they had had a direct experience of the deity. They gave descriptions of a being more logical, or reasonable, than the one Dickinson had accosted.

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How Much Would You Pay to Survive Four Months Longer with a Terminal Disease?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 - by Theodore Dalrymple

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When I was young enough still to consider myself rational, I was irritated by patients who tried any remedy in desperation to save themselves from their fatal disease. I have long since mellowed and when an acquaintance of mine with glioblastoma, a rapidly fatal brain tumor, decided recently to go to India to try Ayurvedic medicine, all I could do was wish him luck – sincerely so. After all, the scientific medicine — which he would continue to take while there — offered him little enough hope, a few months at most. (This case, incidentally, illustrates an important point: alternative medicine, so called, is not generally alternative, it is additional.)

Two trials of a very expensive monoclonal antibody, bevacizumab, in glioblastoma, published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine, make disappointing or even dismal reading. This antibody is directed at vascular endothelial growth factor that promotes the growth of new blood vessels; glioblastoma is a tumor particularly rich in new blood vessels, and so it was hoped that by preventing them from forming, tumor growth would either be prevented or at least slowed. Early results were promising but as has so often been the way in the history of medicine, early promise is not fulfillment of promise.

In one trial, for example, 637 patients with this terrible tumor were randomized to conventional treatment plus placebo and conventional treatment plus bevacizumab. Although the latter had a slightly longer period free of progression of the tumor, their overall length of survival was not increased, and indeed they suffered so many more side effects that the overall quality of their lives was worse. The patients taking bevacizumab survived on average 15.7 months; those taking placebo survived 16.1 months. The authors of the paper end:

In conclusion, we did not observe an overall survival advantage first-line use of bevacizumab in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma. Furthermore, higher rates of neurocognitive decline, increased symptom severity, and decline in health-related quality of life were found over time among patients who were treated with bevacizumab.

This makes rather odd the concluding words of an editorial that accompanies the trials in the Journal:

Finally, it is worth noting that despite its limitations, bevacizumab remains the single most important therapeutic agent for glioblastoma since temozolemide. Ongoing and future trials will better define how and when it should be used in this population of patients for whom so few treatment options currently exist.

Clearly the viewpoint of the oncological researcher is not that of the sufferer of the disease: he is looking far into the future, while the poor patient (all the poorer if he has to pay for his drugs) is thinking rather less far ahead.

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No, I Still Don’t Buy into the Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan

Monday, February 24th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Aaron Clarey, author of Bachelor Pad Economics: The Financial Advice Bible for Men discusses the Smith and Wesson plan with Ed Driscoll. Here is what Aaron had to say:

MR. DRISCOLL: Aaron, I believe that both of your recent books rather infamously reference “the Smith and Wesson Retirement Plan.” Most of us would rather not, to quote Pete Townshend, “fire the pistol at the wrong end of the race.” While recommending much about Bachelor Pad Economics, in a post at PJ Media earlier this month, Dr. Helen Smith, who helped champion your books, took strong offense at your suggestion. Could you elaborate on your reasoning?

MR. CLAREY: Well, the reasoning is economic. And it is secular. I won’t deny that. So people who are religious or even traditional, they obviously would be against that. And I take no umbrage and no offense to it.

But from a purely economic point of view, and even a humanitarian point of view, there are some times where you’re terminally ill — pick your poison: cancer, a brain tumor, whatever. And you’re not coming back, you are going to die, and the remaining two weeks, three months, whatever your life, are going to be absolutely in pain and misery.

I think it’s wise or humane or ‑‑ what’s the word I’m looking for ‑‑ compassionate to, you know, somehow kill yourself, not necessarily with a Smith & Wesson, but some kind of euthanasia. And it not only puts you out of your misery, but it also saves a ton of money. I mean, I forget what the statistics are, but a plurality of your health expenses are incurred in the last six months of life.

So you want to talk about, you know, saving your family the grief of watching you just decay and, whatever, mentally, physically, what have you, or be in pain; not to mention save the finances for a future generation. It’s not for everybody. I’m not saying you have to do it, I’m just saying it is an option.

