A Dictionary of New Epigrams – Problems


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A Dictionary of New Epigrams


Only he who is no longer alive has no problems.

Problems are what makes life worth living.

We have natural needs, and the struggle to satisfy them is what excites our deepest passions.

The real problem for us is to convert what we know should be done into actions we can do that will get it done.

Knowing what needs to be done to solve a problem requires combining a general overview with specific actions.

We make our own lives meaningful by choosing problems we believe we can solve and working on them.

Choosing to compete with people of equal skill automatically creates interesting problems. Thus football, chess and archery competitions become interesting even if they don’t produce anything of physical value, such as commercial products like cars, toothpaste or movies.

Existential problems don’t vanish because you ignore them, trivial ones do.

The best problems are those that challenge us but don’t defeat us.

There is great pleasure in the process of solving a significant problem.

You can forecast the directions a person will choose to go by the problems he chooses to confront.

Worrying doesn’t solve problems; it entrenches them and makes them tougher, and worry adds pain to one’s life.

Most problems are adequately solved with good enough. Good enough is defined as getting the job done to the point it won’t fail under stressful conditions.

Some problems don’t have absolute solutions, but they do have practical solutions. The accuracy of Pi at 3.1415926 is usually better than good enough, and the excess detail creates a waste of time, energy and memory.

We may choose to be cheerful when we approach a problem, and that will give us the mental flexibility to handle it wisely.

Problems are real gifts, because they are opportunities to think.

Choose problems that you will enjoy solving, and give the ones you can’t handle to those who can.

It is when a problem is really difficult that opportunities for breakthroughs occur.

Most problems are not blockages, but questions that have been improperly stated, and once stated properly the solutions are doable.

Sometimes adding a detail to a problem will make it simpler, and sometimes subtracting a detail will help; it sometimes helps to bounce a problem around.

If you make a problem into a joke it often resolves and dissolves into a mist.

If you are confronted with a problem too difficult to solve, take a break, go solve a similar but easier problem, and then return with new insight, energy and vitality.

Don’t blame anyone or anything for problems, but choose to see them as the opportunities that your reality has provided for you to solve.

The problems you presently have are easier for you to cope with than those endured by the people around you.

How does one spread a good idea?



This week our Spiritual Awareness Community did a meditation. That’s not unusual, I even led one last week, but this evening’s was different for me. We had been asked to meditate on a deep question that we had been pondering for a long time. Then for ten minutes, to the sound of a hand-held drum, we were asked to delve deeper and deeper into our question; to get behind and under that question, to find the root meaning of our problem.

My personal question was about this blog, and why the ideas I considered most important receive so few page views, and the medical ones get so many. I am not a doctor, and my medical posts are simply about my personal observations, but they are things that I know worked for me. Why my more important posts on how to save the planet get so few views is what I was thinking about; that is vexing because there is so much media interest in the various threats to humanity, and ecology in general. Much of that media coverage is focused on worry, and very little of it on real solutions. I talk and write about problems, which makes me seem to people as depressing, but I do those conversations only as an introduction to the workable solutions. The Earth Ark, and The Life Haven are two of my favorite survival solutions for the planet that are easily doable, but they get little interest.

So, I was meditating at this meeting on what I was doing wrong with those important ideas that was causing people to ignore them. It appears that just writing something up in clear posts doesn’t interest Google or the media because there is no way for them to make money referencing it. The late-night pundits only interview people who have something to sell; generally it’s a new movie, or a TV show, or a new book, or a new Broadway play, or running for public office. I don’t remember ever seeing an interview with a person with a new good idea. Even the CRISPR people, who were in line to possibly get a Nobel Prize, didn’t get an interview. If they did get the prize they might get a brief interview, but it wouldn’t be about the idea beyond its name. No ideas, just the feeling of success.

Because the media is presently driven by visual emotional stories, especially video stories, I was thinking about doing a visual presentation of this blog. But a talking head would have zero impact for reasonable ideas, only super stupid stuff ever reaches a wider audience. TED talks do reach a good audience, but only people who have already had spectacular success in other media get to do those presentations.

