New Study Finds Hormonal Contraceptives Increases Risk of Gestational Diabetes

While the Obama Administration is pushing the use of contraceptives — and demanding Catholics pay for them — evidence continues to accumulate showing the health dangers of using hormonal contraceptives.

The latest, released today by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, found women who used hormonal methods of birth control had higher odds for gestational diabetes than did women who used no contraception.

Researchers analyzed data collected in 2007 and 2008 by the Missouri Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) to determine if type of contraception before pregnancy influenced maternal risk for GDM.

Of the 2,741 women who completed the 2007–2008 PRAMS survey, 8.3% were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and 17.9% of the respondents had used hormonal contraceptive methods. Women who used hormonal methods of birth control had higher odds for gestational diabetes than did women who used no contraception.

 

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Why Most Catholics Don’t Practice Adoration

Trying to get adoration started in any parish is a really difficult job.  In one parish, just one person plus a deacon showed up for adoration followed by benediction — a commitment of just 20 minutes for adoration itself.

That wouldn’t be a surprise to University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson, who in a series of 11 studies found most people ages 18 to 77 would rather be doing something – possibly even hurting themselves – than spending even brief periods of time alone in a room with nothing to do but think, ponder or daydream.

The participants, by and large, enjoyed much more doing external activities such as listening to music or using a smartphone. Some even preferred to give themselves mild electric shocks than to think.

“Those of us who enjoy some down time to just think likely find the results of this study surprising – I certainly do – but our study participants consistently demonstrated that they would rather have something to do than to have nothing other than their thoughts for even a fairly brief period of time,” Wilson said.

The period of time that Wilson and his colleagues asked participants to be alone with their thoughts ranged from six to 15 minutes. Most of whom reported that this “thinking period” wasn’t very enjoyable and that it was hard to concentrate.

“That was surprising – that even older people did not show any particular fondness for being alone thinking,” Wilson said.

He does not necessarily attribute this to the fast pace of modern society, or the prevalence of readily available electronic devices, such as smartphones. Instead, he thinks the devices might be a response to people’s desire to always have something to do.

In his paper, Wilson notes that broad surveys have shown that people generally prefer not to disengage from the world, and, when they do, they do not particularly enjoy it. Based on these surveys, Americans spent their time watching television, socializing or reading, and actually spent little or no time “relaxing or thinking.”

Most reported they found it difficult to concentrate and that their minds wandered, though nothing was competing for their attention. On average the participants did not enjoy the experience. A similar result was found in further studies when the participants were allowed to spend time alone with their thoughts in their homes.

“We found that about a third admitted that they had ‘cheated’ at home by engaging in some activity, such as listening to music or using a cell phone, or leaving their chair,” Wilson said. “And they didn’t enjoy this experience any more at home than at the lab.”

An additional experiment randomly assigned participants to spend time with their thoughts or the same amount of time doing an external activity, such as reading or listening to music, but not to communicate with others.

Those who did the external activities reported that they enjoyed themselves much more than those asked to just think, that they found it easier to concentrate and that their minds wandered less.

The researchers took their studies further. Because most people prefer having something to do rather than just thinking, they then asked, “Would they rather do an unpleasant activity than no activity at all?”

The results show that many would. Participants were given the same circumstances as most of the previous studies, with the added option of also administering a mild electric shock to themselves by pressing a button.

Twelve of 18 men in the study gave themselves at least one electric shock during the study’s 15-minute “thinking” period. By comparison, six of 24 females shocked themselves. All of these participants had received a sample of the shock and reported that they would pay to avoid being shocked again.

“What is striking,” the investigators write, “is that simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid.”

Wilson and his team note that men tend to seek “sensations” more than women, which may explain why 67% of men self-administered shocks compared to 25% of women.

Wilson said that he and his colleagues are still working on the exact reasons why people find it difficult to be alone with their own thoughts. Everyone enjoys daydreaming or fantasizing at times, he said, but these kinds of thinking may be most enjoyable when they happen spontaneously, and are more difficult to do on command.

“The mind is designed to engage with the world,” he said. “Even when we are by ourselves, our focus usually is on the outside world. And without training in meditation or thought-control techniques, which still are difficult, most people would prefer to engage in external activities.”

