Guest Blog: Ideas That Make People Kill

Today's Guest Blogger is Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman, historian, lecturer, and author of God's Law or Man's Law. 

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, Europeans engaged in mutual slaughter over religion: the Catholic-Protestant wars. Religion was not the only issue; the birth of nation-states added poisonous nationalism to the fray. The scientific and industrial revolutions added another element. Catholic states were fighting a rear-guard action in defense of the feudal world. The Protestant states, over time, advanced all the ideological changes that we value: participatory governance, religious tolerance, emancipation of women, and an economy that produced middle class majorities.

Fighting over borders is straightforward; fighting over ideologies is not. When people are “true believers” in anything, even death is no longer an impediment. Otherwise rational human beings can become mindless fanatics seeking the death of all who do not share their belief and willingness to die for the cause. Suicide bombers illustrate this process.

Islam is a religion with no central authority (such as a Pope). Over the centuries, many different schools (interpretations) of Muslim jurisprudence sprang up as the religion spread across the globe. But early in the 20th century, a new form of Islam emerged, an ideology influenced by Fascism, and based on reviving the 7th century Islam of the Prophet Mohammad and his companions. These fanatics believe that they must revive early Islam's mission to convert non-Muslims by force, persuasion, or terror when necessary, defending every horrifying attack by citing Islamic history and religious texts.

The new wrinkle is that they use modern weaponry, modern medicine for their leaders, and modern means of communications and propaganda. Saudi Arabia's bonanza of oil money has taken this campaign global, supporting it with money, mosque building and staffing, and brainwashing schools throughout the Muslim world. They unconvincingly profess alliance with us in our “war against terror.”

Ordinary people following Islam are in the middle of this war. A growing number of Muslims living in the west are “cultural” Muslims, like most Jews and Christians in the modern world.  They revere the best in their religions and do not literally practice the worst. Some do not follow religion at all. But others living around the world are foot-soldiers carrying out terror attacks against ordinary Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and modern states. This is not precisely a religious war, but it is a war based on one interpretation of that religion. The terrorists are true believers. The cynical leaders of ISIS, al Qaeda, al Shabab, Boko Haram, Hamas, and others, recruit and brainwash young men and women who find out too late that they have been used. Defection from these cults, like defection from early Islam, is punished by death. Decapitation has returned from the dark ages, along with slave markets.

But there is light at the end of this tunnel. It has been too little noted that the forces of Muslim modernity are finally fighting back. The long awaited Islamic reform movement has begun in the US. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser has founded the Muslim Reform Movement, representing 14 other Muslim reform groups. Their declaration of principles includes human rights, secular governance, and rule of western law. This modern declaration conflicts with the Cairo “Islamic Declaration of Human Rights,” which defines human rights as anything that Sharia law mandates: child marriage, stoning for sexual offenses, amputation of limbs for theft, lashing for criticism of the state, and death for “insulting Islam.” Cairo Human Rights are an “alternate system” that the UN has not challenged.

This “alternate system” is creating martyrs of women, journalists, bloggers, homosexuals, judges, and artists. The punishment for “insulting Islam” is death.

A Pakistani court acquitting a Muslim mob of 155 that torched homes in a Christian neighborhood in Lahore because a Christian man had supposedly “insulted” the Prophet. This fits Cairo's “Human Rights” standards.

The Islamists have overreached. Their attacks on the US, India, Britain, Spain, France, Belgium, Australia, Indonesia, and Germany should remind us what Israel has always known. This is not just an Israeli/Palestinian conflict over turf.  It is a global conflict over whether Western values or those of murderous nihilists will prevail. We defeated the Nazis and Communists. We will win this one too.

Is Etiquette Back Again? Part Two

The ever-changing dynamics of business requires occasional updates on what is preferred and acceptable business behavior.  Instantaneous connections on mobile phones has created a world where everyone expects instant answers from you after office hours – something that wasn’t even possible just a decade ago.  Clients feel entitled to having your personal cell phone numbers so they can call or text you at any hour of the night, and when you don’t respond, they get angry.  Wow, when did we allow our business to creep into our personal lives?