For a week I will think about various YouTube presentations that I might do that will develop a potential audience. It would seem that a public venue is stronger than just doing an indoor talking head; talking heads are boring no matter how well done, because it’s difficult to create any drama. Also, it would be better if people knew what they were going to be exposed to from the title, and that it was going to be short. I was thinking, “A minute of kindness”; “A one minute idea you can use”; “A one minute idea for you.”

A good idea will go viral if it is presented in the right way.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin – book review


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This book is a worthwhile read for everyone, everyone that is who is interested in improving their lives. Of course most people just want to live their lives without being pestered into changing what ever it is that they are doing. This book isn’t for them, because it is definitely into poking and prodding its readers into being better people, and moving into a higher social class. Of course if you do read this book to the end you will probably try some of the suggestions and become a happier and more productive person.

Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Livesby Gretchen Rubin creates her own personality profile based on what she names “The Four Tendencies”; they are Upholder, Questioner, Rebel and Obliger. On page 267 there is an easy quiz that helps you define which of these basic types you most conform to, and that is helpful when reading the book, so you can better create new habits for yourself. This book is based on personal experience, and feedback from her personal web site of other people’s personal experiences. It isn’t science, but it provides a basis for experiments that might be put to more rigorous testing to discover if the four categories presented will change their habits and behaviors as Rubin implies.

When we are setting up a new habit she says accountability is the powerful factor in habit formation, and a ubiquitous feature in our lives. If we believe that someone’s watching, we behave differently. page 91 That future someone can be ourselves if we have the habit of observing our own actions and have cultivated the habit of taking responsibility for our actions. That idea followed the epigraph “Tell me with whom you consort and I will tell you who you are: if I know how you spend your time, then I know what might become of you.” Goethe, Maxims and Reflections.

Another fine epigram is on page 45. “All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits—practical, emotional, and intellectual,—systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny.” William James. Talks to Teachers And Students

Three years ago I wrote a post, Why we can’t Trust the Ruling Class. It was about people of which Gretchen Rubin is a choice example, and with this book she is pointing the way for people of the new ruling class to live better. The trend clearly has its good side for those people who go to Harvard, Yale, MIT etc. because they have been selected out of the general population for their exceptional abilities. When at these institutions they meet and breed with other exceptional people, and their children are even more exceptional. This has gone on for three generations, and is continuing at an ever more selective level of refinement. It has now formed a new elite such has never before existed on Earth; brilliant, beautiful, well educated, and well connected. What’s not to like? The problem is that this very procedure has drained and is continuing to drain those very qualities away from the general population. The 99% are becoming more dull, uglier, stupider, and disconnected from society. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray, provides the scientific proof of that assertion.

You can be better than before, but the window of opportunity is closing.

Ebola could be and should be the last epidemic!!!

The lesson the CDC and WHO should have learned is that it is much cheaper in money spent and lives lost to kill a disease before it becomes epidemic. Now is the time to attack future disease outbreaks, while there is still the political interest needed for action. Kill diseases before they appear!!! That would have sounded impossible a year ago, but the development of vaccines to fight Ebola using modern CRISPR techniques proved it could be done in less than a year. It would now be possible to create vaccines for known diseases that haven’t yet moved from their wild sources to humans.

Ebola is almost dead

This week new Ebola (EVD) cases dropped to zero after killing 11,312 people.

The logarithmic chart above demonstrates how Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) doubled in victims every month for eleven months. In fact the disease spread much faster the first month because the first victim Emile’s grandmother Koumba, having seen her grandchildren and daughter die, traveled to several different cities’ hospitals in an attempt to save her own life. It was her many contacts that set Ebola going. The EVD disease was totally unknown in the West Africa area and the symptoms were not recognized by visual inspection, and the medical people contracted the disease themselves. It wasn’t until blood samples were flown to France that lab tests discovered that it was EVD. That was on March 20, 2014, and by then over one hundred people had the disease, and they were spread over a wide area. As is easily seen from the chart above, it took six months before the disease was being treated effectively and began tapering off, but by then it took vast resources to bring it under control. If at the moment the lab results confirmed it was Ebola an immediate effort had been launched, the deaths could have been limited to under a hundred people, eleven thousand lives could have been saved, and billions of dollars could have been saved too. Even with zero cases this past week, the West African Ebola Virus Disease isn’t gone until it’s totally gone, and there may be some undiscovered cases lurking.

