Monday, June 30, 2014

Hobby Lobby Wins SCOTUS Decision

It has been a tough week for President Obama at the Supreme Court!  The Obama administration lost 4 out of 5 decisions and 2 were rare 9 to 0 decisions, and today ObamaCare’s loss to Hobby Lobby was added to tally.  However, today’s decision was very narrow and some pro-life and religious groups question whether it was a win in the long run in their battles. You be the judge…

By Marion Algier – Ask Marion

Attorneys Who Defended Hobby Lobby

Attorneys Who Defended Hobby Lobby Celebrating

American Thinker: Hobby Lobby 1, Obamacare 0

The Supreme Court upheld the religious freedom rights of Hobby Lobby, the closely-held corporation owned by believing Christians who objected to being required to supply the abortion pill to their employees.

Steve Ertelt of Life News reports:

…the U.S. Supreme Court today issued a favorable ruling in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a landmark case addressing the Constitutionally guaranteed rights of business owners to operate their family companies without violating their deeply held religious convictions.

Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito handed down the decision for the high court, saying, “The Supreme Court holds government can’t require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage.”

“HHS’s contraception mandate substantially burdens the exercise of religion,” the decision reads, adding that the “decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to mean that all insurance mandates.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a concurring opinion saying that government itself could provide the coverage for contraception and the abortion-causing drugs if a company declines to do so.

The Hobby Lobby decision only applies to companies. Non-profit groups like Priests for Life and Little Sisters are still waiting for a ruling about their right to opt out of the mandate.

Note that this ruling only applies to closely-held corporations, but does not rule out applying the same religious freedom reasoning to publicly-held firms and nonprofits.

Ed Lasky points out:

The fact that both these decisions [Hobby Lobby and the forced union dues case] were 5-4 points out the danger of Obama picking the next SC Justice with Reid in control of the Senate. If the opportunity present itself, he will abolish the filibuster for SC nominees, too.

Memo.com: The Supreme Court Gets It Right

Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court has stepped up to defend Americans' most basic freedoms from the full-frontal assault by the rampaging band of leftists running America. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, a Christian business that objected on religious ground to Obamacare's mandate that they must cover certain contraceptives.

Hobby Lobby is among about 50 businesses that have sued over covering contraceptives. Some, like Hobby Lobby, are willing to cover most methods of contraception, as long as they can exclude abortifacients.

Justice Samuel Alito said the decision is limited to contraceptives. "Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer's religious beliefs," he said. He suggested two ways the administration could deal with the birth control issue. The government could simply pay for pregnancy prevention, he said. Or it could provide the same kind of accommodation it has made available to religious-oriented, not-for-profit corporations.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was part of the majority, also wrote separately to say the administration can solve its problem easily. "The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it," Kennedy said. He said that arrangement "does not impinge on the plaintiffs' religious beliefs." Everyone's rights respected and problem solved. Easy peasy.

Of course, Obamacare was never about health care or health insurance. It was only and always about government power and control. Over you. That's what the contraceptive mandate was all about: social engineering, abortion made even easier to get, and with the government holding the strings of control over all of it.

Thank goodness the Supremes ruled on the side of religious liberty. It's about time. But that 5-4 split is too close for comfort. As we head into 2016, don't forget that the Supreme Court---like all of our courts---hangs by a thread, and with it, our most basic freedoms.

Huffington Post:  If Hobby Lobby Wins, Pro-life Christians Lose

We now know with certainty that the Supreme Court will announce its Hobby Lobby decision on Monday. This weekend, the craft and home d├ęcor store, along with numerous evangelical institutions that have filed briefs in its support -including my former employer the National Association of Evangelicals--are hoping and praying God will favor them with a whole new expansion of religious freedom and the protection of human life. I'm praying for the opposite.

Along with nearly 50 other for-profit corporations, Hobby Lobby is demanding the same religious freedoms and protections that each of us has. Hobby Lobby was not endowed by its Creator with certain unalienable rights. It does not have a soul. It cannot have faith. Yet its owners (and their lawyers) insist that it should not have to comply with the contraceptive coverage requirement in the Affordable Care Act on religious grounds. The Obama Administration reasonably granted an opt-out to houses of worship and other religious nonprofits. Hobby Lobby wants similar treatment.

Evangelical intervention on behalf of the multi-billion dollar corporation, which donates generously to their causes, is wrong for many reasons but here are two major ones: If you are pro-religious liberty and pro-life and family, you can't support allowing a for-profit corporation to use religion to deny contraceptive coverage.

First, supporters of Hobby Lobby think they are helping the Christian faith but are actually harming it. In fact, a ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby weakens religious freedom.

When anyone can use religion to claim an exemption on anything, religion loses meaning. Rather than a personal belief embedded in our souls, faith would become a set of arbitrary rules any corporation could choose from to skirt the law.

Is this what evangelicalism needs? I spent nearly three decades in governmental relations at the National Association of Evangelicals defending the free-exercise of religion and the right to life, among many other traditional values. Coming to the aid of for-profit corporations who want to ride on the backs of religion is not one of these honored principles.

Indeed, it is a kind of corporatism invading the body of Christ -- concern not for the "least of these" but the richest of those among us. Is this what Christ would do?

When corporations are allowed the same exemptions that have always been reserved just for churches--whether on health benefits, hiring, or land use--those special protections become less clear and more open for interpretation.

If a for-profit corporation is eligible for legal exemptions on grounds of religious freedom, it puts government in charge of deciding what is or isn't religion. You can just imagine the lawyers who will find work forever litigating these claims. I know, from experience, that their concern for what should be "legal" is not the same as what is "spiritual" or truly serves the interests of the Church.

What if a corporation owned by Jehovah Witnesses refuses to cover blood transfusions? If Christian corporations are allowed to use faith to refuse contraception coverage to women who work for them, what's to stop a Christian Scientist business from refusing to cover any health benefits?

Second, the supporters of Hobby Lobby think they are being "pro-life." They are wrong. A massive study conducted in 2012 showed that contraception coverage without a co-pay could dramatically reduce the abortion rate.

That study, conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine, of 10,000 women at-risk for unintended pregnancy found that when given their choice of birth control methods, counseled about their effectiveness, risks, and benefits, with all methods provided at no cost, about 75 percent of women in the study chose the most effective methods: IUDs or implants. Most importantly, as a result, annual abortion rates among study participants dropped up to 80 percent below the national abortion rate.

Well, you might ask, based upon some of the charges being made, aren't the contraceptive methods being funded through the Affordable Care Act, abortifacients? Not if you believe medical science.