So it seems that Aaron is just advocating along with Obama that healthcare is expensive and it’s best to just die once you reach a certain age especially. Aaron advocates a gun or other means and Obama advocates a pill or pain killer, rather than investing in life saving treatments. I get that people suffer when they are older (and sometimes younger) but killing yourself for economic reasons is not a good solution in my book. My great aunt was 90 when she asked doctors to do bypass surgery. None would until she found a younger doctor who gave her the gift of four more years of a very good life. Her story is an inspiration to me.

And what about enjoying the decline? By using up government-run healthcare as we age, wouldn’t we be doing our part?

****

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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How Do You Survive When Your World Shatters?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

“And now I know that every single day, the best and the worst, only lasts for twenty-four hours.” — Tricia Lott Williford

Two days before Christmas in 2010, amid the festive pictures of family Christmas celebrations, cookie recipes, and excited discussions about plans for the holidays, some terrible, heart-sickening news began to spread through my network of Facebook friends and acquaintances:

Stunned by some news. Please pray for a friend and her young family. The husband and father was unexpectedly taken to heaven for Christmas.

Pray for Tricia Williford as her husband went to heaven this morning. They have two little boys, Tucker and Tyler. What a sad day this is.

Three years later, I have fresh tears in my eyes as I re-read those words and I think about the shattering of lives, dreams, and families in that one terrible moment. How does a family survive such a profound tragedy? Can those shattered pieces be fused back together again? What does that really look like? I mean, in real life, starting with how you get out of bed the next day and how in the world you explain to two little boys that their daddy has died?

Tricia Lott Williford, a writer and editor — and a fabulous storyteller — had a blog at the time of her husband’s unexpected death at age thirty-five. Her bio explains, “On the day of her husband’s death, an unknown someone posted a link to her blog on Twitter with the words, ‘Please pray for this woman. Her husband died this morning.’ Overnight, her blog went viral and her community of readers grew exponentially.” Tricia continued with her long-established discipline of writing every day and shared her story, in all its brutal transparency, with friends and strangers around the world. Her story has now been turned into a book, And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss, and Hope Reclaimedreleased February 18th.

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What if They Gave a Review of Your Life and You Had to Come?

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Editor’s Note: Click here for Part 1 of P. David Hornik’s new series: Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading. And click here to see his previous articles on the subject here: Do You Believe in Life After Death?

Out-of-body experiences, tunnels, bright lights, deceased relatives, a being of light—and life reviews. These are the most commonly reported elements of near-death experiences. They have been reported now for decades from all over the world, across cultures and religions. Of all of them, the life review may be the most difficult to imagine and “otherworldly.” Out-of-body experiences, encounters with dead people, mystical experiences of a deity—all these have long been on record outside of NDEs as well. The tunnel experience seems to have been represented in a painting by the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch over five hundred years ago. Life reviews, however, may be the most “exotic” compared to our familiar modes of perception. Dutch cardiologist and NDE researcher Pim van Lommel quotes this life-review account of one of his patients:

All of my life up till the present seemed to be placed before me in a kind of panoramic, three-dimensional review, and each event seemed to be accompanied by a consciousness of good or evil or with an insight into cause or effect. Not only did I perceive everything from my own viewpoint, but I also knew the thoughts of everyone involved in the event, as if I had their thoughts within me. This meant that I perceived not only what I had done or thought, but even in what way it had influenced others, as if I saw things with all-seeing eyes…. Looking back, I cannot say how long this life review…lasted, it may have been long, for every subject came up, but at the same time it seemed just a fraction of a second, because I perceived it all at the same moment. Time and distance seemed not to exist….

This is only one account, but anyone who has delved even modestly into the NDE literature as I have knows there are numerous other, remarkably similar ones.

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Can Loneliness Kill?

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 - by Helen Smith

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Independent.co.uk: “Extreme loneliness worse for health than obesity and can lead to an early grave, scientists say”:

Feeling extreme loneliness on a long-term basis can be worse than obesity in terms of increasing the potentially lethal health risks that lead to premature death, scientists said.