Here is what can be done and should be done soon.

  1. Create vaccines for all potential diseases. They need not be distributed, but if a few thousand doses were available they could reach outbreak victims within days.
  2. Create digital response packages for all potential diseases. This would be instantly available information such as handout flyers, posters, radio and TV announcements, doctor’s information packets on how to identify and treat the emergent disease. Public administrators packets could be created on what has worked in previous outbreaks.
  3. Make free medical care available to all people who have symptoms similar to the outbreak disease.
  4. Give free cell phones to people who have been exposed to contagious diseases. These phones could be worn on a necklace and be contacted every day, and the person checked for symptoms. It could have built-in symptom monitors.
  5. Search the world for disease-spreading behaviors, and promote safer methods for accomplishing the same thing. Create similar but safer funeral practices.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) Ebola response timeline

CDC Ebola response timeline. Click images for bigger pictures.

We can see on this CDC chart that there was a period from March to July where the relatively cheap proposals above might have been effective. The primary need is for information packets to be given to the people involved. If in those first months the people with Ebola-like symptoms had known what to do, and the local medical people had known how to identify and treat the disease, it probably would have withered away.

For illustration, here are some posters from the 1918 influenza epidemic. The suggested treatments would now be better, but the idea I am proposing is to get accurate information to the public instantly, before a disease becomes epidemic. Source U.S. National Library of Medicine

Prevent Influenza 1918 poster

Prevent Influenza 1918 poster, when 300 million people (equivalent to our modern population) died. See Flu 2018 on the chart above.

Reduce risk of influenza

Influenza is spread by droplets sprayed from nose and throat.

Ebola symptoms and actions

A chart similar to this one specific to the suspect disease should be available within one day.

These posters could have been put up before the epidemic developed and it would have lowered the transmission rate. Broadcast specific information on how to prevent a viral disease from spreading by demonstrating how to separate the virus sources from people. We must support Ebola survivors by giving them well paid work that only they can do safely. Future public policy should be that survivors of epidemics are to be sought out and immediately trained as basic caregivers. Although specific situations are still bad, humanity as a whole is healthier than ever before, but until a vaccine is available, the only effective control of Ebola is the physical separation of the virus from people. Soon, Ebola may become one of the diseases, like smallpox, that has been intentionally eliminated from the Earth. By using CRISPR technology, in twenty years human diseases of the world may be gone, and most animal ones too. Right now we need to praise those people who have worked so hard to bring Ebola to an end.

We need a worldwide “Life Day” honoring those people who have risked their lives for humanity’s preservation.

[Click here] for all of Probaway’s EBOLA posts arranged by date. The recent posts will be at the top, and there is good information covered earlier and not repeated.

The Probaway Pain Scale presented as a lecture.


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This afternoon I gave a presentation of my Probaway Pain Scale to several pain professionals. It brought about a lively conversation that made it more apparent that the scale as presented was good for some types of pain and not so good for others. For a person with a recent physical injury, say a muscle injury or a hard knock, to someone age 10 to 60, it was a reasonable measure of pain. However, for a younger or older person even a physical injury has complicating features. The younger people will heal more quickly, and the older ones will heal more slowly or not at all. Another complicating factor is the psychological response to pain. Some people will suppress their response to pain at first only to have it rebound as a chronic pain, while some others will pay close attention to the pain from the onset of symptoms and train their attention to amplify their minds’ response to it. The pain may be real, in the sense that their brain has an observable MRI and fMRI response, where there is no observable physical injury present.

