Russell Simmons: Celebrating Our Oprah: The Queen Of Consciousness

Russell Simmons: Celebrating Our Oprah: The Queen Of Consciousness 2014-04-16

Lately I've been out promoting my new book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple. From Dr. Oz to Arsenio Hall to Steve Harvey to Dr. Sanjay Gupta to Queen Latifah, tons of other wonderful people have let me sit down with them and talk about the benefits of meditation. And people seem to be listening. It's been a New York Times best-seller for six weeks already and I'm humbled by how many people have told me that they've started the practice after reading the book.

There have also been those who haven't been as receptive to my pitch. Who think that meditation isn't sexy. Who think that listeners or viewers might change the station when I start talking about sitting in silence. And I get it. After all, I've spent a lot of my life pounding the pavement to promote rap music, comedy, poetry or fashion. Subjects that are obviously full of life and energy. I can see why some people might shy away from a subject that seems to go in the opposite direction (even though the irony is, of course, that nothing promotes life and energy like meditation).

That's why I'm so grateful and humbled that a few days ago I had the opportunity to sit down with my greatest inspiration, Oprah Winfrey, and talk to her about the benefits of meditation. Something that she not only understands personally, but also understands the value of sharing with her audience.

And sitting with Oprah in her backyard and sharing about meditation, it struck me again what a national treasure she is. That as much as we celebrate her, we still don't celebrate her quite enough.

That's because it's so extremely rare that someone with the leverage and platform, who could be promoting whatever she wants, consistently chooses to shine a light on that which promotes consciousness compassion and happiness.

Think about it. All these years, Oprah has never stopped beating the drum for consciousness and compassion. Never stopped encouraging her audience to see that they are all connected. And through that connection they can draw tremendous power.

She's the only reason I'm an author. I wrote my first book as a cleansing process, as way to share what I learned after years of studying yogic scriptures, but never thinking that it would go any further than that. Instead, Oprah read a draft, re-named the book Do You! and then humbled me by inviting me on her show and helping me share my message with the world. All the money I make from my books goes straight to charity, and I know that's only possible because of Oprah.

And while I keep talking about "me" and "I," there's such a long list of incredible authors she's helped introduce to the national conversation. Look what she's done with books like Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now and The New Earth, Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success or even Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. These books and authors have done so much to make people aware of the concept of consciousness that you have to say they've changed the trajectory of this country.

Sometimes I get knocked for promoting celebrities, but let's be real: When a celebrity like Oprah chooses to use her platform to promote the positive and inclusive, it creates so much change. More change than a politician or religious leader ever could. A power we saw this firsthand when she did so much to get our president elected.

I certainly haven't seen a politician, or any religious leader (even the current pope, though he's off to a good start) help more people realize that happiness and well being are within their reach than Oprah. Some might question that, but I know it to be true. If we are a country that's moving towards a higher collective consciousness -- and I like to believe that we are -- then we have to thank Oprah first and foremost for that.

That's why today I want to encourage everyone to tip their hats to the women I call "The Queen of Consciousness." Too often we wait till someone retires or fades from view to celebrate them. Let's not do that with Oprah. Despite her incredibly success, she's a sweet, humble and giving person whose example can remind us every day of what we're each capable of.

Like it or not, celebrities have some of the loudest voices in this country. And if only a fraction of them could use their voices to articulate the power of consciousness, tolerance and compassion the way Oprah has, then we could truly begin to realize our collective potential.

Wray Herbert: The Psychology Of A Memorable Lunch

Wray Herbert: The Psychology Of A Memorable Lunch 2014-04-16

It's about 11 in the morning, and I'm already thinking about lunch. I'm at my desk in my downtown office, so I have lots of options. I could go to that new sandwich place around the corner, where I know they make a great turkey club. Or I could walk up the street and get one of those big salads, which would be satisfying and healthy. Or I could just run downstairs to the snack bar and grab a yogurt and some pretzels. It's a tough decision.

It's also a common decision, one that many of us confront every day. Our choices have implications, not only for how much we enjoy lunch today, but also for longer term goals like fitness and health. But how do we choose? What are the basic cognitive processes that lead from initial hunger pang to this soup or that sandwich?

Memory may play a key role. After all, sorting through our lunch options is basically an act of remembering lots of past experiences. How was that tuna fish sandwich from the deli? Was it pleasurable and filling? Skimpy? Did the clam chowder live up to its reputation, or was it disappointing? And so forth. The answers are our memories, but how reliable are they? Are they good guides to today's lunch decision and overall good nutrition?

These are among the questions that Stanford University psychological scientist Emily Garbinsky and her colleagues have been exploring in some recent experiments. They wanted to know if certain tricks of memory might bias our food decisions in healthy or unhealthy ways. Here's the scientists' reasoning:

The simple fact is that most of our eating experiences are boring and repetitive, sort of like my default to pretzels and yogurt. These meals, such as they are, are not rich and memorable events that we store away and cherish in their every detail. How many of your weekday lunches do you remember at all? As a result of this repetitive, tedious munching, it's very easy for our final memory -- that last satiating bite -- to trump memories of all of the earlier, identical bites, including the first.

This is known, in the field's jargon, as the "recency effect." Garbinsky suspected that the final moment of enjoyment has a disproportionate influence on whether and when we will choose a particular sandwich or dessert again. Specifically, she speculated that the more satiated we are at the end of lunch, the less we will recall enjoying the lunch -- and the less likely we will be opt for that same lunch again soon. So portion size might influence satiety, which in turn might shape lunches of the future.

At least that's the theory, which they tested by asking a group of students to eat some crackers. Not exactly a savory lunch, but fine for the sake of the study. Some ate just five crackers, while others ate 15. The idea was that those who ate 15 crackers would come closer to being satiated. The next day, some students of each group were prompted either to recall their last cracker, or their first. They were all then asked when they would like more crackers. The scientists wanted to see which memories made them more or less eager for more crackers.

The findings were clear. As reported in an article to appear in the journal Psychological Science, the snackers' memories for the final cracker -- and the moment of greatest satiety -- interfered with their memories of the first crackers. These final memories were what influenced their desire for more. What's more, portion mattered: Those who ate a large portion recalled much less enjoyment, compared to those who ate a small portion. Being full diminished their memory of the last bite, and thus the entire meal, causing them to tire of crackers for longer.

The scientists ran a couple more variations on this experiment, to expand and clarify the results. Taken together, the studies show that enjoyment at the end of a meal -- not the beginning -- determines how much time will pass until that particular food appeals again. This is because we really don't remember the rest of the meal, which tends to blur together.

The findings show what a crucial role memory plays in our decisions about what and when to eat next, and they could have practical implications for all those pondering lunch across the country. Portion sizes in the U.S. have been steadily increasing since the 1980s, clearly an unhealthy trend. Big portions not only make us eat more, they decrease our average enjoyment of that food. But those who sell us our lunches should also pay attention. If our last memory of the deli is one of being stuffed and uncomfortable, that memory may keep us from going back there for a while. After all, we have lots of other options.

Adam Levin: The 5 Dumbest Credit Mistakes

Adam Levin: The 5 Dumbest Credit Mistakes 2014-04-16

Several years ago, I watched in amazement when the CEO of a major identity theft protection firm, appeared in a series of commercials waving his Social Security card in the air, parading his Social Security number on a billboard through heavily populated urban areas and screaming his SSN through a bullhorn as a challenge to those who believed that he couldn't protect it. As a result, he couldn't protect it and became a 13-time victim of the crime. That's what happens when you knowingly, willingly, almost joyfully put yourself out there as a target for hackers and identity thieves.

Most recently, I noticed another person put himself out there in somewhat similar fashion. Our would-be role model gleefully announced to the public that he had achieved the perfect credit score. According to a news release that he issued for public consumption, along with a screen shot of the 850 credit score that he got for free with his Discover card statement, this exercise in self-aggrandizement was inspired by his desire to "motivate, inspire and educate others; it is not intended to brag."

When our correspondent, Christine DiGangi wrote a piece chiding the less-than-modest declaration of perfection, since anything above 800 is relatively meaningless in the quest for getting the most out of credit opportunities, the CEO of a consumer reporting company (our 850 man) -- or his representatives -- responded:

"It should come as no surprise that Christine DiGangi is asking everyone else to set their personal credit goal below the standard of excellence. She creates distractions because she has never obtained a perfect score. It's very likely she never will because she doesn't want to work hard and dedicate herself. Instead she and the other "experts" go out of their way to minimize success because they're afraid others will continue to raise the bar and beat them at their own game."