Chronic loneliness has been shown to increase the chances of an early grave by 14 per cent, which is as bad as being overweight and almost as bad as poverty in undermining a person’s long-term wellbeing, a study has found.

As more people live longer, they are spending a bigger part of their lives feeling lonely. This is having a significant impact on their physical as well as mental health, the researchers found.

Loneliness is also becoming more common as people live alone or become isolated from relatives and friends, especially in retirement.

Research has shown that at any given time between 20 and 40 per cent of older adults feel lonely….

Maybe if our culture didn’t treat older people like pariahs and worship youth, older adults might feel less lonely. Worshiping youth makes young people feel like they should be having a good time and if they are not, their feelings of loneliness and isolation increase. Treating people with humanity regardless of age would be a good start.

******

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen’s Blog

image courtesy shutterstock / qingqing

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The Prime Minister of Israel on Barry Rubin: ‘He Will Be Sorely Missed By Everyone Whose Life He Touched’

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Shared today on Barry’s Facebook page:

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Do You Believe in Life After Death?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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January 27, 2013: What Near-Death Experiences Tell Us

Among the nine lines of evidence that Long reviews: People who were blind from birth experience clear vision during NDEs and accurately report things they saw, usually in the operating room but sometimes even outside of it. NDEs sometimes occur during general anesthesia “when no form of consciousness should be taking place.” Virtually all people encountered during NDEs are deceased, usually relatives; skeptics who insist NDEs are a dream or hallucination-like event cannot explain why, unlike in dreams or hallucinations, that should be the case. NDEs often change people’s lives permanently, leading to enhanced spirituality or religiosity; in Long’s survey, 95 percent said subsequent to their NDEs that they were “definitely real” and 5 percent “probably real.”

And NDEs show remarkably similar features all over the world, transcending religious and cultural backgrounds. One of those constantly reported features is the encounter with the deity. Strongly religious people usually perceive the deity (and sometimes other mythological beings) in terms of their own religion; but people of little or no religion also have the encounter and speak more generally of a “being of light.”

Most dramatically of all, the phrase “unconditional love” occurs repeatedly in these descriptions. The deity is reported to be what we would call nonjudgmental; entirely accepting; and a source of overwhelming love. Yes, the news is rather good.

June 23, 2013: Near-Death Experiences: Two Books Provide More Compelling Evidence

A Russian NDEr named Victor reported: “The light was extraordinary. In it were love and peace. I was completely enveloped by love and I felt totally secure.” Miller notes that “the descriptions of [the light’s] personality and abilities and effects are remarkably similar.” Moody called the encounter “the most incredible common element” of NDEs and affirmed that “not one person has expressed any doubt whatsoever that it was a being, a being of light.”

The being of light is always singular; there is only one, never multiple beings. Van Lommel wrote: “This encounter is always accompanied by an overwhelming sense of unconditional love and acceptance.” The light knows and cares about the NDEr’s whole life and personal choices, and is always experienced as just, not capricious or errant.

February 16, 2014: Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading

To all that must be added the numerous reports of people in NDEs accurately recalling specific conversations and events that occurred—in and sometimes out of their operating rooms—while they had no brain function. Parnia recounts one case where a new doctor, dealing with a patient in a prolonged cardiac arrest, ate the patient’s lunch. After recovery, the patient described to the doctor a detailed NDE, and finished with: “And you ate my lunch!”

No, the skeptics may not like it, but doctors and their staff are hearing more and more accounts from revived patients like this one, told by a patient to a nurse in Parnia’s AWARE study:

His journey commenced by travelling through a tunnel towards a very strong light, which didn’t dazzle him or hurt his eyes. Interestingly, he said that there were other people in the tunnel, whom he did not recognize. When he emerged he described a very beautiful crystal city and I quote “I have seen nothing more beautiful.” He said there was a river that ran through. There were many people, without faces, who were washing in the waters….

