Sorting Fact From Obfuscation

In these unprecedented times in U.S. politics it can be difficult to discern the truth from the spin. The site http://www.factcheck.org/ has taken up the mission of helping anyone who desires to do so. Their mission page states:

“We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

FactCheck.org is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state and federal levels.”

A quick perusal of articles prominent on the site the day I visited (4/28/17 for the curious) covered such topics as the insecticide chlorpyrifos, Trump’s spin on his first 100 days, Trump’s mischaracterization of President Obama’s purported role in forming the gang MS-13, White House press secretary Sean Spicer’s Hitler gaffe and the 2017 Webby award this site has won.

The site is easy to navigate and there are a few helpful ways to find specific information: you can peruse an archive by topic, search for a desired article or simply browse through the pages. There are additional links to similar and sister sites, ways to ask your own questions and links to other resources offered by the organization, such as ways to browse and view media appearances by their writers.

Fact Checking Claims for Nutritional Products

http://www.consumerlab.com/ Has the stated mission “To identify the best quality health and nutritional products through independent testing.” If you’re familiar with Consumer Reports, the leader for decades in unbiased testing of consumer products and services, then you understand what Consumer Lab is all about. They appear mostly to focus on products such as vitamins, herbal supplements and similar products. They have no advertising on their site, similar to the approach long practiced by Consumer Reports. They have a page on their site dedicated to a long list of various press releases, news stories and testimonials related to the foundation here. Additionally they have a “Where to Buy” page that helps people find where to buy products recommended on the site. Some online vendors pay a fee to be included on this page, but they receive no proceeds from sales through Consumer Lab. Suffice it to say, consumerlab.com appears to be the gold standard of information regarding effectiveness, safety and legitimacy of these products.

Memberships may be purchased by organizations such as libraries, or for around $40 a year individuals may subscribe to all articles on the site.

Taking a High School Equivalency Test in Tennesse

Taking a High School Equivalency test in Tennessee

Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with the GED—it’s the test that for years we have known one could take to earn a high school diploma instead of graduating in the conventional sense. Did you know that the GED is no longer offered in the state of Tennessee? The new official test is the HiSET (High School Equivalency Test).

It can be a bit confusing to figure out how to take the official HiSET and earn a diploma, so here is the process, according to Customer Service for the HiSET test.  Essentially one is required to first take the official practice test for the HiSET. For Memphis here are the official sites where one may do so:

Building Address City Zip Phone
Idlewild Presbyterian Church 1750 Union Avenue Memphis 38104 844-721-8800
Midtown Church of Christ 1930 Union Avenue Memphis 38104 844-721-8800
Randolph Library – Memphis Public Library 3752 Given Avenue Memphis 38122 844-721-8800
Memphis & Shelby County Office of Re-Entry 1362 Mississippi Blvd. Memphis 38106 844-721-8800
Workforce Investment Network 480 Beale Street Memphis 38103 844-721-8800
Sexton Community Center 1235 Brown Avenue Memphis 38126 844-721-8800

Once the practice test is officially passed, the tester will receive the paperwork necessary to schedule and take the official test. Once the official test is satisfactorily passed then the individual is now a holder of an official diploma, valid in all states!

How Psychology Impacts Us Today

Psychology is always a hot topic, and it informs just about every area of discussion you can imagine. For that you can thank (or blame, considering your personal views) Sigmund Freud. He was not the first of his kind, as most would credit Wilhelm Wundt with that distinction (see Annenberg Learner for an informative timeline of Psychology as an academic discipline). No, Freud was not the first, but he remains the most well-known psychiatrist to most people on the street.

While Freud retains his status as the first name many think of in regards to psychology, most of the mental health profession has evolved well beyond Freud, both in theory and in practice. There are several different types of practitioners in the mental health disciplines, and this brief article will help you sort through the role of each.

