Wednesday, May 28, 2008

May 28----INFLATION


Inflation is a real issue and the big question IS WHY our governments, industry and general population is not being more creative in dealing with it?

HSBC chief warns on inflation

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23774309-20142,00.html

Katherine Jimenez | May 29, 2008

HSBC group chief Michael Geoghegan has warned that inflation is one of the biggest issues facing the world economies.

Speaking at an Asia Society lunch in Hong Kong, he said many countries and central banks were "not facing up to inflation".

"I do believe that to a very large degree the inflation numbers that are coming out of various central banks don't reflect the underlying rate of growth in ... household expenditure," Mr Geoghegan said. He noted that, while it was easy to say inflation was slowing, "it doesn't achieve anything".

"Inflation is there and it's growing," he said.

Mr Geoghegan said inflation would benefit the US economy but in the short term the US would need to increase interest rates. "I'm not sure governments in the current time wish to face up to that (interest rates increases), but I would urge them to," he said.

Mr Geoghegan predicted that interest rates in the US could rise after the presidential election in November. "Clearly, I think in this election year it's unlikely that we will see interest rates going up, but they may well need to go up after the administrator has been appointed," he said.

In his wide-ranging speech, he also touched on the investment banks, which he said had a flawed model.

"The idea that groups of people who don't have deposits to call on and who raise large amounts of money and take the position as banks ... I think that's probably a subject we will see change over time," Mr Geoghegan said.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

May 27---life coach ahmed adel

Ahmed Adel Zaki is a rising star in the Dubai Life Coaching field.

Do you need a life coach? At some point we all might need one!

Hmm...

More questions than answers as always, but compelling conversation none the less.

You can contact Adel @ 050-478-2284.

Monday, May 26, 2008

May 26---Stem Cell Collection

Stem Cell from the umbilical cord at the time of child birth makes a lot of sense YET it is done by MAYBE 1% of the population!

Daayn Keast of Future Health is a private storage facility facilitating collection here in the UAE.

Al Wasl Hospital is the home of the Dubai Cord Blood and Research Center. This Center can be contacted at 04-219-4010.

Women's Health Information

Pregnancy

Umbilical Cord Blood

When a baby is born, his or her umbilical cord is filled with a small amount of blood. This blood contains high numbers of special cells called stem cells. If you choose, this blood can be stored. It will then be used in the future to treat children or their family members with deadly diseases including Leukemia and Lymphoma. Often, this blood can be used to treat children when a donor cannot be found for a bone marrow transplant.

Put simply, the blood from your child’s umbilical cord could save a human life. Until recently, this blood with the potential to save lives was simply discarded as medical waste.


What are Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells?

Each adult human body is made up of about 100 trillion cells. There are 100 different types of cells. Most types of cells perform a certain function. Nerve cells, for example, are very long and carry signals to and from your brain quickly.

babyMost cells can also make copies of themselves, but only of the same type. In this respect, stem cells are special. Unlike other cells, they don’t have one specific job. They are like a “blank” cell. They don’t die and can split to form several different types of cells.

It is for this reason that umbilical cord blood is collected. The blood is rich in a special type of stem cell (called hematopoietic stem cells). They can produce red blood cells, white blood cells and blood clotting cells. These stem cells can be saved and transplanted into other people to treat deadly diseases. And this is just a start.

One day scientists hope to use stem cells to cure or treat heart disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, burn victims and even HIV and AIDS. This makes it even more important to begin collecting and preserving stem cells.

Is it Ethical to Use Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells?

The collection and storage of umbilical cord blood stem cells is completely ethical.

Recently, there has been a lot of public debate on the collection of other types of stem cells. These cells come from aborted fetuses or human embryos grown in a lab called embryonic stem cells. This debate does not include stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood which are Adult or Non-Embryonic Stem Cells.

What are the Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells Used For?