What’s going on? Some scientists are suggesting, Parnia notes, that “human consciousness or the soul may in fact be an irreducible scientific entity in its own right, similar to many of the concepts in physics, such as mass and gravity, which are also irreducible entities.” If so, then consciousness is not just an epiphenomenon of the brain; it has an independent existence and could survive death. The exhaustive, multiauthored book Irreducible Mind, well-known in the field of mind-brain studies, argues just such positions based on abundant evidence.

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image illustrations courtesy shutterstock / Bruce Rolff /

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Near-Death Experiences—A New Take on Life, Part 1: Sam Parnia Explains Where the Field Is Leading

Sunday, February 16th, 2014 - by P. David Hornik

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Sam Parnia is one of the world’s leading experts on death—on how people can medically be brought back from the dead, and on what happens to the mind, or soul, or consciousness, after people die.

Of UK origin, Parnia works these days as assistant professor of medicine at the State University of New York in Stony Brook. He is also directing the joint American-Canadian-British AWARE study, which he calls “the world’s largest ever study of mind and brain during cardiac arrest.” And he is the author, most recently (with Josh Young), of Erasing Death, an up-to-date exploration of both of Parnia’s areas of expertise—resuscitation from death, and death itself.

About half of this book focuses on resuscitation science—which, since the 1960s, has been able to bring people back from states of clinical death. What Parnia has to say is interesting and informative, though it is not the reason I got hold of the book; I’m more interested in what could be called the mystical angle.

Basically, in Parnia’s telling, resuscitation science is both making unprecedented advances and not doing that well. Thanks to the new technique of cooling the body of a clinically dead person, cell deterioration in the body can be slowed down, and people can be resuscitated for ever-longer periods after death has occurred. On the other hand, survival rates—the percentages of people who are actually brought back to life—are still low and have not improved since the 1960s. “It’s really amazing,” Parnia says, “but absolutely true.”

What’s needed, Parnia contends, is for the resuscitation field to be much better organized, standardized, and coordinated. At this point, the quality of resuscitation care you get at a hospital—or whether you even get it—is pot luck. Parnia thinks the situation can be drastically improved, which would not only mean bringing a lot more people back to life, but restoring a lot more of them intact instead of in vegetative or brain-damaged states.

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Is Death Still a Great Career Move?

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle

Michael_Jacksonfront

One of the lawyers for Michael Jackson’s family should really explain to them the definition of “chutzpah.”

There’s no point asking their accountants, since they’re likely the ones responsible for this:

The IRS has served notice that the estate of Michael Jackson severely understated worth and income and is demanding $700 million in back taxes and penalties.

Documents have been filed with the U.S. Tax Court that alleges that the executor’s for Jackson said his net worth at the time of his death was $7 million while the IRS has assessed the worth at $1.125 billion.  (…)

A good portion of the difference was attributed to the value of Jackson’s likeness which the estate valued at $2,105 and the IRS says was worth $434.264 million. In addition, the estate said that Jackson’s portion of the ownership of both his songs and those of the Beatles was worth nothing.

Yes, you read that right.  They said the Beatles songs (and his) were worth $0.

The IRS said it was more like $469 million.

In a separate, in-depth article examining the Beatles’ fortunes fifty years on, David Fiorenza, a Villanova University economics professor who specializes in art and entertainment, said that the Fab Four’s “financial impact today is bigger than any other artist, living or deceased.”

So those Jackson family shenanigans are funny in a “can’t you believe it?” way, but the fact is, celebrity estates are serious business.

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A California Sunrise in Memory of Shirley Temple

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 - by PJ Lifestyle Sunshine

From the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, via Instagram this morning:

Peek-a-boo downtown #LA #Sunrise #Fog

The New York Times: Shirley Temple Black, Screen Darling, Dies at 85

Shirley Temple Black, who as a dimpled, precocious and determined little girl in the 1930s sang and tap-danced her way to a height of Hollywood stardom and worldwide fame that no other child has reached, died on Monday night at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85.

Her publicist, Cheryl Kagan, confirmed her death.