Psychiatrist

The American Psychiatric Association states that “Psychiatry is the branch of medicine focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental, emotional and behavioral disorders.” This is a fancy way of stating that a psychiatrist is a Doctor; an MD or DO. Yes, you read correctly, a psychiatrist is a doctor in the same sense that your GP, surgeon or gynecologist is a doctor. The article above shares much good information about the particulars, but a psychiatrist attends four years of medical school before training for four additional years of residency. Psychiatrists work to include physical issues that may impact mental health, and as a doctor, a psychiatrist is the main mental health professional to prescribe any sort of medication.

Psychologist

As defined by the American Psychological Association, Psychologists have a doctoral degree, but that does little to tell what they do. Their practical applications are many and varied, from research, to testing and assessment to therapy; psychologists are an important cog in the wheels of mental health treatment. Ultimately the aim of most all psychologists is to help diagnose and treat mental illnesses and improve one’s mental health. A psychologist in private practice or working in a clinical setting typically is engaged in counseling more so than most psychiatrist have time to do, but there is no hard and fast rule that dictates this. Psychologists generally do not prescribe medications, though there are two current exceptions: “As of January 2009, properly trained and qualified, licensed psychologists in New Mexico and Louisiana are authorized to prescribe certain medications for the treatment of mental health disorders. In addition, there are many efforts within the field to expand this authority.”)

Psychiatric Nurse

Psychiatric nurse is one of the most transparent etymologies out there. This professional is a full RN specializing in psychiatric issues. They assist patients in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues and can also, like psychiatrists, prescribe medications. Their organization is the American Association of Psychiatric Nurses and they have a helpful informational link here.

Psych nurses may also earn a Master’s Degree and/or a PhD, and often engage in counseling with clients.

Therapists

Technically all three previously cited professionals conduct therapy, but often their main duties supersede the actual practice of counseling. For example, in certain areas the demand for psychiatric medication is so high that a psychiatrist either cannot take the time to conduct therapy or chooses to focus on diagnosis and prescribing. This article from the New York Times is a good start if you want to explore this issue. For professionals whose focus is counseling you have a variety of choices.

These professionals mainly focus on counseling, with individuals, couples, families and groups. Each of the below detailed disciplines requires a Master’s Degree at minimum and may progress all the way to a PhD if desired. Though the distinctions between these professionals are relevant, essentially you may receive quality care from any of the three: all are trained to properly diagnose and treat a range of mental health issues. They all have standard training that is very similar, and study many of the same experts, theories and traditions, while also branching out into areas that are unique to each.

Marriage and Family Therapist

Don’t be fooled by the title, an MFT is qualified to counsel anyone, not just couples and families. The difference with an MFT is their focus on Systems Theory, in this discipline pioneered to a great degree by MFT grandfather Murray Bowen, as a means of therapeutic change. Their organization is the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. https://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/about_aamft/Qualifications.aspx

Licensed Professional Counselor

You will find LPCs anywhere there is a need for a therapist—community mental health centers, hospitals, substance abuse facilities, schools and more.

http://www.counseling.org/publicpolicy/whoarelpcs.pdf

Social Worker

Social Workers also spend much of their time conducting therapy in situations similar to MFTs and LPCs.

http://www.naswdc.org/

There are other specializations available to mental health professionals, such as music therapy or art therapy, to name just two. At the base, most every mental health professional you encounter will be qualified in at least one of the modes detailed above.

City of Memphis Street Paving Schedule

http://memegis.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=c6b3c8cd40304d7683a230f6f8ccc495

So you want to know when the City of Memphis will pave your street? The Memphis Public Works and Memphis Information Services divisions worked in tandem to provide the above street paving map. It tells paving that is upcoming this year and also in the future. Major Tennessee highways and state routes are also included.

Power to the People!

Power to the People!