First, I'd wager that the author of that comment isn't familiar with the breadth of DiGangi's work educating consumers on the subject of credit, nor did he carefully read her column. The real point here is not to dampen anyone's desire to strive for perfection in everything they do, but rather to illustrate that striving for a perfect credit score is not a good use of time. That doesn't mean that each of us shouldn't strive for excellent credit, and work hard to achieve it. But striving for a perfect credit score seems to us more like an obsession -- one that provides no real benefit -- rather than a reasonable goal. If you don't believe us, read this column titled, "Credit Score Obsessed? Don't Be." It's by Barrett Burns, the CEO of VantageScore Solutions, one of the biggest credit scoring companies there is.

Beyond all that, the abovementioned holder of the 850 credit score should consider the perils of oversharing. Because of the environment in which we live, openly providing any information that can lead fraudsters and cyber ninjas to our doorstep is unwise, demonstrates a dangerous lack of self-protection, and puts us in harm's way. While the CEO may have legitimately wanted to inspire people to achieve perfection, in doing so he became an ideal target of an identity thief. That kind of over-sharing isn't even close to the worst example we've heard of, but it's certainly inadvisable.

Some Credit Don'ts

Consider some other, even more extreme examples of people needlessly putting their credit in jeopardy:

1. The delegate to the last Democratic National Convention who was so ebullient about the party's position on the expansion of health care that she couldn't restrain herself from waving her Medicare card into a network camera, boldly -- and unwisely -- flashing her Medicare number (incidentally her Social Security Number) for all the world to see.

2. The countless individuals who, while in the grips of delirium, feel compelled to take selfies holding their recently acquired licenses, credit and debit cards or bank and credit card statements (inadvertently displaying account information) announcing to the rest of civilization that they have either acquired something of value, or extinguished debt.

3. Fashion hounds who will eagerly scoop up the latest rage -- clear handbags (I am sure to be closely followed by clear wallets) -- and then fill them with all form of credit, debit or Social Security cards, not to mention their driver's licenses.

4. People who have an unquenchable thirst for receiving birthday greetings from thousands of "friends," family, fans as well as fraudsters desiring to want to share the joy of passing yet another age milestone by posting their full birthdays in every social networking scenario imaginable.

5. Folks who are compelled to announce to the world on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter -- not to mention countless dating sites -- the most intimate details of their upcoming vacation, including the date of their departure, their itinerary and their return date. And then, in case anyone missed it, a real-time chronicle of where they are, what they are doing, the food groups they are consuming and shots of their room and the view they are enjoying when standing on their balcony.

Don't Let This Be You

While these examples are highlights, these folks are not alone by any means. Most of us have been thoughtless about our identities and over-sharing at one time or another. Maybe you carry your Social Security card in your purse or wallet. Or perhaps you provide your Social Security number to anyone of apparent authority who requests it. Or you click on that random link in an email that just doesn't seem right, which leads to malware infecting your computer and sucking up scads of personal information.

If you're worried that you've made one of these or other mistakes and put your identity at risk, you're not alone, and you're not without recourse. Take advantage of the free credit reports to which you are entitled at Use sites like, where you can get a free look at your credit and two free credit scores that are updated monthly. Check your credit and bank accounts for a few minutes each day to ensure that all transactions you see are correct. Enroll in free transactional credit -- and debit card-monitoring programs offered by your credit union, bank, or credit card company. Shred your most sensitive documents; properly secure your computer and smartphone; guard sensitive information from people who contact you through a phone call, text or email without confirming their legitimacy; and stay away from unfamiliar links or photographs sent to you by people you either don't know or vaguely think you know. And contact your insurance agent, bank, credit union or HR Department at work to see if they offer either a free or reasonably priced identity theft resolution program to assist you in the event you suffer a personal compromise.

In a world where breaches (exemplified by "Heartbleed," Target and all stripe of individual, corporate and government database compromise) and identity theft have become the third certainty in life, jealously guarding our privacy must be our individual missions. While I enjoy a good marketing gambit, as well as saluting those who achieve perfection, or who have accomplished a meaningful milestone, discretion being the better part of valor requires that we become more covetous of our personal identifying information and better protect ourselves from those who would exploit us. If not, the credit perfection we crave may be short-lived.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its affiliates.

Thomas R. Insel: A Misfortune, Not A Crime

Thomas R. Insel: A Misfortune, Not A Crime 2014-04-15

Despite careful monitoring and daily insulin, many people with type-I diabetes experience emergencies like diabetic coma that require hospital care. Imagine a dystopic world where this care was not given in hospitals but in jails alongside inmates convicted of violent crimes. Imagine that, for lack of hospital beds, people requiring longer-term care for often disabling diabetic complications had to be housed in state prisons, where medical care was not a priority and personal safety was not assured.

If you think this sounds like a far-fetched premise for an apocalyptic movie or health care parable, check out a new report from the Treatment Advocacy Center on the treatment of people with serious mental illness. According to this report, there are now 10 times more people with serious mental illness in state prisons (207,000) and county jails (149,000) than there are in state mental hospitals (35,000). The report includes a state-by-state assessment of treatment of people with mental illness in jails and prisons. In 44 of the 50 states, the largest single "mental institution" is a prison or jail. The Cook County Jail in Chicago, Shelby County Jail in Memphis, and Polk County Jail in Des Moines each holds more individuals with serious mental illness than do all the state mental hospitals combined in those states.

How can this be possible? In the 1830s Dorothea Dix revolutionized the care of people with mental illness by taking them out of jails and caring for them in asylums, later known as state hospitals. In the last 50 years we have reversed this trend, resulting in a 90-percent reduction in public hospital beds for people with serious mental illness. While this reversal came about as the result of good intentions, it has resulted in unintended consequences. Many, but not all, people with serious mental illness can be treated effectively with the less restrictive care offered in outpatient settings. Sometimes patients with serious mental illness, just as with other serious medical illnesses, require hospitalization. In the absence of available public or private hospital beds, there are few options. Some patients are housed in emergency room holding areas; some return home, where family and friends struggle to provide care; and some -- at considerable risk to themselves -- become homeless. For those who do not realize they are ill and therefore resist treatment, or those whose behavior may be disruptive or aggressive, jails and prisons have become the de facto mental hospitals. Of course, this new report raises the question of whether racial and ethnic minorities, young men, or poor people are more likely to end up in jails and prisons rather than a bona fide health care setting. Indeed, a 2012 report on a study of patients in the San Diego County public health system found that risk factors for incarceration among the mentally ill included being male and African-American; being homeless doubled the risk.

As this new report demonstrates, those who run the jails and prisons did not sign up for this role, are not trained medically to provide appropriate care, and face legal restrictions in many areas when they attempt to provide treatment. And for the inmates who are acutely ill with hallucinations and paranoid delusions, the prison environment can hardly be an ideal setting for recovery. When I visited mentally ill inmates at the D.C. Jail a few years ago, they were kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day, many for months at a time. How can this be acceptable care for people with mental illness?

What should be done? Returning to the asylum system -- which could be regarded as turning away from the goal of recovery -- is not the answer. The new report suggests several remedies, including ensuring better treatment within the prison system, jail diversion programs, assisted outpatient treatment, and release planning. Surely our nation can do better than assigning the criminal justice system the responsibility for delivering care to the mentally ill. In an era of mental health parity and health care reform, how can we allow hundreds of thousands of people with a brain disorder to be treated in our justice system -- if that can be called treatment -- rather than our health care system? Abraham Lincoln, no stranger to serious mental illness, once lamented that "a tendency to melancholy ... is a misfortune, not a fault." Our current system, if these new numbers are accurate, treats mental illness, for many, not as a misfortune but as a crime, with little promise of recovery.

Mathew Myers: 23 Things I Have Learned As A Little Person

Mathew Myers: 23 Things I Have Learned As A Little Person 2014-04-15

The good, the bad and the ugly (experiences) have all provided me valuable life lessons that have made me the person I am today. I'm an achondroplasia dwarf. I put others before myself and would like to be remembered for my heart not height. Below are 23 things I have learned as a little person in today's society, that has both built my character and tested my patience.

