Why Texas county known for death sentences has given none in 2015

As the state prepares to execute its 13th person this year on Wednesday, the case of Harris County, where 124 offenders have been executed, reflects shift among juries and prosecutors in opting for life sentences instead of death penalty

 texas death penalty

 The death chamber in Huntsville, Texas, the state that executes more people than anywhere else in the US. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Yosselyn Alfaro was celebrating her 21st birthday at a friend’s apartment when the bullet went through her brain. Two 17-year-olds, Daniel Munoz and Veronica Hernandez, also died after shots to the head.
Two others were injured. One held his mutilated jaw in place so he could tell the authorities who did it: Jonathan Sanchez.
The 27-year-old had a string of previous arrests. Prosecutors alleged that at the time of the murders two years ago, he was a gang member on a drug binge who sent threatening text messages to a man who lived at the Peppermill Place complex in north-west Houston. Then he turned up, talked his way in and started shooting.
In the county that metes out more completed death sentences than any other in the US, in the state that executes more people than anywhere else in the nation, it seemed obvious that prosecutors would seek the death penalty for such a horrific crime and almost inevitable that they would get it.
Yet, as the Houston Chronicle reported, the jury that convicted Sanchez of capital murder last week opted to spare him from a lethal injection. He was sentenced to life without parole. It was an outcome at odds with Texas’s well-earned reputation.
On Wednesday, Raphael Holiday is set to become the 531st Texas inmate executed since 1976, and the 13th this year, for starting a house fire that killed three young girls, including his one-year-old daughter.
Some 124 offenders have been executed after convictions in Harris County, which includes Houston. If Harris were a state it would be second in total executions, behind Texas and 12 deaths ahead of Oklahoma.

Yet no one has been sentenced to death in Harris County this year. Across Texas there have been only three death sentences in 2015, and the first came as late as October. The previous low in a calendar year was eight.
“We now have more cases this year where jurors rejected the death penalty than where they imposed it,” said Kristin Houlé, executive director of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
“I think it’s the culmination of several things,” said Tim Cole, a former district attorney in Texas who tried death penalty cases. Cole believes that the rising number of DNA-based exonerations has made jurors more cautious and sceptical, that the introduction of a life without parole option for capital cases in 2005 has had a major effect, and prosecutors are seeking death less often.

Raila’s letter to Uhuru on Kenya’s state of ‘total confusion’

Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta in August 2010 when they were Prme Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively, during a meeting at the KICC in Nairobi. Photo/FILE

Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta in August 2010 when they were Prme Minister and Deputy Prime Minister respectively, during a meeting at the KICC in Nairobi. Photo/FILE


Even without the benefit of any opinion polling, we are deeply convinced, and we believe many Kenyans are equally convinced, that there is total confusion in the country, that there is no shared understanding of where we are trying to go as a and what we are trying to achieve as a nation, by when, and by what means.

So today, we just want to make a single appeal to our president, Uhuru Kenyatta, in absolute good faith, in all humility and in the interest of our nation.

Mr President, we sense you are lost. But you are not alone. Many Kenyans who had pegged their hopes on your stewardship are equally lost and feeling abandoned in a wildernesses we have created for ourselves.

It is one of those rare cases where the leader should essentially tell the followers, do not follow me, I am also lost.

The centre is failing to hold. Anarchy and collapse lurk around the corner. Things are certainly falling apart.

The war on corruption is lost. The cost of living is rising. Our neighbours are closing in on us and challenging the economic advantage we long held over them.

Our teachers are back in classrooms but they are a bitter and betrayed lot, yet we have placed the fate of millions of our children in the hands of these bitter teachers.

Our soldiers, long the undisputed first choice of the world for trouble spots are now being challenged to prove their professionalism by none other than Somalia.

Mr President, Kenyans are no longer at ease because Kenyans know they deserve better than this.

Two recent developments capture the confusion emerging out of this know-it-all presidency and the quagmire is engulfing the entire nation.

This week, Planning Principal Secretary Peter Mangiti and Director General of the NYS Nelson Githinji were arraigned in court over improprieties at the Devolution Ministry.

The two are being made to bear the cross for the mess at Devolution. It is a mess we long said existed but which your administration dismissed as non-existent.

As Mangiti and Dr Githinji take the blame, we have a reminder for you Mr President.

Mr President, on December 2, 2014, you chaired the 11th Cabinet meeting in State House which resolved to widen the roles of cabinet secretaries.

That meeting gave cabinet secretaries greater oversight in sanctioning procurement in MDAs and state and government agencies.

