The Story of Us with Morgan Freeman

Powerful documentary that is well worth watching. There are sections where they talk about the USA Declaration of Independence, and Romania’s orphanages. Here is an Maclean’s article titled “Inside your teenager’s scary brain” where “new research shows incredible cognitive potential – and vulnerability – during adolescence.” I feel we have to get away from the old Colonial systems of doing things because they discriminate and take rights away from groups of people.




Inside your teenager’s scary brain

I like to guide and help my children through their lives so they have to opportunity for “safe failures” and develop leadership skills and maturity along the way.  In fact I don’t think our brains stop developing; I think there is the possibility for our brains to develop after individuals have strokes. Click here or on the pdf file to read the full article or an excerpt below.


… research in the past 10-15 years has shown that our brains continue to develop in fundamental ways through the teen years and even into the late 20s and 30s. In fact, Jensen argues in her new book, The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, the teenage years comprise one of the brain’s most critical periods for development—likely every bit as crucial as early childhood. “That seven years in their life is, in a way, as important as their first seven years of life,” Jensen says. “It is probably one of the most important seven-year [periods] in their entire life.”

Science is only beginning to understand just how crucial the teen years are to the person we ultimately become. “This is an incredible reveal of how much capacity we have that we never really realized we had at this age,” Jensen says. “But also that it has a price.”

At the heart of our understanding of brain development are two basic concepts: grey matter and white matter. Grey matter consists of neurons, the brain cells that form the building blocks of the brain. White matter, axons, are the connections that form between grey matter, helping to move information from one area of the brain to the next.

While grey-matter growth is indeed almost completely finished by the age of six, white matter—the wiring between brain cells—continues to develop well into the 20s. In fact, says Jensen, that wiring is only about 80 per cent complete by the age of 18.

The last area of the brain to be hooked up with white matter is the prefrontal cortex, which controls insight, judgment, self-awareness and empathy—the brain’s so-called “executive” functions.

Along with new wiring, the brains of teens and young adults are also undergoing a process called myelination, in which those white-matter connections are being coated in a protective fatty material. Myelin acts as a form of insulation, allowing signals to move faster between brain cells, helping to speed the flow of information in the brain. Since both the wiring to the prefrontal cortex, and the insulation, is incomplete, teens often take longer to access their prefrontal cortexes, meaning they have a harder time making accurate judgments and controlling their impulses. The process of myelination continues into the 30s, giving rise to questions about how old someone must be to be considered to have a fully developed “adult” brain.

At the same time that teens’ brains are laying down connections and insulation, puberty has triggered pituitary glands to release hormones that are acting on the limbic system, the brain’s emotional centre. The combination of heightened emotions and an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex explains why teens are often prone to emotional outbursts, says Jensen, and also why they seek out more emotionally charged situations, from sad movies to dangerous driving.

Hormones also appear to have a different effect in teens than they do in adults. The hormone THP, which is released by the body in response to stress, has a calming effect in adults, but actually seems to have the opposite effect in teens, increasing stress. It’s one reason why teens are prone to anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s also a good reason, Jensen says, why parents and schools should be sensitive to the problem of bullying.

Along with new wiring, insulation and hormones, teen brains are highly sensitive to the release of dopamine, which plays on the areas of the brain that govern pleasure and helps explain why teens seem to take so many risks.

It’s not that they don’t know any better. In fact, reasoning abilities are largely developed by the age of 15 and studies have shown that teens are as accurate as adults when it comes to understanding if an activity is dangerous. Their brains are just more motivated by the rewards of taking a risk than deterred by its dangers. So even if they know something might be bad—speeding, drinking too much, trying new drugs—they get more pleasure from taking the risks anyway.

Central to our understanding of how teens learn is “pruning”—a period when the brain begins to shed some of the grey-matter cells built up in childhood to make room for the growth of white matter. A long period of grey-matter growth in childhood, followed by vigorous pruning in adolescence, has been linked to higher intelligence, Jensen says.

It’s for this reason that Jay Giedd, an expert in child and adolescent brain imaging at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health, describes the teen years as a special period of “use it or lose it” for the brain. Brain cells grown in childhood that continue to get used in adolescence form new connections, while those that go unused wither away. It’s also another reason why parents should be anxious about what happens during the teen years—adolescence now appears to be a period that can make or break a child’s intelligence.

A significant consequence of pruning is that IQ, once thought to be fixed for life after childhood, can in fact change dramatically during the teen years.

