Craig Conley's Blog


07/29/14 at 04:39 AM

Tomorrow’s my birthday so I’m taking liberties here and presenting a lengthy essay. Here goes. Albert Einstein said this: “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy, this is physics.” He also created the equation E=mc2. That equation says that matter and energy are the same stuff. Let’s extrapolate a minute. Suppose we start with a bit of Silicon – the element largely found in rocks as their chief component. Let’s add heat. At first, the rock begins to glow dull red; then as we add more heat, it turns orange, then yellow, then white and so on. When we get up into the millions of degrees, the atoms are so excited they begin to break apart and nuclear fusion occurs. The power of our Sun. In the fusion process, a small bit of the Silicon atom is converted into energy (according to E=mc2) and is then radiated away at the speed of light (the fastest speed anything can go…again, according to Einstein). As it travels, it occasionally bumps into some other bit of matter or dust mote or perhaps another electron and ricochets off in a changed direction. It loses a bit of its energy in the collision, as these things do, but continues onward. After a sufficient number of collisions, it has lost a considerable amount of its energy and perhaps gets drawn into the gravity well of an asteroid orbiting round some distant star. It thuds into the asteroid and maybe gets picked up by a stray Silicon atom (or other elemental type) and assumes an orbit (or joins the nucleus) in accordance with the laws of angular momentum and electrical attraction or repulsion...

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07/27/14 at 04:31 AM

I just read where the UK is considering a cap on the number of kids their welfare system will pay for. After four kids, no more benefits will be issued for additional children. I think we should adopt something along that line. Maybe even limit it to three. Considering the population explosion figures, two wouldn’t make me unhappy, either. In the USA, many moms jumped on the bandwagon for AFDC (aid to families with dependent children) payments when the program was initiated and the more kids they had, the more money they would get from the government. The food stamp program supplemented AFDC and likewise increased with the number of children. Of course, the well-meaning folks in the government intended that no child would go hungry, but in practice, it didn’t always work that way. Sometimes, the kids ate ketchup packets and crackers while mommy drank and snorted the government money away. Unfortunately, when the money ran out for these ladies, the obvious solution was to get pregnant again and increase their benefits. Since there were no limits on the number of kids (and therefore the amounts of the monthly checks), you found single mothers with 8 or 9 kids…most of whom weren’t receiving the maternal care they deserved. Food stamps were traded for drugs, or gasoline, or even...

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07/25/14 at 04:44 AM

I was thinking about travel the other day and started worrying about the danger of entering some of the hot spots around the world…y’know, like Iraq or Northern Ireland, etc. But after consideration, I realized that, in all probability, most of the people in those countries we hear so much about on the news are just everyday, ordinary folk. Just like here in the USA, the majority of people merely want to get on with their lives. No trouble, no gunfire, no dramatic upheavals; just plain and simple day-to-day living. It doesn’t matter where you live; it doesn’t matter which country; the larger segment of the general population in all those places only want to live in peace. So…where does all the hoopla come from? Just a few sorts. Extremists. A philosopher once said “Avoid the loud and obnoxious people, they are not good for the soul”. Quite true. It’s those few loud and obnoxious characters who are responsible for a lot of the trouble in...

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07/23/14 at 04:50 AM

In Britain, Parliament is about to open debate on the right-to-die issue. Several high-placed officials have come out for it. It is one of the trickiest issues I’ve ever considered, but let’s have a go. One of the arguments against it is that some people would ask their doctor for suicide assistance because “they didn’t want to become a burden” on their family. Trouble is, we come into this world as a burden (infants) and we go out as a burden (elderly infirm people). I’d vote against that reason for legal suicide, but let’s probe deeper. What if the person had a degenerative disease that couldn’t be cured and was certain to become a heavy burden on a family which couldn’t afford it? In extremes, I’d say yes. What about those people who have ailments which leave them unable to think? Or speak? Or eat or drink or do any of the things a self-sufficient person can do? A literal waste of human DNA, so to speak…doing no good for anyone, not even themselves? Simply a draw on others. The new law they are considering in Britain would allow assisted suicide if two doctors agree and the patient has less than six months to live. But no law can be foolproof. It wouldn’t be that hard to find two doctors who would off grandma if the kids promised a big chunk of the cash inheritance to them. We already, as a society, have made rules which allow us to kill our fellow man. Criminal justice...

