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What's wrong with "The Baby Borrowers," anyway?

This post has been moved to my other blog, The Road to Black. To post a comment, visit the link.

An anonymous commenter on my first post about "The Baby Borrowers" remarked that he or she felt the show is a "fantastic idea." He or she suggested that I "find out just what precautions were taken before these babies were 'borrowed'--- No parents would just willingly hand over there (sic) child for NO money, which I hear is exactly what happened. NO ONE was paid to do this."

So just what is my problem, anyway? Why don't I just lighten up? What about all the good the show will do?

Let's consider:

1. The show will help teenagers.
The show puts unmarried teenage couples into the same house to live as if they are married. It presents this arrangement as socially acceptable and no big deal, which ignores the fact that living together before marriage increases the statistical odds of divorce if the couple later marries. It puts girls in a position to be used by their boyfriends, as in the crude old saying, "Why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free?" You don't have to consider cohabitation immoral to see this as a problem; these kids, while legally adults, are still very, very young to be thrust into an arrangement that is so frequently problematic even for mature adults.

2. It's not TV, it's birth control.
NBC's slogan seems to promise that the TV program is meant to reduce teen pregnancy. It's not; that's a marketing gimmick. It's meant to sell sponsors' products by drawing viewers with the most lurid and shocking content possible -- just like all reality TV shows. Consider this: The first thing you see on the official "The Baby Borrowers" website is a poll about which teen couples stay together. That's not about preventing teen pregnancy. And later in the show, the couples will have to take care of an elderly person. That's not about preventing teen pregnancy. For that matter, having teenage couples cohabitating is not about preventing teen pregnancy.

3. The producers were very careful to make sure nobody got hurt.
Why does the graphic above use the inflammatory word "kidnappers"? Why such over-the-top language? Because I am describing the show from the babies' and toddlers' point of view. As Jan Hunt said in her open letter to NBC, "Sudden removal from their parents and placement with strangers for long periods of time is from a baby's point of view no different than a kidnapping." She continues, "It has been well-established that babies who suddenly lose their primary caregiver can quickly go into mourning and emotional depression." Causing a tiny child, who is just beginning to learn whether adults can be trusted, to grieve the loss of his families does hurt the child. I am sure the parents of the children on the show believed their children would not be harmed, but I am also sure that they are mistaken. I have seen for myself how a baby (my adopted son) grieves the loss of his primary caregivers. There are few things more heart-wrenching than a baby who won't eat because he is too sad.

It is tragic to me that it is too late to prevent the filming of the series. But I take hope in the possibility that viewer response -- or lack thereof (it's all about ratings) -- will prevent another season from being recorded.

Don't watch "The Baby Borrowers"!

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Right to health care: What is "basic" health care?

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Comments in the Right to Health Care series have repeatedly gravitated toward the question of what constitutes "basic" health care. I have not addressed that topic yet because it has not been established that there is any right to "basic" health care at all. But a lot of people think it is important to talk about it, so here are my thoughts.

I would consider a minimum standard of health care, in our affluent and technologically advanced society, to include the following:

  • All vaccinations recommended by the various professional organizations, such as the American Medical Association.
  • All screening tests recommended by professional organizations, such as cancer screenings as recommended by the American Cancer Society.
  • An annual physical, or perhaps biannual for young, healthy adults.
  • Full prenatal care as well as labor and delivery services.
  • Well-baby and well-child exams.
  • Treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
  • Surgery to save life, limb, or quality of life.
I also consider doctor visits for illness or injury as well as emergency services to be "basic" health care, but would support some way to keep these services from being abused, such as a reasonable copay. Likewise with mental health services.

"Basic" health care, in my opinion, does not include:
  • Purely cosmetic procedures, such as removal of moles that are not pre-cancerous.
  • Experimental treatments.
I would love to know what readers think. What is should be included with "basic" health care and what should be excluded?

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The polar bear population and the Endangered Species Act

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The polar bear, an almost mythic animal in the minds of most Americans, has been thrust into a new role: poster child of those advocating action against global warming. The U.S. Department of the Interior earlier this month made the bear even more politically notorious by listing it as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This move was based on data showing that due to global warming, the bear's arctic ice habitat is shrinking, and the species could become extinct in under 50 years.

