Friday, April 25, 2014

Coffee Bad for You? Say It Ain't So!

Chronic coffee consumption has a detrimental effect on aortic stiffness and wave reflections by Charalambos Vlachopoulos in the June 2005 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found, “Chronic coffee consumption exerts a detrimental effect on aortic stiffness and wave reflections, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”1   This study shows that coffee causes its ill effects by impairing the function of the arteries, which increases the risk that these blood channels supplying the heart muscle will be compromised, leading to a heart attack.
The results of studies on the effects of coffee drinking on the risk of death from heart disease are conflicting; however, the evidence seems to indicate that at high levels of consumption this popular drug is detrimental.  Besides the manner of harm found in this study, other mechanisms may account for more heart disease in coffee drinkers.  There are two substances found in coffee beans, cafestol and kahweol, which raise total cholesterol, “bad” LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.2  On average, cholesterol is increased by 10%; but very potent boiled coffee can raise total cholesterol by as much as 23% (that could mean a 50 mg/dl increase for someone starting with an average cholesterol of 210 mg/dl).  Triglycerides may be increased by a similar amount. Coffee will raise the systolic blood pressure (top number) by 5 to 15 mmHg and the diastolic (bottom number) by 5 to 10 mmHg.3  People who are heavy coffee drinkers may also have a tendency to abuse themselves in other ways, such as consuming more heart damaging, high-fat, high-cholesterol foods.
Coffee drinking rightly deserves its reputation as “a bad habit.”  For more help with this addiction please refer to two previous newsletters found in my archives:  July 2004: Coffee - Pleasure or Pain, and October 2004: Tea Time Increases Life Time.
2)  Urgert R, Katan MB.  The cholesterol-raising factor from coffee beans. Annu Rev Nutr. 1997;17:305-24.
3)  James JE. .  Critical review of dietary caffeine and blood pressure: a relationship that should be taken more seriously.  Psychosom Med. 2004 Jan-Feb;66(1):63-71.
[The links are "live."]

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Legacy of "conversionary Prostestants" in Pakistan

Despite the threats from the Taliban and other extremists, a recently publicized study by Robert Woodberry, a sociologist and professor at the National University of Singapore, showed the presence of “conversionary Protestant” missionaries helps to explain why some nations develop stable democracies. 

After 10 years of postgraduate study, Woodberry concluded in a study published by the American Political Science Review in 2012: 
“Areas where Protestant missionaries had a significant presence in the past are on average more economically developed today, with comparatively better health, lower infant mortality, lower corruption, greater literacy, higher educational attainment (especially for women), and more robust membership in nongovernmental associations.”
Woodberry told Christianity Today, “Even in places where few people converted, [missionaries] had a profound economic and political impact.”
Pakistanis, including Muslims like Ambassador Ahmed, appreciate their presence: “You must pay [those teachers] a compliment, and I’m a Muslim. They taught me [while first attending Burn Hall, a school run by Roman Catholic priests in Pakistan and then Forman Christian College in Lahore] and allowed me through this education to contribute to [my] knowledge, understanding, and play a role in bridge building [between Christians and Muslims]. If I hadn’t been, I couldn’t play that role.”

-from "Leaving a Legacy: A turbulent nation with growing extremism lives outside their doors, but many of Pakistan's historic mission schools thrive with support of Muslim Leaders" by Kaitlyn Speer, in World Magazine's April 5, 2014 issue.  The article includes an interview of Akbar Ahmed,"a leading authority on Islam who teaches at American University and a former ambassador to the U.K."

Monday, April 21, 2014

New On the Nightstand

Stark, Rodney, The Rise of Christianity: How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the Western World in a Few Centuries, quoted by Felipe Assis, the Crossbridge Senior pastor, in a recent sermon.  (Felipe's sermons are extraordinarily good.  Here is a link to podcasts of them.  The one yesterday, Keep Calm, the best Easter sermon in my memory, was vintage Assis.)

Bainton, Roland H., Erasmus of Christendom.  More Reformation reading.  And because Bainton wrote it.  From Bainton's preface:

             I have long been drawn to Erasmus on a number of counts. I share his aversion to contention, his abhorrence of war, his wistful skepticism with respect to that which transcends the verifiable; at the same time I am warmed by the glow of his piety. I am convinced of the soundness of the place assigned by him to the classical alongside of the Judaeo-Christian in the heritage of the Western world. I relish his whimsicality and satire. I endorse his conviction that language is still the best medium for the transmission of thought, language not merely read but heard with cadence and rhythm as well as clarity and precision.
            Yet I should probably never have undertaken this assignment were Erasmus lacking in contemporary relevance. He is important for the dialogue which he desired never to see closed between Catholics and Protestants. He is important for the strategy of reform, violent or non-violent. He was resolved to abstain from violence alike of word and deed, but was not sure that significant reform could be achieved sine tumultu. He would neither incite nor abet it. The more intolerant grew the contenders, the more he recoiled and strove to mediate. He ended as the battered liberal. Can it ever be otherwise? This is precisely the problem of our time.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easy Auto DIY Projects

At the Metrorail station one weekday morning recently, I failed to turn off the lights on our 2006 Toyota 4Runner after parking it for the day.  Of course the car would not start when I came back at the end of the day.  With Carol's car, we jump-started the 4Runner and got it home, but the battery was at the end of its useful life and would not hold a charge very well thereafter.  We learned a couple of things from this experience.