British researchers at University College London tested the IQs of 33 teens aged 12 to 16 and then retested them four years later. They found some teens’ IQs rose as much as 18 points, the difference between being average and being gifted. They attributed the changes to increases in grey matter in two areas of the brain that govern speech and language, as well as hand movements. In a follow-up study, the same researchers found that changes to verbal IQ were strongly linked to reading abilities in early adolescence, suggesting that changes weren’t simply genetic. They recommended that children with dyslexia be given audiobooks so their verbal IQs don’t deteriorate as they age.

A study published last year of Swedish teenagers linked a drop in IQ between ages 13 and 18 with a higher risk of developing a psychotic disorder, such as schizophrenia, as an adult.

Schizophrenia appeared to be closely related to a drop in verbal IQ, suggesting it may be related to problems in the brain’s development during adolescence. Researchers concluded it was likely caused by genetic factors that affect adolescent brain development, rather than social or environmental causes. (One common theory suggests that schizophrenia is linked to “overpruning” in the teenage brain.)

Just as teens’ brain development appears to make them highly sensitive to learning new skills, science is beginning to reveal just how vulnerable teens are to learning the wrong things.

Learning is a process of repeatedly exposing the brain to something that stimulates the production of dopamine, which strengthens connections in the brain’s reward centre and helps form new memories. Addiction, therefore, is simply a form of “overlearning” by the brain, Jensen says. That process can be controlled by the prefrontal cortex, but since teens are so primed for learning and have less of an ability to access the prefrontal cortex, they’re also more susceptible to addictions.

What’s more, substance abuse can interfere with brain development in ways that can make teens more vulnerable to mental illness or even lower their IQ. Researchers have shown that students with higher levels of cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, in their bodies perform worse on cognitive tests. Smoking also seems to be related to less-active prefrontal cortexes in teens and appears to damage parts of the brain that produce serotonin, and lower levels of seratonin are linked to depression.

Other studies have linked smoking in teens to alcohol abuse, which itself has a devastating effect on both memory and intelligence. And it turns out smoking pot may be far worse for the teen brain than previously thought. Recent studies have linked regular marijuana use in adolescence to smaller brain volume and more damage to white matter. Smoking daily before the age of 17 has been shown to reduce verbal IQ and increase the risk of depression. This can be a particular problem for teens with ADHD, who researchers have found are far more likely to abuse both cigarettes and marijuana than other teenagers.

For teens who get a thrill from binge drinking and getting high, the consequences may be dire—and possibly, permanent.

Alcohol, for instance, can affect the developing teen brain in myriad negative ways: causing potentially permanent damage to the hippocampus, which helps the brain form long-term memories, a critical aspect of learning. American researchers have also found that teens who started drinking before the age of 15 were four times more likely to become alcoholics later in life than those who held off until age 21.

It’s not just drugs and alcohol that can cause long-lasting damage to the teen brain. Chronic stress is also proving to permanently alter brain development, increasing the size of the amygdala, which governs emotions, and reducing the size of the hippocampus. The end result may be a brain that is hard-wired for anxiety, depression and learning disabilities.

As well, studies of video game addicts have shown their brains develop differently: excessive gaming appears to enlarge areas responsible for memory and visual-spacial skills, but shrink areas of the brain responsible for speech, memory, emotions, and areas responsible for inhibiting impulsive behaviour.

Jensen argues that it’s a parent’s job to protect their teens from their own often short-sighted behaviour, while allowing them enough room for “safe failures.”

“Your kid doesn’t see the fact that if they fail all of their classes in 11th grade they won’t be going to the kind of colleges they want to go to, or go to college at all,” she says. “That’s why you’re a parent. That’s why they’re not off living by themselves. There is a point at which I think you have a moral responsibility to intervene.”

Epstein has six children, including two teens and two adult children. He began changing his views on teen behaviour when he caught his second-oldest son, Justin, then 14, stealing his truck. Esptein hauled him down to the police station to scare him straight. “But inside my head I realized: Wait a minute, he’s never gotten into an accident, he’s never got a ticket, obviously he knows how to drive,” he says. “Why isn’t he allowed to drive?” He now parents his middle children differently than he did his eldest, leaving most of the decisions, from whether they’re allowed to have dessert, to what courses they should take in school, entirely up to them. “I tell them ‘you decide,’ ” he says, two words he says have completely transformed his relationship with his teenagers. His 16-year-old son now comes home from school and immediately starts doing chores without being asked.

Jensen agrees that the age limits society has placed on adolescents—such as why teens can drive as early as 15, join the military as young as 17, but not vote until 18 and in some provinces not drink until 19–have little to do with brain development science.