The listing was not based on population data, a fact immediately noted by those who oppose global warming legislation. In fact, the data we have show that the bear's numbers seem to have increased over the last several decades.

There are a number of problems with concluding that the population is safe now based on the numbers. First, the population estimates from before the 1970s were nothing but guesses based on anecdotes. Second, polar bears were widely hunted and trapped until the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears was signed in 1973. Population increases due to removal of an introduced predator (humans) naturally followed.

(The graphic at right shows the polar bear's projected range. Habitat losses are in red and habitat gains are in blue.)

The new listing of polar bears as "threatened" is based not on population trends, but on the logical conclusion that if the species' habitat disappears, so will the bears. The belief that the icy habitat is in danger, in turn, came from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I leave readers to draw their own conclusions as to the reliability of this source.

At any rate, the new listing appears to be merely symbolic. Unlike a typical threatened species' habitat, which can be actively protected, melting sea ice due to worldwide climate change cannot be addressed by the simple restrictions available to the Endangered Species Act.

What is your opinion -- should polar bears be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act? Why or why not?

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ADD/ADHD religion: Prayer for the distractible

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When I was a child, our priest preached a sermon every year on how we are to pray. He illustrated his point with the absurd example of a robot programmed to recite a prayer over and over. "This," he explained, "is not prayer."

From this, my childish heart took away the lesson that for prayer to "count," I had to "mean" every word of it. And since it was tied to the forgiveness of my sins, I figured this went double for penance prayers said after confession. So I would sit for long periods in the pew, obsessing over my concentration on every single word of my three Hail Marys.

The importance of the moment of consecration as the climax of the Mass was also impressed on me, so I figured that it was critical to focus on it. To be distracted from it was surely a sin.

This was long before anyone -- least of all me -- knew that my mind is more distractible than the typical person's.

For those of us with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), perfect focus on prayer is simply not possible. (I don't know how possible it is for less distractible types, for that matter.) It is entirely natural for one's mind to drift right at the apical moment of consecration. I now think in different way about prayer.

  • First, turn your mind and heart to God. This is the most important thing. God understands if your mind wanders; he created it that way. What is important is that your will chooses prayer even if your attention does not always obey.
  • If you are reciting a prayer, consider its topic and theme first. Try to focus on that, rather than on the individual phrases.
  • Use a physical object to focus your prayer, such as a Bible or rosary. The sensory feedback from holding it in your hands will help you focus. (Why do you think the string of beads used for the rosary has always been popular?)
  • Likewise, praying with your body as well as your mind will help with focus. Kneel while praying. Or pray during physical activity -- I had some of my most fruitful meditations in college, when I would pray while walking to class.
  • Pray unscripted, rather than reciting a prayer. A spontaneous conversation with God will occupy all your attention, and you can let it wander wherever it will. If you are new to this type of prayer, simply talk in your mind as if he is listening -- he certainly is.
  • If you find yourself anxious about your mind wandering during the liturgy, relax and remember the words of the prayer said during the Mass immediately after the Lord's Prayer: Keep us free from sin, and protect us from all anxiety. Trust that if your mind and heart are turned to him, God will not blame you for human weakness.

For further reading:

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Baby Borrowers sponsors: Countdown

This post has been moved to my other blog, The Road to Black. To post a comment, visit the link.

Here is the list of sponsors of The Baby Borrowers as of May 22. Let us see how many of these companies we can harry into dropping their sponsorship. Contact as many as you can, as many ways as you can, as often as you can to express your disapproval. Be firm, but please remain calm, detached, and polite. Rational voices are far more effective than hysterical ones.