Stem cells from umbilical cord blood can be used to treat a wide variety of blood, bone, genetic, and immune system diseases in children, including:

  • Lymphoma
  • Leukemia
  • Adrenoleukodystrophy (a degenerative brain disease)
  • Krabbe’s Disease (genetic brain disease)
  • Sickle Cell Anemia
  • Osteopetrosis

Many are considered life-saving procedures. Some of these diseases, such as Krabbe’s Disease, were deadly before the development of stem cell transplants. On rare occasions these procedures can be used to treat adults. The small amount of stem cells collected from each cord allows for transplants mostly in children. Research continues to increase the use of stem cells in adults and to treat many other diseases.

What are the Options for Umbilical Cord Blood Collection?

baby on a blanketIf you choose to collect your child’s umbilical cord blood, there are a number of options available. There is absolutely no health risk associated with collection, and the process does not interfere with childbirth in any way. Usually, collection takes less than ten minutes. You will be asked to provide some health information, similar to what would be required when donating regular blood.

Donation for General Public Use

Most healthy women, 18 years of age or older, who undergo a complication-free pregnancy can donate their child’s umbilical cord blood. Exceptions to donation of umbilical cord blood include:

  • Parents who have a family history of blood, immune system or genetic disorders.
  • Women who were prescribed certain medications during pregnancy.
  • Parents who have tested positive for sexually transmitted infections.

It is your decision whether to donate your child’s umbilical cord blood. Remember, by donating your child’s umbilical cord blood you could save another child’s life.

The umbilical cord blood that is not donated is merely thrown out as medical waste. The donated cord blood is processed and stored in a public (not-for-profit) cord blood bank. The aim of a public cord blood bank is to make umbilical cord blood stem cells a public resource and provide a supply for medical treatments.

There is no fee to donate your child’s cord blood.

Directed Donation for High-Risk Families

The cord blood may be stored at a public or with some private cord blood banks for specific use by the child or family member when:

  • An immediate family member of a newborn has an existing disease
  • The newborn is at high-risk for a disease that may be treated with umbilical cord blood stem cells

A physician consultation and approval is needed for this type of donation.

There is no fee required from you for this service.

Private Storage for Family Banking

You can also choose to store your child’s umbilical cord blood in a private cord blood bank. If you or your children ever need access to the cord blood, it will be there for your use only. It is not available to the general public.

This service costs money and has a yearly storage fee.

What are the Important Differences to Remember with Each Option?

  • Donated stem cells for general public use may not be available to you or a family member.
  • The chance you will use the stem cells in private storage is very low.

For More Information

For more information, please consult your health care provider or view the SOGC's clinical practice guideline:


healthy beginnings

Healthy Beginnings - Third Edition

From preconception to postnatal care, Healthy Beginnings is the ultimate guide to pregnancy and childbirth for Canada's mothers-to-be.

read an excerpt

Sunday, May 25, 2008

May 25----noise pollution

We don't spent enough time thinking about noise and the impact it has upon us!

Dr. Rokho Kim Project Manager of Noise and Health for the World Health Organisation joined us for a conversation about noise.

http://www.euro.who.int/

Noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. Traffic noise alone is harming today the health of almost every third European. The main health risks of noise identified by WHO are:

  • pain and hearing fatigue;
  • hearing impairment including tinnitus;
  • annoyance;
  • interferences with social behaviour (aggressiveness, protest and helplessness);
  • interference with speech communication;
  • sleep disturbance and all its consequences on a long and short term basis;
  • cardiovascular effects;
  • hormonal responses (stress hormones) and their possible consequences on human metabolism (nutrition) and immune system;
  • performance at work and school.
The programme on noise and health at ECEH Bonn reviews the evidence on main health effects of noise and identifies the needs of specific vulnerable groups. Working in close co-operation with other WHO programmes ECEH Bonn develops indicators and guidelines for noise and health, analyses exposure-response relationships for different health effects and studies the long-term effects of night exposure to noise such as long-term sleep disturbance and cardiovascular disease.

We were also joined by Ahmed Abdul Kareem safety engineer Building Department of the Dubai Municipality to speak about noise issues.

Contact the municipality with complaints about construction noise 800-900 24/7.

There are approximately 7000 construction projects in Dubai today!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

may 14---tax is coming!

VAT is coming to the UAE!