In the words of Jeffrey F. Peipert, M.D., Ph.D., the Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Washington University School of Medicine, "these contraceptive methods work by preventing pregnancy (fertilization) from occurring in the first place. For instance, the intrauterine device works primarily by preventing fertilization. Plan B (or the progestin-containing, morning-after pill), along with Ella (ulipristal acetate), delay the release of a woman's egg from her ovary. The egg does not get fertilized, which means the woman does not become pregnant."

In sum, Evangelicals supporting Hobby Lobby at the Supreme Court are not actually being pro-religious freedom or pro-life. If they win at the Supreme Court, these causes will be damaged in the long run

The Making of Another Justina Pelletier Case?

By: Susan Knowles -  Gulag Bound  -  Cross-Posted at the NoisyRoomjustina-and-dad[1]

Stand for Truth

Justina Pelletier was returned to her family in Connecticut after more than 16 months away from them due to being removed by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Massachusetts (for more of Justina’s story click here).

What I believe was instrumental in helping to return Justina to her family was her father, Lou Pelletier’s refusal to sit down and shut up, when a gag order was put in place to prevent him from speaking out to the public about his daughter’s plight. I believe that it also helped Justina to have such tremendous public support once the word leaked out that she was being held.

Lou Pelletier first spoke out about Justina’s situation on the Glenn Beck show and from there the family was put in contact with excellent legal counsel, Mat Staver, of Liberty Counsel who represented the family from that point on. Additionally, the local Fox News affiliate in Connecticut, followed the story until the very end when Justina was finally reunited with her loving family.

Additionally, numerous hours were spent by supporters who placed telephone calls to the Governor of Massachusetts, DCF, the judge in the case and just about anyone else who would listen. There were also many who protested in front of the courthouse, DCF’s location, at Boston Children’s Hospital, and a facility in Massachusetts where Justina had been placed. Finally, countless Twitter “firestorms” were held to protest what supporters strongly believed was an injustice that needed to be righted.

Still others, like myself, wrote countless articles and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube so that the word about what was happening to Justina under the “care” of DCF might be made known. I also started a Facebook page, called “Stop Government Takeover of Our Children” as a result of my work toward bringing Justina home. My page was created to bring awareness, foster discussion, and to offer solutions toward resolving government overreach pertaining to our kids.

Once people heard about the facts of the Pelletier case, they were convinced that Justina had been unjustly taken from her family and they were determined to see her case through until she was returned to her parents’ custody.

wesolowski-dylan-with-MonikaNow there is a new case. It’s not so new really but it has not gained national attention like the Pelletier case.

I’m speaking of the CPS involved case of Dylan Wesolowski. I was recently contacted by Dylan’s mother Monika Wesolowski, after she learned about the articles I had written concerning Justina.

From what I know of Ms. Wesolowski, she is a conservative, a State Department employee with a secret clearance, and her parents emigrated here from Poland.

I’ve just begun to research the facts of this case but I want to present them to you and ask that you do your own research to determine if this family’s dilemma deserves public action, as in Justina’s case.

Here is what I know of the facts. In an April 30, 2014 letter, Wesolowski wrote to Dave Hodges, host of thecommensenseshow.com, for help in getting her son’s story heard.

Wesolowski alleges the following: On December 2013, in Fairfax County, Virginia, police officers dressed in SWAT gear came to her home after there had been a report that she had choked her four year old son, who has Autism, two days prior. Wesolowski accuses Dylan’s father of making this report. According to Ms. Wesolowski, she had gotten sole legal custody of her child approximately 2 months before her encounter with the police and CPS in December 2013.

CPS arrived at the Wesolowski residence about an hour after the police officers’ arrival. The entire meeting lasted from dylan with momapproximately 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. During the investigation by the police and CPS, a small red mark was noticed on the back of Dylan’s neck. Dylan was subsequently removed and placed in the temporary custody of Wesolowski’s neighbors.

wesolowski-dylan-with-momFollowing the encounter, Ms. Wesolowski’s neighbors (who had temporary custody) and she, took Dylan to a pediatrician so that the red mark could be diagnosed. The pediatrician’s report, according to Wesolowski, indicates that the red mark was eczema. Wesolowski reportedly has the medical records to prove this fact.

Monika also states in her letter, that once CPS discovered that she had taken her son to the pediatrician, they were very angry, used the report against her claiming that she wanted to cover up the mark with medication, and that she had coerced the doctor into rendering that diagnosis.

Monika further contends that CPS investigated her daycare center alleging that they may have abused her son. She believes these allegations against her daycare center were used as part of a scare tactic.

The case took another turn, when in a separate letter to Dave Hodges, dated May 15, 2014, Wesolowski claims that her parents in Illinois were contacted by the Illinois DCF. She states that they tried to get her parents to sign a document saying that Wesolowski had hurt her son. When her parents refused to sign the document, they were told by someone from DCF in Illinois that Virginia DCF wouldn’t like the fact that they didn’t sign the document. Further, they were allegedly told that since they were on their daughter’s side (evidenced by the fact that they wouldn’t sign the agreement), they had no chance of getting Dylan.

Although, Ms. Wesolowski has never been arrested or charged with any crime, her son was placed in a second foster home with two dads who are gay. Ms. Wesolowski, not only is opposed to the placement of her son in foster care altogether, but believes since she is Roman Catholic, that he should have been placed elsewhere. Supposedly, close friends and family were available and willing to take Dylan into their home.

The case has taken yet another turn. Monika has leveled accusations of possible sexual abuse in this case. She claims in a previous email to Mr. Hodges, that her son is being sexually abused while under the care of Virginia DCF/CPS.

As proof of sexual abuse, Wesolowski claims that she has found “marks” in sensitive areas on Dylan’s body consistent with sexual abuse. In addition, Dylan, now age five, has regressed to defecating in his pants and is back in diapers, according to Wesolowski. She also asserts that Dylan has unexplained fits of temper where he talks about cutting off his hands and the hands of others. She claims that while he is preparing to take a bath, he yells that he “wants to cut his hands off over and over and over prior to the bath.” Dave Hodges, a former mental health professional, is also convinced that these reports are evidence of possible child abuse that are reportable and should be investigated.

Ms. Wesolowski also claims to have photographic evidence of Dylan’s alleged abuse. She contends in an email to Mr. Hodges that Dylan’s dermatitis rash on his back and shoulder were seen for several weeks and were getting progressively work. She described her son as being “skinnier” and that he had lost weight since being placed in foster care. If true, Monika’s allegations of abuse would make any parent cringe. To date, however, Dylan remains in the same foster care environment with the two dads.

As a mental health professional, several things jump out at me as being unusual. First, I have never known CPS to place a child in temporary custody with a neighbor. When there is existing family, barring other factors that wouldn’t be in the child’s best interests, children are placed in foster care with their own relatives. If that is not an option, then there are usually facilities where the child can be taken into the direct care and custody of CPS, at least initially. Why wasn’t that done in this case?