That meeting also noted accurately that the role was formerly a preserve of principal secretaries, but it now shifted to cabinet secretaries. From that day, cabinet secretaries were mandated to approve work, procurement and cash flow plans.

Cabinet secretaries were also mandated to lead major transformation strategic initiatives in their ministries, including approval and attainment of targets and managing integrity and accountability matters.

That is why we will follow the case against Githinji and Mangiti with deep interest.

The December 2 resolutions of the Cabinet are currently not reflected in the decisions regarding crimes committed at the Ministry of Devolution.

Yet these resolutions appear to have influenced decisions regarding the ministry of Lands, Ministry of Energy and Ministry of Agriculture where Cabinet secretaries were forced to step aside to facilitate investigations.

Mr President, what kind of government goes against the resolutions of its own cabinet, adopted under the chairmanship of the president? We have no words to describe this state of affairs other than confusion.

Mr President, last week you appointed a team to advice on how to fight corruption in the country. Fair enough but what is the role of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission now? Why are we paying salaries to EACC when the job has been outsourced?

What did the President have in mind when he allowed the sacking of the EACC commissioners against our advice? This, to us, is confusion and lack of direction.

In the case of NYS, it is no longer possible for any government agency to independently audit its transactions. All the persons under investigation have been in the office at the times when the probing was being done.

In fact, both Mangiti and Githinji are being charged with interfering with the investigation by dissuading one of their juniors from pursuing the matter with the criminal investigation department

The government is alleging that the investigations were being compromised by both Mangiti and Githinji yet wants to assure us that credible investigations have been completed.

The DCI is totally compromised in this matter. When he completed his initial investigation a few weeks ago, he went and submitted his report to Devolution CS Anne Waiguru.

How can the DCI submit his investigation report to the suspect? It is unheard of in the history of Kenya.

Mr President, you cannot serve two masters at the same time and succeed. That is a key doctrine of the Christian faith that we know you profess. It is a key element of virtually all faiths and even the law of nature. It has to be one master a time.

Either you are serving Kenya or serving your personal friends, relations and interests. It cannot be both.

Mr President, you have engaged the nation in a dangerous ping pong, trial and error game for more than two years.

The Alice in Wonderland scenario makes for great fiction but it cannot and will not work for running a country, at least not for Kenya.

Under these circumstances, our people are tempted to agree with John Githongo who told the New York Times two weeks ago we don’t have a government. We have a scandal.

This state of affairs is not sustainable. It is not acceptable. It is creating hopelessness and despair. It is creating self-doubt among our hard working and confident citizens.

It is energising our competitors in the region who are smelling opportunity to leave Kenya behind. It has to stop. We are here to help you stop it and help you restart and re-engineer our vibrant Kenya.

We appeal to the president to embrace a bipartisan approach to our problems as a nation. As Opposition and civil society, we embarked on an initiative to change our constitution by popular initiative. Join us.

It is part of our culture in Africa to stop along the way and ask for directions and change paths if you realise you may have taken a wrong turn. In other cultures you are encouraged to buy the map and retrace your steps.

In Africa, it has never been a weakness to ask the way. Let’s do it. Mr President, we are here to help.


The letter was signed by Cord leader Raila Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula on November 18.

the star

Technology Will Make Obsolete these 10 Surprising Things by 2025

We’re just following the trend lines here, people. If we’re wrong, we’ll wait for you to tell us in 2025.


Looking outside your window, you could be forgiven for coming down with a case of the future-blahs. On the surface, 2015 doesn’t look anything like the flying car super future we were promised. But the fact of the matter is we’resurrounded by the future. We just don’t GADZOOKS all day long because we’ve watched its slow, incremental development. It’s crazy easy to take our modern miracles for granted.

Technological progress constantly renders once-familiar things moot. When was the last time you purchased software on a disc, bought a CD in a store, sent a fax to a co-worker, or even asked for driving directions? In 2005, you probably did a lot of those things and might have just assumed you always would.

Sure, the above examples are still available. If you really wanted to buy a CD in a store, you could, but there are far more convenient options available. In another decade, I can guarantee you that many of the things you do todaythings you’ve done for decadeswill find themselves in a similar situaton: they’ll still be around, but probably no longer used by most people.

We don’t have a crystal ball, but if eyeing current trends, we can make some educated guesses about how things will go down.

Check out our list of 10 common things that might be gone by 2025. To be sure, we may be proven completely wrong on some of these. That happens. If that’s the case, please feel free to leave a comment or send us a note on At NOV  17TH 2025.

1. Car Mirrors


In recent years, camera-and-display setups have become standard in many higher-end cars. Each manufacturer may have their own pet name for this technology (see Honda’s LaneWatch, BMW’s Surround View, ans Lexus’ Side Monitor), but it’s all essentially a closed-circuit television system for the area surrounding your vehicle.