Do we need it or is it an IMF, WTO gift?

The IMF and WTO want to make sure the world suffers under the same cancer of tax!

Mishaal Kanoo the Deputy Chairman of the Kanoo group helps us get a fix on VAT.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

May 13----media ethics and law

Ibrahim Al Abed The Director General of the National Media Council and Head of Emirates News Agency spoke candidly about the media terrain in the UAE.

Self Censorship.
Rules.
Journalists.
Expats.

Would we be better served with rules about what we can and cannot talk about? Maybe but that is not going to happen.

The media is new here in the UAE and it will develop.

Should journalists be worried about investigative reporting? Not if the respect the morality of the nation.

Codes of Ethics? Maybe there is some value.

Closing Geo TV.... "gives me gray hair".

The reality is you need to listen to this radio!

Monday, May 12, 2008

May 13---entrepreneur

Do you have what it takes to be an entrepreneur?

Akil Kazim of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Est. and Bheeshma Kumar a young entrepreneur spoke to us about the good the bad and the reality!

What motivates an entrepreneur?

http://www.rediff.com/money/2005/apr/19spec.htm

Subodh Bhat & Richard McCline | April 19, 2005

Since the 1990s, there has been a phenomenal growth in the number of high-tech enterprises started in India.

To understand the reasons behind this phenomenon, Subodh Bhat and Richard McCline of San Francisco State University studied the motivations, resources, networks, attitudes and behaviours of these new entrepreneurs with both in-depth interviews with a dozen entrepreneurs and a survey that netted 33 usable responses.

What was the sample like? An overwhelming majority (93 per cent) was male, with close to two-thirds in the 26- to 39-year range. A quarter had just undergraduate degrees, while 69 per cent had master's degrees.

More than 63 per cent of the respondents' businesses had been in existence for three to six years and the median annual revenue of the businesses was Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million) with 85 per cent having annual revenues of Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) or below.

The median number of employees was 15, with 84 per cent having less than 100 employees. Parents or close relatives of 28 per cent of the respondents owned their own businesses and the average number of people whom the respondents could call for help was 10.

The respondents had been employed for five to eight years before starting their first business. They were members of an average of three business or professional association and attended five seminars and trade fairs every year.

Entrepreneur motivation

The respondent entrepreneurs were motivated primarily by the desire to create something new, the desire for autonomy, wealth and financial independence, the achievement of personal objectives and the propensity for action ('doing').

The excitement of entrepreneurship was another major motivator -- this was nicely captured by one comment: "We are not sure what's coming down the curve but it is a thrill." Importantly, most entrepreneurs stressed that the objective was never money for its own sake.

They wanted to leave a legacy in the form of a profitable long-lasting business.

The driving force: what motivates Indian entrepreneurs
Motivator

% mentioning

Rewards of entrepreneurship
Autonomy57
Making money/financial independence43
Saw business opportunity/impact on industry27
Recognition of self and/or organisation23
Desire to create something new/innovate20
Build something important/make a difference17
Grow a business from scratch17
Desire to be entrepreneur/excitement of entrepreneurship3
Personal qualities
Intellectual challenge/achieve potential27
Instinct10
Others10
Career
Career growth/diversification/satisfaction13
Others3
Experience
Utilise previous experience6
Had technology/industry vision3
Non-monetary factors
Help India in various ways23
Non-monetary success/personal satisfaction7
Create value/jobs/wealth in society3

Support systems

Indian entrepreneurs rely on friends and family for help in starting the business, with the quality of help from friends, former co-workers and university mates in the startup and management stages being rated the best.

Assistance in terms of manpower was mainly from former co-workers. Help in marketing and access to markets was mainly from friends, former co-workers and university mates.

Finance was obtained from relatives and friends but not from former co-workers. One surprise was that few in the sample received much in the way of technological help from others.

Only 16 per cent received help from a government institution and 41 per cent from consultants. Several interviewees lamented the lack of a visible venture capital presence in India.

Success attributions

The respondents rated their success in business as quite high on various measures. They also reported that their businesses were quite profitable with median percentage annual growth in revenues, customers, and profits in the past three years of 25, 20 and 13 respectively.