1) I have learned the importance of a strong first impression.

2) I have learned how to handle the unwanted spotlight. Presenting yourself in a positive, healthy demeanor brings color into the room and like any difference, once the person gets to know the individual; the difference takes second place to the personality and ability to make a new friend.

3) I have learned to zip my lips and to let my actions do the talking.

4) I have learned to have patience with myself, others and when traveling.

5) I have learned that I am not my failures or rejections. I am not the hopeless romantic, the job I couldn't get, and the school who wait-listed me. I am however my passions, my convictions and full of unconditional love and support from the company I have kept myself in.

6) I have learned to wake up every morning with a smile. Because I have learned that it makes all of the difference towards having a good day and a bad one.

7) I have learned that sometimes the best comeback is no comeback.

8) I have learned the power of a smile.


9) I have learned to think on my feet and to constantly be on my toes. Awareness, body language and creativity are three skills I had to hone at an early age in order to "survive." Small effortless tasks such as walking in a parking lot, sitting in a chair, and reaching for a box of cereal in the cabinet are much more analyzed and strategically thought out than you can ever imagine.

10) I have learned how to remain calm, when deep down all I want to do is rip some strangers head off because of their impoliteness.

11) I have learned how to tell the difference between innocent curiosity and a person who is intentionally being disrespectful.

12) I learned to have a thicker skin. It takes a lot for an insult to sink into my head or reach my heart.

13) I have learned to laugh at myself. It's the best way to visibly show self-acceptance.

14) I have learned that I can do anything I put my mind to. We have the technology and resources to make almost any adaptation needed to provide all with the appropriate accommodations needed to be provided with an opportunity to succeed. I have learned to never stop learning. After graduation, you learn by reading, writing, asking questions, and sharing knowledge with others, living life and through experience. There are a lot of good people out there, surround yourself with those who are just as motivated as you and never ever give up, no matter how many times you have previously failed. 2014-04-15-img_1213.jpg

15) I have learned that the only handicap in life is a negative attitude.

16) I have learned to focus on my family and friends, when we are in public, as if there is no one else around -- because no one else matters anyways.

17) I have learned it's not a question of "having" the time, it's a question of "making" the time. Everyone's life is busy, but we make time for our priorities.

18) I have learned to not take everything personally. Just because an employee won't let you on a roller coaster, even though you're 23 and 1 inch shy of meeting the minimum required height, doesn't mean he has something against you, he is just doing his job-and actually protecting your safety. Don't let a comment from an acquaintance or stranger ruin your day; they don't know who you are and what you're capable of.

19) I have learned when something is really an issue and when to let go of something. 20) I have learned that everyone judges. We all do it. When people see a difference that they don't recognize or don't know much about, and before they even realize it they may be staring or pointing. They usually do not intent to be rude or insensitive; it is just part of being human.

21) I have learned to be an advocate for not only my life, and myself but for all those who have a physical handicap in which assumptions, accusations, and limitations have been placed on it.

22) I have learned that having an "I will have a great life" belief and mentality makes all of the difference. 23) I have learned that every person and every day is beautifully different. They are both full of surprise, beauty and potential. Some days and some people are better than others, some are even life changing.

Mathew is the founder of Little Motivator, loves hockey, and writes a blog at Follow Little Motivator on Twitter:

Michelle Miller: Introducing The Muppie, The Post-financial Crisis, Millennial

Michelle Miller: Introducing The Muppie, The Post-financial Crisis, Millennial Take On The Yuppie Lifestyle 2014-04-15

Behold the Muppie.

She wears Lululemon to Soul Cycle each morning before heading to the office of her Big Name consulting/banking/law firm, a role she started after completing her liberal arts degree at a prestigious university and moving to NY/SF/LA with two sorority sisters to replicate a lifestyle she learned about from "Sex and the City." She spends an hour of each workday on blogs, 30 minutes online shopping, 40 minutes thinking about finding a new job and a cumulative hour considering in equal parts what she's going to eat for lunch, her next vacation and how much her job is a waste of her talent. She will shortly leave said name-brand firm for a start-up or company run by someone under the age of 40, but will take a month off beforehand to go travel abroad and find herself.

When Baby Boomer bosses talk about Millennials in a derogatory way -- when they call them self-absorbed and lazy and entitled -- they are, in fact, talking about the Muppies. Or, rather, that swath of highly-educated, social, outspoken 22-35 year olds that might, in a previous era, have been called "Yuppies."

Like the Yuppies of the 1980s, the Muppies of today are driven by ideals of success, status, power and the search to do and be what is "important" (read: "cool"). And were it not for the financial crisis, the Muppies might very well have uneventfully followed their Yuppie predecessors up the corporate ladder and out to the country clubs in the suburbs.

But when Lehman collapsed, it brought with it the Yuppie Path as one that fulfilled these ideals of success, status, power and cool-ness. Slashed bonuses, media vilification and a stagnant economy made it clear to the millennial sitting in the Yuppie seat that he would not reap the monetary and societal rewards experienced by his predecessors. And all of a sudden, the Yuppie path became not very cool, and, as a consequence, not very Yuppie at all.

And so the would-be-yuppie did a very Yuppie thing: He tossed out the old path like a pair of flared jeans and set about establishing new guidelines for what constitutes the Desirable Life.

A few conversions:

Professional Services Organization → Start-Up: Start-ups provide the same hundred-hour work week and mind-numbing grunt work as the Investment Banking gig, but for the privilege of the "Oh, that's awesome" you get when you say, casually, "I'm working on a start-up" and the possibility of a1billion payout if it works. Bonus: you get to design your own corporate fleece.

Getting a Promotion → Getting Funding: Does anyone care that you're an MD? Nope. A50 million valuation, though, says something to today's people-who-matter.

YPO → Summit Series: Nothing says cache to a Muppie like getting an invite to Eden.

Davos → SXSW: Switzerland is for Après; and Texas's existence can be justified by liberal Muppies because of this two-week mind-meld of the best-and-the-brightest. Go to some talks, listen to some music, make 500 new Facebook friends and be inspired by the reminder of your own significance amongst other cool kids with great ideas and the guts to pursue them.

Cash → Social Influence: Why pay for a private jet when you can convince a private jet company to give you one for free in exchange for exposing their brand to your 10,000 Instagram followers?

Brand Affiliation → Personal Brand: It makes no sense to latch on to someone else's brand when social media makes it so easy to create your own. Muppies listen to enough Ted Talks to know establishing your personal brand starts when you're 8, and is worth the navel-gazing.

Foreign Imports → Locally Sourced: Paying lots of money to import caviar from Russia is nauseating to a Muppie; paying lots of money for organic-raw-locally-sourced kale chips? That's status.

Making Money → Changing the World: Don't panic over this one, Just as Yuppies were great at finding ways to manipulate markets for a healthy payout, Muppies are great at finding ways to get their businesses a #ChangeTheWorld. New app for finding craft beer bars? You're supporting local business! Throw in a 2% kickback to your favorite charity, and it's totally world-changing. #Disruptive #Innovative #Social #Awesome.

These new definitions seem ridiculous to Baby Boomer bosses. They roll their eyes and say it will never work. The thing is it will work, because the Muppies are just as talented and driven and intelligent as the talented, driven, intelligent members of the generation that preceded them. And that means that, like in the 1980s, good businesses and bad businesses will emerge, but the good ones will eventually rise and the economy as a whole will benefit.

The reason Baby Boomer bosses get upset with Muppies is not because Muppies won't work hard, but because they won't work hard for them. Those who get so riled up about the incoming generation are acting out their own struggle to come to terms with the fact that the Yuppie Path they put so much faith into -- the one that said "If I follow these rules, I will attain this power, lifestyle and prestige" -- is over. They've done everything right according to what they were told to do, and now that they've finally made it to the seat where they're supposed to have power over lots of smart, talented people who want to work for them, those people aren't there. And that can either make them lash out at Muppies for not playing by the rules, or do a very Muppie thing and question why they were pursuing that path in the first place.

It's this questioning that is at the root of the Muppie world order: If the outcome of what one does is not certain -- which, the financial crisis proved, it isn't -- then there must be some other reason to do what you do, be it passion or fun or the pursuit of what's cool.