These systems are advantageous over a purely mirror-based system in that they (utilize occasionally ingenious methods to) cover blind spots, present driver information (e.g. speed, directions, proximity to obstacles), and just see the world better (low-light vision). And you’ll soon be seeing a lot more of them.

Last year, the government announced that manufactures would be required to include back-up cameras in all new cars by May 2018. Tesla has announced its desire to take things a step further by replacing all side-view mirrors with cameras—this would provide all the benefits of a camera-and-monitor system but also allow for more aerodynamic designs.

As we make the transition to driverless cars—or even just as we utilize more partially driverless cars that can do things like parallel park—our vehicles will require more cameras and sensors. And since these monitoring systems are so much more versatile, they will supplement—if not completely replace—our cars’ century-old reliance on millennia-old technology.

2. Plastic Credit Cards

Credit Cards

Cash is dying; credit cards have been biting into that pie since the 1970s. But now credit cards are beginning to dematerialize into digital bits. This doesn’t necessarily mean that credit card companies will disappear. Indeed, for now, you still need them to use Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay (all the Pays!). We just won’t need to carry around physical cards anymore.

This is a good thing. Paying for things with mobile or wearable technology, as opposed to thin slabs of plastic, is far more convenient. But perhaps even more importantly, these technologies have the potential to cut down on fraud. They negate the need for any third-party vender to ever see your credit card number, and your pocket super computer has the ability to use biometric data (e.g. fingerprints) to prove that you are indeed buying that bulk-sized jar of Nutella.

3. Cords and Chargers


The unsightly wires and cords that once ruled our technological lives are on the outs thanks to the continued development of technologies such as Bluetooth, NFC, and Wi-Fi networking. Sure, these technologies haven’t yet banished allthe wires, but chances are very good that several of the accessories around you right now (your phone, printer, keyboard, or mouse) have, at the very least, theability to communicate with one another without a physical connection.

Of course, there is one wire we haven’t been able to get rid of: The one that connects your gadgets directly to The Grid. I’m talkin’ plugs and chargers. But even these fixtures of modernity may soon face retirement. For we are now entering the era of wireless charging, which, just for starters, will banish the need to carry around a phone charger. In the very near future, you’ll just lay your device down on a charging surface—no cords required.

While the technologies behind wireless charging have been around since thedays of Telsa, they’ve only recently translated into viable consumer products. According to the research firm Markets and Markets, various new forms of wireless charging are expected to grow exponentially over the next five years.

A little further down the line, researchers have begun experimenting with technologies that can wirelessly charge a device from anywhere, even right in your pocket. No contact required!

Pretty soon, consumers will be annoyed if they are forced to plug a device into another device instead of having it all just happen magically through the air. It’ll be that same sort of annoyance you feel today when an app or website takes an additional two seconds to load. Like you have time for that nonsense!

Cords of all kinds, you are on notice.

4. Set-Top Streamers


Which set-top streaming device is best? Is it Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, or Apple TV? Who cares!? In the big scheme of things, these are all makeshift solutions used to upgrade dumb TVs into smart sets. They will lose their necessity as consumers replace their current TVs with increasingly affordable smart sets.

Unlike rapidly evolving form factors like mobile phones, consumers can go decades without replacing their TVs. This prolonged period between upgrades has opened the market for set-top streamers. But the party won’t last. As people replace their TVs, chances are their new sets will be Web-capable smart TVs—AKA, things that won’t need a separate, dedicated accessory to bring the Internet to the living room.

We can already see this trend taking shape: According to Statista.com, the cost of smart TVs between 2011 and 2017 will go down 50 percent, while the number of smart TV households in the U.S. will go up 500 percent between 2011 and 2016 (and that doesn’t take into account the younger folks who often forgo the TV altogether and get their content through tablets, computers, and phones).

Roku? More like “Ro-WHO?” #Burn.

5. Most Live Human Operators

Live Human Operators

To be a consumer today is to deal with robot customer service reps. While these automated operators don’t make you feel particularly valued by the companies you patronize, perhaps you can take some solace in the fact that their voice-recognition skills have improved tremendously over the past few years.

Today, these automated customer service systems are chiefly used to identify customers and their reason for calling before they are placed in queue to speak with a human operator.

But here’s the worst-kept secret in customer service: the support you speak with on the phone are usually just following a script (which is probably based on a computer-guided algorithm they have on a computer in front of them).