This is Part 2 of my blog: Is Etiquette Back Again? In order to maintain respect from co-workers, your boss and/or your employees, and your clients/customers, here are 15 tips:

  1. Always respond to callers (phone/written) within 24 hours. Even if you’re not interested in their proposal, a simple “Thank you but I am not interested” is best.  Unless it’s spam (unwanted emails from people you don’t know), you want to dissuade your caller without insulting them.  Besides, there are some crazy people out there and you don’t want them to retaliate. An email or text is okay even when they left a voice message for you.
  2. Always inform the team or boss if you will not be able to meet a deadline in time for them to make different plans.  In other words, don’t tell them you didn’t do something when it’s due.  Instead, write a simple apology and give a realistic deadline that you know you can meet.
  3. Always pick up the tab for business meals/drinks when you do the inviting. If you anticipate a struggle, pay in advance by giving your credit card to the waiter before your guest arrives.
  4. Always be thankful when someone picks up the tab (even when it’s expected).  Follow up with a quick thank you email or text the following day.
  5. Never order the most expensive entrée on the menu when your friends or colleagues are ordering moderately-priced items – especially if you’ve agreed to split the bill.  Likewise, order wine and drinks in the same price range as the meal. If they’re ordering appetizers, sides, and desserts, follow suit, otherwise you might feel cheated when it comes time to split the bill in half.
  6. Never order messy finger foods like ribs and corn on the cob when dining with colleagues or business associates. Besides having food lodged between your teeth, your face will need washing and you’ll be quite the sight!  Stay away from carbonated drinks if you can’t control your burping.  There’s nothing more unappetizing than talking to someone who is trying to contain a burp!
  7. Always use good table etiquette: salad fork on the outside, dinner fork on the inside. Spoon soup away from your body, and don’t slurp! Don’t hold your bread in your other hand and dip in the soup. Cut meat with your dominant hand and switch your fork to eat it.  Yes, this is controversial but when in doubt, go with American tradition.
  8. Always maintain control of yourself while drinking with business associates.  Even though they may be socially drinking, if you can’t keep up with them, don’t embarrass yourself.  Drink plenty of water or ginger ale. Remember, they’re taking mental notes that will definitely effect their business decisions about you later. Think: This is a job interview.
  9. Always dress for success. We all know that beauty sells (whether we like it or not) so put together outfits that make you stand out professionally. Make sure that your clothes are clean, pressed, and fresh. Brush and floss your teeth.  There’s no bigger turn off than a person with body odor or bad breath!
  10. Never date co-workers -- period. When the relationship ends, you’ll be miserable at work and the entire workforce will be watching both of you.  The way you handle the breakup will be public and your performance reviews will reflect both of your maturity and professionalism.  Besides, it’s nice to have separate work and personal worlds. They’ll give you time to recharge and appreciate one another.
  11. Always smile and be charming. If you smile before you pick up the phone or write that letter, you’ll be received better. Use your charm to improve your workplace and you’ll be remembered for it.
  12. Never use profanity in the workplace or in public. A potty mouth makes you look crass and unrefined. Use the dictionary to find words to better describe your circumstances and you’ll send a much clearer message and receive respect from colleagues.  Save cussing for private conversations to let off steam.
  13. Always be clear about your intent for gift giving during the holidays and birthdays. By announcing several months in advance that you would like to or would not like to exchange gifts, you won’t hurt any feelings and you’ll avoid those awkward moments when you’re handed a gift that you aren’t prepared to reciprocate.  Besides, exchanging gifts between lots of people can rack up charges on credit cards that’ll be difficult to pay down.  So let everyone know our gift-giving plans ahead of time.
  14. Always “pay it forward” because you could always use good karma! Let people go before you in line, and it will make their day.  It can turn sour people into grateful people. Besides, what if that person you wouldn’t allow to cut before you was your future client or boss?  What if that person was having a heart attack and needed to get the hospital? If you could spare 5 seconds, let others go first.
  15. Always say “thank you,” “no thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”  Like paying it forward, it makes people glad they did something for you because they feel appreciated.  These are little things that can turn around bad days.  You can send this message in an email, text or call – better yet, say them face to face!