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07/21/14 at 04:34 AM

Playing games or doing puzzles may help stave off Alzheimer's disease, a new study suggests. The research, which was presented to the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, found that these kinds of brain-stimulating activities could help to preserve vulnerable brain structures and cognitive functions. People who spend more time playing mentally-stimulating games are also more likely to perform better in learning, memory and information processing tests, researchers said. But although the study contributes to the ‘use it or lose it’ debate, it does not confirm whether or not playing such games prevents the condition. Researchers from Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute and the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Disease Research Center in the US examined 329 people with an average age of 60 who were healthy, but deemed to be at a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease due to their genetic background or family history. They performed a series of tests on them including brain scans and a number of cognitive assessments. Meanwhile the participants were asked how often they took part in activities like reading books, going to museums and playing card games or doing puzzles...

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07/19/14 at 04:04 AM

A recent recall attempt aimed at removing the El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa for improper behavior while in office here in Colorado Springs has been cancelled. There were enough signatures gathered on the recall petition to place the issue on the ballot for the voters – and chances are pretty good he would have been recalled considering the pervading sentiment at the moment by the citizens of Colorado Springs – but the organizers of the signature collection opted out of pursuing the matter. They claimed – and rightly so, I believe – that by the time the signature verification process had run its course, the margin of accepted signatures would have been thin; if not insufficient. Oftentimes, some 25% of voters’ signatures are disqualified because of an uncrossed “t” or a missing dot over an “i”. And since the offending law enforcement official will end his term in office in a few months anyway; and the recall election process would have cost the voters $20,000; it was deemed best to simply let things happen according to their natural timetable...

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07/17/14 at 04:29 AM

In one of my stories, Rockets Full of Rubies, I wrote about how government authorities were dispatched to halt a potential insurrection on a distant planet by employing assassination. In it I explained that the easiest way to stop a movement was to destroy the instigator. This is true. I didn’t realize it at the time, but perhaps we need to think about this in an historical context. We should never consider killing someone because they have a different idea than is currently in fashion; that would discourage freedom of speech and the free exchange of ideas which is so essential to our growth as people. But thinking about what’s going on over in the Middle East now, I realize that there is probably one individual stirring the pot. It probably began with a group of fellows sitting around bitching about America (or Israel or the central Iraqi government or whatever) and one guy found out that if he raised his voice sufficiently, the other guys would clap him on the back and applaud him. He liked it. Next thing you know, he’s screaming curses, advocating death to Americans, and rallying an army of followers. Then comes war...

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07/15/14 at 04:17 AM

Here's a list of those who voted Yea (for) or against (Nay) gun control. This fall, let's try and reduce the number of gun deaths. Vote for the right people.

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07/13/14 at 04:06 AM

Earth's magnetic field acts like a giant invisible bubble that shields the planet from the dangerous cosmic radiation spewing from the sun in the form of solar winds. The field exists because Earth has a giant ball of iron at its core surrounded by an outer layer of molten metal. Changes in the core's temperature and Earth's rotation boil and swirl the liquid metal around in the outer core, creating magnetic field lines. The movement of the molten metal is why some areas of the magnetic field strengthen while others weaken. When the boiling in one area of the outer core slows down, fewer currents of charged particles are released, and the magnetic field over the surface weakens. Earth's magnetic field has been weakening over the past six months. The scientists who announced the findings of a study on the matter are still unsure why the magnetic field is weakening, but one likely reason is that Earth's magnetic poles are getting ready to flip. In fact, the data suggest magnetic north is moving toward Siberia...

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07/11/14 at 04:01 AM

Well, the Fourth of July came and went and the much-touted fireworks ban once again was shown to be utterly unworkable. Aside from wasting a great deal of paper and police force time, it didn’t accomplish anything. The good citizens of Colorado Springs set the night sky alight from dusk ‘til midnight (and beyond) with blazing and bursting fireworks. You ignoramuses sitting on your cushioned seats in city hall need to remember something about us…namely, that you aren’t there to be our parents and you are not there to keep us safe from ourselves at all costs. You have been elected to do what you can to provide us with a good life experience, not to impose a curfew or restrict us to our room or remove all the sharp objects from our play area. You are there to make sure we have LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS! Remember that catchy phrase? It transcends your pitiful little fireworks ban. Stop trying to save us from ourselves by removing all the risk from living. That’s just plain wrong. It also demonstrates a very shallow understanding of what life is all about...