Ace Hardware Corp.630-990-6600www.acehardware.com
Barbara Cosgrove Lamps816-221-3461www.barbaracosgrovelamps.com
Benjamin Moore & Co.201-573-9600www.benjaminmoore.com
Born Free, LLC561-347-8112www.newbornfree.com
Borup Construction208-884-1092www.borupconstruction.com
buybuy Baby516-507-3410www.buybuybaby.com
Chicago Cutlery®800-999-3437www.chicagocutlery.com
ClubFurniture.com (One Source Plus, Inc.)888-378-8383www.ClubFurniture.com
Corelle® Dinnerware800-999-3436www.corelle.com
CorningWare® French White®800-999-3438www.corningware.com
Finer Frames208-888-9898www.finerframes.com
GE ProfileTM Appliances800-626-2005www.geappliances.com
Green Dot Corporation626-775-3400www.greendotonline.com
Hello Kitty818-526-0111www.upp.net
Lamp Works847-295-7600www.lampworks.com
Larson Juhl & Artaissance800-886-6126www.larsonjuhl.com
Levitz Furniture212-634-2200www.levitz.com
Mazda North America949-341-6195www.mazdausa.com
Playcore-Swing n' Slide877-888-1232www.swing-n-slide.com
Pyrex® Glassware800-999-3440www.pyrexware.com
Realityworks, Inc.715-830-2040www.Realityworks.com
Revere® Cookware800-999-3441www.revereware.com
Simmons Bedding Co.877-399-9397www.simmons.com
Smith & Noble800-248-8888www.smithandnoble.com/sn/home.jsp
Southwest Airlines214-792-4000www.southwest.com
Spinmaster Toys818-526-0111www.upp.net
The Stylish Stork208-336-5655www.thestylishstork.com

I will keep track of which companies discontinue their support. And let me reiterate, please, use a rational voice. And it should go without saying that you should not break any laws and should cease communications with a company if they ask you to do so (i.e. no harrassment).

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The Baby Borrowers

This post has been moved to my other blog, The Road to Black. To post a comment, visit the link.

There are some television programs that are evil.

Most of these skulk at the fringes of the mainstream, available only on subscription channels, sometimes not available at all except on DVD or the Internet. In general, this blog ignores truly evil shows.

There is one evil show that I cannot ignore. On first impression, its cutely alliterative title, The Baby Borrowers, made me blink and say, "No, they didn't."

They did.

When I first heard about the show a few months ago, I tried to put it out of my mind because it hits very close to my emotional life as an adoptive mother. But I cannot put it out of my mind. As a member of the adoption community, I have a stark perspective on this program, for it recreates the most tragic parts of the complexity that is adoption.

The book The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier helped open eyes on the fact that separation of a child from her mother is always a tragedy. The parts of Verrier's position as it relates to The Baby Borrowers are devastating:

Every child who is separated from his or her biological mother will experience abandonment and loss.... There will be a difference between the environment of security and safety of being with the mother with whom an infant was prenatally bonded, and the anxiety and uncertainty of being with biological strangers (who [the child perceives] may also leave at any time).... The experience was real. That he does not consciously remember the event should not detract us from this truth. It wasn't a concept to be learned or a theory to be understood; it was a traumatizing experience....
In her writing, Verrier emphasizes the point that the separation of a baby from her biological mother is a traumatic experience. A later reunion, whether years later (as with some adoptees) or just days or weeks later (as with The Baby Borrowers), does not erase the experience. History cannot be undone, and babies remember with their emotions even if they are not conscious of it.

Jan Hunt of The Natural Child Project uses similarly forceful language in her open letter to NBC producers:
Sudden removal from their parents and placement with strangers for long periods of time is from a baby's point of view no different than a kidnapping.... Babies do not have the mental capacity to anticipate the return of a mother who has gone.... As traumatic as this experience will surely be for these babies and children, the effects will not end when they return home.
The choice of adoption is merely the least of several evils in a situation that a mother in crisis finds impossible. The Baby Borrowers performs this evil with two very different purposes: to draw revenue through entertainment, and to promote an agenda born of the culture of death (consider the promotional slogan: "It's not TV, it's birth control.")

Most evil television programs exist on the fringes because our society will not suffer them to enter the mainstream. I am utterly dumbfounded that The Baby Borrowers will air on a major network at prime time.

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American DNA: Calling out Michael Medved, Peter Whybrow, and John Gartner

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I hereby hold Michael Medved accountable for his Townhall.com post on American DNA. Also hereby held accountable are the psychiatrists he cites, Peter Whybrow for his book American Mania: When More Is Not Enough and John Gartner for his book The Hypomanic Edge: The Link Between (A Little) Craziness and (A Lot of) Success in America. I have not read the books, but I have read Medved's article.