By using smart etiquette, you’ll put out a professional air that speaks volumes about you. If you need a little help getting started, read books on etiquette or take a class.  It’s like a make-over from the inside out!

Is Etiquette Back Again? It is for Savvy Business Women!

Stuffy old English etiquette got the swift boot during the Women’s Liberation Movement of the 1960s.  Boomers were burning their bras and going all natural.  This movement led to women entering the work force and enrolling in college --- which opened doors for women to become independent and successful managers and entrepreneurs.  Somewhere between burning bras and donning tailored suits, however, etiquette got lost.  And writing formal letters on stationery became a thing of the past thanks to the speed and ease of sending emails, texts, messages and tweets.  As a result, respect and boundary lines have become blurred, creating awkward business interactions.

When your entire social life is displayed on Facebook or Instagram, your boss and your employees become privy to your private, personal life.  So when they tease you about your yoga pants or congratulate you for participating in a marathon, it sets a casual spin on your relationship and authority with business associates. When is it okay to inquire about what you see on social media with your boss or supervisor? Can you add emojis to internal business texts and still get respect from your colleagues?

According to Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette School, "The most important thing about etiquette, especially in business, is showing respect.”  She offers etiquette classes at The Plaza Hotel in New York City that sells out fast. Why? Millennials feel inadequate because of their American casual culture and they know that turning on the charm, showing respect, and impressing their clients will give them the skills to close that deal. Yup! The way you hold and present yourself does have a profound effect on your business relations.

If you don’t want to pay New York rates for business etiquette classes, I’m blogging about business etiquette tomorrow! Check in to learn about 15 tips that every professional needs to know about etiquette.


5 Things to Do While Waiting to Hear from Colleges

Now that most college application deadlines have passed, you’re probably wondering what you’ll be doing with all of your free time.  

After all, you’ve spent every free moment writing essays, completing applications, requesting letters of recommendation, and putting together portfolios or videos (art, film, and dance students) for the past 4 months!

And to think you did all of the above while taking a full load of classes your senior year.  Wow! Pat yourself on the back!

Before senioritis sets in, here are 5 things you can, and should, do to make sure your applications receive the best reviews:

  1. Check your emails.  I know you’re receiving a ridiculous number of emails each day but pay attention to the ones from the colleges you’ve applied to.  If they’re missing something that you know you’ve submitted, it is YOUR responsibility to resend it.  So do check to see what they’re asking for.
  2. Create portals.  If your colleges allow you to set up portals, do it!  You’ll be able to see where you are in the application review process and be up to date on anything they’re missing.  You’ll also see when they’re planning Admit Days where you get to meet other students who have been admitted for Fall 2016.
  3. Email them with updates.  If you did a project, this is a great opportunity for you to give them an update.  Tell them the good news that’s taken place since you submitted your application.  You could even create an event to create more news! J
  4. Organize a college tour of the colleges you’ve been accepted to.  Schedule this during spring break or on weekends before May 1st. Try to set up an overnight at your top colleges so you can really get a feel for the college life.
  5. Apply for outside scholarships.  While you’re on a roll with all of your essays, you probably can reuse some of the essays if the prompts are similar.  Check with your high school counselor to see what scholarships they think might work for you.  Ask your parents if their employers have scholarships available.

When you’re done with these 5 tips, then it’s time to enjoy the rest of your senior year.  You’ll have until May 1st to decide where you’re going to college next year.  But, don’t forget: keep your grades up or you might lose your college admissions offers! 

So you can relax… to a certain extent!

How to Win Back Our Democracy With Words

The words we use determine what people hear.  Using the power of the word – linguistics – we can win back our democracy. By tweeting lies and repeating them over and over again, Trump reaches and influences millions of people who are too busy and stressed to vet out the truth. So to beat him at his own game using his skillful techniques, we shouldn’t attack and repeat what he says (because that just reinforces it in everyone’s minds), instead, we should state what the public needs and frame our message in terms of the public good.