If Boomers start to see Muppies through that lens, they'll be a lot less frustrated. And if Muppies can take a breath to recognize the experience and wisdom of the Boomers who went before them, they'll learn a lot. And if the two generations can then cooperate instead of treating one another with malice or indifference, they'd probably really rapidly create a new ecosystem that suits both their needs to feel successful and important, but in a way that's also sustainable and inclusive. Which would, y'know, be pretty #Awesome.

Michelle Miller is author and creator of The Underwriting, a serial corporate thriller about Muppies on Wall Street & Silicon Valley, available exclusively on T: @ammiller1012

Ryan Madden: Dissecting The World's Greatest Sports Rivalry

Ryan Madden: Dissecting The World's Greatest Sports Rivalry 2014-04-15

On Wednesday, the American soccer community will again turn its head east to the Iberian Peninsula, where in Valencia at the grand Mestalla, the two most powerful and revered clubs in the world will do battle in the final of the Copa Del Rey.

Deep within the greatest sporting rivalry on the planet, this edition of El Clasico strikes a more traditional tone. The tactical battle expected between Carlo Ancelotti and Gerard Martino marks a stark departure from the hyper-polarized days of "The Special One," Jose Mourinho, and his incendiary albeit short lived rivalry with Pep Guardiola. But what the game lacks in animosity -- of which there is still plenty -- should be made up for in class and technique. Even in a cup final, in which teams traditionally play not to lose, more than to win, it should be another sparkling, star studded evening of footballing grandeur.

Over the course of their respective histories, Barcelona and Real Madrid have combined for 54 La Liga titles, 27 UEFA club competition trophies and currently house the two best players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. Messi (4) and Ronaldo (2) have garnered the last six consecutive Balon D'Or's ("golden ball" in French, the Balon D'Or is an honor given by FIFA to the best player in the world).

While other leagues lay claim to regional rivalries comparable in ferocity: such as the Manchester derby between City and United, the Derby Della Madonnina between Inter and AC Milan, the Bundesliga's Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, and the Superclasico in Argentina between River Plate and Boca Juniors, to name a few -- no single rivalry in the world commands as much global attention as El Clasico.

In October 2012, at the height of their tensions, over 400 million viewers tuned in to watch the Blaugrana take on Los Blancos at the Camp Nou in Barcelona. 680 media representatives from 28 different countries were in attendance, while the match was broadcast live to people in over 30 countries.

It is, simply, the greatest sports rivalry on the planet.


Enter the Supreme Commander.

While the rivalry dates back to the early 1900s, at the very core of El Clasico lies a political divide born in the 1930s. From within the fall of the Second Spanish Republic, an ensuing bloody civil war and the outbreak of a larger armed conflict across the European theater, arose a dictator, Francisco Franco.

Generalissimo Franco was the notoriously brutal military commander -- who, through a partially successful coup and the deaths of his revolutionary counterparts -- had come to rule Spain. He was a fierce nationalist who would control Spain from 1939 until his death in 1975.

Real Madrid was Franco's muse -- a propaganda tool, even -- and it soon became the symbol of Castilian Spain. While Real was propped up under Franco, Barcelona, and its distinctly Catalonian identity, was vilified. Catalan is a proud culture, with its own language and customs, one striving for independence from Spain, and under Franco's repressive regime, the rivalry took on an entirely new, more venomous tone.

Flash forward to today. Gone are the Franco-era hostilities, of course, and by no means are these partisan divides universally true, as there are outliers on either side of the equation. But suffice to say that on Wednesday, when the two sides line up, the match will be about more than the respective clubs, and more than a progressive versus conservative chasm. The men on the field will be representing two sides of Spain's complex cultural and political identity -- two sides that make for a fierce rivalry.


Malcolm Gladwell once wrote eloquently of the "psychic benefits" of sports ownership, stating simply that while sports teams look like a business in the sense they maintain traditional corporate structures, they are not. This is due in large part to the idea that professional sports teams do not operate in a free market and owners, typically, purchase them a toys to be played with more so than purely businesses to be run.

Nowhere is this Gladwellian ownership theory more applicable than in the world of international football, where teams who for decades were mediocre at best, are now world beaters (see: Chelsea, Manchester City or Paris Saint Germaine), vying for the top players and top trophies simply because they have been purchased by a Russian oligarch, a billionaire sheikh from the UAE or a National Investment Authority from Doha, who seek championships and glory, not necessarily profits.

While Barcelona and Real Madrid do not officially belong in the category of the aforementioned upstarts due to the fact that they are still technically member-owned clubs governed by a constitution, with a democratically elected leadership, they do represent a new type of stacked-deck duopoly that has seen them spend upwards of 180 million euros this past transfer window -- on just two players. All of this within an economy that rests at the very core of Europe's sovereign debt crises, with unemployment rates of over 26 percent. According to a 2012 story in the New York Times, over half the clubs competing in Spain's top two flights have entered bankruptcy proceedings in order to seek protection from their creditors. In a cash strapped desert, where some teams can't afford to pay their players, Real and Barca continue to spend... but how?

The answer, most likely, is television revenue. La Liga, Spanish football's governing body, allows teams to negotiate their own television contracts, which of course means that Barcelona and Real Madrid - who hold far more brand recognition -- take home the lion's share of the television based revenue. This past season, according to Bloomberg, Real and Barca took home broadcast revenue of over 188 million euros each, collectively representing over half of the league's total intake. This model has led to huge talent gaps between the league's top two teams and everyone else. There is little parity in La Liga, in fact it has been 10 years since a club other than Barcelona or Real Madrid has won the league. Lawmakers have begun to take notice.

New legislation has been passed recently in Spain that will prevent Real Madrid and Barcelona from receiving more than four times as much broadcast revenue as the smallest 20 clubs in Spain's La Liga. Currently, the two giants are earning about six and a half times as much as the smallest team. It is a necessary redistribution of wealth, one that will either prove to be too little too late, or a much needed mechanism able to provide the type of equitable distribution capable of breathing parity in to a league virtually void of top-to-bottom competition.

Time will tell.


Of the hundreds of millions of people who will tune in on Wednesday, few will remember Franco, and perhaps even fewer will pay notice to the economics at play. They will turn in to watch Ronaldo, the rocket-legged Portuguese peacock from Madeira, or Messi, the diminutive Argentine genius from Rosario. A lucky few will stand amongst the flashbulbs and stadium lighting, rising high above the beautiful Valencia skyline. People across the globe and from all different walks of life will take breaks from their jobs and their daily stresses. Young children will cheer on their heroes and grown men will adorn jerseys and scarves.

While few words can encapsulate what the rivalry means to people around the world, former Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho may have put it best: "When Madrid plays Barcelona... the world stops."

Michael Brune: Choose Wisely...

Michael Brune: Choose Wisely... 2014-04-15

We all make choices, and some turn out better than others do. But the choices we end up regretting the most are usually the ones we make against our better judgment. Both individually and collectively, we humans seem uniquely capable of acting as our own worst enemy.

We also are capable of wonderful, positive, and inspiring actions. That makes it all the worse when the consequences of a single bad decision overshadow our best intentions. And that, I'm afraid, is what the Obama administration risks by recklessly expanding fossil fuel production on public lands.

The Climate Action Plan that President Obama announced last year is full of good ideas, and his administration has already done more to address carbon pollution than any other has. New fuel-economy standards will double the efficiency of our cars and trucks. The energy efficiency of our appliances and buildings will dramatically improve. Stimulus spending has helped boost clean, renewable energy, and the president has directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set standards to curb both toxic emissions and carbon pollution from coal plants.

Unfortunately, a hard look at the numbers shows that all this progress could be undermined by one bad choice -- expanding fossil fuel production. Using publicly available data already gathered by federal agencies, the Sierra Club has calculated the potential carbon dioxide emissions from dirty-fuel development proposals in a new report, Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures. Such calculations send a clear message: To protect our climate, we must keep these dirty fuels in the ground.

Extracting and burning these coal, oil, gas, oil shale, and tar sands resources would release hundreds of billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere and negate carbon-reducing actions. If we develop just one of these "climate disrupters" -- the Arctic Ocean, for example -- we'll release two-and-a-half times more pollution than we are saving through stronger fuel-economy standards.