They judged their success not only on the basis of business barometers like revenues, profits, growth and business reputation and monetary rewards, but also on personal factors like satisfaction and goal-achievement.

Most entrepreneurs felt their success was tied to creating something new and durable ('create a world-class company based on intellectual property') and to leaving a legacy ('leaving an indelible mark on the sands of time').

A few viewed success as being able to prove themselves and several emphasised the importance of the contribution of their business to the nation.

The respondents attributed their success mainly to hard work and focus or drive. Other factors were technical knowledge/experience and access to resources.

Emotional or mental strength, resilience ('I can't be kept too down for too long'), perfectionism and patience were other frequently mentioned qualities.

Leadership skills, particularly communication skills and good employee management, were highlighted as contributors to success.

Several entrepreneurs suggested that professional bodies play a more active role in encouraging entrepreneurship and representing the high tech industry and in educating the government and others in India on issues facing entrepreneurs and the high-tech industry.

Such organisations can develop programs to help entrepreneurs translate concepts into reality and to create role models. Another recommendation is to have schools play a more active role in encouraging entrepreneurship as a career by among other things, establishing training programs.

Surprisingly, our respondents did not report much networking and did not view it as very crucial to success.

Lessons learnt

What were the lessons the respondents learnt in the entrepreneurial process?

  • Do whatever it takes, whatever is necessary
  • Retain strong customer focus
  • Invest for the long-term
  • Invest in quality
  • Be hands-on
  • Multi-tasking is important
  • The need for the ability to tolerate ambiguity
  • Share profits with employees
  • Government's relative univolvement in the high tech industry is a blessing

    And what hampers the entrepreneurial process?

  • Financial struggle -- lack of money in the business as well as personally was the most cited negative factor
  • No government support -- however, a few entrepreneurs disagreed, saying that the government has been supportive and has given lots of concessions to the high tech industry
  • Dearth of sophisticated local investors and angel investors
  • Lack of a forum for discussing entrepreneurial issues
  • Difficulty in finding top-notch resources (for instance, recruiting from good schools)
  • Poor infrastructure
  • Corruption and bureaucracy
  • Sunday, May 11, 2008

    media and family

    TV ruining mother-child relationship: Study
    Sunday, May 11, 2008 23:58 IST

    WASHINGTON: Studies have shown that television viewing is adversely affecting children’s health, and now there is evidence that sticking to TV for long hours may also shatter mother-child relationship.

    Kids, who are exposed to television and video tend to have limited verbal interactions with their mothers, according to a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study is the first to assess parent-infant interactions as they relate to specific media content.

    ‘’Our conclusions are especially significant because parent-infant interactions have huge ramifications for early child development, as well as school advancement and success during adolescence,’’ says author Dr Mendelsohn from the New York University School of Medicine.

    In the study, it was found that overall, parent-infant verbal interactions across broad media content were limited. However, when the programming was educational and co-viewed by both mother and infant in each other’s presence, interactions increased.

    The study also showed that educational programming did not promote co-viewing, which is a factor that contributes to verbal interactions.

    Earlier data on this topic include a study which cited that 61 per cent of children younger than two years of age are exposed to television on a daily basis. In the new study, 97 per cent of mothers with 6-month olds reported their infants were exposed to television or radio at the median rate of two hours a day.

    The study advises that parents expose their infants only to educational programming that is co-viewed by the mother.

    Dr Mendelsohn notes the study also suggests that pediatricians increase efforts to promote verbal interactions with respect to media exposure and other daily activities, such as eating, playing and reading aloud.

    may 11---body image

    We are in a crisis of the mind!

    Women and some men seem to think that is how you look NOT how you think that is the most important thing these days.

    AND if you follow the research, even with all the body image talk, things are not geting any better.