Secondly, any allegations of sexual or physical abuse, if reported must be investigated by CPS. In the Department of Social Services own CPS handbook in Virginia, “What Is Child Protective Services?” CPS has the “responsibility to respond to reports of suspected child abuse or neglect (emphasis added).” Was there a report made of the allegations by anyone? Would CPS have been deemed to have knowledge of suspected child abuse or neglect, if Wesolowski verbally reported her suspicions to them, rather than filing a formal complaint? Did Wesolowski file a formal complaint? If allegations were known by CPS, has an investigation been made, and if so, what was the outcome of the investigation? Undoubtedly, CPS would refrain from responding to that question based upon grounds of confidentiality.

Thirdly, there are a number of foster care homes available in most areas. Should CPS have changed Dylan’s foster care home to avoid potential future allegations being made against CPS or the foster parents as a way of mitigating possible litigation?

Also, if true, why did Illinois DCF become involved in the case when Dylan and his mother live in Virginia? It would be reasonable, if CPS had wanted to place Dylan in a temporary foster home with his grandparents, to have asked Illinois DCF, where the grandparents are located, to check out the their home beforehand to make sure that it was a suitable environment for Dylan. However, according to Ms. Wesolowski, her parents were asked only to sign a document against her.

Dave-Hodges-ShowDave Hodges believes so much in Dylan’s case that he has set up a gofundme.com account so that Ms. Wesolowski will be able to retain an attorney and try to regain custody of her son. The account indicates a goal of $20,000. Currently, the amount reached is slightly over, $17,000.

If the Justina Pelletier case is any indication of what lies ahead for Monika in her quest to bring Dylan home, then she may be facing a long and arduous battle. Only time will tell if the public will embrace her story and rally around Dylan, as they did for Justina.

——- GB ——-

Knowles-Freedoms-FlightSusan Calloway Knowles, is a licensed California psychotherapist, former practicing California attorney, author, and political/cultural blogger. Her website is SusanKnowles.com. Susan’s book, a political fiction, is entitled Freedom’s Fight: A Call to Remember and is available on Amazon. Susan can be reached by email at Susan@SusanKnowles.com.

References:

© 2014, Susan Knowles.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What About Abortion’s Negative Impact on Men? – The Forgotten Fathers

Washington, DC (By Lauren Enriquez - LiveActionNews- Opinon): With the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 came the legalization of the ultimate usurper of fatherhood: abortion. Forty years later, America faces the unpleasant reality that, thanks to abortion and the sexual revolution, the role of fatherhood has rapidly made an about-face. Fatherhood has gone from being an unquestioned ingredient in family life to a variable that occurs in the family dynamic only when circumstances are aligned just right.

It is this dilemma that prompted Online for Life President Brian Fisher, in anticipation of Father’s Day, to release a FoxNews column about the impact of abortion on men. Fisher begins by acknowledging that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 was a welcome liberation from perceived shackles of fatherhood. However, as the years have dragged on, more tragic and dark realities have emerged as true consequences of abortion’s mitigation of fatherly rights and responsibilities. Says Fisher:

Of course, millions of men welcomed the change. The sexual revolution was booming, and men were experiencing a new kind of empowerment we hadn’t previously enjoyed…

Abortion didn’t empower women.  It empowered men.

Fast forward to Father’s Day 2013.

Fifty-five million aborted babies later, it seems many men are realizing the Supreme Court got it wrong.  Fatherhood doesn’t start with birth. It starts when we opt to sleep with a woman.  And, despite federal law, our consciences testify that we are wired to protect and care for a child when it is conceived, not nine months later.

What are the unfortunate side-effects of elective abortion for men? According to Fisher, abortion is beginning to show its ugly face in the form of many tragic consequences, including depression and the exploitation of women:

We are just now considering, though, that we victimize ourselves.

Depression, guilt, shame, a loss of self, a loss of honor, and destroyed relationships are common male consequences of abortion.

In our heart of hearts, we are coming to grips with what we’re doing. We are willfully taking the lives of those we are wired to protect.

Men, born to be honorable and full of valor, Fisher says, have traded their innate sense of responsibility for a perceived freedom that is not worth the cost. He says that a man’s fundamental calling to defend those who are dependent on him, including the unborn, is squashed by the abortion mentality.

He concludes by suggesting that, although Father’s Day is a time to remember and honor the good men in our lives, it has also morphed into a day when the nation should mourn. As we need a Veterans’ Day to thank those who have fought for our freedom, we also need Memorial Day to remember those who have fallen victim to the ravages of war. Similarly, every Father’s Day since 1973 has become a day when we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that fathers are undermined by a culture that affirms “a woman’s right to choose,” since that tragic choice eliminates what is good about men and fathers.

Organizations like Rachel’s Vineyard work to heal the wound that abortion has left on women and men alike.

LifeNews Note: Lauren is a former Legislative Associate for Texas Right to Life and a graduate of Ave Maria University. This post originally appeared at Live Action News.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Looking Back: Sarah Palin as McCain’s VP – 2008 OpEd

Tripp and Uncle Trig

Tripp Palin Johnston and His Uncle Trig Palin

Washington Times: Amid the speculation regarding John McCain’s choice to complete his presidential ticket, I offer my unsolicited suggestion for his vice president: the first woman — and youngest — governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who is an unstereotypical and effective Republican.

During her first year in office, as reported by the Associated Press on May 10, she “distanced herself from the old guard, powerful members of the state GOP (and) stood up to the oil interests that hold great power in Alaska, and with bipartisan support in the statehouse, she won a tax increase on the oil companies’ profits.” Last December, this mother of four children, Mrs. Palin, four months’ pregnant, found she was going to have a child with Down syndrome — a condition characterized by moderate-to-severe mental retardation. A school friend of one of my sons had Down syndrome; I have also known functioning adults with the extra chromosomes of that syndrome.

However, as a longtime reporter on disability rights, I have discovered that many fetuses so diagnosed have been aborted by parents who have been advised by their doctors to end the pregnancies because of the future “imperfect quality of life” of such children.

Mrs. Palin’s first reaction to the diagnosis was to research the facts about the condition, since, as she said, “I’ve never had problems with my other pregnancies.” As a result, she and her husband, Todd, never had any doubt they would have the child.