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Supreme Court Invalidates Massachusetts’ 35-Foot Buffer Zone Around Abortion Clinics

The Supreme Court unanimously held Massachusetts’s law establishing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics violates the First Amendment.  The decision appears to focus on the fact that the zone includes public sidewalks and roadways.

It’s not a sweeping decision.  It says states can pass laws that specifically insure access to clinics.  But states can’t more broadly restrict speech on public sidewalks and roads.

It also rejected the protestors’ argument that such restrictions are viewpoint-based and require strict scrutiny.

the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment. This is a law that imposes a thirty-five-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.a99ZJFYQ.dpuf
the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment. This is a law that imposes a thirty-five-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.a99ZJFYQ.dpuf
the Massachusetts law violates the First Amendment. This is a law that imposes a thirty-five-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics. – See more at: http://live.scotusblog.com/Event/Live_blog_of_opinions__June_26_2014#sthash.a99ZJFYQ.dpuf
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Gay Marriage Legalization May Lead to More Breakups

Gay marriage may lead to increasing breakups by homosexual couples, and the more states that adopt such statutes, the more breakups there are likely to be.

That’s the finding of a study by University of Arkansas researchers.

The researchers started with the fundamental assumption that couples who live in a state where same-sex marriage is illegal will weigh both the possibility of moving to a currently legal state and the probability of future legalization where they live.

The model included three stages. Stage one began with participants in a dating relationship revealing their preferences for cohabitation or continued dating. If both players chose the same preference, they moved up to stage two and were placed in those respective categories – “cohabitation” or “continue dating.” This move required agreement. Stage three was defined by participants, whether cohabitating or dating, choosing to continue in their current state, get married or exit the relationship. If exit was chosen, they incurred costs that depended on the relationship type. It was assumed that exit costs for a cohabitating player exceeded those from a dating player. Also, the choice to marry also incurred a relocation cost.

Results revealed that falling migration costs and the greater probability of legalization actually increased relationship hazard rates among same-sex couples.

This is possible, said said Farmer, professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business, because when migration costs fall marriage is more possible, and all is well if both partners want to marry. In fact, the likelihood that they will want to marry rises. However, if one member of the couple really doesn’t want to marry, now they have a point of disagreement, something that wasn’t on the table before.

“So the marriage option can create friction if preferences differ,” Farmer said. “That friction might result in a relationship hazard.”

The model also generated surprising predictions regarding why and how marriage would improve household economics. The researchers found that for some same-sex couples, marriage would not improve the economics of their households, and in some cases it would worsen them.

As of March 2014, 17 of the world’s 193 countries legally recognized same-sex marriage at the national level. In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. Through legislation or constitutional amendments, 33 states explicitly prohibit same-sex marriage, a situation similar to the variety of U.S. anti-miscegenation laws that were eliminated by a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 1967.

The researchers’ study will be published in the Southern Economic Journal.

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Fasting Is Good Spiritually — And Can Improve Health

For prediabetics, many interventions focus on lifestyle changes and weight loss, but new research on periodic fasting has identified a biological process in the body that

After 10 to 12 hours of fasting, the body starts scavenging for other sources of energy throughout the body to sustain itself. The body converts bad (LDL) cholesterol in fat cells to energy, combating diabetes risk factors.

“Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention,” says Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, Murray, Utah, and lead researcher on the study. “Though we’ve studied fasting and it’s health benefits for years, we didn’t know why fasting could provide the health benefits we observed related to the risk of diabetes.”

Prediabetes means the amount of glucose, also called sugar, in the blood is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.

Fasting Most Impactful

Prior research done by Dr. Horne and his team in 2011 focused on healthy people during one day of fasting and showed that routine, water-only fasting was associated with lower glucose levels and weight loss.

“When we studied the effects of fasting in apparently healthy people, cholesterol levels increased during the one-time 24-hour fast,” said Dr. Horne. “The changes that were most interesting or unexpected were all related to metabolic health and diabetes risk. Together with our prior studies that showed decades of routine fasting was associated with a lower risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease, this led us to think that fasting is most impactful for reducing the risk of diabetes and related metabolic problems.”