Probaway Pain Scale

Pain Scale – For measuring intensity of human pain – click to enlarge

Some of the professionals liked the linking of each of these pain levels to specified observable symptoms, such as this scale, but others preferred their patients to specify a number 1 to 10 at a first meeting and then specify how much numerical improvement or not, at later meetings. We discussed the value of having defined set points for the numbers versus generalized patient-defined responses. Some patients would be overwhelmed by too much information, as presented in this chart. My opinion was that a patient didn’t need to know the whole thing, but to just have the practitioner observe an apparent condition, for example a PAINS~7, and ask bracketing questions like, “Can you do your daily chores without much difficulty? Or, is your pain so bad you can only do large activities like vacuuming or washing dishes?” Those questions, a PAINS~6 and a PAINS~8, would bracket the person at a PAINS~7, and they need have no knowledge of the overall rating system.

This pain-measuring system would work with chronic pain manifesting at a given time, but that type of pain varies over time in a nonlinear way; it comes and goes. However, even with intermittent pain it would be possible to compare a felt pain from one month to another, whereas a simple choice from 1 to 10 would be more variable over an extended time.

Previous posts:

Measuring Pain in old people.
Measuring pain in old dying people
Pain Scale for Intensity Measurement and Management
The measured pain level varies with the injury type
The Pain Scale for measuring suffering and alleviation of suffering.

Measuring pain so it can be treated more effectively.

Fear of Missing Out – FoMO


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Sunday’s meditation – 1. Tranquility with one’s self, 2. Acceptance of one’s environmental reality, and 3. Contentment with the ultimate reality. That meditation has the wonderful effect of minimizing the Fear of Missing Out (FoMO). It creates that effect by opening oneself up, in our minds and emotions, to more of the infinite possibilities of what exists, and we can see more clearly how we might relate to everything and what we might do in our actions.

From the Internet there is an ocean of information now instantly available to us, but of this abundance there is a tiny amount that is useful to what we might choose to do with our lives. We come to our moment in time and place limited to our personal past, and the available opportunities before us that we can use. Only the information that we can use has any real value to us, and the rest of it is noise, and this noise is a distraction that interferes with the successful performance of what we want to do.

Conan Doyle explains this to us in Sherlock Holmes’ first book A Study in Scarlet (1886). Watson discovers that Sherlock doesn’t know the Earth revolves around the Sun.

That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth traveled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

“You appear to be astonished,” he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. “Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it.”

“To forget it!”

“You see,” he explained, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose…”

“But the Solar System!” I protested.

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently; “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

That 130-year-old comic story is the flip side of FoMO. It’s the intentional missing out on things that will have no impact on one’s personal life or actions. The intent is to maintain one’s abilities to perform what one wants to do by eliminating distractions that waste time, energy and brain space.

These days many people are creating bucket lists of things they want to do before they die. Check out this beautiful bucket list of 866 items from Annette. I noticed that I had done a lot of her bucket list items as part of my life, and not as a special thing in itself, but as part of what I was doing. What bothered me about Annette’s list was that she was doing most of them as a paying tourist, and that is inherently meaningless and using resources that could have accomplished something more useful. For example, when you do something, make it an action that enhances other people’s lives. Even that seeming giving your attention away is useful to your self’s goals because it forms a habit that helps you treat yourself better in the future. At that future time in some way you will be that other person.

You should fear missing out only on things you could do to help other people.

Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart by Bayer and Figdor – book review


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This book is a sad attempt to write a new set of the original Ten Commandments that Moses said were given to him by God. It is a fair-minded attempt and does quote accurately Exodus 20:1-17. Usually a polemic piece will slander their opponent’s point of view from the onset, but this book makes a real attempt to be fair. The authors proceed with a reasonable attempt to create a method for approaching a modern morality, and the book is an attempt to justify the background arguments for their non-commandments. They call their list of ten moral suggestions …


  1. The world is real, and our desire to understand the world is the basis for belief.
  2. We can perceive the world only through our human senses.
  3. We use rational thought and language as tools for understanding the world.
  4. All truth is proportional to the evidence.
  5. There is no God.
  6. We all strive to live a happy life. We pursue things that make us happy and avoid things that do not.
  7. There is no universal moral truth. Our experiences and preferences shape our sense of how to behave.
  8. We act morally when the happiness of others makes us happy.
  9. We benefit from living in, and supporting, an ethical society.
  10. All our beliefs are subject to change in the face of new evidence, including these.