“We’ve both been very vocal about being pro-life,” she told the Associated Press. “We understand that every innocent life has wonderful potential.” In an age when DNA and other genetic-selection tests increasingly determine who is “fit” to join us human beings, we are witnessing the debate between sanctity of life vs. quality of life being more often decided in favor of death. This is a result welcomed by internationally-influential bioethicist Peter Singer. He is now a celebrated Princeton University professor, who, in July 1983, wrote in Pediatrics, the official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics: “If we compare a severely defective human infant with a nonhuman animal, a dog or pig, for example, we will often find the nonhuman to have superior capacities, both actual and potential, for rationality, self-consciousness, communication, and anything else that can plausibly be considered morally significant.” And there are bioethicists who point to the continuing costs of rearing a “defective infant.”

By inspirational contrast, Mrs. Palin, says of her new son, Trig: “I’m looking at him right now, and I see perfection. Yeah, he has an extra chromosome. I keep thinking, in our world, what is normal and what is perfect?” Three days after she gave birth, Mrs. Palin was back in her Anchorage office with her husband and Trig. “I can think of so many male candidates,” she tells the AP, “who watched families grow while they were in office. There is no reason to believe a woman can’t do it with a growing family. My baby will not be at all or in any sense neglected.” Says the governor of Alaska: “I will not shirk my duties.” Taking her stand for life as a holder of high political office is all the more valuable in the face of the termination of fetal lives as not worth continuing before they can speak for themselves. Mrs. Palin’s stand also puts a searching light on the growing “futility” doctrine in hospitals which is affecting people of all ages.

Nancy Valko, a medical ethicist and intensive-care nurse I consult on these lives-worth-living debates, has emphasized that “with the rise of the modern bioethics movement, life is no longer assumed to have the intrinsic value it once did, and ‘quality of life’ has become the overriding consideration.” Because of Mrs. Palin’s reputation as a maverick, and her initial reduction of state spending (including pork-barrel spending), life-affirming Palin connects with voters. For these reasons, she has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Mr. McCain.

She would be a decided asset: an independent Republican governor, a woman, a defender of life against the creeping culture of death and a fresh face in national politics. She was described in “the Almanac of National Politics” as “an avid hunter and fisher with a killer smile who wears designer glasses and heels, and hair like modern sculpture.” Moreover, I doubt that she would engage in such campaigning, as Sen. McCain’s strongly implying that a Hamas terrorist saying he would like Barack Obama to be president thereby damages Mr. McCain’s opponent (though Mr. Obama has totally condemned Hamas). Still unknown is whether Mrs. Palin would be as flip-flopping as Mr. McCain on the Bush torture policy that has so blighted our reputation in the world. But we would find out: If chosen as his running mate, she would create more interest in this already largely scripted presidential campaign.

And her presence could highlight Mr. Obama’s extremist abortion views on whether certain lives are worth living — even a child born after a botched abortion.  

Governor Palin: An Extra Chromosome of Love

trig(palin_3

Trig Palin Age 3 

Gov. Palin: Trig is getting a buddy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

#NoKidHungry Text 877-877 to find meals near you #SummerMeals

If you know, or think you know, any family with hungry children (18 and under), find a summer meal program near home.

And please pass it on…

#NoKidHungry Text 877-877 to find meals near you #SummerMeals

Also, if you would like to donate:  NoKidHungry.org 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Kids with autism connect, cuddle with future service dogs: 'I love them'

Students snuggle and play with puppies at the Lionheart School in Alpharetta, Georgia. The puppies will go on to become service dogs for war veterans and others with disabilities.

LionPaws via Facebook

Today – Pets By LauraT Coffey – Originally Posted on June 10, 2014 at 4:11 PM ET – Cross Posted at Just One More Pet

A student named Max, front, and other children snuggle and play with puppies at the Lionheart School in Alpharetta, Georgia. The puppies will go on to become service dogs for war veterans and others with disabilities.

For many children with autism, social interactions with strangers can be awkward and anxiety-inducing. But if the stranger is a gentle golden retriever puppy with huge paws and a quiet snore, something remarkable happens.

Throw a puppy into the mix, and the uneasiness tends to melt away.

“It’s just amazing,” said Elizabeth Dulin, co-founder and head of the Lionheart School, which serves students with autism in Alpharetta, Georgia. “When our kids interact with the dogs, we see reduced anxiety levels. ... They become calm and focused.”

One 11-year-old student named Max can quickly identify all seven of the puppies romping around the school. How can he name them so effortlessly when they look so similar? That’s easy.

“Because I love them,” Max told WXIA-TV in Atlanta.

A student named Max holds a puppy in a Target store.

WXIA / 11Alive.com

Max, 11, converses with anyone who will listen about a puppy in his care during a field trip to a Target store.

Lionheart is home base for a new partnership with the paws4people foundation, which trains service dogs for war veterans, disabled kids and adults. Dubbed the “LionPaws Puppy Development Center,” the fledgling program sees to it that the future service dogs help as many people as possible throughout their training.

The puppies spend the first four months of their lives at Lionheart, where they befriend the school’s 39 students. The kids hold the puppies, talk to the puppies, bathe the puppies and go on field trips with the puppies — all the while socializing the animals and preparing them for more advanced obedience training ahead.

A puppy that will become a service dog.

LionPaws via Facebook

As this puppy trains to become a service dog, it will touch the lives of many humans in need.

The next stop is an inmate intervention program, where prisoners in good standing teach the puppies 125 commands and train them to open and close doors, turn lights on and off and perform other tasks. Inmates entrusted with the dogs’ training get more than a sense of purpose — they also receive recent job experience that can help them find employment when they get released.

The final phase of the dogs’ training happens at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington, where paws4people is based. Animal-loving students get college credit for making sure the dogs are fully prepared to go to their new homes — often with war veterans who are physically disabled or who have post-traumatic stress disorder.

Related story: 'She gives me independence': Service dog changes wounded veteran's life

Puppies go down a slide with Lionheart students.

LionPaws via Facebook

Getting socialized: Puppies go down a slide with Lionheart students.

paws4people has been training service dogs for 14 years. The newest segment of socialization and training for some puppies — spending time with children with autism — began in January of this year. The results so far have been “nothing short of miraculous,” said Sarah Rosenbaum, director of the LionPaws Puppy Development Center.

Rosenbaum said she’s seen non-verbal children become chatty around the puppies, and she’s seen children with motor-skill deficits get up and run to see the puppies.

“They’re just so excited, which really is such a source of pride for me,” she told TODAY.com. “The children are providing for the puppies, and the puppies are providing for the children.”

Adults and kids holding puppies on a couch.

LionPaws via Facebook

The puppies get plenty of affection during the first four months of their lives at the Lionheart School.

Lionheart’s first batch of seven puppies is about to move on to the inmate intervention phase of their training, and a new pile of puppies will arrive at the school soon. Five members of the school’s staff have become certified as dog handlers, and that makes it possible for one older service dog named LANGLEY to stay at the school year-round.

