“The things that matter most in this life can never be held in our hands.”

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Perhaps you, too, felt an uneasiness over photos in the news these past few days, images contrasting the simplicity of what matters most with our craving for what matters least.

There will be some who’ll say, “Chill out, you’re taking this much too seriously.”

Maybe.

But when we see those perennial pictures of civic titans such as Tom Menino, and now Marty Walsh, serving sumptuous meals to guests who are homeless, hungry and destitute, it draws our attention to the fact that so many have so little, reminding us we’re called to be our brother’s keeper.

That’s more than a Biblical mandate; indeed, it’s been an American concept through all of the generations that preceded ours.

Thanksgiving, even by its name, was a reminder, reaffirming a great Gaither lyric: “The things that matter most in this life can never be held in our hands.”

We always knew that what mattered most wasn’t gadgets or flashy items; the older we got the more we understood that the things that mattered most weren’t things at all. The really good stuff had no price tag.

But corporate America doesn’t want to hear such sloppy sentimentality, especially when there’s a buck to be made.

So, thumbing its nose at the fabric of our culture, it appropriated Thanksgiving as a launching pad for frenzied, obsessive consumption, as if anything we purchased could be worth more than what we pushed aside.

A day of rest, a time for reflection, an occasion for reunions, that’s what Thanksgiving was, making it America’s quintessential family day.

Those folks lining up for a free meal came from families, too, and who knows what their stories are. It really makes no difference, but without saying a word, they remind us to be grateful for blessings easily taken for granted.

When the NFL decided to offer its tantalizing product on Thanksgiving, there were some howls, but at least the sports junkies remained under the same roof as everyone else in the family.

Now, with corporate mercenaries champing to get into our pockets, we’ve become whipped by this Black Friday aberration, which frequently begins as the sun sets Thursday afternoon, languishing for hours and being jostled by the hordes, all to save a few shekels on a printer or a TV set.

The savings may be good but, make no mistake, the cost is awfully high.

More and more, it seems, we know the price of everything and the value of nothing.That’s what’s happened to Thanksgiving in America, and if you lament it, too, be assured you’re not alone.

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Pennsylvania court may hear gay marriage ban challenge in June

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 The following story (Reuters) is still another example of how the law and the Courts are the ones who are actually running the country.
 Question :  Do you believe that Gay marriage is affecting our families and country ?

 

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) – One of the first challenges to a state ban on gay marriage since the U.S. Supreme Court partially struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act is likely to go to trial in June in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

U.S. District Judge John Jones III, who earlier this month denied the state’s request to dismiss the case, said he was looking at a June 2014 date for the challenge to Pennsylvania’s Defense of Marriage Act.

The Pennsylvania case, Whitewood v. Wolf, was filed just weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that struck down part of the federal law defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

“It’s an important case and it will give us an opportunity to have a full airing of the record,” said Mark Aronchik, a private lawyer for Pennsylvania same-sex couples who are challenging the statute.

The state had argued that the Pennsylvania court lacked the authority to hear the case and it should be dismissed, but Jones rejected that argument and noted that case law dealing with issues of equal protection has recently undergone a “sea change.”

At least 36 states have “mini-DOMA” statutes, and challenges have come up in nearly all of them, according to Freedom to Marry, an advocacy group.

The Whitewood lawsuit was the first filed since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, but another case, filed in Michigan, is slated for trial in February.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the northeast region that does not recognize gay marriages or same-sex civil unions.

Same-sex couples have filed at least five lawsuits challenging Pennsylvania’s gay marriage ban. The Whitewood case, in particular, stirred controversy among the state’s political leaders after Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced in July that she would not defend the state’s statute.