Gartner's thesis is that many historical American figures (he profiles nine of them) were "hypomanic." Apparently he is using this term apart from its usual meaning as a pathology of Bipolar II Disorder, redefining it as a personality trait that has lead to material success achieved by these men (yes, they are all men), who include Christopher Columbus, Andrew Carnegie, John Winthrop, Alexander Hamilton, David O. Selznick, and Craig Ventor. The reviewers indicate he has further defined this personality trait as uniquely American, which if correct, mars his book with a deplorable bit of nationalism. Analyzing the psyches of people long dead is always tricky business, even when one is not reinventing psychiatric terms and concepts.

Amazon.com was kind enough to let me view a page from the book, which describes Carnegie's passion for philanthropy (p. 164). You can't judge a book from a single page any more easily than by its cover, but it does seem a far reach to link philanthropy with mania. It would be interesting to see how Gartner justifies this thesis.

Whybrow's thesis troubles me more because, according to reviews, he generalizes it to the gene pool of the entire U.S. population. He links it to a particular allele in the dopamine reward system, which he asserts has a higher frequency in America than elsewhere due to self-selection. Specifically, he argues that individuals with this allele crave material rewards and are more inclined to seek them out actively than individuals without the allele. Since the immigrant ancestors of today's Americans presumably shared a desire to seek material success in the New World, Whybrow assumes they must have possessed this allele, which has been passed down to us. Further, he blames this allele for American materialism.

The speculation is interesting, and reminds me of Edward Hallowell's speculation that America's relatively high rate of ADHD is due to similar self-selection among immigrants. But leaping off this speculation and blaming America's cultural flaws on genetic heritage disturbs me. What about the materialism of Europe and Japan? I wonder if Whybrow has statistics as to the frequency of the allele in question in different world populations.

Curiously, Medved takes what Whybrow (judging from the reviews) considers a negative trait and recasts it as a positive one. It seems inevitable that racial politics would eventually come into a discussion like this, but I am surprised that it came from the usually-measured Medved himself. His same post also notes that African slaves did not have these (desirable, in his view) genes -- but tries to cover up this racist potshot by adding that there are a lot of African immigrants in America today, who presumably do share the gene. Nice try, Mr. Medved, but you can't make such an egregious statement "okay" by backpedaling.

Politicizing the issue even further, Medved's final argument is that a "welfare state" (right-wing-ese for a state with social programs to take care of its population) wouldn't work in America the way it does in Europe because Americans just don't have the genes for it. Now speculation has degenerated into virtual incoherence. Maybe Medved just has too much good old American hypomanic craziness to sound rational 100% of the time.

For further blog reading:

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Right to health care: What is an encumbrance?

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In the post on health care in prisons, MileHiMama asked, "[D]oes ... the government [have] to provide healthcare, or simply ensure unencumbered access to it?"

What constitutes an encumbrance to health care? EMTALA removes the encumbrance of pre-qualification based on ability to pay, but only in emergencies. Most doctors' practices are not affected by EMTALA because they do not provide emergency care.

Medicaid covers people below a certain income bracket. Medicaid recipients have access to routine and preventative care, but people above this income bracket have no guarantee of receiving such care, unless they have health insurance.

Some of these uninsured cannot afford to pay cash for routine care. I see three options for those people: borrow the money, poach from another part of the budget (such as food or transportation), or go without routine care. Do these people have unencumbered access to non-emergency care?

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New look


I have expanded out of Blogger's default templates. Credit for this look belongs to eBlog Templates. Notice the web traffic widget on the right, which shows where recent visitors have come from.

I am taking suggestions for additions to my blog roll. If you know of a great blog about faith, science, media, or ethics, do let me know.

How do you like the new look? Is it easy to read and navigate? Do you like the new appearance of the comments? How about the colors? Leave feedback below!

Coming soon: Continuation of the Right to Health Care series. Don't miss a post in this series -- subscribe using your favorite reader, or sign up to receive new posts by e-mail (above right).