    Dove's 'Real Beauty' Pics Could Be Big Phonies

    Photo Retoucher Says He Improved Images in Controversial Campaign

    By Jack Neff
    http://adage.com/article?article_id=126914
    Published: May 07, 2008

    BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Dove's "real beauties" may not be so real after all, at least by the account of a renowned airbrush artist.
    If true, the allegations that the Dove 'real beauties' were airbrushed could seriously undermine an effort that already has subjected Unilever to considerable consumer and activist backlash in recent months.
    If true, the allegations that the Dove 'real beauties' were airbrushed could seriously undermine an effort that already has subjected Unilever to considerable consumer and activist backlash in recent months.


    In a May 12 profile in The New Yorker posted online, Pascal Dangin of New York's Box Studios is quoted as saying he extensively retouched photos used in the Campaign for Real Beauty, which, if true, could seriously undermine an effort that already has subjected Unilever to considerable consumer and activist backlash in recent months.

    Models 'a challenge'
    "I mentioned the Dove ad campaign that proudly featured lumpier-than-usual 'real women' in their undergarments," wrote Lauren Collins in the New Yorker article. "It turned out that it was a Dangin job. 'Do you know how much retouching was on that?' he asked. 'But it was great to do, a challenge, to keep everyone's skin and faces showing the mileage but not looking unattractive.'"

    A spokeswoman for Unilever didn't immediately return calls and e-mail for comment. An attempt to reach Mr. Dangin was unsuccessful at press time. But a spokeswoman for the campaign's creator, Ogilvy & Mather, cast doubt on the account of the celebrity fashion photo retoucher, though she said the agency is still attempting to collect details of his work, if any, on the ads.

    "We are unsure right now what he did," the Ogilvy spokeswoman said. "He works with Annie Leibovitz, the photographer. And we don't have any record of him actually working on any of the Dove campaign.

    "There was no retouching of the women," she said. "If there was a hair that was up in the air, that might have been the kind of retouching that was done. But until I know what he actually worked on, I can't comment on it."

    Leibovitz appears unscathed
    While Mr. Dangin long has been known to work with Ms. Leibovitz, she wasn't the photographer on the earlier ads in the campaign that appear to have been referenced in the New Yorker profile.

    Ms. Leibovitz was the photographer in a December 2005 shoot that ultimately became the basis for the Dove Pro-Age version of the campaign that broke in early 2007. That effort featured women in their 50s and 60s nude, not in their underwear.

    If true, the news could be devastating to the nearly 4-year-old Dove campaign. The most famous execution to date -- and one that won both a Cyber and Film Grand Prix for Unilever at the International Advertising Festival last year -- has been the "Evolution" viral video, which shows an attractive but rumpled woman transformed through a variety of makeup, styling and retouching tricks into a billboard bombshell. The kicker: "No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted."

    The viral has been viewed more than 15 million times online and seen by more than 300 million people globally in various channels of distribution, including news coverage, by the estimation of Ogilvy Chairman-CEO Shelly Lazarus.

    Last year's follow-up to "Evolution," "Onslaught," took a harsher tone in criticizing the impact that distorted images in beauty advertising have in encouraging such problems as eating disorders.

    Axe to grind
    That in turn led to charges of hypocrisy from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, because Unilever's Axe extensively uses buxom, attractive models in sexually suggestive ads.

    A parody of the video, "Onslaught[er]," also became fodder for the environmental activist group Greenpeace to wage a successful effort in recent weeks to get Unilever to back a moratorium on clearing of Indonesian rain forests to grow palm oil. The group claimed Unilever, a major buyer of Indonesian palm oil, has been killing orangutans through its purchasing practices.

    The Pro-Age effort in particular also provoked controversy, and Dove's sales growth appeared to slow, then stall last year during the Campaign For Real Beauty's third year, according to Information Resources Inc. data.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    May 7---- real dentistry

    Dr. Philippe Tardieu of the Alabama Dental clinic, 04 394-8222, joined us for a very candid talk about the state of dentistry today!

    Are we being well served?

    Is business directing the industry?

    You be the judge.

    Simply a great chat.

    Dr Philippe Tardieu

    Dr. Tardieu committed his professional life to the most advanced Dental Art which is oriented to Implantology and Aesthetic Reconstructions. Associate Professor at New York University, international renowned lecturer, international member of the prestigious American Academy of Periodontology and author of numerous scientific articles and books, he is the one doctor you can trust on to start an implant treatment, a dedicated aesthetic reconstruction, a tooth treatment or a simple advise.