(This story has been refiled to replace word duplicated in first paragraph)

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)

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Korea says U.S. citizen Merrill E. Newman is a criminal, arrested for hostile acts

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U.S. citizen Merrill E. Newman reads from a piece of paper at an undisclosed location in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on November 30, 2013. North Korea said on Saturday it had arrested Newman for 'hostile acts' against the state and accused him of being 'a criminal' who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War. REUTERS-KCNA

1 of 3. U.S. citizen Merrill E. Newman puts his thumbprint on a piece of paper, after being taken into custody by North Korea, after entering North Korea as a tourist, at an undisclosed location in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on November 30, 2013. North Korea said on Saturday it had arrested Newman for ”hostile acts” against the state and accused him of being ”a criminal” who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Credit: Reuters/KCNA

 SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea said on Saturday it had arrested U.S. citizen Merrill E. Newman for “hostile acts” against the state and accused him of being “a criminal” who was involved in the killing of civilians during the 1950-53 Korean War.

Newman “masterminded espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK and in this course he was involved in killings of service personnel of the Korean People’s Army and innocent civilians,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.

DPRK is short for the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. North Korea is technically still at war with the South and the United States as a truce, not a peace treaty, was signed to end the Korean conflict.

“He admitted all his crimes and made an apology for them,” KCNA said.

In a separate dispatch, KCNA carried what it said was a statement of apology by Newman, made after being detained.

“During the Korean War, I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people as advisor of the Kuwol Unit of the U.N. Korea 6th Partisan Regiment part of the Intelligence Bureau of the Far East Command,” it said.

The unit appears to refer to one of the special operations units of partisan, or irregular, fighters acting against the North.Newman, who had been visiting North Korea as a tourist, has been held in Pyongyang since officials took him off an Air Koryo plane that was scheduled to leave the country on October 26.

Newman is a retiree from Palo Alto in California, and the U.S. State Department has refused to provide any details of the detention.North Korea has been holding another U.S. citizen and a Christian missionary of Korean decent, arrested last year and sentenced in May to 15 years of hard labor on charges of committing hostile acts against the state. (Reporting by Jack Kim, Ju-min Park and James Pearson; Editing by Ron Popeski)

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Kristen Bell warms up to ‘Frozen’

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Kristen Bell

“Frozen,” Disney’s first animated Thanksgiving entry since 2010’s “Tangled,” reveals Kristen Bell’s “best kept secret” — her singing voice.

“Although to me it doesn’t feel like one,” the 33-year-old actress and new mom said last week from her Los Angeles home. “I trained operatically when I was a little girl and I’ve always gravitated toward anything and everything that made music.”

Bell left New York University years ago to make her Broadway debut in a Tom Sawyer musical but considers “Frozen,” a very free adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” as “really the first time I bring singing to a role.”

She’s Anna, the upbeat younger sister to tormented Elsa (Broadway’s “Wicked” star Idina Menzel), the newly crowned queen of their tiny kingdom.

“Elsa has something that makes her different from everybody else, which is this power she can freeze things and she can’t always control it,” Bell said.

“It’s what makes her unique and she’s been told her whole life, ‘Don’t let people see it.’ It’s a metaphor for enjoying what makes us all unique.”

Anna, she pointed out, “accepts and loves her sister above everything else. The message is believing in someone even when they don’t believe in themselves — and fighting for them.”

Anna also finds some unexpected truths about life.

“She’s an unbridled optimist. That’s what makes her so charming — she’s always happy.

“What’s so funny,” she continued, “this story for Disney is the most untraditional story they’ve ever done. It’s so not about a damsel in distress, it’s not about a tomboy, it’s not about romantic love. It’s a sharp right turn, story-wise.”

Bell, mother of 6-month-old daughter Lincoln with husband Dax Shepard, just finished the Veronica Mars movie and is wrapping the third season of her Showtime series “House of Lies.”

How does she manage marriage, motherhood, a movie and a series? “Carefully,” she said.

“I have a very good support system. Dax and I try to always have at least someone not working. Our sister watches the baby while we’re at work.

“Really every minute I’m not working, I’m with her. We’re eating lunch together right now: I’m eating toast and she’s eating cauliflower. It’s a delicate balance.”

 

 

 

Make a family Plan not a reaction plan

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Americans need more financial education, consumer watchdog says

Herb WeisbaumNBC

18 hours ago

Financial service companies spend billions of dollars a year marketing their products and services — credit cards, checking and savings accounts, car loans, mortgages and home equity products.