Dulin, the head of the Lionheart School, said LANGLEY and the puppies have been helping students to make social and emotional connections. On field trips to Target or to a nursing home, the children often will open up and make conversation with strangers about the puppies. Or when a student is having a bad day, a furry friend can help them regain a sense of normalcy.

“A lot of our kids have difficulty regulating their emotions,” Dulin told TODAY.com. “One little girl who deals with a lot of anxiety was riding in carpool one morning, and a boy who rides with her slammed his finger in the door. This little girl started crying and she could not stop.”

The girl locked herself, wailing, inside a bathroom stall and refused to come out. A teacher knew just what to do: Launch Operation LANGLEY. She brought LANGLEY into the bathroom and sat on the floor until the girl was ready to let the dog into her space.

“About three minutes later, the teacher saw a little ‘thumbs up’ sticking out from under the stall door,” Dulin said. “LANGLEY went into the stall, calmed her down, and then the two walked to class together. And she had been inconsolable — without LANGLEY, we probably would have needed to call her parents.”

Related story: Xena the Warrior Puppy, rescued from abuse, helps 8-year-old boy with autism

Puppies playing in playground equipment.

LionPaws via Facebook

Puppies take a break while playing with Lionheart students.

Research regarding the effects of companion animals on kids with autism is limited but encouraging. One study published last year revealed that children with autism spectrum disorder were more likely to talk, laugh, make eye contact and show other positive social behaviors in the presence of guinea pigs than they were in the presence of toys.

And in her 2010 paper “What a Dog Can Do: Children with Autism and Therapy Dogs in Social Interaction,” researcher Olga Solomon highlighted cases of dogs helping children to communicate and connect emotionally with others around them. As Solomon noted in her paper, “dogs lead humans elsewhere, and this elsewhere is often better than where we have been before.”

Related: 

Pet Therapy

Pets Reduce Stress at Work… More Companies, Citing Benefits, Allowing Pets at Work 

Pets are way better than Therapy!

Waltz Into a Healthy Old Age

Pet Alzheimer's Disease - Is Your Dog or Cat Showing Signs? 

Therapeutic benefits of music being used to treat Alzheimer’s, addiction, and depression 

Sarah Palin and Senator Mile Lee Take Time to Visit Service Dog Trainers While in Iowa 

Gov. Palin: Trig is getting a buddy!

McCain Knew!

Remember the Building 18 scandal?

DickRichardCYoung.com: No? Well refresh your memory here. We’re talking 2007, and the target is Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. I remember the mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, Walter Reed horror story like it was yesterday, and I am not even a U.S. senator like John McCain or Bernie Sanders, the crack duo who introduced the new veterans health package Tuesday. That’s Tuesday 2014, keep in mind.

I remember the Walter Reed national disgrace in part because of all the publicity Don Imus gave the disgraceful conditions at Reed. And who was a frequent Imus radio guest back in the old days? Well, John McCain. Imus has a legendary kids ranch in Arizona where McCain is, of course, senator. So the two had plenty to gab about on air. Suffice to say, the black mold foulness and overall wretched conditions at Walter Reed were well known to Senator McCain. I do not want to be unfair or unpleasant about a national war hero and a man who ran a strategy packed campaign for president of the United States not long ago but…

OK, so better late than ever, right? Not really. As you may have read, the current national disgrace centers on another VA facility, which happens to be based, darn it, in Arizona, John McCain’s home state. This time we’re talking about a little bit more than belly-up cockroaches and mouse droppings. It is alleged that as many as 40 veterans may have died while waiting for an appointment at the Phoenix hospital.

Seven long years have passed since the nationwide Walter Reed VA scandal before the U.S. Senate wakes up. And who rings the wakeup bell? Why, John McCain. Our American Federal Republic form of government is broken. It is that simple. Europe is in the same fix but multi-party systems in countries like France and England have given voters a way to speak out, and speak out they have as witnessed in the recent European parliament elections. It is long past time we Americans had a similar option.

Related Video: Sanders, McCain Announce Bipartisan Veterans Bill 

VA Chief: 100,000 Vets Were On FAKE WAIT LISTS

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father’s Day 2014

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A hundred years ago, Sonora Smart Dodd was sitting in church one Sunday when she came up with the idea of a national Father’s Day on the order of Mother’s Day. It took 57 years before President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966 making it the national holiday we celebrate today.

“Any man can be a Father, but it takes a special person to be called Dad.”

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The Dads and Moms in this world are the people, the real parents (birth parents, adoptive parents, stepparents, grandparents and mentors), who loved us everyday… and who were there for the good, the bad, the fun, the boring, the daily routine, the tough and the special  times.  They are the parents who invested in us… with their time, their money, their energy, their advice, their wisdom, their love…)

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A few years ago, I received a Father’s Day card from my son Tim. On the front of it was a picture of a little boy sitting up in bed. Terror was written on his face. His hair was standing straight up, and the card said, “Dad, I want to thank you.”

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Well, I wondered, a Father’s Day card with this boy terrorized, had I done that to my son? I opened the card up and it said, “I want to thank you for helping me kill all the dragons of my mind so I could go out and fight the real ones.

Dad: Are You Part of “The Great Conversation”?

Originally Posted on June 20, 2010 by Marion Algier - Ask MarionReposted by request

A few weeks ago, John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods, invited me to a social event at his ranch west of Austin.

Wandering through his home, I couldn’t help admiring the beautiful artwork on the walls, much of it depicting Eastern mystical traditions. I asked John if he had an interest in oriental philosophy.

“Some,” he said, adding at one point, “I’m a perennialist.”

What a thought-provoking self-description, one you seldom hear these days.

Perennialists believe you should learn – and pass along to your children and students – those things that are of everlasting importance to all people everywhere, as discussed in Wisdom: The Greatest Gift One Generation Can Give To Another by Andrew Zuckerman

What are those things? Humanity’s best ideas about how to live.

Some will insist, of course, that we’ve hit a snag right out of the gate. After all, the world is full of divergent views. People simply don’t agree on these matters.

But perennialists counter that enlightened people everywhere agree on certain coreprinciples. These are handed down from generation to generation, through the ages, and across nations and cultures.

The phrase Philosophia Perennis – the Perennial Philosophy – was coined by the German mathematician, philosopher and polymath Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716). In more recent years, Aldous Huxley, Mortimer Adler, and Huston Smith, among other writers, have carried the perennialist torch, beckoning us to take part in what they call “The Great Conversation.”

It’s a broad discussion about what constitutes the best life, one that encompasses everything from the Analects of Confucius to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics – the sound, practical and undogmatic ethics of common sense – to the mystical truths of the world’s great religious traditions. (It is the kind of thought that would have brought Thomas Jefferson, a man who believed in God but not steeped in any one particular Christian religion or even organized religion at all, to make the conscious choice of using Judeo-Christian Values as a basis for American law and that would have brought him and theFounding Fathers to choosing to make America a Republic rather than a Democracy.)