    His commitment is to provide the highest standard of dental treatment with the aim of adapting treatment to each patient’s need and expectation.

    His treatments are based on the state of the art in Computer-guided Implantology and Aesthetic Dentistry.

    You are welcome to call +971 4 394 8222 or to e-mail us

    Ask for a full brochure about his practice or just take an initial consultation. He will, in person, diagnose and evaluate a customized treatment plan for you.

    Tuesday, May 06, 2008

    May 6---e-education by u21global

    Is it possible to replace brick and mortar education with electronic delivery tools?

    Maybe not totally BUT there are alternatives to the old way we receive our post graduate education.

    In fact there are people re-inventing MBA education.

    Does it work?

    Maybe for some.

    Monday, May 05, 2008

    May 5----chris hicks

    Meet Chris Hicks!

    Chris is a chopper repair man by day and an Amelia Earhart explorer by night.

    Well for 2 weeks a year Chris heads to P&G and hunts for the wreck of the the failed flight of Amelia Earhart.

    Chris is sure he has a new lead and now knows where to concentrate his efforts!

    WOW!

    Amazing.

    Self funded, 4 guys do this for the pleasure of solving a mystery. AMAZING!

    With a bit of private funding these guys might actually get to the bottom of the mystery!

    And they are simply ordinary guys!

    Very cool.... talk about inspiration and leadership all in one package.

    Interested in meeting Chris?

    Contact me!

    James@arnonline.com


    The Life of Amelia Earhart

    by Susan Butler

    With her all-American good looks, natural charm, and self confidence, Amelia Earhart captured the hearts of the entire nation after becoming the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928.

    Amelia Earhart was a record setting aviator, but also a social worker, author, lecturer, businesswoman, educator, and a tireless promoter of women’s rights. She was thirty nine years old and on a round-the-world flight when she went missing in 1937

    On this last flight Amelia Earhart had with her Fred Noonan, a top navigator. No pilot had flown the world at the equator, the longest way around, at 27,000 miles, for a very good reason: it was dangerous. Amelia Earhart said,
    “Here was shining adventure.”

    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    May 4---violent media is a problem?

    Xan Blacker suggested violent media might just be artistic expression!

    Masarat Daud thought violent media needs to be in check.

    James Piecowye thinks the state needs to step in and create a framework to educate the media and consumer alike.

    Media and violence is a topic that fuels great debate!

    http://www.natcath.com/NCR_Online/archives/052899/052899a.htm

    Teen Violence: Does violent media make violent kids?

    By TERESA MALCOLM
    NCR Staff

    As shocking episodes of youth violence unfold in one all-American community after another -- Pearl, Miss.; Paducah, Ky.; Littleton, Colo.; and now Conyers, Ga. -- grief and incomprehension fuel a demand for answers, an explanation of how young people from seemingly good homes and average backgrounds could commit such astonishingly brutal deeds.

    Video games, TV shows and movies, music and Web sites that celebrate violence figure high on the list of the usual suspects.

    By any measure, these forms of popular culture have an enormous impact on shaping the imaginations of young people. Yet for some who study the situation in times of calm as well as crisis, the predictable thrust and parry of media critics and defenders that follow the latest tragedy often raises all the wrong questions.

    Suspicions of direct cause-and-effect are important. Did scenes of a student shooting his classmates in the movie “The Basketball Diaries,” for example, push a given child to walk into school and start shooting? However, experts say such thinking may obscure the more pervasive social effects of violent programming.

    The ‘mean world’ syndrome

    “The impact may not be on potential perpetrators, but on the rest of the population, who begin to believe that violence is inevitable, that crime is everywhere and that they must be afraid,” said Sr. Elizabeth Thoman, a member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary and executive director of the Center for Media Literacy in Los Angeles, Calif.

    Thoman’s center produces media literacy programs for schools across the country.