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07/09/14 at 04:53 AM

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) was launched earlier this month from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base. OCO-2 is NASA’s first mission dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas driving changes in Earth’s climate. Humans release nearly 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually. The amount varies from nation to nation, but that averages about 5.5 tons per person. Earth’s land surface and ocean absorb about half of these emissions. OCO-2’s measurements will show scientists where this carbon dioxide comes from (the sources on Earth) and where it is absorbed out of the atmosphere and stored (the sinks). OCO-2's field of view is only about one square mile (three square kilometers) - smaller than New York City's Central Park. Why so small? To dodge clouds. Clouds regularly cover about two-thirds of Earth...

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07/07/14 at 04:08 AM

While it may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, the ubiquity of cell phones today has led to texting while driving being an all-too-common sight on the road. If you find yourself tempted to text while driving, consider creating ways to make it more difficult to do so. Try leaving your phone somewhere you can’t reach while you’re driving, or download one of the apps which can help avoid it. On the surface, texting while driving seems harmless enough. When you think about how long it takes to send a quick text message to someone, it’s really a matter of mere seconds. Just don’t text and drive. It’s too dangerous and the risks are not worth it. Tests have shown that the minimum amount of time texting takes away from the focus on driving is 5 seconds. At just 55mph, that’s enough time to drive more than the length of an entire football field – more than enough space and time for an accident to happen...

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07/05/14 at 04:11 AM

Effective July 1st, a new law has gone into effect regarding abuse of the elderly and/or infirm. Now anyone who becomes aware of some kind of abuse to an elderly person must report it to police. This includes, but is not limited to, bankers, doctors, care-givers; anyone connected with financial institutions of all kinds, or anyone who is working with or for elderly or infirm persons. The law here in Colorado defines elderly as 70 years of age or older. In the past, many people would not report suspected abuses, saying ‘it’s not my responsibility’, or perhaps because they were afraid of getting in trouble themselves. Care providers were saying 'oh, she's clumsy. She falls down all the time,' those kinds of things. The nice thing about this new law is that it does mandate reporting, but it also gives doctors, or whomever reports the abuse, immunity if they report in good faith, even if it turns out that it's not a viable claim. Many cases of elder abuse occur from within their own family circle…most commonly financial abuse…and it’s difficult to prosecute because grandma doesn’t want to send her kids or grandkids to the hoosegow...

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07/03/14 at 04:02 AM

Alright. This is it! I’ve had enough! Colorado Springs has instituted a TOTAL ban on fireworks for our beloved Fourth of July holiday. AGAIN! Zero tolerance is the repugnant term the city has applied to the use of fireworks. Not even a teensy tiny itty bitty little sparkler. This cannot stand. My brother and I, who are both dedicated pyromaniacs from birth, sharing the astrological sign of Leo (not just A fire sign but THE fire sign!) and who both still have all ten fingers and toes (demonstrating that we are competent and knowledgeable about fireworks) will be utterly heartbroken again this year when the Fourth passes sedately without the steady detonations and zings and hisses so fondly remembered from our youth. The only advantage to the ban will be that we won’t be having to gather up all the burned scraps of paper which accumulated knee-deep on the lawn from the exploding firecrackers on the 5th of July. Some small consolation will be gleaned from at least being able to go to the park and watch the big fireworks display (they even cancelled that a few years ago!), but it’s over too quickly and it denies us the chance to personally blow shit up. I mean, BBQ’s are fine, y’know…I love ‘em as much as anybody...

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07/01/14 at 04:35 AM

A trellis (treillage - from Old French treliz fabric of open texture, from Late Latin trilīcius woven with three threads) is an architectural structure, usually made from an open framework or lattice of interwoven or intersecting pieces of wood, bamboo or metal that is normally made to support and display climbing plants, especially shrubs. There are many types of trellis for different places and for different plants, from agricultural types (especially in viticulture - viticulture, from the Latin word for vine, is the science, production, and study of grapes. It deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture) and also garden uses for climbers such as clematis, ivy, and climbing roses or other support based growing plants. The rose trellis is especially common in Europe and other rose-growing areas, and many climbing rose varieties require a trellis to reach their potential as garden plants. Some plants will climb and wrap themselves round a trellis without much artificial help being needed while others need training by...