Of course, that carbon pollution would be in addition to the already high toll from destructive mining, drilling, and fracking: polluted drinking water, destroyed wildlife habitat, and air that is dangerous to breathe. No matter where it happens, dirty fuel development leaves a trail of destruction. Throughout Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures, you'll find profiles of activist heroes around the country who are working to stop that destruction.

The world's best climate scientists have made it clear: To have even a two-thirds chance of keeping global temperature rise to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, we cannot exceed more than 469 billion additional tons of carbon dioxide pollution, yet burning existing worldwide reserves oil, gas, and coal would release 2.8 trillion tons of new carbon dioxide. That's why the Obama administration (and future leaders) will need to complement policies that reduce fossil-fuel consumption (and promote clean energy) with similar measures that limit dirty fuel extraction on U.S. public lands. It would be a mistake to see that as self-denial. In fact, committing to a future powered by clean, renewable energy will mean a healthier America with cleaner air and water, pristine coasts, and protected natural areas. As fossil fuels leave the picture, ours will be a wealthier, more just, and more productive nation.

For all these reasons, we urge that President Obama reject these dirty fossil-fuel projects and choose instead to maintain our national momentum toward a 100 percent clean energy future. The data in Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures leaves no excuse for saying we didn't know better.

Dr. John R. Hutchinson: The Science Of Anatomy Is Undergoing A Major Revival

Dr. John R. Hutchinson: The Science Of Anatomy Is Undergoing A Major Revival 2014-04-15

Only two decades ago, when I was starting my PhD studies at the University of California in Berkeley, there was talk about the death of anatomy as a research subject. That hasn't happened. Instead the science of anatomy has undergone a renaissance lately, sparking renewed interest not just among researchers but also the public.

I may be biased, but examples from my own work, which is a small part of anatomical research, might showcase what I mean. In 2011, my team found out found why elephants have a false "sixth toe," which had remained a mystery since it was first mentioned in 1710. Last year, with University of Utah researchers, I helped reveal that crocodiles have "bird-like" lungs in which air flows in a one-way loop rather than tidally back and forth as in mammalian lungs. Subsequent work by those colleagues has shown that monitor lizards do this, too.

2014-04-15-Elephantfoot.jpg Elephant fore (left) and hind (right) feet in side view, showing the false "sixth toe" (in white; labelled pp or ph) in the back of the foot. (By Julia Molnar)

Researchers have also solved the mystery of how monitor lizards got venom glands. They have discovered that lunge-feeding whales have a special sense organ in their chin that helps them engulf vast amounts of food. And like the whales, it seems crocodiles have sense organs in their jaws, which can detect vibrations in the water. Anatomy has even found gears in nature. Turns out that leafhopper insects have tiny gears in their legs that help in making astounding and precise leaps.

If the scientific examples weren't enough, there are many from popular TV. British viewers have had the delights of anatomy served to them in a BBC TV series called Secrets of Bones, which concluded in March. American viewers are getting anatomical insights in Your Inner Fish, an ongoing TV series on PBS.

Anatomy's highs and lows

Apart from an anomalous period in the 20th century, such discoveries have always captivated scientists and the public. From the 16th century until the 19th century, human anatomy was one of the top research fields. Anatomist Jean Francois Fernel, who invented the word "physiology," wrote in 1542:

Anatomy is to physiology as geography is to history; it describes the theatre of events.

This analogy justified the study of anatomy for many early scientists, some of whom also sought to understand it to bring them closer to understanding the nature of God. Anatomy gained impetus, even catapulting scientists such as Thomas Henry Huxley ("Darwin's bulldog") into celebrity status, from the realization that organisms had a common evolutionary history and thus their anatomy did too. Comparative anatomy became a central focus of evolutionary biology.

2014-04-15-AnatomyofaLesson.jpg The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp (Rembrandt)

But then something happened to anatomical research that can be hard to put a finger on. Slowly anatomy became a field that was scoffed at as outmoded, irrelevant, or just "solved." Nothing important seemed left for anatomists to discover.

As a graduate student in the 1990s, I remember encountering this attitude. This apparent eclipse of anatomy accelerated with the ascent of genetics and the flourishing of techniques to study molecular and cellular biology.

One could argue that molecular and cellular biology are anatomy to some degree, especially for single-celled organisms and viruses. But today anatomy at the whole organ, organism or lineage level revels in a renaissance that deserves inspection and reflection on its own terms.

Perhaps the other reason is that most people think we now know human anatomy quite well. But that is not so true. For example, last year Belgian scientists rediscovered the anterolateral ligament of the human knee, overlooked since 1879. They described it, and its importance for how our knees function, in novel detail, and a lot of media attention was drawn to this realisation that there are some things we still don't understand about our own bodies.

High-tech anatomy

A huge part of this resurgence of anatomical science is technology, especially imaging techniques -- we are no longer simply limited to the dissecting knife and light microscope as tools. Digital technology such as three-dimensional imaging combined with computer graphics are allowing researchers to look at body parts in new ways. For instance, using such techniques, we were able to rewrite the evolution of the backbone of early land animals called tetrapods.

2014-04-15-Molnar2.jpg Vertebrae (backbone elements) of the early amphibious animal Ichthyostega. (By Julia Molnar)

Science moves forward the fastest with the development of new tools, and anatomy is a great example of that. Consider this recent example from researchers at the University of Bristol. They found that by using a simple solution that stains animal tissue they can get three-dimensional scans using CT (computed tomography), which is a much more easy to find imaging tool than the more powerful, more expensive MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). This advance enabled them to do "digital dissections."

2014-04-15-StephanLautenschlager.jpg Buzzard head anatomy in 3D with new imaging tools. (By Stephan Lautenschlager)

Anatomy has been transformed because we now can peer inside the bodies of organisms in unprecedented detail, sharing and preserving findings in high-resolution digital formats. We can do this without the concern that a unique new species from Brazilian rainforests or exciting fossil discovery from the Cambrian period would be destroyed if we probed certain questions about its anatomy that are not visible from the outside -- a perspective in which science had often remained trapped for centuries.

When I started my PhD in 1995, it was a luxury to get a digital camera for research. Similarly, in 2001, I only got intermittent access to a small laser scanner for making 3D digital models of fossils. Both of these are now cheap enough for most researchers to have access to most of the time.

These improvements in technology have totally transformed the way I study anatomy. In the 1990s, you dissected a specimen and it was reduced to little scraps. At best you might have some decent two-dimensional photographs of the dissection and some beetle-cleaned bones as a museum specimen. Now, as routine practice we use imaging techniques to scan specimens, providing data on their internal and external, three-dimensional anatomy in lush detail, before scalpel ever touches skin.

Computational power, too, has grown to the point where incredibly detailed 3D digital models produced from imaging real, whole specimens can be manipulated with ease (even in live animals), so science can better address what anatomy means for animal physiology, behavior, biomechanics and evolution. We are at the point now where anatomical research seems no longer impeded by technology -- the kinds of questions we can ask are more limited by access to good anatomical data (such as rare specimens) than by the ways we acquire and use it.

2014-04-15-JohnRhutchinson.jpg Skull of a hippopotamus reveals more now than ever. (By John R. Hutchinson)

We all like bones

With interesting discoveries, there has also been a keen interest among the public to know about them. Anatomy is for everyone. It is easy to relate to, because we all live in fleshy anatomical bodies that rouse our curiosity from an early age, and everywhere in nature there are surprising parallels with -- as well as bizarre differences from -- our anatomical body-plans.

This public interest became very clear to me when I was a consultant for the BAFTA award-winning documentary series Inside Nature's Giants in 2009. I also write an anatomy-based blog called What's in John's Freezer?, in which I recount the studies of animal form and function.

Other researchers are exploiting this interest. For instance, the Visible Interactive Animal website, managed by Witmer, has gorgeous pictures and videos of numerous animals. Although aimed at researchers and educators, it is easy enough for the public to view and pursue their curiosities.

2014-04-15-JohnR.Hutchinson.jpg Dissecting an elephant for Inside Nature's Giants. (By John R. Hutchinson)

More than a curiosity

Such interest is not just driven by curiosity. Anatomy's modern relevance is significant too. Take the example of geckos' toes. At the ends of the toes they have millions of fine filaments that can grip almost anything, including highly smooth glass. The skin has been studied in such detail and replicated to produce revolutionary super-adhesives, such as the product "Geckskin," 16 square inches of which can currently suspend 700 pounds aloft.

