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Harmonic convergence

Lifestyle | Writers, artists, and harmonica enthusiasts latch on to the Occupy Wall Street brand

Issue: "Border bandits," Dec. 3, 2011

While Occupy Wall Street was still in its infancy, writers and other creative people were writing its history. OR Books announced that its Occupying Wall Street: The Insider Story of an Action That Changed America showed "how the protest was devised and planned, how its daily needs of security, food, clean-up, legal advice, medical assistance and media relations are organized, and how it has won extensive support from trade unions and social movements."

Kickstarter, the online funding platform for creative projects, featured at least nine Occupy projects, including "The Occupy Boston Globe," which raised $9,355 from 196 backers to put out a newspaper in Boston, and "10,000 Occupiers, 10,000 Harmonicas," which hoped to raise $1,000 to "equip the entire movement with harmonicas." The goal of the latter: "As thousands of people step together and breathe together, the sound that we emit will be impossible to ignore or argue, because it lacks words that can be skewed or manipulated."

More than 1,900 writers, including bestsellers like Lemony Snicket, signed a petition proclaiming: "We, the undersigned writers and all who will join us, support Occupy Wall Street and the Occupy Movement around the world." An Occupy coloring book novel for adults with quotes from Sean Hannity and Rachel Maddow could become a collector's item with the November eviction of Zuccotti Park protesters. It includes songs, poems, games, and a true to life 'Guilt Relief Donation Form' for the overburdened 1%!"

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Unorthodox website

Well-known atheist Richard Dawkins funds The Clergy Project website through his Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. The website's goal: "To provide a safe haven for active and former clergy who do not hold the supernatural beliefs of their religious traditions."

The founders say that ministers who no longer believe in God face a dilemma. When they lose faith in God and leave the church, they often lose their friends and family. If they don't leave, they end up performing empty rituals. The private, invitation-only website, which began in May with 52 members and now has 100, "is an on-line meeting place where former and active clergy can talk freely among themselves."-Susan Olasky

Losing words

Language skills deteriorate as people age, and they deteriorate faster in people with Alzheimer's Disease (AD) or dementia. Researchers at the University of Toronto hoped to detect that decline by studying books written by well-known authors over an entire career, looking for changes in vocabulary size, repetition, word specificity, word-class deficit, fillers, and grammatical complexity. They chose Iris Murdoch, who died of AD; P.D. James, who at the time of the study was 88, healthy, and still writing; and Agatha Christie, who may have had undiagnosed AD when she died.

Since aging has an effect on verbal ability even among the healthy, the researchers were looking for an accelerated or intensified decline to indicate AD. Their conclusion: "Our results support the hypothesis that signs of dementia can be found in diachronic [over time] analyses of patients' writings." They also found evidence that Iris Murdoch's language skills had deteriorated well before she received a formal Alzheimer's diagnosis, which suggests that decline in writing ability may be an early AD detector. -Susan Olasky

Loosened knots

Marriage is at an all-time low in the United States, according to Census Bureau statistics. Only 52 percent of adults 18 and older in the United States say they have been married, compared with 57 percent in 2000. Since 1970, the median age at first marriage increased from 22.5 years to 28.4 for men and from 20.6 to 26.5 for women.

The Associated Press reported that states in the South and West rank among the highest for couples getting married, but they also have higher rates of divorce. Meanwhile, more liberal states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York ranked among the lowest in divorces. The Census Bureau attributed these lower rates to couples cohabiting rather than marrying. Seven of ten cohabitations end in breakups that can be as painful as divorce, but they do not count in these statistics.

David Lapp (Institute for American Values), researching relationships and marriage in Ohio, found that marriage is a frightening prospect for many young people: "They want to get married eventually, but they want to make absolutely certain they marry the right person, and don't get divorced."

And yet, waiting for marriage does not guarantee less hurt. "Why Marriage Matters," released by the Center for Marriage and Families last month, shows cohabitation is even more detrimental for children than divorce. While one of four children born to married parents will see them divorce by age 12, two out of five will experience a parent cohabitation by age 12-and the breakup rate for these unions is almost three times higher. Government data show that children are at least three times more likely to be emotionally, physically, or sexually abused in a cohabiting household.

Lapp said young people from broken homes are hesitant to commit to marriage. "A lot of these young people come from fragmented families. ... A lot of them are asking the question, 'What is love? How is lifelong love possible?'"-WORLD intern Gracy Howard

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.


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