    She said the public fear generated by media violence -- the “mean world” syndrome -- shows up in all sorts of socially toxic ways, from a diminished sense of community to “tough on crime” legislation, from barred doors to the death penalty.

    Perspectives such as Thoman’s, however, have been largely shunted to the sidelines in the aftermath of Littleton and now Conyers, Ga., where six students were injured May 20 when a sophomore opened fire.

    In the wake of the Littleton shootings, most commentators directly implicated movies, music, video games and the Internet in the actions of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. The killings became the focal point of a Senate committee hearing on violent media.

    President Clinton convened a summit and promised an ongoing national campaign against youth violence, while Vice President Al Gore announced a new agreement with on-line providers to restrict violent material, changes that would “honor the lives of those who were killed.”

    While politicians declared there was a clear consensus on the detrimental effects of media violence on youth, executives of entertainment industries cautiously deflected criticism: It takes an already disturbed young person to move from watching a violent movie or playing a “first-person shooter” video game to killing real people, they said.

    Independent media critics such as Thoman say that what is needed is something deeper and more systematic, including grassroots education for both children and adults, leading them to question their own media choices and making them aware of the ways they can be manipulated in a pervasive media culture. Parishes and schools are ideal places to begin this education, they say.

    The U.S. bishops have addressed the issue in the form of a 1998 document, “Renewing the Mind of the Media,” which is now being developed into a 12-minute video.

    Henry Herx, head of the bishops’ Office of Film and Broadcasting, said that parents may have a “certain lack of imagination” about how much media has changed since their childhood.

    “When they were kids, they were watching rather stylized violence,” Herx said. “They weren’t involved with the kind of up-front, intense depiction of violence and sexuality that I think really does shake young people.”

    Thoman, however, faults “Renewing the Mind of the Media” for dealing with the issues of sex and violence in the same document. It focuses heavily on the problem of pornography and uses the same “three levels of concern” of hard-core, soft-core and frivolous portrayals for both sexuality and violence.

    “There is a pleasure factor to sexuality, where there is no pleasure factor to violence,” Thoman said. “When you lump those things together, it’s hard to separate what is legitimately pleasurable in human sexuality from the problematic aspects of violence. ... We shouldn’t feel positively about violence.”

    “Renewing the Mind of the Media” calls on government to “reassert regulatory functions” over the media in the public interest. It suggests writing letters to media outlets and setting up discussion groups in dioceses, parishes and Catholic education, as well as dialogues with media and business leaders.

    A recent update of a 1993 document from the U.S. Catholic Conference’s Committee, “Family Guide for Using Media,” also outlines ways for parents to examine the values being promoted in the media in light of Catholic teaching and asks them to look at ways the media manipulates or shows bias.

    With large corporations controlling much of the media, “the ordinary person feels powerless,” said Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokesperson for the U.S. bishops. “Sure I can turn my television off, but is there some way of saying that these are public airwaves?”

    Walsh said churches are in a position to mobilize public opinion, particularly as an interfaith effort. “The Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim communities have to form coalitions” to combat any mistaken idea that only splinter groups object to media exploitation, Walsh said.

    What a young father views

    Thoman said the question of what parents are watching is overlooked in the debate that springs up periodically about the effects of media violence on youth. Of particular importance, she said, are young fathers. “How does a young man who has grown up with action movies and video games suddenly change his viewing habits when he has a 2-year-old boy?” she asked.

    While he may think that he grew up watching violence and turned out OK, he needs to question if the violence in the media and the culture is the same today. “Does entertainment satisfy him without shocking him? Does he go for ever more adrenaline-rushing images?”

    Thoman said that boys’ high schools, particularly those run by religious orders of men, need to address the role of media literacy and the development of masculine images in a media culture, beyond simply telling boys and young men not to watch such entertainment.

    According to Thoman, one of the most successful examples of local efforts to cope with the impact of the media can be found in Bemidji, Minn., where the elementary school of St. Philip’s Parish has been “taking the bull by the horns and really seeing media as a ministry.”

    Building on the media literacy lessons taught at every grade level in the school, the students of the St. Philip’s theater group helped write and produce a humorous video -- “The No-Skills Family Watches TV” -- that has been widely distributed in the area as a teaching tool.