It’s likely that an increasing number of companies will opt for their customers to deal directly with that algorithm—either on the phone or through the Web—rather than spend the money for a mass bank of human operators. Hopefully, these companies will take some of that money they save and invest it in a smaller bank of qualified humans who have the authority and ability to help you when things really hit the fan.

6. Dedicated Remote Controls

Remote controls

For decades, the “clicker” has been a staple of living rooms and Adam Sandler romps alike. As integral as dedicated remote controls have become to our culture, future generations probably won’t inherit our reliance on the mini pusher box.

No, humans won’t suddenly develop a love for walking short distances; however certain technological trends may cause the dedicated remote control to dodo-out.

For example, voice-activated UIs will continue to scrape away at the barrier between you and your machines. Admittedly, voice UIs are not flawless in 2015, but they will improve. You probably already use them on your mobile devicesin situations where you used to type—I certainly do. There’s also gesture controls (once again, they are far from seamless interfaces, but they are rapidly improving).

And keep in mind, as mentioned above, our TVs will become increasingly Web-enabled, i.e. offering on-demand content. That means things like search will become just as important (if not more important) as pushing a button to channel up or channel down. You’ll have more Netflix-type menus full of things to watch on your own time rather than a parade of live streams (i.e. channels) to choose from.

We have already seen the introduction of alternative UIs in a number of living room interfaces such as the Xbox One, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. Of course, these technologies use their voice and gesture controls in conjunction with a separate physical controller. But even those are not necessary if you have the right setup.

There are ways to connect the mobile device you have right now to your TVwithout the need for a dedicated remote control. For example, many phones come standard with IR blasters that can control your TV, but there’s an even more elegant solution: Modern Wi-Fi networks allow users to control other devices that share the same network. Why keep track of a dedicated remote when you can just use your phone, tablet, or whatever other crazy future device happens to be on your person?

7. Delivery People

Mr. McFeely

The post office is in the midst of a decades-long descent into nothingness. You know the story: Bytes replacing dead trees. Of course, the one thing the ol’ post office could always depend on was being tasked with delivering packages—you can’t email those over the webbernets.

Recently, the USPS went as far to squeeze out its last morsels of relevance by teaming up with Amazon to deliver packages on Sunday. But even this last saving grace for the post office may soon be on its way out, as an increasing number of companies (including and especially Amazon) experiment with drone delivery.

Drones are trackable, versatile, and don’t need annoying things like sleep, pay, or union benefits; they are every company’s dream employee. While the logistics and the laws surrounding drone delivery are still being worked out, the demand from businesses for a cheaper methodology of delivering physical goods will hasten their development. (And this transition will affect food delivery people as well—I love ya, but you too are on notice).

I suppose that technologies such as 3D printing could also bite into this. Isuppose. But until I see a consumer printer in the near future that is capable of anything more substantial than spitting out more than one amorphous plastic chess piece per hour, I remain skeptical on that front.

8. Cable Companies

The Cable Guy

I won’t lie. After an ugly battle with my last cable provider left me with no option but to cut my cord, I have GLEEFULLY watched from the sidelines as the cable industrial complex has begun to crumble. And oh yes, it is indeed crumbling!

According to research firm Moffett Nathanson, the number of people cutting the cord accelerated in the first quarter of this year, the first time that happened. Why is this figure important? The first quarter is traditionally a season when pay TV services add new customers to their ranks, but instead cable companies actually lost 86,000 subscribers over this period, and satellite providers lost 74,000! LOL!

What is powering this glorious trend? That’s simple: We are seeing an increasing number of options for sending on-demand Web content to our TVs (see the bit about smart TVs above). That means ISPs can concentrate on providing Internet services and move away from being cable totalitarians.

No, I do NOT want the classic golf channel, thank you very much. So don’t make me pay for it! Bye, Felicia!

9. Ownership

Karl Marx

Will the concept of private ownership be rendered wholly obsolete by 2025? Probably not. But that is, as strange as it might sound, where we’re headed. If you think that’s crazy talk, just take a look at your entertainment choices: we no longer own music or movies, we just curate collections on Netflix, Spotify, and the like—where all the content actually lives.

If you still want to own everything, that’s just because you’re old. The millennials, for their part, have jumped headlong into the “sharing economy.” They are far more interested in buying into subscription services rather than buying actual things. They’re not even interested in buying things like houses or cars. Part of this has to do with the young’ns not having the economic security enjoyed by Americans over the last 70 years or so. But the other part is that technology has facilitated a mass communal lifestyle built around sharing resources.

You can envision how this trend will only expand moving forward. As things like self-driving cars develop, why would you ever own a car and take on all the responsibilities that entails when you could just buy-in to a fleet of self-driving vehicles to get where you needed to go? That certainly seems to be the model that Uber has in mind.

