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Craig Conley's Blog

TITAN'S WEATHER

08/22/14 at 04:18 AM

NASA's Cassini spacecraft recently captured images of clouds moving across the northern hydrocarbon seas of Saturn's moon Titan. This renewed weather activity, considered overdue by researchers, could finally signal the onset of summer storms that atmospheric models have long predicted. The Cassini spacecraft obtained the new views in late July, as it receded from Titan after a close flyby. Cassini tracked the system of clouds developing and dissipating over the large methane sea known as Ligeia Mare for more than two days. Measurements of cloud motions indicate wind speeds of around 7 to 10 mph (3 to 4.5 meters per second). For several years after Cassini's 2004 arrival in the Saturn system, scientists frequently observed cloud activity near Titan's south pole, which was experiencing late summer at the time. Clouds continued to be observed as spring came to Titan's northern hemisphere. But since a huge storm swept across the icy moon's low latitudes in late 2010, only a few small clouds have been observed anywhere on the icy moon. The lack of cloud activity has surprised researchers, as computer simulations of Titan's...

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ROBIN WILLIAMS' DEATH

08/20/14 at 04:17 AM

It was very sad to learn of Robin Williams’ suicide. Apparently, his wife last saw him around 10:30 PM the night before he died when she went to bed. The next morning, she awoke and left the house, thinking he must be asleep in another room. His personal assistant discovered him hanged and dead from asphyxia the next morning when he didn’t appear. Media reports that he had been battling addiction and depression recently. It would seem that the warning signs were ignored by those around him. This suicide differs from those of stars like Janis Joplin, John Belushi, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix. Those people died of accidental overdoses of drugs. Robin Williams’ death was intentional and self-inflicted. He once made the rather strange claim that cocaine tended to calm him down, rather than stimulate as it does others. I realize he had something of a frenetic personality…

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PLANET VULCAN

08/18/14 at 04:59 AM

In the latter part of the 1800’s, scientists were beginning to get accurate measurements of the masses of the planets in our Solar System. They were working out the orbits with considerable precision and as they zeroed in on the final figures, something disturbing appeared. Somehow, and no one knew why, the math wasn’t tallying correctly. It seemed there was more mass pulling at the planets than was accounted for in their estimates of the Sun and the (then) nine planets orbiting it. Obviously there could only be one logical explanation; there was another as yet undiscovered planet somewhere. It was hypothesized that the new planet must be in an extremely close orbit right next to the Sun and was therefore invisible…hidden in the Sun’s glare. Given its close proximity to the Sun, scientists reached into their favorite naming resource, Roman mythology, and called it Vulcan, for the Roman god of fire. They worked out its approximate mass and speculated about its orbit and used it to repair the erroneous math which was bugging them. Now everything worked out the way it should on the blackboards. Trouble was, nobody could spot the missing world. Intense efforts were made by the astronomical community, but Vulcan remained unseen. It was a very troubling time for astronomers...

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EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 10 OF 'A SIRIUS SCORCHING'

08/16/14 at 04:59 AM

Pointer answered. “Your log from two days ago shows two ships arriving which we are interested in. They are outlaws and we’re here to capture them.” “Which ships were they, sir?” “KR-340 and KB-765” The Dockmaster consulted a copy of his log and replied, “KR-340 left last night, sir. She listed Pollux III as her destination.” “Damn!” Barnes swore. “That son-of-a-bitch!” “What about the other ship?” asked Pointer. “KB-765 is still here, sir. She had extensive repairs made…I think the service section replaced one of her thrusters…the number two thruster, I believe.” Pointer paused to consider this for a brief second. “Where is she moored? Which docking bay?” “She’s in 37, sir. Just right over there.” He pointed to T.J.’s ship standing between two much larger spaceships in the docking area. Pointer stood staring at it silently for a long minute. Then he turned back to the Dockmaster. “Could you give us a moment of privacy, please?” The Dockmaster nodded and moved away. Pointer turned to Barnes. “Korska’s not here, but McDuff still is. What are you going to do?” Barnes frowned sourly. “I can’t believe that ballsy son-of-a-bitch went right back to my home patrol star! Well…I have no choice. I’ve got to chase the bastard down. Can’t let him get away with this. What about you?”...