Although she prefers to avoid getting into politics, she thinks the trend toward more rules for teen drivers, such as curfews, or bans on cellphone use by teen drivers, but not adults, are heading in the right direction. “We have to understand what they’re developmentally capable of, and gradually introduce things in steps,” she says.

It worked for Jensen. For all of her worries about her own two sons, they survived. Andrew, her eldest, is doing a combined M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania—his hair is a lovely natural shade of brown, with not a streak of red in sight. And Will is a business consultant with a degree from Harvard. After his car accident, Jensen bought him a “much bigger, safer, uglier car.” He hasn’t had so much as a fender-bender since. Her children, Jensen says, have started “to occupy the world that we find familiar.”

But her happy ending may not belong to us all. “You look at the high school dropout rates and the people that fall off the curve not because of academic reasons, but because of peer pressure or drugs,” Jensen says. “It’s so sad because this is a time where you can actually make up for your innate weaknesses. We could get so much more out of our teenagers—and who they become later in life, in many cases—if we took a different approach to this window of time.”



Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence

Interesting. Inherent means “Vested in (someone) as a right or privilege.” So everyone would be born with the same rights. Somehow inherent was removed from the final Declaration of Independence and those without inherent rights have been fighting the old colonial system ever since. Click here to read the original draft.


A Declaration of the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, & to assume among the powers of the earth the equal & independant station to which the laws of nature & of nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the change.

We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independant, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government shall become destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, & to institute new government, laying it’s foundation on such principles & organising it’s powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & happiness. prudence indeed will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light & transient causes: and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. but when a long train of abuses & usurpations, begun at a distinguished period, & pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to subject them to arbitrary power, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government & to provide new guards for their future security. such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; & such is now the necessity which constrains them to expunge their former systems of government. the history of his present majesty, is a history of unremitting injuries and usurpations, among which no one fact stands single or solitary to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, all of which have in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. to prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world, for the truth of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.

he has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the public good:

he has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has neglected utterly to attend to them.

he has refused to pass other laws for the accomodation of large districts of people unless those people would relinquish the right of representation, a right inestimable to them, formidable to tyrants alone:

he has dissolved Representative houses repeatedly & continually, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people:

he has refused for a long space of time to cause others to be elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise, the state remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, & convulsions within:

he has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither; & raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands:

he has suffered the administration of justice totally to cease in some of these colonies, refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers:

he has made our judges dependant on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and amount of their salaries:

he has erected a multitude of new offices by a self-assumed power, & sent hither swarms of officers to harrass our people & eat out their substance:

he has kept among us in times of peace standing armies & ships of war:

he has affected to render the military, independant of & superior to the civil power:

he has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknoleged by our laws; giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation, for quartering large bodies of armed troops among us;

for protecting them by a mock-trial from punishment for any murders they should commit on the inhabitants of these states;

for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;

for imposing taxes on us without our consent;

for depriving us of the benefits of trial by jury;

for transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences: for taking away our charters, & altering fundamentally the forms of our governments;

for suspending our own legislatures & declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever:

he has abdicated government here, withdrawing his governors, & declaring us out of his allegiance & protection:

he has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns & destroyed the lives of our people:

he is at this time transporting large armies of foreign merce naries to compleat the works of death, desolation & tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty & perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation:

he has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, & conditions of existence:

he has incited treasonable insurrections in our fellow-subjects, with the allurements of forfeiture & confiscation of our property:

he has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium ofinfidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, & murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.

in every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered by repeated injury. a prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a people who mean to be free. future ages will scarce believe that the hardiness of one man, adventured within the short compass of 12 years only, on so many acts of tyranny without a mask, over a people fostered & fixed in principles of liberty.

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. we have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend a jurisdiction over these our states. we have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration & settlement here, no one of which could warrant so strange a pretension: that these were effected at the expence of our own blood & treasure, unassisted by the wealth or the strength of Great Britain: that in constituting indeed our several forms of government, we had adopted one common king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league & amity with them: but that submission to their parliament was no part of our constitution, nor ever in idea, if history may be credited: and we appealed to their native justice & magnanimity, as well as to the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations which were likely to interrupt our correspondence & connection. they too have been deaf to the voice of justice & of consanguinity, & when occasions have been given them, by the regular course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our harmony, they have by their free election re-established them in power. at this very time too they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch & foreign mercenaries to invade & deluge us in blood. these facts have given the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce for ever these unfeeling brethren. we must endeavor to forget our former love for them, and to hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. we might have been a free & great people together; but a communication of grandeur & of freedom it seems is below their dignity. be it so, since they will have it: the road to glory & happiness is open to us too; we will climb it in a separate state, and acquiesce in the necessity which pronounces our everlasting Adieu!