The problem with this list is that it is so weak, it has no attraction; it has no ability to unify a people into a coherent group that is willing to defend these principles. It is emotionally impossible to defend these non-commandments with action that can combat even the weakest established religious tradition. Religion means to bind people together into a functioning society of mutually recognized and co-supporting people. These non-commandments will generate no cohesion and no fear of violating these principles. Like it or not Moses’ Commandments generate cohesion and fear, and they give promises beyond the wimpy word happy. These non-commandments barely have the force of suggestions, and might be better thought of as passing thoughts that are basically good ideas. This new, supposedly religious foray into society reminds me of the Harvard professor John Rawls, whose philosophy is well-respected, but to my mind totally useless because it has no way to enforce its fair-minded ideals. In his philosophy people are expected to be good because goodness feels good. That’s wonderful, but in a world of inevitable short supply of desirable things there will be contests and contention that will inevitably generate friction between people. Those people who can most firmly bind themselves together into a coherent force will prevail.

The ten non-commandents may seem reasonable, and they are reasonable from the perspective of a person living in a safe, secular legal society, but if you look you will soon notice that even in a secular society there is compulsion to obey laws. Non-compliance with laws soon gets one into trouble. All of the non-commandments are already embedded within our American legal system, and are reasonable – except for “V. There is no God.” It is strange that they are so blandly reasonable about all of the other statements, and yet they state this one categorically. They can neither affirm nor deny there is or is not a god because there is no evidence for or against his existence. Their position is as rationally invalid as is an absolute atheist’s, or a true believer’s, but even an agnostic saying they don’t know isn’t satisfying. The only strong statement is that god appears to be totally outside of nature, and that we live totally within nature. Our universe came into being with the Big Bang, and so far as we know it is impossible for us to send information out of our Universe, and even if we could it seems unlikely they or we would benefit any conscious entity in any way. Also, even within our Universe any extraterrestrial contact is so remote in time and space that it is unlikely to affect our personal lives. I felt that the book Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart is a good read for questing college sophomore, but for everyone else a waste of time.

We would best serve our living forms by participating fully in what is available to us to the best of our abilities.

Why waste time and thought on things that will never affect our lives?

Most people’s first response to new things is suspicion and fear.


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At yesterday’s meeting on tranquility, during the discussion portion, one person mentioned that scientific research using MRI had shown that most people’s first thoughts about new stimuli were suspicion and fear. I didn’t respond to that idea, because I didn’t have any information on the subject. However, I was thinking that it was probably true because the background religion of the majority of people has fear-driven stories based on punishment for being in some outside social group. A second idea for why people fear novelty is based on the fact that most Americans have poor Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) test scores, and few have Positive Childhood Experiences (PCE). If a person’s life experience is that even things known from experience are painful, then an unknown new experience must be even worse, and that would be horrible.

From Wikipedia ACE test — “About 67% of individuals reported at least one of the following Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE); and 87% of individuals who reported one ACE reported at least one additional ACE.[6] The prevalence of emotional abuse was 10.6%, physical abuse 28.3%, sexual abuse 20.7%, emotional neglect 14.8%, physical neglect 9.9%, mother treated violently 12.7%, household substance abuse 26.9%, household mental illness 19.4%, parental separation or divorce 23.3%, incarcerated household member 4.7%.”

I created a flip of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) test scores, and named it Positive Childhood Experiences (PCE).

Adverse Childhood Experiences versus Positive Childhood Experiences

Adverse Childhood Experiences versus Positive Childhood Experiences (ACE versus PCE). Clickable image.

As mentioned in the Wikipedia quote above the chart, 67% have some poor childhood experiences and of those 87% had more than one category of bad experiences; thus the majority of people, some 57% have 2 or more categories of adverse childhood experiences. I suspected that is the reason the MRI tests mentioned in the first sentence of this post were accurate, and that is why

Most people’s first response to new stimuli is suspicion and fear.