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TOYOTA'S HYDROGEN FUEL CAR

08/14/14 at 04:57 AM

Toyota is introducing a new hydrogen fuel cell automobile. It runs on hydrogen gas, and when combined with oxygen, produces only water (and heat) as exhaust. Toyota has been developing fuel cell vehicles in-house for more than 20 years. Toyota’s fuel cell system includes a proprietary FC Stack (Fuel Cell Stack: Individual fuel cells connected in a series. Fuel cells are stacked to increase voltage), which generates electricity from the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen, and the required high-pressure hydrogen tanks. Toyota has employed a new way to use carbon fiber to construct the high-pressure tanks needed and reduced the amount of platinum required for the electricity production, thus reducing costs to practical limits. The new car has a cruising range of 700 kilometers (435 miles) and a refueling time of around 3 minutes. The car will launch in Japan before April 2015, and preparations are underway for launches in the U.S. and European markets in the summer of 2015. It will sell for approximately 7 million yen ($68,000 USD). The technology uses the hydrogen to generate electricity to power the engine...

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CIVILIZATION AS A DESTROYER

08/12/14 at 04:14 AM

My father was a member of the Creek/Chickasaw Indian tribe (one-quarter blood which makes us kids 1/8th) and he was proud of his heritage. I went to one of the meetings held in Denver by some of the surviving members of the Nation and it was no great shakes…just ordinary people you’d meet every day on the streets. I got to wondering…why did the American Indians get wiped out? Surely on a continent as big as North America, there must have been oodles of them. What made them so easily eradicated? When the Spanish came to North America, and then the other Europeans, they had technology…granted, very primitive technology by today’s standards, but impressive for the times then. They could work metals. They had gunpowder. These things gave them an overwhelming advantage when it came to warfare with the American Indians. Surely the Indians had been around just as long as the Europeans…why hadn’t they developed those things? I believe the answer lies in the nature of their civilization. The Indians didn’t congregate into large cities – they were mostly in small individual tribes. By gathering into large cities, the Europeans (and others as far back as the Egyptians) were able to exchange ideas and most importantly, to record them for handing down...

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PERSEIDS

08/10/14 at 04:03 AM

The Perseids meteor shower is on right now, but the peak will come on the 12th and 13th of August this year. The meteors are associated with debris falling off Comet Swift-Tuttle and derive their name from appearing to come from the constellation Perseus. At their peak, there should be some 60 to 100 meteors per hour. They can be seen all across the sky, but because of the path of Swift-Tuttle's orbit, the Perseids are primarily visible in the northern hemisphere. Look to the northeast part of the sky to find them. As with many meteor showers, the visible rate is greatest in the pre-dawn hours, since the side of the Earth nearest to turning into the Sun scoops up more meteors as the Earth moves through space. This year a waning Gibbous Moon (the Moon's phase after a full moon) may make it harder for observers to see the shower, but the show should still be a good one. Most Perseids disappear (burn up) while at heights above 50 miles...

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DEATH BY PENCIL?

08/08/14 at 04:07 AM

Earlier this week, a 3 year-old girl was shot by her 5 year-old cousin in Pueblo. The 5 year-old was given the pistol by a 9 year-old who had found it lying around in the house. The young kid pointed the pistol at his cousin and pulled the trigger. Bang! The young girl was airlifted to a hospital when paramedics arrived, but her chances are not good. The local news media reported it, and as is customary with such news headlines, the pro-gun nuts went berserk in the comments sections of the online sites. One angry pro-gunner stated that if the anti-gun people wanted to take away his 2nd Amendment gun, they had better take all the pens, pencils, scissors, shoes, bottles, glasses, etc, etc, because he could kill with any of those things. I was a bit taken aback by his comment, so I wrote off a quick line in response. I said; “The little girl wouldn’t be fighting for her life if the 5 year-old had pointed a pencil at her!” This brings up an argument I’ve presented here before; Guns are machines designed ONLY for killing! That is their sole purpose...