2016 was a historic year for politics in the United States and more citizens have become involved in political action than there have been in a long time. To assist those interested in sharing their opinions with our representative politicians, this list identifies the key players in national affairs representing the region served by our fair institution, the Memphis Public Library and Information Center. Once you know who your representative is, you can contact them to voice your opinion on important matters, whether it concerns federal, state or local issues. This list will not be exhaustive, that is, it will not cover every possible government agency of every layer of government within the covered counties (so, for some examples, if you are wanting to petition the office of the mayor of Lake City, Arkansas, the school board of Independence High School in Tate County, MS or the powers that be in Yum Yum, TN, then I encourage you to do your own research into how you may contact those bodies). This list is a good start if you want to, for example, call your congressman to try to get them to vote the way you expect them to. To compile this list I used the region covered by the counties served by our LINC/211 service.

Each of the three states are listed alphabetically and include contact information for U.S. Senators and Congress members. Note that these representatives only accept and respond to constituents living within their own districts, so if you don’t live there, don’t waste your time trying to contact them directly.

Arkansas:

The state senators for Arkansas are:

John Boozman:            https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/home

Tom Cotton:                https://www.cotton.senate.gov/

Crittenden County is in Arkansas’ 1st congressional district, represented by Rick Crawford.

http://crawford.house.gov/

Mississippi:

The state senators for Mississippi are:

Thad Cochran:             http://www.cochran.senate.gov/public/

Roger Wicker:             https://www.wicker.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/home

Desoto and Tate counties are within Mississippi’s 1st congressional district, and are represented by Trent Kelly:                                  https://trentkelly.house.gov/

Tunica County is within Mississippi’s 2nd congressional district, and is represented by Bennie Thompson:

https://benniethompson.house.gov/

Tennessee:

The state senators for Tennessee are:

Lamar Alexander:       http://www.alexanderforsenate.com/

Bob Corker:                 http://www.bobcorker.com/

Memphis and much of Shelby county is in Tennessee’s 9th congressional district, represented by Steve Cohen:               https://cohen.house.gov/

Parts of Shelby County, as well as Tipton, Lauderdale, Lake and Obion counties are in Tennessee’s 8th congressional district, represented by David Kustoff:

http://www.kustoffforcongress.com/

Happy Lobbying!

The Sky is (Not) Falling!

As you may have guessed by the title, all of today’s links relate in one way or another to the sky. Whether it’s aviation or astronomy, all you have to do is look up.

http://www.airlinequality.com/

SKYTRAX has been online since ’99, rating and reviewing both airlines and airports worldwide. They pride themselves in taking “no financial association or affiliation with any airline or airport featured”, so they’re like Consumer Reports in that sense. Of course, the idea is that you can trust their reviews, as no-one entity pays them for sweeter reviews. Additionally, they offer an “independent customer forum”, so it’s like comments on any other website—you can essentially read or write your own short blog posts concerning your impressions, experiences and opinions of airlines and airports.

 https://aeml.tech.purdue.edu/

The Aviation Education Multimedia Library is a pretty technical, academic site for the purpose of “the acquisition and dissemination of digital material for the aviation educator”. It has sections on “unmanned aircraft” (drones to you and me), airframe materials, powerplant materials and general materials. If you are wanting reliable, detailed information concerning these aviation issues, then this site will be helpful.

http://cse.ssl.berkeley.edu/athomeastronomy/

At Home Astronomy is a site that offers “hands on science experiments for the whole family”. The information comes from the UC Berkeley Center for Science Education at Space Sciences Laboratory (CSE@SSL), so you know that it is proctored, quality information. Essentially this site offers simple experiments to demonstrate principles such as how the sun casts shadows, how a rocket works and other similar issues concerning basic astronomy. They even encourage fair use, as in classrooms and other non-profit situations.

https://www.nasa.gov/

Yes, NASA is still a thing. This is a big site, so if you’re interested in flight and/or astronomy here are the best links:

Hayden Planetarium

If you are familiar with Neal deGrasse Tyson, you might know that he is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, which is a part of the American Museum of Natural History. Perhaps the most useful part of the site for research purposes is the Digital Universe, which boasts “…the most complete and accurate 3-D atlas of the Universe from the local solar neighborhood out to the edge of the observable Universe.”

For more information there is someone named Clark M. Thomas who has a pet site he calls the “Best of the Best” Astronomy links, which can be found here.