I led a talk on tranquility, acceptance and contentment.


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I am not a guru by any definition of the word, but this afternoon I led over a dozen spiritually inclined people in a meditation. I think it went well because they wanted the abilities I was promoting. These were intended as practical methods for coping with the world they will encounter, but using the techniques usually promoted by the otherworldly community. I said, “I want you when you leave here to be able to see the reality before you more clearly and respond to it with more adaptive actions.” The goal of the meditation was that, when an emotional conflict develops, you are able to pause and say in perfect honesty, that “once I choose to be tranquil with myself, accepting of the reality I am immersed within and contented with all the world around my world. I can intentionally choose in any moment to achieve that mental and emotional state again.”

The reason this works is that when we are immersed in a stressful, angry, or fearful mental state we will approach our problems in a rigid way, but if we can attain a tranquil inner state we are better able to think clearly and respond more flexibly. Seeing our problems with a clear mind will permit us to be more adaptive to the problems because we will see them better and we can think through to a better solution, and act on our solutions more calmly and appropriately.

Life is easy when you are tranquil, accepting and contented.


A scrolling memorial naming the victims of American guns


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In President Obama’s Umpqua Community College speech he said, “our thoughts and prayers are not enough”; just feeling sad for the victims of American gun homicides isn’t enough. The Oregon shooting was only one of 294 mass shootings in the 274 days of this year. The Umpqua Community College murder of ten people is just the tiny tip of a very large and very ugly iceberg. There are mass shootings almost every day here in the United States as can be seen in this chart from the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

Mass murders in the US 2015

This calendar only marks the shootings in the US where four or more people died.

Note that on April 5, June 13, July 15, and August 2, there were five homicides with four or more victims; that’s a minimum of twenty people who died those days from gun shots, and that’s twice as many as died at Umpqua. The reason those deaths were not reported is because they were sprinkled randomly over the whole country, so they didn’t get national news. Apparently the American national newspapers are cowed by the National Rifle Association into not reporting the magnitude of the daily horror. Local papers report only the local murders.

It’s only politically motivated or public religious murders that become national news, and the thousands of others are ignored because they are so common and thus not newsworthy. Murders inside a church, or school, or a public event get national news coverage, but the vast numbers of common people are ignored.

Between 2001 and 2014 there were reported to be 165,700 gun homicides and a total of approximately 420,000 gun related deaths. Why? Here’s why!


That is a wonderful speech by Charlton Heston, where he holds up a Revolutionary War musket and claims that it is the weapon that will protect us from an evil government. That it will defend us against evil governments foreign and domestic. The only problem is that the modern weapons of mass destruction available to governments are literally millions of times more potent than his musket. The only way we can protect ourselves from an evil government is by maintaining, as an absolute and undeniable right, the Freedom of Speech, and it can’t be defended with a musket or pistol or AK47; it is defended with a balance of power between contending parties who are in control of the governments. If every person doesn’t  have the freedom to express themselves clearly and without repercussions, and vote consistently to put honest people into positions of public trust and power, those who will defend our freedom of speech, then the American musket-toting patriots will be quickly silenced. It is the power of the voting public that protects the people, and not muskets. Guns kill individual people, and guns in millions of people’s hands put every individual at risk, but they don’t protect us from potential rulers with intentions to suppress us.

So what can we do to maintain our freedoms and simultaneously maintain our lives? One thing would be to make certain we understand the problems and their magnitude. To understand our personal risk we need a computer app that would scroll the names of the gun victims either across the top or bottom of one’s computer screen, or as a single line flipping list of names at a rate of one every few seconds. Date – City, State – Name – Motive – Weapon. Another event could be to have public readings of the list of victims in public places across the world, and reading at normal speed and continuously it would take about a month to read the death toll since 2001. Here is the list of current deaths from the Gun Violence Archive. The 2015 toll is 39,750 as of October 3. To read that list in public places on national holidays would make the problem more apparent.

Killing innocent people doesn’t make us free.


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