10. Shaming of Old Social Media Posts

Anthony Weiner

Remember when those black-and-white photos of a college-aged Barack Obama lookin’ all cool while smoking a ciggy came out? Can you imagine what kind of photos and videos of might have surfaced had he grown up with the Internet and social media all around him?

It might have sunk his political ambitions! Among all you old people.

In the future, politicians—including presidential candidates—will have to answer for decades of tweets, Instagrams, Tumblrs, Vines, Reddit comments, abandoned Tinder profiles, and whatever else. And what will probably happen is that, unlike today, the voters of the future will just learn to accept that people say and do dumb things in their younger days—because they will all have their own digital records to contend with as well. As long as it didn’t happen last week, they’ll probably be in the clear. PCmag.com

Simeon Nyachae Death is a Hoax

A serious hoax is spreading on Social Media and blogs concerning the death of a former Finance minister and former MP Nyaribari Chache constituency; Simeon Nyachae. AGR’s ‘Diaspora Heart Beat’ anchor  Felix Osoro spoke to a family member in New York who confirmed to us that it is false. The rumour concerning his death is a hoax.

Later the CIC chairperson, a son to Mzee Nyachae had this to say:”Some person or persons created a fake Twitter account @charles_nyachae and earlier this evening twitted that my father had died. This is not true. I spoke to my father about an hour ago and he is very well, for which we thank God. I cannot even begin to imagine what level of hatred would warrant such a move.”


An Oratorial speaker and grandson had this to say:

A hoax is an act that is meant to trick or deceive people.It runs from prominent people to the low in society, its basically a lie. Remember the rumors that Barack and Michelle Obama’s marriage is on the rocks were back in september, and this time they carried an added piece of gossip.

It is of essence that before such publications, we first confirm from the affected parties not just posts to draw stats to our sites with no use of sound judgement.

Orina Ontiri

AGR news

France bombs Islamic State HQ, hunts attacker who got away

France launched “massive” air strikes on the Islamic State group’s de-facto capital in Syria Sunday night, destroying a jihadi training camp and a munitions dump in the city of Raqqa, where Iraqi intelligence officials say the attacks on Paris were planned.

Twelve aircraft including 10 fighter jets dropped a total of 20 bombs in the biggest air strikes since France extended its bombing campaign against the extremist group to Syria in September, a Defense Ministry statement said. The jets launched from sites in Jordan and the Persian Gulf, in coordination with U.S. forces.

On the sidelines of the G20 summit in Turkey on Sunday, France’s Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country was justified in taking action in Syria.

“It was normal to take the initiative and action and France had the legitimacy to do so. We did it already in the past, we have conducted new airstrikes in Raqqa today, Fabius said. “One cannot be attacked harshly, and you know the drama that is happening in Paris, without being present and active.”

Meanwhile, as police announced seven arrests and hunted for more members of the sleeper cell that carried out the Paris attacks that killed 129 people, French officials revealed to The Associated Press that several key suspects had been stopped and released by police after the attack.

The arrest warrant for Salah Abdeslam, a 26-year-old born in Brussels, calls him very dangerous and warns people not to intervene if they see him.

Yet police already had him in their grasp early Saturday, when they stopped a car carrying three men near the Belgian border. By then, hours had passed since authorities identified Abdeslam as the renter of a Volkswagen Polo that carried hostage takers to the Paris theater where so many died.

Three French police officials and a top French security official confirmed that officers let Abdeslam go after checking his ID. They spoke on condition of anonymity, lacking authorization to publicly disclose such details.

Tantalizing clues about the extent of the plot have emerged from Baghdad, where senior Iraqi officials told the AP that France and other countries had been warned on Thursday of an imminent attack.

An Iraqi intelligence dispatch warned that Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered his followers to immediately launch gun and bomb attacks and take hostages inside the countries of the coalition fighting them in Iraq and Syria.

The Iraqi dispatch, which was obtained by the AP, provided no details on when or where the attack would take place, and a senior French security official told the AP that French intelligence gets these kinds of warnings “all the time” and “every day.

However, Iraqi intelligence officials told the AP that they also warned France about specific details: Among them, that the attackers were trained for this operation and sent back to France from Raqqa, the Islamic State’s de-facto capital.

The officials also said that a sleeper cell in France then met with the attackers after their training and helped them to execute the plan. There were 24 people involved in the operation, they said: 19 attackers and five others in charge of logistics and planning.

None of these details have been corroborated by officials of France or other Western intelligence agencies.

All these French and Iraqi security and intelligence officials spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation.