The conversation is ongoing and evolving, never static. The best ideas about how to live are hardly new, of course. But discoveries are sometimes made and old ideas are enlarged or restated for a modern audience. Recent books that touch on the perennial philosophy include Roger Walsh’s Essential Spirituality, Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation, and Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God.

Perennialists understand the connection between compassion and successful living. They offer, for example, that:

* Everything worthwhile in life is created as the result of love and concern for others.
* Humanity is one great family. Our similarities are deep, our differences superficial.
* The Golden Rule, expressed in some way in every society, is the cornerstone of human understanding.
* The giving of time, money, support and encouragement can never be detrimental to the giver.
* Character development – the path from self-absorption to caring and consciousness – is paramount.
* Problems are life’s way of getting the best out of us. They are opportunities to grow.
* It is important to nourish your mind with the thoughts of history’s wisest thinkers.
* Courage and self-awareness are required to live fully and follow your heart.
* You should develop the ability to reason accurately and independently rather than accepting ideas based solely on authority or tradition.
* Our egos cause us to cherish opinions, judge others and rationalize our beliefs. Perennialists ask “would you rather be right or be happy?”
* We should exercise humility. Not because others find it attractive – although they do – but because, if we are honest with ourselves, we have much to be humble about.
* We should practice forgiveness. When we forgive others, we find that others forgive us – and that we forgive ourselves.
* Moral development comes from strengthening our impulse control, prioritizing personal relationships and fostering social responsibility.
* Our lives are immeasurably improved by expressing gratitude and generosity.
* Development of the heart is essential. Our actions are the mirror of our inner selves.
* Whenever we act, we are never just doing. We are always becoming. If we aren’t growing, we are diminishing.
* Integrity is everything.

Rather than quarreling over sectarian differences, perennialists are interested in the nuggets of truth at the heart of every great tradition.

Two years ago, for instance, a friend and I bumped into Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author ofThe Black Swan, at a bookstore in Vancouver. (This was no great coincidence. All three of us were speaking at an investment conference at the Fairmont down the street.)

Taleb indicated that he was planning to write a book on religion, whereupon my friend and he got into a brief dispute about whether a particular theological point “was true.”

Like many conversations of this nature, there was more heat shed than light. Frustrated at one point, Taleb waved an arm toward the fiction section. “How about all those books over there. Are they true?”

“Of course not,” my friend said. “They’re novels.”

“But they are full of universal truths,” I added.

Taleb turned and jabbed a finger in my direction. “Exactly!”

Consciously or not, he was advocating the perennial philosophy. Perennialists seek enlightenment wherever they can find it. It doesn’t matter whether the source is ancient, modern, mythical, foreign, mystical or verified by the latest scientific findings. It only matters that it’s true – and that it has some practical application for more skillful living.

As the historian Will Durant wrote in The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time… Time, “We are born animals; we become human. We have humanity thrust upon us through the hundred channels whereby the past pours down into the present that mental and cultural inheritance whose preservation, accumulation and transmission place mankind today, with all its defectives and illiterates, on a higher plane than any generation has ever reached before.”

What is that higher plane? An upward spiral of caring – from me to us to all of us.

It doesn’t always come naturally. And for some, unfortunately, it doesn’t come at all.  (But The Great Conversation ends up being a bridge for many who find it hard to pray or believe, after which Prayer becomes the result and pinnacle of The Great Conversation )

But perennialists try to absorb as much as they can of our three-thousand-year heritage and take an occasional moment from their hectic lives to ask, “Am I becoming the kind of person I want to be? Am I part of The Great Conversation?”

Carpe Diem,
Alex

Alex Greene is the Investment Director of The Oxford Club (and one of my favorite inspirational writers). The Oxford Club Communique, whose portfolio he directs, is ranked among the top 5 investment letters in the nation for 10-year performance by the independent Hulbert Investment Digest. Alex is the author of The New York Times bestseller “The Gone Fishin’ Portfolio: Get Wise, Get Wealthy…and Get on With Your Life (Agora Series)” and, more recently, “The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters.” He has been featured on Oprah & Friends, CNBC, National Public Radio (NPR), Fox Newsand “The O’Reilly Factor,” and has been profiled by The Wall Street Journal,BusinessWeek, Forbes, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, among others. He currently lives in Charlottesville, Virginia and Winter Springs, Florida with his wife Karen and their children Hannah and David.

God and Dad — A Father’s Four Lessons of Faith

Why are men abandoning God?

Religion is increasingly a woman’s domain in America.  Two-thirds of church and synagogue attendees are women, studies show, with young men fleeing the pews even faster.  On any given weekend, 13 million more women than men will attend religious institutions.

Home is even worse.  Moms are usually the ones talking about God at the dinner table.  When the topic turns to faith, dad is usually out to lunch.

What a shame.  Fathers can find great inspiration in faith.  For the last dozen years, I’ve traced the influence of the Bible through the Middle East and America looking at how religious figures from the past are relevant to today’s families.  In Walking the Bible, I climbed Mount Ararat, crossed the Red Sea, and spent weeks recreating the Exodus through the desert.  In Where God Was Born, I continued that journey through the second half the Bible in Israel, Iraq, and Iran.  In America’s Prophet, I explored how the story of Moses has influenced Americans from the Liberty Bell, through the Statue of Liberty, through Cecil B. DeMille and Charlton Heston.

Two years ago this week I was struck by a life-threatening illness and suddenly my travels took a more personal turn.  What lessons of faith would I pass on to my three-year-old twin daughters (or sons)?  My new book, The Council of Dads, includes a Father’s Four Lessons of Faith.

1.  Wrestle with GodIn Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with a messenger of God.  The two come to a standstill, and the messenger leaves a mark on Jacob.  The scar does not end up on Jacob’s hand, nor on his head, his heart, or his eyes.  Humans experience God, the text suggests, not by touching him, imagining him, feeling him, or seeing him.  Jacob is scarred on his leg, for the essential way humans experience God is by walking with him.  Forever after, Jacob is called “Israel,” one who wrestles with God.  Don’t be afraid of doubt.  The true way to experience the divine is struggle with him.

2.  Befriend the Stranger.  There’s a reason the Exodus story has inspired so many Americans.  It’s a narrative of home.  “This year we are slaves, but next year we can be free.”  History is not set in stone.  It is not an immovable pyramid.  The pyramid can be flipped.  When you despair, when you hurt, when you fear – and especially when you encounter those feelings in others – remember the slaves who first groaned under bondage.  You should read the Israelites’ story and remember: There is a moral dimension to the universe.  Right can prevail over might; justice can triumph over evil.  Flip a few pyramids yourselves along the way.  Overturn injustice.  Befriend the stranger, for you, yourselves, were strangers once in a land with no hope.

3.  Plunge Into the Waters. One reason Moses is America’s true founding father is that he evangelizes action; he justifies risk.  He gives ordinary people the courage to live with uncertainty.  The visionaries who have been inspired by him – Christopher Columbus,Benjamin Franklin, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King – were not born to greatness.  They became great by tapping into the anger and hope within themselves.  Imagine your own promised land, girls, plunge into the waters, persevere through the dryness, and don’t be surprised – or saddened – if you’re stopped just short of your dream.  Because the ultimate lesson of Moses’ life is that the dream does not die with the dreamer, and the true destination in a narrative of hope is not this year at all.  But next.

4.  Be Reunited With the Ones You Love.  My book, “The Council of Dads” tells the story of my “lost year” fighting cancer and the men I asked to be father figures to my daughters.  Today I am cancer-free, and I learned a powerful lesson during that experience.  The Liberty Bell has a quote from Moses on its side, “Proclaim Liberty throughout the world, unto all the inhabitants thereof.”  This line refers to a tradition whereby every seven years, farmers are obliged to give their fields a year of rest.  Every 49 years the land gets an extra year of rest, during which all families are reunited, and all people reunited with the ones they love.  That fiftieth year is called the jubilee year.  That tradition perfectly captures my experience.  My “lost year” was my jubilee year.  I was needy.  I was a stranger.  I was reunited with the ones I love.  Don’t forget to slow down, girls.  Reunite with the ones you love.

Take trips.  Take chances.  Take off.

Feiler was featured on the Glenn Beck Show on Friday 6.17.10

By Bruce Feiler -  the bestselling author of “Abraham,” “Walking the Bible, “America’s Prophet” and “The Council of Dads.” Click here to buy The Council of Dads.  Or click on the title to purchase America’s Prophet, which Glenn Beck called “the best book of narrative history I have ever read.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.”  To learn more, or watch a video of Bruce talking about the life lessons of his fathers, please visit www.councilofdads.com.

As we find ourselves in the midst of perhaps the greatest fight for American values including, our Judeo-Christian heritage, our inalienable rights and freedoms (the U.S. Bill or Rights enumerates many but is only the beginning), our way of life, free market Capitalism, and perhaps our Republic itself, the greatest question that we must be asking ourselves is why? 

At the center of our problems seems to be our National Character that has been purposely attacked by a progressive left movement for the past 100 years. The present onslaught under the present administration and leadership in Washington is actually the 3rd attempt to destroy the American way of life, which has been weakened through a methodical plan which includes the weakening of the family unit, the diminishment of religion being replaced by secularism or even environmentalism or sustainable development as a religion,political correctness, and the loss of connection with Americans with our history and the Founding Fathers through the focused dumbing down of America, which includes re-writing history, drugs and chemicals in our water and food supplies, vaccines, media brainwashing and diversion from core responsibilities and activities, and an onslaught of progressive thinking in all areas of life.

There is a new brilliant documentary out called Generation Zero that every American needs to see, that makes it all very clear. It pulls together everything from the past 40-years into a concise package, explaining how we got here and what we have to do to get ourselves out. If we make a U-turn and do what is needed, no matter how hard it is, we will make it. If we do not, we will fall by the way side like all former empires and superpowers that became arrogant and narcissistic.

Generation Zero is the film of the discussion and thoughts that every fiscal conservative and American who has uses their common sense has had many times over, without necessarily knowing all the facts. I know I and many of my friends have had this conversation many times, however, I didn’t realize how close the country came to collapse during the dark days of September 2008. This film makes it clear how close we came to the abyss. The film opens and closes with video from CSPAN that reflects the anger of middle-class America and how close we came to a complete and utter meltdown on September 18, 2008 when there was an electronic bank run that was hurtling out of control. Watch this clip to understand the situation. It also explains to those who still don’t get it, where the Tea Party and other like movement have come from.  (Read Full Article)

Everyone needs to see this movie: Generation Zero

We, spoiled baby-boomers raised by the Greatest Generation who wanted to spare their kids of hardship, have created The Lost Generation that desperately needs help to be turned around. Unfortunately turning the tide we have created is like righting the Titanic once she started to sink, if it is possible, it will be an extremely difficult and slow process and unfortunately not in time to stop the affects of the damage for families like the Schullers and many others… as well as for America herself. (However, in 30 Ways in 30 Days to Save Your Family… by Rebecca Hegelin, she out lines some great steps of where to start, and start we must with our kids being taught that they know better than their parents in both school and through programs like Americorps.)

The spoiling of our children and taking our eye off what might be argued as our greatest responsibility is rampant throughout America and not restricted  to any one group. Not to kick someone when they are down, but a sad example can be gained from the Schullers of Crystal Cathedral and Hour of Power fame:  Pianist Roger Williams:  (spoiled) Schuller Kids Spoiled Crystal Cathedral.

Dads, Moms, Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and all Americans must take up the gauntlet to restore our values.

Pet Dads With Their Pet (Furkids)

Related:


Deliberate Dumbing Down of America – E Book download is NOW FREE TO ALL!!!
Right click and “Save Link As” 
Click here to begin download
File is 6.75 MB

 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Good News for Justina Pelletier: She May Finally Get to Go Home

Some very good news…

Life News: In a dramatic reversal, the Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families (DCF) has filed a motion with the courts agreeing with our petition to have Justina Pelletier returned home to her family.

The motion for review of reconsideration and dismissal in the case of Justina Pelletier follows Liberty Counsel’s motion to return Justina home which was filed less than two weeks ago. The motion indicates that DCF is in agreement with returning custody of Justina to her parents!

justinapelletier6DCF’s concession completely undercuts their argument and reasoning for performing a “parent-ectomy” and removing Justina from the care of the Pelletiers in the first place.

She is now getting treatment from Tuft’s medical providers where she was receiving effective treatments before Boston Children’s Hospital intervened.

The entire process is now waiting on the judge. At this point, there is no reason to delay. There’s no reason why he can’t act immediately!

We have filed a motion asking Judge Joseph Johnston to expedite a ruling since all parties are in agreement. A ruling could come any day now.

Every hour she’s not back with her family is an hour she can’t ever get back. Once she does get home, she’ll have a long road to recovery — physically, mentally and spiritually.

Justina has now lost well over a year of her life with her family. The Pelletiers have spent untold hours and an enormous amount of resources fighting “Goliath” to get their daughter back from the misguided actions of an out-of-control state agency.

Justina has recorded a special video plea to Juvenile Court Judge Johnston and Governor Deval Patrick begging them to allow her to go home.