One is that our 4Runner's "hood lift supports" had worn out.  This made it a bit of a challenge to run the jump cables from Carol's car to the 4Runner, but we managed.  I had a dowel at home in the garage that I could use as a prop on a temporary basis.

Another thing I realized is that I never check the oil anymore on our automobiles, as I once did as a matter of practice when I gassed up.  If I had been doing that, I would have noticed that the hood lift supports had worn out.  It would have been more convenient to learn that during a stop at the gas station than at the end of a workday, dressed in a business suit and in the midst of a minor emergency.  When you have the practice of lifting the hood periodically to check the oil, it gives you a moment to focus on what is happening to your car generally.

I learned a little more how an auto battery works and its limited purpose of supplying ignition with a big burst of energy that pretty much depletes it and some lighting, both of which need a decent drive to recharge it for the next starting challenge.  After awhile the things simply wear out.  I refreshed myself on the chemistry, looked at our records to see how long we had owned the one that had failed and what it cost.  All of those things helped me make the decision to simply replace it.

So faced with the need to replace the battery and replace the hood supports, do I take the 4Runner to the Toyota dealership?  Ugh.  Just the cost in time of taking the car to the dealer is heavy these days.  Is this, then, a reasonable DIY project?  It proved to be, with the availability of information on the internet.

This video suggested to me that replacing the hood supports might be very easy.  The internet has plenty on changing a car battery as well, but I had done that project before.  So I pulled the battery out, and, on my second try, found an auto-parts store where English was adequately spoken and North American customs of  service and customer attention are reasonably observed

There I learned that it is important to know some details about the automobile for which you are buying the battery.  For example, does our 4Runner have a V6 or a V8?  (Not a clue.)  Another: what are the dimensions of the little rectangular pan on which the battery sits?  (Still no clue.)  However, I did have the old battery with me and the NAPA sales person, who was very helpful, matched what he had in stock with what I needed to replace.  (The transaction at the NAPA store included their disposal of the old battery.)

However, he did not have in stock replacement hood supports that would fit.  So back to the internet, to Amazon, and to exactly what I needed via mail order.  In a matter of 20 minutes yesterday afternoon, with Carol holding up the hood, we replaced the hood supports.

In terms of time and money, how did this work out?  I would estimate that a visit to the Toyota dealership has a cost of about 2 hours, going and coming, although that time expenditure occurs during a work day.  The time cost of this particular DIY project was probably about 3 - 4 hours, but that was during down time.  If I had not had the false start with the first auto parts store, it would have been 2 to 3.  If the NAPA dealer had had the hood lifts as well as the battery, I would have been down to 1 to 2.  The cost of the parts were probably comparable.  The labor costs?  Much lower at the dealer, assuming my alternate use of that time would have been productive. 

On the other hand, it was fun and different to putter with the car.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to Get Government to Subsidize One's Favorite Charity (Updated the links.)

April 15 is next week.  Ugh.  However, a couple I know made a gift last year to their church, and the government will reimburse them this year a substantial portion of the value of their gift.  They could have paid the gift in cash and received part of that reimbursement.  Instead of paying cash to their charity, however, they made a donation of marketable securities (common stock in this case), securities that had appreciated in value between the time they purchased those securities and the time of their donation.  This increased the government's reimbursement.  Finally, the couple did not have to deal with a single government bureaucrat, but with people who liked them and wanted to serve them, the church treasurer, their accountant who prepared their tax return, and their stock broker.

The reimbursement from the government came in the form of the "tax benefits" that they will use this year with respect to the gift they made last year.  That is to say, they will pay less in income taxes next week than they would have paid had they not given the stock to their church.  The benefits arose from the application of two provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.

The first provision applies so that a gift of appreciated stock will avoid the income tax that the couple would have paid on the capital gain, had they sold the stock first and then donated the net cash proceeds of the sale.  The fair market value of the stock at the time of the gift to the church is the value of the gift that they may claim as a charitable deduction on their income tax return.  They are not required to offset that value by the tax they would have had to pay on the capital gain.

The second provision applies so that  the couple may deduct the value of their gift in computing their taxable income.

What is the extent of the government's reimbursement?  I do not have the couple's tax return to review, so I cannot tell you precisely.  But I can refer you to this discussion on the Fidelity Charitable website, to this discussion at that site and, finally, to this page where Fidelity Charitable will crunch the numbers for you.  (Incidentally, using Fidelity Charitable's  services for making charitable gifts greatly simplifies the process of obtaining the government's reimbursement.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Turn Me Loose!