Abdeslam is one of three brothers believed to be involved; One who crossed with him into Belgium was later arrested, and another blew himself up inside the Bataclan theater after taking the audience hostage and firing on them repeatedly. It was the worst of Friday’s synchronized attacks, leaving 89 fatalities and hundreds of people wounded inside.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility. Its statement mocked France’s air attacks on suspected IS targets in Syria and Iraq, and called Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity.”

In all, three teams of attackers including seven suicide bombers attacked the national stadium, the concert hall and nearby nightspots. The attacks wounded 350 people, 99 of them seriously.

Abdeslam rented the black Volkswagen Polo used by the hostage-takers, another French security official said. A Brussels parking ticket found inside led police to at least one of the arrests in Belgium, a French police official said.

Three Kalashnikovs were found inside another car known to have been used in the attacks that was found in Montreuil, an eastern Parisian suburb, another a French police official said.

As many as three of the seven suicide bombers were French citizens, as was at least one of the men arrested in the Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussells, which authorities consider to be a focal point for extremists and fighters going to Syria from Belgium.


French president declares state of emergency after terrorist attacks

French President Francois Hollande says he is closing the country’s borders and declaring a state of emergency after several dozen people were killed in a series of unprecedented terrorist attacks.
Hollande, in a televised address to his nation, said the nation would stand firm and united against the attackers.
He said security forces are assaulting one of the sites hit by Friday’s attacks, without elaborating.
“It’s a horror,” he said.

Mind and Body Stability: The Healthiest States In America (Wellness.com)

The world looks at America as unhealthy, wasteful, and corrupt. Prideful in nature, American culture stands out as arrogant and extremist. While unhealthy ideas such as fast food, and processed microwaveable meals originated from the United States some ground is being gained in the realm of health consciousness and overall awareness.

However, Americans are actually making some headway in becoming more healthy.

The United States has seen a spike in the organic food market which is grown on average, growing 11% a year. This makes organics an almost $40 billion industry. Plant based diets have seen a huge surge in popularity, with 16 million U.S. citizens standing behind vegetarian and vegan diets (who constitute for about 2% of the total population).

Related: Tips for buying organic food.

Although America may not be the ideal example of health consciousness, we can definitely learn a thing or two from the healthiest states.

The Ten Healthiest States in America

According to the infographic titled 10 Healthiest States in America by UIC, the ten healthiest states are:

1. Hawaii
2. Vermont
3. Minnesota
4. Massachusetts
5. New Hampshire
6. Utah
7. Connecticut
8. Colorado
9. North Dakota
10. New Jersey

The metrics that deemed these states as the healthiest are thorough and logical. All of these states have an average life expectancy of about 80 years, with Hawaii’s average expectancy being 81.3 years. The national average for obesity is 27.6%, and all of these states were 3-4% under that mean.

Additional metrics for identifying the healthiest states include percentage of smokers and adults with health care, as well as workplace conditions and the state of both physical and mental health.

While food and dietary choices are a very crucial element of overall wellness, mental health is also vitally important.

Mental Health in America

Mental Health America, put together an extremely in-depth study titled The State of Mental Health in America. It identifies which states are most mentally stable. This study catalogs dozens of metrics to categorize the states. In an overall sense the most mentally healthy states in America are as follows:

1. Massachusetts
2. Vermont
3. Maine
4. North Dakota
5. Delaware
6. Minnesota
7. Maryland
8. New Jersey
9. South Dakota
10. Nebraska

But what exactly do these metrics entail? The main factors in this study included number of people with mental health conditions, suicide rates in both adults and young adults, accessibility to help, and the current conditions of the social worker/mental health professional workforce. About 17.6 million Americans abuse alcohol or are dependent on a substance. Drug and alcohol addiction also play a large role in what makes a state more or less mentally healthy.

Notice the states that are repeated? North Dakota, Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, and New Jersey all take spots in both lists.

Out of these repeats, Vermont takes the second position in both lists, making it arguably the healthiest state in America. In Vermont average life expectancy is 80.5 years, 92% of people have health insurance, and only 16.5% of people smoke.

Did your home state make any of these lists? If not what area of health is lacking where you live? Do you personally fit into this unhealthy demographic?

How To Thank A Veteran On Veterans Day

How To Thank A Veteran On Veterans Day

Veterans Day is an opportunity to publicly thank veterans for their service. There are millions of Americans whose lives are forever changed because they took an oath to protect this great nation. Veterans Day is about the men and women who have selflessly contributed and sacrificed all to protect the freedoms and rights we enjoy today.

What is Veterans Day

Before Veterans Day there was Armistice Day. On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.”  November 11th, 1938 became the day the legal federal holiday was celebrated in the United States. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American Veterans of all wars.