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Online psychics! Fabulous or fraud?

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It's the weekend! I felt it was time to take a break from the weighty Right to Health Care series. What better way to relax than with online psychics?

At Online Psychic, you are invited to test your connection to a psychic. For FREE. Who could resist?

The link took me to a screen showing five face cards: K♥ J♣ Q♠ K♠ J♦ . Scrolling text (as if someone were... typing in real time!) informed me that a live connection was being established, then instructed me to pick a card and concentrate on it. The message warned that there may not be a strong psychic connection between us, in which case I should come back tomorrow.

I clicked "Continue," and Nancy's scrolling text told that me there was a strong psychic connection between us (oh goodie!) and that she had replaced the card I chose. And indeed, the card I chose had been replaced... as had been all four other cards: Q♣ K♦ Q♥ K♣ J♥ . And now I was invited to receive a more detailed reading about my life from Nancy for the low, low price of just $29.95.

Uh huh. Moving on...

At Free Psychic Network, I was presented with a box in which I was invited to type a question. I typed my question and clicked "Submit," and was carried to a page where I could submit my question (again) and have the answer e-mailed to me. I cleverly observed that this was a different site called Live Person, so apparently the question box was an ad. It's not an encouraging sign when your psychic subcontracts.

Nevertheless, I scrolled down and found a button for a Free Psychic Reading. No promises of a live psychic on the other end for me! My reading was:

Fortunate Encounter

I see a fortunate encounter with a stranger in your future.
The Crystal Ball Is Clear.
An nexpected chance meeting will provide a spring board for your carreer.

So my psychic is an optimist, but not a gifted typist.

Next I found Psychic Earth, which announces "Totally Free Psychics For Free Absolutely Free Psychic readings Online." A big golden button on the homepage advertises "Online readings only 1.20 (sic) per minute! Order here." The fine print at the bottom of the page (under the fold, of course) notes that "free readings are offered in the free reading room during scheduled times." The "free reading room" is a chatroom that was empty when I visited it.

So I ended up 0 for 3. I guess I need to find a better way to spend my weekend.


Right to health care: The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

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The U.S. Congress passed the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, section 1867(a) of the Social Security Act, in 1986. It requires three things of hospitals:

  • imposes an affirmative obligation on the part of the hospital to provide a medical screening examination to determine whether an "emergency medical condition" exists;
  • imposes restrictions on transfers of persons who exhibit an "emergency medical condition" or are in active labor, which restrictions may or may not be limited to transfers made for economic reasons;
  • imposes an affirmative duty to institute treatment if an "emergency medical condition" does exist.

Particularly notable is the lack of a provision for reimbursement of the hospital. If the patient is not covered by private insurance or Medicaid/Medicare, and cannot pay the bill, the hospital must eat the loss. One way hospitals may offset the loss is by increasing charges for paying patients. Since Medicaid/Medicare has fixed reimbursement rates, and most private insurance also has fixed rates set by contract, that means the uninsured who are able to pay out-of-pocket often subsidize the uninsured who aren't.

Outside the emergency room and EMTALA, medical emergencies are handled by public safety agencies. When a person calls for an ambulance for a medical emergency, states generally require emergency medical personnel to respond, regardless of whether there is an ability to pay.

The principle underlying both EMTALA and the state-imposed duty for EMS to respond is that everyone has a right to be treated in case of emergency. It seems that American society is comfortable with this principle. Do you agree that there is a right to receive emergency medical treatment regardless of ability to pay? If so, who should pay?

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Right to health care: Prisons and jails

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American society already recognizes certain privileges to health care. Considering these would make a good start to a discussion of whether there is a right to universal health care (UHC).

Health care in prisons and jails

Jail inmates who suffer medical emergencies are entitled to receive care, and prisoners also receive basic medical care for chronic conditions while in custody. In some cases, the health care offered by prisons is considered to be quite good. When prisons fail to provide adequate care, the federal government may step in to make sure it is available, as it did in California in 2005; there may also be lawsuits, such as those beleaguering the contractor Prison Health.