A very elderly man from our church, a man in his nineties, died earlier this week in the hospital after at least three weeks in intensive care. Not only was he sick, he had dementia. One week before he died, he went into cardiac arrest. The cart-team descended and brought him back, so he could live another week in a semi-comatose state, and finally die this week of pneumonia, the old person's friend. One more week of suffering in the cardiac-intensive care unit of a for-profit hospital. He had no insurance but Medicare.  That must have been enough.

Note to kin: I do have a place to go when I die - the body to a med school and the spirit for awhile asleep in the Lord (such sweet sleep) until he comes back, and I have a new body.  If I should suffer from dementia, the only treatment I want is from the poppy.  No feeding-tubes, no antibiotics, a little comfort care, and an audio book or Bach playing nearby.  Plus now and then a visit from my peeps.

We've Seen that Kind of Knife Before

Karambit.  From the film just out, "The Raid (2)"

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Well, At Least This Lawyer Didn't Lie in Her Deposition.

An Atlanta in-house lawyer was jailed for 24 hours by a Georgia judge for contempt after she complained to him in an email about being selected for jury service in a personal injury case.
Wilma Elizabeth Beaty was also fined $500 by DeKalb State Court Judge Dax Lopez after she sent him the email. 

In the email, she said she would "blame" the plaintiff in the civil case for the work she would have to do on nights and weekends during the trial to keep up with her in-house job, says the Daily Report (sub. req.) in a lengthy article.

-from the ABA Journal's News Website, April 7, 2014

This is so outrageous that there must be something we don't know about these circumstances.  If true, however, I would say that if she is able to avoid disbarment, she gets off lightly.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Luther on What Makes a Good Preacher versus What the World Demands of a Good Preacher

First, a good preacher should be able to teach well, correctly, and in an orderly fashion.  Second, he should have a good head on his shoulders.  Third, he should be eloquent.  Fourth, he should have a good voice.  Fifth, he should have a good memory.  Sixth, he should know when to stop.  Seventh, he should be constant and diligent about his affairs.  Eight, he should invest body and life, possessions and honor in it.  Ninth, he should be willing to let everyone vex and hack away at him.  .  .  .

The world demands six qualities of a preacher:  1. that he have a good speaking voice; 2 that he be learned;  3.  that he be eloquent;  4. that he have a handsome exterior  .  .  . ;  5. that he take no money, but give money to preach;  6. that he say what they like to hear.

-as quoted in Kittleson, Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and his Career (Fortress Press Edition 2003), pp. 249-250.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The Work of the Law. The Law as a "Spiegel"

Luther's picture of the human condition in the presence of God was bleak indeed.  But it was here [as a new professor of theology at Wittenberg] that he also began to develop a different understanding of humility from that which had filled his lectures on the Psalms.  He still saw this state of being utterly drained of self-worth as being necessary for salvation, but now he insisted that it was God himself who graciously taught and provided humility.  "The whole task of the apostle and his Lord is to humble the proud and bring them to a realization of this condition, to teach them that they need grace, to destroy their own righteousness, so that in humility they will see Christ and confess that they are sinners, and thus receive grace and be saved." [Footnote omitted]

Here was what Luther called the "proper" work of the law, which he often described as a hammer or an anvil that smashed down upon human pride and made room for God's love.  Luther loved plays on words and here chose to refer to the law by using the German word Spiegel.  God's law was a Spiegel (which could also mean "mirror") that reveals his human beings what they truly were – in need of grace.  Thus, when God was most terrifying and most righteous, he was in fact most gracious.  God's mercy was a loving hand with an iron fist.

-from Kittleson, Luther the Reformer: The Story of the Man and His Career, (Fortress Press edition, pp. 93 - 94).

"Though I desire to extend religious freedom, yet I want some recompense for my troubles."

So wrote William Penn, according to John Steele Gordon in a speech Gordon delivered in San Diego, California, November 15, 2013, at a Hillsdale College Free Market Forum.  An adaptation of that speech, entitled "Entrepreneurship in American History," is reproduced in the February 2014 edition of Imprimis, to which you can find your way through this link.

Gordon states that it "has not been nearly well enough noted that the American colonies, while many ended up in royal hands, were not founded by the English state.  Several, such as Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, and Virginia, were founded by profit-seeking corporations.  Others, such as Pennsylvania and Maryland, were founded by proprietors.  To be sure, many of these enterprises had non-entrepreneurial motives, such as providing a refuge for religious dissenters," but the founders sought "some recompense" for their "troubles."

Gordon writes further:

New York, of course, was founded by the Dutch, not the English, and profit was the sole reason for settling on Manhattan.  Indeed, so bent on moneymaking were the Dutch that they did not get around to building a church for 17 years, worshiping instead in the fort.  When they did finally build a church, they named it for St. Nicholas, and Santa Claus has been the patron saint of New York ever since.

God's common grace abounds through entrepreneurs, and he blesses a country that gives them the liberty to exercise their gifts.