Mrs. Black returned to the spotlight in the 1960s in the surprising new role of diplomat, but in the popular imagination she would always be America’s darling of the Depression years, when in 23 motion pictures her sparkling personality and sunny optimism lifted spirits and made her famous. From 1935 to 1939 she was the most popular movie star in America, with Clark Gable a distant second. She received more mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

At the GuardianShirley Temple Black obituary

After bringing up her three children, she returned to the public eye in politics as Shirley Temple Black. A close friend of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan (with whom she co-starred in That Hagen Girl, 1947), she became active in the Republican party in California, where, in 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for the US House of Representatives, voicing her support for the Vietnam war. She became US ambassador to Ghana (1974-76) and White House chief of protocol (1976-77), during Gerald Ford‘s presidency; foreign affairs officer with the state department under Reagan; and ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989-92) under George HW Bush.

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RIP Ray Hartwell, A Great American

Monday, February 10th, 2014 - by J. Christian Adams

I heard the awful news today from Hans von Spakovsky that our friend Ray Hartwell died.  The news was the latest in a series of awful losses – Andrew Breitbart, Chip Gerdas and Barry Rubin.

A few years ago, Ray was deep in his position at a major law firm when he approached me and Hans von Spakovsky and asked how he could do more.  He wanted to write.  He wanted to preserve and protect the country that he loved.  He wanted to act.  He had done his time in the Navy, but wanted to do more.
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Ray wrote for PJ Media and the American Spectator.  He wrote this spectacular piece about my litigation in Guam for the Washington Times.  He had keen insights into the strategic importance of the island that I did not know before I filed the case.

At Christmas time this year, he sent me his final piece, a touching “Christmas Eve Message to the Troops.”

There is nothing that grates me more than someone emailing me or commenting on an article of mine by saying: “Someone should….”  It grates me because I knew people like Ray Hartwell.  Ray didn’t wait for someone else to do it.  He didn’t suggest someone else write an article or someone else say this or that.  He wrote it.  He said it — all the while working for a top-shelf D.C. law firm.

That raises another point. D.C. is a town where lots of folks are in very comfortable positions. There are lots of D.C. lawyers who don’t want to rock any boats, don’t want to take any stands and don’t want to ”jeopardize their careers. ”

Ray proved you could act to preserve and protect this country while not jeopardizing a career.  In the end, Ray knew what was more important than any career anyhow.  He loved this nation.  He loved liberty.  And he wasn’t afraid to defend it.

*****

cross-posted from Rule of Law

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5 Things Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Want You to Know About Pregnancy Resource Centers

Sunday, February 9th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard

Editor’s Note: This article was first published in March of 2013. It is being republished as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists of 2013. Where will this great piece end up on the list? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

Planned Parenthood certainly blusters a lot about helping women in need, but the truth is they make an awful lot of money off the grisly business of abortions. Their most recent annual report shows nearly $1 billion in assets and $997 million in revenues distributed to their local affiliates, plus another $177 million in revenues to the national office. By conservative estimates, abortions constitute 37% of Planned Parenthood’s revenues. Fair enough, I suppose, but isn’t it a little disturbing to think they have a business model (and a profit motive) that requires getting women onto the abortion tables with their feet in the stirrups?

With all the vitriol surrounding the abortion debate, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of the fact that every day mothers with unplanned pregnancies make life-altering decisions about their unborn babies. While politicians and activists battle over the legislative issues, compassionate counselors at non-profit pregnancy resource centers (and their donors) quietly make a monumental difference in the lives of mothers, fathers, and babies every hour of every day across the United States. They literally save the lives of babies.

It’s no wonder Planned Parenthood warns women to avoid these non-profit pregnancy centers which, let’s be honest, hurt their bottom line.

Here are some things you may not know — 5 Things Planned Parenthood Doesn’t Want You to Know About Pregnancy Resource Centers:

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RIP Barry Rubin: You Changed My Life and Your Ideas Will Change the World

Monday, February 3rd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

barry-rubin

Sunday, posted on Barry Rubin’s Facebook page:

Friends,
We felt it important to tell you that Barry has been in a coma since Friday. Thank you for all the warm wishes these past few months, you have all been very thoughtful. Please keep him in your prayers. We will keep you updated.