We therefore the representatives of the United States of America in General Congress assembled do, in the name & by authority of the good people of these states, reject and renounce a11 allegiance & subjection to the kings of Great Britain & all others who may hereafter claim by, through, or under them; we utterly dissolve & break off a11 political connection which may have heretofore subsisted between us & the people or parliament of Great Britain; and finally we do assert and declare these a colonies to be free and independant states, and that as free & independant states they shall hereafter have power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, & to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, & our sacred honour.

Abuses and Victimizations by the Ministry for Children and Families

I had no idea provincial governments get money from the federal government for each child removed from their parents. Isn’t this reminiscent of our Residential School fiasco? I’m shocked! Click here or on the pdf file to read the full article or an excerpt below.

“The Provincial politicians are loathe to do anything for fear of being portrayed as being against child protection. The clear benefit of child removal from a strictly financial standpoint is that several million dollars of federal funds flow into the Province for each removed child. More funding is provided for aboriginal child removals. This boils down to very little motivation to see the child protection industry as a problem.”

Mothers send pictures of fentanyl victims to Justin Trudeau

I think this is a great idea because it puts a face on the problem on how many people are affected. We seem to have problems when action requires cooperation from both the federal and provincial government. It’s the same problem with the lack of affordable housing, our foster care system, The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls where support (both systemic and financial) must come from both the federal and provincial governments…. so basically a will by our leaders to actually make the necessary changes a priority. The sad reality is, problems, like this, shouldn’t have to go to these extremes to be heard. Come on politicians … everywhere… do something. NOW! Click here to read the full article or an excerpt below.

Now, his 61-year-old mother is joining a campaign called Moms Stop The Harm to raise awareness about Canada’s opioid crisis because “my son is not a statistic,” she wrote in an email.

The group sends pictures of the loved ones they’ve lost to the prime minister in an attempt to show the human side of the opioid crisis.

“Every day you see the statistics and all of that, but I just thought people should see what’s left behind: the devastation, friends, loved ones, people that loved him,” she said.

About 500 moms so far have sent in portraits asking the government to increase resources to fight fentanyl addiction.

‘Compassion instead of judgement’

Tara Gomes, a drug policy research scientist at St. Michael’s Hospital, says this initiative by the mothers is an “important and brave” step in fighting overdoses.

The biggest hurdle to battling the crisis, she says, is stigma.

“A lot of people are not appreciating that everyone who dies from or are affected by overdoses are friends, family members. They have parents, they have children. It doesn’t just impact their lives, it affects all of our society,” Gomes told CBC Toronto.

She believes there have been huge strides in the right direction from policy makers in the last year.


“Governments are starting to understand that this is a mental issue and not some shortfall in a few people lives,” she said. “We need to make sure enough resources are going towards it to make sure we treat people with opioid addiction with compassion and respect instead of with judgement.”

She wants resources to be directed towards supervised injection sites and controlled substance use to first curb the number of Canadians dying from opioid overdoses. Then, she says, the government and the health community can address the issue with a long-term lens.

For Patterson, it’s too late for her son but maybe not for someone else’s child.

“Roger’s gone. There is nothing I can do to bring him back, but I can help someone else. Together, we can help somebody else’s someone. Even just one,” she said.


PBS: Savings our Waters – Panel Discussion: Canadian Perspectives on Water

Click here to learn more or read an excerpt below.


Vermont PBS tackles the urgent need to protect our water, including issues facing Lake Champlain and other vital waterways in Vermont. Thought-provoking short documentaries covering steps toward keeping our waterways clean; the impacts of phosphorus and other contaminants; and using the science behind the issues to derive solutions that have positive impact on our communities.



Land Rush – Why Poverty?

What happened in 2008? “By the end of the 20th Century world food prices were stable and world hunger was actually declining. All that changed in 2008.” Watch the video to learn more.


Published on Jan 6, 2013


How do you feed the world? To find out more and get teaching resources, go to 75% of Mali’s population are farmers, but rich, land-hungry nations like China and Saudi Arabia are leasing Mali’s land in order to turn large areas into agribusiness farms. Many Malian peasants do not welcome these efforts, seeing them as yet another manifestation of imperialism. As Mali experiences a military coup, the developers are scared off – but can Mali’s farmers combat food shortages and escape poverty on their own terms? Director Hugo Berkeley & Osvalde Lewat Producer Eli Cane Produced by Normal Life Pictures Why Poverty? Video URL: