Why Finnish babies sleep in cardboard boxes

For 75 years, Finland’s expectant mothers have been given a box by the state. It’s like a starter kit of clothes, sheets and toys that can even be used as a bed. And some say it helped Finland achieve one of the world’s lowest infant mortality rates.

It’s a tradition that dates back to the 1930s and it’s designed to give all children in Finland, no matter what background they’re from, an equal start in life.

The maternity package – a gift from the government – is available to all expectant mothers.

It contains bodysuits, a sleeping bag, outdoor gear, bathing products for the baby, as well as nappies, bedding and a small mattress.

With the mattress in the bottom, the box becomes a baby’s first bed. Many children, from all social backgrounds, have their first naps within the safety of the box’s four cardboard walls.

Mothers have a choice between taking the box, or a cash grant, currently set at 140 euros, but 95% opt for the box as it’s worth much more.

The tradition dates back to 1938. To begin with, the scheme was only available to families on low incomes, but that changed in 1949.

“Not only was it offered to all mothers-to-be but new legislation meant in order to get the grant, or maternity box, they had to visit a doctor or municipal pre-natal clinic before their fourth month of pregnancy,” says Heidi Liesivesi, who works at Kela – the Social Insurance Institution of Finland.

So the box provided mothers with what they needed to look after their baby, but it also helped steer pregnant women into the arms of the doctors and nurses of Finland’s nascent welfare state…

At 75 years old, the box is now an established part of the Finnish rite of passage towards motherhood, uniting generations of women…

Encouraging good parenting has been part of the maternity box policy all along.

“Babies used to sleep in the same bed as their parents and it was recommended that they stop,” says Panu Pulma, professor in Finnish and Nordic History at the University of Helsinki. “Including the box as a bed meant people started to let their babies sleep separately from them…”

He also thinks including a picture book has had a positive effect, encouraging children to handle books, and, one day, to read.

And in addition to all this, Pulma says, the box is a symbol. A symbol of the idea of equality, and of the importance of children.

Symbolism not lost on one of the best educated populations in the world. Another portion of a governmental ethic that places equal opportunity and childrens’ wellness above most political issues.

Voted against reauthorizing FISA warrantless wiretaps

Voting NO:

Akaka (D-HI)
Baucus (D-MT)
Begich (D-AK)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Brown (D-OH)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Coons (D-DE)
Durbin (D-IL)
Franken (D-MN)
Harkin (D-IA)
Leahy (D-VT)
Lee (R-UT)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Merkley (D-OR)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Murray (D-WA)
Paul (R-KY)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schatz (D-HI)
Tester (D-MT)
Udall (D-CO)
Udall (D-NM)
Wyden (D-OR)

Profiles in courage comes to mind. For these 23 – not those who voted YES.

Not the White House. Not President Barack Obama.

Meet the original Lizard King


Barbaturex morrisoni

A newly described 6ft lizard that roamed South East Asia from 36-40 million years ago has been named after The Doors singer Jim Morrison.

The choice of name Barbaturex morrisoni is a play on the late frontman’s epithet “The Lizard King”.

Higher temperatures at the time are thought to have helped the lizard evolve to its unusual size.

The scientists were surprised to find that the reptile successfully competed for food against mammals…

A team of palaeontologists analysed fossils of the giant reptile and discovered it is the largest plant-eating lizard to have ever existed.

It lived alongside other herbivorous and carnivorous mammals during the Eocene epoch. It was likely to have weighed about 27.2 kg…

…Barbaturex morrisoni was larger than most carnivorous mammals. And competition for resources did not appear to restrict its evolution into such a large lizard, the study found.

“Reptiles and mammals co-exist most places on the Earth today. What is interesting about the Lizard King is that it was a large vegetarian co-existing and competing with other herbivorous mammals,” co-author Prof Russell Ciochon, from the University of Iowa, told BBC News.

“Large lizards on the Earth today, such Indonesia’s Komodo Dragon, and in the past, such as the late Cretaceous Chinese Chianghsia nankangensis and the Pleistocene Australian Varanus priscus, are all carnivores. These large carnivorous lizards were eating the mammals they co-existed with, not competing with the mammals.

“The large size of the Lizard King certainly protected it from many predators. But there is no doubt that it was hunted by mammalian carnivores of the day…”

Lead researcher, Jason Head from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln believes his research will show how climate helped the reptile evolve…

I was listening to The Doors quite a bit during the research,” Head said. “Some of their musical imagery includes reptiles and ancient places, and Jim Morrison was of course ‘The Lizard King’, so it all kind of came together.”

Now – if we could only clone Jim Morrison…

Federal judge says minorities are predisposed to commit crimes

Civil rights advocates in Texas said they will file a complaint against a federal judge for telling a law school audience minorities “are predisposed to crime.”

The Texas Civil Rights Project, based in Austin, said on its website Wednesday it would join with other organizations to file the judicial-misconduct complaint against Edith Jones, a senior judge of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, over remarks she made in February during a speech at the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

The complaint alleges Jones’ remarks “violated basic rules of judicial ethics, including the fundamental duty of impartiality,” and were biased against minority groups and people with mental disabilities. It says Jones told her audience certain “racial groups like African-Americans and Hispanics are predisposed to crime,” and are more apt than others to commit “heinous” crimes and other acts of violence.

The complaint alleges Jones told the law school audience she is disgusted by capital case defendants’ claims of “mental retardation” and execution is a service to such defendants because they are “likely to make peace with God only in the moment before their imminent execution,” the TCRP said in the release…

Jones was considered as a potential U.S. Supreme Court nominee during the administration of former President George W. Bush, the San Antonio Express-News said.

Of course she was considered. She fits the model approved and recommended by neocons, the Tea Party and old-fashioned rightwing creeps enjoying their newfound “leadership” status within the Republican Party.