This morning:

Friends,
To our great sadness, Barry passed away this morning. He was surrounded by his wife and children. Your love, support, and prayers have been greatly appreciated. There will be shiva and a funeral, details to follow soon.

I wrote about Barry’s impact on me this past August as part of a series of my most important intellectual influences:

Barry Rubin is PJ Media’s Middle East editor. For the last least three years, his Rubin Reports blog has served as the roadmap to the Middle East that I rely on the most. Written from the center of the storm in Israel, his typical columns are densely filled with facts and fascinating observations. Perhaps the crucial insight that I’ve gained from trying to keep up with Barry all these years — he tends to publish his loaded analyses very prolifically, not that I’m complaining! — is the depth of complexity to the Middle East. The game is not a chessboard between two sides, and there are rarely easy answers given that there are so many different actors on the field.

But Barry has gone out of his way, dedicated his life really, to trying to help people understand better the chaos in the Middle East. Recently he decided to GIVE AWAY 13 of his books. These titles of his are available in convenient online and downloadable PDF reading. It’s a lifetime’s worth of scholarship in the history and politics of the Middle East:

The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict

Assimilation and Its Discontents

Cauldron of Turmoil

Children of Dolhinov: Our Ancestors and Ourselves

Islamic Fundamentalism in Egyptian Politics

Istanbul Intrigues

The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East

Modern Dictators: Third World Coupmakers, Strongmen, and Populist Tyrants

Paved with Good Intentions: The American Experience and Iran

Secrets of State: The State Department and the Struggle Over U.S. Foreign Policy

The Truth About Syria

Tragedy of the Middle East

(Barry describes this as his favorite of his books that he’s written. Thus it’s the next on my to-read list for him after the one I’ve already started, below.)

Hating America: A History

The first of this haul that I’ve decided to dive into is Hating America: A Historywhich Barry co-wrote with his wife (a practice Ron Radosh has also engaged in and which I hope to explore with my own wife someday).

As the above list of Barry’s titles shows, he jumps all over the place in trying to understand the many different angles of the Middle East. I confess: foreign policy was what dragged me into leftist activism and then fueled my shift to conservative activism, but it was Barry’s writing above all others that turned me into a full-blown foreign policy geek. Because of him I feel like I could pick up just about any book on a Middle Eastern country, culture or an individual and be interested and excited to learn from it. For that — and for much else — I’ve thanked him privately and now I do so publicly.

Before he died Barry completed two books that are set to be published this year. From Broadside Books on April 1, Adam Bellow’s extraordinary conservative imprint at HarperCollins (publisher of Ben Shapiro’s Primetime Propaganda, Rich Lowry’s Lincoln Unbound, and Dennis Prager’s Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph), comes Barry’s history of ideology in 20th century America: Silent Revolution: How the Left Rose to Political Power and Cultural DominanceAnd from Yale University Press, out on February 25, Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East.

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My friend Jeff Dunetz at his blog Yid With Lid this morning wrote about how he was similarly taught and inspired by Barry:

Professor Barry Rubin, is more than one of the great intellectual defenders of Israel, he was my teacher and a friend. When we first met,  it was Barry who taught me to change from being a frothing at the mouth lunatic to a thoughtful commentator. He taught me to discern the quality of information coming from the trash.  In 2009 when I was leading the charge against Chas Freeman’s nomination to a key Obama National security spot, It was Barry Rubin giving me advice on future steps.

Barry was a consummate teacher.  When he first took Ill, he made all of his scholarly books available for free online because he wanted people to be able to learn from him even after he was gone.

You can read Barry’s last two PJ Media posts, from January 21, here:

Why the Arab/Muslim World Is Trapped

Imagine All the People Living in Islamist Hegemony: Why Lennon and Dylan Know All About Islamist Hegemony

Did you know Barry? Do you have any memories to share about how he or his words touched your life? Please send me an email: DaveSwindlePJM [@] Gmail.com.

When I’m feeling less like a crushed tin can I’ll write about getting to know Barry over the years, how his writings changed the way I see the world, and how now that he’s gone I will continue to fight his battles for a world where Jew, Muslim, Christian, and people of all faiths live together peacefully in mutual respect and prosperity.