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06/29/14 at 04:36 AM

While sitting outside in my backyard a few days ago, I got to thinking about how my plants there were growing. I realized that some process within that plant was causing new cells to form. Steadily duplicating; one after another…creating new cells. Soon, there would be an extra quarter-inch of stem on that plant…made up of thousands of new cells all in a row. Each one made because of the water the plant was absorbing from the ground, the energy given by the Sun via photosynthesis, and the raw materials taken up from the soil itself, i.e., carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, silicon. The process for converting all these separate things into living cells is dictated by the DNA molecule. This unbelievably diverse and many-faceted double-helix molecule is the genetic code. One combination within the DNA molecule orders the various constituents to create a cell for the stalk, another is encoded to make a leaf cell, yet another makes a flower pistil, petal, or pollen cell. Within us humans it instructs the chemical processes to make a brain cell, or a red blood cell, or a skin cell. The fantastic number of possible combinations within one DNA molecule stagger the mind; on the order of...

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06/27/14 at 04:40 AM

The advances NASA has given us in our understanding of space, and particularly regarding our immediate neighborhood of planets and moons, has been wonderful. The missions to the inner planets (with the exception of Venus because of its extremely volatile character which precludes close observation or exploration) have given us insights into other worlds and shown us similarities and differences between them and us. These comparisons allow us to expand our reasoning and know about what all the other myriad bodies in this huge Universe might be like. We’ve been to the two main gas-giants, Jupiter and Saturn, with in-depth probes and orbiting satellites relaying data to us steadily. I believe we should mount two more missions to the outer ice-giants, Uranus and Neptune. I know they’re a long way away and it would take a lot of time to even get to them, but it needs to be on our agenda. Visiting them would complete at least our preliminary exploration of our entire Solar System...

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06/25/14 at 04:27 AM

Our Sun is the star at the center of our Solar System. It is almost perfectly spherical and consists of hot plasma interwoven with magnetic fields. It has a diameter of about 865,374 miles, and weighs approximately 330,000 times the mass of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Chemically, about three-quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen, while the rest is mostly helium. The remainder (1.69%, which nonetheless equals 5,600 times the mass of Earth) consists of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon and iron, among others. On a summer day here on Earth, you can marvel at the awesome stuffs which emanate from this celestial body. All the bright light which illuminates all we see comes from that glowing ball of gas. The heat you feel radiates from it. Don’t forget that it is a sphere…it radiates equally in every direction in three dimensions. We are only receiving a tiny little fraction of the total energy that thing is putting out. Not even one percent! It runs 24/7…it’s still blazing away even through the night. It has been doing that for 4.567 billion years. The Sun is a G-type main-sequence star (G2V)...

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06/23/14 at 04:06 AM

Once again I am struck by the enormous unfairness of our tax structure here in the USA. Let’s try an example. Let’s say you win $10,000,000 in a state lottery. Well, right off the top, roughly half that goes to the government for taxes (close to 45%). Then you, as a generous sort, decide you’d like to share your good fortune with a couple of your kids. So, you give each of them a million dollars out of what you have left. Now you’re down to $3,550,000. Your kids, as good tax-paying citizens, pay the income tax on the money you gave them (again…45%). Now they each have $550,000. As the sort of decent folk they are, they give a gift to two of their close friends who are a little hurting for money…say they give them each $100,000. Now those good tax-paying citizens must pay the taxes on their gifts, and since they’re fairly decent earners, another 45% is levied…leaving them each $55,000. Okay? Let’s tally. Out of the original $10 million dollars, the government has taxed its good citizens for $5,580,000! Of course, this is only income tax…sales tax, gasoline tax, liquor tax, property tax…all those are over and above that figure. And this is only three steps of giving down the ladder; if the largess is passed around further, more taxes come off it yet...

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06/21/14 at 04:33 AM

In 2006, NASA launched a mission to explore the dwarf planet Pluto and its companion object, Charon. It is now more than halfway there and will arrive in 2015 (closest approach will be on July 14th, 2015). After its study of Pluto and Charon, the spacecraft will continue on into the Kuiper Belt. The Kuiper Belt is a vast debris field of icy bodies left over from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago. A Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) has never been seen up close because the belt is so far from the sun, stretching out to a distance of 5 billion miles into a never-before-visited frontier of the solar system. The Kuiper belt was initially thought to be the main repository for periodic comets, those with orbits lasting less than 200 years. However, studies since the mid-1990’s have shown that the classical belt is dynamically stable, and that comets' true place of origin is the scattered disc, a dynamically active zone created by the outward motion of Neptune. Before the New Horizons Mission (the title of the Pluto-bound spacecraft), the Hubble telescope was turned on the Pluto/Charon binary and it discovered four new moons orbiting the pair...