I’m reading George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant to learn how to use linguistics to frame your message.  Lakoff sent his piece called “Understanding Trump” to the entire Clinton campaign management team and PAC (Political Action Committee) to help them understand Trump’s skillful brainwashing techniques last year - but nobody was listening. So now, I think the world is listening. 

Lakoff suggests that we do 2 things:

(1) Create a citizen’s communication network that lays out our values, and

(2) Train leaders and media how to frame their messages from a positive point of view.

What’s good for the public actually goes against everything that Trump is doing, so this will be easy to do. Read Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant to better equip yourself whether you’re posting on social media or running for President of the United States.


Teen Has a Plan to Prevent Overpopulation

Today's Guest Blogger is Pascal Costa, a high school student who is trying to change the world for the better. 

When I was 16, I decided to solve the biggest problem our world faces. Today our world contains so many people that we live alongside our own waste, as people wither away malnourished in underdeveloped countries, intelligent animals are abused to feed every mouth, and our climate deteriorates. Overpopulation is the most urgent problem we face; it aggravates every other issue people are trying to solve today, and ironically, it is one which receives little attention.

To alleviate the stress on our environment and solve overpopulation, I founded my nonprofit organization, Preventing Overpopulation (P.O.P.). P.O.P. will educate the public about overpopulation and encourage them to pledge to have two children or less, link up with existing networks providing sexual education, and through this supply an education on overpopulation. We need a voluntary two-child policy and better sex education; P.O.P. will implement just that.
Through researching climate change, pollution, factory farming, third world social conflicts, and GMOs, I realized all these problems share one cause: overpopulation. There are 7.5 billion people in the world who could stop our rapid growth if they understood what overpopulation caused, the financial burden of big families, and the environmental benefits of small families. My initial goal was to educate the public by creating a website that provided the information I had found, so that they would want to participate in a two-child policy. I animated a whiteboard video, with characters and cartoons about both climate change and the financial implications of big families, to better explain P.O.P. But, despite my best efforts, there was no initial support. No matter how I tried to explain what I was doing, people did not understand that P.O.P. aims to educate the family planning process, not dictate it. 
Social media became my soapbox as I continued to spread news about P.O.P., its progress, and how it could completely change our future. I reached out to organizations with similar missions and took P.O.P. to a global scale, calling Population Council, Expert in Family Planning, and Planned Parenthood. Much to my surprise, I was shut out. Both the head of public affairs and the events coordinator for the Planned Parenthood Bay Area refused to associate with P.O.P.; they did not want women’s free choice to be constricted by my organization.
Initially, I lost confidence, feeling I was overstepping. But, I realized that there was lack of understanding of urgency and of my own mission. If we continue to grow at our current rate, we have 35 years until we reach 10 billion people, a quantity our planet cannot sustain. But, we can cut our numbers by 1.5 billion in one decade, if everyone had two children and the death rate remained constant. Women and men all over the world need to understand not only this but also how three or four kids will financially affect them, how they will affect our planet, and therefore our future. 
We need people to know that each one of them has the potential to solve or slow the problems we all face. Despite Planned Parenthood’s initial reaction, I called president Cecile Richards to pitch my idea of blending P.O.P.’s information on overpopulation and family planning with Planned Parenthood’s current sex education curriculum. No will not be an answer, and I will persistently search for my open window.
Today P.O.P. has 33 pledges, and I have been invited to speak at a TEDx event as well as on KSCO radio in the spring. With your help, we can change our future, by saving our world for generations to come. P.O.P has made some progress, but it is still a young organization, in need of more support. You can do just that by joining the P.O.P. movement. Go to and pledge, even if you already have kids, you can still help. We may be individuals of singular value, but we are capable of exponential effects. I will start a voluntary implementation of a two-child policy and will continue to discuss a more complete sex education curriculum with Planned Parenthood.
Overpopulation is a problem that still needs to be solved. Progress has been made but there’s still a ways to go; I look forward to the journey ahead.