Updates: I’ll be linking to various reflections from colleagues. Here’s Patrick Poole at the PJ Tatler.

Updated 9:33 AM PST: Here’s PJM’s co-founder and editor emeritus Roger L. Simon: Barry Rubin: Conscience of the White City

Updated 12:11 PM PST: A really wonderful piece from Lee Smith at Tablet, hat tip to Yair RosenbergLearning from Barry Rubin, A Lifelong Teacher

Updated 3:20 PM PST: Sent along from David Gerstman, who says his own reflections are forthcoming:

Meryl Yourish
Elder of Ziyon
Israelly Cool (and follow the link to the Gettysburg story)
Phillip Smyth

Another follow up from Gerstman:

Dave,

Here’s Barry’s Facebook page from his 01/28/2013 Birthday

https://www.facebook.com/barry.rubin.75/posts/10151373324469801?stream_ref=10

A year and a week ago we all thought he was out of the woods.

Bookworm Room

Rick Moran at American Thinker

Updated 3:36 PST:

Ron Radosh: R.I.P.: Remembrances of My Friend Barry Rubin

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Philip Seymour Hoffman’s 10 Immortal Film Performances

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Generation X has lost another of its greatest acting talents. Academy Award-winning star Philip Seymour Hoffman is dead at 46.

What makes the news even more tragic is how predictable — and preventable — it was. When my wife told me the news while we were driving home from buying groceries at Ralph’s this morning I had only one question: “Was it drugs?”

He was found with a needle in his arm.

Here’s the blog post I wrote by hand in June last year:

Hoffman left behind some of the last two decades’ most incredible screen performances. Here are my [personal and biased] picks for the ones that have made him a Hollywood legend, immortal and iconic. Counting down to his most important work:

10. 2009: The Count, leader of Pirate Radio

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How Can Ghost Ships Still Sail Our Seas?

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 - by Bonnie Ramthun

Lyubov-Orlova_2799820c

This story is loads of spooky fun. The UK Telegraph reports “Ghost ship carrying cannibal rats could be headed for Britain.” The 300 foot Russian luxury curise liner Lyubov Orlova has been drifting in the North Atlantic for over a year and the ocean currents might be pushing her to Britain’s shore.

The ship was impounded for unpaid debts and her tow line broke in stormy seas when she was being towed to the Dominican Republic to be scrapped. She’s been drifting ever since, populated by rats who are now turning into cannibals in order to survive. Unless, of course, the rats have learned how to fish, and then we’ve got a whole new invasion problem when the luxury cruise liner smashes into the coast of Britain.

But how could a 300 foot cruise liner be lost? Wouldn’t she be spotted at sea by planes or other ocean vessels? That’s the spooky part, not the ghost ship or the rats. In a world that seems to be smaller every day, with cell phones everywhere and cameras in every city, with the NSA tracking our e-mails and the IRS targeting individual citizens because of their political views, losing a 300 foot cruise ship seems impossible.

Turns out our planet is not that small, and our oceans are immense. The Lyubox Orlova is not the only ghost ship that sails our seas. There are many mysterious stories of drifting ships with no one on board, from today’s ghostly cruise liner all the way back to the discovery of the Mary Celeste in 1872. The Mary Celeste was a sailing ship found in the Atlantic, completely unharmed, stocked with food and water, with the table laid for supper, and not a soul left on board. Not a single member of the crew was ever found.

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Bram Stoker took the stories of abandoned ships drifting at sea and wove them into his classic novel Dracula, first published in 1897. Yet another reason to wonder what exactly is on board the Lyubox Orlova as she drifts silently towards Great Britain…

I find it comforting to think that our world is still in many ways a wild and dangerous place. Our seas hold mysteries that we cannot solve. Our technology is no match for the vast stretches of our oceans. Let’s hear it for the Lyubox Orlova, who broke her towline on the way to the junk yard and now sails the ocean with her crew of rats, unchained, her location unknown. I hope she is never found.

****

photos: Getty images

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