How To Thank A Veteran

This is simple. The proper way to thank a Veteran is by saying, “Thank you for your service” followed by a firm handshake and a beer (the beer is optional but highly recommended). Keep the gesture simple and mean it. If you are a Veteran, your response should be, “Thank you for your support.” Remember, people want to be supportive but don’t know how. Be polite, courteous and thankful that people support and appreciate your service.

Do not ask a Veteran or Service member about traumatic events during times of service. If he or she is comfortable, they will talk about it and let you know what they want you to know. Think of it this way, you would never ask anyone about traumatic events in their life. It is best to thank them, show appreciation, be supportive and acknowledge their service.

How To Help A Veteran

Most Americans will never serve in the military or fight for their country. Yet there are countless ways that everyone can help veterans, who often return home from war to face their most difficult battles. Those severely injured may need to learn how to live with the loss of a limb or limited mobility. For others, brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder can make the return to civilian life a struggle. Here are a couple of ways you can help Veterans.


Veterans are looking for gainful employment opportunities and can help grow your business. It’s not just the specialized skills that veterans learned while working for the military that can make them different. The very nature of being in the military has given them attributes unlike those that people can gain through any other type of employment. The following skillsets are just some of what an employer has to gain by hiring a Veteran:

  • Politeness/Courtesy
  • Communication Skills
  • Professionalism
  • Adaptability
  • Teamwork
  • Willingness To Learn
  • Critical Thinking
  • Work Ethic
  • Problem-Solving
  • Integrity/Commitment
  • Leadership Skills
  • Honesty/Loyalty
  • Interpersonal Communications
  • Working Under Pressure
  • Multicultural Awareness
  • Procedures
  • Accountability

Veterans have some incredible traits at their disposal — something that can make them a valuable asset as a part of any workplace team.

Suicide Awareness Among Veterans

Many organizations have different research methods and figures on the actual number of Veterans committing suicide. The suicide rate among Veterans is at an all time high. There are many suicide awareness groups that can provide resources to help family members and Veterans get the help they need. One source is the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1). There are many others but this is provided by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Here is a list of the top common health concerns among Veterans:

  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleep Problems/Disorders
  • Physical Injuries – (Back, Neck, Shoulder,etc.)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Veteran Homelessness

Steady progress has been made, but there is more work to do to address the many causes of homelessness among Veterans. These include poverty, insufficient access to reasonably priced housing, isolation from family or friends and substance use or mental health challenges that may develop or worsen as a result of service-related trauma. If you know a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, refer him or her to a local VA Medical Center, where VA staff are ready to help. Veterans and their families can also call 1-877-4AID-VET to be connected to VA services.


Countless individuals, organizations, and groups support our Veterans and Active Duty Servicemembers. They do a great job, often filling in where other resources left off. You can count on strong support from Americans who volunteer to give back, provide assistance, or otherwise pay tribute to the Veterans. Many do this without fanfare or press releases.

Wherever there’s a Veteran in need, somebody steps up to help in some form or fashion. Paying tribute to our Veterans can take the form of individual expression or large groups showing support. Do some research and carefully choose the organization that best describes how your donation will make a difference. No matter which route you choose, just know that anything you do is much appreciated even by the Veteran who may never know your name.

Let us remember and honor the fallen by making each day count. So, raise your glass and make a toast to the true heroes of the past, present, and future generations of Veterans to come.


Missouri governor expresses racism concerns as black college players strike

Black players from the Missouri Tigers football team say they will not participate in team activities until the university president, Tim Wolfe, resigns. On Sunday,Missouri governor Jay Nixon said the university must act to address concerns over “racism and intolerance”.

A member of Concerned Student 1950 films a protest in Mark Twain Dining Hall on University of Missouri campus. Photograph: Sarah Bell/AP

There have been several incidents of racial harassment in recent weeks on the college campus and Wolfe has come under criticism for his handling of the situation. In one recent incident, excrement in the shape of a swastika was smeared on a dormitory wall while other students have complained that racist slurs are common at the university. Jonathan Butler, a black graduate student at the college, is currently on hunger strike over the issue.

On Saturday night, the Legion of Black Collegians posted a message on Twitter calling for Wolfe to resign.

“The athletes of color on the University of Missouri football team truly believe ‘injustice Anywhere is a threat to Justice Everywhere,’” the tweet said. “We will no longer participate in any football related activities until President Tim Wolfe resigns or is removed due to his negligence toward marginalized students’ experiences. WE ARE UNITED!!!!!”