Due to the findings in 2011, Dr. Horne launched this new study to look at the effects of fasting in prediabetics over an extended period of time. The study participants were prediabetics, including men and women between the ages of 30 and 69 with a least three metabolic risk factors. These risk factors include:

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.”
  • A high triglyceride level. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level, the “good” cholesterol. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood.
  • High fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

Cholesterol Levels Dropped 12%

In the pool of participants qualifying for the study were people with different weights, some obese and some not. In previous fasting research performed by a few other institutions, those studies have all only examined obese participants and focused on weight loss due to fasting. Though weight loss did occur in the Intermountain Medical Center study, three pounds over six weeks, the main focus of the study was diabetes intervention.

“During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly in this study, as it did in our prior study of healthy people, but we did notice that over a six-week period cholesterol levels decreased by about 12 percent in addition to the weight loss,” said Dr. Horne. “Because we expect that the cholesterol was used for energy during the fasting episodes and likely came from fat cells, this leads us to believe fasting may be an effective diabetes intervention.”

The process of extracting LDL cholesterol from the fat cells for energy should help negate insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until it can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body’s demands, then blood sugar rises.

How Fat Cells Can Lead to Diabetes

“The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes,” he said. “Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by fasting.”

Dr. Horne says that more in-depth study is needed, but the findings lay the groundwork for that future study.

“Although fasting may protect against diabetes,” said Dr. Horne. “It’s important to keep in mind that these results were not instantaneous in the studies that we performed. It takes time. How long and how often people should fast for health benefits are additional questions we’re just beginning to examine.”

The research was presented at the 2014 American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions.

 

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At the VA, and at GM, a False God

The scandal at the Veterans Affairs Department follows quickly that at General Motors.  And it wasn’t all that long ago we were talking about Bernie Madoff, the con artist who posed as a high-returns-generating investment advisor.

The VA scandal is simple:  Veterans called for appointments and instead of being put into the system, were put on an unofficial waiting list where they languished for weeks, even months.  Why?  So VA officials could meet targets and get bonuses.

At General Motors, the scandal was also simple:  For more than a decade, GM knowingly churned out vehicles whose ignition switches were severely flawed.  Several deaths have been attributed to those ignition switches.  What would it have cost to produce switches that weren’t defective?  Just 15 cents.  But a GM official decided that was 15 cents the automaker didn’t need to spend.  Why?  Well, 15 cents times thousands of cars adds up to “real money,” an impact on the bottom line — and on bonuses.

As for Bernie Madoff, it was all about money.  His victims were, for the most part, people who put their common sense aside to achieve unusual gains.

At the root of all these scandals was a focus on money as an end in itself.  Not money as a reward for producing a good product or providing superior service, but simply money in the form of bonuses, higher stock prices, easy, rapidly increasing wealth.

Jesus told us the greatest commandment was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and the second is like unto it:  To love your neighbor as yourself.”

Do anyone seriously think those VA officials who were not putting veterans into the system for months at a time would have done that to themselves?  Absolutely not.  You can take this to the bank:  If they were scheduling themselves, they would have gotten an appointment within days, if not hours. And if there weren’t enough doctors to take care of themselves, they would have moved heaven and earth to get the necessary doctors.

Would GM officials have bought one of those defective cars for themselves?  Not likely.

As for Madoff, he was just a crook, out to take other peoples’ money.

When money, or power, or prestige leads a person to do something to someone else that they wouldn’t do to himself, you know his god is Money, not God.

We’ve seen in the VA, in GM and in Madoff what happens when Money — or Power, or Prestige — becomes our God.  It ain’t pretty.  But it’s so easy to be seduced into pursuing Money, or Power, or Prestige at the cost of honesty and integrity.

Perhaps we all should imitate members of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity (SOLT), who begin each day by reciting the greatest commandment — “I will love the Lord my God with all my strength, with all my mind, and with all my soul, and I will love my neighbor as myself,” with the emphasis on loving our neighbor.

That’s not a guarantee we will be honest and treat others with dignity and respect.  But if we say we will, every day, there’s a far greater likelihood we will than if we never say it at all.