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06/19/14 at 04:14 AM

I was thinking about the incredible amount of suffering that was going on in the world today and it suddenly struck me that even though there was a phenomenal amount of it, it was not infinite. I realized that there were limits to what could be done in the way of torture. Many people have endured unbelievable amount s of horrible pain and suffering…more than I could ever handle myself…and yet they took it. Some of those people have talked about their experiences. It seems that even though the pain-inflictor continued with his or her devilish practice, the recipient eventually just became numb. The tortures were not effective anymore. They were still terribly unpleasant, no doubt, but there was a limit as to how much pain a body could have foisted upon it. It was not infinite. Following through on this, I came to the conclusion that if the evil could not be infinite, then neither could the good. This comes about because of the duality that’s the nature of our being. Equal sides. In everyday practicality, no one ever arrives at total good…

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06/17/14 at 04:05 AM

Roman candles are a popular type of firework which shoots small pyrotechnic stars out of one end. They got their name from a rather disgusting event in history, namely when the Roman Emperor Nero who reigned from 54 to 68 A.D. used to capture Christians, douse them with flammable liquids, and then set them afire in his garden at night for light. I guess they must have popped and sparked a bit as they burned and that lead to the firework adopting the name. Roman candles come in a variety of sizes, from small 6 mm (1/4") diameter for consumers, and up to 8 cm (3") diameter in professional fireworks displays. Larger Roman candles (3" or bigger) will usually add more propelling charge to the highest layers and less to the lower layers in order to cause all the stars to lift to the same altitude. This is due to the shorter length of tube available for accelerating the higher star. Some very large candles will load comet shells instead of stars. Star colors are achieved through the addition of various elements to the burning pyrotechnic powder; Strontium makes red, Barium makes green, Copper makes blue...

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06/15/14 at 04:04 AM

Concerning Text Messaging while Driving. Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 43 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. The 7 states which still have no ban on cell phone texting while driving are: Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas. The 13 states which ban all cell phone use while driving are: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington D.C., Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia. Of the 7 states without an all driver texting ban, 4 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and 3 restrict school bus drivers from texting. The United Kingdom has a ban in effect for all cell phone use while driving…and they have attached a maximum £4,000.00 ($6,720.00 US) fine if you’re caught! More and more, distracted driving is being shown to cause loss of life and/or severe damage and pain. That phone call is not so important. Don’t defend it with weak...

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06/13/14 at 04:47 AM

It’s time to re-examine our Statutory Rape laws. No one wants to see a child molested, that’s a given. But there are an increasing number of men going behind bars for having consensual sex with teenage girls, and something’s wrong there. If you took an honest poll of every man on the planet, you’d find that just about every single one has had sex with a teenage girl. Every single one! Girls become sexually active around 14 years old, on average, and they are quite randy and handy. They dress for it, they adopt the appropriate language for it, and they are going to find it one way or another. This isn’t because they’re bad girls; this is because of the incredible power of the reproductive force which dominates life. I’ll agree that any seduction of an inexperienced teenage girl which involves using manipulation arising from maturity of mind should be classed as wrong, but when the girl is grabbing for it, don’t punish the man for accepting it. Especially with so dramatic a punishment! Putting a man in jail, or listing him on a sexual offender’s roll requiring him to tell his neighbors or co-workers he’s a pervert just for screwing some sweet young lovely who enticed him into it is simply wrong. Save that kind of retribution for the true child-molesters – the ones who go after defenseless children of a too-tender age. Hang them by their balls…they have it coming, but don’t punish a 22 year-old guy for having consensual sex with a 17 year-old girlfriend. That is unrealistic...

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06/11/14 at 04:56 AM

About a week ago, a pregnant woman in Pakistan was stoned to death by members of her family for marrying against their wishes. Her own father and brother killed her by pummeling her with bricks right out in the open street. Scores of people stood around and watched, but no one interfered. Even local police watched as she was stoned to death by her father, brother and cousins. Her spurned husband also joined in the killing. She had fallen in love with another man and they were preparing to marry. Somehow this went against the family’s wishes. Her punishment was stoning to death. I find it so incredible that in this modern day and age, when science has literally reached every hidden corner of the globe, there are still knots of people hanging on to archaic and (yes, there is no other word for it!) ill-conceived ideas having their roots in religion. The dark ignorance of times past would have all been exposed to the light of sensibility by now, I should think. Yet, scenes like this prevail. In this particular case, some semblance of clear-headedness entered when the father, Mohammad Azeem, was charged with murder and the others are on the run...

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