Other examples come from bio-inspired innovation in engineering and design, especially in robotics. By studying the humble cockroach, Robert Full at the University of California in Berkeley has created new ways of designing legged robots that can scour earthquake wreckage for survivors or explore faraway planets. By trying to find out how a lizard use its big tail during leaping, they have discovered principles that they then use to construct robots that can jump over or between obstacles. Much of this research relates to how anatomical traits determine the behaviors that a whole, living, dynamic organism is capable of performing.

Anatomical knowledge is key in improving preservation and conservation of wildlife. For example, studying zoo mortality in elephants has revealed that about half of these large animals die in captivity from problems related to their feet, such as arthritis or abscesses in their foot bones or toenail areas.

2014-04-15-JohnR.Hutchinson222.jpg Normal (left) and badly diseased (right) elephant toe bones. (By John R. Hutchinson)

This affects efforts to raise self-sustaining captive populations in Western conservation centers. One obstacle to detecting, monitoring and ultimately preventing these problems is that we know too little about what these foot diseases look like, where they most commonly tend to occur (or how often), and how they vary among species, which again returns to a lack of basic anatomical understanding that we are trying to remedy.

An example of such life-saving help comes from Witmer's team, who were studying rhinoceros horn anatomy which proved extremely useful in the high-profile, tragic case of the rhinoceros Thandi in South Africa. Thandi's horn had been cut off by poachers but she survived long enough for veterinarians to try to treat her. Informed by Witmer's studies, Thandi has survived and is now pregnant.

The struggles of modernity

There is also some culture change among scientists. As a graduate student, anatomists butted heads with molecular biologists more often than was healthy for either of them, competing for funding.

That is now changing because a lot of the time they are working together. However, obstacles remain, and funding is but one of them.

The other is that anatomy as a scientific discipline is clearly flourishing in research while it dwindles in teaching. Fewer and fewer universities seem to be teaching the basics of comparative anatomy that were a mainstay of biology programs a century ago. Yet anatomy is everywhere now in biology, and in the public eye. It inspires us with its beauty and wonder -- such as when you marvel at the glory of beholding a newly discovered species.

But there is cause for concern that biology students are not learning much about the "theater of events" that Fernel wrote of, or that medical schools increasingly seem to eschew hands-on anatomical dissection in favor of digital learning. Would you want a doctor to treat you if they mainly knew human anatomy from a computer graphic?

Anatomy has an identity problem, too. Some comes from cultural attitudes, but others come from its own success. Having been integrated into so many aspects of biology, the field could be seen to be driving towards its own oblivion.

I struggled with what label to apply to myself as an early career researcher. I was afraid that calling myself an "anatomist" would render me quaint or unambitious in the eyes of faculty job interview panels, and I know that many of my peers felt the same. I settled on the label "evolutionary biomechanist" as the best term for my speciality. In order to reconstruct evolution or how animals work (biomechanics), we first often need to describe key aspects of anatomy, and we still discover awesome new things about anatomy in the process. I still like that label, but now that my career is stable I speak out more on behalf of anatomical sciences.

Other colleagues that do anatomical research use other labels for themselves such as "physiologist," or "palaeontologist," because those words better capture the wide range of research and teaching that they do. But I bet some to do this because they likely still fear the perceived stigma of the word "anatomy" among judgemental scientists. At the same time, many of us are getting hired at medical, veterinary or biology schools because we can teach anatomy-based courses, so there is still hope.

Few would now agree with Honore de Balzac's 19th century opinion:

No man should marry until he has studied anatomy and dissected at least one woman.

But we should hearken back to what classical scientists knew well: it is to the benefit of science, humanity and the world to treasure the anatomy that is all around us. We inherit that treasure through teaching; to abscond this duty is to abandon this trove. With millions of species around today and countless more in the past, there should always be a wealth of anatomy for everyone to learn from, teach about, and rejoice.

Dr. John R. Hutchinson is a Professor of Evolutionary Biomechanics at the Royal Veterinary College, in the Structure & Motion Laboratory and Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences.

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Josh Silver: Money In Politics Is Taxation Without Representation

Josh Silver: Money In Politics Is Taxation Without Representation 2014-04-15

April 15 is Tax Day, and most of us dutifully pay our taxes to a government that no longer represents us. Policy decisions on nearly every issue, regardless of public opinion, are decided in favor of a select few who can afford to write massive checks, host campaign fundraisers, and hire armies of lawyers and lobbyists.

That might read as an exaggeration to some, but it's a verifiable fact of the American political system. A new analysis of 1,779 recent policy outcomes by researchers at Princeton and Northwestern found that "economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy," while average citizens -- the people in "We, the People" -- "have little or no independent influence."

Why? Because if you want representation in today's Washington, you must buy your way in.

Another recent study by researchers at Yale and UC Berkeley found that members of Congress were four times as likely to take a meeting with a prospective donor than with a regular constituent. That's a whole lot of attention for a vanishingly small number of people: Just 0.12% of the population made $200 or more in political contributions in the last election cycle.

Keep in mind those were just the results for "prospective donors" with no prior relationships to the members of Congress contacted in the study. Complete strangers, in other words. Imagine the access granted to known donors and former colleagues. As Mark Leibovich noted in his book This Town, "In 1974, 3% of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists. Today 50% of senators and 42% of congressmen do." Now, combine that with the fact that those members of Congress who leave to become lobbyists enjoy, on average, a 1,452% raise. Combine that with the fact that the suburbs of Washington, D.C. now account for seven of the nation's 10 richest counties, and a very clear picture emerges.

This is a culture of corruption, made even worse by the recent McCutcheon Supreme Court ruling. Our nation's capital has become a place where those who have the money to buy their way in receive better treatment from our elected leaders than everyone else. That's great for the handful of people who can afford to buy access, but for the rest of us, it's taxation without representation.

If you're as fed up with this sorry state of affairs as I am, you'll understand why I couldn't stand to sit on the sidelines anymore. And I'm not alone. Today, Tax Day, thousands of Americans are taking part in a national day of action to remind our leaders that they're supposed to represent all of us, not just big donors. It's an important first step in building a national, nonpartisan anti-corruption movement to push for an overhaul of American campaign finance, lobbying, and ethics laws -- starting in cities and states, and eventually in Washington, DC.

In this fight against money in politics corruption, it's easy to lose sight of our biggest enemy. It's not lobbyists, or big donors, or even corrupt politicians.

Our biggest enemy is cynicism. It's the sense of hopelessness that leads some to dive straight for the comments section of articles like this one to leave snarky remarks about how democracy is doomed and change is impossible. This is a rational first instinct, even when a mind-boggling 97% of Americans support the kind of tough, new anti-corruption laws we need to actually fix this problem.

But change is possible, by building a movement while passing anti-corruption laws from the bottom up, across the nation, with the force of a movement that can eventually unseat politicians who stand in our way. And that's why days like today are so important. Photos and videos are already streaming in from demonstrations nationwide, and the results are truly inspiring. Thousands of people are coming together and organizing -- neighborhood by neighborhood, town by town, state by state -- to build the massive movement required to end the culture of corruption that's taken root in state capitals and Washington, DC.

Money in politics corruption is a national disgrace that does every hardworking American a disservice. As citizens of this great republic, it is our duty to put an end to this corruption once and for all. Lets start by demanding No Taxation Without Representation.

Lindsey Ellison: 5 Things That May Be To Blame For Your Sexless Marriage

Lindsey Ellison: 5 Things That May Be To Blame For Your Sexless Marriage 2014-04-15

It was 1998 and I waited nervously in my doctor's waiting room. The blood tests were in, and I was convinced something was wrong with me. I thought I had cancer, a thyroid imbalance, or my ovaries weren't releasing the proper hormones. I needed a medical reason to explain why I didn't want to have sex with my husband. After all, I was only 25 and married for just one year.

The doctor came in and gave me the news:

"Lindsey, there is nothing wrong with you. You are perfectly healthy."

What? No, something is wrong. Then why don't I ever want sex? This was not what I wanted to hear.