3 Tips to Make To-Do Lists your Did-It Lists!

If you’re like most people, your To-Do lists can be daunting – and can actually have a negative effect on you.  You might completely ignore the list and binge watch Scandal with a big bowl of buttered parmesan cheese instead.  Or you’ll do anything else first, including cleaning out your closet, unless that was on your

Ignore Naysayers and Keep Your Eyes on the Goal

In order for us to stop a fascist administration from bullying the nation with their profit-driven agenda, we must support the many groups who share our ethics and goals. When like-minded people or groups sabotage one another, they waste time and resources they need to save to plan and implement their mutual “big picture” agenda. The Republicans and corporations are masters at staying the course and creating plans to railroad their opposition.

Last weekend, I watched this happen once again.  A small group of people met to discuss plans to build a new energy infrastructure with the goal to set up timelines, committees, and outreach to launch their plans.  Instead, a few naysayers verbally attacked the group leaving everyone feeling hopeless.  Not one person joined any committees or volunteered to find solutions to our CO2 problem. The really infuriating part is that the naysayers didn’t even offer any solutions.  Whine, whine, whine. Let’s be honest here. It’s easy to question or put down ideas.  The real difficulty is in researching solutions and starting movements to create real change.

Lesson learned: Avoid negative people – they just bring you and other people down, and their sour energy spreads like a cancer. 

If we are to meet the guidelines set up by the Paris Talks in 2015, we have until 2025 to reduce our CO2 or we’ll face massive devastation due to the heating up of the planet by 1 or 2 degrees. Hello! It’s 2017 and we don’t have any solutions in place or even plans to reduce our CO2.  So, support those who do have ideas and help them turn these many ideas into viable solutions. 

Solution to Child Care Problems

Still stressing out about child care for your infant, toddlers, or school-aged kids? I was in your shoes (many moons ago) and I, too, fretted about how to give my girls an enriching experience while I worked during the day. I’ve written several blogs about how to beat the child care game and give your child the best care while you work.

When my eldest daughter was 18 months old, I set up a preschool program right in my home for my daughter and another girl the same age. After my youngest daughter was born 4 years later, I set up 2 programs (one for each of them) where they had a few playmates and a wonderful teacher who entertained them all day.  

The best part for them: my girls spent their days doing exciting art projects, science experiments, and games galore – and they learned to read before they turned 3! They loved their program and they didn’t have the stress of having to pack up and head out early in the morning.  Instead, they got to eat breakfast in their PJs, enjoy their preschool programs with friends for 4 hours, and take naps in their very own beds.  

The best part for me: I got to choose the materials and teachers, set up the rules, and it was free! The other children’s tuition paid all of the expenses so I saved thousands of dollars each month!  And, the teacher also cleaned the house, did my laundry, and made dinner every night!  Yes, this really did happen and I did this for 9 years.

I know it sounds too good to be true, and that is why I wrote the book The Working Mother’s Guide to Free Child Care in Your Home! Stop stressing about how you’re going to afford quality child care and set up your own program.  It’s easy to do and your kids will love you for it.

Bees Are Gone Again

The first time our 2 beehives absconded, we were devastated.  We felt like our ungrateful adolescent bees took their honey and left home in search for a better home.  After cleaning and rebuilding the hives, we installed 3 hives of 5,000 each.  We even hired a bee mentor to coach us on how to support the bees and check for mites.  Rob and John carefully used folic acid to kill the mites without harming the bees.  Things were going so well until 2 weeks ago.

We found one of the beehives abandoned and robbed of all of its honey.  Not sure why they left home – AGAIN -- or why all of the honey was taken. The other bee colony stayed put but their numbers dwindled.  They couldn’t stay warm without the rest of the colony so they died in small clusters around little pockets of food.

Sadly, we haven’t been able to add our cool Flow-Hive (with the spout).  I’ve been looking forward to having the bees use the flow hives.  Who wouldn’t want to simply turn the faucet to let the honey pour out?  The flow hive even has little windows so you can see the bees busy at work inside! 

We’re meeting with our bee partners this weekend to figure out what happened to our bees and find a new solution.  At our meeting, we will all enjoy tasting the fruits of our labor – HONEY!  Apparently, the bees left a little honey behind.  Considering all of the time and money we’ve put into raising bees for 2 years, this will be the most expensive honey we’ve ever tasted!