By comparison, very little is spent to provide American children with the tools they’ll need to deal with the financial decisions they’ll face in life. A new study from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau documented the huge disparity in this spending. The study found that the industry spends approximately $17 billion annually on consumer marketing. But only about $670 million dollars is spent on financial education each year in this country.

Put another way:  While $54 a person is spent on financial marketing to American consumers, only $2 per person is spent to educate them on money matters.

“When consumers receive the vast majority of their financial information from companies that are trying to promote an image or sell products, consumers have very little unbiased information,” said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), in a statement.

Cordray said the report, Navigating the Market, “further reinforces the dire need for more and better financial education in this country.”

There’s nothing wrong with truthful advertising. But to some, the huge disparity in expenditures is troubling.

“Our financial lives are becoming increasingly complicated and it’s hard to make good decisions when you don’t even understand the basics,” said Gerri Detweiler, director of consumer education at Credit.com. “Marketing is designed to sell products and sometimes those may not be the products you need or should be spending your money on.”

When a young person makes mistakes, such as not contributing to a company 401(k) plan, maxing out credit cards or making late bill payments, the repercussions can be serious and long-lasting.

“It’s absolutely crucial that we teach this information,” Detweiler told me. “I don’t think there’s anything you can say that is more important than how to manage your financial future.”

A Credit.com survey of consumers 18 and up done earlier this year, found that nearly 63 percent of those polled believe America’s children learn little to nothing about personal finance. More than half (56 percent) of the young adults surveyed said they know very little about how to manage their finances.

“This is completely unacceptable,” said Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com. We should do better. We must do better.”

Only 14 states require schools to offer courses in personal finance, according to the latest study by the Council for Economic Education. Only 22 require a high school course in economics. And the number of states that require students to take tests on financial life skills dropped from nine in 2009 to just five in 2011.

“Teens and young adults who grow up in states that require financial education courses are better at managing their money” Levin said. “They are significantly more likely to put money into savings and pay their credit card balances in full every month, and less likely to max out their credit cards, make late credit card payments or become compulsive shoppers.”

Laura Levine is the executive director of the Jump$tart Foundation, a non-profit that promotes financial literacy for children. She would like to see personal financial education start in elementary school and applauds the CFPB for focusing attention on the need for more education.

“We are not spending nearly enough in dollars, time or attention to this issue,” she said. “Not only do we need to reach more students, but we need to reach them more often. We must start earlier and reinforce it over time.”

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.

Layers of Ice: Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier

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As an American I love this country, but sometimes we need to excape our borders and look arournd. JG

Thirdeyemom

Perhaps one of the most spectacular marvels of Mother Nature I’ve ever witnessed is the majestic Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina. Spanning an area of 250 square kilometers/97 square miles and 30 km/19 miles in length, the sheer magnitude of this massive piece of layered ice is incomprehensible.

Ice trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier was one of my highlights to a trip to Southern Patagonia in 2009. Take a peak for yourself and see the immense beauty and power of Argentina’s premier glacier.

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see”. – Henry David Thoreau

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in ArgentinaPerito Moreno Glacier in Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier in ArgentinaThis post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers. To view more entries click here.

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Scotch on the 400-year-old Rocks

My Top Five Wild Hikes

The Surroundings of a Patagonian Outpost

Hike to Mount Fitz Roy (Freshly Pressed)

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Make the Most of Your Customizer: Three Neat Features to Try

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The WordPress.com Blog

WordPress.com users show their creativity not only in the content they publish, but also in how they design their sites. We always enjoy seeing how bloggers transform popular themes like Oxygen, Pilcrow, or Imbalance2 to create sleek, tailor-made sites.

Today, let’s take a closer look at the Theme Customizer, a key tool for anyone looking to spruce up their site, whether it’s a few small tweaks or a major makeover.

What is the Customizer?

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Imagine you want to try one of our newly-introduced fonts, or were inspired to add a custom header. Normally, you’d make the changes in the dashboard, save them, reload your blog, and see if you liked the results. If you didn’t, you’d repeat the process until you were satisfied.

The Customizer makes it simple and easy to test new looks for your site. Every change you make here is simultaneously reflected on the…

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