He told me it was psychological and encouraged me to see a therapist. I ignored his recommendation and took "sex boosting" herbs, read books on how to "sex things up," heck, I even watched porn. Nothing worked.

After nine more years of a near sexless marriage, I finally saw a therapist. I discovered my "low sex drive" had nothing to do with me, but rather, deep rooted issues I had with my husband. Had I blamed myself less, and taken more time to examine my marital problems, perhaps my marriage could have been saved. But I am now remarried and let's just say, my sex drive is doing just fine. Why? Because when I entered my new relationship, I openly discussed these five issues that can affect your willingness to have sex, not your sex drive:

1) You are angry: There's nothing like a good fight that will put sex on hold. Who wants to be intimate when you're pissed off? But how mad are you? Anger can last a day or for many years but regardless, if you're angry, you will withhold sex as a weapon for your fight. If your anger can't be resolved in a conversation with your husband, then talk to a coach or a therapist. Anger not only affects your sex life, but your health and wellbeing.

2) You feel controlled: Whether your husband is outright controlling of you and tells you what to do, or if he is more passive aggressive in his controlling behavior, nobody likes to be controlled. While we may be tempted to give in sexually, just to "get it over with," sex is a very unenjoyable experience. When we are controlled, the one thing we control is sex. It may not be a conscious action, but controlling sex can give us power in a powerless relationship.

3) You don't communicate: When communication between you and your husband is only about the kid's schedules or what to buy at the grocery store, you need a lot more words of love to reignite the sex spark. Being told that you look sexy and beautiful can go a long way. If you want to hear that, start by telling him how good he looks when he goes to work -- men do like to hear it! Stroke his ego and hopefully he will catch on to pay you a compliment in return.

4) You just aren't attracted to him: Perhaps he has gained 20 pounds since you married him, and his physical appearance has declined. I truly believe that it is every married couple's responsibility to uphold their appearances so the physical attraction remains intact. Yes, we all age, but are you doing what you can to look attractive as well? If weight gain is an issue, be honest with him. Suggest a lifestyle change for both of you. Set a goal to run/walk in a local 5K, go on an active muli-sport vacation, try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding. Being an active couple can really make a difference in your appearances and your communication.

5) You are stressed: Let's see, you work a full time job and spend your free time in the car carting your children around from game to game, and you have no time for YOU. Stress and anxiety can put a major damper on your willingness to have sex. It is crucial to commit to one hour a day for some down time -- go for a walk, do yoga, meditate, go shopping, get pampered and look pretty.

As women, we do a wonderful job blaming ourselves for the lack of romance in our marriage. Naturally, we are givers so when we can't give, we think something is wrong with us. Irregular intimacy in your marriage can be normal, but weeks and months of a sexless marriage is an indicator that something is wrong in the relationship, not with you. Talk to a therapist or marriage coach to help pinpoint the underlying problem before the marriage itself becomes at risk.

Vincent Daly: 5 Ways Little Kids Are Like Hippies

Vincent Daly: 5 Ways Little Kids Are Like Hippies 2014-04-15

In general, being an adult means taking on responsibility. It also involves adhering to a certain level of appropriate behavior at home and in public. Kids, on the other hand, are blank slates. Decorum? Nope. Rules? No thanks. Fun? Yes please, and keep it coming. They thrive on new experiences and revel in the joy of it all. Freedom, baby. Pure unADULTerated freedom. That's their credo. Little kids are like natural-born hippies. Don't believe me? Check out my list of 5 things that prove it.

1. Open door policy for the bathroom. Moms and dads seeking privacy when doing nature's business can just forget about it. Kids will read, sing and ask you a zillion questions including the status of your bodily output. Unless you lock the door, they're coming in full throttle. Count on it.

2. Running around naked. Little kids hate wearing clothes. Being naked equals feeling groovy! They have no inhibitions and will run, skip, jump and shake their bongos with delirious glee. But what about eating snacks at the table while naked? "Bunnies don't put on pants to eat!" (Actual quote from my own kid.) Overall, this should be no surprise. Just try getting an infant to keep her socks on for more than 10 minutes.

3. Utensils have no meaning at the dinner table. You've shown them how to use a fork or spoon. Yet the little buggers much prefer scooping up a pile of rice using their hands because "I can fit more in my mouth!" Or slurping in bowls of spaghetti noodle by noodle with their heads craned back like hungry baby birds. They also believe eating to be an extreme version of family-style, in which everyone's plate of food is fair game. "Can I eat that?"

4. Group baths. Little kids don't like the idea of bathing to get clean. To them, being dirty just translates into time well spent. Yet toss in the idea of another little kid (their brother or sister) joining them in the tub and suddenly it becomes a party... a splash party. Mom or dad's best efforts to remain dry will be as futile as trying to stop a tidal wave with an umbrella.

5. Sleeping anywhere, anytime. When little kids get tired, they just knock out. It doesn't matter where they are, either. I've personally witnessed my own children fall asleep in cars, trains, planes and buses. They've also nodded off at restaurants, sporting events, movie theaters, parks, churches and parties. In addition, sleep can be had on the nearest floor, the arm of a couch, and, of course, on the nearest parent. Time of day has no relevance. Sleep happens when it just feels right. Bohemians.

What do you think? Am I right or completely wrong or maybe somewhere in between? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

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Ingrid Newkirk: 9 Ways Pigs Are Smarter Than Your Honor Student

Ingrid Newkirk: 9 Ways Pigs Are Smarter Than Your Honor Student 2014-04-15

Easter's coming up -- have you bought your honey-baked ham yet? I hope not because I'd like to try to talk you out of it. Not just because it's bad for you (a recent Harvard University study found that eating processed meats such as ham, bacon, and sausage daily increases your mortality risk by 20 percent) but also because it's bad for pigs (it increases their mortality risk by 100 percent).

On today's factory farms, mother pigs spend most of their lives confined to cramped "gestation" crates that are so small, the animals can't even turn around or take a step in any direction. Piglets are castrated and have their tails chopped off and their teeth clipped without any painkillers whatsoever. All of this is done to animals whom scientists have determined are smarter than the family dog.

Need proof that pigs are brainy? Here's just a sample of their amazing feats of mental prowess:

Pigs can use tools. A study conducted by Professor Donald Broom at Cambridge University found that pigs used a mirror placed in their enclosure to locate food reflected in it but otherwise not directly visible. Only a handful of other species, including dolphins, elephants, and chimpanzees, have passed the "mirror test" or have been documented to understand that mirrors are reflections, not windows.


Pigs just wanna have fun. While at Pennsylvania State University, the late Dr. Stanley Curtis found that pigs can play joystick-controlled video games and are "capable of abstract representation." Dr. Curtis believed that "there is much more going on in terms of thinking and observing by these pigs than we would ever have guessed." Pigs' love of video games has even been turned into an iPhone app, Pig Chase, that gamers can use to play remotely with pigs on Dutch farms.


Pigs can fetch your slippers. Dr. Curtis was able to teach pigs to sit and jump as well as fetch a ball, a Frisbee, and a dumbbell on command. Even after years had gone by, the pigs were still able to identify the objects.


A pig never forgets. Suzanne Held, who studies the cognitive abilities of farmed animals at the University of Bristol, has found that pigs are brilliant at remembering where food is stored and are also able to distinguish between different-size stashes of treats. Held says pigs are "really good at remembering where food is located, because in their natural environment food is patchily distributed and it pays to revisit profitable food patches."


Pigs are sneaky. They learn to follow other pigs to find food and will even use evasive tactics to try to throw a pursuing pig off the trail so that they can keep their trove to themselves.


Some pigs like it hot. While at the University of Illinois, Dr. Curtis learned that not only do pigs have temperature preferences, they can also learn how to turn on the heat in a cold barn and turn it off again when they get too warm.


Pigs clean up. Contrary to that popular expression, pigs can't sweat, so they like to bathe in water or mud to keep cool. One pig guardian developed a shower for her companions, and the animals learned to turn it on and off by themselves.


Pigs can be real lifesavers. A pet pig named Pru rescued her guardian by dragging her out of a bog. Other heroic pigs include Priscilla, who saved a young boy from drowning; Spammy, whose squeals led firefighters to rescue her calf friend Spot from a burning shed; LuLu, who flagged down a passing car to help her human companion, who had collapsed from a heart attack; Tunia, who chased away an intruder; and Mona, who held a fleeing suspect's leg until the police arrived.