 

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Over Two-Thirds of Americans Have HPV, Study Finds

The Catholic Church is regularly ridiculed for its insistence that sexual activity should be only between one man and one woman, married to each other.

But Jennifer Fulwiler, an atheist who became Catholic, describes a moment in which she realized that “all the (Catholic) teachings I had railed against are intended to save us from disaster.”

New evidence of the validity of that insight comes from a National Institutes of Health study which founds that 69% of healthy Americans are infected with one or more strains of human papillomavirus virus.

To be sure, only four of the 103 men and women whose tissue DNA was publicly available through a government database had either of the two HPV types known to cause most cases of cervical cancer, some throat cancers, and genital warts.

And what is the U.S. Government’s response to HPV?  Does its public health guidelines call for aggressive promotion of sexual abstinence outside marriage? Of course not.

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention says: “The burden and cost of HPV-associated disease and cancer remain an important public health problem.”

And what is its solution?  “An important public health goal is enhancing HPV disease prevention by improving vaccination coverage through public policy and clinical practice.”

In other words, our government’s policy is vaccinate — but don’t tell people to avoid sexual activity outside marriage.  That’s like telling people to take the partially effective flu vaccine, but not to wash their hands.

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The Catholic Story Behind the Indianapolis 500

Guest Post by Sigur Whitaker

When those magic words, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines,” are uttered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday, few will know that if Tony Hulman, a successful Indiana businessman and a life-long Catholic, hadn’t purchased the track in 1945, there probably wouldn’t be a Indianapolis 500 today.

Hulman grew up in Terre Haute, Ind., with a strong family ethos of giving back to their community. His grandfather, Herman Hulman, was involved with the establishment of St. Benedict’s Catholic Church as a community for the German immigrants in Terre Haute and the establishment of the first hospital in the region, St. Anthony’s.

Hulman’s life story was about doing good in the world. He guided the family’s wholesale grocery business, Hulman & Co., through the Great Depression. In a period when many businesses closed, the business was able to survive in part because Hulman’s decision to market one of their proprietary products, Clabber Girl Baking Powder, nationwide.

When he bought the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November 1945, it had been closed during World War II and most thought it would become a residential subdivision.

Hulman didn’t buy the track with collapsing grandstands and trees growing in holes in the track because he was actively involved in auto racing.  Rather, he thought that Indiana, like Kentucky, should have a signature event.  For Kentucky, it was the Kentucky Derby.  For Indiana, it was to be the Indianapolis 500.

By resurrecting the Speedway, Hulman was behind the modern racing industry which has created thousands of jobs and given millions of people joy in participating or watching.

Following in his family’s footsteps, Hulman was also a philanthropist, primarily in Terre Haute. He gave millions of dollars to a small Indiana engineering college which now bears his name, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. He also gave leadership monies to Indiana State University and was behind the establishment of a modern water treatment plant in Terre Haute. He gave freely of his time, talent and treasure to better Indiana.

Hulman’s life is one of hard work and giving back to the community. His legacy lives on today through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

Sigur Whitaker is the author of Tony Hulman, The Man Who Saved the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

 

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You Don’t Deserve to Feel Bad, Even When You Have Been Bad

When we go to Confession, we’re supposed to not simply confess our sins, but to make amends.

Now, new research at Baylor University, Waco, Tex., finds that forgiving ourselves for hurting another is easier if we first make amends.

The research, published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, is significant because previous studies show that the inability to self-forgive can be a factor in depression, anxiety and a weakened immune system, researchers said.

“One of the barriers people face in forgiving themselves appears to be that people feel morally obligated to hang on to those feelings. They feel they deserve to feel bad. Our study found that making amends gives us permission to let go,” said researcher Thomas Carpenter, a doctoral student in psychology in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The research was involved two studies. In the first, 269 participants recalled diverse “real-world” offenses they had committed, ranging from romantic betrayals to physical injury to gossip to rejection. In the second study, 208 participants were asked about a hypothetical wrong.

In the first study, participants were asked how much they have forgiven themselves for an actual offense; how much they had tried such efforts as apology, asking forgiveness and restitution; how much they felt the other person had forgiven them; and how much they saw self-forgiveness as morally appropriate.