    The video, with all the roles played by students, opens in a board room, where advertisers and producers discuss how they will get the viewer to stay to the commercial -- by using “jolts” like kisses, humor and violence. “Quicken the pace with a car crash -- shoot the driver -- naked people in the back seat!” one character exclaims.

    The wise, long-suffering cat of the “No-Skills” family offers commentary as the humans gather, entranced, in front of the television. A “Manipulation Control Center” monitors the viewers through binoculars, delivering jolts to get them to the commercials. The ads are clever parodies with fake products and celebrity endorsements, like the basketball player who shills “Hypie Anti-Gravity Shoes”: “You can have it all -- power, money friends and status. Don’t waste one more moment being pathetic.”

    According to Sandra Pascoe Robinson, media literacy educator at St. Philip’s, the humor has been an important tool to break through people’s defensiveness. “I have found that talking about media awareness is such an emotionally charged topic,” she said. Laughing about the “No-Skills Family” provides a springboard for conversation. “There’s a knee-jerk reaction -- ‘I don’t have a problem, and don’t ask me to turn off the TV.’ But as soon as the humor is there, the guards are down and we can talk,” she said.

    First-graders as critics

    Robinson has found the most receptive audiences in very young children. Even children in older grades already have their viewing patterns established, she said. “I’m finding the first-graders to be incredibly astute at looking at their shows and critiquing them,” Robinson said.

    Robinson noted how the children at St. Philip’s have carried their newfound media skills into their homes. They are encouraged to see critiquing the media as a way of taking care of their younger brothers and sisters -- “to see this as a collective responsibility,” she said.

    The children are also bringing the message back to their parents. “There are some parents struggling with their own issues with media, and this is part of the very emotional response I get at times,” Robinson said. She said one mother told of how her elementary school-age daughter challenged her father’s preference for action films, leading to dialogue about the violence in the movies he was bringing home.

    Many parents are naive about what messages their children are receiving, said Robinson, a mother of three children in their late teens and early 20s. “All TV, all movies are educational,” she said. “What are they learning? If you step back and look critically, some of the messages are very frightening. ... Violence is entertaining, sex is no big deal, the more things I have the happier I’ll be -- those are the three big messages I see.”

    Robinson recalled a lesson she gave to a third-grade class at another parochial school. When she brought up video games, “two boys way in the back jumped up and machine-gunned the class,” she said. “The response was strong and automatic and violent. That was part of their favorite video game.”

    She questioned media leaders who say that the violent entertainment they produce has no effect. “In that half-hour program there are 25 commercials -- because media is an effective way to sell things,” she said. “So how can they say they’re not selling violence as entertainment, as fun, as funny?”

    In late April, the Center for Media Literacy launched a Web site funded by grants from religious communities and devoted to the topic of violence and the media (www.medialit.org/Violence/indexviol.htm). The center was “literally in the midst of uploading pages” when the story from Littleton broke, Thoman said. The stories of the killers’ media influences -- music, video games and the Internet -- began to hit the newscasts, and the latest round of public debate fired up again.

    Thoman has not seen the nature of that debate change much since 1993, when the center launched a campaign on media violence. “After the Littleton experience, we still hear the same questions -- does watching violence cause violence?” she said.

    Meanwhile, news coverage of Littleton has provided ample opportunities to view the media packaging the center seeks to demystify. “Within hours of Littleton, we heard about the ‘teen rampage’ or the ‘Rocky Mountain tragedy,’ ” Thoman said. “Every station found a way to package this thing with music and drama.”

    With techniques familiar from the Gulf War to Kosovo, “it’s more than just reporting the news, it’s reporting the news in a way that’s entertaining, so you’ll be there when the commercials are on,” she said.

    For a copy of the video and discussion guide for “Renewing the Mind of the Media,” call the U.S. Bishops Office for Publishing and Promotions at (800) 235-8722. For a copy of “The No-Skills Family Watches TV,” contact St. Philip’s School Conflict Management Program at (218) 751-4938.

    National Catholic Reporter, May 28, 1999