LifeNews Note: Mat Staver is the Chairman of Liberty Counsel Action and Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Therapeutic benefits of music being used to treat Alzheimer’s, addiction, and depression

In recent years we have found a whole array of new therapies including music, dance, and pet therapy that are helping people work through their depression, addictions and even with diseases like Alzheimer’s.

(MATTHEW BAMBACH/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

The Globe and Mail: Anyone who has blasted Arcade Fire before a party can attest to music’s transformative powers. But music isn’t just a mood-booster: Music therapists use pitch, rhythm, melody and lyrics in specific ways, with the explicit intent of affecting cognition or emotion in the person who is hearing them.

Music therapy became a clinical profession in the 1940s, after doctors and nurses noticed that war veterans suffering emotional and physical trauma responded well to musicians who gave volunteer performances in hospitals. Nevertheless, the profession spent decades on the fringes of medical science, until the early 1990s when advances in neuro-imaging technologies confirmed that musical activities had profound effects on the brain.

Since then, researchers at the frontiers of music therapy have developed strong evidence that musical interventions can reduce chronic pain, help stroke patients regain speech, increase social engagement in children with autism and help patients with acquired brain injury or Parkinson’s disease improve their gait.

“It’s really its own science,” said Dr. Larry Frisch, an associate professor of population and public health at the University of British Columbia, who helped bring together leading neuroscientists, psychologists and music therapists for a four-day conference on music therapy earlier in May at UBC.

Presenters shared findings showing that music therapy can calm Alzheimer’s patients, help addicts commit to treatment, and ease suffering in people with clinical depression and anxiety. Here are just a few of the ways that music can heal.

Alzheimer’s disease

Music therapy improves behaviour in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease, reducing agitation and irritability as well as eating difficulties and sleep problems, according to preliminary findings from a study conducted at UBC.

Lead researcher Dr. Robin Hsiung, an associate professor of neurology at UBC, described the calming effects of music therapy as almost equivalent to that of a tranquilizer, “but with much less side effects,” he said.

Hsiung said patients’ improvements lasted for several days – and up to a week – after a one-hour individual session with a music therapist. The therapist talked to patients about their musical tastes and past experiences with music, and engaged them in activities such as singing or listening to familiar music.

He and his colleagues used standard measures of behaviour in Alzheimer’s patients to monitor any changes during the 12-week active study period compared with patients in a control group. They also measured patients’ levels of the hormone cortisol, a biological marker for stress. Again, patients who received music therapy “were less stressed by cortisol measure,” he said.

He said the study, which has not yet been published, was more rigorous in design than earlier studies showing a benefit in Alzheimer’s patients who had music therapy. Hsiung and colleagues excluded patients with an extensive music background, who might respond more favourably to music. In addition, the study included a control group of patients who knew they would receive music therapy but remained on a wait list throughout the active study period. Without a comparison group, Hsiung explained, the researchers would have no way of knowing whether patients were getting better on their own.

Hsiung said it remains unclear whether the behavioural improvements in Alzheimer’s patients were due to the music itself or to the caring provided by the music therapist. But “now that we have some numbers, we can design a different study to look at that specific aspect,” he said.

Addiction

Music therapy can increase motivation for treatment in patients with substance-abuse disorders, improve decision-making skills and help prevent relapse, said Beth Clark, a music therapist and registered clinical counsellor who has worked with addicts in the Vancouver area.

She cited randomized controlled trials conducted by Dr. Michael Silverman, director of music therapy at the University of Minnesota. One of his studies, published in 2012, involved inpatients in a detox centre who were randomly selected to either attend a songwriting workshop or remain on a wait list for music therapy. Compared with the wait-listed group, patients who received music therapy through songwriting activities had significantly higher motivation and readiness for treatment, the study found. “It showed results after just one session,” Clark said.

Many addicts suffer from cognitive impairments that interfere with their ability to abstain from drugs or alcohol, Clark added. Recent studies from the University of Miami suggest that music-based cognitive rehabilitation may help reduce impulsivity, which can lead to relapse. In this method, a patient may be asked to play simple notes on a keyboard in time to a metronome while the therapist plays other rhythms at random. Researchers theorize that, over time, the attention required by the task may strengthen executive functions involved in decision-making.

Music therapists typically engage addicts in music-making. Learning a new instrument can help patients find something productive to occupy their time, Clark said. Joining a drumming circle may benefit those suffering from trauma, who may be uncomfortable with verbal therapies. In other cases, songwriting sessions can help patients process any mixed feelings they may have about treatment. For example, a music therapist may encourage patients to rewrite the lyrics to a blues song. Patients respond to this format because “you get to complain in the blues,” Clark said, and “it’s validating to have your thoughts heard and put into a song.”

Depression and anxiety

Listening to music changes a person’s experience of time, space, body and relationship, said Dr. Jennifer Nicol, a music therapist and associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Saskatchewan.

For patients with clinical depression and anxiety, the ability to “get lost in music” can bring a sense of emotional freedom. But music isn’t simply a distraction, Nicol said: “It’s a meaningful reprieve.” Patients in her studies have compared listening to music with being in the company of a long-time companion who helped them to cope.

While many people listen to music to help their mood, music therapists encourage patients to take a more intentional approach, Nicol said. She mentioned a patient confined to a bed, who suffered anxiety when she awoke in the middle of the night. A therapist helped her select soothing music to play on a device beside her bed whenever she had trouble getting back to sleep. The patient’s anxiety decreased just knowing the music player was there, she said. In other cases, a music therapist may coax a withdrawn patient into musical improvisation or songwriting. Music is so seductive, Nicol said, that “people get engaged despite themselves.”

Increasingly, researchers are studying the psychological effects of music in randomized controlled trials. For example, a study published in 2012 in the Clinical Journal of Pain measured levels of depression and anxiety in chronic-pain sufferers. Patients in the musical intervention group listened to a standardized 20-minute session of instrumental music from a genre of their choice twice a day, for 60 days. At a 90-day followup, patients who received the musical intervention had a 50-per-cent reduction in anxiety and depression according to standard tests, compared with a 5- to 7-per-cent reduction in the control group.

Other studies showing that specific types of music may enhance relaxation have given rise to the notion of a musical prescription for anxiety or depression. But according to Nicol, the most important thing for patients’ psychological well-being is “familiarity and choice and enjoyment of the music they’re listening to,” she said.

Related: 

Waltz Into a Healthy Old Age

Pet Therapy

Pets are way better than Therapy!

Pets Reduce Stress at Work… More Companies, Citing Benefits, Allowing Pets at Work 

Pet Alzheimer's Disease - Is Your Dog or Cat Showing Signs?