There has been some discussion of charging inmates for care they receive while in custody, but no serious programs that do so (to the best of my knowledge). Since inmates are by and large indigent (being unable to work for an income outside the prison), charging them for services seems rather nonsensical.

Arguments for providing care to inmates include the obvious, that their incarceration makes it impossible for them to seek care themselves, as well as the practical, that providing care helps prevent outbreaks of disease. But do they have a right to it?

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Right to health care: Introduction

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The question of a "right" to health care has obsessed my mind for the last several months. Unlike most ideas, which tend to pop in and out, this one has stuck with me, which means I should address it here.

First consideration: Why has this particular question stuck with me? Because, I think, it is the crux of the matter of whether and how universal health care (UHC) should be made available. If there is no "right" to health care, then it is much more difficult for supporters to argue that UHC is in the best interests of the U.S.

Thus I am starting a series on health care rights. If you have an opinion, yea or nay, on UHC, share it in a comment or e-mail me (address in my profile, linked to in the sidebar) if you are interested in a guest post.

Don't miss a post in this series on health care rights! Subscribe now.

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Words nominated for banishment

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Crossword Bebop has a post about Lake Superior State University's 2008 list of banned words and phrases (and another about whether any of 2007's exiles should be rehabilitated). I'm using that post as a springboard for starting my own list of nominations. Here goes:

* Rant as a synonym for "opinion piece." It's overused and hard on the ears, too.
* To perfection, preceded by any culinary verb (cooked, grilled, etc.) for being grossly overused (pun intended) and for being meaningless. There is no "perfection" in most cooking techniques, only "right" and "wrong."
* Go down, as in, "Here's how it went down." If you are a soldier discussing a combat situation, or a cop discussing criminal violence, you may be allowed an exception. Otherwise, forget it. You just sound like a wanna-be.
* Spinning in his (her) grave. It was funny as a form of hyperbole the first time. Now it has lost its impact and is just macabre.
* Anti-choice as a synonym for "anti-abortion," for being disingenuous.
* Preborn baby, nominated in the spirit of balancing the list politically, for just plain sounding stupid. For the record: I am ardently pro-life. I just hate this term.
* Illegal alien. "Alien" lost its common meaning as "foreigner" long ago, and now it means "non-human extraterrestrial." That makes it an annoyingly dehumanizing form of rhetoric when applied to people.
* Breed when applied to humans. Often found in constructions like, "People like that shouldn't be allowed to breed" or "People should take parenting classes before they breed." This ugly term ties with "illegal alien" for most dehumanizing. Breeding is for animals; humans have children.
* Literally -- conditionally banned. It may be used as the antonym of "figuratively" (its literal meaning), but never again as a modifier to indicate intensity.
* Sales event was banished in 2005. I would like to affirm my support for eternal banishment of this term.

What would you nominate for the list?

LSU's complete list is here.

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Depression and anxiety: Further reading

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Here is a selection of titles for more information on depression and anxiety disorders.

Dr. Edward Hallowell is a psychiatrist whose writing I admire highly. Amazon.com has this to say about his book Worry: "Illustrating his theories with the personal stories of and dialogues with clients, Hallowell provides a full picture of the ordinary yet chronic worry-problems." It also claims the author "emphasizes the physical, not the psychological aspect of worrying," which I take to mean that relaxation techniques are a major theme of the book. When Panic Attacks is written by a psychologist and focuses more on eliminating "stinking thinking." These are techniques proven effective by psychological research, not just psychobabble.

Dr. Hallowell is also a loving father, and I trust his advice on helping children avoid the ravages of depression in later life. He recommends emphasizing optimism over achievement and confidence over competition. Biddulph is an Australian psychologist who appears to have a behavioral approach to teaching children to avoid the patterns that lead to anxiety and mood disorders, combined with an emphasis on family connections. Sounds like good medicine, since social connections can prevent adult mood disorders and cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments ever devised.

Depression affects everyone close to the person who is ill. It's important for family and close friends to keep their own mood and spirits healthy. This book provides advice not just on supporting the depressed person, but on holding him or her accountable and on keeping one's own self well.
A general reference work on depression and other mental disorders. This is not a self-help books and does not promote an agenda; it merely provides information.

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