Athletes from the team, including star running back Russell Hanbrough, featured in a photo accompanying the tweet.

Governor Nixon on Sunday said that the university must be “a place where all students can pursue their dreams in an environment of respect, tolerance and inclusion.”

The Missouri athletics department issued a statement on Saturday that supported the athletes’ right to protest. “The department of athletics is aware of the declarations made tonight by many of our student-athletes,” it said. “We all must come together with leaders from across our campus to tackle these challenging issues and we support our student-athletes right to do so.”

Tigers cornerback John Gibson III said the protest was backed by the team’s coaching staff. “Has nothing to do with our coaches. Our coaches are 100% behind us. Including the white ones,” he tweeted.

Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel showed his support for his players on Sunday in a tweet in which he said “we are behind our players”.

Wolfe released a statement on Saturday night, addressing Butler’s hunger strike but did not mention the players’ protest. “Today I again had the opportunity to meet with MU graduate student Jonathan Butler who continues a hunger strike protesting the inequalities, inequities, and obstacles faced by students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri,” said Wolfe’s statement.

“I am very concerned about Jonathan’s health. His voice for social justice is important and powerful. He is being heard and I am listening. I am thankful for the leadership provided by him and the other student leaders in raising awareness of racism, injustice, and intolerance. This afternoon I also met with representatives of several student groups and I value their input and hear their voices.”

Mizzou last played on Thursday night, losing 31-13 to Mississippi State.


Seventh-day Adventists put faith over science and reason. I know this first-hand Ryan Bell

With Ben Carson’s surge in the Republican race for the White House, the world is suddenly fascinated by Seventh-day Adventists.

‘I do not think it is in our country or the world’s best interest for Ben Carson to be US president.’ Photograph: Bloomberg via Getty Images

A small, American-born sect of Christianity that arose in New England in the early 1800s, my former church teaches that the United States will play a key role in the earth’s final events, with its government destined to conspire with the Catholic church and other apostates to bring about the demise of the planet and the return of Jesus to set up God’s eternal kingdom here.

I am deeply concerned that allowing these religious views to lead the nation would amplify rather than ameliorate the crisis faced by our socially and economically unjust country and our ecologically fragile world.

By Carson’s own admission, he believes in much of the church’s dogma – theGenesis account of creation, for example, rather than the scientific account of human evolution. He has said that Darwin developed the theory of evolution under the influence of Satan. He doesn’t believe the scientific consensus on climate change and he apparently thinks the Egyptian pyramids were built to store grain as part of the biblical story of Joseph saving Egypt from a 14-year famine. And like much of his party, Carson apparently sees this rejection of the scientific consensus as central to his platform.

All of this is troubling. Of course, Ben Carson’s religion is his own private business. We should not require a test of faith or non-faith for elected officials. He can believe whatever he wants – in private.

Because of their minority position as observers of the Jewish Sabbath, the Adventist church has, from its beginnings, staunchly defended the wall of separation between religion and state. Though this wall has at times shown cracks, such as in 2008 when the church’s west coast religious liberty organization endorsed Proposition 8, the principle of religious freedom is central to Carson’s religious tradition. The church also has a history of pacifism and conscientious objection to war.

But as with any religious group, the Adventist church has changed drastically in the past 150 years. Its theology has grown with the times and changed to meet new challenges. There is also no monolithic Seventh-day Adventism. There are strong fundamentalists who think that no one beside Adventists are safe from the judgment. There are moderates who appear as evangelicals, concerned more for conservative values, church growth and institutional survival than hewing to 19th-century social codes and fringe end-of-the-world predictions. There is also a small group of progressives, many of whom believe in a scientific account of human evolution, inclusion of LGBT individuals in the church and inter-religious dialogue.

But nothing is more important in order to fulfill their calling as God’s remnant (read: chosen) people than warning the world of impending judgment and the soon return of Jesus. Would Carson be guided by his church’s historic support for freedom of and from religion, or would he follow the evangelistic side of the church and see his role as fulfillment of Bible prophecy? I have little doubt that the apocalyptic vision he inherited from his indoctrination as an Adventist and his view that the Bible is a higher source of truth than science and human reason are deeply ingrained in him and will not change.

Though his rise from childhood poverty and urban violence to his place in medical history is the stuff of legend – through a combination of hard work, a loving mother who refused to give up and, according to Carson, God’s providence, he overcame his past – I do not think it is in our country or the world’s best interest for Ben Carson to be president. It is difficult to separate Carson’s religion from his politics because the two are so intertwined, as they are with all fundamentalists.

And this is precisely the problem. His metaphysical views prevent him from dealing seriously with the world at it is – the only world we elect a president to serve.



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