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HOME SCHOOLING

08/06/14 at 04:24 AM

Recent ads on TV suggest that you, as a parent, can experience what they’re calling the “Ah-ha!” moment with your kids if you undertake to do ‘home-schooling’ with them. I can’t think of a worse idea! Number One: Your kids see enough of you. You would deprive them of the gazillion lessons involving social interactions they would get in a school environment with many other kids? Trust me; you aren’t that smart. You aren’t able to provide that kind of education. Number Two: You are not a certified teacher. You don’t know how to educate a child. You may think you do, but you’re wrong. You would create so many problems with your child it would take years of therapy for them to even begin to approach normalcy in society. Number Three: As it’s your kid, and you’re sympathetic towards him or her, when they begin to have difficulty in math or science or literature, you’ll tend to skip over those areas rather than make an enemy out of your beloved kid. I could go on, but you get the picture. Don’t listen to those money-grubbing bastards on TV advertising home-schooling…saying they’ll sell you lesson plans and state-certified counseling, etc, etc. Depriving your child of the comradery of their friends and weakening or eliminating their skills in social interactions among their peers all for your depraved selfishness or misguided religious delusions is sick. Kids today have enough...

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NON-MELODIC RAP MUSIC

08/04/14 at 04:22 AM

A few days ago, I was sitting out in my back yard when suddenly one of my neighbors started doing a decidedly un-neighborly thing. He opened up his doors to allow a barrage of loud ‘rap’ music to pollute the air. As a former musician myself, I sat there, cringing and gnashing my teeth, but then I was struck by something. I realized that there was no melody. It was as if a drummer had written a song. Just a recurring beat on the tonic (the primary key tone of the song) followed by a set number of beats after it. Of course, there were words; the singer (?) was mouthing some rhyming conglomeration of utterances, but in a very non-musical format. No melody. Just repetitive beats…over and over. How unlike the beautiful melodies which made up the songs of my youth. So lyrical, harmonious…melodic and tuneful. I realize that each generation must embrace something that sets them apart from their parents – it’s a part of their search for their own identity, their own place in the world – and I imagine it’s getting harder and harder to find something that their parents didn’t do; given the expanse of social media nowadays…pretty much everything has...

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GREEK OREGANO

08/02/14 at 04:13 AM

Today, several varieties of oregano are grown in many different parts of the world from seeds planted in light, dry, and well-drained soils. Historically, as the name implies, Greek oregano originated on the mountain slopes of Greece. It continues to be an important erosion-control plant: its roots reduce soil erosion on mountain slopes. Greek hillsides covered with the summer's growth of wild oregano in bloom are a fantastic excursion for eyes, feet, and nose! The name "oregano" means "joy of the mountain" and has its origins in the ancient Greek "oros" (mountain) and "ganos" (joy). According to Greek mythology, the sweet, spicy scent of oregano was created by the goddess Aphrodite as a symbol of happiness. In ancient Greece, bridal couples were crowned with garlands of oregano. Oregano plants were placed on tombs to give peace to departed spirits. It was also used as a laxative because of its cathartic effect. Oregano's power to heal has been known for centuries. It has powerful bacteria and fungi killing properties. It is used as a painkiller and anti-inflammatory. Oregano tea is a treatment for indigestion, coughs...

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ORDER

07/31/14 at 04:59 AM

In my previous blog entry, I espoused the idea that the Universe was one huge ball of energy containing discrete packets of that energy which were being different things depending on the frequency at which they were vibrating. Now I pose the question; is that huge ball of stuff purely chaos, or is it orderly? I believe that it is ordered, and it only appears as chaos because we haven’t come to know it yet. It is a mélange of many parts, but we give it order. As we come to know bits and pieces of it, we form an intellectual structure. We discover lots of things about, let’s say, grass. We study blades of grass in our yard, then in our neighbor’s yard, then on the other side of town, then in another country, and eventually we discover that grass is the same pretty much everywhere we examine it and we bunch our observations together into a class. A class called grass. Now we do the same with trees. We study them, come to know about them; their bark, their photosynthesis, their chlorophyll, and eventually we create another class…a class of trees. Anywhere we find a tree...

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MATTER EQUALS ENERGY

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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FOUR WELFARE KIDS MAX

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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EXTREMISTS

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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ASSISTED SUICIDE

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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GAMES HELP PREVENT ALZHEIMER'S

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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NO RECALL FOR SHERIFF MAKETA

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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FIND THE ONE GUY

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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GUN CONTROL VOTE

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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EARTH'S MAGNETIC FIELD

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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LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

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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ORBITING CARBON OBSERVATORY

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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TEXTING WHILE DRIVING

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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NEW ELDERLY ABUSE LAW

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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