Pigs are cockeyed optimists. In his book The Whole Hog, naturalist Lyall Watson writes, "I know of no other animals that are more consistently curious, more willing to explore new experiences, more ready to meet the world with open mouthed enthusiasm. Pigs, I have discovered, are incurable optimists and get a big kick out of just being."

2014-04-15-Esther9.jpg Maybe I'm an incurable optimist, too, because I like to think that once people find out how smart, sociable, brave, and even silly pigs are, they won't want to eat them.

All photos courtesy of Find out what Esther's been up to lately by visiting her Facebook page.

Brittney Griner: The Punch: From Wnba Player Brittney Griner's New Memoir, In

Brittney Griner: The Punch: From Wnba Player Brittney Griner's New Memoir, In My Skin 2014-04-15

The following post is an excerpt from Brittney Griner's new book, In My Skin, from Harper Collins. The excerpt concerns Brittney being disciplined while she was a college star at Baylor University by her coach Kim Mulkey for an incident in which she punched a rival player.

I had a meeting in Kim's office the day after we got back from Lubbock. The NCAA had handed down a one-game suspension, and Kim decided to add on another game, to show everyone how seriously she was taking the incident. She also tacked on a number of obligations -- most of which were not made public -- as part of my punishment. I had to write a letter of apology to Jordan Barncastle. I had to put in a certain number of hours doing community service.And I had to see a therapist, a requirement I initially rolled my eyes at, assuming it would be the kind of thing you see on television: And how did that make you feel?

I sat in Kim's office, and we talked about what had happened. She explained she had to take a tough stance, to make it clear she wouldn't tolerate that kind of behavior, because what I had done was wrong, and now I had to go about making it right. But she also said she understood how frustrating it was to be me on the court. She saw how much abuse I absorbed without getting the same calls as players smaller than I am.

"You just can't retaliate," she stressed. "The blame always falls on the player who retaliates." I knew she was right. Kim and the other coaches had said all along that I needed to keep my cool, that I would have to deal with a lot of crap on the court, players trying to knock me down to their size. But it wasn't until I punched Jordan Barncastle that the message really hit home for me. That game at Texas Tech would be the last one I played without constantly reminding myself I needed to stay levelheaded. I wanted so much to redeem myself. The hardest part was that nobody really understood my history of fighting. I think Kim knew, just from us talking here and there, that I had some conflicts when I was younger -- "altercations," she called them. But nobody at Baylor, and certainly nobody in the media, had any idea how much I had struggled as a kid, trying to solve my problems and hide my insecurities by raising my fists...

In the years after "the punch," the storyline became that I had made this one mistake, and it was totally out of character for me. She's just a big teddy bear. A gentle giant. I was glad people were willing to forgive what I had done, but I also felt a little uncomfortable with how simplified everything was -- all neat and tidy and fixed -- when the reality was that I had worked hard to control my anger.

Kim wanted me to see the therapist every week for the rest of the school year. As I drove to his office for that first visit, I told myself that it was just another obligation, something I had to do to check the box and move on. I wasn't planning to say much, because I'm stubborn like that: I thought therapists were for people who are weak, and I didn't need to see a shrink. I was still learning that the weakest people are the ones who can't ask for help. His office was off campus, unaffiliated with Baylor. I sat in a leather chair with little pleats in it. (I spent a lot of time fiddling with those stitches.)

The therapist sat on the couch, and the first thing he said to me was, "So how are you doing? How was your day?" I had been expecting him to ask me why I punched Jordan Barncastle and if I felt bad about it. I thought the whole thing would be weird and awkward. I remember feeling stiff, ready to shut down. And then he asked me that simple question, as if he really cared about how I was doing, and I felt myself relax into that leather chair. I also liked that he said, "If you want to cuss, go ahead and cuss. It doesn't matter what you want to say, just say it. I'm here to listen. I want to listen. So tell me what you want to talk about."

It didn't take him long to figure out that so much of who I am, of how I act and how I respond and how much anger I feel sometimes, is a direct result of my relationship with my dad. That first session, the therapist asked me about my family, and he noticed how I kind of changed -- my body language, the emotion in my voice -- when I started talking about my father. So we stayed on that topic longer, and when we circled back around to it, the same thing happened.

Starting therapy is like pointing a spotlight into your past, and into your heart. It became an important part of my life away from basketball. I stayed in Waco for school that summer, and I stayed in therapy, too. I kept going back throughout my sophomore year, then on and off for the rest of college.

My therapist provided me with a certain peace of mind. When I became angry about something that happened with basketball, or school, or my dad, I would go talk to him and calm down. Whatever the situation, he helped me look at it in a better way, and he encouraged me to move past the anger I held on to. That has always been my Achilles heel: letting wrongs and slights fester inside of me instead of discussing them right away. I'll tell everyone that everything is fine, until things are so far past fine that I'm about to burst with anger or sadness.

Finding a great therapist was the silver lining that came from the Jordan Barncastle incident. I don't know how I would have made it through my sophomore year, and the swirl of depression I found myself in, without having that support.

Nigel Barber: Freedom From Religion As A Civil Right

Nigel Barber: Freedom From Religion As A Civil Right 2014-04-15

The separation of church and state in the U.S. constitution is more honored in the breach than in the observance. Those who want to escape from organized religion must fight for that freedom against those in power who would foist religious views upon them at every turn. The religious pledge of allegiance continues to be recited in schools despite being clearly unconstitutional.

Religious oppression is far worse in other countries than it is in the U.S. It is not like living in an Islamic republic where rejecting Islam (or apostasy) is punishable by death. Still, that is a very low bar. Countries that lack religious freedom have a very bad quality of life in other respects, as I pointed out in my book Why Atheism Will Replace Religion.

It is not unreasonable to expect that the home of modern democracy would grant its citizens the same freedom to reject religion as residents of other developed democracies do, especially when that right is written into the constitution in the sense that no religion may be established by the state.

Yet, the establishment of the Christian religion is apparent everywhere. I would like to know why my taxes are used to pay a Christian chaplain who is hired by Congress to lead them in prayer. Why does the U.S. Army and the National Guard use my tax money to pay chaplains who lead the troops in prayer?

I am not a constitutional scholar but it is hard to see how these activities could be interpreted as anything but establishment of religion by the state. Why is the president sworn into office using a Bible and religious language implying that the office draws strength from God in violation of the Article VI prohibition on religious texts as a condition for holding public office?

In our thoughts and prayers

It would be easy to write off the presidential oath as an exercise in tradition were it not for the fact that the head of state engages in a constant flow of religious cheerleading. If something bad happens to Americans, the president informs the families that they are "in our thoughts and prayers."

This is an ambiguous formulation. Who is doing the praying? The Obamas, or the government. A more irritating interpretation is that all Americans are praying for the victims. As the head of state, responding to a national disaster, that seems the most plausible interpretation.

President Obama is not alone in his frequent reference to religion: most other recent presidents did exactly the same, suggesting that religious utterances are perceived as safe ground for American presidents. Indeed, if one listened to the content of Obama's public statements, one might be forgiven for concluding that he was a religious leader rather than a secular one. That would certainly explain why he might bother to visit the Pope in Rome seeming like a supplicant before the outlandish pomp and circumstance of the Vatican. It would also explain his fondness for hosting "prayer breakfasts."

I have some questions for the president, and the Supreme Court about the presumed separation of church and state.

Some questions for the President

Why so long after the Cold War has ended, do we still have "In God we trust" on the coinage and paper money? How can the Governor of Alabama on his first day in office say that people who are not Christians are not his brothers or sisters? Why does my local TV weatherman in Alabama tell me that I will need an umbrella on my way to church? Why are religious employers making health decisions about employees who do not share their beliefs? Why are states being allowed to ban contraception and abortions contrary to the Roe v. Wade decision? How can the Texas Board of Education be allowed to insert religiously-inspired falsehoods into school science texts? Why are atheists discriminated against in hiring decisions and generally unable to hold political office in America? Belatedly on board with gay rights, will Obama support the civil rights of those who want freedom from religion? What is he going to do to protect the civil rights of those who want to be free of religion in America?