The more they made amends, the more they felt self-forgiveness was morally permissible. Further, receiving forgiveness also appeared to help people feel it was all right.

Researchers said one limitation of the first study was that the offenses varied from person to person. So to further test their hypotheses, in Study 2 they used a standardized hypothetical offense — failing to take the blame for the action that caused a friend’s firing. This study revealed similar results to the first, although — unlike in Study 1 — receiving forgiveness from someone else had little effect on whether one forgave oneself.

The research also showed that the guiltier a person felt and the more serious the wrong, the less he or she was likely to self-forgive. Making amends also appeared to help people self-forgive by reducing those feelings, the researchers found. Also, women were generally less self-forgiving than men.

Self-forgiveness may be “morally ambiguous territory,” researchers wrote, and “individuals may, at times, believe that they deserve to continue to pay for their wrongs.” But by making amends, they may be able to “tip the scales of justice.”

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The Perfect Conversion Story Can Help Cradle Catholics, Too

Two recent conversations at church:

“I wish I could take RCIA because, although I went to Catholic School, I just don’t know my faith.”

“I don’t understand why anyone would convert to the Catholic Church.  I mean, we’ve got the child abuse scandal.  We’re medieval when it comes to women’s rights — I don’t agree with the church on contraception, nor do I agree with it on a male-only priesthood.”

As an RCIA coordinator, I hear variations on these a lot.  Both would do themselves an awful lot of good to read Jennifer Fulwiler’s enjoyable new book, “Something Other Than God.”

Jennifer was an atheist.  Now she’s a strongly committed Catholic.  But her journey wasn’t at all easy.

Here’s what cradle Catholics don’t understand about converts:  All of us have had to fight through to find our faith.   Without exception, there’s something that we “just don’t get.”  Maybe it’s Mary.  Maybe it’s the Church’s teaching on birth control and abortion.  Maybe it’s how after some great evil — 9/11, for instance, or the driver who runs a red light, killing a person’s mother and daughter — any Catholic could say with a straight face, “God permits evil to happen so that a greater good can be achieved.”

Fulwiler’s book is the account of her own spiritual journey from atheism to Catholicism.  Some parts are genuinely funny, and some will bring tears to your eyes.

She recalls thinking, at age 11 which digging a fossil out of a Texas river bank, that when she dies she probably won’t land in soft clay — and that means in 8 or 10 million years, unlike the fossil, there will be nothing left of her.

She details the precise moment when she thought about what she had learned as an atheist and had the startling thought, “I don’t think it’s true.”

Like many converts, once she discovered the rich intellectual heritage of Catholicism, she spent every possible moment studying it — even sneaking time during her workday.

She wasn’t one to pump her body full of drugs, but she was firmly committed to the idea that she had a right to control her own body — until, while reading a blog, she came across a woman who was on the same medicine she was on, and who had followed her doctor’s advice to begin using contraception.  That woman became pregnant, and was hysterical about all the bad things that might happen to the baby in her womb.

“That could have been me,” Fulwiler realized in horror, and began researching contraception.  The moment she read that the Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, had calculated that a sexually active woman who uses contraception has a 70% chance of an unexpected pregnancy at least once in 10 years, Fulwiler decided never to rely on contraception again.

“Those rules — the moral guidelines I had once railed against — had just saved me from disaster,” she realized.

“Something Other Than God” is an extraordinary piece of writing.  It’s easy to read.  It has many, many humorous passages.  It has depth:  I teach RCIA, and it gave me new insights into the Catholic Faith.

There’s a reason converts know their faith so well.  All of us had some teaching that we had to struggle to accept — not just to say, “okay, that’s what the church says,” but to embrace it as the truth and to accept it.  As Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House, once said, “Joining the Catholic Church isn’t like joining a country club.”

Converts will find much in “Something Other Than God” with which to identify.  Cradle Catholics may well find in its pages answers to questions which have been dogging them for years.  Or they may find, as did Fulwiler, that the church’s moral rules are intended to save us from disaster.

Every modern Catholic should read  “Something Other Than God:  How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It.”

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